Charley’s ride across america 11. Louisiana then and now


Day 18 feb 14.  42 miles 4:14 hot, levy for 32 miles, then tailwind, end Gonzales LA

Day 19 feb 15.  32 miles 3:30 all in traffic, ready for a break day end Baton Rouge LA

Running total 829

Dear family and friends,

“There’s no there there” from Gertrude Stein.

My feeling about my leg muscles this morning. So I’m ready for a break day. 

Today I rode straight to a big bike shop that claimed to have a two pronged kickstand for a heavy bike.

The shop employees wanted to hear about the ride as the mechanic found and installed the heavy duty kickstand so I no longer have to find a place to lean and balance this heavy bike.

Lots of riding in city traffic today, mostly two lane roads with no shoulder so I had to claim a lane and make traffic wait. I find if I stay way over near the white line that cars try to fit in the lane with me, which is too close. If I’m holding up a lot of cars I’ll pull out and let a flow go by.

Today was the first time that I was slightly off track (lost?). Google maps showed a road going through a field where there was none and the only way around was to be on a busy highway with no shoulder. Eventually I shifted to Apple Maps and found a side road workaround. I’m sure this is caused by extraterrestrials in balloons over the US.

After a rest day here in Baton Rouge, I’ll be in very rural Louisiana. I’ve been here before:

“ Get your fucking ass home now”

First and only time I heard my father use the “f” word.

Its  been over 50 years since I spent and time in rural LouisianaI was so surprised before, so I am a little curious as to what’s changed since my last visit.

Terry (yup the Dragnet guy) way back in senior year of high school told me that his parents just received a call that his uncle, down on the farm in Ringgold, LA, just had a stroke. His wife wasn’t able to manage to get the crop in by herself, and they sure could use some help.

Spring break was next week. Terry had a plan:

We could be the muscle needed on the farm and also, Terry could see if there was any possibility for a girlfriend relationship.

It just so happened that the summer before, that aunt and uncle had visited in Cleveland, accompanied by their cousin ( no blood relative of Terry’s- you’ll see why). She  had taken a liking to Terry and for sure he had taken one back. 

Terry suggested to me that if we drove down to Louisiana, we could work hard to help with the farm AND he could check in with his cousin’s cousin to see if anything clicked. And she supposedly had an attractive girlfriend.

Neither of us were cool kids in high school, so didn’t have much romantic social life. In fact, none.

Terry’s father thought it a good idea to help so offered us the use of his dark blue Ford Maverick.

If we showed that we were hip, we thought our chances would be better with the southern girls, so we bought fluorescent orange water based paint ( so it would wash off) and hand painted these words all over the car:

“Reefer, Mary Jane, free love, peace”

We arrived at the farm early afternoon, so Terry’s aunt suggested we pick up the ladies from school. We parked close and walked down the sidewalk to the door on the left side of the building.

“No, said a local policeman, you have to cross the street for the right side. You are on the colored side”

I was flabbergasted. I thought it was year 1971. 

We picked the ladies up and they were indeed “”impressed” with our paint job. So impressed that when we suggested a date the following Friday , they weren’t that interested.

We did work hard at the farm and Auntie fed us well. It might  be the hardest physical work I’ve ever done. 

There were a few farmhands who knew the drill, just needed more physical help. We also shared the wetland with the popular and poisonous water moccasins. 

At dinner,  as Auntie was telling us about the history of the farm and the town, she often mentioned the “War of Northern Aggression”. At first I thought that I must have slept through that history class till she mentioned it was during the 1860’s. Damn!

We sure were feeling helpful so kept working away on the farm. Spring break passed, but we were doing important work! 

I called home to check in and found my father less than enthusiastic about our important work. The quote on top is what I heard, so we started our drive home the next day.

Once home, we got the hose out in Terry’s driveway to wash off the water based paint. The paint came off easily. What we hadn’t understood is that a couple of weeks in the hot southern sun can fade a car’s dark blue paint job. Except for the parts protected by the water based paint.

Terry’s father,  wasn’t even that upset. He just was clear.  We needed to pay for a new paint job.

It took most of the next two weeks to prep that car, and quite a portion of our savings to pay for that new paint job.

At least we weren’t those young men who take till age 25 to have fully developed pre- frontal cortexes, used to make good decisions!

Sending love from the road,


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