Friday, March 11, 2011
Will Bike For Food
There seems to be a common thread between touring cyclists and people that we meet along the way. Food. Other people cook it, and we delight in eating it!
For Adam's birthday, all he wanted was shrimp. Being in Louisiana you would think this would be an easy task, but traveling on bike doesn't guarantee anything. I was a little nervous when we were 75 miles away from Alexandria on the night before his birthday with a weather forecast predicting two full days of thunderstorms and thought we might have to hunker down in Jonesboro which didn't have much besides some fast food restaurants. What a sad birthday dinner that would have been.
Since we had given up hope of getting to Alexandria, the morning of Adam's birthday we spent some time getting a blog up and didn't rush out, thinking we weren't going to get further than Winnfield, the next small town only 25 miles away. But at 11:00, still without any real rain, we got on the road thinking Alexandria might not be a dream.
The ride to Winnfield was really easy going, and we were fooled into thinking the rest of the trip to Alexandria would be as nice. So after lunch, with 50 miles to go, we went for it! We felt good for the first few hours but the constant wind breaks you down physically as well as mentally. We kept having to tell ourselves that it would all be worth it and we would be eating shrimp in Alexandria at the end of the night. With 24 miles to go, I was done but Adam wouldn't have it. He told me to drag off of him and for the next hour, we rode faster than we had the rest of the day and knocked out 15 miles in what felt like no time. I think it was the shrimp calling to him!
It looked like we had the rest of the day in the bag. 9 miles to go at 5:00. We'd get there with just enough time to find the cheapest motel in town and maybe not have to ride in the dark.
8 miles more, 7 more, 6 more, 5, 4, 3, 2... Uh oh. What was that noise coming from Adam's bike? We slowed down to look and sure enough he had a tack sticking into his tire. We should have left it. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. We knew we would be stuck fixing a flat, but weren't prepared for what else we would find. After fixing the flat, we were blowing the tire back up and noticed that the actual tire had broken. There is a piece of the tire that holds it firmly onto the wheel, called the bead. Well, this had worn away on Adam's tire and we realized we couldn't put in too much air or the tube would pop out. So we kept the pressure low, and rode very slowly into the city. There went our dreams of riding in with some light left.
As we rolled into the first hotel we saw, the overpriced Holiday Inn Express, Adam noticed his front tire starting to lose air. At that point, in the dark, we weren't about to fix any flats. The Best Western, half the price of the Holiday Inn, was within sight so we pushed the bikes into a hotel room there and settled in for the night. Lucky for us, right next door was a great Cajun seafood restaurant and Adam got his birthday shrimp. I didn't even need to give him his birthday present that day, a pair of waterproof shoe covers. Turned out to be a good day after all.
He needed his birthday present the day after, for sure. The temp dropped and it thundered and poured all day long. We tried waiting out the rain until we went to the bike shop to get Adam a new tire, but it just kept pouring so we trudged through the cold rain to spend more money on bike maintenance... I have to keep telling myself, at least it's not a broken carburetor.. Haha. Sometimes we end up saving money and doing our own bicycle maintenance! We use fancy tools like old toothbrushes to clean out the chains.
We waited out tornado watch # 3 in our hotel the rest of the day, then got up early to make up some ground. The further south we biked, the greener the grass got, and the more beautiful the scenery. We rode along the Mississippi River and got to take lots of photos. That night, we settled in at a campground ten miles from the Mississippi River crossing and we were sure glad we did. The next morning, some of our R.V. Neighbors, Marty and Carol, invited us inside, out of the cold and cloudy morning for some eggs and bacon. No one believes me, but I have actually gained weight on this trip from all the food that we've been spoiled with. Should be called the Give Us Food, 50 State Tour.
We were in no rush that morning and enjoyed the company and coffee, then took our time on the fifteen beautiful yet bumpy miles to the ferry that crosses the Mississippi.
Ahhhh... the East! As we started riding into Saint Francisville, we were totally rejuvenated. The feeling of being on this side of the Mississippi was indescribable. It felt like we were on our way home! And Saint Fransicville just made it better. We had to stop at Magnolia Cafe where a friend from home used to work. The Chicken Magnolia was so yummy and the atmosphere was great!
We could have spent a while in the cute town but had plans to meet Mark, a photo archivest at LSU in Baton Rouge 30 miles away and so we were off. There's me eating breakfast with a portrait of Mark!
Mark, our Baton Rouge host was also the guy in charge of B.R.A.S.S, Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets. He hasn't owned a car in 20 years and instead relies solely on the bike for his transportation. We loved touring the city by bike, especially since it was comfortably warm!
The nights felt like summer nights in CT and the day.. well, the day was rainy. But the rain didn't phase Mark and we took on his attitude and let it rain on us. After two nights and one day of getting around Baton Rouge by bike, I fell in love with the idea of not owning a car when we go back home! Let's see how Adam feels about that one!
The night we arrived, Mark took us to a friend's house for dinner. He made Pork Stroganoff and if us reaching for seconds and thirds didn't hint to him that we were enjoying it, hopefully the number of thank-yous we gave him did.
Because of the threat of more thunderstorms, Mark let us stay another day and experience Baton Rouge Mardi Gras with him. It was a rainy mess, but we still managed to get in a good ride and joined in with a neighborhood parade collecting non-perishable goods for the local food bank. Rain doesn't stop Mardi Gras, that's for sure. It was fun to be involved in a local charity event even though it had nothing to do with bikes and meet a good bunch of people in the process. And we even got to try(or devour, I should say) some Gumbo! They had six jumbo crock pots full of the yummy goodness and we ate our fair share.
As if we hadn't eaten enough good food, that night we spoiled ourselves even more with Louisiana Cuisine! Blackened Alligator, rice and red beans, and hush puppies! And Adam's favorite part? $0.35 Oysters! I am so amazed by all of the different types of food we've been able to try on this trip. Sure it's all America, but there are so many cultures within our country, it's almost overwhelming.
Before we rode out the next day, Mark took us around the LSU special collections library to show us some old books and photography!
When we started our bike tour two months ago, we used Adventure Cycling Association bike maps from San Diego to Phoenix. After Phoenix, the ACA bike route stayed south and we needed to veer north, so we made our own route but we were excited to hook back up with the ACA route yesterday. It's fun to make our own routes, but 88 miles of beautiful, low traveled bike routes yesterday was a welcome experience and we'll stick to ACA routes as we finish the last few Southern states, like Mississippi!
Another good thing about ACA routes is the chance of meeting other cyclists. Steve and Tracy had stayed with Mark the night before we got there but we were all headed on the same route East and we got to meet up with them last night. We found each other in the dark campsite as we finished up the long ride. It may not have been gourmet, but their pasta and sauce combined with our two boxes of cookies made it a feast for hungry cyclists!