What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
Excuse the radio silence for the last few days, the blog has been frozen for longer than intended. But, there’s a story behind it, so let’s dive right in. Quick iPhone photos/video to accompany.
Day 51 – Daphne, AL to Lucedale, MS (56 miles)
Set off from Daphne and after a mellow ride out of town, arrived on the outskirts of Mobile, AL. It’s a really impressive aesthetic city, with some amazing buildings. In contrast to that, just 5 miles further out of the city, it’s a different story entirely. Towns which were obviously thriving just a few years ago, now totally quiet. No people, everything boarded up, abandoned stuff. The recession hit hard.
More night riding, and through the Alabama / Mississippi state line, I ended up at a diner in Lucedale, MS, where there was probably 100 people packed in. It was Sunday night and these were all church-goers who were on their way home from church. It was the 30th December, so it was a celebratory New Years dinner. Here’s just a few of them. Such positive folk.
Day 52 – Lucedale, MS to Wiggins, MS (38 miles)
Groggy morning waking up in another stealth camp. This time in a park. Life of luxury, eh? Up and away early in an attempt to re-jig the body clock. Straight out of Lucedale was amazing. Dense dewey fog hovering above green farmscapes. There was really nothing in between Lucedale and Wiggins other than countryside. No towns, no people, few houses. So it was a simple town-to-town ride, ending in Wiggins, a tiny little town, to see in New Year. The people of Wiggins were really welcoming, and explained that the county was a dry county, and most people leave town for New Year to the coas. So it wasn’t very rock and roll, but there were some fireworks so all’s well that ends well.
Day 53 – Wiggins, MS to Bogalusa, LA (43 miles)
You know when you’re riding your bike and a fly ends up in your mouth? This happened for the majority of the day today.
Another state line, Louisiana. Get in.
It was grey and cloudy. The kind of clouds that you look at and think it might drizzle lightly for a few minutes. And then it did. But it was Louisiana rain. Nature’s power shower, with no let up. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. The waterproofs were stuffed in the panniers, somewhere. Electronics weren’t in their dry bags. So it was a frantic rush to make sure everything was safe from the rain. And then to try and find the waterproofs. I’d not ridden in heavy rain before this, and it was actually really enjoyable.
Ended up camping on the outskirts of Bogalusa, with totally drenched kit. Waking up with clothes that were still wet, and heavy, definitely influenced the following days decision.
Day 54 – Bogalusa, LA to Franklinton, LA (20 miles)
The last few days have been really hilly. Moving inland, away from the coast, the game is starting to change: rain, headwind and hills. It’s making a big difference, and after the wheel incident, I’m focused on shedding as much unnecessary weight as possible. So first on the ticklist was to visit a post office and ship a bunch of stuff on to California. For now the focus is on light. What a difference it made. The first few miles out of Bogalusa were like riding a new bike with a slightly higher average speed. Unfortunately, sending the stuff on had taken a long time, so it was a late start.
After an hour of cycling, it rained again. Heavy rain, just like yesterday. This time wasn’t as horrible; jackets and waterproofs were at the ready. But going through Franklinton, there were loads of obvious spots to set up camp. An early finish to a late start.
Day 55 – Franklinton, LA to Baton Rouge, LA (73 miles)
Cycling is a funny game. After nearly two months of riding, it’s less physical, far more mental. You can tell at the start of the day whether it’s going to be a big day.
Today started this way. The Sat Nav showed that I had 106 miles remaining (to New Roads, LA.) As that number decreases, there’s no way you’re stopping. Not until it’s reached zero. That is unless something happens that stops you. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” It’s true, you know, that well known saying. So after several hours of going for it, the bike lighter than ever, hip-hop music blasting in my ears, huge wide shoulders through inspiring Louisiana countryside, there was a very strange clicking noise, and it was obvious something wasn’t right.
The clicking turned out to be a piece of wire that had gone straight through the rear tyre and punctured the tube. It’s not been a good run lately, but no worries, it’s only a puncture. That’s what the toolkit’s for.
The bicycle pump is usually in my camera bag. That’s where it’s been for the last 55 days. So why was it not there? After a confusing few minutes, emptying all the pannier bags in search of the pump, it was nowhere to be found. Well that sucks, must have lost it along the way. With no way to fix the puncture, I walked to the lights in the distance, which turned out to be a gas station. If you use Schrader valve inner tubes, gas stations are a dream sight. There’s almost always an air pump outside. And there was at this one, too. Happy days, problem solved! Nope, I’m using Presta valves. After unsuccessful attempts at trying to bodge the air pump, it wasn’t going anywhere. Time to call it a day.
A mile or so down the road (in the suburbs of Baton Rouge now) there was a huge playing field / methodist church garden. Prime camping spot. I set up the tent, off the road and out of sight, ready to be away early, get the tyre fixed and hopefully make at least a little bit of progress. It’s been a slow few days after all. Unfortunately, the police were doing routine patrols. And of course this stealth camp site was on their list. American police are quite intimidating, but there’s nothing like cycling to provide a little common ground. After explaining the situation, the policeman made a very cycle-specific joke.
“That’s what you get when you use Presta valves!” Fair play, officer. Turns out he was a cyclist and would turn a blind eye to the stealth camp.
“But be careful. That side of the road is the crime hotspot of Baton Rouge. You should be fine here, but just over there is where the highest homicide rate in the city is.”
Moral of the story? I’m not too sure, but it’s probably something to do with carrying a bike pump.
Day 56 – Baton Rouge, LA to… TBC
It’s day 56 now, and I’m quickly piecing together this post on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. The bike still has a puncture, but the bike shop isn’t too far away, so hopefully not for much longer.
A rough map of the last few days: