IIIb: Flash Flood in Louisiana
Last March Matt and I went to Barksdale AFB for a week-long course for new commanders and their spouses. It was less vacation-like then one might think as a.) we were in separate classes from 7:30-5:00 the entire week b.) except for the day I came down with a deathly case of... food poisoning? Stomach flu? I was the only one there who got it, so who knows. Aside from that one lost day where I slept about 13 hours in a row in the daytime, we had a good time—the course was interesting, we got to eat out a lot like grownups with grownups, and there was plenty of BBQ and peach cobbler available throughout the week.
One night, however, was a little scary.
When we set out for dinner after a day's worth of class, it looked like this from our hotel. We stood there kind of in awe for a few seconds because it was just so green. And rainy. These are things we don't see in March in Wyoming (or April, or May...) Of course we didn't have umbrellas, so we just made a run for the car. The little itty-bitty rental plasticar. A Nissan Versa. This is important as the story continues.
We were headed to a restaurant called Ralph & Kacoo's, which was on a list of "you should eat there while you're in Louisiana" places someone told us about. I had my camera with me, even though Matt suggested I leave it in the hotel room that night (foreshadowing) because that's what I like to do. We set out on some sort of highway (details are sketchy by now) and the rain which was a quaint little sprinkle when we left the base started turning into—and I am not even kidding—Niagara Falls. The lightning was pretty awful, too; so bad that every time it flashed we were momentarily blinded and my Willis Startle Reflex let out an "OH My Goodness!" This is exceedingly unhelpful to someone trying to drive through the center of Niagara Falls in a Nissan Versa, by the way.
Just when we thought it couldn't get worse, it did. I kept repeating to myself the old wives' tale that we were safe because of our rubber tires. The rain was falling so hard by this point that it was as if we were out to sea just left of a major hurricane; and oh, did I mention that neither of us had any idea where we were because we are not from Louisiana. At this point, we decide we are lost and try to exit the interstate/highway to turn around.
Until we see the car at the end of the exit ramp floating in what looks to us like 129 feet of water. The man whose car is floating sideways jumps out and runs away clutching a cell phone; he is dressed in what looks like a restaurant server's uniform. His car is floating, and we're just kind of on the exit ramp. All I can think is "I am going to DROWN and my CAMERA is going down WITH. ME. WHYYYYYYYY DIDN'T I LISTEN TO MATT!!!" [Ed. note: that is in there for his benefit. Mostly.]
So. At this point Matt is trying to brainstorm ways we can float over the 129 feet of water and make it safely to Ralph & Kacoo's, wherever that might be—and I am testily encouraging him to BACK THIS VERSA UP. As in, get back on the strange interstate/highway, the one we were lost on to begin with. Because at least it isn't a fast-growing lake.
I won that one.
So, we back the Versa up. Have you ever backed up a car on an exit ramp in the midst of a storm of biblical proportions in a state you've never been to before? When you were already lost? And, might I add, extremely hungry? It is safe to say that we were both pretty shot nerves-wise at this point.
We get ourselves turned around on a more level exit ramp and work our way back through Niagara Falls until we think we are where we need to be. Except now roads are getting blocked because there are other 129 feet of water spots forming. We get lost in a rough-looking neighborhood in Shreveport for a bit while avoiding the road block, and then finally see the neon sign for Ralph & Kacoo's across the way.
And here she is, our sea-faring vessel. We did not drown or capsize or perish in any other manner that night, so I suppose we must begrudgingly thank Nissan for the Versa's... something or other. Chutzpah?
The food was fine. Perhaps not worth what we went through to eat it, but all in all, a good meal. And you could buy alligator heads in the gift shop, which is something we do not see every day. Or any day, actually. Louisiana is something else.