Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Contraflow of One's Own, or, A Report from I-55

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 12:29 AM

click to enlarge i55.jpg_

I just completed a strange bit of travel, heading north on Interstate 55 from the New Orleans area to Jackson while it seemed that just about everyone with a fleur de lis emblem or faded Wagner's Meat bumper sticker on their cars was headed home on the highway's southbound lanes.

I've been in Baton Rouge since Sunday and now I'm continuing a regional odyssey of book readings. So though I want very badly to be back home, I'm in a contra-re-vacuation travel pattern as local communities repopulate this week.

From today's unique vantage of driving smoothly and quickly in the wrong direction then, I can report a traffic flow that changes radically and suddenly for those headed home. Stretches of many miles at a time on the southbound lanes were open and vehicles appeared to be clipping along at normal freeway speeds. But then choke points crop up, especially at McComb, at Amite and of course at the junction with Interstate 12.

The upshot is that if you start cruising on a stretch of I-55 in light traffic, don't get your hopes up that it will be a straight shot for the rest of the haul and if you need to plan a break from the highway for fuel, food or other needs, it's probably better to pick a smaller exit and take what you can get rather than get stuck with everyone else at the better equipped stops.

Throughout the trip, I noticed countless southbound utility bucket trucks, formed up in platoons of six or eight each. These are obviously part of the cavalry called in to repair the area's damaged electrical service. Were I to see such a convoy in my mirror, I'd be sure to give them some room. After all, I'd like them to get to work and restore my electricity before I return home, which they can only do by getting past me on the highway.

-- Ian McNulty

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