lost, for a little while

travel advice: sean
October 28, 2010, 8:59 pm
Filed under: advice, ideas, inspiration
Doin' the Possum Trot in Possum Trot

Doin' the Possum Trot in Possum Trot

Oh, Sean.

Sean and I met in Santa Fe and then later bonded over our shared hatred of our respective jobs, a love of terrible jokes, and constant abuse of caps-lock when IMing back and forth. He’s the first person my age I’ve met that wears cowboy boots (and not even in an attempt to be ironic), and has (unsuccessfully) been rallying for me to become a sex panther on the prowl in PA. It’s an odd friendship.

But, when I was lamenting the lack of adventure tales from my guy friends, he stepped up with this account, told in true Sean-style.

Where all did you go?

From Colorado Springs we (that being me and my best college buds Alice, Jacob, and Megan) veered southeast into the all-American post-apocalyptic landscape of the Texas panhandle, on the way stopping to climb some burned out volcanoes in northeastern New Mexico.

We stayed the first night in Palo Duro Canyon, a beautiful oasis of red rock cliffs furtively sunken into the flat hellscape south of Amarillo. From there, we sped toward Austin, through the hill country and past the WORLD FAMOUS town of Oatmeal, Texas, home of the annual Oatmeal Festival.

Out of Austin we bore down on Houston, caught a highway east, and traced the Gulf coast into Louisiana. We walked on Gulf beaches still strewn with debris Hurricane Katrina had spit up. The national lakeshore we wanted to camp at that night was still closed to due to the hurricane’s damage, so we pushed on through forgotten, battered coastal swampland into Lafayette. The best part of the town was easily the our hostel, The Blue Moon. They had a bar and a music stage and cute rooms—everything we needed! The town of Lafayette itself, however–aside from being papered in spring blossoms–was nothing special.

From there it was a short jaunt to New Orleans, where we stayed with a kindly grandmother named Grace who Alice charmed the day before in Lafayette. She took us in for a few days and at her insistence gave us a tour of the city and all the empty holes that still remained two years after the storm. Yes, we ambled up Bourbon Street (we missed Mardi Gras by a couple weeks; there were still beads in the gutters and hung upon the eaves), heard some amazing music, and ate beignets at Café Du Monde, but it was Grace’s hospitality that made our time in New Orleans.

North was our next direction, in search of Memphis barbecue. To get there we found the most obscure highway possible: Highway 1, along the Mississippi River, no more than an unlabeled one-lane blacktop whose miles were measured in cattle guards. The highway wound its way along the river, and I followed it with way-too-fast glee (afterward Megan said that while I drove that stretch I looked “like a dog off its leash”). We did find that amazing barbecue, stayed at a slightly odd church hostel that charged us in cash and in chores, and then headed out toward Arkansas and the Ozarks. We camped in the Buffalo National River, in a vacant campground that we later learned had been flooded out and closed the week before (we saw no signs). While there, we ate okra out of a can (“okra, what’s that?”) and were attacked by possums, who made so much of a racket in the underbrush that we were convinced a mountain lion was seconds bursting into sight. I’d never been to the Ozarks before, and I loved them—more ground-down than Colorado’s peaks and darker with trees than New Mexico’s.

On our way out we passed the IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER FAMOUS town of Possum Trot, the best named town of the trip (Dubbs, Mississippi, was the runner up). Then it was on through Missouri and Kansas, all the way back to Colorado, where nothing of any much significance occurred. Except for when we got pulled over by a Kansas cop and Alice talked her way out of ticket by convincing him we had come all this way to just to see the majestic beauty of Kansas (it was night).

How long was the trip?
About 12 days, if I recall.

What prompted this trip?
Spring break senior year! Whooo!

How much did you plan your route?
Hardly. We knew where we wanted to go and how long, roughly, we had to get there. We had some contacts in a few cities that we called upon, and there was a good degree of improvisation as well. A lot of research was done on the fly or the day before we arrived.

What’s your previous travel experience like?
Plenty of road-tripping across the West with my family and my own solo journeys abroad. Never before with three friends in one vehicle for nearly two weeks–and never below the Mason-Dixon line.

What was the method of transportation for the trip?
The Crimson Starship, a lovely early model Saturn wagon passed down Alice’s family tree from sibling to sibling. Decent gas mileage but asthmatic on hills.

Where did you stay? (friends, hotels, hostels, camp)
A mixture of places. We camped at Palo Duro and in the Ozarks, stayed with friends in Austin and New Orleans, and opted for hostels in Lafayette and Memphis.

What sort of tools or sources of information did you consult before the trip?
I have no idea. Alice had some friends here and there who had visited this city or that. Really, Alice and I just opened and map and traced our fingers along the roads we wanted to travel. Even after planning our initial route, we flipped open the map everyday in search of another swath of forestland-green or an even more faintly sketched road.

How did you budget for the trips?
We didn’t. We guessed it would cost about $300 each, total. I ended up spending a little over $400.

What do you wish you had packed?
Heat. For the possums.

What do you wish you had left behind?
My cowboy boots. Never wore em.

What would you have done differently?
Prohibited the hanging of wet laundry inside the car.

Any mishaps?
Them possums nearly caused me to roll the Starship. I won’t take the life of a possum, even if he threatens mine.

What’s next? (in life and travels)
How would I know?

Much obliged, Sean. Any other takers?

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[…] friend, Sean (remember Sean?), had invited me to come check it out with him and his girlfriend, and they were already inside […]

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