November 29, 2011
“Are my cleats adjusted right? Should I move them? Is my seat too far forward? Is it getting lower? Are my legs getting longer? Here comes some roadkill. Hold your breath. What kind of animal is that?”
That’s mostly what I think about when I’m pedaling. Today was long and I had plenty of time to thoroughly examine that stuff.
I wanted to leave my camp at the tourist info center before any of the employees showed up in the morning. I ended my night of never quite being warm enough as soon as the sun came up. To my surprise, there was already a car in the parking lot. Fortunately for me, they were either too nice or too lazy to kick me out of the park. I suspect they were pretending not to notice me until someone else came by to kick me out, the way my sister and I used to pretend we didn’t see cat puke so that we wouldn’t have to clean it up. (Sorry Mom and Dad. I hope you don’t quit reading my blog now because you make up a large portion of my readership.)
Stealing sleep isn’t like stealing physical objects because even if you get caught you don’t have to give back the night of sleep. On the other hand, sleeping where you are not supposed to is similar to stealing physical objects in that it can end with police officers asking a bunch of dumb questions. Having avoided that, I packed my stuff up and rode away without breakfast. A few miles down the road I stopped on the side of a bayou and ate oatmeal.
In the outline I made for this post, the next section just said “wind” and I think that sums it up pretty well.
Not a strong wind, but an unrelenting one. I probably went three miles an hour slower than I would have if it weren’t windy. That’s not much, but it was enough to keep me from making it to the destination I picked out on a map.
I made it to Baton Rouge late in the afternoon. I ate a po’ boy sandwich and took a photo of the capitol, but that’s about all I saw of Baton Rouge. It looked like a nice city, but it wasn’t fun to ride through. My approach form the east brought me by miles of car dealerships. Downtown was easy to ride through and some streets had bike lanes. Immediately west of downtown, there weren’t many bike-friendly streets. On one narrow road a cop turned on his siren right behind me and forced me onto the shoulder so he could drive faster.
On the west side of town I reconnected with the adventure cycling route and rode past Exxon Mobil’s Baton Rouge refinery, the second largest refinery in the country. There’s also a paper mill on the west side of town, and the air smells like poison for miles.
It took hours to get from one side of Baton Rouge to the other, and by the time I made it to the factories on the west side of town it was almost dark. Once again, I had no idea where I was going to sleep. I kept riding into the wind as fast as I could, because I was in one of the most unsavory areas of the trip so far and I felt a little out of place ever since the cop turned on his siren just to get me out of his way.
Right in the middle of this stressful moment I passed a sign nailed to a pole that said “raccoon meat,” with a phone number on it. I didn’t get a picture of it, but it was enough to elevate my mood.
A few miles later I was back in the boonies and crossing from East Baton Rouge Parish into East Feliciana Parish. Parishes are Louisiana’s version of counties. I bought an apple at a fruit stand and asked the people at the stand where I could sleep. They weren’t very helpful. There was a cemetery nearby and a State historical park. I decided to try the historical park.
The sun had set when I got to the locked gate of the park. It was right off the highway and I wanted to get my bike over the gate as quickly as possible so that not too many motorists would see me. I barely managed to get my bike over the waist high gate with all my bags still on.
I rode into the park, explored the trenches and remnants of the civil war battle, and then found a tower to sleep in.