Mother Nature gives us all she can overnight. In the morning, it’s blue-sky sunny and much cooler and we have a vigorous tailwind. And I have a hotel room front flat.
Patch and repair. Nothing in the tire. I check the back tire and find a piece of stone or bone wedges into a crevice in the tire. I pull it out and proceed to break the valve stem in half when I go to top the tire off. What the fuck. I then find an inch and a half long piece of wire through the tire. What the actual fuck. I fashion a couple tire boots with an older health insurance card. Because the health of American citizens should not be a for profit model. Lastly, I patch Damon’s flat from yesterday as my only spare. Much more field mechanics than I expected so we roll out a bit later than normal.
A right turn back on 61 after 5 miles and it’s clear that this gusty tailwind is likely to take us the entire 70 miles to my most preferred of travel destinations, New Orleans for a much needed day off. Add to that the fact that we’ve got the levee bike paths for half of those miles and I am feeling it. It feels like forever, but only a year and a half ago I was riding this route in the opposite direction — and beginning my 1,500 mile ride home.
Last time I was here the spillway was open, so I had to detour off of the bike trail back to the road. This time the spillway is closed; according to a sign and a barrier, so is the “road”. Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. We get our adventure on and decide to forge ahead. Grass. Mud. Rocks. Flowing water. Sections of the pavement have been washed away but water flowing from the nearby dam, damn. I’m spending too much time carrying my 100 pounds of bike than I care to.
It’s a strange stretch of path along the Mississippi River, mixing nature with massive oil company infrastructure. Pipelines and giant factories everywhere. One after another. I eventually tune them out, which is easy because I’m not sharing the road with vehicular traffic.
After a few relaxing miles, I settle into all the feels only a ride of this magnitude can inspire. The sense of connection with my environment — and my purpose and place within it. The lack of distractions cha cha dancing with the prolonged periods of self reflection spilling into intense clarity. The generosity and hospitality so many have collectively provided me during my riding over the last 15 years of doing this kinda crazy shit. My physical, spiritual and emotional states align as I come into NOLA just in time for rush hour traffic.
Somewhere behind me has caught another flat. I cruise through town to the hotel; he ends up taking an Uber XL. We reunite for the ritualistic calorie binge. We walk through the quarter and eventually get to my spot. My sincerest condolences if you’ve been here but haven’t had Verti Mart’s “All That Jazz” sammich. Or anything on the menu at the back of this cash only bodega corner store. We grab a couple beers in brown paper bags and grab a bench on the river. I absolutely scarf my meal down while Damon is FaceTiming his wife and business partner. I don’t even realize the total wolf job I do. Afterward, I fight off enough of the food coma to drink a curbside Moscow Mule with NOLA native Margeaux, her two pups and her 66 Barracuda. I hit the hotel bed by 9pm and last five minutes. My lights go out with the room lights on.
We take a day off in NOLA. We get wild AF on our day off. I lay in the hotel bed for hours. Damon and I drink coffee, roughly plan out the final leg of the ride to St Augustine, chat about all sorts of stuff. We’re getting crazy in the Big Easy. News talk. Pandemic talk. Racially motivated shootings in Atlanta. I loop back around to the planning portion, scouting for camp sites and warm showers hosts along the route. This one profile from some folks that let you camp under their beach house on the gulf ties a bow on our hit button discussions:
Damon is going on about how amazed he still is that there’s nothing Trump could do to stop his people from groveling to him. How now he’s being labeled a liberally elite New Yorker for encouraging vaccination. I haven’t watched the news in a long time but I can affirm that the Empire State does not want him back. Ultimately, I feel that the right and the left have the same “shouting you down” issues. There’s no civil discourse. A lot of folk’s perspective is limited and their attention span is shit. Damon is adamant that public rhetoric has to be toned down. In the end, I wash my underwear in the hotel sink and that task is perfectly analogous to US government and politics. Sandpaper and Bobbie pop up last second from Jackson Mississippi. We enjoy lunch and drinks in a semi-reopened New Orleans. With this turning up of the relaxation, we feel ready to hit the road outta here tomorrow, focused on completing the final leg to the Atlantic Ocean.