Day 42 – “I’ve been everywhere” Johnny Cash

Bogalusa to Wiggins, MS

61 miles

Total: 2348

17 miles into our ride today we entered our 6th state, Mississippi!  Hard to believe we only have two states left!

I have been very fortunate to have traveled to most of the United States, prior to today I had 5 states left to visit to complete the entire US.  One more checked off the list and as of Sunday when I arrive in Alabama, I will have just three to go!  (Alaska, Nebraska and Arkansas – for those that are curious!)

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We had company at one of our SAG stops today – they were very curious about us! It was a welcomed change from the charging, barking dogs.

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Our SAG drivers always seem to find just the right spot to park- our second stop today included a bit of encouragement

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The last few days we have traveled away from the crawfish ponds and have moved inland.  Tomorrow we head down to the gulf coast as we head to Pascagoula.  I am looking forward to the change of scenery.  Today we had more hills that we have had in several days – and worked a bit harder than we had.  The weather was in the low 60’s and was quite damp and felt raw.  I am thankful that it has not been hot – but I would like a little warm up!

Tonight we had our margarita celebration to mark our arrival into another state.  We moved it indoors as it was cool, and threatening to shower.   We have also been celebrating birthdays- yesterday we wished Joyce from England a Happy Birthday, and today it was Carol’s turn.   Special shout out to Janine, one of our fellow riders, who is incredibly thoughtful and downright fun planning each birthday to make it special.   Tonight after dinner, the entire group donned masks to sing Happy Birthday.  It was silly and fun and we had a blast.Karen needs a haircut

 

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Freaky?

Day 41 – “Where the streets have no name” U2

Hammond to Bogalusa, Tx

55 miles

Total 2287

Hmmmm, what to say about today?   As we travel through eastern Louisiana we are encountering more of the same as the last few days.  Green, horses, cows and dogs.  Good news is that it was warmer than yesterday, but we did get caught in a rain shower.

We use cue sheets to navigate from one place to another, and every now and then we have to make a turn on a “unmarked or unnamed street”.   I am amazed by the number of streets and intersections, of all sizes that are unmarked. It makes it more exciting as you are trying to make a decision that may take you down a road for miles before the next cue.

I have also noticed that the word “only” has crept into our vocabulary.  It is used in two ways:

Use 1:   “How many miles today?”  “Only 68”

Use 2: “We only have 35 more miles to go today”

Six weeks in and ONLY two weeks left!

Tomorrow we cross another state line!

 

Day 40 – “Cold as Ice” Foreigner

Day 39 Rest Day in St. Francisville

Day 40 St. Francisville to Hammond, LA

88 miles

Total 2232

Enjoyed a relaxing day off at the Butler Greenwood B & B.  This historic home has a number of cottages/buildings that half of us stayed in.  We were 3 miles from  town, and I decided to stay put.  Food options were limited, but included a continental breakfast, I had a sandwich from the day before and snacks – so I would survive!  A group of us ordered pizza for dinner.

I walked around the grounds, and was startled by a beautiful peacock.  I learned later that his name is Humphrey.   Very relaxing day – I caught up on my blog, emails, thank you cards and a bit of “housekeeping”

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Day 40  called for an early start as we had an 85 mile day ahead of us.  We were greeted with a record low temperature!  38 degrees, with a wind chill factor bringing the temp to 34.  Most of us had sent our warm weather gear home, so we layered what we had!   It eventually warmed up to the low 60’s – sunny and bright but very chilly.

The ride itself was uneventful- lots of green, pretty countryside – more narrow roads, and of course our constant companions- the trucks.    Oh, and dogs.

Stopped for lunch at mile 50 and had a terrific vegetable soup and grilled cheese. – Highlight of the day!

Tomorrow we head to Bogalusa – not expecting much when we get there!  Last night in Louisiana – and I am striking out on finding Louisiana postcards (especially since I stayed put in St. Francisville!)

I want to wish my Pinkerton Academy, Class of 1981 classmate, Kristen McIsaac all the best as she prepares for the Boston Marathon on Monday. I know that all of your hard work and preparation will have you running like the wind!  I hope that this year is everything that last year was not for you . Be safe, enjoy and we are all rooting for you –and very proud to know you.

 

 

 

Day 38 – “Storm Warning” Hunter Hayes

Lafayette to St. Francisville, LA

100 mile day!!

Total:  2145

Under the threat of severe thunderstorm warnings, we rolled out at 7:15 to try and beat the storm, the heat and cover the many miles that we had to get to St. Francisville.

A high mileage day interferes with my picture taking!  I have a few to share – but I do not stop to take pictures that I normally would, as I feel the need to keep pedaling, keep  moving, keep pedaling, keep moving!   Admittedly, I miss a good shot or two with this approach,  one of which was a spectacular tree shot.  The tree was partially submerged, but the roots where exposed and in view and they resembled tentacles of an octupus.  It really had a personality — as I passed it all I could think of was the Trees from The Lord of the Rings movies!  Sorry not to have captured it to share with you.

Road surface in Lousiana is certainly hit or miss, and it is always better to miss a pothole or uneven surface.  Unfortunately, I had a momentary lapse in focus once or twice, and hit a hole or two, that rattled just about everything out of it’s proper place.  Ouch.

Reeling off the miles today included a couple of bridge crossings!  We crossed the Atchafalaya River on a steep bridge that was undergoing construction.  After we crossed it, we had to continue on the Morganza Spillway.  I had no idea what a spillway was — but it was another raised road surface (bridge…like..)  but it went on for miles.  The spillway was a four lane highway without any shoulder.   For safety purposes, we assembled and crossed over in groups.  The group I was in had 13, and we started across with the SAG Subaru behind us with flashers on.  We were our own parade for 3.5 miles.  Louisiana drivers are much more patient and courteous than those that we encountered in Texas.   Time ticks more slowly here, and they are not in such a rush. I also choose to believe that all of what they are yelling out their truck windows is complimentary!

 

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At mile 67 we were hungry and searching for lunch — we were looking for “Not Your Mama’s Cafe”” in Morganza – but just our luck, it was closed for renovations.  We headed to LaHaye’s Market which had a deli counter in the back — we enjoyed a very relaxing lunch (service is much slower…..patience is required…..).  As I was enjoying my BBQ Brisket po’boy I noticed this sign.

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The next adventure of the day was crossing the mighty Mississippi River!   We came upon the John James Audubon bridge which was constructed in 2011/2012.  Previously, there was a ferry that was used to cross.   Traffic was not too heavy when we arrived, and we were able to get a few good shots.  I enjoyed

traveling across with Tanya and Sue.

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And yes, we were getting closer to the storm!  The sky was this ugly gray/yellow.  It was around 2:30ish – and we were still 15 miles from our destination.  Good news is that we did outrun it, but barely – it started to shower the last mile or so — I was at 98 miles and wanted to complete a century – so I circled the driveway of a local Baptist church. The thunder started when I arrived in the church parking lot…coincidence or message? hmmmm?   Tanya and a few others  completed their first century!  Congrats to all!

The group is in two locations about 3 miles apart – I am at the Butler Greenwood B & B which is a lovely property.  I have a small cottage all to myself — what a luxury after a few of the places we have stayed.  Tomorrow is a rest day, and I am committed to staying put.  Not willing to get on the bike to go into town 3 miles away.  Next stop Hammond, LA – 90 miles away……….

Mileage shot of the 100 and a few pictures from the property. First one is the rain as soon as I got my bags and bike in!    My room is called the Treehouse!

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Day 37 – “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Baha Men

Lake Charles  to Lafayette, LA

85 miles

Total : 2045!  Wahoo! Surpassed 2000 today.

With a new shifter in place, today’s ride was long and windy, but the ability to shift gears was wonderful!   The appeal of flat terrain was easily negated with the constant head and crosswinds that accompanied us during our first full day in Louisiana.

The Lone Stars that adorned many a ranch gate, farm fence or home in Texas has now been replaced by the Fleur de Lis and advertising for shrimp, crawfish and catfish.

A 100 plus miles into Louisiana and we have experienced significant terrain changes. Yes, we are rolling on mostly flat landscape, roads are no longer chipseal, but clearly Louisiana does not have a lot of funding for roads and repairs. Lots of uneven surfaces and potholes, and then out of nowhere a smooth road.  You enjoy one when you find it!   We pedaled by flooded rice paddies, crawfish traps and many a marsh.  We saw many live and a few dead snakes.

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Upon arrival in the south we were forewarned about the increase in loose dogs.  We have encountered a few here and there, and it seems that most days a rider has been chased or approached by dogs.  Today I was riding with my cycling buddy, Tanya and we were happy to have Nancy with us on her off day from driving the SAG.  We were progressing along nicely when a Boxer came charging out at us.  I was the first rider in our group so I was fortunate not to be the target, but Nancy received a good chase by a very determined dog.   There are several techniques that riders will use- this time Nancy used the  “big voice” approach yelling “go home ! ” loudly and confidently. This usually will work, along with “No!”   Other approaches use whistles, and if the dog does not stop and continues to chase, charge or lunge, riders will stop and get off the bike and put the bike between them and the dog.    I have been thankful that most dogs that run after us, or bark have been behind a fence or on a lead.   We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Tonight we were treated to dinner at a local restaurant to try the local cuisine.  The restaurant had a live band playing Zydeco music, and there were quite a few people dancing.   After the first hour, it felt as if they were replaying songs-the sound has a distinct beat to it.

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I tried the catfish for dinner.  It was very mild and there was plenty to share.   A pic of the hot sauce for my brother in law- and no, I did not try any.

Off to bed, 96 miles tomorrow and it looks like we will have inclement weather.  We ride on anyway!

Day 36 – “Born on the Bayou” Creedence Clearwater Revival

Silsbee, TX to Lake Charles, LA

75 miles  (60 for me!)

Hello Louisiana! Good Bye Texas!  Just shy of three weeks to get across Texas!

We crossed into LA at about the 35 mile mark. The crossing was energizing, and several riders crossed at the same time and stopped to take pictures.

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Perhaps the excitement was that we were leaving this behind.  The pic with the chairs is  in front of my room last night.  When I arrived the chairs were occupied by several railroad workers relaxing smoking cigars.   Yum. Not.

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Upon our arrival into Louisiana, the landscape began to change – swampy marshes appeared.

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Last week I bought a new saddle (seat) and many of you have asked how it is going– it is going very well – a few tweaks, and so far so good!  Today brought a new mechanical challenge- I started the day unable to shift out of the highest gear . I could shift from one chain ring to the other- but not within the ring — which means I had 2 gears.  I was thankful that the terrain was very flat and did not require the use of lower gears.  With that said, i would have liked to downshift on occasion! Easier on the knees.  Looking ahead to the next two days – I knew that we had lots of miles to ride — 88 tomorrow and 96 on Monday.  I needed to find a bike shop and have Sweet Ruby looked at and fixed before  the next few days.   I made a decision to jump in to the SAG Wagon (SAG stands for Support and Gear – and is the Subaru wagon that we check in every 20 miles.  Our very capable SAG drivers Nancy and Carolyn take turns driving and keep us fed, watered, and up and running! They are both terrific!) After Nancy cleared all the riders at mile 60, she drove me to The Bicycle Super Store in Lake Charles, where Ross fixed my shifter!  I am ready to roll tomorrow and am hoping my mechanical issues are behind me! Thanks to Nancy and Ross for helping me out!

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It is hard to believe that we have less than 3 weesleft!

 

Day 35 – “Mustang Sally” Wilson Pickett

Cleveland to Silsbee, TX

64 miles

To prep for today’s ride, I had what will be my last Texas shaped waffle!  After nearly 20 days we will be spending our last night in Texas.  Texas has proven to be a very diverse state. We have sliced across from the desert in El Paso, across ranches and farms, big city of Austin, and of late green, lush state parks nearing the bayou!    Weather has been warm, windy (wicked windy!), rainy, dry and humid!  We have enjoyed the arrival of spring with the many wildflowers that covered the landscape, and watched as baby cows, goats and horses played in the fields. One constant has been the people that we have met along the way.  Proud Texans, friendly and gregarious, curious about our journey and very helpful.

Today was a fast paced ride. I sped along with many of the riders that I usually lose sight of very quickly when there is climbing.  The road was flat with a few gently rolling hills.  I felt as though I was flying.   The road was still narrow with many logging trucks which always adds a hint of fear in my ride.  The one benefit if the log trucks, the fresh smell of pine and wood as they whiz past you!

We are staying in a small motel in Silsbee, unremarkable with the exception of the warm welcome on the sign.

Have pics, but not wifi, so I will get this ou quickly, and post pics tomorrow

 

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Day 34 – “Gravel” Ani DiFranco

Navasota to Cleveland, TX

73 miles.

Total miles (by popular request). 1836

Today we enjoyed more farms, pastures, horses, and cattle.  Had a treat of seeing more Long horned cattle.

I have been fascinated with the terrain changes and the appearance and disappearance of plants, trees, cactus etc.  today was the first day that I did not see a prickly pear cactus. They have been a consistent companion since we passed through Arizona. A few stubborn ones clung on the last few days, but have now disappeared into the lush green trees and pastures. In a few months this area may not be as green or lush, but for now it is great.  The wildflowers have also started to disappear, we were not treated to the miles and miles of them today.

Most of the route today travels through the Sam Houston National forest.  Parts of it looked as if I was traveling in New Hampshire.

The only downside to the day was the limited shoulder of the road. At times it was less than 6 inches, at best it was 2 feet.  I have mentioned the challenge of the fast pace trucks in the past, but once again we experienced a few scary moments.  Logging trucks zipped by us, along with the usual tractor trailers, and one oversized load.   The trucks will often blow their horns to let us know they are approaching….which is somewhat unnecessary as we can hear them barreling down the road.  The notice of the horn would be great if there was somewhere we could go or move over to, but often we have to share the road.  And they do not move over (even when they can), nor do they lift their foot off of the accelerator.  I shuddered through a few close calls.

The shoulder today often had crevices and deep cracks up to two inches wide.  You can not move over or you could get sucked in, get a pinch flat or worse wipe out.  We also found that sections of the road had loose gravel which added to the excitement!  I will be happy to get home and drive on the NH roads!  Even a frost heave or two would be better than what we have encountered here in Texas.   I will say, though, that the roads in Texas have been very clean compared to NM and AZ.    Two more days and we are out of Texas!

I looked at the calendar today and we have 3 weeks left!  Crazy that we have more behind us, than we have in front of us!

 

 

Day 33 – “Cruise” Florida Georgia Line

La Grange to Navasota, TX

65 miles

The first part of our ride today took us through the small hamlets of Warrenton and Round Top (population 90).  In the early morning the few buildings that made up the town square were quiet, but very cute.   The town appeared to be suffering a bit of a hang over, having just completed a 10 day Annual Antique Show.  The two tiny burghs population erupts to over 100,000 as people travel from all over to attend the show.

The remants of the event resembled a large, miles long tent city.  The Main Street, empty pastures, event centers,  front yards, roadside buildings, barns and stables all had empty tents.  A few vendors could be seen breaking down and packing up, and a few permanent shops/stores advertised that they welcomed guests!

The views for the day were very scenic – but the first 26 miles were on a very narrow and busy country road.  Trucks zipped by us causing a slipstream, and you had to hold on when they rumbled by us!  It was a relief to get onto a new road.

We cruised through the day, even with a strong and persistent North crosswind.   Spring time in this part of Texas is absolutley breathtaking!  Fields continued to be filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush (the coral/orange flowers).  Cows grazed in green, green pastures and horses lined equestian farms and estates.   Many of the homes in this area were pretty spectacular.

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The only blight on the day was a minor mechanical problem that I encountered at mile 50.   We had stopped at small and very busy country store, and when I climbed back on  Sweet Ruby – something felt wrong.   Somehow, the post that held my seat on broke!   I pedaled the final 15 miles somewhat scooched to the front of my saddle, or shifted to my left side .  I was thankful there were not any significant hills or climbs, and stopped every 5 miles .

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We arrived in Navasota which is a small town about 20 minutes from College Station, TX – Home of Texas A & M.  We have a rest day which I will use to get a new saddle.  Which will need to be broken in !! UGH.. just did that with my other one.   And for those that are curious – breaking the seat in, also requires breaking in your bottom !

Day 32 – “La Grange”, “Legs” ZZ Top

Bastrop to La Grange, TX

41 miles

Shorter mileage day today meant we left a bit later than usual. Our start time was 9!  The mornings that we have a more relaxed start are a treat. Ate breakfast at the Hampton Inn which had a little bit of everything to choose from.  Very nice.

The first portion of our ride took us to Bastrop State Park where we weaved our way through the park roads for 12 miles. The roads were in pretty good shape with little or no traffic. During our map meeting, Carol told us there would be a few steep rollers – hmmm, I never like the sound of that.  A few were true rollers where you could head down at full force and find yourself up and around the other side. These are the kind of hills that you squeal “wheeeeeeee!” when riding.   And the other handful well, one had an 18% grade. And the word that I was screaming was not quite “wheeee”.   And, yes, I walked up that one.  When you are pedaling so hard with all of your might that you end up lifting the front wheel up off the ground, that is a good indication that it is time to get off the bike before you come to a complete standstill and fall over.   I do wear bike shoes that clip into the pedals, and you have to know when to unclip, or as I like to think of it-bail !  I have had one fall on this trip-a not very glamorous spill in the Mickey D’s parking lot in El Paso. I was nearly at a standstill and I unclipped my left foot, but had a brain fart and leaned right.   Plop. On the ground with my handlebars leaving a fine imprint on my angry ass.

Bastrop State Park had a fire in 2011 that devastated half of the park.  It is amazing to me the damage that can be done with one cigarette!  There are signs of life again in the damaged area – the renewal from a burn can be beneficial- so I try to think about the positive.

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Found a fun sign to take a pic with

 

 

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The wildflowers were brilliant today – one more pic of them –

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Holy Moly!  As I write this, a crazy storm is battering us!  Rain, wind, lightening – beating against the window, causing the lights to flicker, and the cable to go out for a bit!  My room overlooks the pool, and the tables and chairs have been blown over.  I am thankful that it arrived tonight and not while we were on the road.  Local news station says there was hail reported -none here.  In between I was able to watch the RedSox/Rangers game on ESPN.

Tomorrow is 70 miles to Navasota!