Southern Tier, Post 35
Day 37, Post 35: One thing about interesting country that I've never visited before is the oddly mild agony that goes with each decision about where not to go. Four or five days back I thought I had more time than I needed to get to New Orleans by April 4, and I was thinking about diverting to the Gulf Coast, only about 40 miles south of me. In fact, I am still wondering why the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) chooses not to route the Southern Tier along the east Texas and western Louisiana coasts. I suspect it's that the roads are not contiguous and/or are too dangerous with traffic. I am not complaining - the route goes through fascinating and historic towns a little further north and the route gives cyclists a great opportunity to see the real Louisiana, and not a tourist version. But alas, it runs out I will only have time to deviate on one day, and that's to make better time along Route 190 between Opelousas and Baton Rouge so I'll reach New Orleans in time.
The people I am encountering aren't snowbirds, for sure. With only a few exceptions, they are native Louisianan's who were born and raised here. Through their eyes I feel like I am able to glimpse a bit of their reality, and the social, historical and political context in which decisions are made, is somehow a bit more palpable.
The best part of today, in addition to beautiful skies and a verdant landscape, was each meal I had. Not so much for the food, but for the social context. Lunch and dinner were especially fun. For lunch I stopped at a diner on an intersection of two highways, and as I was getting off my bike, I heard someone behind me telling me that I had picked the best place for lunch between Maryville and Oberlin (I knew it was the only place, but the enthusiasm of the endorsement got my hopes up anyway). I walked into the diner. Three tables of people stopped talking and stared at me. I had my helmet on and was in bike shorts, a screaming yellow shirt, and gray tights. I'm sure I looked weird. One of the men said (loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear it) "How far have you come?" I answered, "San Diego". It was silent for a moment. Then the next question, "Where you going?" "Florida", I answered. More silence, the kind you can cut with a knife. Everyone kept staring. Then the man said, "Well, hell, you're over half way there!" And everyone laughed. And I laughed. "Yep", I said. The waitress winked at me, "We like to tease the cyclists who come through here - gotta have some fun sometimes. ...Want some sweet tea, honey?"
Dinner was a Shrimp Po-Boy, cooked up by a Colombian woman married to a Puerto Rican cop who used to live in New York City. The guy wasn't always a cop - he came to Louisiana because he got a good deal on buying a local golf course just after Katrina. But he closed it six years ago when he got steady work in town as a cop. Policing is far easier work in western Louisiana than running a golf course, because nobody golfs around here. Just too sissy a sport for rural Louisiana.
Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.
Pic 1, Louisiana forest alongside the road.
Pic 2, Close up of a vetch alongside the road. Too pretty to kavetch about.
Pic 3, Another roadside oddity.
More to come,