Danny’s Bait Shop and Grocery

Country stores are another one of my favorite rural travel stops; all the better if they also sell bait, fishing and hunting supplies…even more better if they are cooking up local delicacies: alligator, cracklins, catfish, crab, crawfish, frog legs, garfish, oysters, turtle, quail and shrimp. I found a duck call I had been looking for and had a crawfish pie with an RC Cola. This fine Cajun establishment is located in Simmsport, Louisiana.

Only in Louisiana: Home of the Drive-thru Daiquiri

Yes, frozen libations without ever having to leave the comfort and convenience of your automobile and public roadways.  Try the new hand grenade daiquiri, it’s sure to get you home safely!

Don’t forget to inquire about the hand painted velour wall hangings of your favorite sporting creature, but “Please” don’t delay the transaction; for quick and convenient service, have I.D.  And, keep it convenient for the ride home just in case you get stopped for driving with a frozen alcoholic beverage.  “But officer, it had a straw in it when they sold it to me.  You mean I wasn’t supposed to take the paper off the tip of the straw until I got home!?!”

Driving, The Motorcycle and Driver’s Ed: Part 3, Driver’s Ed

By age 15, my motorcycle license also doubled as a driving permit.  I don’t recall if it was my sophomore or junior year, but I had driver’s education with Coach Shelton.  Coach was a slow spoken, quiet man who I had known for some time, having attended school and church with his son.  Drivers Ed went along fine with the films and book learning for the first couple of weeks and then it came time to start the driving.  I had been driving some with my dad but had mostly been using the motorcycle as my primary mode of transportation.  I was not uncomfortable behind the wheel and could even drive the manual-clutch, column-mounted stick shift on the 1966 Dodge Dart however, I was by no means confident in my ability to handle everything on four wheels, especially the school Buick.

The 4-door 1976 Buick LeSabre was your Daddy’s Buick, not that little Japanese wannabe Tiger Woods drives to the strip club after golf.  This was a car from an era that still fully embraced its nostalgic history of bold, masculine lines and expansive design. This car was at least 54 feet long and had a turning radius and suspension rivaled only by a cruise ship.  I have owned cars that didn’t have a wheel base as long as the LeSabre’s front quarter panel.  A normal sized person, or two, could completely lie down on the LaSabre’s bench seats without banging their heads, or so I heard.  It was enormous.

I can still hear Coach’s voice as he chose me and another classmate on the first day of driving, “Boy, you take the wheel.” Seats, mirrors, AC and belts adjusted, I slowly pulled out of the school driveway awaiting his next command, “Why don’t we head out north of town.”  Hoooly crap!  That only meant one thing.  I was going to have to drive this boat across the river bridge.  The only thing more frightening was the possibility of failing his course with a poor maneuver that dumped his chewing tobacco spit cup off the dashboard into his lap.

I had never driven across the river bridge and most certainly not on my motorcycle.  It seemed there was a tragic accident every few months on the river bridge, exacerbated by the fact that my home county was dry and just across the bridge was a wet county with alcohol sales starting immediately across the bridge.  There is a nice new, long, wide bridge now, but back then the old bridge was as narrow as most that were eventually converted to one-way bridges with stop lights on each end.  Like the new bridge, it was tall enough for tugboat and barge traffic to pass, but it was shorter, steeper and dangerous.  North, up Hwy 43 I headed with sweaty palms sliding on the ginormous plastic steering wheel.

It would have been dreadful enough to meet a truck on the bridge, but noooo as soon as we approached the bridge we met an entire convoy of 18 wheelers. Truck after truck after truck came barreling down with me navigating a wheeled barge directly into their path.  I don’t think I closed my eyes, but with each passing truck, I mentally made that air sucking past my teeth noise my mother always made and to this day still makes in scary traffic.  I can remember wondering what would cause the least damage, having one of those trucks take the driver’s side mirror or have the Coach’s mirror knocked off by the bridge’s railing.  Luckily, we made it to the other side with both the Buick brown paint job and mirrors intact.  We turned around in the parking lot at Carl’s Supper Club, or was it called Big Daddy’s by then?  I am reasonably certain most of the people in my class drove more than once, but that was the only day I had to drive for Coach.  I’ve never blinked an eye crossing any bridge since.

Driving, The Motorcycle and Drivers Ed: Driving

Everyone’s got driving on the brain. My 16 year-old, #1 daughter is doing plenty of driving; mostly driving me crazy about wanting a car and doing plenty of pouting if she is not always the one behind the wheel. My 8 year-old, #2 daughter drove me around the entire 18 holes today for the first time. Now she really thinks I’m the best, as long as she gets to drive the golf cart again tomorrow. Unconditional love seems to sprout conditions on a weekly basis these days. Most of my friends and relatives about my age are at some stage in the unleashing of offspring upon the motorized public. Not the least of which includes the worry of and maybe even the reality of that first fender bender. We have no one to blame but ourselves, really.

It all started with the eldest just short of her third birthday. One morning at breakfast, she informed me that she wanted one of those real driving jeeps she’d been admiring at the local toy warehouse for her birthday. Furthermore, she asserted her budding feminine nature by declaring, “Now Dada, there are (with two fingers raised) twoooo kinds of jeeps at Toys R Us, there’s the red one, and it’s… well, just plain. (Thoughtful pause) What I’m trying to tell you Dada is I like the prissy one (the Barbie Jeep).” Of course she got it. And there I was, like a good Dad, the night before her birthday assembling said Barbie Jeep and cussing like a Detroit engineer until 3 am.

She was a little afraid of it at first, but before long she was saddling up faster than Bo and Luke, shifting gears and driving around the yard like she was ready for Indy. Just why is it that we enjoy seeing our young children doing adult things? Well, apparently she was more ready than we knew.  A few short weeks later as we were piling back into the van at a rest area on the way to the beach, she very seriously asked if she could drive the rest of the way. The amusing part of the ensuing discussion, which went on for some time, was her persistent, clearly logical and almost indignant insinuation, “How hard could it be? I drive my Barbie Jeep every day!”