After my photo fails and headwinds from Dauphin Island I spent my next evening with the lovely Barbara & Bernie in Gulfport.
The ride there was a long one and I didn’t arrive until just after dark (my first dark riding which wasn’t very nice although to be honest I’m so luminous at night I think I can be seen from the moon!) but Barbara and Bernie were amazing and we had a delicious dinner with Gumbo, fried spinach leaves, seafood soup and fried Okra. It was delicious. After my tiring day and lots of food I found myself exhausted and I opted for an early night where a photo book in the guest bedroom caught my attention. It was documenting Hurricane Katrina. I’d remembered watching the news in 2005 and seeing the images of the floods, people being airlifted from their roof tops and a few days later the rubble and destruction that was revealed when the waters receded. However I don’t know if it was because I was younger but it had felt far away and distant. It had no connection to my existence, like one of those disasters you watch on the news sympathetically until (in the good old days) Trevor McDonald wishes you goodnight whereby you promptly switch everything off and carry on with your evening unfazed (it sounds bad but we all do it). Yet now, I was sat in a house that 10 years before had been sheltering 15 people who’s own homes were underwater and it all suddenly felt much more real. Barbara and Bernie had stayed through the storm luckily suffering minimal damage and, living on a small hill, little flooding. However, others were not so lucky and the community emerged after the storm to a neighbourhood that was unrecognisable.
The storm surge reached 28 foot (9 meters) and the water broke through the levee system in a number of places. The elevation map of New Orleans below makes it strikingly clear why the flooding was quite so bad. I have to say, I think that knowing my home were positioned so much lower than water level would be somewhat unnerving. New Orleans is an amazing place though so perhaps I could live with it! Leaving Gulfport the next morning and cycling along the beach I came across something pretty special. It wasn’t just the buildings that had been damaged from the storm but of course many of the trees had also been ripped up and killed by the salt water. From the broken trunks some creative chap (actually a guy called Dayton Scoggins and then Marlin Miller) had thought to do this:
There were a number of them along the beach road and i thought they were really something. After such devastation they seemed so fitting.
On the last stretch into New Orleans I rode through an area called East Land Bridge. Bordering Lake St. Catherine it’s a narrow island and was hit hard by Katrina. Many of the homes were obviously new or still in the process of being constructed and there were a considerable number of empty plots, I assume as a result of the hurricane. I particularly liked the new home names…
… it turned out not everyone was getting into the spirit of things!
Dauphin Island to New Orleans – 1st – 3rd Feb 2015
Total so far: 1491km