New motto: ‘Vicksburg, Our Highways, Your Parking Lots’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Up to 30,000 vehicles cross the Mississippi River at Vicksburg on an average day.

There haven’t been a lot of average days lately.

One driver who didn’t make it was a big lady in a big Cadillac. I was standing in the Post parking lot and saw her scooting rapidly up the shoulder of Interstate 20 past the creeping line of bumper-to-bumper 18-wheelers and passenger cars.

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Right before the Halls Ferry exit, she slammed her brakes, pulled off on the grass, scurried around to the passenger side and freed her bichon frise. (For those of you who might not know, a bichon frise is a dog. It looks like a poodle, but it’s not). Anyway, the little bichon resolved its emergency situation on the freshly mowed roadside, then both hopped back in the Cadillac and sped up the ramp. I guess the lady gave up on trying to get back in line, or maybe the dog reminded her she needed a pit stop, too, and the roadside just didn’t do it for her.

Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. One day he’ll get his. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail.

I have a baby brother, but otherwise have never traveled a long distance with an animal in the car. That leaves me to suppose there are ways pets communicate the need for a potty break, and apparently with increasing clarity. The little bichon must have been “telling” the big lady, “Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry …. forget about it stop,” which, I suppose, is better than, “Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry …. never mind.”

Let me just pause (paws?) here and say I know there’s nothing funny about being stuck in traffic as thousands and thousands have been during the I-20 bridge repair. The only reason I can make light of it is that I never was in any of the traffic. And it saddens me to think that right this moment all around the nation there are people remembering and mentioning “Vicksburg” with utter disgust because of their bad experience here. The last time we presented such an impediment to the American way of life, Abraham Lincoln sent Ulysses S. Grant and 25,000 armed combatants to set things right. Of course, some might say that if the Louisiana Department of Transportation had existed back then, the Union soldiers would never have made it across the river.

I had a caller who was also concerned about the utter ruination of our city’s reputation and said right-thinking citizens ought to go out to the highway, walk up and down and explain to motorists what was happening so they wouldn’t be so frustrated. She felt the “need to know” was the hardest part of the hour-long lines. My mind shifted immediately back to the big lady in the big Cadillac, specifically that the “need to go,” at least for some, might trump the “need to know.”

Port-O-Lets and an “IT’S NOT OUR FAULT” banner in the median might have been a more welcomed gesture.

Of course, any real entrepreneur might have done well with a golf cart — selling newspapers, magazines, hot dogs, Cokes, gallon jugs of gas, Depends ….

From a reporting perspective, of course, it would be nice to be able to tell the good readers of Vicksburg exactly what has been going on and what the future holds so far as the bridge maintenance project. That hasn’t been easy. Again, it’s the aforementioned LaDOT that manages the I-20 bridge bank-to-bank and the clarity of communication, to date, hasn’t been stellar. Official spokesfolks have been saying different things.

It did occur to me that the Warren County Board of Supervisors might have seized the opportunity to open the roadbed U.S. 80 bridge and charge $5 for cars, $10 for trucks. Could have paid for a new jail, new courthouse, a new everything — and put a pretty good dent in the national debt.