The Southern Tier map set put out by Adventure Cycling Association which we are following does an admirable job of guiding us on back roads. The maps contain valuable information about what services can be found where. But one bizarre consequence of relying on these maps is that without supplemental state maps we often have no idea where we are relative to cities and parks that are a few miles off route. That’s because the route is presented in short segments of approximately thirty miles each and a few miles to each side. Yesterday as we approached DeRidder, Louisiana I noticed a sign pointing north to Leesburg. I actually know a thing or two about Leesburg.

In the summer of 1968, when I was eighteen years old and fresh out of basic training, the Army sent me to Ft. Polk, Louisiana for infantry training. To soldiers at Ft. Polk, Leesburg, which is a small town near the post, was synonymous with Saturday night debauchery. “You wanna go to Leesburg?” meant going to a bar and picking up a prostitute.

Alcohol has never much interested me and the notion of consorting with a prostitute seemed altogether too tawdry to seriously consider so I never joined the guys who spent their Saturday nights in Leesburg. I don’t think I ever really visited Leesburg during my few months at Ft. Polk. I remember spending my free time in the post library or at the movies. But here I am, a few miles from notorious Leesburg and but for a chance glance at a road sign, I never would have realized Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one was so close.

Incidentally, the wisdom of my youthful decision to forego the pleasures of Leesburg was dramatically reinforced one day in the barracks latrine when I was standing at a urinal and the guy using the one next to me cried out as he clenched the plumbing with both hands. His forehead was wet with perspiration. He noticed me looking at him with alarm and, indeed, I had no idea what was going on. “Clapp” he said. “Burns like a sonofabitch.”

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