Saturday, April 30, 2011

Road Trip: The "All The Way There..." Tour

First off, I want to thank the state of Louisiana and their Office of State Parks for making this trip everything that it was.

Second, I'd like the discerning reader to right click on this link and search the resulting page for the word, "fence." This will become important momentarily.

I decided a few days ago to visit Fort Pike. Did some research and found the site linked above, noted the "Admission to Fort Pike SHS is by appointment only." I wrote down the number, dashed an email off to them asking how much lead time they'd need to set up an appointment, and got my stuff together.

The X-11 kicked ass. This is the longest single trip I've made with the car, and it wasn't without some hiccups--a pricey-sounding rattling racket after an hour at highway speeds, maybe the throwout bearing or clutch. I'm not looking forward to that job.

Pensacola to Mobile, past Pascagoula, pull off at a McDonald's somewhere in Mississippi (free Wi-Fi!), check email. No reply from the Fort Pike people.

Back on I-10, pass Biloxi and a thousand billboards urging the reader to gamble, into Louisana. They built a pretty new bridge to replace the narrow old Highway 90 Rigolets bridge. Road's smoother, too. Pulled into the fort's parking lot around 1 pm.

Nice parking lot. Big. Gravel, with a boat ramp. Maybe 200 feet on a side.

It's also the only part of the park that's not fenced in.

It's a nice fence. Well-made. Glints in the sunlight. It's galvanized, so it'll last for years. The three lines of barbed wire along the top is a nice touch. But that's the problem: they don't mention the fence on the park page. In all the searching online that I've done about Pike in the last few weeks, there's no mention of a fence. If you Google "fort pike louisiana fenced in" there's a mention of "fencing" (but not "completely fenced the hell in")...but also this:
Fort Pike is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Monday (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Entrance fee is $2 per person. Free for seniors age 62 and older and children age 12 and younger. Groups are asked to call in advance. For information, contact (888) 662-5703 or (504) 255-9171. Also send e-mail to
The Park site says $4, by appointment.

Last time I visited Fort Pike, the fort's doors were closed and locked...but there was no fence. I could at least walk around the outside and get pictures. Now, all you see is the fence and the fort's landward defenses (a big mound of earth that protects the fort from direct fire and tourists).

I called the park's appointment number; they were very sorry to have missed my call and would return it as soon as possible; I left a message and waited in the parking lot for an hour.

About 40 bucks worth of potential park revenue pulled into the lot in that hour. As soon as they saw The Fence and its locked gate, they turned around and left. There's no sign anywhere to tell random visitors who to call if they want to see the fort. No ticket booth. If someone's driving along Highway 90 and sees the fort from the nearby bridge, that's all the view they get.

There were maybe 6 more cars parked near the boat ramp; including kids, at four bucks a head there was easily another $50 in potential park revenue. I've always heard that the weekend is when the money flows at tourist places, and Pike could easily have pulled in a thousand bucks in 8 hours. Maybe more.

But the only message I was getting from the State of Louisiana and their Office of State Parks was "Welcome to Fort Pike. Now Go The Fark Home."

After sitting in the lot, I decided to run down 90 to look at Fort Macomb. That one's fenced in, too, but I knew it would be. I glanced at the site, but didn't bother stopping. I went a few more miles and stopped at the Michoud Assembly Facility, where the shuttles' big tanks were built, and the Saturn V first stages before that. The last Saturn first stage is still on display. And fenced in. Took some pictures.

Headed back to Pike. Still locked up. There were four more cars, that many more missed opportunities.

Got pictures of the fence, the fence, and the fence, and a sign thanking me for my visit (thanks, wiseass, glad to be there). On the way out, I discovered a flaw in the fence: it stops just under the Highway 90 bridge.

You can pretty much walk around the north end of the freaking fence and back up to the fort. Damn shame I can't walk very far right now.

Up on 90, eastbound, headed home with nothing to show other than wear on the car and most of a tank of gas burned.

Given that the State doesn't seem interested in collecting tourist money (they never returned my call, but replied to my email a few days later), I can't really recommend visiting Fort Pike unless you enjoy sitting in a parking lot and looking at fences. I won't be making that trip again in the foreseeable future.

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