I do not know how to write this without exposing my deep rooted and incurable hypocritical nature, so I will skip any pretense or excuse. I heard talk of a beautiful old train station converted into a railroad museum in a distant hamlet called DeQuincy, and I was desperate to visit it, but of course it is extremely isolated and not even the dreaded Greyhound will take a body there. Thursday morning, chatting over coffee with the five other guests in the hostel, I was shocked to find that though all of them had cars, none of them had any desire to drive me two hours into the wilderness to see a bunch of dusty old train paraphernalia. I almost convinced my Swiss friend, but then he realized he had no interest whatsoever in the outing and he backed out, the traitor.
That is how I decided to rent a vehicle to drive myself to the DeQuincy Railroad Museum.
As it was my first time doing such a typical "grown up" activity, I naturally had no idea what I was doing, but after messing up my reservation, being stranded in an airport, taking a cab, faxing insurance paperwork, about five phone calls with my father for support, and a call to my bank to unfreeze my ATM card,* I was on the road.
It was a nice drive to DeQuincy, though I became a bit obsessed with looking for hitchhikers to pick up** and only had terrible radio and CDs of famous Egyptian opera singers to listen to. However, once I arrived in the desolate place, the museum turned out to be vastly over-exaggerated in the scope and presentation of its exhibits and the friendliness of its docent. A woman who was four feet in height and as many centuries in age opened the door, demanded to know why I had bothered her there, and commanded me to sign the guest book. She then either forgot that I was there or simply lost interest, because I was left alone to poke around the incoherently organized and poorly labeled exhibits for quite some time until she suddenly appeared amongst some old typewriters and a model telegraph operator to query yet again as to why on earth I had come there. I was starting to wonder that myself.
Amongst the endless stacks of old railroad union handbooks I did find some intriguing specimens. Reading about the Kansas City Southern Railroad, which used to serve DeQuincy, I found that the company still exists after 120 years, and in 2005 completed a NAFTA-inspired merger with Mexrail Inc. and now includes Kansas City Southern de México and the Panama Railroad. I also read about engineering developments in the early 40s that made trains vital to the Allies during WWII. Powerful steam locomotives were built that transported supplies through the mountains in Europe, and when German spies reported heavy loads being transported on steep inclines at impressive speeds, the Nazis dismissed the reports as improbable, and thus the trains worked safely. There were some beautiful old locomotives and railcars outside, but they were fenced in and completely inaccessible, sadly. I left the place rather listlessly, I must say.
BUT on my way back to Lafayette I had a lovely drive through the bayou, making it to the Gulf in time for sunset, and stopping to dine on the best oysters I have ever eaten at a restaurant called Shucks, in Abbeville. The owner personally greeted me*** and graced my table with an array of barbecued oysters smothered in everything from garlic butter to pepper jelly to spinach and feta, and I was very, very happy that I had rented the car after all.
(Oysters apparently are not very photogenic)
*Wells Fargo assumed that if someone was attempting to rent a car, not just make hundreds of tiny restaurant or Amtrak ticket related purchases, my card must have been stolen.
**Alas, to no avail. I was alone the whole time, my carbon footprint growing exponentially with every mile.
***And made a huge show of his concern at my plight of dining alone, so I explained I was wealthy businesswoman exploring an investment in an oyster farming venture in the region.