Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gramercy to Jackson, LA, or The Kindness of Strangers

Should we be worried about those clouds?
After securing our sleeping arrangements, we went in search of a beer.  Yes, there are basically three themes of this trip: biking, beer, and food.  Gramercy bleeds into Lutcher and sooner than later we found ourselves at the Streamline, a dark local watering hole that welcomed us with open arms.

 We had a couple of ice cold Budweisers and stared at the TV screen while the regulars were hanging out out front.  One of my favourite moments was when, as we were leaving, one of the patrons, who I think just stopped by for a chat, got into an orange Mercedes with hubcaps that said "Player" on them and "Sugar Foot" spelled out on the rear window, started his car and drowned out "Blurred Lines," playing on the jukebox in the bar, with "Let's Get it On."  Let's get it on, indeed.

We ate at a restaurant suggested to us, Aunt Ellie's.  I'm trying to limit myself to one fried meal a day (are you laughing yet?), and for dinner I allowed myself the fried crawfish tails and the catfish (purported to be the best in Louisiana).
I didn't expect an appetizer of this size.  Really.

Hushpuppies, catfish, and green beans.
We had a friendly chat with a couple over at another table, who were interested in our ride.   They left before we did and we said goodbye.  When we went to pay our check, we discovered they'd paid for our dinner.  A road angel!  Holy cow!  How nice was that?!

We returned to the rec centre grounds and watched some Little League games.  At one point, two young girls came over to us and asked if we were in some kind of race.  When I told them that, no, we weren't racing but riding to Canada, they lost interest and walked off.  Hah!  After all the games had ended we pitched our tent near the dugout and went to sleep - more or less.

We awoke to rain.

After you read this part, you'll know why I had this song in my head.

After breakfast at McDonald's, we took off.  It was drizzly, but not horrendous, and on our ride I saw three wild turkeys and we encountered riders on the Tour de Rouge, a Red Cross ride.  It's great to see other bikers and exchange waves and smiles.  They were on a fully supported tour (oh, I'm learning the hierarchy of riders quickly), and one of them shouted to us as he rode by "Stone Cold Touring!"  That's right, we're stone cold touring, and don't you forget it!

When we got to the highway we were supposed to be on (yeah, you read that right - but it only added a couple of miles), conditions deteriorated rapidly.  In fact, it rained so hard we had to take shelter under the awning of a garage.  But that's not all.

The highway you have to take to get through Baton Rouge is 61.  There's really no other way.  It is also a test of your endurance - for traffic, strip malls, and highway interchanges.  It was raining for most of the ride, which is why I had an accident.  Totally slipped on some wet road markers (I think) and just flew off my bike, thankfully not into traffic.  In my mind it was like a Mary Catherine Gallagher skit where after I tumbled off my bike (many thanks to yoga and ice hockey for my ability to fall and roll), I stood up quickly like nothing happened and raised my arms, saying "Superstar!"  The first part of that sentence happened, but the second did not.  I rushed to get my bike out of the road and assess the damage to her (she's called Topaz, if you're interested) and myself.

This is the beginning of the bruise that is blossoming on the back of my right calf (I know, it looks like I have a weird, fleshy upper arm).  I'll document it as it develops.  But other than that and a few abrasions Topaz and I were fine.
Until I got a flat.

I have to say, writing about it now makes me laugh, but at the time, I was losing my sunny disposition rather quickly.  My brakes were rubbing, I had a flat, we were on one of those pie slices between an off-ramp and the main road.  It just sucked.  (Are you singing "Today is the greatest day I've never known" yet?).

It was getting a bit dismal; finally after multiple turns and sets of directions (we weren't super confident about where we were), I pulled into a gas station and said to my dad, "You're going in there and getting directions or looking at a map."  The sky then opened up again.  Yay!

When it was clear that no one knew where we were trying to go, my father called the woman we'd arranged to stay with through Warm Showers - a community of people who are host cyclists.  She offered to come pick us up.  My father says that when she offered, he looked at me and said, "Yes."  If he'd been alone, I know he'd have ridden the rest of it.  I told him that I would've wept and then kicked him if he'd said "No."


  1. So many interesting things in the post, but what I am most stuck on is that strangers paid for your meal. That is truly amazing. And thumbs up for stone cold touring...

  2. As I read about your stone cold touring with your "sugar daddy" (please note my attempt at a pun, your dad that folks think is your older husband), I worry that you'll make it back home in one piece. It's great that you've encountered so many angels along the way. Wishing you and your dad safe cycling!

  3. At first I thought it was your upper arm and somehow I felt relieved to read it was not (funny how the idea you may have gained a couple hundreds pounds since I last saw you worry me more than the all accident)...