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June 29th, 2013 | Louisiana

New Orleans to New Boston..

Patricia left New Orleans early on Thursday morning, and had made the long drive back to Brunswick in Georgia, covering the 1000-odd kilometres in just over twelve hours.

The rain pelts down  while I wait for the call that will let me know the bike was ready.

The rain pelts down while I wait for the call that will let me know the bike was ready.

I was both surprised and proud of the fact that she had done this with little or no fuss, and had kept me updated of her progress throughout the drive.

Together we had planned where she should be and at what time of day, and she had hit every target we had set.

The FedEx delivery of my drive shaft had not arrived as early as we had hoped, on Friday, and although Chuck put in a few hours late that afternoon, he was unable to get the Big Fella ready in time for an early departure on Saturday morning.  He very kindly agreed to open his workshop on Saturday, to complete the repairs.

He told me to be at his premises by 11.00 am and while I waited at the Olde Town Inn, a thunderstorm of epic proportions raged over New Orleans. I did a quick check on, the weather website that has been an invaluable tool to me throughout my journey, and discovered that the heavy rain was due to move off to the east of the city. I was heading north, and later west towards Texas, so I figured that although I may have a wet start, I would be alright as the day wore on.

By the time the taxi had dropped me off at Chuck’s workshop, The Big Fella was ready to roll. He had not only replaced the drive shaft, but had also given thee bike an oil change and checked the gearbox oil levels and topped that up too.

While I changed into my riding kit that we had dropped off the previous day, Chuck got all the paperwork ready. I had the bike loaded and ready to go in double quick time, and after thanking him for his efforts, I took a few last photos and set my GPS for Shreveport in northern Louisiana.

I had planned to ride along the coast as far as Galveston in Texas, then head north through Houston and Dallas, but the four day delay in New Orleans had put paid to that plan. I now had to shorten my ride in order to get to New Jersey before Friday the 5th of July…
The entry to the world's longest continous bridge over open water.

The entry to the world’s longest continuous bridge over open water.

Chuck watched as I set way-points, and noticed that I had chosen the route that would take me between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, and suggested that if I wanted to experience something different, I should try taking the causeway across Lake Pontchartrain…

“It’s the longest bridge over water in the world,” he said, “although those darn Chinese claim to have bettered it !!”
It was almost noon, when I finally left Chuck’s workshop and headed down to causeway, having decided to take his advice, even though it would add some distance to my ride.
I was glad that I had done this, because riding out over the causeway was one of the strangest experiences I have had in a long time. At one point, you are out of sight of any land, just a double strip of concrete and steel separating you from the cold waters of the lake. The causeway is almost over 40 kilometres long, and was completed in 1969. While I rode across it, I occasionally found myself shaking my head at the marvel of the whole structure, and the men who had envisaged and built it.
It is one of the many things that I respect and enjoy about the Americans… They think big !!
It's strange seensation when all you have in front of you ar two strips of concrete and no point on the horizon...

It’s strange sensation when all you have in front of you are two strips of concrete and no point on the horizon…

Can you imagine the scene in 1948 when it was decided to go ahead with a bridge connecting Mandeville on the north shore to New Orleans on the south shore ??

“Let’s build us a bridge across this here lake to cut down on travel time…!!” said Ernest Loeb Jr, who got the project off the ground…
“But sir, the lake is almost 25 miles wide at this point !!” said the engineers…
“That’s just about what I figured,” Ernest must have replied, “And standing here jibber-jabbering about it, ain’t gonna get it done !! So let’s get cracking !!”
Although the ride across the causeway was surreal in one way, the wind that tore across the lake was very real !! It whipped up waves on the lake’s surface, and howled over and under the double concrete lanes…
Told you the wind was up and blowing hard !!

I did not need a windsock to tell me how hard the wind was blowing !!

The cars around me weren’t nearly as badly affected as I was, having to hang on and lean into the wind which blew from west to east across this vast expanse of water.

Each time we passed one of the narrow slots that joined the north and south bound lanes together, and where vehicles could make a u-turn if they needed to, the wind would almost tea the handlebars from my grasp !!

The first one caught me unawares, resulting in an unintended foray into the far right hand lane, and coming perilously close to kissing the concrete barrier…
After that near mishap, I made sure that I dropped my left shoulder each time we passed one of the crossways, and leaned into what I knew was waiting there for us…
Slowly but surely, trees on the northern shoreline became visible, and with a sigh of relief, I cruised into Mandeville and then got onto the I-12 to Baton Rouge, after which I planned to ride up into northern Louisiana.
Although I will probably mention this more than once in future blogs, the network of Interstate highways in the USA, allows one to make good time in any direction you may choose to ride. They may not be the most scenic routes, but to get you from point A to point B in the shortest possible time, they have no equal…
Is this the same as Funny Farm - Catholic ?

Is this the same as Funny Farm – Catholic ?

The Big Fella was not the only one attracting attention out on the Interstate...

The Big Fella was not the only one attracting attention out on the Interstate…

And with my time schedule now drastically reduced, I had no choice but to use them almost exclusively all the way back to New Jersey.

We skirted Baton Rouge, the state capital, and second largest city in Louisiana, and crossed another massive bridge spanning the Mississippi River.
Although this city lies many miles inland of the coast, it is the USA’s 9th largest port by virtue of tonnage handled.
I had wondered how the city had got it’d name, and discovered that when the first French explorers reached this section of the Mississippi, they found a large Cypress tree festooned with carcasses of bloody animals that marked the boundary between the hunting grounds of two tribes. They called the tree and its location “le bâton rouge”, or “the red stick”…
Another bridge over the muddy Mississippi, this one at Baton Rouge.

Another bridge over the muddy Mississippi, this one at Baton Rouge.

Louisiana Roadsign

I’m guessing the advert on the right gets more attention…

I turned north onto the I-49, and stopped at Ville Platte to refuel. The heat and humidity struck like a hammer blow when I got off the bike, and as soon as I had filled thee tank, I parked under the shade of the truckers parking area and stood watching the 18-wheelers roll in and out of this popular stop-over…
Many of the drivers hurried past me to go take a quick shower before heading out again. I have found most tuckers to be a friendly bunch of guys, and are often bikers themselves.
They are more likely to come over and chat to me than any other group of folk out on the roads. Many of them have made long rides of their own on bikes and are quick to share their stories of hard rides to faraway places, mostly in the USA and Canada. Very few that I have met, have been into Mexico or further south…
Thanks for the warning !! Any relation to "Cockaroches"...??

Thanks for the warning !! Any relation to “Cockaroches”…??

We are on our way to Texas...

We are on our way to Texas…

In the southern part of the state, I had passed extensive sugar cane plantations, but the further north I rode, the more maize and other cereal crops had been planted…

I noticed that the maize was all very uniform in size and guessed that there had been a little “genetic engineering” at play in these parts.
The cattle grazing in the large paddocks along my route were also uniformly fat and healthy looking, their coats gleaming in the afternoon sunlight.
Although I had left New Orleans at noon, thanks to the Interstates, we had made good time, and by 5.00 pm, had covered over 500 km. I had hoped to get as far as Greenwood on the Texan border by dusk, and after stopping in Shreveport to refuel again, and realizing that there was still 3 hours of daylight available, I decided to make up more time and ride into Texas today, rather than tomorrow.
Crossing the state line into the Lone Star State.

Crossing the state line into the Lone Star State.

Sparing a thought for us bikers...

Sparing a thought for us bikers…

Go North young man... Go North !!

Go North young man… Go North !!

After 50 km inside Texas, we turned north off I-20 and rode hard towards Marshal, and from there on to Jefferson and Linden, racing the setting sun and hoping to make the junction of the Highway 8 and the I-30, that ran west towards Dallas and east to the Arkansas state line near Texarkana.

Just as we reached the outskirts of a little town called Douglassville, I looked down to see that the mileage indicator was about to click over onto 190 000 km…

I grinned to myself and reached forward to pat the Big Fellas tank in recognition of not only reaching another big milestone, but also for bringing me so far on my personal journey…

Having taken the 15th “Birthday photo” of this trip, a short while later we reached Maud, turned east on US 67 and then hooked up with US 8 again, for what was to be the final run of the day.

No shortage of directions !!

No shortage of directions !!

The sun was just beginning to tickle the horizon out to the west when we rolled into New Boston and began our search for a place to spend the night.

We had covered almost 770 km in eight hours, which is good going considering that we had made two stops for fuel and one other to take a short break. Speed limits in Texas are also slightly higher than other states, and out on the country highways, 70 miles per hour is the norm. The Interstates are marked at 75 mph, or 120 km/h.

I have come to understand that it is not only me that take speed limits as a guideline only. Most vehicles, including trucks and trailers will be passing you if you stick strictly to the speed limits. It seems that anywhere between 5 and 10 miles over the limit, does not draw any attention from law enforcement officers, of which there are plenty to go around !!

I have been told that they are mainly on the lookout for reckless drivers and those changing lanes erratically. They turn a blind eye to people stretching the speed limit a little, which is what 90 % of drivers on the main highways do… In the suburbs, it is a different matter altogether !!

The majority of drivers stick to the speed limit, and with good reason. Fines for speeding are fairly hefty, especially in areas where schools are located.

 The end was near... Half an hour later we reachd New Boston.

The end was near… Half an hour later we reached New Boston.

The Tex Inn, a cheaper and better option than the other motels in New Boston.

The Tex Inn, a cheaper and better option than the other motels in New Boston.

Great big four postr bd awaited me...

Great big four poster bed awaited me…

I had ridden almost exclusively on Interstates today, which had allowed us to keep up a good pace throughout the ride.

I had also spent a good deal of my time with my ear cocked to listen out for any unusual sounds that might be coming from the rear drive, but had not detected any noises or vibrations other than those I was used to…

I was satisfied that Chuck had made o good job of replacing the drive shaft and servicing the bike. It ran as smoothly as it always has.

I parked on the side of the road and began making a short round of calls to the three hotels that I could see to the left and right of me. The first two places I called seemed surprised by my question of, “Is that your best rate ??”, and did not seem too perturbed when I advised them that $99.00 was a bit steep for a simple motel room…

The young lady who answered my third call of the evening, to the Tex Inn gave the correct answer.

“No,” she replied, “That is not our best rate, sir…” and promptly knocked $15.00 off her original offer of $59.00 which I thought was a splendid way to reply to my question.

Needless to say, I checked in with some alacrity, before she changed her mind !!

Last photo of the Big Fella before his adjustment the following day...

Last photo of the Big Fella before his “luggage adjustment” the following day…

It had been a good first day on the road after our long lay-up in New Orleans, and we were on target to not only ride through all the states we had planned for, but also to get to New Jersey in time. All we had to do was average about 650 km a day, and we would be golden !!

New Orleans, Louisiana to New Boston, Texas.

New Orleans, Louisiana to New Boston, Texas.

©GBWT 2013

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