January 27 to February 2, 2016
Garmin info with Maps
|View of bridges from a bridge|
For this tour, I started doing journal updates for rides between rest days. It was an arbitrary decision that helped me organize the entries. I've been meeting so many people doing an entry on riding days just hasn't happened. This is an especially long post. My rest stops usually correspond to rain days and these days were a stretch of particularly good weather where I covered over 300 miles, phew.
|Myrtle resting outside Alvin's house|
After a lovely 2 night rest at Alvin's, my Warm Showers host, I started out from Houma to New Orleans. The roads were still wet from the overnight rains. It's Mardi Gras season and I really wanted to get through New Orleans before the festivities. Most people want to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras but traveling solo, I feel safer staying clear of rowdy drunken crowds. The ride into New Orleans started on Hwy 182 and was mostly on busy Hwy 90. The shoulder was wide and I had plenty of room. There was lots of traffic and it was loud. I got to the west side of New Orleans after crossing the Mississippi River on the very big Huey P. Long bridge. I had enough room but the traffic was fast. I took a few pics at the top of the bridge and started down the other side. Right away, the route to my hosts home in Metarie became complicated. I had to cross many lanes of traffic to get on the Clearview Highway. The shoulder shrank and the rest of the ride was very stressful. If there was a sidewalk I took it because there wasn't a shoulder or bike lane or any room on the road. Every road I took was worse than the last. Busier with less room. The home I was going to is just a few blocks from Lake Ponchatrain. It is owned by a friend of a friend who is in Denver and letting me stay as long as I want. Until I got on the neighborhood roads I was on heightened alert. This is probably the most bike unfriendly area of the trip so far. Just crossing side streets to get back on the sidewalk was hard because cars wouldn't let me pass even though they were waiting to turn on the busy street. The car behind would get right on the bumper of the car waiting to turn. I asked for some room and driver wouldn't even look at me. Rude!
|Huey P Long bridge over the Mississippi River into New Orleans|
|Crossing the mighty Mississippi|
|View from Huey P Long bridge over the Mississippi|
Whenever I think of New Orleans I remember the tv coverage from Hurricane Katrina. It was so awful watching everything get damaged and washed away. I remember watching heartwarming stories of bravery but, unfortunately, the thing that stayed with me is how terrible so many citizens treated each other. The level of physical violence was shocking. I don't think the violence happened because of the hurricane but the hurricane sure brought it to light. I also don't think the culture has probably changed much in the recovery period either. Even before Katrina I have been leery of visiting this part of the country. I always think it would be a fun place to visit with friends but as a solo traveler I really don't feel safe here.
Eventually, I got to the house, turned on the water and had a very comfortable stay. After such a stressful ride I was happy to find an open bottle of wine in the fridge too. I was invited to stay as long as I wanted and thought about staying longer than one night. But just getting groceries without a car is an event. The roads are simply not cycling friendly and I didn't feel safe riding. With Mardi Gras starting up, I wanted to get through New Orleans as fast as possible hopefully finding a quieter area.
|Bike path next to Lake Ponchatrain|
In the morning, I started out along Lake Ponchatrain on a very nice bike path with cold temps in the upper 20's but beautiful sunshine. This continuing cold snap is making me grumpy! Often the day warms up but for the first few hours I am wearing lots of extra clothes and even plastic bags around my feet to keep warm. At least today I didn't need to pack up a tent and cook in the cold! Thanks Dan for opening your very comfortable home!
|Watch out for gators on Lake Ponchatrain|
|Nice Scenery on Hwy 90|
After about 10 miles on a bike path I had to go back to street riding. Luckily, Hwy 90 has a good shoulder. This is a hwy that I have been on so much it has become a good friend. Once out of New Orleans I crossed over a bridge and I was into Mississippi. I stopped at the border sign for pictures and a man driving a car pulled over to ask if I wanted him to take my picture. Very nice! I continued on and the road was in good shape but lost most of the shoulder at the border. There were 4 lanes and plenty of room for cars to pass. Just over the state line is the small town of Pearlington. There is a run down trailer park that accepts tents. Joe, the owner, had tried to put in a new laundry room. He had pushed the dirt for the foundation with a tractor and that was that. This raised bit of dirt was my home for the night. All other areas of the park were a swampy mess. There has been a ton a rain here and further up river. The Pearl River is at flood stage and is expected to crest tomorrow afternoon. Nothing like timing and I should be long gone before any flooding happens.
|A real character rode passed me.|
|Mardi Gras runner|
|Bay St. Louis pedestrian/bike pathway|
I slept surprisingly well but had to get up in very cold temperatures. It is so hard to make breakfast with frozen fingers. It was another sunny day and I could tell it was going to be nice, later. Riding through this area is very flat with the only hills being bridges. There was a Mardi Gras 5K run and lots of people were dressed in costume coming over the big Bay St. Louis bridge. This bridge had a great view and separate path for pedestrians and bikers. It was wide enough that there was plenty of room for the trike to pass the runners. Then I was riding right on a boardwalk along the gulf. It was so beautiful. On one side I had the ocean and the other side were historic antebellum homes. I rode on this boardwalk for hours. I even met a couple of cyclists. First I met Leo Ast who is west bound going across the country and then I met Paul Rodriguez. I've known Paul on Facebook for many years and it was fun to meet up. I told him I was planning to camp just west of Biloxi and if he needed a place to find me there. After lots of pictures I left Paul at a gas station where he was charging his phone. I really enjoyed this ride. It was very relaxed. Eventually, I found the Southern Comfort RV Park and got set up. The site was $25 for tents, ouch. The site included water and electric. I've really noticed a difference in staying at RV Parks and State parks. People at State parks are on vacation and much more friendly. RV parks have longer term residents and the people often just sit around smoking and drinking beer. There were lots of people at this park smoking and drinking beer. The couple across the road from me and had parked their diesel pick up next to my site. They were going out and started up the truck and then let it idle. They let it idle for 10 minutes and then I knocked on the door to ask them to turn the truck off. The woman wasn't very friendly and snapped at me that they were going in a minute. The fumes were strong and right next to my tent. 10 minutes later the woman moved the truck to the other side of their RV and let it idle for another 10 minutes. After they drove off I asked one of the neighbors about it. They said the couple always leaves their truck idling and they have no idea why. It bothers everyone but they have never confronted the couple. Ok, so it isn't just me!
|Riding along the beautiful beach on Hwy 90.|
|This place must have a great view|
|Meeting Paul in Gulfport|
After a good hot shower I was getting ready to find food when I heard from Paul. His high school buddies he was hoping to crash with weren't in town and he asked to crash at my site. No problem. Paul has been riding around the country doing a perimeter tour for a long time. He is raising money for brain cancer. Every one tours differently and Paul doesn't use a tent or a sleeping pad. He has a piece of tyvek that he puts his sleeping bag on and then wraps around the sleeping bag. He stealth camps a lot and this is an easy set up for him. I was too lazy to find a grocery store so we went out for dinner at Shaggy's across the street and had a good meal. Once the sun goes down the temps drop quickly. I retired into my tent early to keep warm. I had trouble sleeping because a train went by just behind the park with it's horn blaring all night.
In the morning, the temps weren't so bad. Yah! I got packed up while making my oatmeal. Paul likes to take his time in the morning and I pushed on leaving him at the site. The skies were overcast and the forecast called for rain later but I thought I could make it a good distance before getting wet. I was also riding into a good headwind which really slowed me down. I got through Biloxi before a huge parade started up. People were setting up their chairs all along the route to get a good viewing spot.
Boy is there a lot of water everywhere. The road today was raised and on both sides there is swamp and the trees are standing in lots of water. If it was a bit warmer I would probably have to worry about mosquitoes but not today. The highway wasn't very interesting and I was feeling tired. I stopped at a Walmart to pick up supplies in Pascagoula. When I got back to the trike I saw a sign for a motel Studio 6 that was offering $35 rooms. I decided to call it a day. The room was recently refurbished, very clean and had a full kitchen. I did some laundry draping my clothes all over the room and enjoyed the comfort of being warm and dry and out of the impending rain.
|Crossing into Alabama!|
In the morning, the roads were wet from rain but the skies were clear. I got back on Hwy 90 for about 10 miles and then crossed into Alabama. Wow, I am knocking down the states. After spending a month riding through Texas it feels funny to enter a new state every few days. Today I would take off of hwy 90 onto 188 to continue riding along the coast. The head winds were strong again. My destination was Dauphin Island where a couple have a beach home. They are famous on the southern tier for letting people stay even if they aren't there. I continued on quieter roads. At Bayou La Batre I saw lots of shrimping boats. I think I heard that the shrimping scenes from Forest Gump were filmed here. I met a Canadian couple riding HP Street Machines. They had ridden across Canada and then down the east coast. Somewhere in Texas they were planning to cross into Mexico and continue riding to South America. They had stayed at the same Warm Showers hosts home that I was headed for. 5 cyclists had stayed last night. It was fun talking to them. I didn't have far to get to Dauphin Island where I found the vacation home. I was the only cyclist and I found a spot on the deck out of the wind to set up. The house had a shower, wifi and electrical outlets outside. There were also hammocks downstairs. The toilet was a bucket in a shed with toilet paper. They asked that guests clean out the bucket after using. I had a lovely view of the ocean from the deck where I cooked up my dinner and then breakfast in the morning. They also had deck furniture with chairs and a table which made the stay very comfortable. It's funny to stay at someone's home and be so comfortable and not meet the owners. And it has happen twice in one week!
|Arriving at Dauphin Island|
|Over the bridge to Dauphin Island|
|Funny colorful homes on Dauphin Island|
|View from the deck of my Warmshowers hosts home|
|On the ferry to Fort Morgan|
|Over Bayou St. John|
|Famous border bar|
|The real Florida border sign|
After Orange Beach I crossed into Florida, my final state. This was a huge moment for me. At the border there is a famous bar that serves seafood and I wanted to go in. But I didn't really know where I going to stay the night and decided to keep on moving. This area is quite posh and I expected the hotels to be expensive so I continued on to Perdido Key to camp at Big Lagoon state park. I had put in a lot of miles today. Fog was rolling in and it was getting dark when I arrived. The ranger lady told me the campground is closed for 2 weeks for yearly maintenance. I couldn't believe it! I had no idea where to go. I sure didn't want to continue riding in the dark and fog! It's possible she thought I was disabled because she called her boss who let me camp anyway. She was very concerned about how I would get up the stairs to the loop bathhouse. I told her I would be fine. I barely arrived before the park was closed. The rangers had already closed the register and I couldn't pay so I made a $10 donation. This is a really nice park and I was the only person staying. When I picked a site and started setting up, I noticed there was a lot of wildlife making all kinds of noises. It was really foggy. A group of coyotes were loudly celebrating a kill alarmingly close by and there was some prehistoric sounding bird flying around. At least it wasn't cold or windy. Once I started making dinner it was totally dark and I saw a cyclist walk by. I called out to Alex who just rode around the barrier at the park entrance gate. It's probably a 1/2 mile from the gate to the campground loops. I'm in the middle loop with the only working bathroom. I asked what made him ride down here. He said he just kept riding. Really nice kid riding east across the country raising money for Coptic Christians in Syria. He picked the site next door and I felt a lot better knowing someone else was around.
|Camping in the fog|
In the morning, the temps were much warmer. In fact, it was so warm I didn't even need to wear a jacket! It's been a long time since that has happened. Welcome to Florida, huh?!? It was overcast too and rain was forecast later in the day. I was hoping to make it to Pensacola where there are some realistically priced motels. I took my time packing up because I didn't have far to go and lots of hotels don't let you check in before 2 pm. I hung up my tent and let everything dry out before packing it up.
The ride into and through Pensacola was interesting. There is much reference to the Blue Angels that are stationed here. I also had some good hills to climb. Most of the roads had shoulders or bike lanes and those that didn't weren't busy. I found a bike trail that had a raised path. It went for a long way too. The path was quite narrow. I don't think even another bike could have passed me coming the other way. Luckily, I didn't meet anyone. From there I stopped at Walmart where I met a man sitting on a bench waiting for a ride by the bike parking. We got to talking and he told me about walking the Apalachian trail a year ago. This was definitely a life changing event for him. We talked for while and just as I was about to walk away he called me back to give me a gift. It was a small vial of oil that the Bishop of his church and most of the congregation had blessed. He wanted me to have it for protection on my journey. I took it gratefully as a gift and thanked him. It is very small and a nice keep sake for the trip. Then I continued on the bike path and got checked into a rundown Motel 6 for $45. I'll be here for 2 nights to wait out the storm that's expected overnight and into tomorrow.
Escambia greenway video
|Raised bike path above a swamp|
After 300 miles of riding for 8 straight days, I'm ready for a rest!