Monday, November 2, 2009

On the Road Again

94.1 Miles - Baton Rouge, LA to Natchez, MA

In doing a long distance trip of any kind, it seems to be that getting to the starting line or home from the finish line are the toughest parts. That is only the case though if you don’t have a friend like Ken. Ken has already spent north of 15 hours driving me around on various trips in Louisiana (not to mention being my ride to high school as well as my preferred shuttle back and forth the eight hours each way to college) and he was going to add another three hours to the total this morning giving me a lift to Baton Rouge, LA. Louisiana is not the most bike friendly place as far as bridge crossings are concerned, so riding to Baton Rouge was out. For more on my take of Louisiana bridge crossings you can visit my past blog here. For more on the history of Baton Rouge, you can look here.

My starting point for this ride was the Baton Rouge Capitol Building. It is the tallest capital building out of any of the 50 states at 450 feet, so I thought that would be as good a place to start this ride as any. There was a bit of a hubbub going on in the morning, but it was not for me. A former governor of Louisiana, David Treen had passed away and was to lie in state.

I said goodbye to Ken and began turning my pedals, taking me north out of the city. Of all the cities I had ridden in or out of, Baton Rouge was one of the easiest to negotiate. Perhaps it was the early hour or the fact that I was fairly north of the city as it was, but getting out of the main action was a breeze. I did have the normal city potholes to deal with, but was a non-event really.

I was scarcely out of Baton Rouge before the roadwork began. It wouldn’t be until 20 miles later until the road would again return to normal. The road was being repaved and had me on an obstacle course, winding through a narrow lane of traffic cones. It wasn’t the safest place for me to ride in a narrow lane with traffic, so I jumped up on the new pavement away from traffic. That only lasted so long though as the pavement was getting fresher and softer the further north I rode.

To get away from it all, though it wasn’t for mare than half an hour, I stopped at Port Hudson State Historic Area. The fort there was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. While all of the building in the park seemed to be closed, I perused several plaques and in any event enjoyed the ride along the twisting, sylvan road.

I don’t think I can be out on a bike without my nemesis, the wind, rearing its ugly head. Sure enough the wind was blowing out of the north at 10 to 15 MPH, just enough to force me to exert myself more than I really would have liked to. I was hoping my first day on the bike would be a leisurely 90 miles on a flat country road.

The weather, absent the wind of course, was just perfect. I can never complain about it being sunny and 60 when I am out for a ride. If I had the same exact weather for the next couple of weeks, I would be thrilled.

By lunchtime I was crossing the border to the state of Mississippi. The wide shoulder I had been riding ended abruptly. While there was a shoulder of a foot or so it was covered in rumble strips, forcing me in one of the two lanes of traffic. Traffic was relatively light and a majority of the traffic was courteous. The one notable exception was a big rig that wanted to share a lane with me. The draft of the truck blew me off the road and onto the gravelly shoulder.

The terrain was somewhat more rolling than I had expected. It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination hilly, but I did slow down on some of the upward undulations. One thing I noticed was how many billboards that had some sort of religious slogan or proclamation. My favorite has to be “God is God”. If I remember anything from philosophy class, by definition that is true; X =X. It’s hard to argue with that logic.

As I approached the town of Natchez I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay but I did know I wanted to bike down to Natchez Under the Hill and the very same boat ramp that I pulled up on during the kayak trip in an effort to refill my water supply. I followed signs to downtown Natchez and Under the Hill, leaving me at the exact place I had been. I always enjoy when my trips intersect, especially if they are on different modes of transport as it is possible to get a much different feeling from a place based upon it.

I knew I wanted to stay in the downtown area and with that set up at the historic Eola Natchez Hotel. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, but then again so are 61 other buildings in Natchez. I rounded out my evening by watching the sun set over the Natchez/Vidalia Bridge.

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