23 August 2008

Bipping westerly

Today the sky was clear and the roads were dry, so what better day than to take an impromptu roadtrip!!

The destination to-day was the western tier of the state, specifically Beauregard and Vernon Parishes, which unbelievably I had never stepped foot upon before until now.  The route was US 190 west to I-49 north to US 167 north/LA 10 west to the first town encountered, Ville Platte. (Sorry, no pictures.)

Then I plied the old Schooner-mobile along LA 10 west, continuing through the southwestern prairies to reach Oakdale:

I looked for the cast of As the World Turns, but was unable to locate them.  Ditto for our favorite imprisoned ex-governor who is a resident of the federal facility in the area.

The prairies turn rapidly to dense piney woods around this point for the westbound traveler, woods that bear a tremendous resemblance to Mississippi. LA 10 is a lonely road through western Allen and eastern Vernon Parishes.

Approaching Fort Polk, that cornucopia of federal economic pump priming in an otherwise desolate and isolated rural area, oddities abounded:

The sine says "Watch for troop movements." For a minute I thought I was in Iraq.

Leesville is the feeder city for the base, the parish seat, and a commercial center in this barren region far from major population clusters:

Charming downtown Leesville. Most commercial activity clusters along a dilapidated commercial strip which lines US 171 to the south of the central area, sharing space with the payday loan outlets and "gentlemen's clubs" which sprout like a cancer around any military precinct.

Courthouse #1 for today: the Vernon Parish courthouse.

Then it was south along a battered 4 lane 20 mile stretch of US 171 to De Ridder.  LA 3226 was signed as a shortcut to Beaumont, for some reason.

In the heart of downtown De Ridder, the Beauregard Parish courthouse. De Ridder is much cleaner than Leesville.

From De Ridder I traversed a few miles south along combined US 171/190, then turned back east along LA 26, penetrating the piney wastes of what may be Louisiana's most underpopulated region outside the coastal marshes.

After 31 mind numbing miles of pine trees, the road finally reaches Oberlin, seat of Allen Parish:

More courthouse fun is imbibed as the Allen Parish seat of government is captured on my camera:

The road returns to prairie just west of Oberlin and LA 26 makes a beeline east, then south through this incredibly beautiful country.  I, on the other hand, turned off to head east on LA 104 and eventually found myself in that capital of Cajun Mardi Gras, Mamou:

After a side trip to Chatagnier to investigate the ignoble LA 1174, it was on to Opelousas, where I bipped around for a spell despite my semi-frequent visits:

The last courthouse for the day, that of Saint Landry Parish. In Art Deco style, for a change.

Returning home now, I attempted to explore old alignments of US 190, in places where I knew there to be an old road. At Krotz Springs, I struck paydirt:

The road was still hard surfaced, but was halfway through the process of degenerating into gravel. But lo, ahead, a sight unearthed!:

An old 1930s era highway bridge!!! US 71 and 190 traffic used this bridge long ago.

I always stop to appreciate historic bridge railing:

Then it was back home, with the Cap in my sights as I approached the seat of Louisiana government on US 190 east:

Trip stats:

Distance covered: around 400 miles
Amount of petrol consumed: 1 full tank
Roadkill sighted: 3
Courthouses photographed: 4
Parishes traversed: EBR, WBR, Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, Evangeline, Allen, Vernon (new parish), Beauregard (new parish)
Incorporated towns entered: Baton Rouge, Livonia, Krotz Springs, Port Barre, Ville Platte, Oakdale, Elizabeth, New Llano, Leesville, Rosepine, De Ridder, Oberlin, Mamou, Chatagnier, Opelousas
Speed traps encountered: 9
Monochrome LA shields spotted: too many to count (they are growing more numerous now), but I did see my first standard 4 digit monochrome sines today!!

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