June 23, 1998

My first two choices of camping sites turned out busts last night, so I ended up putting in another 50 miles after dinner, crossing into the Cental Time Zone in the process. I stay in a town called Mariana, at a campgound on the edge of a seven mile long lake. The attendant tells me that earlier the thermometer, which was well shaded, read 108. It's almost 8pm, and it's still over 90. I camp and shower, and it starts cooling off enough to be comfortable. In the morning I am entertained by a large water creature attacking objects riding the green weeds well off the shore of the lake (my campsite was 10 feet from the shore). I say "creature" because I can't say it was a reptile, but if it was a fish I'd really like to go back there and this time bring a fishing pole (and some serious high test line). What I saw was a good foot long in length, maybe the whole body, maybe just a snout, I couldn't tell.

My extra travels have put me a good ways toward Pensacola and the Florida-Alabama border. At the Welcome Center I hear I am only 190 miles from New Orleans, and it is only 10:30 am. I'm sure I can make it, so I press on, not stopping during the midday heat in an effort to get there early enough to find a post office and a Kinko's. I stop for lunch at the Mississippi Welcome Center, which I am sure presented visitors an amusing sight, as the furniture was antebellum and I am eating a peanut butter sandwich and a can of beans on a sofa, and then later I sleep for 30 minutes with my head propped up by my arm on the sofa arm.

I make New Orleans around 5:30 pm, after stopping for a much appreciated dinner at yet another Ryans. I am glad I did, for New Orleans is not a commuter-friendly city, and I spend an hour and a half first trying to locate a post office and then a Kinko's, both unsuccessfully. I give up, and decide to head for my projected campsite. I hit the Mississippi River, and I am disappointed. Through the city the River is 2300 feet across, and while I take a ferry to cross it (it seemed fitting), it is somewhat anticlimatic after a previous ferry ride across the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina that took over 30 minutes to complete. This one takes less than 10, and most of that was negotiating into position for loading and unloading. The shock of the day was the other side. I ride off the ferry, take a wrong turn, and I'm in what can be best described as a ghetto. I never felt threatened, but I don't think it would have been good if I ran out of gas either. I ride around, and some of my uneasyness is tempered as pedestrians wave at me as I ride through their neighborhood. I get to a main highway, and I stop and ask for directions, but in my ignorance I ask for the wrong campground. I do find it, after many miles of travel, but find it has already closed. I realize my mistake and find the correct campground, ten minutes after it closed as well. Undaunted, I spy an open gate on the exit side, and ride through. I manage to locate a park ranger making her rounds and she says just pay in the morning. I unpack, shower, and head back to experience New Orleans at night.

I should have just gone to bed. New Orleans is an old, old town, and I believe a rather tired one as well. I hit the French Quarter around 9:30pm and expect the town to be starting to really jump. Instead, I find the streets nearly deserted except for the blocks on either side of Bourbon Street. Parking is a major hassle, and after running my bike quite hot (lots of lights and lots of one way streets make for a very annoying negotiation of the city), I find a parking spot I hope I can trust. I wander down Bourbon Street and everyone seems tired. The hawkers in front of the clubs are just going through the motions, and the girls in front of the strip joints are just plain worn out (and they are supposed to provide enticement?). In spite of my best efforts, I couldn't find anything that seemed like fun, so I guess it must be the freely flowing alcohol that gives the illusion of a really great time.

I give up on Bourbon Street and head for the House of Blues. It's nearly 11pm, and I figure tonight's band should be about ready to hit the stage. Surprise. The blues guitarist, Tab Benoit, has been on stage since 9:15pm and I buy a $10 ticket for the last 35 minutes of his show. Huh? In Myrtle Beach, SC, the band doesn't hit the stage until midnight, so what gives? I ask a waitress and she says that in New Orleans they have two shows most nights and that the bands perform first then they have the regular entertainment after midnight. OK, cool, I can wait, what's tonight's entertainment? Oh, tonight's Tuesday, there isn't a second show. She tries to tell me how to get to this "really cool club" that she goes to, The Dragon's Den, but between her accent and the complete unfriendliness of trying to get around N.O. I give up and go home. Or try to. I have no idea how to get back to the campground, because the exit I got off is one way only and I can't find a road that goes back to the freeway. Long story shortened, it took me an hour to figure it out. I hate New Orleans.

June 24, 1998

And the rest of Louisana as well. I'm sorry, but this state is miserable. Packing my gear up in the morning results in my being completely drenched in sweat, like I had gone swimming. I literally dizzy from the heat and humidity, and it's only 8am. I am tempted to simply leave this miserable campgound and its dead racoon in the site next to mine (I didn't find it when I unloaded but I could sure smell it and the morning brought a most unfavorable change in wind direction) without paying, but I don't. I am amused by the site of an armadillo walking past my tent's back window while I am eating breakfast, and by the obvious signs that a racoon had been investigating the water jug I left outside my tent (it was fresh and cool and I found the evidence after I drank from it and removed the foul tasting grey, silver and black hair from my mouth), so I do the honest thing and pay on the way out. Of course, it took some time to explain to the attendent that I was paying for the previous night and not for the coming night.

I head out Highway 90, looking forward to the prospect of seeing Louisana's Bayou country, but this is soon diminished as well by the condition of Hwy 90. In this state, they appear to first tear up the entire road, both lanes, for the entire length strip to be repaired, and only then go back and fix it, instead of doing it in increments. What isn't being repaired is in great need of it. The road is a pounding, teeth chattering, zydigo playing buckboard, and any possible enjoyment I might have had ended with the further realization that the scenery isn't all that great. At the moment, I'm in Lafayette, waiting out some thunderstorms, but the Texas border is 100 miles away, and I may try to make it before calling it a night.

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