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Thursday 7 July 2011

Day 58 - Day Trippin' Louisianna

Todays mileage: 87
Total mileage: 2,848
End point: Vicksburg, MS

Today has been the most ridiculous and dramatic day of riding I have to date. Not dramatic in terms of scenery, we'll leave that to Wyoming, but due to the ridiculous list of events that have happened. Before I forget you may have wondered what that picture of a gas station was doing at the end of yesterdays blog; well I was going to comment about how it was possible to guestimate when it closed from the price of the pump - particularly amusing when the price is in cents and not dollars...

So I left the cute rv park at lake village and headed south towards Louisianna. Now I must be absolutely honest, I was a bit gutted about missing out on Montana and I wanted to keep my lead in the state game versus pam by ticking off LA. I think after this trip I'll be up to around 40, pam won't mind though as I'm sure she has her eye on a trip to hawaii which would be required to tick off all 50. Its just as well a business trip to there is highly unlikely as I would be in big trouble ;)

The state line between Arkansas and Louisiana had double disappointment. Firstly no sign, the two poles to hold the sign were in place but the sign had gone. Secondly the Dell Streak phone finally completely and utterly died. It had been on its last legs for days and for the first half of the day I had been stuck on snow patrol on loop and a black screen. Don't get me wrong I've loved Snow Patrol ever since Dave Dickson took me to see them in a pub in Bristol in 2000 with a total audience of about 7 others, but Chasing Cars is not a motivational song when you are cycling in scorching heat. The only upside was I had located a new pack of opel fruits (starbursts) which contain only red sweets! Yes, surely you remember as a kid trying to avoid green and yellow, well here is the answer: Watermelon, Cherry, Strawberry and Fruitpunch!

The first town I came to was Lake Providence, which had a cute tourist information office. David and Bobbie were delightful volunteers and asking lots of questions. David even phoned up the local newspaper to see if they were interested in coming over but fortunately my celebrity status has been denied as they didn't pick up the phone. Bobbie provided me with a much needed map of the state and told me a little bit about her tour of the British Isles she had been on a few years back. I took in a quick bite to eat south of the town, and after leaving the restaurant decided it was time for more suncream. Mid-application I was hearing a lot of shouting and noise. I looked behind me to see I had stopped right next to the prison and on the side of the exercise yard. A few of the inmates had noticed me, and one of them shouted out 'we're coming with you!' - I enjoyed that but was pretty happy I was on this side of the razor wire. (Note the photo above is another section of the prison, I didn't want to take photos of the convicts).

I continued south to Tallulah, it was a hot ride. I passed through Transylvania which had batman on its water tower!! The road surrounded by cotton plantations, I would tell you more about cotton but I missed out on the cotton museum in lake providence. At least I know its cotton, unlike potatoes in idaho! As I rode into Tallulah I was pretty dehydrated and desperate for water. I was not prepared for what awaited me, I am not kidding; the northern part of the town was straight out of a scene from boyz in the hood, or the wire. Groups of around 5 to 10 men drinking 40oz beer bottles, sitting on the porches of ramshackle houses. As I cycled up to the first junction a man crossing the road yelled:
"You can take those mother fuckers doooooown!"
I am pretty sure that's what he said, the only two words I am 100% sure he said were the words starting in M and F. I was also fairly confident he wasn't threatening me and that this was actually some sort of respect from his manner, all the same I wasn't hanging around for a debate on Louisianna's social justice. As I cycled into the centre of the town I found a gas station which was right next to the police station, even so it only had two small windows which were covered in bars. Inside however a diamond in the rough, an elderly gentlemen absolutely insisted on paying for my powerade:
"Remember to pass the kindest on - that's how it works..."

I left Tallulah thinking this was enough excitement for the day and had 20 miles left to Vicksburg, little did I know. As I cycled down the road I saw a snake, I've seen many dead snakes, double figures, but as I approached this one was alive and headed straight at me - I ran over it! Try playing chicken with a snake, due to its S curve movements its nearly impossible. No bite I'm glad to say. It would get worst...

I had to leave the state highway and get on interstate 20 to cross the Mississippi river. I have no idea if this is legal or not*, but presumed the Wyoming rule of no alternative route and planned to stay on the far right of the shoulder. Now you should now the Mississippi river is friggin wide, and not only that it has swamps before the river on the LA side. The first mile or so over the swamp went fine but when I reached the river the shoulder cut down to less than 3 feet with a high metal barrier to my right. I decied to go for it, but after 10 metres or so I approached a massive storm drain which filled the entire shoulder. Unlike most drains it ran vertically in front of me instead of horizontally, I hopped my front wheel over it but my back wheel suffered a massive brutal drop, it took it real, real hard - I knew this was bad. To make things worst these storms drains continued every 10 metres and I was starting to panic. I decided to go for it in the inside lane of the bridge, 70 mph traffic whizzing past, to maximise my visibility I went for some vigourous arm waving and weaving whilst trying to cycle the fastest I have ever cycled. By some miracle I had avoided a flat tyre, the next 2 minutes were a blur of fear and focus combined. I made it, but this is one of the most extreme moments of my life and one I will not be repeating.

On the otherside I had made it to Mississippi, dripping in sweat and shaking. My new $300 rim has a massive dent in it. After 15 mintues of reflection I got two more little sparkles to my epic day. A free can of dr.pepper from the manager of the hotel and I bumped into a delightful family from florida at the 'welcome to mississippi' sign. They got the dollars out but i once again I directed them to the website, have a great vacation guys if you are reading.

So tomorrow I have some issues. I'd originally intended to get a cheap phone, but now my focus is my rear wheel. It seems to be rideable, but I need to get two spokes fixed at a minimum. I'll try to keep tomorrow at little more uneventful.

* I have since read that this ride is probably illegal. One alternative is to go down to the river and get a ride over on a passing boat - interesting! Maybe an alternative approach of there is a next time.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, this sounds like a pretty manic day. You almost died four times by m count - random hobo, prison, snake and death by bridge traffic. You have definitely used up four of your nine lives so you want to be extra careful when we get round to our cycle!