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U.S. 84 in Louisiana was terrific. They had wide shoulders and new blacktop; it was 10 times better than I-10. Where Mississippi had been heavily forested, the eastern part of Louisiana was rolling farmland which had been freshly plowed.

The town of Jena looked very nice. In fact we felt that it was the first decent looking town we had driven through on US 84. Even though the town had a Wal-Mart, the shops downtown looked like they were healthy and in fact thriving. We parked on the main street while Ron took a little

Getting through Winnfield was a little tricky with lots of tight turns. The west side looked a lot nicer than the east side.

After Clarence we turned south on LA route 6 because we wanted to check out the town of Natchitoches (NAK-a-tish). I had read that it was the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. From 1714 until about 1825 when the Red River channel retreated 5 miles east, Natchitoches was an important trading center. Sadly we had used up all of our free time staying at the Natchez state park so we could only stay one evening. Since our day there was a Sunday not much was open. We did walk along the river and admired the lovely iron work on all of the shops; it looked a lot like New Orleans. We learned from the brochures that there are many plantation homes all along the Cane River which can be viewed via a nice drive.

Along the Cane River in town

Natchitoches is more recently famous for being the home of the filming of Steel Magnolias, Man in the Moon and Horse Traders.  Their tourist newspaper outlines a tour of the buildings featured in Magnolias. The Cane River tour (an auto tour which passes nine huge plantation homes) and a walking tour of the historic district are also featured in the newspaper.

We left Natchitoches on I-49 and went north to catch US 84 again. Mansfield, Louisiana, boasted a civil war site which we did not stop to explore. This area was especially beautiful in all of its spring glory. The trees were all in bloom. The colors ranged from snow white to glorious gold and blazing fuchsia accented with bright green leaves as fresh as spring itself. It was amazing to me that nature had so beautifully decorated itself for Mardi Gras and in the Mardi Gras colors too.

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