Dec. 3, 2012
I woke up early to the sound of gunshots. The sun had only just came up and the gunshots were far away, so I stayed in bed for another hour. My tent was covered in dew when I finally crawled out of it. I should have expected the dew, since I was sleeping next to a flooded rice field. I got out of camp as fast as I could, and was soon pedaling by a tree farm that was owned by a hunting club – the source of the early morning gunshots. There were plenty more gunshots, and I even saw a family of wild pigs rooting around in a ditch.
I stopped at The Donut Cafe in Oberlin, Louisiana an hour later. By now, I had burned any extra fat on my body and I could eat anything at anytime. I ordered coffee and a lot of donuts. Nearly everyone in the cafe had on at least one camouflage garment and they were all talking about the hunting they did that morning.
When I finished the donuts I ordered a few more and a couple bacon croissants. The girl at the counter told me that all the bicyclists stop there for donuts. Of course they do. I had never craved them as much as I did on this trip. After spending the summer on the farm and eating out of my parents garden as much as possible, my eating habits had entirely reversed. I never left a gas station without buying candy bars, honey buns, moon pies, or piles of any junk food whatsoever. My mission was always to get the most calories per dollar. For this, the Hostess frosted honey buns are the best you can do, with 410 calories for $1.
After the donut stop my belly full of grease felt good but my ankle did not. I couldn’t stop scratching it. When I went into the Donut Cafe, I changed shoes and put my cycling shoes on the ground by my bicycle. When I went to put them back on, I noticed there was an anthill nearby but I didn’t think much of it. Of course they were fire ants. My sister is allergic to fire ants so I worried that I would be too. My ankle swelled up that night and I kept a close eye on it, but the swelling was going down by the time I fell asleep.
Early in the afternoon, I started seeing signs for a canoe rental place. Canoeing sounded fun and I was considering renting a canoe for the afternoon, but they were closed for the winter. I was still having a good time on my bike, but I was ready to do something other than pedal. After an embarrassing fall on the side of the road – I lost my balance while standing with one foot clipped in – I stopped at a white sandy beach on the river by the canoe rental place and ate lunch.
I got to DeRidder, Louisiana in the afternoon and immediately got yelled at by someone in a car. My second impression of the town was much better – I rode into a campground that was decorated like the old west with teepees, a fake saloon, brand new puppies and a German lady offering a deal on a teepee. The German woman owns the campground and her name is Monika. Her son used to race bicycles professionally and has done some touring. On one trip, he lost his wallet in Dallas. He had one dollar in his pocket, but somehow he rode all the way back to DeRidder and showed up at his mom’s house 20 pounds lighter. Ever since then, Monika has been exceptionally kind to bicycle tourists. She cuts deals on campsites and opens up the kitchen in the campground’s office for bicyclists to use.
She really wanted me to sleep in the furnished wooden teepee because a storm was forecast. She said I’d wash away if I slept in a tent. I didn’t believe the storm would be that bad and I’m cheap, so I insisted on sleeping in a tent. She kept arguing and eventually offered me the teepee for $20, and said if I wanted to stay a second night it would be free. I couldn’t pass that up and now I was actually considering staying two days in DeRidder to wait out the storm.
The teepee was really an insulated cabin in the shape of a teepee. It had two beds, electricity, a table, a coffee machine and even a TV with cable (and a couple cockroaches). Within minutes my stuff was scattered everywhere. Tent parts, clothes, a tarp and camping gear were hanging or sprawled across the floor to dry. Water bottles, satsumas and chips covered every inch of the table. Maps, and books were spread on the brown rug. I rode to the store to get food and then wheeled my bike into the teepee. I was ready for the storm. The sky was dark and threatening to rain but it was still warm and dry.
That night I cooked on a real stove in the kitchen. I made mashed potatoes with collards and sausage and ate until I couldn’t cram any more food in. Then I went into the teepee, surfed the channels until I found The Hangover, opened a bottle of wine and decided I was going to stay for two nights.