Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update from Dallas

Hello Everyone. My time in Dallas is coming to an end. I have met some great people and found some fun actitivites, but it is time to find the road and get back to blogging. I have grown to miss my daily riding and blog routing, so I am anxious to get back to the road work.

I have sent my computer and associated electrical cords back to Seattle in order to lighten my load and allow for more water and food as my trek through the desert will be more demanding. There will be much longer stretches without places to stop, rest and rehydryate.

So blogging will be a little more difficult as I will rely on internet cafe's and my cell phone to keep in touch with you. So expect the blogs to be intermittent for the next two weeks until I expect to be in Phoenix. I still have my camera so I will find a way to get tons of pictures posted.

I have once again changed my route. So I won't be heading to Amarillo and Albequerque as originally planned. I'll ride from Dallas and head west to Phoenix instead. This will keep me on flatter and dryer roads although it will extend my total mileage by several hundred miles.

I have also exchanged my fleece sleeping bag for a winter sleeping bag in anticipation of some very cold desert evenings. I have added raingear and some long sleeved layers and sent back some of my summer gear.

So my ride from Tampa to Dallas has taught me many skills and cautions that I am fortunate to take with me as I continue on to Seattle. I feel confident in my new route and I am anxious to get on the road again.

I anticipate I still have about 3500 road miles to go. And for the 1st time I am publishing my anticipated arrival in Seattle at Sunday December 7th. 41 days from today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Healing in Dallas

Thank you everyone for all the calls and emails with concern. I am doing great. It turns out I just bruised my left elbow and left hip and am suffering through the daily showers from some road rash.

Just a few hours after the crash I was in good spirits. I took a photo with Erik who is a BMX guy and works at the Dairy Queen where I rested for a few hours.

So I am in Dallas until the 27th of October. I am staying with my friends Jen and Serena and I have a few other people I know here to keep me busy. This is Jen at the golf range at her apartment and Serena and I at happy hour waiting for Jen to get off work. Thx Jen and Serena for the hospitality and good times.

I am running in the muddy buddy obstacle course with my muddy buddy Cati on the 26th. Check it out on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsxW-_KbknU I am so excited and I will have some cool "dirty" pictures and video for the blog.

I will post a blog every few days while I am here, but since I am not putting miles on the bike there won't be as much to add.

Don't forget the Pavlik / Hopkins fight on Saturday the 18th. I don't care who wins, but I prepared to cringe and watch the "Executioner" take his first and last beating of his career.

Here is a link to the map of my route to date:

I was just going straight!

Day 20, Longview Texas, 10/14/08, Mile 1282

Today is the long haul to Dallas and I am 125 miles away. I know I can do it. It has been nearly 300 miles in 3 days and I feel strong. I have noticed my legs have grown and I am able to peddle longer at higher speeds. This could be improved road conditions and wind as well, but I am going to assume that I am getting stonger and more efficient on the bike.

... so I am cruising through the Texas towns. They are closer to each other and my speed is often at 25MPH or greater. I am nostalgic about the places I have been and seen already. Its a happy moment for me to remember new friends I have made. I sometimes have euphoric thoughts about life and the future as the ride entrances my mind occasionally. Today I am destined for the long haul and I have traveled nearly 60 miles without anything more than a water and restroom break.

The roads always change when you enter a new county. From the perspective on the bicycle I often wonder if people even notice the quality of the road from their car. You can't miss it pedalling.

For the 1st time I am riding on a new surface that looks like fresh blacktop but it is terribly rough to ride. There is a larger aggregate of rock mixed into the black top. The kind that will come loose and break many windshields in the future. I even kick up small pieces every once in a while with my own tires. Sometimes I am even going fast enough to hit myself as the blacktop pieces are rocketed into the air, while my speed and it's gravity traject the blacktop piece back at me. This is a frustrating surface to ride and I am getting tired. I am just 7 miles from my lunch break in Grand Salime, Texas.

I come to a bridge that has a nice smooth surface and I relax from the vibration of the rough blacktop. To stretch my hip flexers I stand up on the pedals and push my hips forward on each side. It's feels good to get up off the seat and take a brief new position. I am coasting at about 18 MPH and my life in an instant changes...

Now I am on the ground, facing forward and sitting up in a state of shock. What happened? Thoughts of this tours finality and complete embarassement can barely scratch the surface of the distraught emotion that overwhelms me. My left elbow is very cold as I inhale deeply and relive the last 10 seconds. I hear a truck slowing behind me as my head slumps into my chest and I exhale.

Two men in a large white pick-up truck are staring out the window in complete disbelief of what they just saw. They couldn't have been more than 100 yards behind me when it happened.

As I stretched my hip flexer, I leaned too much weight over the handlebars releasing the natural tendancy for the bikes front wheel to remain straight. And the wheel suddenly turned to the right, projecting my body over the front forks and lifting the back end of the bike over in a front sommersault like motion. I could hear the strain of the carbon as the forks buckled under the pressure they were momentarily required to carry. I can't believe it! I actually crashed just going straight.

The truth is I went too long without a proper rest and I made an error that was based more on fatigue and laspe of good judgement. Yesterday, I had a flat in my front tire (my 4rth flat) that was a result of another bad choice. I was trying to improve on my maximum speed of 37MPH. Which, with the load I am carrying is to fast to adaquately see some of the bumps and objects I would need to avoid in the road. I need to remember this isn't a BMX bike and I am not a 12 year old boy anymore.

The two men in the truck drove me several miles to Grand Salime where there was a Subway and a filling station. I ate and rested until my good samaritan Sharon got off work and kindly drove me to Wills Point about 30 miles down the road. Sharon and I got to talking about her son, who is in the military going back to Iraq and also about all the helpful folks in Texas. So far she is right on the money. Thank you for the ride and the great conversation Sharon. It was a pleasure meeting you.

So she dropped my off at Dairy Queen and I did what kids do to make themselves feel better after getting an cut or bruise. I ate some ice cream. A chocolate dipped waffle bowl with ice cream, strawberry's and more chocolate. And I felt better. A young boy, Nathan, was having some ice cream with his sister's for his ninth birthday and I played with them for a while to get my mind off incident.

For several hours I met people at the Dairy Queen who were interested in the bike tour and my recent bandage work. I thank you all for the well wishes and encouragement. When I was a kid Dairy Queen was the place you went for the dipped cones after a soccer game or as a reward. Today it was a place where Texan after Texan brought me back to my riding spirit.

My poor bike. I am sorry. I'll get you fixed and we can finish our journey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trouble with the Law

Day 19, 25 miles south of Shreveport, Louisiana, 10/13/08, Mile 1198

This was my camp for the night. It is actually next to an onramp and the main highway was a further away. But the big trucks were very loud as they passed intermittently throughout the night.

Meet officer Mondello of the Louisiana State Police. He pulled me over with a quick bleep of his siren and some fancy blue lights. I really had no idea why he had pulled me over until he told my I couldn't ride my bike on the interstate in Louisiana. He was pleasant and asked about my tour. I told him, "you know... they may or may not be funny to you but I have been on this highway since Lafeyette (191 miles ago)." He chuckled, because that fact was indeed funny. But he quickly reminded me of the law and I told him I was planning on getting off in 4 miles just before Shreveport. I just had to have a picture for this journal and he obliged. Thank you sir. I will stay of the Louisiana interstates.

Texas greeted me with some hot weather. I had been in Louisiana for quite some time and I was ready for a new state. I screamed "Texas" from the bike everytime I saw someone for the 1st 20 miles or so. TEXAS!!!!!

Dewayne and his wife were nice enough to let me bring my bike into their bar b que house and eat some brisket and stuffed peppers with them. For the most part we were alone talking about biking and their son who had completed a cross country tour back in 1976 (I think 1976). Dewayne helped me get settled in the next town down the road, so I could have a nice place to watch the Cleveland Browns tear apart the NY Giants. Thx Dewayne.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Waking up on I-49

Day 18, I-49 south of Natchitoches, 10/12/08, Mile 1126

This was my camp. I biked until dark and then just nestled up off the highway where I was safe from traffic (but not mosquitos). I was a sweaty sticky mess but I slept well anyway. I always do.

I biked over 30 miles to Natchitoches for breakfast and was lucky to run into another Shoney's buffet. Sweet!!! I love that place.
I also found a gym to get a good weightlifting workout and a laundry wash my clothes. I met David and Lori Foshee who were kind enough to give me some soap and dryer sheets. The laundry mat didn't was out. Thank you two so much for the help.

There was a lot of this through northern Louisiana. Long distances between exits. Just a warm up for the desert though. These distance make for good peaceful and safe rides.

I thought this was a funny anecdote on the church reader board. My GPS wasn't working because I was out out Verizon's network area. I called Verizon and I was in an extended coverage area. I guess they "can't hear me now".

The moon was so bright tonight I almost packed up and kept riding. Naw.... to tired.

The world famous Fred's Lounge in Mamou

Day 17, Chicot State Park, 10/11/08, Miles 1021
I left Chicot State Park with a belly full of good breakfast food (thanks again Chip, Tonia and Madison) and some fresh legs ready to ride.
On my way back to the main highway I pedalled over this bridge. It was fascinating to me. On the water were these little tiny lilly pad like leaves. At a glance it just looked like bright algae on the water. I doubt the picture does this scene justice. It was really something special.
Fred's lounge was in Mamou. It is a slight detour south, but I have been told by a several folks it is worth the trip. And it was. When I walked in, at 11AM mind you, it was jam packed with folked all sipping beer and looking like they had been there for hours. The cajun music was an original experience and the scene, with it's low ceilings and people 5 deep to get to the bar was overwhelming. Fred's place probably hada fire capacity of 60 people and I bet there were at least 100 in this little 20 ft. X 30 ft room. It was too much for me as I had to decide either to meet and drink with the folks or move on and get a full days ride in. If I had gotten there around 9AM in time to meet some people before it got too busy I probably would have stayed. But it was too late for that so I soaked up the scene briefly and headed back north.
I was strong on the bike today and 105 miles later I rested at my new camp.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On to Chicot State Park and 1000 miles

Day 16, Lafeyette Louisiana, 10/10/08, Mile 962

... I woke up this morning and guess who was online. CATI!!!. She is safe and back down from summiting Kilimanjaro. We got to IM for a few minutes until she had to share the computer with the others. I am so proud of her and it made my morning to know she was safe.

I rode just over 50 miles to Chicot State Park. For the 1st time my navigator quit working and I new I was out on my own in the country. I stopped to ask this old guy checking his mail where the park was and he went on to tell me this history of the land, his favorite fishing spot, about his wife passing away and how and when he bought the house he lives in. He we neat ole' guy, just a lil' lonely I think. So I listened carefully without trying to rush him and about 10 minutes into the conversation he told me the Chicot State Park was just about a mile down the road. I wanted to take his picture but it justed didn't seem to fit. I wanted him to remember that kid on the bicycle with the funny clothes that he helped out. Not the kid who took his picture for some unknown reason.

Before I made it to Chicot, I crossed the 1000 milestone for my journey. I had wondered where I would be at this exact moment. Here is my video at that moment for you.

When I got to the park I met Chip and Tonia at the registration. They asked about my bicycle and where i was coming and going to. They were very nice and sincerely said "good luck" as they went on their way.

This was really a scenic park with nice large campsites and power. The road was large enough to accommodate large camper trailers but still nestled in green canopy as if heading through a tunnel of trees. The sun was still peeking through the trees with isolated rays through the branches that found their was to the ground. I was tired and I set up my tent at site #10. And I put my head to rest for a short nap.

I woke to the sound of someone outside... "Hey, cycle guy." I thought I was dreaming. I rustled for a second with my eyes still closed. "Mr, Coursey?", I heard next. I turned over from where I was resting on my back and with my eyes still closed said, "Yeah?". "You want some home cooking and a beer or something?" I now knew from the voice it was Chip i had met at registration and without hesitation I affirmed back, "now you are speaking my language".

So Chip and his wife Tonia and their daughter Madison (billy the wabbit) invited me over for some shrimp and shrooms and taters. It was very nice, especially the way they went out of their way to find me. I was in campsite #10, they were in campsite #67. They also offered me a bed and breakfast in the morning. I was already set up for bed, but I did agree some eggs and bacon and coffee were a good idea to send me off for a long riding day tomorrow.
Thank you all so much. It was truly great meeting you. And I am sure to see you again someday down the road. Take care!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Day 15, New Iberia Louisiana, 10/09/08, Mile 922
Lafeyette turned out to be a lot a fun. I can't wait to tell you about it.

It started off with a casual ride toward Lafeyette. I took a more scenic route since highway 90 no longer had a shoulder and the traffic was much more dense. Highway 182 proved to be much less congested although the road itself was pretty rugged sometimes. My eyes and senses were glued to my rear tire and tube. I knew the clock was ticking before the tire had a hole in it, so I was extra cautious over the bumps and potholes in the road.

I made it to Capitol Cyclery after about 35 miles. I was greeted with great service and immediate help. Jason was helping me put all the new parts on gave me a sweet deal on some extra tubes. Another man Tony was there too and we were all just standing around talking bikes like we were old pals. It was a good scene. Thanks guys.

I needed a lifting workout so off to Red Lerille's Health Club (Red's) I go for a workout and more. http://www.redlerilles.com/index.html The guest policy is that if I live outside of a 40 miles radius I can come in for $12. I chose to do an all body life because they had a lot of machines I had never used before. I was also able to enjoy and needed hot tub before I left.

Since I left Slidell without me tent, I needed to get a new one. I can't afford to stay in hotels, so I need to camp as much as possible. I had found a place called the Pack N Paddle.
They had some really nice tents and I got to meet the owners John and Becky. They just came back from a 500 mile hike in Colorado over 37 days. Nice work you two!!! John invited me to a movie they were showing at the store that night and John mentioned a campsite close by. I was already tired from todays activities so I took my new tent and set up camp about 4 miles away at the Arcadia campground.

Pack N Paddle is not just a store. It is an environment rich with the most friendly do-gooders and just plain happy outdoor's people. You might say the outdoor's is their religion and Pack N Paddle is where they congregrate.
Before the movie they had the most delicious bread and pepper jam and huge cookies (so you know I was happy), a gorgeous fruit bouquet and some wine.
A professor from a local institution spoke a little about the history leading up to the kind of sculpting in the forthcoming movie.
The movie was called "River's and Tides" by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy's medium and nature in motion as it relate to time and the effect of water's ebb's and flows and tides on his sculpture. Which for me most part is then destroyed (or as he say's "given back") by nature and his art is only then a lasting memory through photograph and film. It's not a movie you will see in the box office so here is a link if this interests you. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307385/
After we all went out for burgers and refreshments and the John and Becky were kind enough to drive me back to camp.
It was an uplifting experience meeting all of you. And I hope to see you all visiting the blog down the road. Take care. Travis

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unbelievable Girls!!!

These two gals just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. They are coming back down now. Amazing stuff you two. You did it!!!

By the way... that is 19,340 feet. About 3 1/2 miles straight up. And snow capped year round.

<------ They were here.
Someone is missing you Cati!

And the weather was good... but the bike?

Day 14, October 8th, Raceland Louisiana, Mile 830

It is really something how the weather can change overnight from vicious black clouds and attacking lightening, to clear and cool with no cloud in site.

My rear tire is already worn. It has a red line under the tread that is designed to let me know when to replace it. Lafeyette was 100 miles away so I hoped for the best. Also my waterproof panier has a hole poked in it from jamming my computer into it. No problem. I should be able to patch it from the inside. My bicycle computer quit switching modes, but when I detached it from the housing it would still switch modes. I am hoping it is just the battery. Finally my rack which is bolted to the frame has a striped bolt that I found trying to slip out. I would guess the bike store did it at installation and its just finally working its way out. I'm not really sure what the solution is on this one. Oh yeah, my pump quit working. I have CO2 backup though. Good thing I am going to the bike store tomorrow. Its about 25 miles away from where I am staying tonight.

Today was just a long ride. 92 miles. Over two long hauls. I had a great all you can eat lunch buffet at Shoney's. Just an unbelievable price for the nutrition you get if you choose the right foods in the buffet. I was starving, since I only had a banana and 40 miles of bicycling behind me. Four full plates of food over a 2.5 hours while I emailed and blogged. How do they make any money???

I was heading for Lafeyette. Much of the ride was windy with elevated roadway over marsh next to untouched land in its natural state. It was a beautiful ride, even though this stretch of highway was continuously posted with Bear Crossing signs.

I looked for animals here. Nothing but slow flowing shallow murky water.

I closed the day at sundown and plan to start tomorrow at 6AM for another long ride.

Racing the T-storms to Motel 90

Once I got out of the city and back to more friendly bicycling terrain I had a new enemy. I knew from the weather report thunder storms were in the vicinity today, but these thunder storms aren't quite like the kind we see in Seattle. The clouds loom much closer to the ground and they have a much more daunting appearance, as if they could attack the land at any given second. Lightening screeches as they come together and the following thunder is ground shaking. It's truly awesome! I yelled in approval every time the lightening hit and it motivated me as I was fast on the bike.

I was back on highway 90 at one point and ahead of me was a clear line of blue sky. Behind me and to the south was a creepy dark slow moving storm that seeemed just a few hundred yards off the ground. It was travelling north and west and i was moving at an average pace around 25 plus miles per hour. So i was coming up behind me but also moving across away from me. I kept this pace up for about 35 to 40 minutes. I was truly racing the storm. I could feel the shreak of the lightening as the light from its power bolted by me, brightening up whatever the light could bounce off of. And then in an instant I could feel the barometric pressure ease and the temperature rise. I had beaten the storm.

It was smooth sailing to Motel 90. It was an eerie sort of side of the road motel. 40 bucks, cash only. But it was clean and I was tired from the sprint of the storm race. My fast twitch muscles were spent and I was ready to rest once again.

I watch most of the presidential debate drinking a jar of salsa with some mult grain sunchips (and some fruit) but feel asleep before it was over. When I woke then next morning the news referred to the debate as lacking real inspiration. All I know is that it didn't keep me awake...

Leaving New Orleans

Day 13, October 7, New Orleans Louisiana, Mile 776

... well, the New Orleans Saints loss a heartbreaker the night before and I was in an independant brewery pub taking in the experience. I met a guy who lives in Virginia named Chris. We got to talking about the bike tour and triathlon's and he mentioned I should try the "Muddy Buddy"
races if I ever get a chance. On October 26th, Cati is meeting me in Dallas to run the 2008 Muddy Buddy. It is a team race where you run and bicycle through obstacle courses and a finale mud pit. check is out on you tube at this link. It is hilarious. www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ6njTEUH5U&feature=related I can't wait. Cati will be the greatest muddy buddy partner ever.

So I woke up a little slowly at the Crowne Plaza. I was up late mourning the loss with the Saints as I stopped at a second bar on my way back to the hotel. "I probably should have just slept" I was thinking as I stumbled to the shower. It was a great hotel for the $99 dollar stay. Below is after I packed up to leave. I took the bike right into the elevator and up to the eighth floor and no one seems to mind.

Biking out of town proved to be a maze of interstate, streets and highway I wasn't sure I could pass on along with the looming concern I would get stuck in another unsavory neighborhood. At one point I walked my bike across some freeway in order to get to the freeway I wanted to be on. This took me to a stretch of Interstate 10 that I shouldn't be riding on, but the off ramp to get me back on Hwy. 90 was in site. So I took the chance and out of New Orleans I went.

Leaving a big city on a bicycle is a lot like leaving a port-a-potty after it's due for a sanitation. You bike into the city disturbed by the smells of polution and vehicle emissions. You do your business in order to leave. And then when you finally get out city you feel the freedom of fresh air and the open road again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A day I could pass on...

I woke up revived and rested and ready to ride to New Orleans. Bill drove me across a bridge that would have been a dangerous ride and we said goodbyes. I was said to see this part of my journey come to an end.

On the way over the bridge I told Bill, "I bet I get wet today." And I did. Within a few minutes of Bill dropping me off the raindrops started to fall as i headed to the Big Easy. I was fast today. Partly because I had taken a day off and partly because my load was a little lighter (I may have had a tailwind too). I left my tent in Bill's truck and I realized about 10 minutes after he was gone. Bill was off to a meeting so I didn't bother him, plus I had already broken a tent pole and I would really like to have a slightly larger tent to sleep in anyway.

One of my water bottle sleeves on broke off as i was re-assembling the gear. grrrr.

I made it to the out skirts of new Orleans in about an hour. I was pacing at over 25-28 MPH much of the way. Hwy 90 split at one point and I wasnt sure which split was the highway so I took the direction toward the french quarter knowing that it was east of downtown. Big mistake! I soon found myself in a part of town I had know business being in so I stopped to set my navigator to send me to Canal street in the French Quarter. As I was stopped I noticed a man in a junker pontiac convertible take an interest in my. I just glanced and saw that he slowed to a stop ahead and perpendicular to me about 100 yards in front up me. He then pulled into the street and drove by slowly, watching me as I typed into the phone. I saw him drive about 200 yards further and then pull a u-turn in my direction. I knew this wasn't good so I quit the typing on the phone and pedalled quickly. I wasn't sincerely scared in my situation because I knew 100% from his actions he had bad intentions.

A few blocks later he passed me slowly and with his window rolled down apparently trying to get me to pull over. He was a black man about 40ish wearing jean shorts and a tank top. He had a lazy beer gut and a fake smile I knew was worthless. I didn't pull over. He then took a turn at the next street pulling another u-turn in a parking lot and followed me again. Again he passed me a this time gave me a quick honk and said something out his open window as he pulled off to a y in the road. I continued forward. He put the car in reverse, passed me again and then did another u-turn to get behind me.

I took off now quickly. No more breezing down the road. This man was waiting for the right spot to jack me and he was on the phone as well. I was afraid more help was on the way. I ran through several stop lights getting some disance between us as he was caught in traffic. I really didn't know where I was going which made me even more wary. So I stop in at a convenience store, parked the bike by an ice machine and went inside. About 30 seconds later he went by the store slowly and pulled in after noticing my bike. He came inside the store like he wasn't noticing me. He got in line and I also got in line behind him. I nearly confronted him right there. It seemed much safer than the prospect of meeting him outside on his terms. I just looked at him instead as he ignored me. Then he drove off slowly.

About a minute later he pulled back in. I was going to ask another old black man if I could pay him drive drive me out of the neighborhood in his truck. But when I asked him, "sir"? He only replied, "Don't talk to me!" I was very alone amongst no one I could look in the eye ask for help. So I stayed inside. The clerk spoke very poor english and was really no help. Except that when he finally realized I was being stalked by the guy in line before me he said I should call the police. That didn't comfort me at all because it left me the impression this sort of thing happens regularly.

The man pulled into the parking lot again. Slowly drove through and then parked behind a moving truck on the other side of the street. I could still see his wheels.

I called a cab to come get me. But when I gave the cab the address he only said, "I'll see what i can do." He wasn't coming.

The man in the convertible pulled away again and I never saw him again. A police pulled in to fill up for gas. I went out to talk to them and they offered me an escort to the French Quarter. I was less than three miles away.

I stopped at an outdoor cafe with live jazz and order a light beer to calm me down. It didn't work. I really wanted to leave New Orleans but I wasn't going to let that one man change my course. I booked a hotel and stayed anyway...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Newton Party

Day 10, Rest day on the bike.

I met up with Bill and Sharron Newton around 4PM after a restful day. We were heading to their home before heading out for an evening of some wine and home cooking and their friends house. They have a beautiful home surrounded by trees and birds and bayou. A scene from the James Bond movie "Live or Let Die" was filmed here. It is truly their own park at home.

So we set out to their friends house to eat some fish and crabs they caught earlier that morning. I had no idea there were going to by five other couples there. It turned out to be a very special time for me. I felt like a guest of honor in a house of people I didn't even know. Thank you all for such a good time. I will always remember my Slidell trip as a highlight in my journey.

What a fine group of friends! Thank you.
Bill and Sharron, it was truly a pleasure getting to know you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Kampground and the Southside Cafe

This was the oddest of evenings. So many strange and also surprising events happened.

I went to the Kamground in Slidell, LA. It was about a 4 mile detour each way off of Hwy 90, but I was spent for the day and it was time to camp. My alternative was about another 25 miles or so (I think) before I hit more places to camp. It seems that when I stop at a gym to get a weight lifting workout my ride always seems to tail off sooner and more abruptly. Almost without much warning that my energy is gone. And I had a really strong workout at World Gym earlier that day.

So Clare and Lohoma were waiting outside of the Kampground office when I pulled in. They very pleasant and inquisitive about my adventure. Clare instructed me to go the Southside Cafe and Lahoma just kept shaking her head about me riding my bicycle to Seattle. Nice to meet both of you.

This is where you will usually find Clare as you pull into the Kampground. :)
I pitched my tent, took a shower (very nice clean bathhouse - thank you) and biked bare clipped to the Southside Cafe about 3 miles away. Claire promised good food and I promised to hold her to it. She was right, of course. I had two large filets of blackened salmon, sweet potatoe fries and cole slaw... PERFECT! Best catfish I have ever had (sorry Ed). www.southsidecafe.net

I sat at the corner of the bar which is right next to the front door. Overhead was the USC / Oregon St. game and everyfew minutes a new party was sitting left or right of me waiting for their table. With my computer, camera and phone with the according charge cords and my meal, I took up more than my share of space. Some folks were nice and interested in what I was doing and others just mumbled grumpy under their breath about it. I thought it was funny when a group of seniors sat next to me looking at each other talking about the space I was taking and then didn't even order a drink while they took up 4 seats waiting for their table. Just a reminder of how I don't want to behave when I am a senior. Honestly, I wasn't even taking up more than half of another seat.

At one point a couple, Bill and Sharron Newton, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where I was riding to. I had on of my panier's with me which is how I assume they knew I was on a bicycle. They are bicyclists as well. Bill asked we where my road support was and I didn't even know what he was talking about. I said it was packed on my bike. Bill has taken some longer rides and apparently road support is when someone is following in a car with gear and other comforts. They asked me where I was staying and then offered for me to stay with them the following night. The Newton's are a couple that immediately give you a sense of "good peoples" and I gladly accepted. I want to be in the french quarter for the Saints game on Monday night, so I have a day to spend off the bike (more time for a jog and and another workout - my legs feel like they could use a different motion then pedaling).

Mr. Newton.... What a guy!
My tummy was satisfied and I started to pack up my things when one of the waitresses came up behind me and said, "I have to tell you, you have the nicest legs I have ever seen... I've been looking at them...". I was actually embarrassed for some reason. She was really a very pretty gal and quite fit looking herself. I just said "thanks, lot of biking lately". I left that scene with an accomplished feeling, a boost to my ego and yes still about 4000 miles to ride. Thank you for the compliment.

The ride back was nerve racking. I saw how the people were drinking and I remember the road I had to navigate back to my tent. It didn't help that on 4 separate occasions during dinner that other folks warned me about all the drunk driving in the area. So with caution I grinded the pedals and scurried to camp.

I found Cati online (well her friend Erin on Cati's log in). Cati was eating breakfast and Erin went to get her. It took a while for Cait to get there and I feel asleep looking at the computer in the tent. I was laying face down with my chin resting up on my makeshift dirty laundry pillow (I tried baby... sorry). She left me some nice words, like she always does, and I felt bad for dozing off. She is climbing Kilamanjaro and this was my last chance to talk to her online for a week.
I woke to some men arguing with each other. It seemed like a fight was breaking out and it was close to me. It's not easy to get in and out of the single man tent. I feel all couped up and it was dark so I tried to ignore the scene. Then a motorcycle and a truck started and vehicle were moving and more people yelling. I would have ignored it, but I was honestly worried about getting run over in the tent from someone skidding off drunk and angry. I was dangerously exposed from the position of my tent for getting run over. I will remember this in the future. I fell back asleep and woke up a couple of hours later to another argument, but it was minor in comparison. At daylight I woke up to seeing poor little Claire in her golf cart supervising the eviction of the adult children. Claire is really an adorable lady and it was said to sad to see her frustration as I am sure this wasn't the first time she has been through this mess.

So... an eventful evening worth writing about. I hope you enjoyed hearing about last nights chaos!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Waffle House Scam...

I've been in the South many times. And everywhere I go I see these Waffle House stores over and over and over. They are more prevalent than McDonalds, maybe even more common than Starbucks in Seattle.

I was feeling hungry. On the bike this means I feel my senses weakening on my head starts to hang low (and a little to the right - I don't know why). My shoulders and arms begin to droop from the handle bars. I was holding out for a cajun buffet in New Orleans so I had room for a high carb snack. It just seemed like the perfect time.

When I walked in the door, everyone working yelled, "Good morning" at me. It was nice and I perked up to the Waffle House experience. So I order the red state, blue state waffle with strawberries and blueberries. Yummy right? Well this is what I ordered...

And this is what I got...

Good thing she talked me into ordering some bacon that they cooked just perfect. I could only laugh.

A ride, a coffee, a workout and a new State

Beginning day 10, Gaultier Mississippi, 10/04/08, mile 651

.... I slept well regardless of the hard slab I was sleeping on. Who knew?

I hoped for today to be a long ride. But I found a sweet little coffee shop call Cold Fusion and a World Gym right behind it. So I knew I was in for a timely, but worthy detour. I had already travelled about 15 miles from where i slept so I was ready to eat. The had a decent menu but the coffee was great. AA Kenya Dark blend in honor of my sweetie who is in Africa. I'm thinking of you...

So I ate and set off to have a great "big group" lift. And it was...

Biloxi was just arond the corner... and over a bridge. The roads turned freshly paved and the ride began to speed up. I was strong today. The knee was feeling better and yesterday's lighter pace ride proved to pay off. Maybe some of the motivation was from being near the poker tables. But I resisted the urge. New Orleans was on my mind.

Biloxi was having a little art festival and a guy I met at the Shephard State Park Campground said he was going to be there. His name was Keith Stewart (if I remember correctly). I found the festival so maybe Keith is in the background somewhere. Nice to meet you Keith.

So I am not a Hard Rock Cafe junky, but I thought this guitar was pretty cool.

I rode along the coast after breezing through Biloxi. After seeing the baron beaches I thought, "wow these gorgeous sandy beaches are empty. I can't believe no one is here." It was Saturday and hot and sunny too. I even remember thinking how women always say the like to walk on the beach... what a crock of @#$%.

Then I started to notice that the buildings that were around were newer... really new. And the road I was on was completely being over hauled and narrowed to just one barracaded lane each way. It hit me. This was the beginnings of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. At a short stop, I met a guy, Doug White, at a convenience store who educated me on his version of the events and trauma that took place. I felt like I had a whole new point of view after talking with Doug.

All in all, everything seemed cleaned up nicely. But the region looked like it was just starting completely over. I felt bad for not being better prepared to understand the devastation.

I wonder what New Orleans will be like... There wasn't even a sign saying "Welcome to Louisiana" at the state line. I'll bet Katrina stole that one too.

Mississippi... fix your roads... geez

The second I crossed into Mississippi, the highway changed into this bumpy, redish brown and cracked aggregate that gives me the feeling when I'm riding like you might feel when crossing a bridge in a car with a steel grate surface. It's that continuous high pitched vibration reminiscent of the dentist chair. To add to the suffering, the shoulders are non-existent, or compressed gravel and the 4 lane highway is more narrow than the prior states. At least there are fewer cars.

I was heading to Shepherd State Park Campground which took me through Pascagoula to Gaultier. I was racing sundown to get there, but I had a little time to spare. I made my 1st fast food stop for the trip. Wendy's. I got the grilled chicken burger with Mandarin oranges and unsweetened tea. Not bad and certainly quick. It was a good thing I ate too, because once I got to the campground, I was nowhere near an eating house or grocery store.

Shepherd State Park is really an RV stop. I had power for the computer but basically a slab a concrete like hard sand to pitch my tent on. It was $16 on the honor system. I paid. I pitched my tent and slept well... of course.

The value on littering

I have a lot of time on the road to ponder some fairly mundane details. I have been through 3 states now and each puts a different penalizing value on littering from your car.

Florida $500
Alabama $250
Mississippi $300

The funny thing is, I have no idea what it cost to litter from your car in Washington. Anyone?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Wham Bam see ya Alabama

Beginning Day 9, 10/03/08, Fort Morgan Alabama, Mile 599

Mickey and Roger dropped me back off at Tacky Jacks. Thanks again for the fun guys. When I am your age I better still know how to have fun like you.

Uh oh... I can't find my bicycling glasses. I love these specs. The are good for day and night, they are light and they are scratch and bulletproof. What more could you want? I was worried I left them at Mickey's house but I triple checked everything before we left. So I went into Tacky Jacks, which was just opening for breakfast. I thought maybe after a few drinks I might have left them in the bar downstairs. The lady was busy opening but said she would look... And then looked at me, laughed and said "there on top of your hat!" I felt the warmth of embarrassment come over me, followed by the chill of, "I'm an idiot".

I think I was still laughing at myself by the time I finished the two mile stroll to the ferry. But that laughter ended when I made it to the dock. I have a flat again :(. I guess 3 flats in about 700 miles isn't too bad. But I could have a little wider tire to handle the weight. I think only one of the 3 flats I have had are from a puncture. The others I think have come from too much pressure hitting bumps or small rocks. A wider tire would handle the weight better and absorb the pressure changes from rocks and bumps a lot better.

I expected to be able to eat somewhere on Dauphin Ilsand after the ferry. It was a small ferry that could hold only 20 or so cars and there was no terminal or breakfast gathering place on the other side. In fact, I biked about 10 miles just to find a convenience store to ask where a good place to eat is.

I don't know why I ask for directions. Maybe its just the chance to talk to someone for a second since I am solo on the road. But for the most part, people don't know how to give directions and nothing has proven more reliable than my VZ Navigator on my phone. But the folks giving directions are always nice............. so after 5 minutes of virtually no good information, I went west on 188.

Now this was a mystery to me. 5 miles down the road was a restaurant called Mary's Place. I pulled it up on my VZ Navigator just less than a mile away. So I am thinking about the guy at the convenience store who could of just said, "just head down that road there yonder and Mary's place be up there on the left before ya know it." He must have been a disgruntled in-law of Mary's...

So I spent about 3 hours at Mary's drinking at least a post of coffee and getting to know what a special place this was. I didn't see anything on the road getting here from Dauphin Island. And I didn't see anything for many mile after leaving either. But you can just tell when you walk into this place that is a busy and happy local gathering that never lets you down. My server was Shannon (like my sis) and the owner Dan were as accomodating at could be imagined. The food was good and in the end I left feeling like I had knew friends. They even took my picture and said they were starting a "travelling customer of the month" board so the regulars could see who was passing through. And I was going to be there first travelling customer. Thank Mary's Place. It's no wonder you've been open since 1935.

BTW - Thanks for the idea to go to Bayfest in Mobile. (http://www.bayfest.com/) Maybe next year.

About twenty miles latter I was saying "goodbye Alabama, hello Mississippi." Alabama was a quickie as I passed through in just 24 hours.