We’ve made a series of fateful decisions in the last 24 hours. These choices could be viewed as difficult but necessary judgments made under trying circumstance or as a series of wrong turns. Either way, we are off course. It began in Birmingham (see BAD VIBES). Then, we made a gut choice between the I-20 East and the I-59 South. I-20 east would’ve taken us through Vicksburg, Mississippi, the only town in America that doesn’t celebrate the 4th of July. (On July 4th, 1865 Union forces surrounding the city opened fire and killed everyone in Vicksburg.) We chose the I-59 South toward New Orleans. Torrential rains began immediately. Then some construction. We drove on. Every time we’ve turned south on this trip things have gone a bit south. The rains let up. The road improved. About an hour outside of New Orleans we stopped at a Days Inn in Picayune, MS. A bit of luck. Clean rooms, a good price, free continental breakfast. Hawks rest.
We’ve only been back in the car this morning for about a half an hour when we somehow miss the I-12 West to Houston. This “error” throws us straight into the heart of New Orleans. Perhaps, precisely what we’ve been wanting all along. Katie (Hawks Ground Control) guides us via cell phone and Internet connection to Euglasich’s, perhaps the best restaurant in New Orleans. Oh no! A cardboard sign wedged between the iron gates of the security door reads “Closed til October.” No luck for the Hawks today. Not yet. We try without success to get back on the I-10 West. It just can’t be done. We are drifting further off course. The clock is ticking. The signs are wrong. They flip us around. Take us back where we came from. Dump us onto dead end streets. We’re deranged. New Orleans is playing voodoo tricks on us. Then, from out of nowhere, Betsy’s Pancake House on Canal. Shawn has eaten there before. Five years ago when on tour with James Intveld. It’s good, he says. And it is. Red Beans and rice. Trout Poor Boys. Eggs and Smoked Sausage. Holy shit, we’re going to make it. The waitress plays little games with us. She won’t give Shawn coffee. She makes us order the Bread Pudding even though we want the peaches. Things like that. It’s great fun. We embrace the tangent we are on, eat leisurely, drink coffee, talk about the problems in our families. It’s great. Back in the car and we are lost again. We can’t find the I-10 West. New Orleans doesn’t want us to leave. The directions to the I-10 West that the waitress gave us are causing the Yukon compass to read NE. This can’t be right, can it? A few more confusing signs and wrong turns and there it is: the sign for Baton Rouge. It seems we’re headed in the right direction once again. We have 517 miles to Austin. Downbeat is in 8 hours, 13 minutes. Will we make it?