Wednesday, April 1, 2009

5000 Mile Mardi Gras Road Trip - Days 11+12

The next afternoon we drove Gail to the airport, and I began making the rounds of New Orleans' salvage shops for potential furniture parts.  Basically, I struck out.  The high prices didn't leave me a window for profit, and so I set my sights on smaller towns and out-of-the-way places along my return route.  Taking a few hours for some online research paid off.   I talked with a builder in Jackson, Louisiana and a salvage shop in Dallas, Texas.  This gave me two points to connect on a map and the bones of my route home.  It was hard saying goodbye to my family and precious granddaughter, knowing all we'd have for a while would be our Skype video calls and an itch we couldn't scratch.  I put the Eagles on and drove down the blurry road to the Interstate.

I headed west on I-10 to Baton Rouge and swung north to Jackson, Louisiana to meet with Brent, a fellow builder, salvager and furniture maker.  He was friendly, helpful and offered me better prices than I could find in N. O.  I left with my truck half-filled with 100 year-old cypress 5-panel doors, some vintage porch posts, and a pair of very old,  2-1/4 in. thick hand-carved French doors sporting elaborate iron grillwork.  Then I was on the back roads again, tacking northwest toward I-40, out of Louisiana and into Texas, on an intercept course for Dallas across the bare flatlands and wide-open spaces, past oil fields, orchards and little hard-scrabble places where hardy people and their skinny cows go head to head with the dry land.  

I fell in behind a big rig pulling doubles and hammered down on the four-lane.  I drafted for ninety miles, grateful for the windbreak out on the prairie, then stopped for lunch at a rest area where you could see an easy hundred miles, setting up my backpacking stove to make coffee behind my truck out of the wind.   I took a walk out onto the hardpan to stretch, and was leaning into a strong headwind when it shifted and I fell on the ground.  I started laughing and it took me five minutes to get up.  Punchy.

In Texas, and later in New Mexico, I began to notice that the only packed parking lots I saw were at Wal-Marts, casinos, and some super-sized pawnshops.  I took lunch next to the parking lot of a pawnshop and watched a guy come out to a beater car and start scratching through a stack of $4 lottery tickets as thick as his thumb.

I'd met a few people along the way who were out of work, and struggling to come to terms with the hands they'd been dealt, but no one talked of throwing in.  Some were looking on the bright side, like the woman at the bank who'd been handling the construction loan for the last house I built.  At first I noticed her outgoing message indicating she was now on a four-day workweek, and two months later she called to tell me she'd lost her job, but was looking forward to home schooling her kids, something she'd never been able to do.  She sounded happy.

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