October 6 New Orleans to Houma

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in Mississippi River Trail | No Comments

Distance 88 miles, Yah!  I rode all of them on my bike, 12.0 mph average,  7:23 ride time, actual time on the road 9 hours 9 minutes. Today’s Expenses $ 56.36

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New Orleans Skyline

New Orleans Skyline

Jaden was racing today and needed to leave the house by 6:20 so decided I’d leave at the same time which would allow me to get this short flat day of about 60 miles over early or so I thought.   I made my way to Magazine Street and began looking for a diner to have some breakfast.  I passed a number of taverns open, I later learned a good many bars in New Orleans are open 24/7 (24 hours, seven days a week)  but I didn’t find any diners open.  Finally after a couple miles I spotted Slim Goodies, the place looked like a hole in the wall but it was filled with local folks an indication the food will be good.  I liked the diner’s logo “Diner Cookin’ with Love”.   I found a table close to the front window where I could keep an eye on Spirit just in case someone got the idea they would like to own my trusty steed.  Adam, my server arrived at the table almost as soon as I sat down with a cup of coffee and glass of water.  He was enthusiastically interested in my ride and even went outside to check out Spirit as did several other patrons.  When Adam returned I inquired what he’d recommend as the menu had a large selection of goodies to offer.  He recommended the “Bon Ton” a large 3 egg omelet stuffed with a crawfish etouffee (a wonderful blend of crawfish, cheese and Creole spices).   His selection didn’t disappoint, great tasting and huge it filled my tummy quite nicely.  I thanked Adam for the good advice and great service.  If you are ever in New Orleans and want a great breakfast where the locals eat you have to eat at Slim Goodies.

After leaving Slim Goodies, it was a quick and easy ride to Canal Street and the Ferry landing.  I was really surprised at how little traffic there was on the streets for a Saturday morning, then again it wasn’t yet 7:30 AM.  While waiting for the Ferry to arrive I met a local on a bicycle who had just finished his shift at one of the bars on Bourbon Street and was heading home.   Mike was quite an interesting fellow, came to New Orleans from the Northeast to visit and decided to stay.  In addition to bar tending Mike has been successful in being hired as a movie extra in several movies filmed here in New Orleans.  The movie industry has discovered New Orleans as a place with character and low costs compared to LA.  Mike will be in the latest Quentin Tarantino movie “Django Unchained” which will be released in December.  I’ll have to go to that movie and see if I can spot Mike, he’s one of the hostages in a scene.

Mike my new friend told me the Gretna Ferry I planned on taking wasn’t running but the Algiers Ferry which he would be crossing on will get me across the river and would only add a couple miles to my ride along the levee.  I was surprised to learn from Mike that the levee pedestrian/bicycle path was only about 8 miles in the direction I was heading as I thought it would be at least double that length.  He further stated parts of the levee path would be gravel, not good as riding Spirit loaded with gear if the gravel is deep can be difficult to keep upright.  Looks like I’ll be doing more riding on city streets than planned.

On the ferry crossing the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Algiers.

On the ferry crossing the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Algiers.

After crossing the river I bid my new friend a good day and headed west along the Levee path.  The gravel sections turned out to be hard packed pea size gravel and easy to ride.  I quickly arrived at Gretna and yet another surprise as this section of the Levee was closed do to a street festival going on.  I stopped and visited with 4 security staff guarding the street entering the festival as it was not yet open to the public.  They were allowing only vendors and delivery vehicles into the area.  At first I was instructed how to bypass the blocked off area but after visiting with security a few minutes they decided they would allow me to go through instead of around and one of the guys even volunteered to lead the way with his golf cart.  I can not stress enough how friendly and helpful folks have been along the Mississippi River.   Heck, even on last year’s adventure I never met a mean spirited person.  It really makes me proud to be an American.

Once around Gretna, I was already at 8 miles and supposedly the levee path ended about now so decided to jump on West Bank Expressway (Business Hwy. 90).   Only a couple miles on the Expressway it widened to 8 lanes with quite a bit more traffic especially compared the desolate streets I had encountered on the New Orleans side of the river for a Saturday morning.   Guess this side of the river is more the everyday working person’s side.  A few folks took issue with me riding my bike on their street and honked at me.  There was no bike lane, no sidewalk and a bicycle is considered a vehicle and has a right to be on the street as much as a motor vehicle.  Yet a few ignorant, fortunately very few, folks who think otherwise either that or maybe they don’t have a brain or at the least if they do it’s disengaged so they blast their vehicle’s horn to intimidate me or guess they think blowing their horn will make me magically disappear.  Who knows what is going through their head, could be just air which would explain their reaction.

A few more miles along the West Bank Expressway the highway drops down to four-lanes with a road shoulder allowing for a lot less stress of being run over by a negligent driver.  But hey now the fun starts as I ride along veering left and right to miss broken glass, a sundry of broken or fallen off motor vehicle parts, road kill and most dreaded of all tire shards which can flatten a bicycle tire due haste.  Riding this stretch of highway is a piece of cake.  Right!  Noooo!  We have construction going on, first a high over-pass to cross with a narrow shoulder and rumble strips.  Good thing I don’t have false teeth or they would shake out of my mouth but I made it over.  Looking back at the over-pass I decide it equals the highest hill I’ve had to climb since leaving Missouri.  Didn’t seem like it though as my adrenalin was pumping a mile a minute due to the traffic whizzing by me at close range.  Think the fun of riding Hwy. 90 is over, no next I encounter 3 bridge constructions to cross with no shoulder.  Hey, but there are signs warning drivers to slow down to 45 mph in construction zones or fines double.  Then there are signs stating hitting a construction worker and get a fine of $10,000.00 + prison time.  Wonder if there would be the same penalty for running down a bicyclist?  Each time I came to one of the bridge crossings I would say a quick prayer and then I’d pedal like all hell was chasing me until I crossed the bridge.  God does indeed look after this old guy as I didn’t get run over and squashed like the poor road kill laying on the side of the road.  Speaking of “Road Kill” a first for this Northerner alligator road kill, yep that’s a fact and here is a picture for you to see one.

Gators are common road kill sights in this part of Louisana.

Gators are common road kill sights inthis part of Louisana.

When I came to the exit for Raceland which is on State Hwy. 182 Alvin (tonight’s Warm Showers) host had told me to by-pass Raceland and continue on Hwy 90 but at this junction Hwy 90 became I-49 and bicycles are not allowed on Interstate highways.  In addition I was getting tired of dodging road debris and worried there would be yet another bridge construction or two.  Thus, instead of heeding Alvin’s advice I exited onto State Hwy 182.  After less than a mile on Hwy 182 the shoulder disappeared and I was forced onto the roadway where I immediately was honked at by several passing motorists.  I just can’t seem to catch a brake today.  I still have about 20 miles to go and I’ve already exceeded the 60 miles I thought I’d be riding today.  Even though there are no hills addition and additional 30 miles onto a ride is a chore.  Arriving in Raceland I decided to stop for something to eat at a locally owned drive-in restaurant.  It was busy with locals ordering take-out and dining in.  I chose to sit outside in the heat than in an air-conditioned dining area.  While eating my meal I phoned Alvin as I’m already an hour past when I thought I’d arrive at his place.  He said I added about 10 more miles to my ride taking Hwy. 182 but I’d be happy when I left Raceland as the road between here and Houma had a wide and mostly free of debris shoulder.  I thanked him for the good news and I’d be at his place in a couple hours.   Can’t say as I thought much of the food at this drive-in but perhaps it was due to my being overly tired and a bit discouraged with all the extra miles.  After finishing my meal I headed to Houma and as Alvin said the riding was straight, level, extra wide shoulder and stress free riding the rest of the way to Houma.

At the main intersection in Houma I stopped at a convenience store for a break and to ask the way to Hwy 315 as there were no signs.  Are you kidding me, I asked a least a half dozen folks where Hwy 315 and not one of them knew of its whereabouts.  Today I figured out why.  When Hwy 182 enters Houma it becomes Barrow Street, on the way out of town it is listed as Hwy 315.  Either the Hwy. 315 designation was made recently or folks hereabouts don’t look at signs posted along the roadway?

As I rode up to Alvin’s apartment complex he was riding out the gate to meet me.  First thing you notice about Alvin is his muscular physique barrel chest, which is even more evident when you seeing him from behind, starting at his should you see a wide “V” shape down to his hips, but most impressive is his calves were the size of ¼ keg beer barrels.   As we were riding to Alvin’s apartment he said he’d ride with me tomorrow to my final destination, where the road ends and the Gulf begins and he would try to keep up with me.   “Yea, right”, I responded, “those barrel size calves say otherwise”.  Alvin got a good chuckle out of that.

Over the course of the evening I learned Alvin is one of Adventure Cycling’s tour guides and led the first tour of the new Underground Railroad route, from the Gulf to near Canada, and the 30th year Anniversary of the Trans-Am route across America.   Alvin’s tour experiences were endless and as much pleasure to listen to as Judy Cureton in Cape Girardeau.

Another surprise Alvin laid on me is that his daughter who lives in New Orleans is having a birthday party tomorrow and Alvin will be going and thus we drive me back to New Orleans.  What a relief as I was dreading having to ride, risk my life, on Hwy 90 (I-49) a second time.

Though I thought this was going to be a short easy ride today of about 60 miles, turned out to be a marathon 88 miler, much like this journal entry is too long.   I was rewarded with meeting yet another outstanding personality with lots of bicycle adventures to share and a great new friend.

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