Subj: Fort Pike State Historic Site, part I
Date: 4/9/2003 4:03:39 PM Pacific Standard Time
I headed out of New Orleans and walked to the eastern outskirts of town. While there I spent the night at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church & School. Pastor Porter welcomed me there, and Felicia, his secretary, took me to her house to take a shower. She lives just around the corner, and she fixed me 3 of the best hotdogs that I've ever had. She fixed them in a bun with mayo, ketchup, relish, and chili on top, and man, were they good!
While there at the church, I tried to make some calls for a place to stay the next day. East of New Orleans, there's a stretch of about 40 miles of nothing, and that's what I was trying to work on. There was a Catholic Church about 15 miles away, but when I called, the priest said no. There is also Fort Pike State Historic Site not far from there, so I called there. The park ranger said that it's not a campground, but that if I wanted to stay there I needed to arrive before 4pm and he'd lock me inside the premises and I could just camp out there. So that was the plan.
I knew I had 20 miles to go, so I headed out early. It was a hot, muggy day and the humidity was around 150% or so. The misquitoes were in constant pursuit of my blood, and for some reason I noticed my cart had recently started to pull to the left. Between swatting the flies and misquitoes and having difficulty steering my cart, the day seemed extremely long and tedious. About halfway through I saw two bicyclists heading west. Still 20 feet in front of me, I yelled "do you have any bugspray?" and they said "YES!" They pulled over and sprayed me down, and we swapped stories. They're from New Zealand, and he suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, and they were doing this bikeride as kindof a quest against that. They started in St Augustine, FL and were riding to San Fransisco. They gave me the can of bug spray, and I gave them the downtown map of New Orleans, where they were heading for. We swapped notes, traded names & addresses, and then
I finally made it to Fort Pike and was mighty glad to be there. There was a small art & craft fair going on there, and the volunteer fire dept was selling hamburgers. Fort Pike was built to help protect New Orleans and strategic ports and rivers from a seaborne invasion. Completed in 1827, Fort Pike was named for the explrer and soldier General Zebulon Montgomery Pike, the same guy whos name is also known in Colorado. Fort Pike was built to withstand attack from both land and sea.
I met up with the park ranger, and he told me that I could camp out anywhere inside the fenced in area, and that he'd just lock me in. The restrooms would be open, and he'd leave the outside light on all night. Meanwhile, the clouds were rolling in and the thunder and lightening was rumbling off in the distance. I asked the park ranger if there was anywhere I could camp out under some shelter, and he mentioned that there was an old abandoned house that I could stay in. He showed me where the house was and mentioned that it hadn't been lived in for ten years or so. I went to investigate. The house was still located within the fenced in area, so I was still inside the park. About the time I was peering inside the window of back door, the storm broke loose and it started POURING down rain. I quickly pushed my cart inside the back door and into the kitchen.
The house still had electricity hooked up, and I found one light that worked. There was some furniture thrown in there haphazardly, and the water faucets still worked. Now when I describe this house, think grey. Really grungy, bleak, spider-web dusty grey. No color, just yucky, dark, barely-able-to-breathe-through-the-dust grey. While the storm was raging on outside, I discovered quickly that there were a few leaks. One was in the living room, and 2 were in the kitchen.
In the living room was a couch that hadn't been sat on in 10 years. In the corner of the room was a broom. I tried to sweep as much crud and dust off of the couch as I could, and could hardly bear the thought of sleeping on it. The curtain rods were broken and the curtains hung at a crooked angle. The kitchen was filthy and the bathroom was twice as bad as that. Spider webs hung from every corner. Everything about this house reminded me of the movie Friday the 13th, except that I didn't find any blood and guts. Meanwhile, the storm raged on, and every time the wind blew, the screen door on the back porch would slam against the house. And there was only one light bulb that worked. Everyone else had gone home for the day, and I was the only one here, locked inside the park and staying in an old, abandoned, dilapidated house. Most of the time I'm not easily scared or spooked, but I didn't like this situation at all.
I rolled my sleeping bag out on the grey, dusty couch and turned off the only light bulb in the house that worked. And the storm raged on, both inside and out. It was saturday night, the time of the year when we move our clocks ahead an hour. All I can remember thinking is that I sure was glad to be shaving an hour off of this night! I crawled into my sleeping bag and had to force myself to visualize myself sleeping on a couch in a nice living room, because if I gave myself even a moment to let my mind wander, I would go crazy thinking of all the "what-ifs" that could possibly happen. I just couldn't let myself go there. Meanwhile, the storm raged on.
I woke up at 4:30 and the rain had stopped. I was out on the road by 5:00am and was never so glad to be out and on my way. All I could think of that day was the dark, dusty, grungy grey in that old abandoned house. I don't mean to sound ungrateful and was really glad I didn't have to stay out in the storm, but it was really spooky, especially there all alone, locked in.
20 miles later I made it into Waveland and pulled into the police station. I told them what I was doing, and hoped beyond hope that there was a program in this town that would put me up for the night, because I only had nine dollars in my pocket but DESPERATELY wanted to stay in a clean motel and sleep between clean, white sheets. I still had the heebyjeebies from staying in that grey, grungy, dusty, spider-webby house and was thrilled when the officer filled out a form, handed me a voucher and sent me to the motel. Never have I appreciated a nice, clean room as much as I did that night. It was good to be back among civilization once again.
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