Monday, May 14, 2012

A Bridge too Far

“Over the river and through the woods,” is a phrase usually associated with Thanksgiving, but on Mother’s Day my husband decided to combine our customary dinner outing with a chance to see the newly opened John Jay Audubon Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River just south of St. Francisville. The bridge would take us across to New Roads and Satterfield’s, a seafood restaurant with a view of False River and traditional Louisiana seafood. Satterfield’s is a decent restaurant, but not one we would normally make a special trip to. John just really, really wanted to see the new bridge.

False River is an oxbow lake formed when the Mississippi River changed course a few hundred years ago, leaving a portion of itself stranded to the west of its new course. It is a popular spot for camps, as second homes, some far more luxurious than my first home, are called around here. New Roads is a small community on False River, and roughly across the Mississippi River from St. Francisville. The quick way to get back and forth between them used to be by ferry. The handful of times John and I had gone to New Roads in the past we preferred taking US 61 north to St. Francisville and catching the ferry to taking the I-10 or Huey P. Long bridge over to Highway 1 North. The road to the ferry wound through St. Francisville and across Bayou Sara. If you were lucky, the woman who sold home made pralines would be there peddling her wares while you waited. When the riverboats Delta Queen and River Queen were still cruising between Cincinnati and New Orleans, St. Francisville was one of the stops. I know this because I saw passengers disembarking and heading to the antique shops of St. Francisville one day while munching a praline and waiting for the ferry to arrive. They had that “where the hell am I?” look you occasionally see on the faces of those making their first contact with the rural American South, especially in August, as this was, when things are a tad warm.

The ferry in 2007

On another trip, John turned on our GPS in the middle of the river just to see what it would show. What it showed was us traveling on LA 10 across a field of blue. The trip we talk about most is the one that wasn’t. One summer we spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast in St. Francisville and took the ferry over to New Roads for dinner. We were back at the ferry landing in plenty of time for the last scheduled trip of the evening. When we got there, we were confronted by a sign saying that the ferry was closing from sundown until morning due to the low river conditions.

The long way from New Roads to St. Francisville is south on LA 1, across the Huey P. Long bridge and back north on US 61, and takes about 45 minutes. It takes even longer when you are being followed by another couple who doesn’t know the way, but we got them back home safely.

So in many ways, the new bridge is an improvement. High water, low water, shipwrecks, the bridge is still in operation. And the Audubon Bridge is beautiful. The picture and video below were taken through the car windshield with my iPhone and don’t do it justice, but I was startled by its aesthetic appeal.

Approaching the bridge from the New Roads side

As for the woods? Heading back home along LA 10 on the east side of the bridge I saw an interesting sign. It looked just like this:

“They have bear around here?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” my husband asked in return.

“I saw a traffic sign with a picture of a bear.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a cow?” 

“I think I can tell the difference between a bear and a cow.”

Fortunately for me there was a second sign further up the road. “Now what does that look like?” I teased him.

“Sure enough” he conceded. We didn’t see any actual bears though. 

Maybe they were back in the den with the cubs, celebrating Mother’s Day. 

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