With new friends made and my heart lost it was time to leave New Orleans. I have a country to cross don’t you know! I had postponed my departure by two days but now, with the sun shining, I rode to the mighty Mississippi and wound my way along the river road (with it’s intermittent, half constructed bike path) north towards Baton Rouge. You’d think the river road would have been scenic and peaceful but I can assure you, in this case, you’d be wrong. Industry seemed to be the name of the game here and factory after factory lined the “idyllic” Mississippi banks.
With tail winds all the way I made it to my warm showers hosts fairly quickly and enjoyed an evening with Adam, Sarah, their sweet daughter Victoria, a huge bowl of spag bol and an evening movie. It was just what I needed but please, I beg you, whatever you do never ever ever watch “A Million Ways to Die in the West” – it’s a strong contender for the worst film in history!
The next day I continued along the river again still with my lovely tail wind heading towards Baton Rouge. I was apprehensive about biking into the city as I’d heard it could be tricky to navigate on a bike and quite often a little on the dodgy side when it came to the traffic. However, as I reached the outskirts of town, my knight in shining armour arrived…
Mark was my host for the evening and very kindly came to meet me and guide me back to his place. We took a few detours on the way and saw not only the local tiger (yep no joke) and but also some pretty amazing street art:
Back at Mark’s flat we had a great evening chatting, laughing and eating delicious food (amazing peach cobbler!) before, yet again, I slept like a baby. This whole cycling lark sure does give you a healthy appetite and an ability to sleep within seconds of lying down!
The next morning Mark once again kindly escorted me out of Baton Rouge and set me off on my merry way. Unfortunately it wasn’t merry for long as during the night the winds had changed direction and they were now hitting me head on. Easily the strongest winds I had experienced thus far and blowing directly into my face, jeez louisiana, thanks a bunch! I battled the gusts slowly north west hoping to make it to a small town called Bunkie where I’d heard a friendly fire station offered cyclists free lodgings.
A few hours in however I realised that I was going to fall short of the mark (different Mark!) and instead set my sights on Simmesport a little to the east. Simmesport… hmmm… ring any bells? Yes, Simmesport and me were not to be friends, much like my saddle and my bum, and a few miles before entering the town I had my not so jolly encounter with a car. You might have already seen my post from last week about that so I won’t bang on about it other to say that off I went in the ambulance, back the way I came (so annoying!) to the hospital at New Roads for stitches and a night of feeling very sorry for myself! As a side point here I thought I would share with you one of the many things I have learnt so far on this trip… having a shower without getting your left thigh wet is really really really really really hard and not altogether efficient! Poor smelly, injured, sad me! On the plus side, I had a burger the next day and the lady delivered it to me on roller skates which improved things considerably!!
After my day off I was conscious of not loosing too much time on the road but still feeling incredibly stiff I wasn’t quite ready to get back on my bike. Instead I decided to hitch a ride to back to where I had had the accident, stay with a warm showers host nearby and then get back in the saddle the next day. That would give me another day to rest up and also regain the 30 odd miles I’d lost by coming back to the hospital. My lovely host Sarah was amazing. Not only did she leave me out a key but also a sweet welcome letter explaining where everything was and to make myself at home. I did just that and had a really early night. I think the previous few days had taken it out of me more than I realised at the time and I was asleep by half 7!
Feeling slightly apprehensive but well rested the next morning I got myself back on my bike. I was heading to another warm showers host, this time Patricia Ramos and her family who were about 50 miles west in Oakdale. Cautious about putting too much pressure on my left leg I found myself compensating with the right and it didn’t take long for my right knee to start feeling the strain. The last 5 miles it got really sore and I was more than relieved to arrive at the Ramos household and what a household it was!
I ended up staying with Patricia, Giovanni and their fabulous family for 2x nights when on my first morning I woke to find I could barely put any weight onto my aching right knee. In my haste to head west it seemed I had pushed myself too quickly to get back on the bike so I now listened to my body and spent the day chilling out on the sofa! That evening I was lucky enough to enjoy a particularly special dinner, a Louisiana speciality – boiled craw fish!
I’d wanted to try these in New Orleans but had been too busy with other yummy foods so was delighted when Giovanni came in with two huge bags for dinner. Craw fish are a “get involved” kind of food and we sat round the table peeling, eating and chatting and had a great evening.
I was sad to pedal away the next day and will very much hope to return the hospitality to this lovely family one day but ride west I must and so I headed off towards a camping ground at De Ridder. It was a nice ground but I forgot to take a photo so you’ll just have to trust me. Nothing of note really happened other than a pretty rough looking guy from a trailer next door walked up to me as I was setting off the next morning. “Oh blimey” I thought as he approached, “this could be a hassle”. I had to eat my words (or thoughts I suppose) pretty quickly though as he proceeded to give me a bag of fruit and some energy drinks for my trip! Oh Tori, when will you learn, never judge a book by it’s cover…
New Orleans to DeRidder: 3rd – 14th Feb 2015
Total so far – 1647km