Saturday, October 9, 2010
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES
We had a late start on Friday, 10-8-10. It felt great sleeping in a bit later. We rode through a somewhat depressing area on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. Seeing the world from a bike seat provides a close encounter with the realities of life many people live each & every day. It seems the gap between the haves and have nots continues to widen. We take Hwy 61N, referred to as Scenic Byway, which is a major misnomer. We passed rusty oil refineries and a series of chemical plants. Some refer to this road as cancer alley. It was not until 20 miles into the day that we experienced any decent shoulders. The traffic was heavy and extremely noisy. We stopped for a quick lunch at a roadside food shack where we spoke with 2 guys on their way to compete in a kayak race on the MS River. They apologized, as do many Louisiana residents we have met, for the rudeness of their drivers and for the poor conditions of the roads in their state. We arrived in St. Francisville at 2pm and took a room at the St. Francisville Inn B & B. It was built in the mid 1800s and has a rustic charm. Owners Pat and Laurie Walsh moved here from New Orleans 20 years ago. Pat is a web designer who works primarily on his front porch with 2 huge screens. This town is often referred to as "The town 2 miles long and 2 yards wide". The town is built on the crest of a ridge that slopes on both sides to steep wooded gullies. During the 1730's, Spanish monks moved their burial ground across the river to the higher bluffs. The settlement that grew around the graveyard took its' name from their patron, St. Francis. This is a beautiful town of 1300 people, decorated with enormous live oaks draped with Spanish moss, & accented with homes and cottages reminiscent of a time when cotton was king. One of our favorite sites was Grace Episcopal Church that was built in the mid 1800's. This Gothic structure is shaded by huge trees and surrounded by a large cemetery with unique headstones. The church was severely damaged by shelling from Federal gunboats during the Civil War. A casualty of battle, John Hart, a gunboat captain, had always desired a Masonic burial. Fighting stopped for a day while Confederate and Union Masons honored his request and his body rests in the cemetery here. A local resident we met on our walking tour stated that, at times, small circles of light can be seen floating gently through the air near the church, which some believe are the spirits of those who found this place too beautiful to leave. We warned you earlier, southerners love their ghost stories.