April 1st-10th, 2001
Today the themes were antiques, flowers and history. Left La Grange an hour later than normal due to the time change. Keeping with the sun and not the clock. Each morning get up a few minutes earlier due to my eastward progress and due to lengthening days.
Still signs of energy development in the La Grange area. Several places where they were drilling for oil and also some gas pipelines. Leaving town, waited for a long coal train to clear the tracks.
The entire route along the way had many historical plaques relating to the war for Texas Independence from Mexico and original settlement of the area. Much of this area was settled by German settlers and their descendents still have many German names and Lutheran churches.
Antique week! As I came to Oldenburg, the antique tents started. Lots of old junk and other knickknacks to purchase. At Warrenton, both sides of the street had booths. Parking was up to $5. Fortunately, still early and not too many people on the road.
Stopped at one of the antique fair that had a restaurant. Picture above left taken there. Outside the restaurant were several plastic bags filled with water and nailed to the walls. Apparently, the lore is that this remedy blinds the flies.
Out of Warrenton, the antiques decreased some as came through Round Top and merged onto busy US 290. Fortunately nice wide shoulders before an exit at Burton. Here I took TX 390, a small "scenic" highway. The next thirty miles zigged and zagged though an area with many small farms and also many bluebonnet flowers. A surprising number of Sunday drivers...mostly "flower people" coming for bluebonnets. Lots of convertibles, motorcycles, vans full of people driving slowly. Also, a pack of humvees. Slowly made my way through Long Point, Gay Hill, Independence and William Penn. All except Independence were too small to have much business.
Also on this route was the original site of Baylor University, with a beautiful field of flowers and also some nice historical exhibits.
After the flower route, merged back onto TX 105 for last 17 miles to Navasota. This included a brief detour to Washington on Brazos, the site of the Texas declaration of independence and also the capital of Texas for a while. Nice visitor center here.
Navasota marked end of the next Adventure Cycling map. Now time to
study the next map and figure out the route for the next week or so.
Trees and forest today. Overcast skies and southerly winds starting out. However, wind made much less difference here with lots of trees to block the wind. Rolling hills through to Anderson where took off on smaller roads through Richards then across Lake Conroe to New Waverly.
Stopped at the Richards cafe. Clerk was kind enough to make some breakfast for me. They see occasional touring cyclists here with the Adventure Cycling route coming through. East of Richards went into the Sam Houston National Forest. Mostly pine trees, with some burn areas visible at 149/1375 cutoff. Still an occasional farm, but also a lot more run-down houses and trailers.
Nice broad shoulder when crossing Lake Conroe. A few boats out on the water. Lunch in New Waverly cafe before some winding hills via Pumpkin and Evergreen to Coldspring. Discovered my tire had been rubbing, so much smoother when I fixed that up. Also surprised to see at least four or five small cemeteries marked along the way. Still early, but limited set of accommodations so a stop for the day.
I've finally started seeing indications of "East Texas".
Seems like "West Texas" stretched at least to Austin, so nice to get
an acknowledgement that I'm getting closer to the LA border. Music
Today riding into and through the thicket. This region has dense trees and undergrowth. Quite a few logging trucks along the way. Also trucks with completed boards and sawdust. Didn't see any big mills or any clear direction to the trucks though.
Hot and humid starting out. This area must get completely unbearable in the summer. Flat terrain. Contour intervals on the map are 100ft, as compared to 1000ft in the western maps. Even then, not many contours to cross. Stopped in Shepherd at a newly expanded supermarket before crossing US 59 and taking small back roads past Dolen, Romayer, Votaw, Thicket and Honey Island. Each of these places very small, typically with a church or two but not other establishments. Shoulders intermittent but light traffic. Even logging trucks were good about moving out of the way.
Stopped in Honey Island for lunch. Small feed store and cafe. Food for both people and cows. The mineral supplements, oats and other grains were out back and the grill was up front.
After Honey Island, busier traffic through Kountze and then into Silsbee.
Steamy spring cycling today. They start to report a "heat index" here, so know it can get warm. More timber in this area as picture above left shows. Also notice from picture above right, that crossed into LA after about 50 miles of riding. Yipee! Now have cycled in 42 states (not all on this trip) and am missing: UT, OK, KS, MO, AR, IN, KY and WV so no more on this ride.
First thirty miles was along the large US 96 from Silsbee up to Kirbyville. Fortunately, most of this route had a six-foot shoulder, though in the small stretches that didn't the trucks let me know with their horns. Not certain they have as many cyclists out here. Hot and humid and even a bit of warm mist as I cycled along. Not certain of how to dress for this, but decided to go for visibility with my bright yellow jacket. Definitely a sauna in this heat and humidity and now only April!
From Kirbyville, back on the Adventure Cycling route and through the thicket. This area continued with lots of signs of lumber...log trucks, mills and some reforested trees. Not much in shoulders, but also not very heavy traffic. I saw one "East Texas Catfish" sign, but surprisingly, it seems there is very little "East Texas". Previous evening even had "West Texas BBQ", so seems like all of Texas wants to be associated with "West".
Crossed the Sabine River and into Louisiana! Yeah! Texas seems to have a succession of important rivers: Rio Grande, Pecos, Guadalupe, Colorado, Brazos, Trinity and finally the Sabine. These rivers all have fair amount of water, though seems like a bit muddy to drink.
Just outside Merryville about four miles into Louisiana, met a couple touring on a tandem. They had started in Miami and were headed towards San Diego. From there, back to Florida and then up the Atlantic Coast. Including a previous trip, this would complete a perimeter of the USA. We traded road information including some cautions received about cycling in Louisiana. Nice to see some other long-haul cyclists out there.
Still forests, but also some cleared lands in LA as cycled through Merryville
and then slowly into the bigger city of DeRidder. Surprising amounts of
traffic for a smaller town here. Music
for today (Louisiana anthem).
Country backroads today through western Louisiana. DeRidder still with busy traffic in morning starting out. However, after leaving US 190, four miles into the day, much less traffic. Still some woods and log trucks as shown above left. However, much more farmland today. Some wheat and other grains, but also a lot of rice. Entire fields were flooded and surrounded with low dikes to keep the water in.
Flat terrain cycling through small backwoods including towns of Wye, Mittie and to Oberlin at mile 37. Quite a ew Pentecostal churches. Oberlin was small town of ~1000 with a cute main street. Signs for a casino, but didn't see one close by. Saw signs for 7 miles of road construction so stopped for a late breakfast. Fortunately, construction better than expected, even with smooth newly paved roads. More quiet roads except for small town of Mamou.
Picture at left shows boat patrolling small pond. Not clear whether this was more rice or a catfish pond? Also noticed that several places had steady sequence of boom, boom sounds, perhaps to keep birds away.
Last few miles tried a short stretch on US 190 to see whether it would make
sense to take US 190 to Baton Rouge or use the more roundabout Adventure Cycling
route. Picture above right shows Catholic Church near the end of the day.
When taking a new route like this, my standard practice is to ask several different people about the route. Motorist descriptions of good roads for cycling vary...but with several opinions, can average things out. First time asked at Washington about five miles out, "the road becomes very rural, but stays a good road from Melville to Morganza...". Stopped for breakfast in Lebeau and heard, "...there was some construction a while ago, but still a good paved road".
The route from Lebeau was rural. Farming areas mostly gave way to swamps, some listed with hunting signs, but not much else. Peaceful road without much traffic. The route paralleled the railroad tracks. At Palmetto, I passed a train that slowed and stopped on the tracks.
On reaching Melville, I got a surprise none of my motorist consultants had told me about. A broad channel, the Atchafalaya channel. Apparently, one of the primary ship channels to go from the Mississippi westbound. Saw signs for a ferry, but then found out ferry hours only from 5am-8am and 4pm-9pm...oops, at 10am, I'd have a while to wait for the next ferry.
As I contemplated what to do...wait six hours or detour 50+ miles..., I noticed the railroad bridge had a small pedestrian walkway. Perhaps possible to walk across the bridge. I started walking and had just passed a small building on the bridge when someone came from the building and called to me. Uh, oh...was he sending me back? I couldn't hear, but walked back to where he was. "There is a train coming, you better put your bike in here while it goes past..." As we chatted briefly, found out that I was far from the first bicyclist trying this shortcut over the bridge. After the train came past, he was kind enough to let me complete my walk across the Atchafalaya.
Once across, came off the levee and lifted my bike over the barb wire fence. Oops, looks like this road was gravel. It paralleled the levee and not quite clear which direction to find LA 10. Fortunately, a passing truck gave me a pointer and I headed off for five miles of gravel road.
Pavement! Yes, felt good to reach pavement and get rolling a bit quicker. Continued past farming areas before stopping in Morganza for lunch. From there an easier ride along LA 1 and reaching the next ferry across the Mississippi. Fortunately, this one goes continuously between 4:30am and 11:45pm.
After leaving the ferry, came through quaint town of St. Francisville.
Many historic houses, with lots of plaques telling of the town. Stopped in
at the museum and found the town had once been second largest (after New
Orleans) in these parts and also a place with many country plantation
estates. Stopped at the St. Francisville
Inn, a B&B in town.
Tough riding conditions today through Baton Rouge. Biggest city since El Paso.
A nice breakfast at the inn and time to get on the road. US 61 had nice shoulders with a few gentle rolling hills as headed south towards Baton Rouge. A few plantations along the way and slowly increasing traffic as got closer to Baton Rouge. Shoulder fine, except for where it crossed bridges and went away.
At 23 miles, entered the city of Baton Rouge and shoulder disappeared briefly with busy traffic entering I-110. Not a pretty city, as can be seen from industrial plant shown above left. Fortunately, after the I-110 cutoff, less traffic. Rode past the US 190/US 61 junction and made my way through city streets and poorer neighborhoods to east part of town. Here a long "strip" named Florida Boulevard with lots of businesses and lights not quite timed for bicycle speeds.
East of town on US 190, came the challenging riding. US 190 parallels I-12. Unfortunately, construction on I-12 was directing some of the eastbound traffic onto US 190. In addition, for most of the next 25 miles, the shoulders were not paved. This meant careful riding on just the right side of the lane with lots of traffic whizzing by. It was actually easier riding within city limits of some of the small towns like Walker, Livingston, Holden and Albany both because speeds were decreased and because there frequently was a shoulder. Most of the vehicles were fine and gave as much room as they could. Still took a bit of concentration watching for the 1% of drivers not quite with it...I was pleased to see the shoulder reappear at Albany, and also to see the detour I-12 signs go away at Hammond. Still enough riding for the day.
Somewhere around the Mississippi River, I've passed the point where I am much
further than half way. One common question is "where are you coming
from" and also "where are you going to". As recent as
western LA, folks would remark in a way that indicated they thought Florida was
at least as far as California. However, now since Baton Rouge, that has
changed. Still a ways to go, but getting closer. Music
Better riding today. Wide shoulders from Hammond to Robert. After that shoulders disappeared, but still light traffic. Mostly wooded and quiet. Passed a prison with sign, "Do not pick up hitchhikers" and then also a hospital with the same, "Do not pick up hitchhikers" sign. Despite lack of shoulders, very little traffic in to Covington.
At Covington, quite a few signs about "North Shore", apparently a commuting area from here across Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans. Also a few signs about Ponchatoula strawberries. Still a few crayfish and shrimp signs. Road was larger and busier coming through Mandeville and then quieter heading towards Slidell.
Roadkill this past week has included armadillos, opossums, frogs and snakes. Also notice people have metal enclosures for their trash, so apparently a few critters out there to keep from the trash.
I had heard bad things about road conditions in Slidell, so was positively surprised. Still not wonderful, but better than expected. Here the route wound through and then southbound towards US 90. US 90 had shoulders for the first four miles to the MS border. This region crossed a swampy region.
Crossed the East Pearl River and was in Mississippi! Yeah! Typically, there is a sign at the line, but the first "Mississippi" sign was the one left for loans. About a mile later, saw the official sign. This area still quiet and shoulders went away again. Also a several mile stretch of obnoxious jarring cracks every 15ft. No real businesses until reached Waveland. Stopped in Bay Saint Louis, not too far from the gulf beaches though that will have to wait until tomorrow. Music for today (Mississippi anthem). Apparently just missed "Black Spring Break", 90,000 revelers this past weekend and 166 arrests.
is a referendum on April 17th, whether Mississippi should change it state flag
to replace the confederate stars and bars with a circle of 20 stars. After
Georgia recently changed its flag, Mississippi is the last with the confederate
symbol as part of its flag. Poll numbers suggest 67% in favor of the
current flag and 22% in favor of a new flag.
Followed US 90 along the Mississippi coast today. Coming out of Bay Saint Louis was a long bridge across the bay. Halfway across one lane was closed down for construction. Jersey barriers squeezed the remaining lane so narrow that cars couldn't pass, so I got up on sidewalk and walked the remaining mile across the bay. Stopped briefly in Pass Christian with nice harbor shown above left.
US 90 was two lanes with no shoulder, but reasonable traffic. As I got closer to Gulfport and Biloxi, I saw signs from the party the weekend before. Apparently, more than 400 police vigorously enforced keeping the left lane for emergency vehicles and having the right lane be a slow moving gridlock with stopped cars quickly towed...more than 600 tows in all. The towns proclaimed this vigorous enforcement a success (in comparison to 2000 when the highway completely shut down). Some of the partiers had stories in papers about overly aggressive enforcement.
Gulfport and Biloxi had half a dozen casinos between them. Pretty white beaches to the right of the highway and beach businesses along the way. Also a marine aquarium. From Biloxi crossed another causeway and into Ocean Springs. At Ocean Springs, a memorial for Mississippi Vietnam Veterans with the helicopter shown above left. Quieter traffic leaving town.
Busier into Pascagoula with lots of strip mall businesses leaving town. Also two miles of road construction again. After the businesses, a few alligator farms and then quiet woods. A quick bend in the road and the sign at left indicating Alabama state line.
Four miles later, the small town of Grand Bay and reached the Adventure
Cycling route again. Followed it on AL 188 for nine miles to Bayou La
Batre. Quieter road with some farms along the way. Music
for today (Alabama anthem).
Today crossed over Mobile Bay and made it on to Florida. Pleasant cycling from Bayou La Batre past mostly wooded terrain, with some swampy areas. Saw a large "antenna farm" on the south, not certain what that was. Stopped briefly in Alabama Port at the aptly named Corner Store before heading southwards past Cedar Point. Stopped briefly and discovered one of the bolts holding my rear fender had fallen off, causing occasional extra friction. In hindsight, perhaps for the last 100+ miles.
On the way to Cedar Point, several small oyster boats. Above left are shrimp boats and boat on left is even for sale! Crossed the causeway and made it to Dauphin Island. Looks like a quiet little island with mostly vacation homes. On one end, Fort Gaines with the cannon shown above right. Also an "Estuarium". Both the Fort and Estuarium not open for business yet, so read the Mobile paper while waiting for the 9:30am ferry. Met several nice folks while waiting and on the ferry, the loaded bike stands out a bit.
Half an hour ferry and $3 ride across to Fort Morgan. In the bay were at least half a dozen oil/gas platforms. Just off the ferry, a local group was conducting a "bird banding". For two weeks each spring and each fall, this group catches migrating neo-tropical birds and places bands. Several thousand birds are banded each year. They have a small information tent and inform the public about their efforts and about decreasing habitats affecting migrating birds. No birds to band while I was there. South winds mean the birds more likely overfly the barrier islands and keep going. They did tell me about a cottonmouth snake caught that morning and released out of the immediate area.
Near Fort Morgan, a number of beach houses up on stilts. Apparently, ~$300,000 and up for a house right on the beach. Stopped briefly at a place selling beach food including boiled peanuts and then several miles down the road a combination hardware/convenience store. Great!, was able to find a replacement bolt for the fender and some lunch for me.
Quiet riding again for next ten miles past Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge and then into the busier city of Gulf Shores. Motels, restaurants, beach stores, water parks and quite a few condos in the next stretch of beachfront. Entered the next town of Orange Beach which had a sign, "Clay Materials Beyond This Point Prohibited Without Permit". The sign was curious enough that I stopped at the next visitor information center and asked (also a good excuse for a break). They explained that the town wanted to preserve the white sandy beaches and thus was regulating landscaping including red clays.
Beach still a busy town, but nice bike lane along the way. Climbed over a
bridge and not too much further saw the Florida sign. Hooray! Still
have a ways to go along the panhandle, but nice to get to the last state of this
part of the trip. Four different states the past four nights.
Continued pleasant riding in Florida, but decided to stop seven miles further at
the first motel on the route. Music
for today (Florida anthem).
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