Monthly Archives: May 2013

DAY 74 – May 13 – End of the Road, Stage 1

We spent the morning in the campground. Dave made phone calls while I explored.  From there we drove over to Ocean Springs Beach on Biloxi Bay.  I walked the beach, took pictures. and savored the shore.  It’s a nice town beach that was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina and restored.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unlike our usual routine, we did not drive back to the bike route. Instead we started driving north to Ohio. The reason why is that Dave got sabotaged by a sand fly bite  in Costa Rica.  It gifted him  a parasite and resulted in a leg wound that will not heal. After seeing three doctors, the CDC confirmed that it is Leishmaniasis.  The best course of action is to end Stage 1 of the ride and go home to seek treatment.

The plan is to return to where we stopped and resume Stage 2 of The Ride to Saint Augustine, Florida. This will happen when conditions and opportunity make it possible. Thanks to everyone who has been following our blogs and to those who have supported the ALS research cause. We will keep you posted when the trip resumes.

dave 5-12-13b

Unicycle Across the USA has been an amazing 2300 mile, life in the slow lane journey. I’ll miss our little road trip world. Talk about being in the Present!

DAY 73 – May 12 – Closing in on the Gulf

The route led us on more back roads, where the local people wonder what you are doing there. A quiet day without much traffic. It is Mothers Day and I started musing on the past – remembering different celebrations with my mother and grandmother.  Thinking about the old pictures where Munga (my grandmother) and her “lady friends” would all get dressed up in their finest hats and go out for  Mother’s Day. Munga is in back, 4th from the right.

mother's day ladies

Most of the route was through a National Forest and farmland. One  trailhead is the site of a P.O.W. camp that held German prisoners during World War Two. At that time the location would have been deep in the Mississippi forest close to nowhere.

I made a u-turn to go back and photograph a little road sign that jumped out at me.

IMG_0339

Dave rode his longest day – over 60 miles.  Total 2300 plus miles. time for another star!

stars 2300

When I search for campgrounds, the first place to start is the route maps.  I noticed one near the stopping point, but decided to look further on the Allstays App on the Ipad. I noticed  some near a body of water.  To my surprise, that water was the Gulf of Mexico.  After looking at the small route maps, I had no idea we were within 15 miles of the Gulf.  We enjoyed staying at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Davis Bayou Campground, near Biloxi.  Sites are $16 with plenty of room and shade.  The resident alligators stay in the bayou, but come out to sun for the tourists. I toured the park and surrounding neighborhoods on my bike to get a Mississippi ride in.

DAY 72 – May 11 – Franklinton, LA to Poplarville, Mississippi

Today was another back roads tour with a new benchmark. We crossed over into Mississippi.

IMG_0318

 

I’m enjoying  the lush aroma of the country – live oaks, pines, swamp, decaying plants, magnolia, honeysuckle and other flowers. The roads are a little confusing here and I had a near miss passing up the rider and a turn.  I noticed many of the local roads are male names i.e. Archie Leach, Bob Gibson, etc.

We are camping at Haascienda Campground in Poplarville.  The owners are from Bainbridge and went to Kenston High School.  More small world coincidences.

We got here early and enjoyed the quiet. I enjoyed not cooking in the rain.  The bad storms passed us by.

photo (13)

DAY 71 – May 10 – Another Back Roads Day

The day got off to a rocky start.  It stormed for hours during the night & we woke up with some wet  places in the camper and a swamp-yard around us.  Fortunately it cleared up for a late ride start.

I only wandered to one tourist site.  The Camp More Confederate Museum & Cemetery in Tangipahoa, the town name that sounded Hawaiian. It was a little privately run museum with. This was a training facility and most of the 400 graves were a result of two measles epidemics.  That and the medical displays really brought home the fact that more soldiers in the Civil War died of wound infection and disease than died in battle. I noted that the sign at the gate referred to “The War for Independence”.

Countrary to what we keep hearing about the route, this part of northeastern Louisiana is not flat, It is definitely the friendliest state we have been in.  Many drivers have turned around or waited for Dave to take a picture of the unicyclist. People keep approaching me about the sign on the truck.  Never pass up an opportunity to chat!

IMG_0284

I picked up Dave outside of Franklinton & we went back into town for McDonalds internet & ate dinner at Mike’s because it was pouring.  The people at the next table struck up a conversation that started with “Are you the unicyclist?” To our surprise, they generously picked up our check!  Thank you to the McVeas (I’m guessing on the spelling).  They also told us about Bogue Chitto State Park, a new park nearby. We camped overnight there and it saved us 35 mile drive roundtrip.

.

DAY 68, 69 & 70 – May 7, 8 & 9 – Louisiana Country Roads and a Plantation Visit

DAY 68 –  We spent last night at another casino RV park – the Paragon Casino in Marksville, a reasonable drive from the route.  Top notch site, with cabins and a pool (that I would have used had it been warmer out). It wasn’t busy during the week and only cost $20.00, including shuttle service for the gamblers.

Today I got my Louisiana bike ride in. I’ve not ridden much, but am making sure I ride at least once in every state.  I parked in Simmesport, on the Atchafalaya River and explored the town. Their  business is fishing and crawfish. The back roads in  this area are very pretty with well-kept homes with manicured lawns and gardens  and some large farms.  Not so many wildflowers along the road, but I’m noticing some gorgeous roses.

Eventually I caught up with The Rider on the new bridge across the Mississippi River near St. Francisville.  I had not seen him in 5 hours & caught up at 1:54 pm, close to our 2 pm quitting time. We crossed together.  The idea of crossing the Mississippi River symbolized another big benchmark on the trip.  Now we are really back east.

IMG_0240

The one campground in the area that seemed like a good prospect was full, so we drove an hour to suburban Baton Rouge to the Denham Springs KOA for our weekly layover day. We had a celebration dinner  at Don’s Seafood Hut for completing 2000 miles of the route.

DAY 69 – Layover Day – same routine as usual.  With one change – pool and hot tub J The KOA is large and resort-like. Unfortunately we were too busy to play putt-putt.  At the pool, I met a really nice family who now live in Augusta, GA.  Dad rode unicycles in the Mojave Desert  as a child. In the evening we went into a 165,000 square foot Bass Pro World. My fishing friends would have drooled.

DAY 70 – We drove a pleasant alternative route through the country to get back to the cycling route.  I headed into St. Francisville and enjoyed a private tour of Rosedown Plantation. It was built in 1835 and operated as a cotton plantation with the support of  400 slaves. Four unmarried granddaughters inherited the property. I thought this was unusual, but the guide explained it was common because of the shortage of of eligible men following the Civil War. And no way would a girl of that status lower herself to marry a yankee! The last daughter died in 1955 when an oil heiress and her husband purchased the plantation. She poured $10,000,000 of her own money into the place to restore it and open it to the public. Ninety percent of the furniture in the home were original to the family.  Now the state of Louisiana runs it. The neat thing about the tour is that you go into all the rooms and they only ask that you don’t touch anything. The grounds and gardens are beautifully maintained. The original owner kept a garden log for 60 years with indepth details of plantings and diagrams of where things were located.  The Live Oak allee was planted in 1830 before the house was built.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

St. Francisville is a lovely town with period homes and some unique churches. It is right on the Mississippi River. Before the new bridge was built, a ferry crossing was located there.  I stopped in to the Magnolia Café for some soup and wished I was hungrier. The menu looked great.

When I reconnected with Dave, it was almost 2:30 pm. And he had ridden 54 miles.  We are camped at the Hyde Park Campground outside Easleyville.  The best things I can say about it is that it’s convenient location is on the route and that it is peaceful.  No one else is here but us. It has seen better days.

DAY 67 – May 6 – Armadillo Sighting!

We spent a very enjoyable evening on May 5 with another St. Helen’s unicyclist. Cheryl Quinn Bailey called and invited us to stay in the guest house on their farm outside Ville Platt, LA. She and her husband Ralph were great hosts and we had a fun visit. Another nice break from our routine.

IMG_4716

The highlight of today was my hike in Chicot State Park.  I investigated the Louisiana State Arboretum expecting to look at trees. There were plenty of those and neat Bald Cypress swamps.

As i walked along the trail I heard a noise by my feet. My first thought as I froze in place was – it’s a snake and I’m wearing sandals! Fortunately, it wasn’t. Three young armadillos were rooting around in the dirt. They were looking for grubs and could have cared less about my presence.  They were so close, one could have nibbled my toes.  I’d been hoping to see a live armadillo all the way across Texas, and all I saw was roadkill.  These little ones really tickled my fancy.

The reason they are common roadkill is because they jump 3-4 feet straight up when startled and collide with the undercarriages and fenders of passing vehicles.

DAY 65 & 66 – May 4 & 5 – From Cowboys to Cajun Country

DAY 65 – After dinner at Smitty’s Barbeque in Jasper, TX, we camped at the local Walmart.  It was the best Walmart camp to date – quiet and semi-dark. This morning we drove back to Kirbyville to pick up the route.  Unfortunately, it was still a busy road with a speed limit of 70 mph and lumber trucks. We left Texas and crossed over the Sabine River and the Louisiana state line. It was April 2 when we entered Texas  and it seems like forever ago — over 1000 miles of secondary roads. West Texas, Hill Country, Central  & East. Desert to hills to lots of lush green and pines. It was all new territory for me, so I made the most of it and am happy to report that I really liked most of Texas, which was a surprise. But it is definitely time to move on.

The section of Louisiana we are in is called Cajun Country.  It’s named after the Acadians, French Huguenots who were expelled from Nova Scotia in the 1700’s for religious beliefs.  They were shipped out to different countries and never really had a homeland until the French accepted them in what was to become the Louisiana Territory in 1803.  The maintained their culture and language living in isolated communities.

Our campground was unique.  Pleasant Hill RV Park in DeRidder, LA has a petting zoo with miniature animals and welcomes cyclists. The owner is very friendly and gave us a tour of her creations.  The animals are real hams! The miniature pony is going to school for show-and-tell.

DAY 66 – The roads today are winding through wooded residential areas and small farms.  Little rivers support several canoe liveries.  Every mile has it’s own Baptist church. I found a radio station that played Cajun music and the dj spoke French. In the local Parish (county), 20% of the population speaks Cajun French at home. (I just had an interesting conversation with an 84 year old in McDonald’s where I’m blogging. He told me that he could converse in Paris, but that over in the next town, they speak a different dialect that the French would never understand).

I continue to enjoy the murals on buildings in these small towns. Mamou is the Cajun Music Capital of Louisiana and had a lot to do with preserving traditional music and boosting its’ popularity. I enjoy Zydeco and hope to find some on our route. In Mamou, the population must be Catholic.  When I walked around town, St. Ann’s parking lot overflowed for the 10 am mass.

Later in the day, I started driving through rice fields and crawfish farms.

IMG_0202

We are looking forward to an unexpected overnight visit this evening that I will report on in the next blog.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to                               what lies within us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) (Thanks, Joyce, for the inspirational quote).