Dig Baton Rouge

Time on the River

By Chase Berenson

I had often noticed a little dotted line on the map across the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge, connecting a spot of unremarkable farmland to the town of Plaquemine across the river. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to investigate. Operating under the assumption that small towns have places where locals eat breakfast, one morning we followed River Road to this unassuming spot to see what that dotted line had in store for us.

The ferry pier is just a few minutes outside of Baton Rouge, but there’s no mistaking the transformation from urban to rural as you drive through the farmland and past old houses that used to be riverfront before the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 prompted the building of the levee.

As you drive over the levee at the ferry access, you’re greeted by a construction of dirt and rock with a ramp to the floating dock. From one side of the river you can see across to the other pier and trace the route of your upcoming nautical voyage. When the M/V New Roads arrives, the line of vehicles starts inching forward on to the ship, with staff members directing you to drive around the pilothouse and line up with other vehicles for the approximately five-minute trip.

This is finally it, your moment of Huck Finn-ing and boating across the Mississippi River! I don’t know what you’ll do on board, but each time I’ve ridden the ferry I did a couple laps of the car deck with a big goofy smile on my face. The majority of the passengers are regular commuters who are blasé and will give you disapproving looks if you do this, but it’s not my fault they’re choosing to not enjoy the mini adventures of life.

I loved looking up and down-river, checking out the barges that we passed, and feeling the boat rock over waves created by other vessels. The sound of the engines thrumming provides a constant background note to the voyage, and you can appreciate the skill with which the captain lines the ferry up with the dock in the moving river.

After a few short minutes the journey is over, and now is the most important part of the hunt: breakfast!

We ended up at the Hop-N-Shop Deli, which would be the stereotypical lunch counter establishment in a small town except that it’s painted in an Alice in Wonderland-esque white rabbit theme. They open at 5 am for breakfast, their prices are low, and their food is delicious.

With the exception of us out-of-towners from Baton Rouge, everyone in the deli seemed to know each other. They were also friendly to their visitors, politely pointing us in the right direction when we made the rookie mistake of placing our order at the wrong end of the counter. If this restaurant was in Baton Rouge the prices would be higher and the crowd would be hipper, but luckily the Mississippi River acts as enough of a barrier and allows the deli to maintain its current atmosphere.

I’m already looking forward to the next lazy morning when we can head back to Plaquemine on the ferry in search for another meal and another adventure.

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