Southern Pacific

East of Shreveport, the old US-80 highway winds through dozens of somnolent little towns, following the rolling land while crisscrossing back and forth under the high-speed I-20 freeway. After passing the pawnshops and strip clubs outside Barksdale Air Force Base, the route parallels railroad tracks along the remains of a historic log turnpike, built in the 1870s to provide all-weather passage across the muddy bogs and bayous.

Apart from the usual barrage of roadside businesses, there’s not a lot to stop for until you reach the tiny town of Gibsland (pop. 897), just south of I-20, about 45 mi (72 km) east of Shreveport. This pleasantly unremarkable little hamlet has one unique claim to fame: It was here, on May 23, 1934, that the notorious Depression-era criminals Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were ambushed and killed by a posse of police. A small Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (2419 Main St., 318/843-1934, daily, $7) and gift shop tells their story and sells postcards of their bullet-riddled bodies. Every May on the gruesome anniversary locals dress up for the Bonnie and Clyde Festival and stage gun battles and car chases, as much for cops-and-robbers fun as any real dedication to historical accuracy.

A battered stone marker, 8 mi (12.8 km) south of Gibsland along Hwy-154, stands on the site where the desperate duo were riddled with bullets by Texas and Louisiana law enforcement officers. The late-1960s Arthur Penn movie Bonnie and Clyde enveloped Clyde in Hollywood glamour, but as far as most accounts describe him, the real-life Clyde was a nasty, twisted, cold-blooded murderer, nothing like the romantic hero played by Warren Beatty. Bonnie, who, like Clyde, grew up desperately poor, may or may not have ever shot anyone, and she definitely was a romantic figure; at her funeral, the newspapers of Dallas donated the most impressive floral tribute, and some 20,000 people lined the streets to say farewell.

Map of the Southern Pacific Route through Louisiana

Map of Southern Pacific through Louisiana.
Map of Southern Pacific through Louisiana.

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