Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One Pea Short of a Pod: Part One

A Weekend at Oak Alley Plantation with J & M

Jan. 29th, 2012 -- 9pm

The trees did not disappoint.
This isn’t the first pseudo writing and inspirational retreat the Ninja Peas have undertaken. It is, however, the first one with central heating and wifi. Last year, I had the hair-brained idea to gather the Peas for a night in an Escatawpa River fishing cabin on what might’ve been the coldest February night in South Mississippi. We managed to keep warm by the fire, played word games, plotted, schemed, and laughed until we cried. But the best bit? We truly reinforced our friendship through a shared passion of writing (and a heartfelt desire to survive the night as armies of woodland mice took up arms against us). It was an unforgettable thirty-six hours and we vowed to do it again.

A bug's eye view of the mansion.
Sadly, this particular weekend at Oak Alley, we are one pea short of a pod. This Pea-treat was truly meant as a retreat. Both J and I were desperate to reclaim our mojo after a hectic holiday season and some productivity stumbling blocks. Plus, with one husband home sick and another just home all the time, it was time to remember why we’d taken our marriage vows many years ago. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder -- and a Pea-treat is the first defense against too much “quality time” with one’s significant other. So, J and I planned a spontaneous (in the span of four text messages) trip to reclaim our sanity. We were booked and ready to go to the haunted plantation of our dreams before either of us thought twice about whether it was actually a good idea (or really cleared it with our husbands…oops). Thus was the origination of a Pea-treat at Oak Alley.

Since our third pea is not so flexible with impulse trips, she will be missed and will be here with us in spirit. But worry not! We have a three-pea adventure brewing for the spring (and we promise to share the madness with you).

Day One:

We left Saturday morning with excitement roiling through our veins. Nothing could stop us! J and I had always dreamed of visiting Oak Alley (rumored to be haunted and film home of Louis from Interview with a Vampire). J was thrilled by the promise of a plantation estate filled with southern gothic flare and dark storytelling inspiration. Me? It was big, big trees and a chance to walk on the same ground as Brad Pitt’s stunt horse. Of course I was excited! Alas, this feverish anticipation was quickly subdued when we’d driven all of four minutes and I said, “Sh*t! I forgot my camera.”

Around we turned then tried again.

I'm so glad we didn't leave my camera behind.
Finally on our way, we rolled west on Interstate 10 toward the Mississippi River. It quickly became clear that the GPS my husband insisted we take (note: I just wanted to bring a map) was confused and bewildered by our decision to retrieve the camera. As I drove eighty miles an hour down the interstate, screaming at the tiny box suction-cupped to my windshield, I tried to reprogram the (cocky) taunting box. Meanwhile, J sat in the passenger seat, giggling, because my interaction with the box went a little something like this: “Yes! That destination. No, wait, that’s wrong. Yes! No. Yes? No! Wait... Yes! No. Yes!” and so on. What I learned from this experience? GPS… no. Map… yes.

After the argument with the tiny (cocky) box was settled, we had a relatively uneventful two and a half hour morning drive with great weather and light traffic. We had plenty of time to chat about what we both needed to accomplish on our pending projects, our hopes for new projects, and how we intended to divvy our time between work and play until our Tuesday morning departure. Ten miles from our exit traffic came to a standstill (as is typical of any drive on a several-mile long bridge over Louisiana swampland). After imagining and talking through several really, really horrible scenarios, we determined vampire alligators would be too sleepy this time of year to scale the bridge. So we were safe… for now. We did learn (if you can call wild speculation “learning”) our near one-hour delay was merely a little old lady and her purse puppy peeing on the side of the road (we can’t be sure who was doing the peeing).

Bridge over the mighty Mississippi.
Finally, we exited and headed toward our destination. We squeed with more excitement than any mere mortal should experience. So much so, I maniacally squeed and snapped photos whilst driving over the Mississippi River Bridge. J took a moment to cover her eyes and pray -- the river’s awesomeness just too much to bear. In retrospect, J’s reaction probably had more to do with my hands not being on the steering wheel and her water phobia than the greatness of the Mighty Mississippi. But, either way, it was pretty awesome.

We drove for the longest seven miles EVER… then we squeed! Again.

Our first impression of the plantation was one of elation (and copious amounts of squeeing). We jumped out of the car at the bottom of the levee and stood, gazing down the alley of oaks from the roadside. Mouths gaping, we stood in the middle of the road, tour buses driving around us, and J said to me, “Oh, yeah. We are so coming back here with Alexis next year.”

I agreed, diving out of the way of a fast-moving vehicle and into the gravel.

Cottage 6 was perfect.
We had lunch at the plantation’s restaurant then moved into our cottage -- but not before J did what she touted was the first and most important thing of the trip. She bought a small collection of voodoo dolls from the gift shop. (Should I be frightened?) After entering the cottage with the B&B attendant (as a murder of crows crept up from the sugar cane fields and flanked the cottage… seriously…) we were each handed a flashlight and told, quite seriously, “You must have these with you if you walk the grounds after dark.”

J’s response: (maniacal laugh) “S-weet!”

M’s response: (eyes J suspiciously, eyes voodoo dolls, eyes flashlight helplessly, and scans room for anything that could be used as a wooden stake)

Perusing the cottage, we found creepy dolls and an even creepier old portrait. But, all in all, the space was wonderful and had plenty of outlets. As J said to me after dinner (stroking the heads of her voodoo dolls and shuffling to her bedroom), “This is gonna be perfect!”

Sunset over the road our first night.
Our first night at Oak Alley ended with a sunset walk around the grounds, a quiet dinner in our lovely cottage, and inspiration teeming all around us. Mojo? I think we’ve stirred it with a single mouse dropping found in the back of the cabinet by the saucepan. It wouldn’t be a Pea-treat without at least one. After all, we’re staying in an old quarter house in the middle of a sugar cane field.

Next time? The conclusion to One Pea Short of A Pod: Weekend in Oak Alley with J and M. I know, I know. The anticipation might just be too much.


  1. I'm a little nervous about what J is planning to do with those voodoo dolls. Can't wait to find out:)

  2. Regarding the dolls, I'm determined to get my writing mojo back...one way or another. :)

  3. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA a murder of crows creeping up at you... and no photos of this evidence?! I guess that's where Pea 3 would have had jurisdiction: bird-capturing via camera ;) Love it! Tho I'm sorry I missed it! *pout*

  4. J got a photo of the crows... I missed the photo storming into the cottage with hopeless abandon. But yes... we would have had a much larger array of photos to choose from if Pea 3 was present. :)

  5. Beautiful shots of Oak Alley!

    Gary Dauphin
    Director of Technology, Education and Media Production

    Oak Alley Foundation
    3645 Hwy. 18
    Vacherie, LA 70090
    Fax: 225-265-7035

    1. Thanks you, Gee. All the silly storytelling aside, the weekend was incredible and the estate took my breath away. These were just a few of my iPhone photos. I took so many more. It is just a destination that induces much picture taking and awe. Can't wait to go back.