The Journey to Texas

    Whereas the first half of my voyage thus far was a desolate and isolating experience, the latter portion has become one filled with warm, inviting families, eccentric and eclectic characters, and glimpses into alternate realities which had been existing in parallel to the one which I had once lived in Atlanta.  It all began in New Orleans with the discovery of a mind bogglingly vast international online network of people interconnected in their love of travel and the desire to commune with new and exotic people.  This network is couchsurfing.com, a curiously named, but brilliant concept.  It is a world avoidant of the anonymity and intimidation of foreign lands and instead allures you with the promise of new friends, amazing adventures, insights into local culture, and a cozy and welcoming place in which to lay your head at night.

    I was introduced to couchsurfing by my hosts in New Orleans, Bill & Erin (whom I had discovered through a similar site, warmshowers.org).  Consequently, I had come into contact with another couple in Baton Rouge, Alvin & Shari, who were members of both sites.  After several e-mail correspondences and a few phone calls, I was soon headed to Baton Rouge completely unbeknownst to me that I was embarking on a new chapter of my journey and a renewal of faith in the human spirit.  That evening, as I approached Baton Rouge, having had a much later start than originally intended and therefore riding until well after dark, I called Alvin to regret to inform him that I would be arriving behind schedule.  As a fellow cyclist himself, as well as a resident of Louisiana, he recognized the perils of riding in such dangerous conditions and offered to drive out and pick me up a few miles from his home to bring me in the rest of the way.  I quickly agreed, knowing that they were waiting on me to begin dinner, and within a short while he had met me on the road and we were on the way back to his home by the Lousiana State University campus.

    As we walked in the door to his house the smell of divine country cooking wafter out from the kitchen – a most welcome aroma after having been pedaling away all day.  Shari emerged from the kitchen a moment later and came over to greet me and welcome me into their home.  Moments later we were all seated around the dining room table and feasting on a spread of marinated beef with rice, delicious fava beans, and corn bread, followed by sweet potatoe pie.  As we were dining, Alvin and Shari had begun to share their world with me.

    Together the two had raised a wonderful family together while pursuing their passion of cycling.  Alvin himself had traversed the entire United States from West to East, East to West, and South to North, even while contemplating his next trip from Canada all the way down along the Mississippi.  The two also told me hilarious and outlandish stories of their tandem bicycling adventures through Alabama, a state of which we could all commiserate, was intolerably hilly.  The evening passed in fantastic company and ended with a refreshing shower and a comfy bed in which to lay my head.

    The next day I awoke and Alvin and Shari were soon preparing perfectly fluffy pancakes in the kitchen, along with fresh Louisiana strawberries, oranges, blood oranges, and peaches.  Again we ate together and conversed jovially before I began packing and preparing for the days ride.  Soon thereafter, Alvin and I set off to go cycle around Baton Rouge and see the downtown area together.  We headed to the bicycle store for some parts and adjustments, I had an unfortunate flat tire, which turned into a blessing when Alvin was able to show me a few pointers on more efficiently performing the repair, and then were headed up the bike path on the levy along the Mississippi River.  We rode out past the bridge and riverboat casinos to the old Louisiana state capitol building and admired the architecture while Alvin recounted the historic significance to me.  We then made our way to the newer capitol, which was apparently the tallest capitol building in the U.S. and quite a spectacular architectural piece in itself.  The grounds were gorgeous and we were able to head up to the observation deck in the top of the building to look out over the entire city and across the Mississippi.

    Once we had had our fill, we headed out and rode up to the route 190 bridge over the river together at which point Alvin and I parted ways and I continued on  across the river alone.  I rode for several miles through gorgeous farmland and budding fresh green spring blooms in the forests and swamps.  As the day drew on, I came upon “Not Your Momma’s Cafe & Diner” which had been recommended by Alvin, so I decided to stop in for a hot meal and a place to rest my legs.  I decided on a seat at the bar, and given the time of the afternoon, was one of the only patrons there.  After ordering my shrimp po-boy, the waitresses and I had soon struck up a delightfully comical conversation and they were giving me an entertaining view into Louisiana countryside culture.  We discussed the festivities of crawfish boils, and how the live crawfish were cleaned by forcing them to regurgitate, then soaked in cajun spices until they were saturated, boiled live, and served piping hot for the crackin’.  Apparently Louisiana had perfected this ritual so much as to even have their own custom sized smaller beer cans to serve at a boiling so as to avoid the unpleasantness of having your beer get warm.  We talked about the local bar down the way, situated in a little old country crone’s house and where you could sit at the bar next to a coon.  We debated how gas stations were the center of indigenous Louisiana civilization, and how everything you could possibly ever want could be found in them – boudin (pork & rice sausage), crawfish, showers, and a casino (among other things).  Then we went on to comment on how Louisiana had truly perfected the art of recycling and how almost no piece of road-kill went un-grilled (or fried).  And we enjoyed several other tasty topics before it was time for me to say goodbye and head West again.

    As I headed on, the sun began to dip down in the sky like fiery embers behind tufted cobalt clouds.  I knew that soon it would be time to find a camp-site for the evening but just ahead had spotted the Morganza Spillway, a stretch of straight, shoulder-less, elevated bridge constructed above the swampy spillway and which continued on for several miles.  I decided to take my chances and was soon racing along at almost 20 miles an hour, hoping to reach the other side of the spillway in before night fall.  After what seemed like an endless ride along the spillway, I finally reemerged onto solid ground far beyond and rode over one final bridge spanning a glistening river.  On the far side I spotted several gas stations (ie, a town), which I immediately realized must be Krotz Springs.  I headed into one of the stations to ask advice about my camping situation and was pointed towards an RV camp several yards down the street.  The girl had said it was next to “Miss Jammah’s” restaurant, but as I approached I realized that this must be one and the same as “Miss Johnny’s”.  I cautiously pedaled into the RV park searching for someone to ask about whether I could set up camp and on the far side found a two inhabitants sitting on their front step.  No sooner had I asked that they invited me to camp on the shared space between their RVs and I began to set up my tent.

    The night finally ended with the break of dawn, after incessantly waking up throughout the night to truck roaring by in the distance, train horns, ambient RV park noises, and the dews of 100% humidity Louisiana swamps dripping down from my tent canopy.  I eventually dragged my weary and bedraggled self out of my sleeping bag to break down my site when I heard the weathered old lady from the night before, Sarah (one of the RV owners), call out to me if I’d like a cup of coffee.  I said absolutely, why not.  She invited me into her 10’ by 5’ RV, in which immediately to my left was a sleeping man and to the right a table with booth-seating.  I awkwardly sat and Sarah poured me a cup of coffee (which I decided I would enjoy black this time).  We talked for a few moments and then Sarah asked me if I’d like to make some money while I was in Louisiana.  I tinkered with the thought in my head for a moment, and then decided that this might be the right time to politely refuse and quickly withdraw myself from the situation (not knowing what kind of illegal or illicit offer she might have been offering me).

    I finished packing my things and headed across the street to the small gas station country cookin’ restaurant for some southern style breakfast and was soon enjoying an egg and cheese sandwich with grits and hash browns.  As I languished in the sweet aura of their free wi-fi, the chef came over and introduced herself, timidly rubbing her lips and asking me if I thought the shade was too dark for her.  Again, this seemed like a good time for an exit, so once she was drawn back to take care of another patron, I decided to use the opportunity to extricate myself from the situation.  Having had quite my fill of Krotz Springs, I straddled my bicycle saddle and headed westward.

    Sadly I had mis-approximated the distance of my final destination for the day, and after 102 arduous miles of riding through the blistering sun and dripping humidity, and several links of boudin later, I finally arrived in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I rode down Mill St., chased by massive hounds and dodging little children playing in the streets and eventually spotted Ross’s building.  After getting all of my equipment up the stairs to his second floor apartment, we conversed for some time, then I headed for the shower to rinse the layers of salt off my skin and afterwards wolfed down a pizza.  Ross told me about his most recent hobby of which I wasn’t familiar, called Poy.  Poy is a performance art in which a person spins two flaming monkey’s fists (or kerosene doused denim) around their body on chains.  We then decided to go meet his friend and head out to the Lake Charles boardwalk where they could practice spinning poy.  Watching the flames swoop and arc around in the air, leaving trails of graceful flames in their wake was quite a spectacular sight.  After accruing an ample crowd of spectators and practicing for some time, we soon headed back to Ross’s house so that I could get some sleep after my long ride that day.

    The following morning Ross and I got up and went for a stroll down on the beach by the lake.  We then searched for a cajun restaurant that would be open on Easter Sunday and finally found one, on the quest for some yummy etouffee.  When the dish finally came out, it was one of the best meals I had eaten so far.  Delicious little crawfish smothered in a tomato and vegetable reduction with cajun spices and soft rolls.  After lunch we headed back to Ross’s place where I packed up my things and prepared to depart for my journey into Texas.  Ross helped me with a ride across the I-10 bridge and we bid farewell to one another before I headed out towards a new an unexperienced state and culture.


1 Response to “The Journey to Texas”

  1. August 11, 2014 at 10:56 am

    It’s awesome designed for me to have a site, which is beneficial
    in favor of my experience. thanks admin

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