Baton Rouge is a great town.
My host, Michael, keeps telling me that it isn’t all like the part I’m seeing. That it does sprawl out into typical American suburbia, that isn’t all that much different than many other places. However, Michael’s home is located in an old section of town called “Spanishtown.” The neighborhood’s history dates all the way back to the days of the Louisiana Purchase. Somehow through luck, a long history of ups and downs, and now a very close knit community of concerned citizens, this neighborhood has remained intact. Spiritually it has remained in tact as a real community of neighbors that know and care about each other. Structurally It has remained intact (via constant fighting with developers) as it was when it was built into its “modern” state in the early 1900’s. The beautiful Craftsman style bungalows and large trees that line the streets give the neighborhood so much more soul and character than so many of the new sprawling subdivisions. It is true, “They don’t build em’ like they used to.”
Located just five blocks off the water, what’s also great about this part of town is that it’s located within a stone’s throw of the sparkling downtown “business” district and everything you need (and some things you don’t need) is within easy walking distance. Today I was able to get breakfast and free wifi internet access at the “Main Street Market”, then check out some of the town’s beautiful architecture, stop in on the local printer to ask about charts and maps for the Gulf, and walk down to the waterfront to see what is happening down there. A visitor could spend weeks here and not get bored and never need a car.
My visit at the printer was actually a highlight. Michael recommended “Baton Rouge Blueprint” as an excellent source of any charts or maps I might need of the next leg of this journey. I’m not sure he knew how knowledgeable and helpful the owners are. What I expected to be a quick stop in to see what they had ended up being an hours long visit where I was served up a mother load of local knowledge regarding the entire Gulf coast from Texas to the Florida border along with many antic dotes about local slang and food. It turns out that the owners, George Simon Sr. (pronounced See-moan) George, Jr., and his soon to be wife Jamie are very active sport fishermen who have fished and boated along the coast all the way back into the 40’s. Jamie added more to the knowledge base by having also grown up on the coast in the Mississippi/Alabama region. They are super people and a reminder of how valuable real shops run by real people are over the sterile corporate box stores that are becoming the norm now days. Mom and pop shops like this may cost a few cents more, but man it’s worth it. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten much out of the pierced nose college kids at Kinkos in the way of local coastal knowledge or even where to find a good lunch. “Uh…Mc Donalds is down the street.”
The way it’s looking now (assuming the temperatures ever get back up to normal) as soon as I get myself out to the open coast along the Gulf things are going to get very fun. The problem remains on just how to get there… That’s tomorrow’s project.