For my first night in Lafayette I was hosted by Becky and John, who were unfailingly kind. They and their son, who was also visiting with his own family, gave me a lot of good advice for the city. They also assured me I shouldn’t be worried about alligators as it was winter. This was a relief but also a little disappointing.
After my first night in Lafayette I moved into a hostel as it was New Year’s Eve and I didn’t want to impose. I also didn’t want to be camping in my tent halfway to New Orleans.
The place I picked was great, in a turn of the century wooden house, I had a lot of fun bringing in the New Year.
Lafayette was a nice little town too and I enjoyed looking round it on the day of New Year’s eve. On New Year’s Day I just ‘rested’ inside.
While there I also got to try a lot of great regional food. As the heartland of the US’s Cajun population there are some interesting dishes to sample. I had more boudin, some gumbo, jambalaya and a po’boy. As well as crawfish cakes and some other stuff I’m not sure what it was.
Being able to eat two lunches is a definite benefit of cycling.
When it was time I was sad to leave Lafayette, I’d had a nice stay there and it had been a month since I had spent three nights anywhere. Being off the road had been pleasant!
I was leaving Lafayette for New Orleans, which was one of the few places I’d picked to visit in the states before arriving. It was two days ride away and the forecast was for rain both days.
I psyched myself up for some miserable riding.
Luckily the first day dawned humid and foggy rather than rainy. This doesn’t bother me at all, well apart from having to clean the moisture build up off my glasses.
Southern Louisiana is flat, very flat. I think the highest point is probably a bridge, thus the day’s ride was easy. There were also enough interesting towns to stop it getting boring. In the towns there was a lot of beautiful antebellum architecture to take in, Louisiana has included some of the most beautiful residential areas I’ve seen in the world.
That evening just as it began to get dark I started to ride through the Bayou. The road was on reclaimed land and ran straight, raised up slightly above the swamp. As far as camping is concerned swamp sucks…
You can’t really pitch up on, what is at best, watery mud.
I could see a town up ahead on my map so had to hope that there would be solid land close to it that I could camp on.
Thankfully this was the case and I found a spot in the bushes just off the road before the small town.
The night was very warm again and there was an eerie full moon lighting everything up. The last time the night was so warm it had presaged a storm, I was expecting it to do so again.
The warmth also seemed to bring out the mosquitoes and I had to worry about them in earnest for the first time in months.
The next morning it still wasn’t raining so I carried on happily and saw more swampland. This was great as I couldn’t remember seeing it any other place on the trip.
Eventually I rode up and along and then over the mighty Mississippi and into New Orleans.
I was now down to about 1000 miles left of riding in the USA.
Riding in Louisiana has been the worst in the states so far. The roads are the worst and the drivers too. It’s the only place where people have honked their horn at me for just being on the road. It displays an annoying ignorance and hopefully it’ll change.
The route I took into the city, to my Warmshowers host for the evening, took me along the beautiful St Charles Street. This road was lined with incredible New Orleans mansions each with its own character. I wanted to photograph them all.
Getting across the city wasn’t as bad as I’d expected and I soon reached my Warmshowers.org hosts. James, Lola and their housemates were very welcoming and I got another vegan meal as well as to watch some more American football. James and Lola lived in a shotgun house, named thus because if you fired a shotgun from the front door it would go through every room.
The next day I headed to a hostel as I wanted to stay another two nights in New Orleans. While in the city I spent most of the time wandering around or eating. I really did manage to put away a lot of food. Most of which was pretty good.
I managed to ride out of New Orleans without any trouble and found myself crossing a series of causeways between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne. This was very pretty and there were a lot of interesting houses in this area. Pretty much all of them will built up on tall stilts, I assume in case of flooding.
I’m not sure how that works in a hurricane…
As I left the causeways and came once more upon firmer ground I met another fellow cycle tourist. He was the second I had seen riding with a dog. I’m not sure if this one would be much of a challenge to any others that decided to chase his owner.
Once through the lakes it was a short ride and then I was in Mississippi as I continued into the deep south.
I was expecting Mississippi to be more backward than Da Vinci’s handwriting so I was pleasantly surprised when I started riding along beautiful white beaches with pretty little towns.
Not a banjo in sight and from what I could see everyone had ten fingers.
I later learned that one of the beaches was the longest man made one in the world. There were also a lot of casinos down the coast a bit like Vegas on Sea.
The sunset, as I rode looking for a camp site in vain, was fantastic. The sun dropped like a rock over the Gulf of Mexico, sinking below the horizon in about ten seconds flat.
I eventually found a campsite in a park behind a petrol station once full night had fallen. I was a bit closer to civilisation than I like, I could see houses through the trees, but figured it was unlikely anyone would be strolling through the park after dark.
The next morning I rode through the town of Ocean Spring, the edge of which I’d camped on. Apparently it had been relatively untouched by the hurricanes in the area.
It wasn’t long before I left Mississippi behind and entered Forrest Gump’s state: Alabama.
Alabama was slightly hillier than Louisiana and Mississippi it also seemed a bit less swampy where I was riding.
That evening I’d be staying in Mobile (pronounced Mobeel for no apparent reason), Alabama’s oldest city. My host was Ken, a friend of my hosts from Lafayette. It was a lot of fun staying with Ken and I got some healthy food and interesting conversation.