Feb 15, (RD14) (AFHD 36)
On yesterday’s post, I described our overnight campsite as “wild”. I didn’t know then just how accurate that description was. As we were enjoying our morning coffee, a polite knock at the door surprised us both. I gingerly opened the cabin door (the glass portion is frosted) and took in the view. There were two very professionally positioned county deputys (10 feet apart, eyes alert, hands on butt of their weapons). I wished then a friendly “good morning” and expressed MY surprise at their “welcome”. They responded that the land owner of the property we were parked on had called in the presence of “a suspicious vehicle” parked, key words here, “on their PRIVATE PROPERTY. I told the officers (a young black female and equal aged white male, how refreshing, in rural Lousiana!) that I had carefully looked for “no trespassing and no entry” signs when we pulled off the road. They agreed there weren’t any, but nonetheless—it was PRIVATE PROPERTY. I had already dressed in my riding clothes for the day, and I noted that they noted that I was conspicuously wearing USMC logo gear. It does make a difference, folks. There’s that little acknowledgement, that bit of repect, that’s such a great start in many situations. Anyhow, ID’s checked, vehicle identification and insurance checked, a call back to the owner of the PRIVATE PROPERTY, and “no harm no foul”, good to go, have a great day. Hey! It’s an adventure, right? 🙂
Morning temps in high 40’s was a reminder that it can get chilly. Totally overcast and winds from the, yeah, north west again at 15-20 mph. Cathy was eager to get off to her close-by destination: The Oakley Plantation, the temporary home of J.J. Audubon in the early 1800’s. This is like Holy Ground for bird people. She is going to be doing an EXCLUSIVE blog of her own (again, whenever we get T-mobile providing service to our on-board Wifi hotspot).
Given the conditions I’ve described, you can infer quickly that the morning ride was going to be a challenge. It was. Probably the most challenging to date. I had four layers on today, and that just met the minimum threshold. The effort required to ride into the all-to-steady head wind got me warmed up quickly, and the fourth layer of wind breaker made it doable.
Several “land mark” notables today, the first of which was my crossing of the Mississippi River on the JJ Audubon bridge. And a very new and impressive bridge it is.
The bridge was over 2 miles long. It included a comfortably wide biking lane. And it bounced. Research reveals that all wire-stay suspension bridges do. It bounces even when there is no traffic. With all those millions of tons of steel and concrete, it bounces. Physics. I don’t have to understand it. It’s still beautiful.
A never-ending and collossal “battle of nature” is quietly going on in the few miles after crossing this bridge. The Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya River are less than a dozen miles apart in this region. They have been inching ever closer to each other over the last 10,000 years or so. There is basically just one “ridge” that is seperating the two now. The United States Corps of Engineers (tasked with “flood control on the Mississippi” since 1879) has been watching this slow moving apocolypse, and after the floods of the 1940s, set out on an ambitious “Plan B”. Why such a big deal, you ask. Good question. The more of the Mississippi’s water Atchafalaya takes, the more it “wants”. It’s channel gets deeper, sucking away more water from the “Father of Waters”. Eventually, ALL of the water would be going to Atchafalaya, and the entire ecomonic structure based on shipping down the Mississippi would be left, literally, high and dry. That’s a non-starter for the whole country. My connection: I spent nearly 25 miles riding on very high levees whose sole purpose is to keep these two waterways just that, TWO waterways. The “borrow pits” needed to build this gargantuan project stretch for miles into the swampland on the Mississippi side of the dikes.
I lost the pix I took of the facility as it was when I rode over it today. The above pix are from 1973 when all the gates had to be opened to keep the levees from being breached.
The latest extreme test of the system came in 1973, when all of the “safety valve” gates on this structure were opened to their maximum to keep the levees from being breached. It was a very near thing. Some good video on this event on PBS and on line. Riding along this structure for me was also “a very near thing” as the Corps of Engineers didn’t anticipate bicyclists needing three feet of room along with the two way traffic of trucks and cars.
Another “land mark”, we have now completed two of the 7 map sets that make up this epic journey. The distance back to the beginning in St. Augustine is about 795 miles, so for 14 riding days that’s about 55 miles/day. We’ll be happy with that rate for a while yet.
The east side of the Mississippi was scrub pine, scrub hardwoods, and scattered pastures for Brahman mixed cattle. Like magic, once past the levees on the west side, it was tilled and dance-room-flat ag land. Sugar cane seemed to be the principal crop, as the equipment and field preparation had already begun for this years crop. I’ll have more to say about this in a separate post when I have more time.
Camping tonight in the Chicot Bayou State park. Very isolated, but unlikely to result in a visit by the Sheriff’s department 🙂
Thanks for coming along!