Road Trip of the Southwest United States, Lousiana, Oak Alley Plantation, Mississippi

Despite Dhar’s snoring, I had a fairly decent sleep that night. As was our habit, the first order of business was a shower. Dhar was one step ahead of me, something I gathered by the sound of running water from the bathroom and the empty cot in the middle of the floor.

The couch wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it would be when I had gone to bed, but I was too lazy at the time to bother setting up my cot. I had escaped the bane of all couch-sleepers — the kinked neck — a fluke in retrospect. The seats were springy enough, yet one never knows what a night of tossing a turning will bring. I did have a nasty case of “fabric face” though.

When Dhar emerged from the bathroom, I took his place and prepared to wash up for another long day. Or so went the intention … in practice my goal was a little more difficult. My shower started off okay, but less than 30 seconds into it (fortunately before I put any shampoo in my hair) the water turned ice cold. Then it flipped to scalding hot. Then back to ice cold. This pattern went on for a couple of minutes while I waited at the other end of the bathtub to see if it would stop. But the temperature fluctuations didn’t stop, and I ended up forgoing on a shower that morning. I made a feeble attempt to at least partially make up for the deficit by meticulously washing my face in the sink.

Dhar had a smile a kilometre wide when I exited the bathroom. He asked me if I liked the shower. The bastard hadn’t warned me! He’d let me wander into the shower that morning and burn my skin off while freezing my gonads. So when Stefan and Rebecca emerged from their room a few minutes later, I didn’t tell them either…

They found out quickly enough. Rebecca yipped and yelped as the water shifted from flaming to frigid. Expecting a verbal barrage when they emerged, I was rather surprised to hear only: “That shower sucks,” as they disappeared into their room. The door closed behind them and silence returned to the room.

Dhar and I set about cleaning up our mess, all the while wondering how a hotel that normally charged $150 a night for our room could have such a shitty plumbing system. I began to question the hotel, thinking that perhaps this was their doing, in revenge for the discount we were getting. Although I put the thought out of my mind (I really couldn’t see that kind of thing happening), I had nagging doubts all day long. So did we all.

The cameras came out early, I wanted to briefly become a pain-in-the-neck and take a surprise photo. Dhar had been like that for a good portion of the trip, catching us just as we were waking up, while we were driving, anytime that was awkward for the subject of the picture. But Dhar got the essence of what we were, no preparedness for the picture. On other trips I had taken, such a tactic was characteristic of me. I had lost the technique over the years, not having taken many pictures. It was time to start again.

I stood outside the bedroom door and focused my camera on the door. I didn’t know who was going to come out first so I tried to aim approximately where either Stefan or Rebecca’s head could be. I held my camera in place and starting talking with Dhar again, not looking in the direction of the closed door. After a few minutes of patient waiting, the door opened and my finger snapped down on the shutter button. It was only after I looked towards the doorway that I realized I had taken a picture of Stefan.

The plan was simple: we were going to see a plantation, specifically Oak Alley. It was just a matter of finding the place. Unfortunately we had misplaced the brochure I had obtained from the KOA office the day before. A complete search of our hotel room and Rebecca’s purse (where we believed the brochure to be) turned up nothing. Since we had to travel in that general direction anyway (that much I knew), we considered a brief stop at the KOA a good idea.

We packed all our gear together and loaded up to head downstairs and check out. Our semi-dramatic entrance less than 24 hours earlier was being played in reverse, a rag-tag team of four university students exiting from a posh hotel looking almost like we should be living in the streets. I think we all took a little pride in that, our way of telling those who’d turn their noses at us that we really didn’t give a damn.

The Behemoth was waiting when we got out to the road, one of the joys of valet service. The bags were stowed, the books stashed, the CD player returned to its place of honour, and the fridge checked to make sure it was still cold. I had made certain the day before that the 12 volt system was switched on and the fridge was set for 12 volt. The battery was nearly dead, but the fridge was cold. This meant our breakfast of donuts, leftovers from the previous day’s breakfast, weren’t too runny.

We strapped in and headed our way back to the KOA. By this time we had a pretty good feeling for driving around in New Orleans, and the maps were left on the floor. Rebecca returned to her determination to move to New Orleans. She commented that several of the homes on St. Charles Avenue would suit her nicely. (This from someone who hasn’t even paid off her school loans yet.)

I had my camera handy as I drove. The sun had finally returned to the New Orleans sky, and I was determined to get some pictures of the tree canopy over St. Charles Avenue. I also took a couple pictures of the trolleys in motion. Soon we were back at Jefferson Highway and heading west. It wasn’t long before the familiar red and yellow KOA sign appeared around a bend.

I pulled up next to the office while explaining to Rebecca approximately where I had found the Oak Alley brochure in the rack. She dove into the office and returned a heartbeat later, a white piece of glossy paper in hand. I felt a little guilty about taking another copy of the brochure from the KOA when we weren’t staying there, but we had stayed there one night before, and I somehow doubted that the KOA had to pay someone to stock their printed matter rack.

We drove along until we got to Williams Boulevard, where we turned north towards the I-10. There was a double purpose to the trip along Williams Boulevard, which appeared only a few blocks up from Jefferson Highway — our long-sought after Starvin’ Marvin. It must have appeared very strange to the staff (not to mention the patrons) to see a large camper-van pull up to the side of the road, a dark-skinned man wearing jeans dive out the side door, take a picture of the store, and dive back in the van, which promptly drives off.

The instructions were reasonably simple: get on the I-10 and travel west to exit 195. We would then travel south on a road that we didn’t know the name of, which would take us to a bridge that would cross the Mississippi River. On the other side we would find Highway 18. Heading west (or north, depending on what way you think you’re pointed), you eventually come across Oak Alley.

As I drove, Dhar and I chatted nonchalantly about anything that happened to come to mind. Stefan and Rebecca, however, were unusually quiet that morning. Too quiet. It sounds a little weird, I don’t deny it, but the lack of conversation from them was disconcerting. I couldn’t help but feel that the escape Dhar and I had pulled had crossed the lines of decency, and they were two harrumphs past annoyed. It seemed reminiscent of the silent treatment kids give to one another in punishment. Whatever the case was, it made me uneasy.

By the time we reached exit 195, Dhar and I were talking about anything just to feel somewhat normal … at least I was, I don’t know if Dhar was feeling as paranoid that morning as I. We turned down a nondescript highway towards the Mississippi River. The silence was deafening. There are times that I wish I was psychic, so I could know the thoughts of others. (At the very least, it would help with my social life — not having to guess whether or not a woman’s going to deck me simply for talking to her would be a great relief.) That morning I would have loved to know if Dhar and I would live to see the end of the day.

The map on the brochure we had wasn’t to scale. We didn’t have a clue where Oak Alley was, only that somewhere along the highway (a small two lane road) we’d stumble across the old plantation. We rounded a bend in the road, and the space to the south of us opened up. Across a small field, partially obscured by three large trees, was a large red and yellow building. It looked a little out of place, but still seemed to fit in a strange sort of manner.

It was the Laura plantation, recently opened to the public. It had been the only other plantation that the KOA manager had recommended. One of the reasons we didn’t go was that the manager had pointed out that the plantation had only just opened, and was still working out the bugs … not necessarily in the literal sense.

Just past Laura was another large bend in the road. Along the southern side was a large line of dense trees, the northern side a steep hill. A small simple sign quickly came into view: “Oak Alley Parking 500 ft.” I breathed a silent sigh of relief, I was glad we didn’t have to backtrack on our route to find the place. In a heartbeat we could look down the feature that gave the plantation its name: an alley of 28 enormous oak trees that led to the plantation house.

We pulled into the gravel driveway at the west end of the plantation lot, and traveled down the slightly winding road to the lot. We deposited the van away from most of the other cars, just so we’d have some room to maneouver when it was time to leave. The ceiling hatch was opened and the fan turned on to keep the inside cool, we grabbed whatever we thought we might need, and set off to find the main entrance.

The booth was at the north-east end of the lot. Tickets were a little more expensive than most places we had been to at that point, about $8, but the cost included a guided tour of the plantation house. We left the gravel pathways and started eastwards onto an asphalt surface that looked just wide enough to handle the Behemoth and two people on either side. We walked about 100 metres to a junction with another path that ran north-south.

We turned north towards the rear of the plantation manor. Although it wasn’t what I expected for a residence of the rich and powerful, there was something about it that looked oddly familiar … I just couldn’t put my finger on it. We walked along the path under a series of oak trees that looked very similar to those at the front of the house, but smaller in size.

As we approached the rear, we caught sight of a young African-American woman dressed in a period gown, assumedly based on the type of clothes the women house slaves wore when the plantation was in operation. She smiled and bade us a cheerful “hello”, which Dhar promptly returned for the rest of us. She was to be our tour guide, and directed us to the front of the house to wait for a bell that would alert us to the next tour of the manor house.

The 'rear' of the Oak Alley Plantation house, Vacherie, Louisiana, 30 April 1996

Around the front, the sheer size of the oak trees became very apparent. The constant growth over the years had created branches so heavy that tall metal poles supported the huge boughs, and steel rods were inserted through the trees to keep them from falling apart. The cover over the pathway that ran down the middle of the two rows of 14 trees was so complete, hardly any sunlight reached through. At the other end of the pathway was the wrought iron fence, Highway 18, and the steep hill. It wasn’t until later that we found out that the hill was one of the levees for the Mississippi River.

The eponymous trees of the Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, 30 April 1996

I walked halfway up the path and dug out my panoramic camera to catch part of the view of the front of this magnificent building. As I took the picture, that strange feeling of familiarness came over me again. I had seen that shot before somewhere, but I honestly couldn’t remember where.

Dhar was strolling through the gardens, looking at whatever he happened to come across. Stefan and Rebecca waited with many other people for the bell to ring. The bell was a large rocker bell, mounted on the east side of the house with a rope that ran to the second level. Shortly before the bell finally rung, our tour guide asked for us to sign the guest registry, a formality I hardly saw necessary. I could hardly see the banal quotes and signatures of use unless you happened to be famous.

The bell rung as I was signing, and the tour guide asked us to go to the rear of the house, where the tour would start. The tour guide walked through the middle of the house and opened the door from the inside. Stepping through the door activated a time machine that catapulted us two hundred years into the past — a past where man enslaving man was normal, electricity was unheard of, chivalry thrived, and the Mississippi River was America’s Interstate.

The house had three floors, of which we saw two (Louisiana law governing emergency fire exits prevented us from seeing the third floor). The two floors we did see both had high ceilings, anywhere from 15 to 20 feet (I’m not very good at judging heights). The plan of the floors was simple: a central hallway that ran from the front door (directly in line with the front pathway that ran between the two rows of oak trees) to the back door (directly in line with the rear pathway that ran between the two rows of smaller oak trees). (You could, in effect, see from the rear path all the way to the Mississippi River looking through the house.) At the “rear” end of the hallway was the staircase, running from almost halfway up the hall right to the rear wall.

The house was massive, although you really couldn’t tell unless you looked very hard. And I don’t mean massive in the sense of “largeness”, but in sense of strength. The architects had known that hurricanes were prone to passing through the area, and many homes were regularly destroyed by such storms. The Oak Alley plantation manor was built with five-foot thick brick walls to withstand the storms.

But even a house that massive had the amenity of windows. In fact, all the windows were strategically placed across from each other through doorways. The result was that all the windows could be opened and wind could pass straight through the house to keep it cool during the summers.

Immediately to our left (on the west side of the hallway) was a small drawing room, furnished with a couple chairs, a desk, and a few lamps. The decor looked like Sherlock Holmes’ study. The small room took up roughly a third of the usable space on the west side of the house, yet was barely 20 feet square.

Between the drawing room and the next doorway were a couple linen closets, called “hidden rooms”. Behind the shelves were rooms that hadn’t seen any light in a hundred years. One of the previous owners of Oak Alley used to hold private discussions of politics and life with his friends in the rooms … and no women were allowed. Naturally the practice led to smoking and over-drinking. Eventually his wife could take no more and had the rooms sealed.

Just to side of one of the closets was a small glass case containing some of the pages from the guest registry, some bearing gold stars indicating the celebrities who had visited the historic home. Some of Hollywood’s biggest names had walked in the same spots as we were walking, including Brad Pitt. It was when I read his name it dawned upon me where that feeling of familiarity was coming from. By now, you may also know. (For those of you who still don’t know what I’m babbling about, please allow me to enlighten you. In 1993, the Anne Rice novel Interview With The Vampire was filmed on location at Oak Alley. The opening flashbacks of the movie tell the story of Louis’ life in New Orleans, and his mansion is Oak Alley.)

The next room on the west side of the hallway was the sitting room, what we would call a living room. It filled the remaining visible two-thirds of the western side of the first floor (remember there was a hidden room). It contained a few couches, tables, and a fireplace (which to me seemed a little out of place in Louisiana). The guide explained some of the artifacts in the room, including a chaperone’s mirror and a table with a tilting top.

The chaperone’s mirror hung on the north wall, and was placed facing south. The mirror itself wasn’t flat, but curved so that someone standing out in the hallway could still see anyone in the room. It wasn’t a security device the way we use such mirrors today, but was used to keep an eye on courting couples from afar.

The tilting table was a device used by women to keep the heat of the fire from melting their makeup, which they would wear for weeks at a time. Unlike today’s synthetic powders and cremes, women of the 1800’s usually wore beeswax. This was to fill in the pockmarks left by smallpox, through which many people suffered until a cure was found.

Another interesting little detail that the guide pointed out was the abundance of clocks in the house, all which showed exactly the same time, which was wrong. They had all been stopped decades ago when the last owner of the house had died. Following an old southern custom, all the clocks in the house were stopped at the time of death for a period of a year. The plantation was sold before the year was up, and the clocks were never restarted.

Across from the sitting room was the dining room. It had the same layout as the sitting room (not counting the furniture), except for the kitchen door on the south end. In the middle of the room was a long, ornate dining table. Above it hung a large crystal chandelier. Originally the mount from which the chandelier hung was a large fan, which had since been put on display in the south-east corner of the room. The fan looked like a large wooden music stand, without the supporting pole. The fan had once sported a leather cover, and was swung from side to side by a slave child who would stand at the side of the room, pulling on a rope.

We then proceeded up the stairs to view the bedrooms. The second floor rooms followed the pattern of the first floor, two small rooms next to two larger rooms, in the ratio of 1:2 for space. The smaller rooms were for children and visiting young ladies (the young men slept outside of the manor house). Both had large beds, the south-west room was decorated in a style typically used when someone died.

The largest room was the master bedroom, in the north-west corner of the second floor. It had so much furniture and decorations, it looked rather hard to move around in it. Ropes placed across the door frames prevented anyone from entering the room.

We then exited through the north door to walk onto the balcony that ran right around the outside of the second floor of the house. The view of the grounds was much better, none of the hedges and bushes obstructed the view any longer.

After another piece of historical information (which had something to do with where the previous owners were buried, and where the current owner lived), we went back inside through the south door. The guide then ended the tour, upon which we went back down the stairs and out through the front door.

Rebecca promptly announced that she wanted a mint julep. It was Louisiana, it was a plantation, it was getting hot, and the staff were selling them at the rear of the house. I didn’t know what a mint julep was, other than it was primarily a southern cocktail of some sort, and James Bond drank one in Goldfinger. It’s mostly straight bourbon with a shot of mint syrup for flavour. It’s a devilishly simple drink, and damn strong. I had only a sip, but could taste it for hours afterwards.

While Rebecca sipped on her julep, we walked down the rear path under the 150 year-old oak trees (a bit of information we received on the tour — the trees out front were over 300 years old, and no-one really know who planted them) heading to the southern areas of the plantation. Soon we ended up at the gift shop. Nearby were the bed and breakfast bungalows.

Inside were various pictures, postcards, mugs, hats, t-shirts, cookbooks, spices … nearly everything you could think of, packed into the neat little shop without it looking cluttered. I wasn’t in the mood for purchasing anything, so I made use of the toilet instead. Rebecca bought a cookbook.

By that time, the sun was out in full force and the chill had been eradicated. Suddenly the thing to do was to sit in the middle of the vast grass lawns and lay in the warmth. This didn’t last too long though … Rebecca sat on a nest of red ants, which promptly bit her in several places on her legs. On the bright side though, the bites would have hurt a lot more if she hadn’t been drinking mint julep.

We were fairly near to the mysterious graves of the previous owners, so we wandered over a small wooden bridge to a heavily treed area, which surrounded the half dozen graves. I don’t know if we were expecting anything, because we certainly didn’t find anything out of the ordinary … at least for a cemetery. We didn’t stick around too long, and headed back to the Behemoth.

The next step was to find our way out of Louisiana, and head towards the home of the King of Rock ‘n Roll — Memphis, Tennessee. In our way was Mississippi state, and a long humid drive. The van was cool (the result of the fan), and I assumed the position of navigator while Stefan drove.

We doubled back on the route we had taken, pausing only once to take a picture of the front oak trees one last time before vanishing into the distance. By that time, I was feeling less worried about Stefan and Rebecca. Either they had given up making Dhar and I feel guilty for our actions, or they had just been a little tired and not in a talkative mood. In either case, I was glad we had returned to being yappy.

Returning to the I-10, we proceeded east to I-55, which took us north. We passed by the west end of Lake Pontchartrain, and soon were heading towards home. Although that was a goal a couple days away still.

If I had but one regret about New Orleans, it was not finding any vampires. Not that I really want to be killed by one, or turned into a demon of the night, but it was a view I got from listening to too many stories of New Orleans. Perhaps in the years to come things may change…

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 960430.15
Day 10
Did I step over my bounds, and put Dhar in a bad position? This morning was oddly quiet, almost silent. I’ve been in situations where friendship is feigned instead of confronting the problem – I pray that isn’t the case here.
Dhar and I went out last night for about 2.5 hours, leaving Stef and Rebecca alone in the hotel. Dhar told me that Stef had said Rebecca would be “uncomfortable” with Dhar and I leaving them alone, yet Rebecca had made allusions to a need for privacy with Stef. This I heard about after deciding that Dhar and I needed to vacate the premises for a while – both Stef and Rebecca looked like they were about to explode – they needed some release, and tip-toeing around the issue wasn’t helping any. Dhar and I may be miserably single, but we aren’t blind to the needs of couples.
It just dawned on me that I feel fairly relaxed, for the first time in about a year. Even if the vacation were to end now, I would be pleased in the knowledge that I did something.
This morning (after sleeping in and getting scalded by the shower), we went to Oak Alley Plantation. Rebecca got drunk on a mint julep, then bitten by red ants. On to Graceland!

My parents and I have very differing view of what a vacation is. I like to be entertained, kept interested. Plunk me on a beach for a week and I’ll go insane. Most people would consider the trip we took very stressful, and I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t totally smooth-flowing (few things are). But we had accomplished so much in just 10 days that I felt a sense of achievement, which gave me my much needed feeling of relaxation. (After five years of university, you start feeling relaxed when you complete big things — it’s a learned response developed from doing essays and projects for school. Take an introductory psychology course, and you’ll understand.)

So as we crossed the state line into Mississippi, I no longer really cared what we did. We had seen almost everything I had wanted to see, and a lot more that I had never really planned on. I had no regrets about what we had done (except maybe the lack of vampires), and no worries about what was yet to come. We were heading for Memphis, and Graceland.

It was past 18:00 when we pulled into a rest stop for a toilet run. The stop was sparsely populated (I guessed not many people travel through Mississippi and stop along the way, either that or they were at some restaurant having a generic pre-fabricated dinner), mostly trucks parked in the front portion of the rest area. Aside from a car and a pick-up that came in and left, we had the rear area to ourselves.

The bathrooms were, shall we say, unique. They were the only ones we used that we would recommend replacing — there was no possible way to fix that place up enough to make it look good. Most of the inside had been covered in some kind of goop (which I didn’t want to even go near), the floors hadn’t been cleaned since the building had been erected, the windows were completely clouded (which might have been intentional, but it was hard to tell), and the only cockroach I saw had died from trying to live in that squalor. The only good point about the washroom was that the echoing made me sound like Darth Vader. Rebecca complained that the place was so bad that it even had the obligatory peephole in the women’s bathroom. Dhar mentioned that the men’s room had one too.

Instead of immediately filing back into the Behemoth and hitting the Interstate again, we decided to stay and have dinner. It was an opportunity to eat the potatoes that we had been lugging around for the past 4,000 kilometres. I dug out the barbeque, lit the burner and tossed on eight of the tubers (wrapped in aluminum foil). Stefan complained about the aluminum, claiming it caused Alzheimer’s disease if it got into your blood stream. I didn’t know where he got his fact from, but I made a mental note to look into the issue (especially since all anti-perspirants use aluminum hydroxide).

Baking potatoes is one of the most time consuming processes in cooking. (I now know how to cut the cooking time in half, but it didn’t help that dinner.) So while we waited for the potatoes to cook enough for us to eat them, we laid back and relaxed a little. Dhar broke out the bottle of Budwieser he had bought back in Fort Stockton, Texas. We had to take a picture of him sitting proudly with the over-sized bottle. Rebecca hopped into the picture for show.

Eventually the potatoes had cooked enough so that they weren’t raw … they were burned. The barbeque was an good way to cook things, but the heat wasn’t very well distributed, resulting in over- and under-cooked food at the same time (sometimes in the same piece of whatever it was you were cooking). But I hadn’t reduced them to charcoal, which made the meal at least slightly edible.

After dinner, we resumed our northerly direction towards Memphis. The trip was a fairly uneventful one … except for Rebecca’s continual attempts to strike up strange forms of conversation. (As we had crossed New Mexico, it was going through the alphabet letter-by-letter, listing off every word you could think off, and usually having a long discussion about it. ‘Sex’ was a particularly long conversation.) She excelled and coercing people to talk, though after a while Stefan and Dhar would rebel and switch topics to cars or computers. That usually had the effect of either shutting Rebecca up, or making her want to switch the topic again. I sat on the sidelines and watched the fur fly.

Rebecca wasn’t feeling too well. Our trip had been beautifully planned (though mostly by luck), we had missed nearly every major problem associated with road trips: traffic, bad weather (except in Missouri), and crowds (except in Las Vegas). The only thing we hadn’t expected was the rise in the price of gas. We also didn’t anticipate Rebecca falling under the spell of “The Curse”.

All women experience PMS in different ways. Some hardly notice it. Some have to get surgery to prevent bleeding to death. Most tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Rebecca was closer the lighter end of the scale (at least from my point of view) — she could still argue, walk around, and eat. Many of my female friends have very tough periods, with cramps taking them out of service for upwards of an entire day. But cramps are cramps, and as much as men try to think that they understand, none of us have ever had to experience them. Rebecca was visibly uncomfortable. The sooner we stopped for the night, the better.

There were two KOAs in Memphis, one of them was named “Graceland”. According to the maps I was looking at, it looked like it was right across the street from Elvis’ Graceland, which to us would be a great advantage. So we opted for the nearer of the two campgrounds.

We arrived in Memphis just after 23:00 that evening. Graceland was located in the south end of the city, so we didn’t have to spend too much time trying to navigate our way through Memphis. We exited I-55 at exit 5B, turning south onto Highway 51 … which in Memphis is known as Elvis Presley Boulevard. We drive south for about a mile before finding the KOA sign. Much to our disappointment, Graceland wasn’t across the street from the KOA, but lay about an eighth of a mile further south.

It was cool in Memphis, the air mass that had cooled off New Orleans the day before had obviously gone through Memphis on its way south. Stefan hopped out of the van and went through the rigmarole of signing all the forms, dotting his ‘T’s and crossing his ‘I’s. Even before that was done, Rebecca and Dhar set out to find the restrooms and see if they were locked. This produced who I assumed to be the KOA manager, who seemed a little peeved about us showing up at 22:15 at night.

Dhar and Rebecca appeared after a few minutes, proudly (but quietly) proclaiming the bathroom doors were unlocked. Stefan finished all the drudgery of the KOA paperwork at the same moment, and we drove the van our to our campsite for the evening. Unlike our previous sites, we had opted for a basic camping site with no hook-ups. They way we saw it, all we were interested in was sleep. No dishes, no electricity, nothing fancy at all. The fridge was nearly empty, hence nothing perishable, and could last the night on the 12 volt system.

After we parked, I made my run to make use of the facilities. I still find it rather surprising just how little we actually stopped for toilet breaks — maybe a little over a dozen times in the entire trip (not counting stops for meals). We often managed to hold out for long periods of time. Perhaps it wasn’t so much my surprise at the entire group, but also Rebecca. I know it sounds sexist, but all my experience seems to point to women have small bladders. (And children, but we didn’t have any with us.) My mother is particularly bad. (My parents have a three month journey planned for the Behemoth starting in mid-September. I can only imagine how often they’ll be stopping.)

Observer’s Log: Supplementary
It’s about 23:20, and we’re settling in for the night. Rebecca’s got cramps, Dhar seems to be depressed about something, Stef and I don’t want to go home too early, and our site doesn’t have any hook-ups. Okay ’nuff complaining.The silence issues may have been from a simple case of exhaustion – and I seemed to the only one completely awake. I can only hope Dhar got enough sleep [last night], or I’m going to tape his mouth shut and make breathe through his nose!