USA Week 6

Beach House, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Beach House, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Links to all the Blogs and Maps

Table of links to all Blogs and Maps.

Charity Update

Many many thanks to all those that have donated.

20191212_CharityDonation

A special thanks this week to Aylesham Parish Council and the £1000 they have donated each to the Slide Away  and Fight for Sight Charities. Remember a donation from the Parish Council is a donation from everyone in the village. Massive thanks. [We are still awaiting confirmation from the Alzheimer’s Society that they too have been donated a £1000: Ed]. This is an astonishing contribution and we cannot stress enough how humbled we are that the village have done this for us.

Dear all at Bike Rugby Japan

Just to let you know that Slide Away has received a letter from Kate Razzell enclosing a cheque for £1000 from Aylesham Parish Council for and on behalf of Keith, Dale and Linford.  I will be wrilting to Kate to acknowledge and thank the Parish Council for their kind and generous donation.
Kind regards.
Denise
slideaway_logo

 

Hi Bike Rugby Japan,

Fantastic news about Keith! He is doing amazing and what an achievement.

I can confirm we have received the cheque for £1,000 from your Parish Council. I have also sent them a thank you letter on behalf of Fight for Sight to thank them for their generous donation and support towards your challenge.

Molly

FightforSightlogo

 

Keith in the USA

This week Keith has headed towards New Orleans, and then beyond.

Map of Progress so far in the USA.

Totals in the USA: 2498 miles, 73362ft climbing and 178:51 hours riding

This weeks ride in the USA.

This week: 532 miles, 7966 climbing and 38:03 hours riding

USA Day 33 Sunday December 8th

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Route USA Day 33 – December 8th

Fly-through Map USA Day 33.

I leave the hotel at 07:00. The weather’s cold and foggy and have my lights on as a precaution. I can only see a hundred yards or so down the road but the hard shoulder is smooth clean and wide. It’s a slight head-wind as well. There’s nothing to look at so I bury my head and push on along the rolling road.

After 4 hours it’s time to eat. I have fried chicken from last night and chocolate brownies. I’m parked at a farmer’s gate. the sun has broken through intermittently but it’s still cold.
I take my gloves and jacket off and carry on with 30 miles to go.

The sun comes out as I join the Interstate 11. It’s the first time I’ve ridden the interstate. It’s busy and noisy; not ideal. The good thing is it pushes you to go faster and it’s not long before I’m at the motel.

The manager is an Indian guy who’s convinced I’m a professional traveller.

It turns out he’s only been in the USA 6 months himself. He’s originally from Hyderbad central southern India. I knew more about travel in India than he did!

I had my first taste of catfish tonight though I’m not a great fish eater. But it looked better than the Tex Mex. In fact it was really good, in a tasty beer and soda batter.

Foggy day in Louisiana
Foggy day in Louisiana

USA Day 34 Monday December 9th

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Route USA Day 34 – December 9th

Fly-through Map USA Day 34.

What a difference a day makes; it’s 18º this morning, humid and cloudy. No gloves and no jacket. However I need to push on this morning as a slight headwind forecast to get stronger as the day unfolds. It’s the same problem as yesterday in that the Highway 90 runs into Interstate 10; a very busy road, although the shoulder is very good.

Westlake Bridge
Westlake Bridge
Westlake Bridge
Westlake Bridge

All going well until I come to the “Calcasieu bridge” it looks like some sort of Thunderbirds take off ramp. But what really concerns me is the lack of hard shoulder. [this is the 1951 Louisiana World War 2 Memorial bridge over the Cacasieu River and Lake Charles: Ed]

I pull over and check my maps. A possible detour is a long way. I take on some food and drink and decide to go for it. I put on my rear flashing lights and don my flashing jacket. It’s the first time I’ve worn it and it needs to earn it’s place in my pannier.

Suitably dressed I go for it. Wow what a bridge; it’s a long ramp up to the top with a great view of the lake. But I’m concentrating on riding a straight line and keeping in close. Not a peep from any driver, they all do their best to give me space. So I’m relieved to get off the bridge pull over and take my sweaty jacket off.

Another day, another nail
Another day, another nail

I take Highway 90 for the rest of the day. It’s mostly quite but the intermittent shoulder isn’t good. 20 to go and I’m making good time when something sticks and is going around with the back wheel. The tyre is still inflated so I pull over to investigate. I have a huge nail in the tyre, but it hasn’t gone down. A puncture is better than anything I was thinking of and I’m soon back on the road.

I’m booked into motel but the receptionist is a nightmare; no printer,and can’t find my zip code or understand my ID (drivers license). Just give me my key please. It rained for the final 15 minutes and I need to get dry.

Subway for dinner. Not good enough.

Louisiana road
Louisiana road
Sabine River
Sabine River

USA Day 35 Tuesday December 10th

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Route USA Day 35 – December 10th

Fly-through Map USA Day 35.

I have plenty of time this morning with a slight wind in my face but improving all day and a strong tail-wind to finish with.

I had lots of discussions last night as to which route I should take; either the I-10 fast road but good hard shoulder, or H-90 which frequently has no shoulder but it’s not so busy. Lots of advice on the internet

I decide to take the I-10 (Debbie 😞). It’s not raining yet but it has been and will do again soon.

I’ve only been on the road 15 minutes and the Police pull me over. (Well it’s happened in all previous countries for one reason or another). I’m not allowed on the Interstate. So what am I to do? He suggests I get off at the next junction and clear off out of his district down the H-90. That has no hard shoulder I say. He replies, it takes you away from me.

Stood there, six foot five, fit, armed and in his scout leader uniform!

So the 90 it is. Through Lafayette first and the rush hour traffic; chaos. Once through the road’s busy but with no shoulder. I give it 15 minutes and it doesn’t improve. So I take a back route. It’s much quieter but the roads aren’t great. It turns out I’m on the Spanish trail.

It’s raining hard and I’m soaked to the skin and only one hour into the ride. It just keeps on raining, but with the wind behind. I keep my head down and push on. I’ve given up trying to avoid puddles; it’s a waste of time. Twice my front wheel skids out on the white line. That wakes me up, but I don’t crash. Sometimes it rains and then it rains harder.

A real horrid day. Torrential now. I pull over to a fast food joint. Need to eat, warm up and use the WiFi.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

I book a motel 25 miles down the road. Get back on the bike and realise I’m proper cold now. Why did I book it so far away? Last ten miles or so I’m battling 30>40 Mph gusting winds.

Aircraft Museum
Aircraft Museum

Keeping myself to the right hand-side, I press on past the air museum. Birds of prey are surfing on the winds above. Dozens of them. As they swoop down low I have a great view of my first “Bald Eagle”. Excellent.

Approaching another bridge - at least a closed lane is available
Approaching another bridge – at least a closed lane is available
Slight blockage on the closed lane
Slight blockage on the closed lane
Clear path on the bridge
Clear path on the bridge

As Morgan City appears there’s a large bridge to cross. I hope it’s not like yesterdays. I find a lane closed; perfect! I dodge between the cones and ride the empty lane. It’s perfectly safe. On the descent the other side they’ve left a machine blocking my access.

I hope the keys are in it. No problem, just take panniers of one side and I squeeze through.

The water bottle just had to fall down this hole!
The water bottle just had to fall down this hole!

As I’m approaching the elevated take off lane for my hotel my bottle cage drops off, probably due to the poor road surfaces today. The yellow bottle bounces in front of me and disappears down a drain onto the grass 10 metres below. Looking down I console myself that it’s lost.

I get into the motel dripping. I shower and dry my gear.

19731208_LionComicCoverZipNolanZip Nolan was an American Highway Patrolman who for some inexplicable reason fought crime in the middle of Britain!

Running for years in The Lion, the strip had the gimmick of putting all the clues the reader needed to solve the crime and then asking the reader if they could solve the mystery before turning the page and finding the answer along with Zip.

19731208_ZipNolan

USA Day 36 Wednesday December 11th

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Route USA Day 36 – December 11th

Fly-through Map of USA Day 36.

I woke up late this morning 6:40. No worries as I’ll still be out the door by 7:30. I breakfast in the motel; a nice spread. I meet Nick who is cycling the East to West Coast route. He’s been riding a couple of weeks and only gotten this far. He asks me about my trip and I give him the run down. An average of 75 miles a day surprises him, especially as I’m carrying 110lb, 50Kg (bike & gear) plus food and water. He wishes me the best and says enjoy the wind on your back today. That’s not how I read the weather this morning!

I get away at 8, but have to pull over after 15 minutes. I don my rain jacket and gloves. It’s strong, cold head-winds, grey sky. Definitely not a tail-wind. I keep my head down and pedal on, it’s going to be a very long day I suspect.

The morning is pretty uneventful. The roads are terrible; the worst since leaving Ukraine – uneven and littered with debris. I take lunch in a petrol station; the hot coffee is good but no fruit for sale in gas stations. Must have been spoilt across Asia.

Louisiana Bayou
Louisiana Bayou
Louisiana Bayou
Louisiana Bayou

40 miles to go and I spot my first alligator. No worries it’s flat on the road but it does make me think about where I take a leak though.

With 18 miles to go I turn right with the wind on my shoulder. It’s much nicer but I know the last six is back into the wind.

The approach into New Orleans is horrid with busy roads and gusting headwinds.

crossing the Mississippi River into New Orleans
crossing the Mississippi River into New Orleans
crossing the Mississippi River into New Orleans
crossing the Mississippi River into New Orleans

As I’m approaching The Huey P Long Bridge I notice no hard shoulder. Trying to cycle close to the wall in a straight line isn’t easy with large vehicles passing close and a strong gusting wind. It’s not a short bridge either. Glad to have survived I ride the last couple of miles gingerly through the traffic.

I’m at Ron’s Gumbo shop for dinner. Excellent Gumbo and a fried alligator starter!

USA Day 37 Thursday December 12th

I have a rest day today to look around New Orleans.

I’ve arranged an Air Boat tour for 9am; they contacted me yesterday and rearranged for 11. Not happy, that’s my day basically done.

I take an Uber cab downtown for the pick-up. Whilst waiting I meet a couple from Minnesota also on the trip. The bus is twenty minutes late so I email them. Obviously the bus turns up straight away. As I’m boarding the bus the driver gets a call asking why he hasn’t picked us up yet. Never mind. It’s half an hour drive back down Highway 90. The road I came into town on yesterday. It’s still very bumpy in the bus.

A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
A swamp tour into the bayou from New Orleans
The Air Boat breaks down

On arrival it’s the ‘All American’ welcome, what’s your name where do you come from. I’m allocated to boat seven. Our driver arrives and runs through the safety briefing. The weather’s awful, grey and wet. The boat speeds out through the bigger channels then slows as it enters the smaller channels. The driver points out Osprey, Bald Eagles, Egrets and Purple Herons. Snaking us through the smallest of gaps he gets us into an alligator pond. A Nutria dives for cover. Seems they are a pest here as well as Europe. The guide gives us a briefing about the alligators habits, some are very disappointed that they will not see one (cold weather). The boat won’t start now. He messes with it for a bit to no avail.

It raining hard now as we wait to be rescued by the back-up crew, if they can find us. An hour later rescue arrives. We transfer onto a smaller boat and ready ourselves for the ride home. Everyone is shivering from the cold and I am really feeling it in my shorts.

This boat’s super fast and on the way back we’re flat out. You can’t look ahead as the rain stings your eyes and face, so we’re all looking into the bottom of the boat. We soon arrive at the dock. I use the toilet and expecting hot coffee or something. Nothing on offer and I’m still shivering. Others are waiting on the bus for us. As I leave the shop I’m informed that people are getting their money back. Good for me, join the queue and they pay me out. Still cold though.

Luckily I’m first off the bus on arrival in the New Orleans French quarter. Straight into a bar and order beer and a PO-boy. this is a local take on a french stick sandwich. Very nice with spicy sausage.

New Orleans
New Orleans
New Orleans
New Orleans

I spend the rest of the evening, after warming up, visiting music bars with dueling piano, jazz, creole, sixties and modern music bellowing out along the street.

Albino Alligator
Albino Alligator

USA Day 38 Friday December 13th

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Route USA Day 38 – December 13th

Fly-through Map of USA Day 38.

I’m woken up by noisy neighbours at 5:30 and then went to breakfast at 6. I managed to smuggle a couple of bananas out along with three muffins. That will help on the ride today.

I’m not looking forward to the ride out of New Orleans today. It’s cold, wet, busy and foggy. Also I make two wrong turns in the first mile so it could be a long day. I’m suffering from my over indulgence of the local hospitality last night as well.

Finally I pick up a nice cycle trail through the city. So I stick with it and use my GPS as a rough guide. Within a couple of hours I’m clear of the city and riding across the swampy grasslands on a concrete road. I’m not keen on the concrete sections that bump every 5 metres. It rattles both me and the bike.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

After 40 miles I cross the old Pearl river on a rickety bridge. I stop in the middle to photograph a couple of Brown Pelicans, the first I’ve seen. It’s still very foggy and wet.

Fog across the Pearl River into Mississippi
Fog across the Pearl River into Mississippi

At 66 miles I’m crossing the Bay Louis Bridge and it’s couple of miles long with a good cycle path. The view is terrible however due to fog.

Bald Eagle feeding on the beach
Bald Eagle feeding on beach

When I hit the beach I ride on the boardwalk where I can. My lights have run out and it’s teeming with rain now. I stop to photograph a Bald eagle that’s devouring a fish on the beach.

A long straight run down the beach to finish in the pouring rain, but I’m not cold and happy with my 90 miles today.☺

USA Day 39 Saturday December 14th

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Route USA Day 39 – December 14th

Fly-through Map of USA Day 39.

Breakfast was fine in this tatty motel but I’m glad to be on my way.

The weather’s better: dry, light winds and foggy and it’s a nice easy flat start with a small tail-wind. As I leave town I’m followed by a group of young Americans. They are asking questions and pushing the pace. It’s fine by me and I’m enjoying the company and challenge. It doesn’t last long however and after a couple of miles they pull up. I’m warm now although the wind is chilly.

I’ve a ferry to catch today from Dauphin island to Fort Morgan. Ferries leave at 12:30 and 14:00. To catch the 12:30 I’d have to cover the 70 miles in 5 hours. Not likely but possible.

So I crack on and see what happens. The roads are good and it’s only light traffic but the fog is pretty thick in places so I see very little all morning.

The Biloxi Bay bridge is a two mile long low level concrete causeway with a good separate bike lane. Unfortunately the views are ruined by sea mist and fog.

The Biloxi Bay causeway and bridge
The Biloxi Bay causeway and bridge
The Biloxi Bay causeway and bridge
The Biloxi Bay causeway and bridge

As I approach Dauphin island the causeway is barely visible as it’s only metres above the sea. It’s 5 mile distance makes it disappear and the wind’s always going to be a problem.

Keeping one eye on my watch I press on and arrive at the port with barely a couple of minutes to spare.

The Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan ferry, Alabama
The Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan ferry, Alabama
Pelican
Pelican

The cloud breaks, sun comes out and it’s much nicer. The last 25 miles is pleasant; clear sky’s and a tailwind. Huge houses all built on stilts line the coast.

Gulf Shore Road, Alabama
Gulf Shore Road, Alabama
Beach House, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Beach House, Gulf Shores, Alabama

A walk on the beach tonight is a rare event in the last month or so.

Sunset on the beach, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Sunset on the beach, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Overland To India

Ben and Jess were cycling a more southern route across Asia to India. They’ve arrived in India, but have decided to split up. It looks permanent as the blog, once ‘Jess & Ben’, is now only ‘Jess’.

You can catch up with Jess here. An excerpt is below.

We’ll follow Jess for now and wish Ben all the best with whatever he is doing. Meanwhile I’ll see if we can re-connect with him in some way.

20191214_Jess

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