From Kevin’s house we rode to the levy where we could enjoy a car free ride north towards Baton Rouge. The levy indeed provided a break from the traffic below, but our higher view point provided a glimpse into the industrial traffic and operations on the Mighty Mississippi River. We passed oil and grain storage barges, refineries of all shapes and sizes, and even got to experience first hand the massive amount of pollution put out by these industries in the form of corn dust; which coated every surface for miles.
Riding on the “Mississippi River Trail” was supposed to be a pleasant experience, however the constant passing of the Levy Police and the eventual confrontation from riding on a closed section forced us down to the street level and onto Louisiana’s abysmal roads.
Under the threat of rain we pulled into a park under one of the few bridges crossing the Mississippi, nearly immediately the clouds opened up and the threat became reality. We quickly moved to a sheltered table and ate dinner while waiting out the rain. A quick Google Maps search told us of a large church nearby; we rode to the church but were not enamored by our options for camping.
We planned to ride to another park however just outside of the church driveway Amanda took a headfirst leap into a muddy ditch. Bike inverted and her ego scarred we walked back to the church to wash off the mud. After a rainy dinner, spill in the muddy ditch, and a few more failed campsite searches we finally gave up the thought of stealth camping and eventually went to sleep.
Camping in on an oil pipeline right of way visible from the demanded that we were awake early and packed quickly. The sopping wet tent was quickly stowed away in its sack and we hastily made our way out of the field to avoid any confrontations. Stealth or free camping is nothing new to us having slept behind restaurants and churches or in wooded lots, this was different. We were visible from the road and surrounded by neighborhoods, we were not stealth and although we left no trace of our stay it was not a location we would ever select willingly. Destrehan, the town we were in, was bordered by the Mississippi and Lake Pontchatrain. Lacking land it was full of endless McMansion style homes with no services such as a grocery.
Back on the levy in a different parish we followed the endless scene of poverty among massive industrial shipping and refining operations on the river bank. Our route took us into the Bonnet Carre Spillway were we got to witness more of man’s attempt to control nature. Eventually our levy riding came to an end and we routed onto US-61, for the sake of saving time and distance. Our choices in roads can sometimes yield magical endless dividends and other times result in atrocious riding conditions making us question our sanity. US-61 was the latter.
This saga started with the persistently dark skies finally opening up and properly soaking everything. Sufficiently wet the next challenge was repairing a flat, in the rain with no shoulder. Our choice in the more complicated “glued” patches was a good one as they are the only type that will hold in the rain. Bike back in service it was time a healthy game of Frogger. The shoulder had broken down so much that riding on cobblestone was magnitudes smoother than the cupped and eroding surface we were attempting to traverse.
Having given up on the shoulder we attempted to ride in the hard packed, water laden sand next to the road. This was marginally more successful than the shoulder, but only lasted until the ground absorbed its maximum of water and became a combination of quicksand and mud. Out of options we resorted to sprinting in the driving lane with myself watching the road and yelling “CAR!” to avoid getting hit. This insanity of sprinting when clear and retreating to the shoulder continued to Sorrento. No welcome sign was needed, we knew we were in town with the immediate change in road quality. Thank heavens!
At the country store we stopped for a snack break and to regain our composure from the 20 miles of torture. Unable to leave due to yet another flat tire, we had attracted a bit of attention from the locals, particularly Brandon Didier. Watching we wrestle with my loaded bike and asking various questions he invited us to his house if we needed anymore tools or just to stop over for a beer. After a few minutes the bikes were loaded in his pickup and we were driving the few blocks to Brandon’s house.
Hidden behind the overgrown brush along the US-61 was a quaint sub-division set back off the road and our destination. Lucky for us Brandon was running what he assumed to be a quick errand to the store, I doubt he was planning on bringing back two weary bike tourers! Inside he treated us to cookies, candy, water, and a beer. We met his children, got to see the amazing murals of his artist friend from Austin, and briefly met the neighbors. Brandon offered to drive us the 30+ miles to Baton Rouge and save us from more of US-61 and most certain night riding.
We were grateful for the drive not only to save our legs the miles, but the sandy road grime had killed our chains. We had been pushing their useful lives and at 3100 miles they were in need of replacement badly! Brandon dropped us off at the a bike shop were we picked up chains & lube, said our goodbyes and slowly rode on gimped bikes to our warm showers host.