Blog Day 8-9: Big Crazy to Big Easy
The highlight of the last few hours back from Houston had been driving over a 23 mile long bridge across Lake Ponchartrain, which is very surreal as you appear to be literally driving into the horizon, never to return. Flat-earthers would be petrified, as if ever there was a conveyor belt to oblivion, it would look like this. New Orleans does, fortunately eventually appear and all was well. This had followed a ginormous shopping spree which came to $500-odd dollars and resulted in the purchase of a lot of useful and probably never to be touched items as well as some of that food and drink stuff I probably need. This obviously included a selection box from the Trouble Brewery...
The old advisory notice - “Things in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are”. The equivalent for us so far here has been “Things take longer than you think they will”. As such we got back to the State border pretty late and the sun was already going down. I quite like running at this time at the night however and at last the heat was less stifling. The proposed 15-20 miles was completely off the cards and I set off into the sunset through the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area across bridges and bayous, until I came to one that seemed vaguely familiar – it was the place where I'd done a swamp tour, last time I was here! I was sorely tempted to call Nads back for the night tour, but I had to keep moving, so on I plodded into the night, using my LEDs for the first time as it got pitch black very quickly. I wasn't worried however as I was wearing very short shorts which allowed me to eat up the miles with the minimum of resistance. We'd arranged to RV at the RV (Nice.) at a bar called Crazy Al's,10 miles away, which I didn't think existed, according to Street View, but it was at the end of a mile or so long bridge so not really an issue to spot the Death Star parked up. Crazy Al's did however exist and after a slightly ulterior motivated decision to ask if we could park in their lot. They were more than happy and after I'd stopped leaking from every pore we went over. This is a proper Southern bar – how you'd imagine it, with a good group of locals all around. Woody and Bea, 72 and 74, married for 56 years, Maria, a Brazilian bait shop owner, Captain Kirk (actually), the local fire chief, pizza guy and reporter (!) with his crew, Anthony, a Harley riding biker who freely confessed his plan to kidnap Nads and the owners, Donna and Art, two karaoke singing Trojans with Art the real showman. Two beers turned into four as they kept buying and we began departure procedures around five times before we reluctantly left.
The fact that we were parked on Highway 90 meant a fitful rest and the local screamybird species got me out of bed for an 8am start, which, of course turned into an 0830 start. This was probably the earliest I'd started but instantly I was looking for any shade the low lying sun hadn't eradicated, including taking lane 8 around the bend. Nads was waiting over another classic girder bridge in Jenny, who fortunately does offer shade, the not-so-little darling. Today was about making progress. I was not exactly angry about the loss of mileage today, but I was conflicted about the need to make a statement numbers wise, if not just to myself. It seems funny saying this when the numbers I'm talking about have certainly been bettered by many stage racers and continent crossers, but I know that these are real big amounts and I'm probably doing them too quickly still, though my camera trigger finger does provide me with pauses, at least. I ran through the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife refuge, through a massive levee barrier with STOP signs that the though of in action, made me feel quite uneasy, given this areas recent traumatic history with Katrina and flooding and soon the verdant swampland gave way to concrete, flyovers and skyscrapers – the first metropolis since leaving my “hometown” of Mobile. We stopped off at a fast food place that Nads had already reached and was giving assistance in the form of our battery to a battle weary 90's Tioga RV that had broken its alternator belt. This had been remedied, but their battery was now dead as a doornail. He'd gotten some fuel with our help and then used the battery one last time to get moving. Good deed done. I inhaled some fries and nuggets, a litre of Dr Pepper (Forrest's favourite beverage) and was off again, through the eastern 'burbs and on the approach to the French Quarter, I saw our stricken Tioga again, this time surely beaten. I went over to offer token assistance, but I'm no mechanic and I had to awkwardly leave. At least, for the moment, my engine is still going. I passed a stag do (batchelor party), and naturally passed on my wishes for the condemned man not to remember his evening if his friends had anything to do with it and moved on past the markets to Bubba Gump, one again, saying hello to Shannon and the staff (Mike, obviously) and then through the uptown area, stopping off at the amazing Bulldog pub where I was kindly given some Sprite instead of water and a taster of a lovely local IPA from the NOLA brewery. New Orleans is a party town and I would have loved to have stayed for more, as the place was absolutely jumping for the LSU game, but once again I pushed on, only to be offered a cocktail a mile down the road, from Steve, the local wag, I presume. I informed him and his elite-looking cyclist pal, Jason of my quest and they were pretty enthused and pledged to follow, before giving me an excellent reworking of my planned route to include the grand mansions, churches and universities of St Charles' Ave, running down the tram tracks (not scary) before mounting a levee for the final mile or so. I found a very stressed and tired Nads at the meeting point, before a tricky drive back to a truck stop, our home for the night. She's like me – not good when tired and it was tough, with my excitement of having done almost 40 miles and knowing my work was all but done, not to get exuberant when she was definitely still on-shift and certainly not happy about being so. It helped by the fact I was pretty done in after the NOLA excitement had me dipping under 7:00 mile paces (and annoyingly forgetting to stop and start my watch at the required time, meaning both slower recorded paces and also a loss of a mile or two). She cooked dinner and I forced it into my mouth, against my digestive systems will and tried to rehydrate. It was 98F on the van thermometer as we got down to “sleep”. The use of inverted commas, I'm sure implies that this wasn't the way it turned out.
Start: MS/LA State Border. Finish: South Metairie. 46.86 miles (officially - likely mile or two longer)