Week 6 Bicycle Ride Across America

Day 34, May 6, Bunkie, LA, to New Roads, LA, 73 Miles.

Today’s free breakfast was a sack breakfast that we took from the refrigerator in the breakfast room. It consisted of a sausage biscuit sandwich, which we heated in the microwave in our room, a Danish, and a tiny 4-ounce carton of orange juice. Not the best meal to start a long ride.

We rode out of the motel into the back country through several very small towns. We had one extremely rough road for several miles that really beat me up. The roadkill we saw on the road today was close to 100 dead snakes.

We got chased by a pack of about ten dogs. Paul was in the back, so I thought I was safe as they would eat him first. Then he passed me, going quite fast, and I realized I was now the one in the back. Paul thought he only needed to ride faster than me to be safe. We eventually outran the dogs, but they chased for much longer than any prior dog had held out. 

There is always debris we must watch out for on the shoulder of the road where we ride. Today I was riding to the right of Keith and saw a big piece of debris. I decided to go to the right of it while Keith went to the left. As we got close, I suddenly realized it was not road debris, it was an alligator! I passed it with about ten inches between it and the grass on the side of the road. If it had jumped, one of us could have crashed and angered the alligator. 

Today was hot and again we faced a headwind. The weather predicted afternoon thunderstorms, but they never materialized, and we had no rain. 

Since our last rest day, we have stopped taking a lunch break. Keith doesn’t like to stop until we get to the end. Now that we are in better shape and can do the entire day’s ride without taking a break for lunch, we are eating food bars as we ride instead of stopping for lunch. I like the lunch break, especially while sitting in the air-conditioned car, but Keith prefers finishing earlier in the day. 

Day 35, May 7, New Roads, LA to Carville, LA, 63 Miles.

By the time we began riding this morning, the temperature had already reached 80 degrees and we fought heat and humidity all day. We crossed over the Mississippi River, which was a monumental spot for us. We have now all cycled on both sides of the Mississippi. The river is very wide and muddy. 

There is a 30+ foot barrier/levee beside the river to cut down on flooding as man tries in vain to control nature. It is a very tall berm running along the river on both sides with a bike path on top. We spent 13 miles of the ride on top of this levee. It was a very nice place to ride, as there were very few people and no cars. The downside was there were no trees to block the wind. We faced another day of strong headwinds that were even worse when riding on the levee bike path. 

We cycled past LSU University and got a good look at Tiger Stadium. The roads we traveled on in Baton Rouge were terrible. They just drop some asphalt on top of the road to fill potholes. Consequently, it is very rough and hard to ride. We were almost always sharing the road with cars as the bike lane was almost nonexistent.

A new sight for us today was petroleum refineries. There are lots of them here. This is the reason gas is so much cheaper down here where they make it since it doesn’t need to be shipped far. 

No hotels near our stopping spot today so Carolyn picked us up and took us ten miles to the motel. Time to shower and find some dinner.

Day 36, May 8, Carville, LA to Norco, LA, 60 Miles.

Today we got off to a bad start. My bike was dead, there was no power to the computer that runs the motor. The need to get this fixed forced a change in my ride. 

I made some phone calls trying to find someone who could work on the bike. We needed a Specialized dealer who could diagnose my bike to know if it was the computer, battery, or motor that malfunctioned and then help me find a replacement part. I found a shop in Baton Rouge. Carolyn and I took Paul and Keith to the starting point for the day, carrying extra water, and we headed to the bike shop in Baton Rouge. The car was now too far away from the riders to be of help if they had a problem on the ride. We crossed our fingers.

The shop could not get the computer to connect to their diagnostic equipment. The bike mechanic thought it might be the little flat battery in the computer that was causing the problem, but they didn’t have a replacement battery. After scouring a couple of stores, Carolyn and I returned with the uncommon battery. The bike still did not work. The tech called around and found a shop in New Orleans that had  a bike like mine that could be used to swap out parts to find the problem.

Now that we had a plan for the bike we took off to catch up with the riders. They had been riding for three and a half hours by the time we caught up with them. We gave them cold water and they headed on. We met them at the end of the ride and took them to the motel a few miles off course.

They had a tough ride. The temperature was 90+ with close to 90% humidity, and a 20-mph headwind most of the day. But they had a nice route following the Mississippi River. 

After we unloaded the car at the motel, I headed to the bike shop in New Orleans about 30 miles away. They took the bike and said they would work on it in the morning. They figured they would have the diagnoses and call me around noon with an update. Unfortunately, I will miss the ride again tomorrow as we ride through New Orleans and the French Quarter. I hope the bike will be fixed and can be picked up as we get close to the shop.

We ate dinner next door at a Cajun restaurant. We had alligator tail, blackened redfish, jambalaya, and shrimp linguini. Can you tell we are in Louisiana.

Day 37, May 9, Norco, LA to Past New Orleans, LA, 55 Miles.

Today my bike is in the shop, so I wasn’t going to ride. But as we started to get ready, Keith asked if I wanted to ride his bike since I missed riding yesterday. I said sure and suited up to ride. Carolyn was happy to have Keith drive her through the big city of New Orleans.

We started on the bike path on top of the levee on the east side of the Mississippi River. This was a very nice 25-mile stretch. We began getting into the outskirts of New Orleans and passed Tulane University. 

We rode through the very beautiful Audubon Park. It was so nice riding next to small lakes and under giant oak trees. After the park we turned onto St. Charles Avenue to ride into the center of town. This road has a center lane area for the electric street cars running both ways. This also took us through some areas of very nice houses. 

We met the sag wagon near Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Since it was very hot, 90+ degrees, Keith and Caroyn did not want to take a walk around the French Quarter with Paul and I, so they stayed in the airconditioned car. Paul and I were already hot and sweaty.

There was a line of horse drawn carriages, one of which was responsible for us buying our timeshare in the French Quarter. It was a $25 ride, 30 years ago, and we got the ride free by going  to a timeshare presentation. It was the most expensive free carriage ride I’ve ever taken, but I am so glad that we purchased a timeshare. It has made us take nice vacations throughout our life.

We saw a few artists with their work on the fence around Jackson Square as well as several fortune tellers. We went into the St. Louis Cathedral and wandered through the French Quarter. We ended up back at the car about an hour later. We got back on our bikes and rode an additional 24 miles out of New Orleans. 

We passed by a NASA facility that I didn’t know was in New Orleans. This is where they constructed the first stage of the Saturn V rocket used to go to the moon. They also made the external fuel tanks for the space shuttle. They are currently making rocket parts for the upcoming Orion project that will go to Mars. 

I did get a couple of phone calls about my bike during the ride. It should be fixed by tomorrow and we will be back to business as usual. The main battery for the bike motor had failed. The repair will cost north of $1,000.

Day 38, May 10, New Orleans, LA rest day.

Today we did a whole lot of nothing. Carolyn did the laundry and got us back in clean clothes. I drove to the bike shop downtown to pick up my bike. They replaced the main battery and now everything works again. I hope we can get Specialized to do some sort of prorating as the battery is not supposed to experience a sudden failure after only two years. I was grateful for Bayou Bicycles in New Orleans and Capitol Cyclery in Baton Rouge for working to get me back on the road with a fully functional bike again. 

On the way to the bike shop I stopped at Café Du Monde in city park to buy some beignets, New Orleans donuts. Since they only sell them in threes, I had to buy six of them. So, I ate one on the spot and brought the other five back to the motel.

We had catfish and po-boy sandwiches for dinner. 

Since I messed up Keith’s handlebar tape during yesterday’s ride, he did a nice re-wrapping job on his handlebar. 

Day 39, May 11, Pearlington, MS to Pascagoula, MS, 75 miles.

Today was the best riding day so far of the trip. Since there were two bridge closures on our route, and the only bridge open didn’t allow bikes, we drove to the other side of the closed bridge over the Pearl River, which is the state line between Louisiana and Mississippi.

We cycled through the country until we reached the gulf coast. The roads had little traffic and were smooth. The multiple bridges we crossed had sectioned off bicycle/walking lanes. The weather was perfect, sunny, a little wind, and the high for the day was 81 degrees. Once we reached the beach, we had a concrete boardwalk for many miles. 

As we passed through Gulfport, most of the houses near the beach were new and built on concrete pillars. I believe this area had all the houses wiped away during a bad hurricane a few years ago. I saw a marker on the beach showing the high-water mark which was about ten feet over my head. That is a lot of water for an area that is flat along the beach. 

We saw multiple casinos and many people hanging out at the beach. I think I will look for a timeshare to trade into in this area in the future. It seems very nice. 

More Mexican food for dinner tonight and I am ready for a good night’s sleep.

Day 40, May 12, Pascagoula, MS to Gulf Shores, AL, 65 miles.

We woke today to nice weather. After breakfast we drove from the motel to where we ended yesterday. It was nice riding on good roads. We got up an hour earlier today because we needed to catch a ferry to cross Mobile Bay in Alabama, which runs every 90 minutes.

Since we wanted to catch the 12:30 ferry, which was 45 miles away, we were on a time schedule. We left our hotel at 9 am expecting to reach the ferry by noon. We were making good time when Carolyn filled our water bottles with 25 miles to go. We asked her to head to the ferry and get tickets for all of us when we were about 12 miles from the ferry. We had read that cars needed to be at the ferry 30-60 minutes before the departure time in order to get on the ferry.

Then Paul got a rear flat. We called Carolyn to bring the tire pump and we started the process of fixing the flat. We took off again and with 8 miles to go he got his second rear flat of the day. Carolyn was just a few blocks from the ferry by this time, and we were about to cross a very long bridge. 

If we stopped to fix the flat, we would not make the ferry and would have to wait 90 minutes for the next one. We decided that Keith and I would continue our ride to the ferry, and we called Carolyn to turn around and pick up Paul and drive him and his bike with a flat tire to the ferry.

When Keith and I got on the bridge, we encountered a 20-mph head wind. It seemed like we were not destined to make the ferry. We put our heads down and hit the gas. Paul and Carolyn passed us in the car during the steepest part of the bridge climb on the way to get ferry tickets. (The bridges are very steep and tall in the Southeastern US.) We arrived in time, and out of breath. 

The ferry ride took about 30 minutes to cross Mobile Bay. As we crossed, we saw a few of the many oil drilling rigs in that bay. When we unloaded on the other side, we pulled over and fixed Paul’s flat. Then we made a leisurely 20-mile ride to the motel which included a five mile stretch on a bike path.

Since we were at the beach, we had sea food for dinner. The race for the ferry was a fitting end to our sixth week of riding.

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