Home Travel Stories Destinations DESERT OLDS Part 9 Tulsa to Texas
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Written by Magnus King
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 14:13

DESERT OLDS Part 9 Tulsa to Texas

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Writing and photography copyright Double Dragon One Owner Collector Car Ltd. Brochure images copyright GM.

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THE CAR

Nantucket Blue 1967 Cutlass Town Sedan built Dec 20, 1966, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. 330-2bbl-250 HP, two speed auto, 2.78:1 axle. To read a history of the Cutlass and its MPG look in the GAS LOGS subsection of the TRAVEL STORIES drop down menu. Below is page 31 of the 1967 Oldsmobile dealership brochure.

67-cutlass-brochure-us--31

Bobby, the friendly attendant at the gas station called home. His wife checked their up to date home phone book for any new Hawks listings. No luck. Bobby picked up the phone and began dialing each Hawks listed in the phone book one by one. Tulsa isn't a particularly small town, but his generous actions coupled with the response of the people he called made it feel as it it was. He engaged in slow friendly conversations with each person but didn't find anyone who knew 'our kin' as he called them.

Martin and I heartily thanked Bobby and then went back outside to ponder our next move. I popped my head into the open window of the Cutlass,

"We have less than a quarter tank of gas left."

"I guess we're stuck here until that Western Union from Leguirre comes through."

Our supplies were low: some cereal and canned beans. Our plastic one gallon water jug was empty. In back of the station I found the air hose and radiator water hose and refilled the jug. I was out of sight so I held the hose over my head and took an impromptu shower. The water in the hose had been heated by sun but soon cold water from underground poured over me. By the time I returned to the car the glistening water on my skin was already evaporating in the powerful sun. Martin shook his head and laughed when he saw me.

I protested,

'Who knows when we'l get another chance to take a shower.'

Martin was beet red even in the shade. Although he was profusely sweating in his t shirt and jeans he wasn't willing to strip down in public to use the 'shower'. He silently endured the blazing heat which dried my hair within a few minutes. I suggested a return to the Mother Road,

"We can live in the car outside of Tulsa in one of those ghost towns we saw on old Route 66 for a few days until Leguirre comes through. It might be fun to explore some more of that back country."

Martin wasn't keen,

"This is Leguirre we're talking about. His sense of urgency is shall we say, someone blunted. We could be stuck in this sauna for a week or longer if we wait on Leguirre."

Martin needed a shower and an air conditioned hotel room NOW. His suggestion was to tap my mom for some money.

"After all, she was the one who told you to look up your relatives. We wouldn't have diverted this far north otherwise. I already hit my dad for cash in Vegas...."

"Yeah but your old man is a soft touch. My mom is as hard as a rock. First she's going to say 'damn and blast' and maybe 'bloody hell'. Then she's going to tell me that we're two able bodied men and to get off our asses. Why get her all pissed off for nothing when we both know the answer is going to be no anyways?"

Martin was parched, red faced, tormented by his own sweat and desperate,

"Give it your best shot. We have to at least TRY."

I slowly walked to the phone booth like a condemned man. Mom reluctantly accepted the charges. She was already irritated by the collect call before I launched into my spiel.

"We're in Tulsa but we can't find Uncle Hawks. He must have moved. We were counting on crashing out there for a few days until a money wire came through..."

"You didn't expect to FREELOAD off them did you?"

"Yeah, just for a couple of days. They're pretty wealthy so a couple of days wouldn't affect them..."

"Bloody Hell! This is absolutely ridiculous! ABSURD! Why would you embark upon a trip with NO MONEY OR JOBS? You aren't boys anymore! This is disgusting! Grown men drifting around the country like a pair of hobos!"

As soon as I got to the point of asking her to send money I wisely held the phone back from my ear. The angry tirade bounced around the phone booth threatening to shatter the glass. After ranting and raving she said,

'It will serve your right if you have to live in your car until you get yourself some jobs. This is DISGRACEFUL! Begging money off your own mother! Are you disabled or unable to work? NO!! Why should I fiance this folly? Do you see me out gallivanting around the country without money? What on earth possessed you to do this? And now you expect me to bankroll this NONSENSE!"

Once she had made it perfectly clear there was no way we were getting any money I asked,

"So are you going to send us some money?"

Martin's facial expression displayed his disbelief at the way I had just escalated the outrage. It was such a ludicrous request that it stopped her in her tracks. After a moment of silence I wondered if she hung up.

But then she sternly informed me that I could have a once in a lifetime time bail out of 200 bucks but we were never to ask again.

Martin was impressed.

"She actually sent twice as much as my old man!"

I nodded,

"200 bucks! I can't believe it! I was certain it was just going to be matter of me stirring up a hornet's nest for no good reason at all..."

Martin referred to Blanche from Streetcar Named Desire,

"Well I suppose we have to rely on the kindness of strangers from now on."

I laughed,

"Or get jobs. We are no longer boys, you know!"

Martin smiled and quoted one of my mother's rants,

"The actual quote was that we were a pair of Peter Pans idling in perpetual parasitical youth."

"Yeah. That was a pretty impressive mouthful."

We drove across town and camped out in the white hot scorching cement parking lot of a Western Union to wait out the wire. The miracle occurred in late afternoon. Martin was on a mission for a motel and shower RIGHT NOW. I left Martin luxuriating in our air conditioned motel room and started exploring Tulsa as darkness descended.

I parked in front of some neon. 'New Country' music vibrated the front door. The disconcerting part was that most of the patrons were not hockey haired mullet new country guys but old school guys who should have been listening to real down home country honk and not this weird shit. I made it through one drink and saw no available girls worth approaching. I got out and drove a bit.

My windows were down. I heard blues music and parked. Insects swarmed over a light above the front door to the bar. A screen door half torn off hung on one hinge.  Dim and smokey and hot inside. Every head jerked towards the front door. I was the only whitey in the place. Black faces glistening with sweat appraised me and then soon forgot me again. The music was good. As my eyes adjusted to the light I realized that the few girls in this place were property of enormous glowering guys no one wants to mess with.

I decided to give it one drink to see if any lone girls showed up. I ordered a vodka greyhound which annoyed the bartender,

'We got BEER.'

I drank beer until a fight broke out. Everyone stepped back out of the radius of the action. No guns appeared. These were big guys of the old school that used fists. A monstrous guy took a few hits and then slowly sat down on a chair as if to contemplate another round of punching then sagged into silent brooding. The victor came up to the bar and glared at me with bloodshot eyes, wavering on his feet. Sub-brain gibberish spewed out of his mouth and seemed to be directed my way,

'Muthafuckn ablowbubaba whensyou thinga fogaenitu jiveass moublefuggin....."

"I can't understand you."

This was the wrong answer. The remnants of his already infuriated alcohol saturated brain shifted up into a rage overdrive. He screamed some more jumbled jargon unintelligible mush mouth ravings. His teeth were red with blood from swollen cracked lips. I can't decipher ghetto hipster talk even at the best of times let alone when its filtered through drink and a mangled mouth in a room full of blaring electric blues. He kept up his hostile interrogative drivel, weaving a bit demanding an answer. Aside from no girly action in this place it would be pretty easy to end up beaten to a pulp. I held up my hand and indicated 'wait a second' then pointed to a spot behind the bar.

He turned his head and in a flash I had walked out before his sodden brain could process what just happened. I drove the rest of the strip checking bars and evaluating the clientele out front on the street from the safety of the Cutlass. No stunning girls, plenty of baleful glaring drunks. A good place to get in a fight and a hopeless place to get laid.

I was way over the wrong side of the tracks. Cruising around this tropical third world country it was hard to convince myself that this was supposed to be a flat Midwestern squaresville farm outpost in Oklahoma. Hordes of people swarmed through the sidestreets. The streets reminded me of a riverbed while the people were the water coursing through its arteries swelling up in some areas and thinning out in others. I piloted the Cutlass through crowds like a ship captain negotiating narrow canals barely avoiding scraping bottom.

Half naked black people were drinking, dancing and cavorting in the streets. Leafy trees shadowed out the minimal street lights. In the dark murk of endless movement flashbulb like images were caught in my headlights. Hot girls writing about. Guys groping them. Joyous motion was occasionally splintered by hulking figures of gangsta Mofo rap guys with freeze out stares. These statues were making buffoon like hand gestures intended to inform others of their purported status. They came into focus as unpleasant blips among the flowing loose rolling energy.

My left arm was draped over the doorframe as I lazily piloted the Cutlass with my right index finger randomly floating up and down mysterious streets. I let the car roll with the currents loose and easy as the exhaust burbled like the wake of a boat. On a narrow road the soot blackened shacks that passed for houses proclaimed that I was in a bad crackhouse zone. A skinny black junkie girl clutched at my forearm holding tight walking fast with the car,

'What you need?"

I sure didn't need some strung out scarecrow creature grabbing my arm. The What You Need? chorus followed the car through the jungle as people swarmed the car. The only reason a whitey would be here is to score dope or hos. I slowly increased speed and escaped the desperate vultures. Coming towards me I spotted a white full sized late 1970s Cadillac. The guy driving it was dressed like a time warp pimp, feather in his hat, shades and a white suit with a sort of shiny striped purple shirt with big collar showing.

Back on safe territory it seemed there was a city ordinance compelling bars in whiter areas to play nothing but country music. I can dig some of the twanged out bare bones country honk but just can't handle that chipper hyper mullet stuff. Its almost as bad as 'Christian Rock'. I drank quickly in a few places and got out. Everything was all wrong for me in those places.

There weren't any hot girls anyways. I had driven randomly and managed to land in all the wrong areas. I finally found a bunch of biker bars where I could somewhat fit in with the crowd. There were even one or two hot girls. I ordered a drink but was told last call had already passed. The bars were shutting down and people dribbled outside ready for home.

Random driving had deposited me somewhere but I had absolutely no idea where. I am not good with names. Not only was I unable to recall the name of our motel but the street name it was on also escaped me. I remembered approximately where we had entered town and how we had gotten to the gas station, wire pickup and motel, but it was hazy.

The Gousha atlas thoughtfully provided a mini map of Tulsa showing the main streets. Some of the names sounded familiar. The lucky break for me was that I had scrawled down '3139 South Harvard' on the map earlier. This was where we picked up the Western Union wire. All I had to do now was drive until I hit a main road big enough to appear on the mini map. From there I could figure out where I was in relation to Harvard and piece together a rough concept of where I'd been in that all night blur of streets and neighborhoods.

We had gassed up the car earlier so I could stay lost as long as it took. The AM radio oldies played over the engine tunes which added deep throbbing rumbles The sleepy engine hardly worked while the Cutlass meandered at 20 MPH up and down and around. Finally a main road became a bridge which inspired me to stomp the gas and clear out the carb. The Cutlass shot ahead with a howl over the black waters of the river. Trial and error returned me to where we had picked up the wire. It was already 4 AM.

My patience ended as the motel remained elusive for a tedious hour of canvassing the neighborhood in futility. One way streets diverted me off my preferred grid by grid search pattern. Extravagantly huge detours bypassed full blocks that may have contained our motel. I was tired and toyed with just pulling the car over and taking a nap.  When businesses opened in the morning I could inquire and piece together the location of the motel.

But this was the first time in a long while I had the luxury of a bed to sleep in. It was stupid to sleep in the car. At 5:25 AM it no longer seemed stupid to sleep in the car. It was necessary. I pulled into an alley in the back of a building and cut the engine ready to drop into the seat in a deep sleep.

I looked again at what my bleary eyes were barely registering.

Could it be true? Yes it was.

I started laughing my head off.

I was actually in the back lot of our motel. This is where we had unloaded the car and there were the same 2 pickup trucks from earlier. What a relief. I collapsed in bed around dawn.

I was awake again a couple of hours later. For once Martin the even tempered patient stoic was bitching. The humidity was driving him nuts,

"I just got out of the shower and I'm already sweating again!"

He hates sweating. My observation from the bars last night was that sweating is pretty much the prime activity in summertime Tulsa. Martin was very anxious to move on. As we slid into the super heated car it felt like entering an oven, but it cooled off a bit once we got rolling.

Thus far we'd managed to avoid every toll highway that had stood in our path. As we dropped south of Tulsa strident signs warned us that this was our last chance to get off Interstate 75 before it became a toll road named Indian Nation Turnpike. Martin's high sweat levels and our relatively high money levels combined with his anxiety to make some progress dictated a change in strategy,

"Let's just pay the blood money and get to New Orleans in this lifetime."

I was alright with his decision. The toll highway ran right into Paris, Texas. I'd seen the movie of the same name and wanted to see the real place. I instructed Martin to search the AM radio dial for a blues station. Maybe we would get lucky and hear the Ry Cooder soundtrack from the movie so we could play that music as we entered Paris. We didn't find a blues station.

I noticed a pickup truck pacing us on a secondary highway. The secondary highway would zig zag away from us then return and each time the pickup was still keeping up with us. We got off the toll highway. Aside from the pickup truck now ahead of us on the horizon there was no one else on this secondary road. We continued to run a steady 70 MPH making roughly the same time we were did on the toll highway. The secondary road made some detours and speed limits dropped whenever it passed through a small town but with no stoplights in town the brief slowdowns didn't cut our time by much.

In Hugo we switched to Highway 271 which sunk south parallel to the railway.

There was no life stirring in Paris when we arrived around dinnertime. The place was much different than the desolate emptiness depicted in the film. Green lawns and trees creating inviting shade in front of neat well kept homes and buildings. We didn't see the trailers in the desert shown in the film. We did find a gigantic elaborately stylish Chinese restaurant in the middle of town.

Inside black painted carved posts supported the roof, dragons were painted on the ceiling, elaborate lampshades over lights, crisp clean red tablecloths. Black ceiling fans circulated the air conditioned coolness which won Martin over immediately. A waiter dressed in a fresh red uniform worthy of a Captain in some army poured out water and tea before we sat at our booth. We ordered a big meal and settled back into the red leather seats. Looking out the window no cars went past. The only signs of activity in the entire town was the bustling kitchen that was frenziedly creating our food.

"How does a huge place like this with all this overhead stay in business?"

Martin shrugged and sipped his tea then put the atlas on the table to plot our route.

"South through Texas, then east at Houston and straight across to New Orleans on the 10."

I had pretty much forgotten the purported purpose to this aimless wandering. I was so in the groove of just moving that our final destination had become a hazy myth. Martin was bringing me back in tune. Somehow in all the rambling the destination had always been real for him. Since he had a purpose of focus to the trip it stayed in his mind while to me the tripping was the purpose. Everything else was just an excuse to rationalize the trip.

I vaguely recalled that time when we had been rooted in one spot. Years pass as seconds when you are in one spot.. everything is the same. It all merges into one day. Our trip had meandered and weaved through so much it felt to me like we had always been on the road. The years in one spot were just the takeoff point.

We ate slowly, savored our meal and relaxed. Even Martin seemed a bit wistful now that our destination was in reach. The roaming would soon end.

We rolled along a two lane highway heading south west down towards Dallas. In Sulphur Springs, Texas a local church fronted with a plastic commercial business sign displayed the message:. Jesus loves Sulphur Springs. I breathed easy as we went through town. The streets were much wider than the choked narrow arteries in high blood pressure cities where cars are parked on either side to enhance the claustrophobia. Here each resident had his own driveway and the giant street was clear and open.

desertolds-sulphur springs tx old car

We saw cars from the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s with current registration plates parked alongside old rounded washing machines. Ted's Machine Shop was a boarded up building fronted by an old school bus. Dusty windows hid some old treasures stored inside the bus.

A low level buzz of insects in the heat but no action or signs of human life. The hum of a nearby pond lulled me into a trance as I slowly walked around looking at some of the old cars. Martin was hiding in the shade. Back in the car the highway was a blank slate with almost no other cars.

The secondary road eventually filtered into Interstate 30 leading into Dallas, Texas. The sun set over silver shimmering water along the highway as we rode a big long bridge into Dallas. I turned to Martin,

"Remember the Johnny Winter song?"

"Since you haven't specified which song you're talking about I can't say whether or not I remember 'that' song."

"Gonna bring my knife and my gun. So much shit in Dallas you're bound to step in some. I believe that Dallas is the meanest town I know..."

"I don't know that song. Let's hope we don't step in any shit..."

Dallas didn't look mean to us. It was pretty beautiful from our vantage point. Huge sparkling fresh new skyscrapers reflected the pink orange of the sunset. The downtown was big enough that the buildings flashed past for several minutes even at a steady 70 MPH. Everything is big in Texas.

We got off the highway and parked in a cheapo megastore parking lot that sprawled across a space equivalent to an airport parking lot. The store itself was so far away it was a mere speck over a horizon of seemingly infinite numbers of parked cars. The sun set on us in the parking lot while I ate some food and Martin paced about, jingling his keys and pocket change seemingly counting the seconds till we reached New Orleans.

Leaving Dallas around 8 or 9 at night we found the traffic was still heavy on the freeways. About halfway to Houston we pulled into a rest stop. It was late and dark Bugs were out.

I find public restrooms to be annoying at the best of times but this one was something else. Aside from the stall with the expected ill fitting door that barely latches, and the typical giant spaces under the stall and the huge gaps in the panels which cut away your privacy the designer of this bathroom had found a way to improve upon the privacy failure already inherent and accepted in public bathrooms. This one cut the height of the stall walls down to about 3 or 4 feet high. This was likely intended to prevent gay activity in the bathroom. But I don't CARE about gays doing their thing in bathrooms. I care about myself and MY privacy when I'm trying to take a dump in peace.

I'm sitting there trying to do my thing and a giant trucker comes lumbering into the stall beside me with his cowboy hat nearly poking into my stall. He was smoking a cigar and horking and coughing and grunting and wheezing. Every few seconds the steel front door would come crashing open and another astonished traveler would be confronted by the spectacle of several people trying to take a dump in the spotlight like some demented circus sideshow. Why not just line up the toilets right along the offramp to ensure no one coming to this rest stop would miss you taking your crap?

The truckers were bellowing across my stall to one another and yelling to their buddies at the urinals. Some mullet haired guy with a greasy CAT baseball cap stepped inside. He wore a confederate t shirt cut off at the shoulders to reveal elaborate tattoos. He led a motley crew of similarly inbred looking characters to the urinals. His look of disdain only fired up the latent irritation anyone trying to take a dump while on display was feeling already. Soon a political debate with the truckers in the stalls had carried over to the mullet men.

'Long haired fairy white trash motherfuckers in their welfare check trailer parks and I'm working an 18 hour day...how much government money did those tattoos cost, boy?"

Some very macho looking crewcut guys were siding with the truckers and the CAT hat guys were nervously trying to remain tough. It was pretty obvious to me that any one of those truckers alone could tear apart all 4 of the CAT hat crew in a second. I'm sure they knew it just as well but still they murmured about 'fat cowboy douche bags' and other insults just vague enough to not quite exactly set off a war and yet make it APPEAR to their buddies that they were standing tall.

I had long hair and although it was mercifully not a mullet when the fists started flying that wasn't going to matter. I also wasn't living in a trailer on welfare. I was living in a car. But the distinction may have been too subtle to matter if the brewing punch up came to pass. What timing. Caught in mid dump while hostilities escalated.

Denunciations continued. All these guys had wicked looking hunting knives on their belts and doubtlessly were packing heat, too. The CAT hat crew were from Houston and talking about how Houston was the toughest town in Texas. A very big trucker stated,

"Houston is a shithole. Ain't nothin there but useless white trash faggots, niggers and the Mex."

I managed to finish up and then walk the gauntlet between the warring factions to the sink to wash my hands. I looked at my distorted reflection in the polished steel 'mirror' which had nicks, slashes and names scratched into it. Unwillingly ensnared in this snarl of tension I was teetering on being guilty by association. Visual shorthand would probably lump me in with the CAT hat crew although the CAT guys could clearly see I was nothing like them.

Out at the Cutlass Martin was reading his book with a flashlight. I kept an eye on the can door as I fired up the engine. No one came out. I wondered if a rumble was going on inside there. There was not a sound.

We drove into the night and settled in a rest stop where the bathroom was free of disputes. This place had normal stalls. It was probable that truckers and white trash guys were inside various stalls here. Not being forced to see each other resulted in quiet. Removing the underlying irritation of being put on parade when trying to take a dump would have likely notched down any reaction to one another anyways. I took a peaceful piss and read the graffiti scratched into the polished metal 'mirror'.

Houston was big. Skyscrapers shone in the streetlights and lights from the windows told us the whole city was alive and active even at this late hour. We rode an elevated highway through the heart of this modern bustling city. Going down an off ramp to locate gas and food presented a jarring counterpoint to the glitzy modern skyscapers. We rode around a bit in a bombed out area and found a run down 1960s designed supermarket. Rectangular design and all plate glass windows. All the cars in the lot where old and beat up. The newest car in sight was 8 years old. Martin remarked,

"We seem to be the only whites in this parking lot."

We were getting some funny looks but most of it was curiosity about our old 1967 Cutlass not skin color. Inside the store incredibly loud really raucous good electric blues music was blaring instead of the usual muzak pumped into grocery stores. The stock was right off the truck. Big cardboard boxes were piled up with the fronts of the boxes torn away to allow access to the cans inside. The lack of shelf stocking effort and Spartan layout had a great payoff: the prices were fantastic. Big cans of beans (Po Folk brand) were the size of gallon paint buckets and cost a mere 33 cents each. Enormous boxes of rice and pasta cost 50 cents each.

The dire warnings and insults about Houston I'd heard in the rest stop rumble earlier were a bit off base. Everyone in this store was in a good mood and merely looked at a whitey in here with mild surprise but no hostility. When I came into the parking lot with the food Martin's eyes bugged out at the size of the cans and boxes. He was astounded at how cheap it all was.

The horizon was glowing luminous with a white mist while above us the sky was black with heavy clouds pressing down full of humidity and bugs. Lightning flashed and boomed but no rain. On the one hand we wanted to get moving away from the impending storm but despite having a half a tank of gas we decided to ride the low price wave in this area and get a cheap fill up. We found a soot black shack covered in years of exhaust gases. The cracked cement was a brown dirt color and the pumps were old style items with what looked like dry rotted hoses. 99 cents a gallon! i filled the tank then went inside to stock up on cheap oil while we were here.

Sitting at the desk was an exaggeration of the CAT hat crew from the rest stop rumble. This guy was hostile. A shotgun was propped up beside him, and a worn club was by his side. He had a confederate t shirt and chawing tobaccy and greasy baseball cap. He was somehow doing business in the heart of the black area and seemed to have been here for a long time. How he was getting business even with the good prices was a bit mysterious. He radiated menace. A rack of magazines GUNS AND AMMO, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, ASSASSIN MONTHLY, VENGEANCE sat along with some mimeographed nut zines. Oil was 89 cents a quart. I put a few jugs on the counter which was worn smooth through the years.

'How ya doing?"

His answer was to slam my change down on the counter and glare. Outside I told Martin about the wild hillbilly running this place and he said,

"Hmm."

Martin turned the page in his book. I fired up the car just as big raindrops began to pelt the windshield with loud smacks.

A huge storm unleashed itself crackling and booming as Interstate 10 made its way slightly inland of the Texas coast through Beaumont into Louisiana and the bayou. Mosquitoes intensified and green thick vegetation proliferated. Large oil refineries were hard at work in Texas and Louisiana.

We pulled off the highway at a rest stop. The interstate in this swampland was all supported on stilts. The piles were driven deep through the swamp to the solid core way below. As the exit dropped us down to murky ground level the air became thicker and dense. The rest area was pure swampwater. Any solid ground was man made jutting into the mush the way docks extend into a lake. Under the highway span there was water everywhere and a roar of bugs. I didn't even stop moving, just twirled the wheel and climbed the ramp back up top onto the interstate again.

Back on the highway we waited for a rest stop where the swamps were thinned out a bit. The next rest area was also located under the elevated highway but there was some natural dry ground. Not that it wasn't teeming with insects but it was marginally less oppressive than the first rest area we found.

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Next  morning we headed along the highway and got milk in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. We rolled alongside the railway on a service road passing an abandoned truck in a field. A bunch of guys on a porch reminded me of homesteaders from a bygone era. The vehicles here were as raw assed as the Cutlass. Heading into Baton Rouge a big steel bridge took us over a wide river which looked similar to the bridge the Easy Riders crossed in the movie. Martin was neutral on the subject,

"Could be.."

He turned a page in his book. But soon his book was in his lap and he was caught up in excitement watching the road. We were closing in on New Orleans pretty quickly now.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 March 2021 21:07 )