27/12/16. With Christmas Day done and dusted it was back on the road on Boxing Day. And what a superb ride it was!
The hotel was close to the bridge (a new one replacing the one damaged by Hurricane Katrina which also devastated New Orleans in 2005) over the mouth of Biloxi Bay. With a wide shared bike/pedestrian path it was a pleasant experience for a change – bridges tend to be narrower than the approach roads so they are often the “exciting” parts of the route.
As we passed through Biloxi we passed a couple of casinos which were inevitably rather brash but the rest of the town seemed rather nice as we cycled along the sidewalk between the coast and US90. The beach was a beautiful looking sand and almost deserted even though temperatures were climbing into the low to mid 20s. With a gentle tailwind and a pan flat route we had a ball and made very good time. On the way we passed but did not stop at the home of Jefferson Davis who was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Gradually the sunshine gave way to a light sea mist as we passed through Gulfport and Long Beach (not the California one). This got thicker as we crossed another long bridge (also with shared path and also rebuilt following Katrina) so that by the time we turned away from the main road towards the campsite at Buccaneer State Park visibility was quite restricted and we were riding with our lights on
The fog stayed overnight so we woke to the sound of water dripping off the trees and a damp tent. As we set off visibility started to improve but we were still pleased to be on quiet roads rather than a “racetrack”. At times it seemed that the sun was about to break through but it was still a light haze when we rejoined US90 which was, thankfully, on one of its less busy stretches.
Just before we crossed into Louisiana (complete with bilingual welcome sign!) we stopped to buy bread from a small grocery/general store ($3.73 for a loaf of sliced processed “stuff”! Bread is expensive over here!). Christine started chatting to an old boy sat outside and he warned us that the eastern suburbs of New Orleans are not good – “safe enough to ride through in the day but don’t try it at night”. Eek. He also said that the strangest sight he had seen was eight young women rollerblading from California who had camped in front of the store one night.
See. We’re not the most insane people around!
The road remained quiet and passed through a swampy landscape which the mist made quite atmospheric. There were some nice looking houses on the shores of a couple of the lakes which we rode by and there were two places offering airboat rides.
Eventually we reached the outer limits of New Orleans where, of course, the road started to get busier. For a while there was a reasonable shoulder, albeit often covered in glass fragments (thank heavens for our Schwalbe Marathon tyres which are extremely puncture resistant – famous last words!), but suddenly it disappeared and we were in with the traffic. Not nice.
We made our way to the intersection with the Interstate 10 where we had seen there was a motel in a chain which we had used before. However when we reached it it was on the other side of the road while there was another place on “our” side so we decided to patronise that one as it looked OK.
Big mistake. Reception was reasonably smart but the room is very shabby. We had been thinking of staying two nights and taking a bus into the city but will be moving on to a state park instead.