Charley’s ride across America 14. Leaving Louisiana impressions and encounters


Day 24 feb 20.  36 miles 4:00 big headwinds, slow going, almost all dirt road. 12 dogs, end in oberlin LA

Day 25 feb 21.  38 miles 4:00 gusty headwinds, rolling hills, no dogs end in DeRidder LA

Total miles 1039   35%  finished

Dear family and friends,

More headwinds today, but not constant, just gusty. One straight road to ride with a wide shoulder and no traffic. Since today( Mardi Gras) is the Cajun’s biggest holiday, everybody was at the parade and not driving. Kind of like doing something outdoor during the Super Bowl- no one outside.

The trick today was to steer around all the broken glass and not get blown into traffic. Made me think to “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the (bars) wheel…” thanks to Jim Morrison and the Doors.

I noticed my cadence today, about sixty revolutions per minute, times sixty minutes, times four hours is about this many revolutions. Did I hear in my head  “ Revolution?” 

“You say you want a revolution, well, we all want to change the world….”

And I was set for the remainder of the day.

Some reflections on leaving Louisiana:

Garbage is everywhere along the roads here. It’s hard to believe that people would choose to soil the very place they live, but broken glass and garbage lines every road. 

The dogs are a pain. Mostly pit bulls running after me and attacking me and the bike. My escape is a quick sprint as fast as I can to outrun them I have a dog spray but I can’t use it while being attacked from the rear and riding. I just bought a boat type air horn, which I’ll try tomorrow.

I ride several hundred miles in land that is barely above sea level and floods in a strong rain. Makes me wonder what would  happen here in any sea level rise.

Louisiana mostly has crumbling infrastructure of roads and bridges. Down below New Orleans and east towards Mississippi to Biloxi a lot is new. Much had to be replaced after Katrina and I heard a few times how much of it was a blessing, because then the failing infrastructure was replaced and they are now better off. Of course most of the rebuilding was in the same location. Maybe there won’t ever be a really big storm again.

Since I’m on the Texas border I notice most vehicles are pickup trucks, lots of cowboy hats and boots, and the hired help is mostly speaking Spanish. 

Yesterday, when I just turned onto the dirt road I saw a guy at the edge of the water operating a funny looking boat bagging up what I thought might be crawfish, so I got off the bike and walked over.

I asked “ Do you mind if I see what you are doing? I never saw this before”.

He responded with “No Ingles”

So I spoke Spanish with him discussing the use of Stoic philosophy in the Mexican community. 

Not quite.

In real life I then started in Spanish asking about  crawfish: how many, how long, the weather, water, etc. In our ten minute conversation I got to use all of my Spanish except maybe “Donde esta el bano?” Which is of course the most important phrase to know in Mexico ( Where is the bathroom?)

All these water filled rice fields grow crawfish in the winter. Thousands of them. Crawfish are not a very efficient food source as there is so little to eat per unit. A guy I talked with on the road told me that a full bucket is thirty eight pounds of crawfish which is what it would take to feed his family for a meal.

About three miles down the dirt road a motorist ( I saw only three yesterday) stopped and opened his window

“ Where ya goin?” He asked.

“ Oberlin” I replied.

“ Nope, you’re not.  There is  a bridge out about three more miles down the road. I was heading there and had to turn around.”

“How far do you think it would be to turn back and ride around?” I asked.

“Bout twenty miles” he said.

“But, you know, you might be able to get over the barriers with your bike. I’m not sure the decking is still intact though”

“I think today I’ll give it a try. Thanks” I replied as I headed towards it.

As I approached I saw the big concrete barriers but over the top I could see the decking, rotting, but passable. All I had to do was unpack the bike, lift it over the barriers, then repack on the other side, so I proceeded.

I could see the old man in his Osh’kosh overalls sitting on a bucket mid bridge, with a couple of rods in the water. As I approached he said “Brother, did you know this was a toll bridge?”

Cue the dueling banjos 

“I don’t have any money, but I have advice I can give” I answered.

“ Yeah, what?” He snarled.

“ Don’t take any wooden nickels” I tried.

That broke the ice and now I heard about the crazy Louisianans, bad drivers, and most importantly- catfish fishing.

I think he was jealous that he didn’t have the bright outfit I was wearing, but he was getting over it.

After a twenty minute chat, I carried on across the bridge for another twenty miles of dirt and gravel road.

Went on a mile walk to dinner at the Crawfish Shack restaurant. I passed through the mostly abandoned buildings of this small town. It felt like time had left this place behind. I was thinking that someone owned all these empty buildings as an investment. We’re they dead along with their investment?

At the Shack almost everything on the menu was made from crawfish. Before I even sat down the waitress said “ we don’t have any crawfish today, but I heard the casino down the road has some”

“ How far is down the road”

“ Oh, about eight miles”

I knew it was the only restaurant in town so I had a pizza. I already had my peanut butter for lunch. The casino was too far to walk and the only gambling I do is with my life.

I stayed at the Crossroads Inn, still called by the locals as the Oberlin Inn, a name from its past.

Fifty bucks gets you a clean room, working deadbolt, running water, even two towels. What you don’t get is any soap, shampoo or coffee service.  I’m well supplied, so no problem. The air conditioning worked.

I struggled with bypassing the Mamou Cajun horse parade today. It consists of 150 costumed Cajun riders riding about twenty miles, stopping at all the houses they are invited to along the way to catch the chickens let loose, beg for boudin and rice, chase greased pigs, and drink lots of beer and “create mischief” along the way. If the rider can no longer stay upright on their horse, there is a “ drunk rider” trailer following to sweep up horse and rider. Yes, “him” as no women are allowed to ride.

The idea is to donate all that they pick up along the way to the communal gumbo, served to the whole community  tonight before Lent starts tomorrow. 

It might be interesting to watch, but a huge crowd ( several locals claim it’s the second biggest parade in the US, or maybe looks that way once you’re drunk) most of them drunk, chasing animals,  excluding women and creating mischief isn’t my thing. 

I’m not sure just because it’s tradition all of it is acceptable, so I’ll stay away due to Covid fears in crowds. If I get sick I’m in trouble, so it’s a fairly easy call.

Thanks for all of your feedback.

Sending love,


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