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Our resolve to ride out the gust of Gustav scuttled by a creeping awareness of what it might mean to live in a first-floor apartment two blocks from the Industrial Canal, my boyfriend and I loaded up the dog and headed out at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon. After an hour of sitting in the well-documented misery that was I-59 in the waning hours of contraflow, we got off as soon as we reached an unblocked exit, just past the Mississippi border. Now I'm suffering what I'm going to call contraflow survivor guilt. The road we took - Mississippi Highway 43 - was completely devoid of traffic. As in, we would maybe see another car every half hour, at most. We tore down the two-lane blacktop through scenic rural Mississippi at 65 miles an hour, reconnecting with I-55 near Jackson, and had smooth sailing the rest of the way to Memphis. Our total road time was just under eight hours, only two hours longer than the same trip under normal conditions. I may never drive on a major interstate again. It might be a little late for this advice, but (knock wood) if this ever happens again, use those maps creatively. Or ask Mapquest or your GPS to program your route without interstate highways. It's literally the difference between hell on earth and a nice Sunday drive.
Everywhere we've been, Memphis treats us, oddly, as if this is a reunion of sorts for the events of three years ago. Bartenders are reminiscing about their Katrina evacuees. We're staying wth friends who evacuated here in '05, lost their Lakeview home and never returned. And I'm sitting in the same Starbucks I made home base after Katrina, overhearing conversations from New Orleanians and feeling like I'm sitting through a lame sequel.