Hank – Even though we knew the temp would be in the 30s and the winds would be 15-20 mph, getting out there into it is still a shock to the body.
Today’s destination was New Orleans. Actually, Bridge City on the west side of New Orleans. Back when I worked for the US Courts I knew a woman, who is also an avid cyclist, who worked for the courts in Louisiana. When she retired six months before me I told her Kathy and I would be coming through sometime in early 2019. She gave me her personal email and told me to look her up. I remembered that yesterday and sent her a note.
Erin Laine and her husband, Bill, have been Warm Showers hosts since before there was a Warm Showers or an Internet. She was a cycling advocate with the Cascade Bicycle Club back in the 90s when she lived in Seattle. She and Bill toured from Seattle to New Orleans, again when everything was on paper.
We had 68 miles to get to Erin’s house. The wind was biting cold as the 34-degree temperature dropped to whatever the corresponding wind chill is. Kathy layered up. I was fine in my shorts but I did put on my puffy jacket, stocking cap, and gloves. After all, we had a head wind, too. On the bright side we had very little traffic for nearly the entire day. It was a Sunday and the New Orleans Saints had a conference championship game against the LA Rams so lots of people were probably staying home for the game.
Late in the morning Kathy was hoping for a bakery and a coffee shop to get a hot cup of tea. I said she should lower her expectations. We stopped in Pearlington just before reaching the Louisiana border since it was the only place on the map for many miles. There was only a gas station convenience store there. Out front there were a few seats and benches that had been removed from vehicles. Large tin cans served as ash trays.
We went inside to scout the possibilities. They had coffee and hot water but no tea bags. I asked the guy working there if they had any tea. He said the only kind of tea he had was cold and pointed to the coolers. So I checked the coffee section to see if they sold tea and found individually priced English Breakfast tea bags. Thirty-nine cents apiece. Score!
To meet the bakery expectations, Kathy settled for a Moon Pie and I had a six-pack of chocolate covered mini donuts. We sat out front on the car seats to enjoy our snack and exchange greetings with the many customers who came and went and stared at our bikes like they were space ships.
Speaking of space, the Stennis Space Center was north of us and we rode through a test area buffer zone. That was a comforting feeling.
We rode through bayous, swampland, and crossed several rivers. The day slowly warmed, more so once the cloud cover broke up and the sun shine through. I shed my puffy jacket, wool cap, and heavy gloves. Kathy doesn’t tolerate the cold as well as me so she stayed bundled up.
Around 40 miles in I got in touch with Erin. She said she could meet us and bring us in with Bill’s pickup truck. I thought that was a good idea since we’ve been fighting headwinds for most of the day. She picked us up at a Winn Dixie after we had 50 in miles for the day.
We met Bill and settled in while the Saints lost in overtime. Erin whipped up a delicious turkey sweet potato chili for dinner and we chatted all evening before calling it a night.
Kathy – It was a very cold day for riding – as many people we passed throughout the day reminded us. We started out at 34 degrees with a pretty bitter wind chill to go along with it so it felt even colder. I had on two pair of pants, a wool top and two jackets, regular socks plus wool socks, wool cap, and my thick heavy gloves. I was still cold. My face stung from the cold headwind that greeted us most all of our ride today. The sun didn’t come out to help warm us until the last few miles of our ride. It was cloudy, cold, windy, and the humidity in the air made for even chillier weather.
Within a minute or so of riding my toes and fingers were frozen and numb – they never thawed until mile 48 (with only two miles left in our ride for today). So yeah, we are in Mississippi and Louisiana riding in freezing cold temps due to a cold front that came through. Lucky we are ‘staying south’ with our riding this time of the year to avoid all the northern cold.
Other than the cold, it was a great ride. We entered Louisiana, our 32nd state!!! We are getting closer to our 50-state goal. There was hardly any traffic today and we had great shoulders space for riding. I planted my Mississippi flowers before leaving the state near a brown landscaped area. That should brighten things up.
It was good to meet Erin and very kind of her to pick us up so we didn’t need to ride those last few miles in the city. Hard to believe we are in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m looking forward to discovering new things and seeing some of the old areas that I remember from my time down here helping after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Erin and Bill are wonderful people. We are thankful for their hospitality. Their warm home, delicious dinner, and the good conversations were just what we needed to end our day. Grateful.
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