unknown road changes cause confusion

Saturday, I set out to take our exchange student on the annual tour of homes in Natchitoches, La. My daughter wasn’t interested: “Go. I want to have this house to myself so I can clean.” Before she could change her mind, I grabbed a map and headed for the border.
Driving to Minden is a familiar rout, but south of there I relied on the map to get to Natchitoches. Highway 7 from Minden looked pretty good, I planned to go that way.
In Minden I missed every sign directing me to Highway 7 south.I stopped at the Dairy Queen to ask directions to Natchitoches. The manager grabbed a pen, a DQ napkin and sketched as he explained, “you need to go back down that road, watch for the gas station on the curve, turn right and at the traffic light …”
With his hastily drawn map, I was soon heading south towards Natchitoches.
Fifteen minutes later, after tree turns, with sun high in the sky, I was not sure if I was going southeast or southwest. I stopped at a gas station converted to a car detail shop.
The young guy working on the tired looked at me blankly, “Natchitoches? I don’t know where that is. Ask him.”
I turned to him and he shook he head, motioning me to the manager in the office. The manager said, “Head down that road and you will get there.”
So it wasn’t Highway 7, at least it would get me there. I drove until the road split around a gas station. The teenagers sitting in the tuck, laughed at my question, “which way to Natchitoches?” They looked at each other with grin and replied, “either road will get you there.”
I took the road on the right and headed towards the Lost City.
At the outskirts of Natchitoches a 20-something guy said, “You want the old houses? Go down that road until the asphalt becomes brick.”
We followed the red brick road, toured the old neighborhood, checked out the shops and headed home.
I retraced our route with just one more wrong turn. Around dark-thirty I pulled into the parking lot of a country store in Castor. I knew I had not seen this place in the daylight.
I pulled over over to study the map, but old age, a dim dome light and pastel print defeated me. I stabbed blindly at the road I thought I needed and asked the 16-year-old European, “What number is that road?”
She told me 7. I sat there storing at the Highway 4 sign. We were not where I thought we should be.
I opened the car door and strolled over to the guy sitting in the car under the bright light over the pumps, “How do I get to Minden from here?”
The man was holding a larger version of our map.
“Take 4 to Ringgold and follow 371.”
He pointed to a road labeled 371 where my 1995 map said 7. I hadn’t missed the High way 7 signs: it no longer existed. I followed Highway 371 to Minden and went home.
Yawning widely, we dragged ourselves into a house reeking with cleaning fluids — at least my daughter had stayed on course.