So it turned out that church car parks are only great for peace and tranquility if they're not near a freight train line and after countless horns blaring all night, I awoke for my kamikaze dash across the Mississippi in a bit of a confused state. Facing potential death though I was quite glad of the inability not to overthink and set off down towards the behemoth that is the Huey P. Looooooooooong Bridge (1792m). The appropriateness of this did not really lead to much amusement and as I approached the bit where the breakdown lane disappeared into a concrete barrier my heart was in my mouth, wondering if I would do the same. “You know where you are? You're in the Jungle baby! You're gonna diiiiie!!!”. I'm not a worrier. Partially this is because I'm an idiot, but mostly because I tend to think things will be alright, most of the time and as long as I'm not there when it isn't, I'll be alright. Despite deciding against filming this dash, the devil on my shoulder caught numerous lorries and trucks fizz past my fortunately short hair as well as a few choice words. I don't know whether this is real fear, but I was certainly more worried than when I jumped out of a plane in Australia. I looked at my watch at one point and saw I was doing 5:45 pace, almost as quick as I race marathons and certainly not a pace I've even skirted on this run. As a reward for Axl getting me over the bridge, I listened to the rest of Appetite for Destruction for the next run. I'm sure he's very grateful.
I continued my amble through the towns of Erwinville, Torbert, Livonia and Lottie, marvelling at the fact that the Great Blue Herons that you see so much of here are not concerned by huge trucks rattling by, but they're off before I can get within 50m of a good photo opportunity! I wonder if this is an aversion to man due to hunting? Sad, if it was. Now I'd sent Nads on a bit further, trying to do longer stints so she gets more of a break and she was already occupied with some laundry. I got the message saying that there as another two mile bridge that was very dangerous ahead. As I had proved my complete invincibility, I wasn't too concerned as I approached what turned out to be a three mile bridge over local wetlands, with again, no safe space. I have found American drivers to be very courteous to people on foot on roads, with only one angry sounding beep so far (From a woman on her phone. WHAT DID SHE USE??), in contrast to their attitude to letting RV's change lanes! I acknowledge I'm being a pain in the proverbial (and occupy myself) by waving to all cars that go past and trying to encourage big-rig drivers to sound their horns and this goes down pretty well. My problem on this bridge was that I hadn't looked after myself again and was just about out of water and starting to feel a bit weak with 5 miles to go. I called Nads to let her know of my impending towel throwing and when confirmation was requested, I decided I had to not let stuff like this beat me and pushed on, to rapturous applause. From Nads. Maybe. I ascended up the ramp to a final hairy bridge of the day and into Krotz Springs before being greeted with energy drinks, a Snapple, an ice lolly and two bags of Skittles. Please don't hate me diabetes god. When we reached our free campsite in a nature preserve (weirdly containing a rifle range) we maxed our generator so much, it conked out, meaning that it was beans (with bacon). Standard beans here have bacon. Vegetarian Beans are stated on the packet. BEANS are for vegetarians! The propane fridge however, meant the beers were still cold.
Start: Mr Lucky S Truck Stop, north of Baton Rouge. Finish: Krotz Springs. 36.1miles
So it turned out the generator had just tripped and after a handy call from Coachnet, we were back in business. I'd had an amazing sleep, it was cooler and I was ready for miles. I've found out there doesn't seem to be much correlation with sleep and how the miles the next day go and after a few miles, it was all a bit of a struggle, but maintainable. The middle part of the day was a strange town called Opelousas, which is so beautiful on the Eastern side, but seems to be divided, with the West pretty run down with may boarded up shops. This sort of thing always makes me sad as I imagine how much someone put into that business, physically, financially and emotionally only to see it fail. I hope they do alright after.
We finished the day in a town called Eunice, which I did extra miles to reach as Eunice Huthart, of Gladiators and later stuntwoman fame would have demanded it of me. She's the sort of Scouse bird (I'm allowed to use that term – it's a term of affection and a birthright) I love. Hard working, cheeky and dead funny. Basically she's boss. I tweeted a photo of the local newspaper post boxes outside house bearing her name, suggesting that they were probably for her fanzine. Went down well, obviously. We stayed in Cajun Camping (Very pretty – still near a trainline.) and glasses were raised to the first 40 mile+ day and Nads braving and mastering the poo pipe at the first attempt.
Start: Krotz Springs. Finish: Eunice. 41.0 miles
Friday was a Tour de Force of Smallville, Lousiana with more miles on the menu. Basile (Not Fawlty), Kinder (No eggs, which was a Surprise), and Reeves (Super, man.) were all along Highway 190, but the one I was excited about getting too was midway in the day. Elton. I had his Greatest Hits on in the preceding miles and I was Still Standing when I got there. This was especially welcome with the issues I'd been having with the blister on the ball of my right foot, which I felt pop as I moved along. I tried to adapt my gait and speed to cater for it and it seemed to be doing alright, for a big blister in that location, but by the time we'd gotten to River Bend RV park, (Them trains...everywhere.) this foot had become quite swollen, hot and the edges of the blister were looking red and nasty. Now there was no obvious infection, but as a recent Trans-USA run had ended due to cellulitis of the foot, I was justifiably concerned. A cabal of doctor friends were assembled and well-meaning advice of rest which had to be ignored was given alongside drugs, elevation, proper dressings and messages of good luck, which I'm sure were given with a degree of concern. My mind was in a tumult as I went to bed, still cooking from bodily repair processes, knowing I was going to wake up too hot or cold at some point – if I ever got asleep.
Start: Eunice. Finish: Reeves: 39.1 miles
As we'd doubled back last night to our resting place and as my morning state of mind was one of trepidation, leading to procrastination, we left later than expected, but probably bang on average departure time so far. Expectations need to be adjusted, or maybe more usefully, we need to make sure they happen, but as I type this now, I already know I should be in bed. There was only one musical accompaniment I was going for today. An absolute Nick Cave marathon (With a Springsteen tune one random as I ran past Bruce Road - Fire, by the way). I kicked off with an 11 mile run, one of the bigger runs I do and we got to the small junction town of Ragley, where after recovering, we headed over to a sea of pink in some woods. It turned out that the local Queens of Pink group, a charity for Breast Cancer Awareness was having their annual pageant and walk in the Purple Heart Memorial Park.We introduced ourselves and asked for their details so we could give them a promote on our Facebook page, but the enthusiastic response we got for this little thing was pretty overwhelming. The accents were queried and explained, Ringo Starr impressions were performed and requests for photos were too numerous to count and, of course, accepted. Ringo never had it this good. Mobile to Santa Monica? That's impossible? Hopefully not, I replied, before showing them a photo of my blister… We were sent away with a couple of T-shirts promoting the cause, one of which I'm wearing now sat in our truck stop for the night and some water, which of course didn't last long in this heat! Double thumbs up to the organisers for putting together what looked like a great event, which deserved to raise a lot of money/awareness. They were very keen to hear about my causes too.
The blister had been well tended to by Nads with double blister plasters and I made a point of socks off the second I got back to the van for fresh ones (Which is a real pain, washing wise) and keeping the foot elevated as best as could. I also followed a real strict regime of eating and hydration, keeping my electrolytes up with SIS electrolyte fizzers. I met up with Nads at the final rest stop before we broke for the day with a growing niggle in my left lateral shin. It wasn't so bad and after the local police had come to check on us (after a local nosy neighbour had expressed concern and harrassed us by parking right behind the RV. Don't say anything, will you?) and were pleasantly surprised by what we were up to, I left Nads to go and set up for the night and toed off , 34 miles in, 7 to go. Fairly soon, the pain in the shin became really unbearable, on impact, not lingering, same with walking and not really sore to the touch. I once again made the call for a possible medivac when I remembered the advice of my physios at the Physio Clinic in Speke, Liverpool who thought that this wasn't shin splints, but a tight cranial tibial muscle and by stretching the crap out of it, I managed to do the last few miles with relative ease (as much as it can be easy after 40 miles), taking a photo of the 10 miles to Texas road sign and finishing 5 short of the border. Striking distance. I was glad I'd pushed through this latest obstacle with a bit of actual thinking, alongside just not giving up. So here, I am in the truck stop with my laptop on charge writing this and not in bed. “Why are you not in the RV?”, I hear you ask. Generator broken again. Don't think it's a trip switch this time...but hey...TEXAS! Goodbye Louisiana, you've been a blast.
Start: Reeves. Finish: Stark's Truck Stop. 41 miles