This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.
The route from New Orleans to Oxford was the same as the one we’d taken going south, only this time I had no car worries so I was able to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. We passed Ponchatoula, Natalbany, Amite City, Fluker, Osyka.
It started to rain, and I mean hard. I drove on, in denial, the deluge so loud Lynn and I could barely hear each other talk, and so thick we couldn’t see the car in front of us or the shoulders of the highway.
Finally I saw semi trucks pulled over to the side of the road, common sense prevailed, and I took the next exit, McComb. It was nearly lunchtime, so why not try some local delicacy?
I spied a Sonic. Perfect! Drive-in restaurants are such an American thing; I was excited that Lynn would get to experience one.
The only other drive in I’d ever been to was Porky’s in St. Paul, where I had worked as a car hop for one month when I was 16. The floors were so greasy I had to grip the countertops as I skidded my way around the kitchen. Porky’s was a dive frequented by bikers and guys with muscle cars, who aren’t exactly great tippers. After retrieving the umpteenth food tray with a one cent tip and cigarette butts stubbed out in ketchup cups, I told the owner to fuck himself and walked out. Porky’s has since been torn down and replaced with some bland chain store.
Sonics are a chain, and they’re all new and shiny. They’ve even got bathrooms. Our eyes bugged out at the menu: once again, everything was deep fried and the drinks were neon colored. Why? Do a lot of people think, “Yum!” when they see neon?
Lynn and I ordered without any language difficulties and a perky teenager named LaShonda delivered our food. I had the Super Crunch Chicken Strip DinnerTM with tater tots, which were a staple of the American diet back when “convenience food” was a novelty. Now they’re back. There was also Texas Toast, which is very thick toast, and, in case that wasn’t enough brown food, one onion ring.
In the photo below it looks delicious, but this is not how it appeared in its cardboard box. Everything was slightly wilted and smushed together in a small pool of grease.
“Don’t bother asking if the chicken is free range,” I laughed at Lynn. The chicken, if that’s what it really was, looked and tasted like thick white rubber bands that had been soaked in solvent until they were pliable enough to chew. I gagged and couldn’t eat more than a few bites. I should have known when I saw “boneless chicken wings” on the menu that we were not in for a nice surprise—a chain restaurant with good food. Lynn managed to choke down her burger and a few limp fries.
The rain had let up so we pulled back onto the highway.
Bogue Chitto, Zetus, New Sight, Hazelhurst, Gallatin, Crystal Springs … “I imagine Crystal Springs is a delightful place,” said Lynn, deadpan. “Oh yeah!” I nodded. Pickens, Ebenezer, Durant, Possumneck. Wait, what—Possumneck—we laughed? Even if we hadn’t just left our Australian friend Christine, a.k.a. possum, in New Orleans, it was still a funny name.
Vaiden, Winona, Grenada, Coffeeville. I was running low on gas and pulled off the highway but there was no town at the top of the ramp. I drove into the countryside, assuming we would hit a town eventually, and we did. I can’t recall its name; it could have been French Camp, Bruce, Eupora, or Paris. It was a very small, sad, dilapidated town. From the looks we got, mine was the first Mini Cooper any of the residents had ever seen. I gassed up and went in to pay just in time to hear Lynn shriek, “No!” I reached her as she was surreptitiously photographing the giant jars of pickled pigs things and what appeared to be a neon drink, or condensed urine. Yum!