Number Forty Three: Louisiana

We crossed into Louisiana on New Year’s Eve. Somehow New Year’s Eve in Shreveport sounds more exciting than New Year’s Eve in Fort Worth but I doubt if that is giving either city their rightful due. For people of a certain age, it doesn’t much matter either way.

Summer, 2018, in the Northwest was hot and dry; winter in deep South was chilly (cold if you live there) and damp (wet, soaked, flooded?). It took us three tries, in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Covington, to get our 50 mile quota. We kept encountering lakes where there should have been trails. The Tammany Trace Trail, near Covington, which is on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, across from New Orleans, finally got us there.

The picture, upper left, is allegedly the trail near Shreveport; we tried it from both ends but ended in the same river. The other water pictures are Baton Rouge; the bottom center is in Louisiana, but otherwise I’m not sure about where and why. The picture at the top of the page is the Tammany Trace, which the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has as one its highest rated. When the fog lifted and the sun came out, so did several coyotes (or maybe one coyote several times.) I have no pictures because Doré was pedaling too fast when they were following us.

The Conservancy website was our bible for most of the trip and I won’t quibble with their ratings. Well, that’s not true; I will quibble. Our impression was most of the trail ratings were done by locals who were really happy to have their trail in their neighborhood. It may reflect bias, chauvinism, or lack of exposure to the rest of the world. And frankly, after riding 25 or 30 rails-to-trails trails, they all started looking the same: straight, flat, and lined with 25-year-old trees.

The Tammany Trace is actually one of our favorite trails, but behind Root River, Cannon Valley, Mesabi, Elm Creek, and Paul Bunyan in Minnesota and Sparta-Elroy in Wisconsin. (He asserts with out bias, chauvinism, or lack of exposure; I didn’t even mention the Grand Round, Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Parkway, West River, and especially the Midtown Greenway Trails in Minneapolis proper. That’s why we live here; that and the climate.)

The Shreveport bike trails were disappointing, partly because of the water but also because they weren’t very long. There was some interesting street art. Street art turned out to be a major focus of this adventure, behind biking and collecting refrigerator magnets.

One of those picutes may be from Baton Rouge. The chicken may have been advertising (but so is Nicollet Island’s Grainbelt sign) and the answer to the question, “What is Earth without Art?” is “Eh”.

From Shreveport to Baton Rouge, we crossed the Mississippi River for the fourth and final time on this trek but we do it almost daily when we’re home. One of the locals told us that Louisiana is the only state where the Mississippi passes through the state, not just along a border and has the only cities that it runs through. He had never been to Minnesota. I will acknowledge that the river is a much bigger barrier in Louisiana that it is in Minnesota.

There was one day of serious rain in Baton Rouge so we opted to stay inside for the Louisiana State Capitol and the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. Which was fine in principle, but it was half a block uphill from the parking to the nearest door at the Capitol, which wasn’t open to visitors. We’ve never been as wet biking as we were trying to get into the capitol.

The building was architecturally interesting, a tower like Nebraska’s rather than a dome like everyone else’s. It is the tallest capitol in the country. But mostly our docent wanted to talk about Huey Long. He was an old school political boss who could show Richard Daily how to do it, with patronage, coercion, arm twisting, and probably less savory tactics when needed.

(I don’t think Tammany Trace had anything to do with Tammany Hall.)

Long is often described as a “left-leaning populist” (and as far as the docent was concerned this is what a populist should be) but was considered a communist by the rightwing and a traitor to the cause by the Communists. He was governor by age 35, US Senator by 39, an announced candidate for the Presidency in 1936.

Long was a supporter of Roosevelt for his first 100 days, but came to believe Roosevelt had made too many compromises and his “New Deal” wasn’t enough to get us out of the Depression. He was probably right. His own solution he called “Share the Wealth” and relied on a “net asset tax.” He believed everyone should afford a car, a radio, and a $5,000 dollar house. He fought, successfully, with Standard Oil over ‘Severance Taxes’, i.e., the fees corporations paid to the state to extract natural resources. Needless to say, he had some powerful enemies.

He was assassinated in 1935. In the Capitol chambers, at age 42.

While governor, he established programs to build schools, hospitals, and roads outstate. He funded old age pensions, suspended taxes on properties worth less than $2,000, and closely regulated banks. As a result, Louisiana had fewer foreclosures and bank closings than the rest of the country. Unique among politicians of the deep South, Long separated himself from the usual practices of race baiting and promoting white supremacy, although probably the distinction was he was less racist than his contemporaries. And some of ours.

Historian Roy Wilkins wrote, “My guess is that Huey … wouldn’t hesitate to throw Negroes to the wolves if it became necessary; neither would he hesitate to carry them along if the good they did him was greater than the harm.”

And I have a couple pictures from the Art and Science Museum to prove we were there.

“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.” (Mignon McLaughlin.) Copernicus’ thesis that the Earth was not the center of the Universe made serious trouble.

2 thoughts on “Number Forty Three: Louisiana

  1. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was a wonderful brewery in Covington. The people were so nice and the art work was being done by our VRBO landlady. Hope they are all still around.


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