I arrived in Shreveport before 5PM and went straight to the motel I had targeted after perusing the AAA guidebook and interstate discount booklets. Criteria: price, location, internet access. Before asking about room availability, however, I booted up my computer in the parking lot to see whether I could access their wireless signal. YES! (I had been worried that my connection problems were a result of some changes to my system configuration and that I would be internet-less for the rest of the trip.)
The outside of the motel looks a bit raggedy, but it's because they are in the midst of renovation work. The room itself is quite nice. Figure I'll camp out here for several days while I volunteer at Chimp Haven. It looks to be about 20-30 minutes from here. I'll find out tomorrow. I was told that this area was about the closest I would find a motel.
I've been driving hard for almost three full days. The first several weeks of the trip were almost all one-nighters. Now I'm traveling to places where I will spend 4-5 nights. And those places are days apart. So there will be more strings of driving days punctuated by multi-night stops.
Yesterday I took I-10 from Tallahassee all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi. Then I took US49 up to Hattiesburg. Feeling fresh and with an extra hour (in the central time zone) I decided to keep going to Jackson. Longest one-day drive yet: 469 miles.
With the time I'd saved (not figuring in the time I wasted last night trying to get internet access) I figured I could go to the Jackson Zoo. So I did. I'd been there on the trip 7 years ago, but it was on a cold Saturday. This time it was a warm Tuesday and I pretty much had the place to myself. I talked briefly with keeper Steve P who, while not a regular primate keeper, was working that area since the chimp keeper, whom I'd met in Chicago in March, had quit.
Jackson is a poor city in a poor state, and the little zoo looks a bit frayed. Lots of chain link on the enclosures. But they do a lot with what they have, and they have A LOT of primates. Eight chimps and two white-handed gibbons and some orangutans (who chose not to go out today) and many different kinds of monkeys. I spent the most time watching some red-tailed guenons who were in a roomy enclosure with two black-and-white colobus monkeys. One of the guenons was playing with (terrorizing?) one of the much larger colobus. Apparently they are having success breeding these guenons and the Diana guenons.
I didn't do the whole zoo because I needed to get going toward Shreveport. I decided I should really get a bit of a look at downtown Jackson, and I wanted to drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway, so I backtracked a bit and found a street that would take me right through downtown and connect with the Trace. It didn't connect as seamlessly as it appeared on the map, but I eventually found the on-ramp and drove for about 10 miles of the 444-mile parkway that runs from Tennessee across Alabama and Mississippi.
Then I continued on to Shreveport on I-20. I didn't have time to stop in Monroe, LA, at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo. I-20 from Jackson and on through Louisiana to Texas is the same route I drove 7 years ago. I'd planned the route so I would pass through Shreveport where Chimp Haven was supposed to be under construction and I could stop and see it. But work didn't start on the sanctuary until a couple of years later. Now Chimp Haven is up and running and I'm going to volunteer there this week.