Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Louisiana

Riding through Louisiana has been such a pleasure. I've ridden along the levees of the Mississippi pretty much the whole time. It's made for very pleasant riding, usually very low traffic levels and scenic. It's also been just about dead flat the whole state and I've been luckily with some tails winds so I've made much better time then I anticipated.

On my way to Baton Rouge, I passed through a number of wildlife management areas, mainly swamps. There were also numerous spillway control stations that were interesting to see. On one of them there were a few fisherman that I stopped to watch. I'd guess 80% of the time they put their nets in the came up with a fish!



Fishing


Spillway control area

In Baton Rouge, I had a couchsurfing host, David who directed me in along a bike trail trough town on top of the levee. David's a nursing student in the ROTC looking to be a labor and delivery nurse at an air force base. He's a wonderful, fun, guy with a big heart. I decided to stay an extra day to explore Baton Rouge then make it to New Orleans in a day.

The capitol of LA, I toured the capitol building which looks so different from any I've ever seen. The old capitol, is a castle, now museum which was very interesting. There was much hype about Huey Long, the LA senator who was assassinated in the capitol building in 1935. He was a very controversial figure, but seen as a hero of the people. The circumstances of his death were sketchy and will probably be forever unsolved.













LA capitol building


Bronze plate on the floor of the capitol, showing all of LA's perishs and thier principle industries.



Inside the old capitol, now museum.

The downtown area was very empty, I've never been in such a desolate downtown. I guess it's because there weren't any commercial stores, mainly just office buildings, but it was strange how quiet it was.

I spent the rest of the day exploring a much more lively part of town, the LSU campus. David told me they had the universities mascot, a tiger, on campus, so I sought him out. Mike the Tiger lives in a cage right next to the stadiums and seems to have a constant influx of visitors. Unlike in a zoo, here you can get much closer to the tiger and everyone was yelling at him, trying to get him to some to them, I felt badly for the guy.

There was one guy there who could seem to make the tiger come almost instantly; he called himself "the tiger whisperer." I guess he had a special relationship with Mike, said he could even recognize his car as he drove up. When this guy called Mike, he'd crouch down, then pounce, pawing at the cage or plexy glass. When in the water he'd jump up pawing the glass, making for quiet a spectacle for those standing on the other side. At first I thought the tiger was kind of mad, but then he'd start rubbing against the cage purring, so I guess he did like this guy. Strange.

Mike the Tiger

Leaving Baton Rouge, I rode through lots of and industry along the levees to New Orleans. This was my first century in months and the easiest I've ever done! Twenty miles outside of New Orleans, there was a bike path a top of the levee that went all the way into town. Being a beautiful day, it was filled with riders on their fancy carbon fiber bikes. Some were very nice and rode alongside me to chat a little and make sure I had a place to stay in the city.


The levee trail.
In New Orleans, I stayed with warmshowers hosts Bill and Erin. They live in a hundred year old home conveniently located right next to the St Charles street car line that runs into downtown. Bill and Erin lived in Seattle for 20 years and here the last tens o it's fun to have that mixture. They also rode a tandem from Seattle to New Orleans and Bill runs a specialty e-commerce bike part shop. They've been incredible hosts, filling me in on the history and culture of the city, giving me suggestions for where to go, and giving me a little disaster tour of the Hurricane Katrina damage.


Bill and Erin

The night I arrived, Bill and Erin drove me out to the 17th St levee, one that broke. Being 5 1/2 years after Katrina it's not as dramatic as it once was as much clean up has been done. However, there are still a number of empty lots where houses once stood and houses gutted and left abandon. Last night we drove to the lower 9th Ward, the area hardest hit by the flooding and another levee breach. This is also a very impoverished part of town, so people just don't have the money to rebuild here. Much of the land was vacant, the houses all being torn down long ago. There a a few houses that have been built and more in the process. All are small, green homes with unique features. They're raised up high, have solar panels and supposedly green design, very artsy looking. In some areas the houses still stood but nearly all were abandon, quite eerie and powerful to see. I can't even imagine what it looked like a few years ago, not to mention right after the hurricane.



One of the new homes in the 9th Ward

Here in New Orleans I've also been ding quite a bit of walking around and exploring the city. It feels like a completely different country with the enormous old houses and architecture and live oaks towering over the streets. I haven't heard much French though. I rode the historic St Charles street car into the downtown area and wandered all through the French Quarter. I can't believe how many tourists are in this city! They pretty much all have Mardi Gras beads around their necks and "hand grenades" or daiquiris in hand, guess there is no open container law here. The French Quarter was interesting, lots of neat homes and history. Street musicians were scattered all about and I really enjoyed listening to them.




St Charles Street Car








In Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Palm and tarot readers all over, along with artists and musicians.




French Quarter





Awesome street band.


There were a few guys like this who would do stationary poses for long periods of time.




Here's another one.




Some of the houses.








One of the most different things here is the cemeteries. I've explored a few and they're fascinating. Since the ground is so swampy here, they can't bury people, the caskets would just pop up out of the ground in the rain! So, the cemeteries are all above ground in large tombs. Many of these are family tombs, some dating back to the early 1800's. Once a new family member dies, they push the other remains to the back, or lower them down, and put the new ones on top! Some of these tombs are still being used today.



In one of the cemeteries


I've also been wandering the Garden District-more big mansions, Magazine Street-shopping area, Audubon Park and the Tulane campus. I'm constantly blown away by the grandeur of the homes and beauty of the streets (although the condition of the pavement is some of the worst I've ever seen). It's been a very nice stay, I'm very glad I didn't pass the city over in a rush to get tot he Gulf.

Spanish moss hanging off live oaks in Audubon Park.

I'm taking off this morning to ride into Mississippi. I should be following right along the Gulf for the next few days!

My brother, Scott, got up his report on our Olympic trip. He has tons of pictures if you want to take a look.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Robin. Sounds like you are having lots of fun. Thanks for the link to your brothers post. Great pics and I think we just found out you are a triplet!!

    Tom and Anne

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