1 Dec – 10 Dec 2021
New Orleans to Fordoche, Louisiana.
1 Dec 2021 We left the New Orleans hostel early and rode back West along the North bank of the Mississippi. We are aiming for the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) and then will join the Natchez Trace Parkway (NTP). It’s a longer route to get to Jackson but the route will be prettier, more interesting and less trafficked.
After the few days of rest we are feeling fresh and make good speed riding mostly atop the levee on the bicycle path to Reserve. We have picked out the St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church to stay at. This time there is someone at the church when we get there and they kindly agree to let us stay and he shows us to a spot next to the shop where we can camp. He even unlocks the shop for us in case it rains or we need to get some shelter. We don’t need the shelter but it’s a good place for us to go into to take our damp cloth shower.
2 Dec From Reserve we ride back up onto the levee for our preferred elevated pathway where we get nice views and car-free riding. We have left the greater urban area of New Orleans and cross to the other side of the Mississippi at the Gramercy Bridge and see a change in the surroundings. All along this section of the river there is a lot of industry. Refineries and other plants. They have big pipes and conveyors to carry things on and off their ships that stop at the river and feed into the factories. Some of them have stained the area rust red and another makes us cough and gives us a sore throat. We ride on as quickly as we can. It doesn’t feel like a good place to linger. It’s a hot sunny day even in December and we roll off the levee to a store where we buy a cold drink and a tub of ice cream. Ice cream is always a nice treat on a hot day. We ride back up onto the levee and find a nice unpolluted spot for ice creams and a drink.
As the days riding draws to an end we are in Donaldsonville. We see a couple working in their yard, they have an RV so we guess they will be understanding of our need for a safe place to stay for the night. It turns out that Alice & Rawland are a very lovely and kind couple. They let us stay two nights in their yard and the first night they even got a few steaks from the freezer and we had those together.
Both Alice and Rawland are very resourceful and crafty. When we met them they were cleaning up and renewing a cabinet that someone had thrown out. They were going to make it even better than it was when new and then give it as a Christmas gift. We love that kind of thing, it makes so much sense to refresh and reuse rather than just going out to buy something new which has little character.
In the morning Alice was keen to take us to the nearby River Road African American Museum and she had also arranged for us to meet her old friend the city mayor.
The RRAAM is a very interesting place and our first real experience of such a place. There was a lot to learn about the history of the African Americans here, from the very sad times of slavery right through to celebration with fantastic musical talents like Louis Armstrong and many others. In fact we spent so much time at the museum with their Ambassador Atkins and founder Kathe Hambrick that we lost track of time and forgot about our meeting with the Mayor!
If you are in Donaldsonville I do suggest you drop in to the RRAAM. I saw they are even doing bicycling tours around the town to see some historic landmarks.
After our second night with Alice and Rawland we both got a fun treat from them both. Alice used her craft skills and equipment to print some stickers for Jonny Blessing – our bike now has name stickers. And Rawland was kind enough to start up his classic muscle car, get it warmed up and took me for a little drive. He drives a big old and very noisy car, and it goes fast. Good fun!
4 Dec As we left Donaldsonville we saw more of the industrial plants, some of them with their huge stacks billowing steam high into the air. We recall stories about what we had heard from our previous hosts. When they had first moved in they had noticed that there were so many widowed ladies in the area and that many of the deceased husbands had worked at or around those plants. Cancer was a major cause of death and even as we rode away and stopped at the store I was chatting with a gentleman who shared the fact that he was also battling with cancer.
The area we were passing through is known as “Cancer Alley”
We have fond memories of our few days in Cancer Alley, we love them and wish good health to them all.
Our ride today takes us to Plaquemine again. It is unusual for us to ride to a town more than once but our detour to New Orleans requires a little back tracking.
As we ride through the centre of the town we see a thrift store and Gale tells me she wants to stop and see if they some tennis balls that she wants to use as a pillow and for massage.
Not long after entering she sends me a message that she will some spend some time here – there are often many treasures to be found in these stores and I’m not surprised.
As I prepare to secure the bike so I can go inside to have a look around I was met excitedly by a young lady. She had seen us riding earlier and was happy to run into us outside David’s Thrift Store. They are regulars there and are good friends with the owner. As we chatted and our new friend shared her stories we connected and I felt that we could become friends. So I told her we were looking for a place to stay and asked if she knew where we could setup our tent for the night.
As it happened our new friend Jacye was very keen to help and immediately reached out to friends and family and soon enough we were set up. We could ride with her to her friends house some 30 miles north and stay there. North was a good direction for us as it took us closer to our next destination in Mississippi.
Jacye drove off with her friend to pickup her own car and by the time she returned we had unloaded the bike and were ready to load up. I must admit I felt a little nervous waiting on the side of the road outside David’s shop.
Would she return? Would our bike and gear all fit inside?
As it happened my fears were uncalled for and soon enough she came back in her car. It was a little tight but we are accustomed now to packing our bike into the back of small vehicles.
And so we started a new adventure with our new Louisiana friends Jacye, Misty & Sheena.
During the drive north to Fordoche I rode with Jacye and JB in the back of the car. Gale rode with Misty and her two children in the other car. As we rode we chatted and shared stories and I confessed that we had never had a daiquiri. We had seen many places selling these colourful iced cocktails in New Orleans but we had never had one. Almost immediately, after hearing this, Jacye pulled off the road declaring that we must change that and we turned into a drive-thru daiquiri store. I never expected to see such a place! We placed our order at the window beside a big menu with magical choices such as Pink Flamingo, Fuzzy Monkey and one even declared to be Better Than SEX. Soon enough the lady at the window came back with four huge polystyrene cups filled with, well I have no idea what was in them. I’m hoping there were no flamingo, monkey or sex parts included!
After a quick grocery shopping trip to stock up for the coming party we drove on eager to taste our fun drinks after we arrive. No drinking and driving on this journey.
We finally meet our host for the next few days, Sheena, a hard working mum who used to work as a nurse for sick children but it tore at her heart too much so she changed to working with elderly folks instead.
We spent the evening eating, chatting and listening to Jacye a talented singer/songwriter. As we talk and share stories of our past, Jacye gets more and more excited for our journey and is even inspired to join us. During the following few days we spend a lot of time together, racing our tandem with young Hayden down to the end of the street and back again. I clean our bike under the watchful eye of Chicken and Duck.
Chicken and Duck are a chicken and duck who have been living here since they were dropped off as a pair of chicks. Neither is sure if they are a duck or a chicken but they are inseparable friends. Even when it’s raining and duck is having a lovely time in the paddling pool, chicken watches on from under the porch shelter. They are almost always together and they look after each other as well as guard the property.
We have a good rest. Relaxing on the porch watching as the cars pass by and the various antics of the two feathered friends.
One day we take a trip to Wal-Mart. Jacye is anxious and wants to buy some gear to be able to join us on our ride. We fill the cart with a tent and other camping gear and I push the bike she has chosen behind them as we head for the checkout.
It must be said that Wal-Mart sadly do not sell a high quality bicycle. However with a limited budget and limited time we have to make do. I spend the next day fiddling with Jacye’s new bike as well our own bike.
Jacye still has a lot of things to sort out at home before she can head out with us, but she is keen to ride. So when we are ready to ride out, we pack up all our gear and Jacye joins us for a day ride. It’s a nice ride and the weather is warm and sunny. We ride up onto the levee again and we can relax and enjoy the ride without worrying about the cars. We ride as a group, passing the cows and horses who watch us closely as we ride. Jacye is full of excitement and takes a video as she rides along and takes a tumble on the gravelly surface. Fortunately no damage is caused and she joyously declares that she caught the fall on camera.
We enjoy the day’s ride and Sheena also came out to ride on Jacye’s bike for a little while. We had been prepared to ride out and continue on our own today but as it happened we would go back to the house and stay another couple of days. Jacye and Sheena rode back in the car taking the bike with them and most of our bags. Gale and I rode back to the house unencumbered, free and fast. Despite arriving back after dark I enjoyed the fast and fun ride. Our lights worked well and the drivers gave us a good wide berth as they passed us in the dark.
We had a great time staying in Fordoche with Sheena, her son and daughter and Jacye. Sadly Jacye finally did not join us on the ride. She has a lot of things going on and there are people and animals that are hard to let go of and ride away from. But one thing we have learnt is that things, circumstances and plans can change very quickly. We still hope that we will ride again with Jacye. She is a special lady, very talented with a big voice and a big heart. Come find us soon!