Who dat. It’s Saturday morning at the holy land that is this Whole Foods in New Orleans Louisiana. I feel the urge to fill my thermos with coffee but I don’t know if they’ll have that here. My own personal Jesus. Upon investigation, I’m unsure if I’ll even be allowed admittance, as I’m not wearing the clearly required yoga pants. They let me in, anyway. It’s probably the tattoos. Now I’m distracted by all the yoga pants. The pants say yoga, but the ass says McDonald’s! Huh? What? Wait. Why am I here? Trail mix. Bananas. Peanut butter. Tortilla. Stocking up on the staples needed for the next few days. It’s really the bulk antioxidant trail mix that lures me to this particular chain of supermarket. Let’s call it the Allen Toussaint of trail mix. With just one turn out of the parking lot we’re cutting through and then out of the Crescent City — on US Route 90. That 90. Again. For the entire day. Again.
I’m naturally lit rolling out the first 20 miles. The Meters are rocking the playlist. I am Fire On the Bayou. Same feels as the day coming into NOLA. Plus, after a couple days of contra-riding of my 2019 ride out of the same city, I’m hyped to move on to uncharted territory. And this end of the nationwide road is not quite Van Horn to Del Rio Texas’s US 90 either. Whereas nayer a drop of agua out in Texas, in this part of Louisiana there’s H2-everywhere. On the same one road the neighborhoods of NOLA fade into rural bayou, minus the suburbs. Instead of cul de sacs I get sparsely sprinkled strips of house on stilts with corresponding piers and boats and wildlife. And it’s fun and funky and funny. All kinds of crazy structures and signage populate my perimeter for miles.
We cross what is probably the 15th bridge of the day and are now in the sixth state of the tour — and second that I’ve previously bicycled… Mississippi. Em ay double ess, aye double pee… I know it because the bug game levels up considerably. In an effort to get one more NOLA reference in rhyme: it’s Art Neville Level Up. Reminds me of the phenomena I experienced my first Fay riding the Natchez Trace. Gnats galore. Also I know we’re in Mississippi because there’s a sign. It’s a sign!
Still along US 90, we make yet another Haj to this Waveland Walmart I’m now standing out front of. Damon needs another tube, so I don’t even go in. Soaking up sun and coffee, almost instantly the wild shit begins. Three maskless women walk out just hacking up lung butter a foot from me. Someone walks out pushing a shopping cart with another adult sitting in the cart! Some grifter type dude runs out, knocking something over and making a commotion. He books it across the parking lot. A Walmart cop is on the radio, another one comes. Maybe a supervisor too. I have no idea what’s going on but this feels like 14 year old me watching shit go down at the McKinley Mall. Janet Jackson “Control” blares over the speakers outside. Loudly too. It’s entertaining as fuck. This is my binge-worthy show right now. I can’t resist and walk in. Whoa. There’s a McDonald’s inside this Walmart. People with carts full of groceries and consumer goods are now in line for a Big Mac and a strawberry shake. Maybe a Filet O Fish and a 6 pack of McNuggets. There’s even a nail salon in this motherfucker? Whoa. It’s packed. There’s a line. Shit is crazy.
Migrating out of consumer Mecca, I detour us down to Beach Blvd, and behold: the Gulf of Mexico! First beach since I was sitting on Coronado with Candy and my cousin. It’s a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally.
After hanging at the beach and fighting the bugs off for a bit, Damon and I head into Bay St Louis, Mississippi to meet our warm showers hosts and set up camp in their backyard, so we can hide from the bugs. The gorgeous gulf beach aside, I like the whole proper-noun-preceded-by-common-noun approach employed by whoever named Bay St Louis, it reminds me of Hostel Buffalo. So much better. Like the way the adjective comes second in Español. Our host Kelley and her teenage wonderchild Mason chat over an amazing dinner she’s prepared us. Mason is 14 and strikes me as curious and smart straight away. Our first icebreaker conversation is about the wildness at Walmart that left me feeling his age. By the ens of dinner, he moved through politics, religion, music, misappropriated flag usage and so much more. It’s absolutely uncanny how one topic after another and he is word for word saying things Damon or I (but mostly Damon) have been saying all your long. Topics we’ve discussed. Issues we’ve debated. Mason is on point. It’s gets really great when Damon and Mason come to the point of having the exact same music tastes, especially with respect to current mainstream hip hop music. Being more a fan of the A Tribe Called Quest era, one could say that I’m buggin’ out. Buggin’ out. Buggin’ out. I’m buggin’ out. Mason is like a mini Damon. 20 years younger. They’re names rhyme. They have the same glasses. It is astounding. Remarkable. Exceptional. Fantastic. Even Damon can’t deny it. I thank Kelley and Mason and dive headfirst out of the bugs and into the pop up penthouse for one night in Mississippi, eager to push on tomorrow to my seventh state, Alabama.