February 25, 2016 – Clouds, 60 degrees
Miles Today: 62
Miles to Date: 12,323
States to Date: 29
Up at out early along Highway 182 east with the wind at my back. After a few miles of industry and a nice climb over the causeway at Amelia the road turned sweet: fresh blacktop with a wide shoulder. I turned onto Highway 20 and things got even better: a marked bike lane flanked by gorgeous cypress forest.
Thibodaux is a featureless town except for its fields of new houses. This one has perhaps the biggest roof cap I’ve ever seen, easily twice as tall as the house itself.
The land around me sank from wetland to marsh to pure swamp. The shoulder shrank to a narrow strip and then disappeared. One bridge over a bayou sported a ‘no bikes’ sign. Too late. I signaled with my right arm and pedaled over. Thankfully, drivers in Louisiana are among the most polite I have encountered on my journey.
People who focus on Wal-Mart are not spending enough time in the truly small towns of our country, where the dollar stores are the main thread of commerce. They often sit right next to each other.
When I reached Highway 18 I knew the Mississippi River was near, but it is invisible behind the levee and the swatch of trees that grow in the flood zone. Thanks to an early start and tailwinds I reached my destination – Whitney Plantation ninety minutes early. I am much better about reaching destinations on time on my bike than in a car; I allow ample time for mishaps.
The Whitney Plantation opened just over a year ago as a historical site and tourist attraction focused on slave life rather than the life in the Big House. Whitney borrows, with great success, from the WPA Writer’s Program narratives of former slaves. The tour is among the best I’ve attended, and since I’m the writing guy on the bike, I had a nice conversation afterward with the Director of Operations.
In late afternoon I crossed the mighty Mississippi to Gramercy. The Gramercy-Wallace Bridge is the first choice among cyclists because it has a generous shoulder. However, it is very steep and high and has six expansion joints that are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I had to stop my bike at each one and guide my wheels over the gaps to avoid taking a header. Fortunately, I crossed safely and live to tell stories another day.