Riding through west Texas, Louisiana and now entering Mississippi makes me appreciate how hard it is to make a living in these rural parts of America. Last week’s New York Times (thank you online news) featured an article with an interactive map of the poverty levels across the U.S.; the towns I’ve been biking through are struggling with high rates of poverty. I have to say, though, that there is plenty of creativity and determination. Lots of people are thinking differently.
I walked into this health center/pharmacy in Louisiana where I was surprised to see – in addition to a fully stocked pharmacy and over the counter medications – the best display of hair bows west of the Mississippi River! Now that’s diversification.
This sign in the small town of Buna, TX caused me to circle back to be sure I read it correctly.
Many are still trying to make it farming with cattle, horses, goats and chickens adjacent to homes. This was a farm stand just as we were entering Mississippi (awaiting something to sell).
A few entrepreneurial types are renting out their backyards and spiritual centers to cyclists and campers. We camped at Inspiration Park outside of Kentwood, LA. The next night we set up tents behind some bike friendly folks’ house outside of Jackson, LA. (The hanging bicycle marked where to turn down their driveway). In that town, the primary employer is the state penitentiary (where they are not employed).
We (and some other tourists) were snookered by the lure of a haunted mansion in St. Francisville, LA. It looked enticing as we cycled in and we had heard from another cyclist it was not to be missed. My advice: Don’t believe it unless you read it on TripAdvisor:). No ghosts anywhere (!) and the tour was a bust, but a good way for the owners to pay for the upkeep on their big mansion.
There are lots of inventive businesses on the backroads.
Here’s one I would not expect to see in Boston.
This one you actually MIGHT see in Boston.
No matter what, there is warm encouragement from folks I’ve met on these rural roads. It doesn’t change the state of poverty in America, but it does say a lot about the human spirit.
Hi, Anne – Enjoying your reflections on how challenging things are in our rural areas (from what I understand it’s true in the midwest and upstate NY as well) and the ways in which these circumstances have called forth creative approaches to making ends meet. I also loved your entry on the medical clinic combined with day spa/hair salon. We have a place here that a combines a laundromat with a tanning salon…so you have something to do while your clothes are in the spin cycle! – Kerry
I think that you’re capturing the South in a way that most of us never see. My Uncle, born in Korea, taught Chemistry at Ole Miss, and he got to see a slice of the US that a kid like from Michigan never imagined. But the common thing was curiosity, an interest in learning, and kindness. So glad that you’re ride is going so well! And, check with Jim — boxes should have arrived this week!