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June 21st, 2013 | Louisiana

Update from New Orleans… (The Rewrite)

By reaching Mexico Beach the previous afternoon, we had cut our ride to New Orleans neatly in half, and today all we had to do to Reach the Crescent City, was a little over 550 kilometres…

Early morning, Mexico Beach from our balcony. No time for a swim, we were N'awlins bound.

Early morning, Mexico Beach, from our balcony. No time for a swim, we were N’awlins bound.

Told you they were cat friendly in these parts...

Told you they were cat friendly in these parts…

We rode up the narrow isthmus that separates the Gulf of Mexico from St Andrew’s Bay, which id divided into East Bay and North Bay. We crossed the Dupont Bridge, another long bridge over a the wide body of East Bay, skirted Springfield and then ducked back towards Panama City, to stay close to the coast.

Traffic was a bit hectic through this area, but we stuck to our plan to stay off the Interstate which lay to the north of us now.

We stayed clear of Panama City itself, and headed toward Miramar Beach and Navarre which lay beyond it, crossing the beautiful bridge Known as the Miracle Strip Parkway, over the mouth of  Choctawatchee Bay…

Just to the right of the bridge is a huge shallow sandbar, and a large number of people had anchored their boats there and were having a kind of water-based picnic, I guess !! There was even a massive water slide erected out on the sandbank !!

Choctawatchee Bay, just east of Pensacola.

Choctawatchee Bay, just east of Pensacola.

One day I'll try to confirm that, but right then I was looking at huge clouds massing far ahead of us...

One day I’ll try to confirm that, but right then I was looking at huge clouds massing far ahead of us…

Beautiful sea vistas along this part of the coast are commonplace, and by the time we reached Gulf Breeze and had to turn north to get around Pensacola, I decided that we had lollygagged too much to use a favourite phrase of Patricia’s… I got up next her and told her that we would do the next stint to the Alabama state line, on the interstate to save some time.

We crossed the Perdido River into Alabama, and headed towards Mobile. We were riding across the narrowest part of the state that I had also been told was the prettiest, crossed Mobile Bay, and headed along the southern part of this harbor city.

Way up ahead the skies were darkening, and by the time we reached the Mississippi state line, it had started to rain. But this was no ordinary rain by any stretch of the imagination.

A huge storm had come up out of the Gulf and was battering this part of the coast…

We got into the visitors centre just off the highway with a minute to spare before driving rain blasted the area…

A wild, wet and windy welcome to Mississippi.... The car park was flooded and the Interstate in the background came to a grinding halt at one point !!
A wild, wet and windy welcome to Mississippi…. The car park was flooded and the Interstate in the background came to a grinding halt at one point !!
The heavens opened as took refuge inside the visitors centre...

The heavens opened as took refuge inside the visitors centre…

We were trapped there for half an hour before the rain slackened off and we were able to resume our journey.  But our time there was by no means wasted. We took in all the exhibits in the welcome centre and I was surprised to find out how many famous musicians and singers were born in this state. People like Faith Hill, Tammy Whynette  and LeAnne Rimes; the Allman Brothers and Jummy Buffet; Howling Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis; John Lee Hooker and B,B, King; and another fellow by the name of Elvis Presley…

Slick as Michael Schumacher liked it... But he had four wheels to do in...

Slick as Michael Schumacher liked it… But he had four wheels to do in…

Rode with this greybeard for a few dozen miles outside Billoxi, Mississippi.

Rode with this greybeard for a few dozen miles outside Biloxi, Mississippi. I think that side-stand needs adjusting !! Wouldn’t want to take a tight left hand bend with that hanging out there !!

By the time we reached Biloxi, the rain had stopped altogether, and before long we had reached the Louisiana state line. The sun was shining down on us and my kit was slowly drying out… Except my boots… Thay had not been fully dry since we left Key West !!

 

Louisiana was a little drier, but only just !!

Louisiana was a little drier, but only just !!

This last week had been rather challenging…

Not only had my “old faithful” laptop given up the ghost for the last time, and been relegated to the dustbin (minus the all important hard-drive, which we managed to save intact), but we have also had to ride in either driving rain or debilitating heat. Not the worst that I have encountered, but very testing, nonetheless…!!

At this point I was looking forward to getting out of the rain and into a dry hotel room...

At this point I was looking forward to getting out of the rain and into a dry hotel room…

Although, I must add, that I am the only one getting pounded by the elements, Patricia views the world outside, from the comfort of her brand new, air-conditioned 2013 Kia rental sedan !! And chatting non-stop with friends and family on her hands-free phone, I might add !!

It has however been great to be with someone at the end of the days ride, especially when that someone is your wife !! I now know how Trevor must have felt when he and Chenty did their ride around the world !! Lucky devil !!

We have covered over 4 500 kms since leaving Pennsylvania, and ridden through 11 states so far. The riding highlight for me was reaching the Southernmost tip, and third “corner” of the United States… Key West was a blast .

But all the above has quickly faded to the rear of my memory banks, as I struggle with the latest and possibly biggest challenge I have had to deal with over the last few years of my travels.

We arrived in New Orleans this evening with a bang !! Literally !!

As we peeled off the highway and cruised down the off-ramp, heading towards our hotel just a few blocks away, I felt the Big Fella shudder beneath me, and then a loud grinding noise came up through the engine !! The vibrations rippled up my spine as the bike bucked under me…

I grabbed a handful of clutch and brake to disengage the gears and slow the bike down, but if anything, the noise got even louder… After 190 000 km, either the clutch or gearbox has finally called it quits.

I pulled over to the side of the road in what can only be called a dodgy part of New Orleans, and began making frantic phone calls. It was after 6.00 pm before I finally managed to get an answer from a guy called David, who happened to be working late in his motorcycle repair business.

We broke down right outside this derelict house and the Funeral Parlour next door... I wondered if they buried gearboxes...

We broke down right outside this derelict house and the Funeral Parlor next door… An ominous sign if I ever saw one !! I wondered if they buried gearboxes…??

An hour later, he arrived with a trailer to take the Big Fella away. The bike was stuck in gear and no amount of pushing or shoving would disengage the gearbox. We offloaded all my kit onto David’s truck and then manhandled the bike up onto the trailer.

Patricia had gone on ahead to check us in to our hotel and was making calls to try and find someone to collect the bike and I.

David of FX Motorcycle Repairs, secures the Big Fella, prior to taking him away to the workshop.

David of FX Motorcycle Repairs, secures the Big Fella, prior to taking him away to the workshop.

The Olde Town Inn, our digs in The Big Easy, New Orleans...

The Olde Town Inn, our digs in The Big Easy, New Orleans…

The earliest the Big Fella can get some attention is on Monday, and by then I have to decide whether to have him taken to the BMW dealership in Baton Rouge, 80 miles away, or let David work on him here in New Orleans.

Either way, the GBWT has come to a grinding halt and it will be a few days before I can decide what to do next. But as Doug from Pennsylvania said when I called him to tell him about my misfortune,

“Well… there could be worst places to be stuck in, than New Orleans, buddy !!”

Maybe so, maybe so… But I am finding it difficult to think of anything else but the bike, that has taken me around the world with hardly a problem.  Even though Patricia and I have done many fun things over the past few days, I can’t help letting my mind wander back to my immediate problem of what to do next…

Me and the Big Fella tink maybe somebody done put a hex on our ass...!!

Me and the Big Fella think maybe somebody done put a hex on our ass…!!

I am gutted by the fact that my trusty companion is out of action after so much we have been through together. At the same time, I, along with many other people I have spoken to, are amazed that the Big Fella has come so far and never had his motor opened. Every part of the engine is the original that I rode off the showroom floor with exactly six years ago this week…!!

“All good things come to an end”, and “nothing lasts forever”, are sayings that keep rolling around in my head…

I briefly toyed with the idea of crating the bike and shipping it back to South Africa, but quickly rejected that idea in favour of having it repaired and getting back on the road…

After what we have been through, I cannot allow the bike to arrive on home soil in any other state than that which will allow it to do so, with a triumphant roar !!

It’s the very least I can do…

Tampa, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana, via Alabama and Mississippi.

Tampa, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana, via Alabama and Mississippi.

And of course. I always complete what I set out to do, and there are 14 more states we need to make bootprints and tyre tracks in…!!

We's still got ourselves some riding to do, y'all !! Me and the Big Fella will be back on the road real soon !!

“We’s still got ourselves some riding to do, y’all !! Me and the Big Fella will be back on the road real soon !! Y’all can take THAT to da bank…!!”

 ©GBWT 2013

9 comments to Update from New Orleans… (The Rewrite)

  • Mark Behr

    I feel your pain – it is never easy feeling like your options have been narrowed. Hopefully the problem is relatively minor and you will be on your way with not too much damage to the finances. Enjoy New Orleans.

  • Keep the faith brother!

  • Meerkat

    Hold on tight Ronnie,thanks for the updates en hou die blink kant bo en die wiele op die teer

    Chris

  • Charmz

    All is not lost Brother, at least you have new tyres on him, just waiting to hit the road again. I agree with the fact that Big Fella has taken you around the world with no major problems; so just accept this and look forward to him getting fixed so that the two of you can get going to those other 14 states!! Loves and hugs to Patricia too 🙂

  • Hi Ronnie,I have some idea of what you’re feeling as one becomes attached to the trusty steeds which carry us reliably through almost impossible terrain at times.
    If I can assist here it might be a good idea to get hold of the guy who did my bike in Dilley Texas when I came into the STATES fom Mexico on my transamerica trip in 2011.
    He’s. Master and presently uns his own operation from a small shop in Dilley.
    Hnk was in charge of the BMW workshop in SAN ANTONIO for 15 years and has an 1100 GS with 800 000 km on the clock.
    If anyone can advise you he can and you can get him at : info@motohank.co.za

    He’s Also a great guy and is on Skype and FaceTime if you have n iPad

    Sure hope everything works out ok.
    I’m presently riding my old 1100RT through Spain for a Couple of months.
    Cheers for now!
    Tony

  • Doug McIllwain

    Headlines this morning read, “South Africans Mourn National Icon In Critical Condition”…….thought it was about Big Fella, but turns out it was some bloke named Nelson.

  • Thanks Tony, if I can’t get sorted here in New Orleans, then I will look Hank up. Enjoy the ride through Spain and take a trip up into Andorra and over the border into France. Great riding in those parts !! Cheers, R.

  • Carnivore

    Hey Ronnie,

    Bad luck on Big Fella’s woes. But, I am optimistic that it is only one or two gear clusters. So keep your chin up, and I hope I am not wrong.

    rg

  • OK Ronnie,all the best and if u have ny trouble just contact him.He’ll be able to advise you of who/ where in NO

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