On Hummingbird Wings

We arrived in Texas today on hummingbird wings and are camping at Walmart.

Woooooo Boy!  I have had to focus mightily on the hummingbird sticker that is mounted on the lower left corner of my windshield quite a bit lately.  We crossed the Mississippi River on I-10 at Baton Rouge yesterday morning.  That is one tall bridge.  Thankfully, the wind was manageable and the bridge didn’t feel too rickety.  In fact, it has a beautiful steel superstructure that I was able to semi-appreciate out of the corner of my eye that was glued to the pavement flashing by under my left front bumper (my emergency focal point–thank you hummingbird).

On the way to Baton Rouge the day before, I was amazed at how close the muddied waters were to I-10 and I-12 north of New Orleans.  The misery index from those record-breaking rains of late last week continues to climb as resulting floodwaters roll southward to the Gulf.  These weren’t just lazy brown waters, either.  No, indeed, there was quite a current flowing along the side of the highway.  At one point, I passed a whirlpool that was in the process of gobbling up all sorts of roadside garbage.  I counted three plastic water bottles disappear before training my eyes back onto my hummingbird.

Continuing west after Baton Rouge, I was reminded just how low Louisiana is while traveling a 20 mile stretch of I-10 that is on stilts.  Cement stilts, yes.  But stilts.  Looking off to either side, all that could be seen was water with trees sticking up out of it.  In a few spots, the road arches up into a bridge formation to allow the passage of watercraft in sections that could perhaps be defined as rivers, identifiable simply by the lack of treetops sticking up out of their channels.

It started out to be a short travel day–Dawny is always grateful for those–as we pulled into our next stop just 30 miles away from the Texas border, Sam Houston Jones State Park.  The park sits in a bend of the Calcasieu River and has a beautiful lagoon with some great walking paths throughout.

Dawny and I saw our first alligator since setting out 20 months ago (I’ve seen them before when I lived in north Florida and was young and stupid and would swim in the same waters they swam in).  We watched as a delightfully young and stupid fellow waded into the water to try to coax the alligator closer to shore.  The gator was at least five or six feet long.  In the picture at the start of this post, note the turtle in the bottom left corner.  That turtle is bigger than my head.

We had a couple of great afternoon walks.  It is a lovely park, although the campground is a bit rough–lots of potholes, poorly marked, small sites, and they charge a “service” fee on top of the nightly camping fee that bumps the rate up 30 percent, from $18 to $24 a night.

So here we are relaxing after our second walk, and I’m getting ready to prepare dinner.  I have the local news on, and I hear them talking about the possibility of closing I-10 at the Louisiana-Texas border.  Apparently this little town just north of us, Deweyville, was totally under water and the Sabine River, which traces the border as it runs to the Gulf, hadn’t even crested yet.  Then they mentioned the rising waters of the Calcasieu River.  And showed pictures of all the poor people who were losing their homes and businesses.

Mandatory evacuations were spreading, and they were spreading in our direction.  The icing on the cake was the mention of more rain on the way.  Not right away.  In a few days.  But all I could picture was being trapped in southwest Louisiana with rising floodwaters filled with snakes and alligators…  It wasn’t too hard to make a decision.

I quickly fed the girl, packed up the house, and unhooked the electric (I never hook up water and sewer, so it doesn’t take long to pack up to leave).  I wolfed down a few spoonfuls of cold pasta and beans, poured myself a nice cup of Poor Man’s Starbuckles, and we hit the road, waving bye-bye to our $24.  Oh well, it was a pretty break.

Holy cow.  As we crossed the Sabine River into Texas, I figured we’d pull into the Welcome Center to stretch our legs.  Not going to happen.  It was under water.  The bottom two legs of the giant Texas star that sits out front was in water up to its knees.

We continued onward towards Beaumont.  By this time the sun was low in the western sky, glaring at us with its gigantic orange eye.  I didn’t want to go blind from looking at it, but where else am I supposed to look?  How about at the cement barriers that are inches away on the right side of my lane… or maybe the painted lane markers that don’t track at all with the reflectors that are supposed to tell you where the lane is?  Holy crap.  I guess I’ll just look at the hummingbird as traffic roars past my left ear at 80 miles an hour… this is Texas, after all.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (“White Knuckles, Yellow Lines, and Hummingbirds,” August 7, 2014) that no state claims the hummingbird as its state bird.  I shall claim it now as my own state-of-the-mind bird, and for any fellow travelers who would like to share claim to its blessed flexibility, you are welcome to do so.  Should we hover or zip away?  Feed or flee?  Focus on those sweet lifelines as if our survival, or our delight, depends upon it?  I’m grateful for its steadfast, guiding wings.

Off to bed now.  Grateful also for Walmart’s RV-friendly policy that allows RV’ers to spend a night in the parking lot of many of their stores.  Nice, level site.  Good lighting.  Security cameras.  Groceries just steps away.  Lines marking parking spots quite logical and clear.  Speed limit 5 mph.  Floodwaters far behind us.  And all for free.