Back in 2007 Tony and I flew to Pennsylvania and did a long bike trip through New England. It was the first trip we'd done where we were in totally unfamiliar territory, and we used our Harley-Davidson Road Atlas to plot a trip. But how would we figure out just how to keep those directions straight? Well Tony came up with the idea of a yellow sticky note stuck on the inside of the windshield. In theory that should have worked, but the sticky was never strong enough to stay on in the cross winds of a bike at speed. So, he came up with the idea of using removable Scotch tape to hold it down. He ran across the street from where we were parked to a Staples and bought a roll. It worked, and for whatever reason, that roll of tape has been in my saddle bags since then and I've used it on every trip I've taken where I needed to map out directions. It's been there for 5 years now, but today, in Morgan City, LA as I was writing the final directions into the New Orleans area tonight, it ran out.
I still have plenty of yellow sticky notes, and I still use my HD Road Atlas as if it were a Bible. But the tape has finally reached the end of its roll. Time to find a Staples.
The sun comes up early over the Gulf, and I woke up about 6:45am and stumbled downstairs to the breakfast room to map out the day's ride and to eat. I wanted to try to get to New Orleans today, which would be a bit over 300 miles, and the longest day on the bike so far this year and this trip. It takes some time to build up stamina to stay on the ride for that long. As I wheeled my two bags out the door a gentleman sitting on the bench under the portico smoking said "Now just just how in the hell are you gonna get those two bags up on that bike?" I said "watch this!" I strapped them on, easy as could be with as much practice as I've had, and he was duly impressed and said so. He asked where I was headed and where I was from, and I got the usual bug-eyed response. He lived north of New Orleans on the other side of Lake Ponchartrain he said, so I showed him my route in the atlas to see if it made sense and he said, "you have all the time in the world, so go for it!" He was familiar with some of my route, but not with others and said it should be good. So I swung my leg over the bike and headed out.
Traveling through Galveston I saw some things I didn't see the night before - mainly some gorgeous old Victorian mansions along the main highway out of town just North of the Seawall road where I was staying. I wish I had had the time to learn the history of the town before I left. There's definitely a story here.
The main highway through town is TX-87 and it leads to a ferry dock at the end of Galveston Island. Most folks come to the town via the Interstate 45 bridge, but you can still get to the island via a ferry that leaves every 30 minutes to and from Point Bolivar on mainland. It's a small boat, and Texas State Ferries is hardly Washington State Ferries, but it's a nice pleasant run, and just like back home, folks flock to the deck to watch the crossing.
Once on the Bolivar Peninsula, it was a quiet drive across the marshes and up towards Port Arthur, Texas. This area is just full of oil, gas, and chemical refineries. Miles and miles of them, along with tankers traveling the waterways and the Gulf, and shipyards making giant oil rigs and other mechanical gadgets. There's a huge bridge over the waterway that divides Texas from Louisiana which felt like the incline on a roller coaster up, then a nice glide down to a sign saying "Welcome To Louisiana". That's one more state ticked off on my list.
The grasslands and bayou of this area are, in a word, monotonous. Flat, flat, flat. LA-82 is sign posted as "Louisiana's Outback -Creole Nature Trail. All-American Road." Well it sounded interesting anyway. Not a lot of wildlife other than cranes and other birds, and a few dead alligators, and lots of bugs. It was also warm and I started to bake a bit on the bike. I'd slathered on tons of sun screen, so I wasn't burning, but it was still hot, although the wind off the water made it relatively cool, except when I was stopped. Like the 10 minutes I had to wait for a small ferry. It's only a five minute crossing across a bayou that has a lot of large ship traffic, but would be too difficult to build a high bridge. It's just outside the town of Cameron, LA. This crossing had me and two big huge trucks that were or had hauled some sort of oil refinery equipment.
The young Cajun guy who was working as a deck hand allowed me to park the bike in "the lil cubbyhole" as he said, near the pilot house so I could sit in the shade for a bit. I asked him if there was a place to eat in town, and he said, "just one. They have great catfish." It's called GG's (gotta love that name right?) and its on the East edge of the town he said. "Hard to read the sign, but lots of cars, you shouldn't miss it". The sign was pretty much non existent, hand painted on the side, but the restaurant was easier to find than understanding his Cajun/Southern accent, coupled with my existing hearing issues now exacerbated after hours of bike roar. To say GG's was a hole in the wall would be an upgrade. It was essentially a derelict Fifth-Wheel trailer as a kitchen with an attached aluminum car-port with screens around it for an eating area. But I was hungry, and brave, and figured a local knew what they were talking about.
I was not disappointed. In fact I've rarely been disappointed when locals recommend "interesting" places, especially in the South. I've joked that I should do an eating tour of the South one time, but I'd gain 100 pounds in the process. The Catfish and Shrimp lunch was fantastic -- fried with "creole" seasoning, and a huge ice cold sweet tea. My black friends all complain that they get "the 'itis" after lunch on hot days, i.e. get sleepy. I think we white folks get it too, as I rested in the shade in those rocking chairs for a spell before getting back on the bike and heading east into the swamps and bayous of Cameron Parish.
"Parishes" here are the equivalent of Counties every where else. It think it must have to do with the prevailing French, Catholic, and Spanish influence of the early settlers. Each town has a small Catholic church -- Saint Margaret of the Sea, Saint Paul of the Water, Sister Mary Handupme -- or something or other. All have a cemetery too -- and with the ground being swamps more or less, the graves are all above ground in large marble tombs. I kept hoping to run across Chinquapin Parish and find Melin and Ouiser, and Clarisse and Anell, but alas, there was no "Truvy's" on my route today. According to IMDB, the setting for "Steel Magnolias" is a non-existent Parish, near Shreveport.
Between Cameron and Abeville there was more of a whole lot of nothing. It almost reminded me of the barren unpopulated areas of the far West. Occasional stilt houses, little to no traffic, no gas stations or stores, and when I did see one, the characters outside seemed like the cast from "Deliverance". I kept speeding on through. The dead alligators by the roadside were also a bit unnerving. Made me wonder if I stopped to rest if I'd get eaten. I remembered my conversation about the route this morning, and the guy said "it's like going back to the 1950s along there" and he was right.
In Abeville, I picked up US-90, the first "major" road I'd been on all day. In parts it was like a freeway, and in others, it wound through the country like a back road. It had cooled off considerably and it was a joy to ride. I figured I'd make it to New Orleans and so I pulled off in Morgan City to look at my Holiday Inn app on my iPhone. I thought it might be fun to stay in the French Quarter, but there was nothing available, so I booked a Holiday Inn Express on the West Bank, and headed back down US 90.
It's always a challenge to find one's way on a bike in a strange big city. Fortunately in this day and age of smart phones with GPS and such, you can write out pretty good directions. When it gets dark or you miss a turn, well then it gets fun. I got closer to New Orleans and traffic was heavier, and it was getting dark, I missed a turn or two and got lost several times, and very frustrated. I've often said, one is never lost, one is just someplace one has never been before. And you never know what you are going to find when you are. I happened to wander past what appears to be a staging area for Mardi Gras floats.
I cursed up a storm, but eventually found my hotel. It was a long 386 mile day, and I was sweaty, tired, and had about a half inch of sun screen baked onto my arms it felt like. It's kinda sad that here I am, alone, on a Friday Night on the outskirts of New Orleans, and I'm too tired to go find a cool place to eat, so I ordered Chinese delivered and took a long hot shower. My party days are long past I'm afraid, even in a town like New Orleans. Must be gettin' old.