My EO friend Jude Olinger showed me real Southern hospitality letting me stage at his office.
Made it to Destrehan riding on a beautiful levy path along the Mississippi with a quick stop in Kenner, but man was it cold. 30 miles at 34 degrees. Couldn’t feel my toes at the end. Could have done that in NYC. Luckily it should heat up in a couple of days.
Still, I have 50 miles tomorrow to Thibodaux. So I got some toe warmers and carbed up on soft shell crab, fried oysters, jalapeño hush puppies, and crawfish gumbo.
That hot sauce is made in New Iberia, which is the Day 4 stop. That will be when I catch the real heat.
30 miles and 1 day down. 340 miles and 8 days to go.
First observation – riding in a sunny 40 degrees is much better than 34 and cloudy. But it is still cold. Brrr. Last night’s Airbnb host saved me with a pair of chemical toe warmers. She is my hero and I picked up another pack today, although tomorrow’s ride is in the mid-40s.
Today was supposed to be 53 miles, but due to a hardware store stop for a small wrench (I left the correct one at home. Doh!) A lunch hunt, and a couple of wrong turns because Google kept sending me to gravel roads, I clocked in at 65 miles for the day. I try not to ride at night but my last 30 minutes were in pitch black. Good thing I brought lights.
So far between the cold and extra distance the theme of this trip is a saying of my father’s: Man Plans, and God laughs.
I am learning my limits a bit. It seems 35 miles is my limit without a decent break, so I stopped for lunch at The Spectacular Tuber for an amazing baked potato with crawfish etouffee, jalapeños, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits:
Happy to say I don’t feel an ounce of food guilt since my app says I burned 2700 calories for the day.
Half my ride today was along the Mississippi River (I love spelling Mississippi since I learned it in grade school.) It’s amazing to see all the manufacturing plants that load ships and barges on this major transportation artery.
Finally I crossed the river on the Gramercy Bridge and headed down into the bayou swampland also called the Bayou Teche.
Light day tomorrow. Only 28 miles to Morgan City.
95 miles and 2 days down. 287 miles and 7 days to go.
The weather warmed up a bit. 45 degrees and sunny was enough for me to shed the rain shell and the balaclava.
The first half of my 29 mile ride today was through the Bayou Teche.
The Bayou Teche is a 125-mile-long waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States.
Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River’s main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. Through a natural process known as deltaic switching, the river’s deposits of silt and sediment cause the Mississippi to change its course every thousand years or so.
It’s beautiful swamp land although I was waiting for alligators to come a snappin’.
There was a lot of wildlife including egrets and these vultures feeding on a dead animal. In fact there were dead animals of all types along the road which made me a bit uncomfortable but I did my best to remember that famous British saying. (Wait for it…)
Keep Calm and Carrion! (You may groan now.)
I didn’t realize until I got here how many waterways are connected to the Mississippi Delta system. There are gambling riverboats on many of them.
My final stop for the day was in Morgan City on the Atchafalaya River. The city was once a bustling harbor with a booming economy in oil and shipbuilding. It was responsible for the first offshore derrick and honors it at the city gate.
Now a city of only 10,000 they are struggling but still keep a strong Louisiana culture. Where else can you find frogs legs and catfish at your local market?
Dinner tonight was an authentic Cajun feast at Rita Mae’s where they have been servin’ up grub for 25 years.
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
Fried catfish with both white and red beans with rice plus cornbread and potato salad.
And of course, bread pudding with rum sauce.
Good thing I had a five mile walk today and have a 50+ mile ride tomorrow to New Iberia. 124 miles and 3 days down. 258 miles and 6 days to go.
I finally hit my stride today. Thanks to warmer weather, smoother pavement and a decent tail wind I managed 55 miles in 5 hours including the lunch stop.
Temps got almost to 50 so I was able to shed the rain jacket and balaclava in the first half hour. The new bike is really showing it’s worth as I was able to average 17 MPH for a good stretch. My best in Maine was about 12-13 MPH.
After 4 days of riding I continue to make adjustments. This is the time when anything that can chafe will chafe and I suggest if you ever attempt this on your own, bring the Body Glide. I am certainly glad I did.
I continued down the Bayou Teche to New Iberia with fascinating and beautiful scenery.
My lunch stop was in the town of Franklin where the hospitality was worthy of the southern reputation. Several people asked me about my journey and offered me well wishes.
I had a great lunch at the Forest Restaurant including gumbo with crawfish, oysters, and okra…
followed by grilled catfish with crawfish etouffee and red beans and rice.
It’s just a bit past harvest time in the sugar cane fields and I had to dodge big trucks and their droppings on the road. They were burning the fields but I managed to avoid the smoke for the most part. It’s a live pic so click on it and you can see it burn. As I passed by the smell was pungent and somewhat familiar. I finally figured out that it smelled like molasses.
You know with all the oil and sugar cane production down here it’s surprising that many northerners believe the deep south is short on refinement. (Insert drum rimshot here.)
Passing through Jeanerette, LA, I stumbled upon this bakery established in 1884 and still owned by the same family.
I stopped in and asked them if anything had just come out of the oven, and sure enough I bought a still-warm 1-pound loaf of freshly baked French bread.
As Van will attest, the single greatest benefit of being colonized by the French is learning how to bake fantastic bread. This loaf, which I took with me and finished this evening, was definitely worthy of Banh Mi making.
Have bread, will travel!
The Bayou Teche is beautiful in this area and runs behind several plantations.
I made it to New Iberia before dark and met my Airbnb host Phanat. He is actually a Laotian Columbia Grad and former professor who now is trying to support charitable causes in the Bayou. He took me for a real deep South evening first at the local bar…
And then to a good ole boy supper club for live country music…
…and a final meal of frogs legs and grilled veggies.
Tomorrow I have a short 20-25 mile ride to Lafayette which is my turn around point before I head back to NOLA along the northern route. 189 miles and 4 days down. 207 miles and 5 days to go.
Not too much scenery today for the short ride from New Iberia to Lafayette. It was only 20 miles alongside a major highway so I spent much of it listening to Zydeco music and talking with a good friend. For the most part the phone works pretty well on the road and makes the ride go faster.
It warmed up to 57 and sunny which is so much more comfortable for riding. Still, after nearly 200 miles in 4 days, I barely broke a sweat for today’s 1.5 hour 20 miler. I have another light ride tomorrow before my hefty return so my body appreciated the rest.
I got to Lafayette early and the weather was nice so I took advantage and walked the rest of the afternoon and evening for a total of 9 miles. Lafayette is home to the Ragin’ Cajuns of The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). It is the Cajun Capital of the world. I am staying in an area near the University called Freetown, which was of course where all the freed slaves made their homes. There is tons of history here and it makes for great walking and sign reading.
I was told to hunt for boudin while here and so I did. Here is an explanation. Johnson’s Boucaniere is run by the daughter of Wallace Johnson one of the oldest living sausage makers in the South. He started in 1934. After he closed his grocery, she set up shop to make boudin. Here’s their website!
The menu is simple.
The place is charming complete with a replica gingerbread house inside. Note Santa’s sausage dangling from the sleigh.
I had their grilled cheese stuffed with boudin and pulled pork, accompanied by beans with burnt ends. It was so good I was emotionally distraught when I finished it. I wished I were doing a 50 mile ride today so I could eat 2. I would go back in the morning but sadly they are closed on Sunday. If you find yourself in Lafayette, do not miss this place. The best $12.12 meal I have had in a long time.
One thing I have noticed about Louisiana is they know how to build grand high schools and great cathedrals that rival some in Europe. So much down here looks like a movie set.
Now since this is a Southern college town and I found myself with time on my hands, I decided to check in on the ULL chapter of my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. I was greeted by the only brother back from winter break. Roane is a chemical engineer graduating this Spring. He was kind enough to humor me for a chat. I wasn’t too surprised to see that frat house living really hasn’t changed much in 30 years.
Afterward I headed for more cajun food, this time at Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse, the granddaddy of Landry family restaurants. I started with fried Alligator and their world famous crawfish bisque. It was some of the best bisque I’ve ever had. The shells you see in the soup are actually stuffed with crawfish dumplings. It was plenty spicy. Justin Wilson would have been proud. (Look him up!)
I finished with broiled catfish which was super fresh. I am reaching my fried food limit.
Well it’s Saturday night and being in the heart of Cajun country, I have no choice but to go down the street to the Blue Moon Saloon for some live Zydeco music. What fun to experience the real deal. They don’t really start until 10:30pm so it’s a good thing I don’t have to get up early tomorrow. My ride is only 26 miles.
I have now completed my trip out from NOLA along the Southern Bayou. I have already ridden more miles in 5 days then my entire 9-day trip in Maine. Now it’s time to turn back and return along the Northern Route. I am most likely more than half way unless Google messes me up.
209 miles and 5 days down. 185 miles and 4 days to go.
Lafayette really is a party town as evidenced by all the beads I stumbled across in the streets as I got closer to ULL. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
I thought my riding day would be relatively uneventful as it was a relax day before the big ride back to Baton Rouge. It was, however, a day for mechanical adjustment. I noticed a bit more play in my right pedal yesterday and sure enough my right kleat had loosened and actually dropped a screw. Good thing there are 3, so I tightened the remaining 2 screws and will seek a hardware or bike store in Baton Rouge. My seat screw also loosened up and had to be tightened. I am now adding a screw check to my morning ready ritual. I headed out for Beaux Bridge with a boudin target in mind. I landed 10 miles later for lunch at Poche’s Market.
The decor made clear that good food was to be had.
I ordered both the pork boudin and the crawfish boudin…
Both were fantastic! You can see the rice and breading inside.
And let’s not forget the cracklings of course. I have to say this is not my favorite Cajun dish. A little fatty for my taste. I prefer Chicharrones.
The rest of the ride was along the Atchafalaya River in the heart of Cajun swampland. If it were warmer the gators would surface.
The weather was warmer and the humidity is finally rising. Just as I started to heat up, I finally hit a bit of rain. I thought about breaking out the rain gear but luckily a simple ziploc over my phone was enough to weather through the 20 minutes of light rain. Relieved, I continued along the river enjoying the scenery.
I was quite fascinated by this campaign, which I saw in several places. Why and how did they get John Stewart to do billboards in Cajun country?
Finally I got to Butte La Rose. The gate into this town established in 1804 is an ancient drawbridge. Look closely at the mechanism.
This is an adorable area of second homes and fishing lodges along the swamp. Most are called Camps. Each one has its own clever sign and title. This one is for sale for $125,000.
It has a special designation.
I finally settled at my Airbnb. The lovely Lodge at Butte la Rose. I love the backyard. Seriously if you ever thought about enjoying this area, the Lodge is a great place to stay.
My gracious hosts Gerri and Liz made me crawfish etouffee…
And served up some great pickled okra.
More importantly they informed me that the road I intended to take tomorrow was actually mud. They drove me out to look and we discovered it is indeed impassable by bike and we determined that there is actually no viable alternative bike route. They then graciously offered to drive me the 20 miles to Krotz Spring to pick up the route.
If we had not previewed the road I likely would have gotten stuck and added 25 miles to an already 65 mile day. I did not stand on ego about riding the whole way. Instead I took it as an omen and gratefully accepted their offer. So tomorrow I will ride 45 miles to Baton Rouge after getting a lift in the morning. No shame in that at all.
237 miles and 6 days down. 137 miles and 3 days to go.
The storms came in big time last night. Lightening and thunder woke me up around 3:30 in the morning. Since my host Gerri was kind enough to take me to Krotz Springs, I got an early start so she could make her 10AM appointment. I got up at 6:30AM to be ready to go at 8AM. It sounds weird but 90 minutes is the fastest I can get ready with all of the prep I have to do each day.
I was blessed today that the rain had passed. Of course I knew that would likely happen as I was completely outfitted for rain.
We drove along the levy where Google was going to send me. As you can see the levy road and alternate road would have made for an ugly ride. In fact it probably would have been a 15-mile walk through mud. I felt like I narrowly dodged a bullet.
My tech was a little off today. Twice I had to reboot the phone to unstick google maps and my riding app. Not sure if it was the clouds or just gremlins. I have become somewhat dependent upon the maps app although twice again Google tried to send me to gravel roads. I am convinced that the guy who charted the maps had a mountain bike.
One thing we did see on the ride was a beautiful and large coyote. It was calico colored. He moved fast so unfortunately this was the best pic I could get. It’s better if you enlarge it.
Gerri took me to Billy’s for boudin.
We ate it Louisiana tailgate style!
You would hardly expect the food at this place to be awesome, but it sure was.
What you see here is a boudin pistolette, a boudin ball, and a crawfish wrap. The breading is light and crispy. Incredible.
The crawfish wrap is like a Chinese egg roll only better.
That was enough calories to power me all the way to Baton Rouge. I never had to stop for lunch. I did have to battle cars on the bridge through the Atchafalaya wilderness. Not much shoulder but the cars were kind.
Still boudin-powered, the day moved along easily. I had so much energy. I turned off the highway after the bridge and headed north. I came around Pointe Coupee and stopped in this little museum along the False River.
The museum was the overseer’s house from a nearby plantation. In fact there were several large plantation houses along Louisiana 1. They are lovely but the vibe is a bit creepy. Somehow you can feel the centuries of oppression in the grounds.
The False River is actually not a river. It’s a lake formed when the Mississippi River changed directions in the 18th century.
I happily made it to Baton Rouge only encountering mild mist and incurring no mishaps. I did have to laugh as I rode in on Scenic Drive. The irony was that most of “Scenic” Drive is the Exxon Refinery which was not very scenic and smelled horrible. Although I am quite sure it smells like money to the locals. The best part was a sign in front of a large dead field that said “Exxon Wildflower Area.” I had to laugh.
This Akita named Potato was at the house to greet me upon my Airbnb arrival.
Needing a break from restaurant food, I sized up the kitchen and headed to a local gourmet market and cooked dinner for my Airbnb host.
Along the way I found a local spice shop. Finally a souvenir I had room to carry. Small packets of local blends.
We had Louisiana surf and turf. This is cucumber and tomato salad and drum sautéed in wine, butter, and shitake mushrooms with Bayou Lafourche blend.
Followed by Magic Vegetables and a nicely marbled filet mignon, seared southern style in a cast iron pan with cracked pepper and Spice de Terre. It was all served on my host’s Noritake china she got from her Grandma.
My host Christine gave me great insight into young life in Baton Rouge. A 28-year-old LSU grad and chemical engineer, she works for BASF, owns her home, and is hoping to be a CEO or COO one day soon. We checked in on the College Championship and shared good conversation.
I am in the home stretch now. The weather is holding steady in the high 50s, low 60s. My body actually feels stronger and today’s ride of 53 miles felt easy. Of course it could have been the boudin.
Tomorrow I head back along the Mississippi river toward the road I took out on day 2.
290 miles and 7 days down. 92 miles and 2 days to go.
I was encouraged by both the dryer and warmer weather and my stamina so rather than take the short 46 mile route suggested by Google from Baton Rouge to Garyville, I decided to head back to River Road along the Mississippi River. I had to outsmart Google to get to keep it from sending me the short route. The weather obliged with no rain and 60 degrees. Overcast which is the best so I don’t cook in the sun.
I took a gamble as to the mileage and got a later start then I thought but in the end I completed 80 miles in 7 hours. It was the second largest one-day ride in my life.
The last one was the Waves to Wine Century more than 15 years ago.
Several miles were added when I happened across roads that just ended into private property like this one.
Food was more challenging today. Time was a concern and there weren’t any real sit down restaurants. Today was the first day I dug into my protein bar stash. Then I struck boudin gold at mile 30.
This was exactly what I was hoping for: little roadside place.
Kept in a steam pan on the counter, this is how the steamed boudin is sold for a snack.
It was so flavorful. This was the spiciest boudin I have had yet. I wish I had found 3 other places like this so I could compare the local recipes.
Most of the River Road is below the levy but here is how it looks from the top. All along the road are chemical plants on the left side with massive structures that cross above the road and levy to load the ships for transport.
There are big companies like BASF and Shell, and smaller companies that make stuff like polystyrene and carbon products. One must have been clay or Iron Ore since everything around including the road was rust orange.
There are plenty of fumes too. I am sure I negated some of my riding health benefits from all the stuff I was breathing.
I am sure the life here is hard on the workers. Hey, business idea, let’s create a soft drink that makes people down here happy. We can call it… Wait for it…
Levi-Tea. (See what I did there? Levity – Levi-Tea?)
There were all sorts of plantations and historical sites. I tried to slow down a bit to read signs when I could, but by mile 40 I was feeling the pain. The day’s starting coffee, and ibuprofen had worn off and I was burning calories fast. I struggled through miles 40 – 45 until I could take a break. Breaks are helpful for numbness but they add time to an already long day so I try and keep moving to make sure I land before dark at 5:30PM.
Today’s trip took me through many small neighborhoods I hadn’t seen. They were interesting but at times a bit frightening due to unexpected dogs chasing me. I had not had any dog encounters on this trip so far and today I was chased by 2 Pitbulls and a Jack Russell Terrier. Most were held back by electronic fences but these dogs were free and fast. The first pitbull actually out ran me and blocked my bike. I hit the breaks and even rubbed my front tire against him as he ran in front of me. He wasn’t even phased and I was scared of being bit or crashing. Luckily no such incidents occurred and they eventually just went back home.
I am sure the better weather contributed to the dogs being outside. The humidity has set in and taken what was brown last week and started to turn the swamps green again.
I finally got to my Airbnb in Garyville. It’s just past the area where I turned off River Road last week to go to Thibodeaux. It’s a beautiful 19th century rectory that has been restored.
The host brought me a pizza since there were no restaurants nearby. A classic Southern meal.
So I am on my own tonight in this big religious home for priests begging the question: What’s a nice Jewish boy like me doing in a place like this.
The bike and body have held up really well on this trip. 80 miles took its toll, mostly in numbness in my fingers and toes, but I am still having fun. I actually took several calls today which helped the time pass. I even did a business Video call and only had to stop for the cell service. For those of you using work as an excuse to not go with me on one of these trips, to you I say, “Get with the modern world!”
Seriously I have truly appreciated all your support and comments. I hope you have been enjoying the journey with me and if I made any of you hungry for adventure, etouffee, or boudin… Good!
Last ride tomorrow before recording 4 NOLA YPO members for the podcast and then home Friday to see the wife and poodle. 370 miles and 8 days down. 46 miles and 1 day to go.
There is something about the last day that is both exciting and relieving. Even though the day was a midsize ride of 48 miles, yesterday’s 80-mile trek gave me the feeling it was a light day.
I intended to leave by 9:30 and cruise into New Orleans, but as usual the rigors of routine delayed me until 10. And then my host showed up and chatted for another 40 minutes pushing my start time even later.
At least she had earlier brought breakfast. Scrambled eggs with andouille sausage, bacon, and grits. Breakfast of champions!
One last trip to bathroom brought out this little local visitor who came to wish me luck, I assume.
I finally left Garyville and got about 5 miles before I realize… It’s damn hot out here! For the first time on this trip I finally shed my tights and jacket. I was able to show colors and skin for the entire ride today. I actually rode in 58-degree weather with passing clouds and sun. This was what the whole trip was supposed to be so I am glad I at least got a taste.
It did create the challenge of where to put my tights and jacket. I finally figured out that my extra shoes made for good cubbies where I could stuff the warm clothes.
Most of the path home was paved on the top of the Mississippi River Levee. It’s really an amazing 50 mile stretch of bike path. Except for one part. I encountered the gravel patch 2 miles in from the nearest ramp. As with most of this trip, I was faced with a choice.
I could backtrack 2 miles down to the road and add 4 miles (20 minutes) to the trip or press on through the gravel. It was fairly packed and I knew it wasn’t forever so I decided to see how the bike would perform. There are similar roads in Maine’s Acacia National Park which I would like to try so this would give me an idea of performance. Here is what the road looked like:
For the most part it wasn’t too bad. It slowed me down from an average 13 mph to 9 mph. The only challenge was there were some soft spots where I picked up mud which I had to stop and clean. This would become a theme for the morning. Mississippi mud is sticky and annoying. It got in my wheels, brakes, gears and cleats. If I were continuing another day I would have definitely had to give the bike a thorough cleaning.
For the rest of the day my shoes were sticking in the bindings and some of the gears were making noise. I had to use an allen wrench to clean out the mud several times. It slowed my whole morning. The first 15 miles were slow going.
Finally free of the mud I passed the Bonnet Carre Spillway. It’s an amazing piece of government engineering.
I had lost so much time in the morning I was now under pressure to beat the dark. I stopped a couple of times to take pics like the loading structure below which I mentioned yesterday. But since every pic stop ate time, I had to skip many things I wanted to share with you like beautiful plantations.
The only pic I wish I had stopped for was this giant oil tanker I saw on the Mississippi. In large writing on the super structure it had two phrases:
NO SMOKING SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT
There it is… Corporate communication at it’s best. Both the obvious and the ironic.
After 25 miles and a banana I took from the rectory, I felt I had earned… you guessed it, BOUDIN!
No place better than a gas station for this treat. I finally found one in St. Rose.
Of course they served their boudin proper in a steam pan. This place had pork, crawfish, and smoked sausage.
I saw this other pan and had to ask. Apparently it was turkey necks. Looked good…
…but a little sloppy for the bike, so…
I opted for the pork and crawfish and was not disappointed!
The last 20 miles were for the most part uneventful except for the wind. It slowed me down a few mph and seemed to make the last few miles on the levy take forever.
Finally I turned past the delta and into New Orleans cranking the New Orleans playlist in my ears. Google really did me a service by taking me on St. Charles which has all the grand Southern mansions on a big boulevard. It was an epic finish.
I finally stopped a couple miles short of my Airbnb at the art gallery of Erika Olinger (wife of my friend and NOLA host Jude). Erika owns and runs the wonderful Cole Pratt Art Gallery, and we took a victory picture in front of a local artist who painted pics of New Iberia, where I visited on Day 4.
I pedaled the last 2 miles to my Airbnb and got cleaned up before heading out for a celebratory meal with Jude. We went to a real old-fashioned southern neighborhood place called Clancy’s.
The barkeep made me a sazerac and we had an amazing meal.
It started with Deviled Eggs with Remoulade and Sweetbreads in Foie Gras Fondue…
…followed by Turnip Soup with Fried Oysters and Bacon.
Next up, Drum in Muddy Waters Sauce (jalapeno, toasted garlic, and anchovy) served with dirty rice of course.
My thanks to Jude for his Southern hospitality.
All in all it’s been a great ride. Just me, a bike, music, and all of you. (It would have been nice to also have a poodle.)
The Final Numbers: Days – 9 Cities – 9 Miles – 418 Hours riding – 34 Average mph 12.29 Calories Burned – 22,200 Spotify New Orleans Playlists – 6 Friends and family that followed – 26 Boudin eaten – 7 Number of dogs that chased me – 3
Final Random Thoughts I loved this area. Louisiana has a mix of culture, history and nature that is rich and distinct unlike any other state in the union.
While the weather was cold and there was little foliage, this allowed me to see deep into the swamps which held their own beauty.
The power of the Mississippi River is so apparent here. Only by following it can you begin to understand the vital nature of its impact on industry and society in the South.
This trip was a great follow up to Maine. Everything was much more dialed in this time and worked the way I had hoped. Having everything booked in advance forced me to stretch and take on more. I think the next trip will be even easier.
The best approach is to have a good game plan but be accepting of whatever comes.
The one additionally piece of tech I would add is a small camera on my glasses. There were so many good pics I wanted to take but just didn’t want to stop since stops broke rhythm.
I took the right stuff. There was very little that I carried that when unused. The only things I would add to my kit is some chain lube and an EZ chain link or two. I didn’t have any chain mishaps but could have and unlike Maine, bike stores were not easily available.
To avoid pain and numbness in fingers, toes and butt, 15 miles require small breaks. 40 miles requires a full pit stop and probably 2 ibuprofen if it’s been 4 hours.
If I do a longer trip I would take time to degrease and re-grease the bike chain and gears. The dust and mud definitely took its toll.
I will definitely do this again. Hopefully with one of you. Ireland for sure in Summer 2019. Perhaps Southern Spain in Fall 2018.
Thanks for coming along on the trip. Having you all ride along made it fun as I constantly looked for things I could share that would entertain you.
Please let me know if you enjoyed this and you are welcome to ask any questions about the trip, the prep, the equipment and of course, the food.