Day 107 (2016-12-11): ~30 miles from Bunkie to Simmesport, LA. Mostly quiet country roads with low to mild traffic.
This morning more fire fighters arrive for the shift change but people generally leave me alone so I do my thing and hit the road. It is Sunday so I enjoy light traffic weave through the countryside on little two-lane roads. The last 10 miles I follow old highway 1, a way better option than the shoulder-less, high-speed main road. I roll into Simmesport a little after noon and head to the restaurant where I will be staying through Warm Showers. Debbie, one of the hosts, lets me in and I chat with her and who I assume to be her granddaughter, plus a friend.The restaurant is closed today and they leave after a little while, leaving me to finish watching the Eagles – Redskins game (Eagles make a comeback only to lose at the last minute. No surprise there).
To some this may sound like a weird situation but Warm Showers hosts vary a widely and when you’re on the road with a bike just a roof over your head is a blessing. I’m dry when the evening rains come, though I have to periodically mop some water leaking from one of the refrigerators. Or the ice/water machine. Or both. It’s unclear where the water is coming from. On the plus side, I have wifi and watch some of Lethal Weapon. Classic.
Day 108 (2016-12-12): ~65 miles from Simmesport to Baton Rouge. Mainly quiet country highways and roads. Shit went south near Baton Rouge though.
Mopping yesterday was a good idea – while my stuff is dry this morning the pooling water advanced overnight and is only a few feet from my sleep spot. As I finish packing it starts to rain, then pour, and no amount of dilly-dallying seems to help. So I just get wet. Really wet. At least it’s in the 60s.
I ride highway 1, the same one I avoided yesterday, for about 10 miles without a shoulder but traffic is luckily very light. Today is one of those rare days I don’t expect a headwind, the first time in several days. And boy does it make a difference! I make good time, estimating a light headwind on a normal 50-60 mile day adds about 1-1.5 hours of travel time, a heavy headwind adding as much as 3 hours! Obviously much of it is speed, but a lot of riding is morale and it sucks when you’re working hard and getting nowhere. Plus you rest more. Man, I will be glad to be done fighting that in a few days!
In New Roads I have two options. First, I can continue the ACA route across the Mississippi on highway 10 then cut south. The riding will be poor but at least the bridge is not a death trap since it has a shoulder. Second, I can continue on the west side of the Mississippi and ride nice, quiet river roads all the way to Port Allen but then cross a terrible, big, high traffic bridge. Oh wait, option #3: ride the good way and my host will drive me across the bridge. Sold. Thanks Scott!
As it turns out, this is the right choice. The river road follows the levee and is a comfortable and scenic ride. I take my jacket on and off numerous times as the scattered storms require a rain jacket but the warmth and humidity make for a muggy ride, even without the jacket. I pass beautiful old plantation homes and new, comical suburban homes trying to mimic the plantation look in their little cul-de-sac developments. I follow the Mississippi, twisting and turning along the levee as the river slowly approaches the state capital.
About 20 miles from Baton Rouge traffic begins to pick up, but it’s not too bad. I have my first bad encounter with a semi in a few days when it cuts me off by passing without enough time before oncoming traffic. Thankfully the second semi sees me wave my arms and give the first guy the finger, and is more respectful with his big rig. In hindsight this encounter foretold my upcoming struggle, and I should have continue on the river road all the way to Port Allen, even if it added a few extra miles. Instead, I opted to go a more direct route along some other two-lane roads. As luck would ave it, this was a bad idea. If you don’t want to read my rant or like to be ignorant of the dangers of riding with traffic, just skip this next part.
As I turn off the river road I keep an eye on an oil rig coming from behind, noticing it slow to make the turn as well. Now we are both heading south on this two-lane road with no shoulder, a stop sign looming about a quarter of a mile up the road. The semi is far behind and, having made the tight turn, is going to take some time to get up to speed. By the time he gets within a couple hundred feet of me we are nearing the stop sign. Again, this is a two-lane road. There is definitely not enough room for him to pass me before the intersection, so I continue riding down the middle of the lane. Standard procedure – don’t yield the lane when it is not safe to be passed.
The next thing I know he is coming up beside me, a mere 50 feet from the intersection. We both come to a stop, me in the correct lane and stopped in the oncoming lane. The road dead-ends into a T, and the cross street is also a tiny two-lane with no shoulders. I planned to pull off to the side and let the truck pass at the stop sign, but now that he has pulled up next to me I am in the danger zone. If I stay put and let him go ahead I will be crushed by the rear tires. So I continue on my way, making the turn and riding to the side so he has plenty of room to pass. He pulls out behind me, getting into the correct lane as an oncoming car blocks his path. The car slows, watching as this damn truck gets ridiculously close to me – about 5 feet off my rear tire.
I wave my left arm in frustration, trying to get him to back off. We pass the car and he loudly picks up speed to pass. Of course, he cannot be reasonable and give me any room. Instead, I make eye contact and watch him in his side mirror, calculating how close he can get without actually hitting me as I keep an eye on his rig inching closer. Eventually I cannot reasonably continue and crash into the ditch to avoid being run over by his rear tires. I FUCKING HATE DOUCHEBAGS. If he would have been a reasonable human and waited the extra 7 seconds before the stop sign I would have let him pass me without fanfare. Instead I get thrown into a ditch. Asshole. I try to catch up at a stop sign around the bend ahead but it is no use. It’s times like these I really wish I had a GoPro or equivalent – I would get his license and company name and be sure his ass was fired, or at least reprimanded, for purposefully endangering my life.
Anywho, the rest of the ride was a lot safer although I did have to ride on the side of a busy highway for a quarter miles section – the shoulder was falling apart and filled with debris, which gave me a flat. As I sat on the side of the road and patched my tube in two different spots it began to rain. Then pour. Oh yes, what a great time.
I grab some snacks from the grocery store and take up shop in the library, changing into dry clothes first, to wait for Scott to get off work. He picks me up and we return to his condo to chat for a while before heading out to dinner. He buys me dinner and a beer – what a guy! I learn a lot from him about AirBnB and owning a condo, since he owns two units and sort-of lives in one as he bounces back and forth between living there and at his friend’s house.