Route to the Sea
Lake Charles (the lake) communicates with both the Intracoastal Waterway (that runs all the way to New York City) and the Gulf of Mexico by a narrow channel between the southern tip of the lake and the gulf. Commuters can cross the channel via a traffic ferry that runs on a slow scale, but as a port the lake and environs are generally busy. Ships of great tonnage and various foreign registries navigate daily through the channel between the Gulf and the lake.
New Year's Eve 1999 & New Year's Day 2000 at Holly
"New Year's Eve - December 31, 1999"
For New Year's Eve 1999, we left Baton Rouge around noon and headed west on I-10. At Lafayette, we headed south on US-167 through the city and onto Abbeville where we got onto LA-82 and continued south. After a few miles, we detoured a bit off the planned route to go see Intracoastal City, Louisiana and toured the locks there at the Intracoastal Canal. We pressed on down LA-82 into the pretty marshland of extreme southern (coastal) Louisiana. The highway turns west just before the town of Pecan Island and has been a Louisiana Scenic Byway, from there all the way to Texas, for quite some time now and was recently designated a National Scenic Byway. Its a beautiful drive!!
Continuing west, we drove through the Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge, and the towns of Grand Chenier, Oak Grove, Creole, and Cameron. At the western end of Cameron, past the Monkey Island Ferry is the ferry crossing the Calcasieu River where we got out and felt the wind in our face. Incidentally, that was the third time in the last 14 months I had taken that ferry and my pre-boarding wait times were approximately: 16 min., 14 min., and 0 min. Yes, we were able to drive right onto the boat with no wait!!!
After driving off of the boat, we were 9 miles from our destination and it was less than an hour-and-a-half until sunset. We arrived in Holly Beach, paid for our cabin and were treated to a wonderful crabmeat au gratin snack from Mrs. Marie of Lee & Marie's Cabins. She showed us to our beachfront quarters where Patrick and Christy were, waiting there on our deck. He had mentioned he would probably rent a place for the night in Holly Beach but I wasn't 100% sure until we saw them there. We unloaded, grabbed some towels & blankets and walked towards the Gulf of Mexico which was less than 50 yards away. Now, this is Holly Beach, LA and not Navarre Beach, FL and it is what it is. A small town with a beach full of much more organic than white sands and full of beachfront camps instead of resort hotels. The water and sand color are mostly due to Holly Beach's proximity to the mouths of such silty rivers as the Mississippi, Atchafalaya, Calcasieu, and Sabine. But it was secluded and that's what we wanted on a night like that, when the rest of the world was doing their thing. So, there we were, with the sun approaching the horizon of Southwestern LA.
Note: the Sun tracks south of the equator in the winter and north of it in the summer. This makes it impossible to see a sunrise or sunset along the majority of the LA, MS, AL, and FL Panhandle Gulf Coasts during the popular summer months as they are generally parallel to lines of latitude. But this was Dec. 31 and the Sun had hit its southernmost track about ten days earlier on the Winter Solstice. So, there it was, our star, sinking into the Gulf of Mexico on the last day of 1999... remarkable!!
We changed clothes and headed out in search of alcohol and dinner. All of the spots we passed in this walking town were closed because it was New Year's Eve and it was the "dead" season on the coast (the town population drops to about 100 in the winter). We did make it to a convenience store that was closing so we bought some supplies and figured it would be snacks and beer for dinner but a worker told us that a bar two blocks away had a grill that was open (she called for us). We dropped our beer and supplies off at our cabin and headed over Daquiri Dave's Bar. Inside, we ordered our dinner and, drinks, put money in the pool table and the jukebox and spent the next hour dancing, drinking, playing pool, chatting with the very friendly locals, watching coverage of the arrival of 2000 (to Paris and London), and eating our burgers and Cajun fries.
We left DD's and then we headed to the beach with our firewood, kindling, chairs, beer, rum, and Coke. Patrick got a good starter fire going (as usual) and we were living high chatting away, and gazing at the stars (there were so many stars that night). We went inside and watched the celebrations in Newfoundland, at 10pm local, then back outside, and then New York at 11pm local, then we brought out the champagne and relaxed in anticipation of the arrival of 2000 to Louisiana and the Central Time Zone.
Fireworks were shot more and more by the locals as midnight approached, and a group pulled up 50 feet from us around 11:40pm and they had some serious pyrotechnics and they were loud and bright and went really high. Plus, way in the distance, there was a community fireworks display going on from, I think, the town of Johnson's Bayou, about 12 miles west of us. It was pretty, but too far to hear. Well, we poured our champagne into flutes, sang, toasted the New Year, took pictures, and watched more fireworks. And that was it!! We put out the fire and went back to our cabins just before 1am and watched the New Year hit Denver and Tucson.
"New Year's Day - January 1, 2000"