Total Mileage: 2132
LA has been quite an adventure to say the least. This is a really interesting state, totally unlike any other place i have been in the US. You have a combination of really rural country with very dense urban sprawl, rich and poor culture all mixed up. The countryside is easily the most beautiful I have seen so far and also the most wild. The road conditions out here are atrocious and I have been having a tough time putting down miles because it is so hard to get anywhere by bicycle. Nearly every bridge out here, of which there are a lot in America's wet state, lacks a shoulder. So you have to ride on the highway to get over them. Its not so bad on the rural roads as traffic is fairly light, but in the cities, it is impossible to cross them without risking life and limb. One really tough bridge was a 4 mile long two lane stretch over a swamp with NO shoulder at all, that was not fun. There are no ways around them though, so you just have to go for it. You can also see how nice the shoulders are here.
I also got my first flat on my bike yesterday. I was pretty surprised about that, even though i have about 3,000 miles on those tubes. Since I have Schwalbe marathon tires, thorn resistant tubes, AND Kevlar tire liners, i expect to go long periods of time without a flat. But when I pulled the tire off (and of course it was the back tire, which is a HUGE pain to take off with my set up) there were three little slivers of metal, like super sharp little needles, that had punctured my tire. It was pretty much the perfect shape and size object to go through all of my defenses. They must have been sitting at the perfect angle too to go through my tires.
The big adventure of the week though, and probably not the brightest ting I have done so far on the trip, was deciding to sleep in the swamp. Like, the real swamp. I wanted to see what it was like and to say that I had done it, and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty scary. You are besieged by insects too. I don't mind most of them but the mosquitoes are a plague! I hate those little pests. The worst part though, is that all night long there were things moving and creeping around in the water and the underbrush. I got pretty spooked because I heard something moving towards my hammock about midnight. It was moving super slow too, but it was getting louder so I knew it was coming closer to me. It was the creepiest sounding thing too, too big to be a Raccoon but moving so slow. It would move towards me, stop, move again, stop and so on for about 2 hours until is was right next to me then it just stopped. I was frantically trying to look out my hammock to see what it was but it was really dark and directly behind and beneath me so I couldn't see it. I didn't want to get out of the hammock and look because one, i was pretty freaked out and two, getting out of the hammock makes a really loud noise and I had set it up pretty high up in the air over my bike. So i sat there trying to listen to every little sound holding my knife as tightly as I could.
Despite being pretty dang scared, i fell asleep and when I woke up my hand had cramped from squeezing my knife all night. I had to open it up with the other hand! I never figured out what was creeping around near me that night, but I hope it was just a big turtle or something and not a gator. When I got to Baton Rouge later the next day, the guys I stayed with laughed when they heard I had slept in the swamp. They told me Survivor Man (who is awesome!) had slept in the swamps too, and he had gotten really freaked out as well. That made me feel like less of a sissy, because Survivor Man is pretty hardcore.
I stayed with some awesome guys in Baton Rouge. Dave and Robert are students at LSU, and that is one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. They have rivers and lakes on campus, with trees everywhere. LSU even has a tiger on campus, how cool is that?! I think Tigers are the greatest of the animals out there in the world and if I had a Tiger on campus I would have eaten lunch all the time watching it. They are just such impressive animals. Staying at a college campus made me a bit nostalgic for my own college days back at SDSU. Both Dave and Robert were Airforce ROTC, and avid cyclists. Dave has already done two half iron man triathlons! Needless to say, we had a lot in common and went out to grab a few beers and some pizza and Dave's girlfriend was nice enough to let me use her computer to try and fix my ipod (which has lost all of its music strangely). Dave has a sweet tri bike and it was funny how much faster his bike was than mine (and he is obviously a very good athlete to boot), we were joking that his bike was like a Ferrari and mine was like an RV towing a car! Dave also had an awesome Airforce cycling jersey which made me jealous!
Dave rode out with me on Thursday for about an hour and a half and was nice enough to let me draft off of him which was great because it was pretty dang windy. Speaking of wind, I am going to whine right now so someone get me some cheese, but I have had a head or cross wind EVERY DAY since my second day in New Mexico!!!!! Come on! Granted, some days the wind has been pretty light, but it has been going against me the entire time! Just one day of a tailwind would be cool, just to lift my morale! If i was going from east to west, i would already be at the coast!
I passed over the Mississippi, and the banks are flooded big time. It looks like the water may pass over the levies. Dave pointed out some trees that are no almost totally submerged that just a few weeks ago were above water. That could be really bad if they get some rain.
I slept out in the bayou again last night, but it was far tamer than Tuesday night. I was on a walking bridge elevated above the swamp and so it was much safer and more comfortable. The stupid mosquitoes still did there best to torment me though.
I will be pulling into New Orleans today and I will take the weekend off here. I should be staying with a friend of a friend so I am looking forward to a nice shower and to see the city. I have always wanted to go to New Orleans, so I am really looking forward to it. I have a little bit of a fever and a runny nose which stinks, but I cant let that get in the way of seeing one of America's most unique places.
I have one last thing to add, as this is turning into a really long update. The people out here are super nice, everyone just walks right up to you and starts shooting the breeze. Sitting and passing the time talking seems to be a big part of the culture in the south and here in LA, they do so all the time. However, the accent out here is no joke. I had always heard that parts of LA had a really strong Cajun dialect, and when I was in a really small town in rural LA coming towards Baton Rouge, two older gentlemen came and sat down next to me as I was eating lunch. They were both really nice, but i could not for the life of me understand what one of them was saying. He was a serious Cajun too, with overalls, galoshes, and a big hat, made of straw. I think he was a crawfish farmer. He would say something and it would sound like this:
"Youse riding yo bike out heya all de way from California? I say, dat dere is bout the craziest ting i ever done hurd. You must of bonked yo noggin, son."
It was pretty awesome.
Well, I need to hit the road, it may start raining today.