Friday, March 30, 2007

8 days on the road and i'm gonna take a shower tonight.

We made it to Atlanta, thank god. We have been camping off the side of the road in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia for the past 8 days. 8 days of 85+ degree weather. We've been wearing sunscreen which is very greasy and attracts dirt and dust making Ira and I feel like powedered doughnuts. Except instead of being white, sweet and tasty, we were dark, stinky and crabby. Once we got to Dan's house, our host in Atlanta, we immediatly bee lined it for the bathroom. I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to be clean. You can never really experience this state of cleanliness until you have experienced and wallowed in our state of disgusting dirtiness for days.


My hair is so tangled, I had to pull it apart to get it unclumped from my bun.


I not only feel human again, I feel feminine. Ahh, it is such a releif to be able to walk within 6 ft of another human being again and not be horrible embarssed of my stench.

I ran out of clean clothes and had worn everything for mutliple days dirty, I had to resort to doing my laundry in a McDonalds bathroom sink. If anyone had seen me, the probably would have looked at me with disgust as though I was a homeless freak, but I don't care. I had clean underwear and socks. Clean clothes can only go so far, when you skin is still caked with dirty grim and dead skin. Feeling the warm water of the shower hit my skin was like heaven and seeing the dirty water filter down the drain was one of the most gratifying experinces of this whole trip.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Red dirt and pine trees.

It's hot and we're both sweaty blobs of gross! If I was a sedimentary rock my layers would be red dust, bugs, and sunscreen.

Alabama is beautiful- maybe you already knew that, but maybe not because we haven't seen a lot of tourists here. We've been riding wooded, rolling hills with pretty little southern towns every ten miles. There's obvious poverty all around, but it could be what makes people so willing to help us out.

I've seen road signs with bullet holes all over the country, but down here it's hard to find one without them. It's also hard to find good produce! Next watermelon I see is getting eaten.

We've been riding at around 200 feet above sea level, dipping to 80 now and then. I'm going to try and keep track as we make are way toward the Smoky Mountains.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

1000 miles

we've got 1000 miles for this leg. we're up to a total of ~5700 miles for the whole trip.


First Southern state line crossing with a sign!
This morning we crossed a big concrete bridge through cypress swamps. Every spooky creature you can imagine lives back there, and people around here hunt them all.
This picture was taken while Wesley, a world traveler and diver that we stayed with two nights ago, was telling us about hunting fish in the Gulf. We met him at a gas station and asked about camping in the area, so he invited us to stay at his place and cooked Red Snapper and some other deep-sea fish for dinner.
Andrea took Wesley's picture before we left- he's such a cool guy to hang out with and swap stories. We were completely tired when we showed up the night before and he let us shower, and after a great dinner, sleep in his spare room. He was full of good regional jokes, and had the kind of personality that made us feel like we'd known him for years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As you know, this tour is a work in progress.

Up until now the goal was to follow the Gulf Coast and then cut straight across to the East Coast, meeting the Atlantic somewhere near Georgia or South Carolina. I'm feeling bummed out by the endless flat terrain, resort homes, refineries, and hurricane wreckage, and Andrea is pretty much on-board. This is ok because we chart our route day-to-day and can do anything we want.

Smoky Mountains National Park looks like a good place to check out, so we're aiming the bikes in that direction. That means we'll see rural parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia; probably visit Atlanta, and check out Knoxville and Asheville. I'll also be able to bring the bear rope back into action. After that we'll continue east and pick up the planned costal route.

That's the plan for now, subject to change at any time. Let us know if you live along the route and would like a visit. We're always looking for a shower and cool people to meet.

Higher ground

Apart from all of the devistation in New Orleans, the more touristy areas of New Orleans escaped without too much damage from Katrina. The French Quarter and the Garden District we are told are pretty similar to how they were before. Here are some pics of some amazing and beautiful homes in different neighborhoods which were luckily spared.

Katrina Grafitti

Riding through the neighborhoods which heavily affected by Katrina, I noticed all the houses had similar spray painted marks on them. Asking around I found out they were markes left by rescuers to notate which houses had been searched. The mark is an x and in each of the four quadrants represent different information. In the top quadrant is listed the date the house was searched. In the left quadrant is listed how many people were rescued from the location. The other quadrants seem to vary, but generally listed is the agency which seached the location, number of people rescued on the left and number of bodies found in the bottom. Most houses list a zero for bodis found. Its so eerie to see that listed.

We past a couple of houses where they list how many dogs were found dead or shot on the property as well.

Depending on what neighborhood you are in, the water levels varried to how high it got. In one of the worst neighborhoods, Lakeview, you could still see the waterlevel marks left by layers of scum on the houses. The city stayed flooded for 3-6 weeks so the water definitly had time to leave its mark.

Here you can see the water level reached to the top of the windows and doors.

Monday, March 19, 2007

new orleans lawn furniture

"Noah's politicians"

where did you sleep last night?

Well more updates on our sleeping locations. I don't know if people are interested, but i've keept up pretty well with documenting every night so I figured I would keep listing them.

Miss Lou's Bed and Breakfast in Kaplan, LA

We camped next to the locks on the intercoastal shipping canal near Calumet, LA. We were told to ask permission of the "Locksmith" to camp there. He said it was fine, but to watch out because it was gonna get real col'. When we told him we were from Chicago, he waved us off with a flick of his hands and told us to have a good time.

We stayed with Perry and Leb along with their two dogs Dixie and Tinker in Houma. We had a great time hanging out with these guys. They have an awesome house they built from salvaged 100 year old cypress wood. We set up temporary camp on the floor of the office.

Last night and tonight we are staying with Bill and Erin in New Orleans. They have an amazing 102 year old house which they are in the process of renevating. Each bedroom has a coal fireplace as well as the bathroom!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


After going further inland, we are beginning to see some of Louisiana's older architecture which has luckily been left alone from the storms.

The swamp and Ira, patron saint of all turtles

We've been riding through the wetlands for the past couple of days and have seen a range of amazing wildlife. We've seen gators, snakes, turtles, and tons of water birds.

We've also been intruduced to Nutria, which look like ROUS (rodents of unsual size). They look like rats, but are bigger than a household cat.

I have also come to find out a new fact about Ira. He is the shepherd of turtles. The roads are littered with turtle roadkill, which looks very different then regular roadkill. Regular roadkill looks like a pile of flesh, soft blobs on the streetside. Turtle roadkill is very angular because of the broken shell, while pink guts spilling in all directions. This bothers Ira very much. He makes us stop about 4 or 5 times a day to taxi a mid-road turtle across to safty.

Here Ira is trying to save a snapping turtle which was responding by trying to snap off his fingers. He is using the bottle to try and get it to pull its head in. It didn't want anything to do with this shepherd. He had to leave this one on the road.

There is the old Chinese saying that if you save someone's life, their life becomes your responsibility. Ira is currently responsible for about 20 little turtle lives, and the numbers are growing everyday.

hurricanes, gators, fema and fun

So, when you heard from us last, we were feeling slightly down and out. We had been wet for multiple days straight and the areas we were going through were slightly depressing. Then we came about the Grand Chanier library. The women there gave us cookies, punch and cheer. When we were getting ready to leave they told us they had called their friend "Miss Frankie". She had an extra FEMA trailor she was willing to lend us for the night. Everything got brighter from there out. We rolled over to Miss Frankie's. She got us set up in the extra trailer and invited us over to visit when we felt comfortable.

Ira and I washed up and went over avisitin. Frankie and her husband Guy immediatly offered us some beer and snacks as we sat down to discuss the pertinent issues; our bike trip and hurricane Rita. Cameron Parish, which is the largest and most sparsly populated parish in Louisana,was totally devistated by hurricane Rita. They complained it didn't get as much press as Catriana, because it affected less people. However, almost everyone in the parish lost almost everything. Total devistation could be seen everywhere. There are barely any buildings left standing. Everyone is living in trailers brought in after the storm. They felt because they recieved less press coverage, they were virtually ignored when it came to federal aid. Beside that no one was recieving any insurance money. It's a real mess down here. There is no overall hurricane insurance, you need flood insurance and wind insurance. No one is recieving any money because when people file a claim with the flood insurance, they're told it isn't covered because it's actually damage caused by the winds. When they try to file for Wind damage, they are told it's water damage. Here the real enemy seems to be the greedy insurance companies. Left to fend for themselves, the people who have money to repair their houses are still working on them, two years later. While most are left trying to finagle more time with Fema to keep the trailers. Frankie joked they were true Cajuns, they owned two boats and no houses.

"Before the storm" is a constant phrase you hear down here. They speak of before in whistful terms. Now they are all force into a reality of rebuilding what little the have left and replacing what was lost to recreate the lives they once had. Everyone down here seems pretty stoic about the whole stituation though. They understand if you live down here, the storms come with the package. The true resentment comes into play when they talk about the betrayal they feel from the insurance companies which was to be their security blanket. Guy spoke of a WWII veteran he was friends with who broke down in tears in a conversation about his insurance situation. He lost his house as well as his business and all his equipment during the storm. When he filed his insurances claims he was turned down on all of them. He said, he would be ok with it, if he could be refunded every premium he had been religously paying over the past 40 years.

While we chatted, Frankie was busy cookin up some fresh shrimp they had just caught in the river behind their house. They spoke of all the amazing seafood which is just within reach of their house, shrimp, crawdads, crabs etc. Guy goes offshore fishing where he catches red snapper and other large fish i can't remember the names of. They bragged before the storm they had multiple chest freezers full of seafood. They have tons of aligators in the river across the street. Frankie was telling us of the pet gator she had when she was a kid. Her dad would go out with the scraps of shrip and crab, "slappin the mud" to get Timmy's attention. They finally had to let him go when he got over 5 ft long, because he was beginning to get a little dangerous.

The next morning, Frankie sent us off not only well rested, but with bags overflowing with foodstuffs she had been given after the storm. We were treated wtih true southern hospitality and generosity.

I feel very well rested and dry after getting rained on in the tent for the past three nights.

Here is Ira and Miss Frankie.

Frankie even called up her mama "Miss Lou" who owned Chateau Vermillian, a bed and breakfast 60 miles up the road and arranged for us to stay the night with her. "I'll just tell her y'all are too poor to pay any money". Miss Lou was as gracious and fun as her daughter. We had fun staying up chatting. She gave us doses of her "medicine", which I was quite happy to partake of since scotch is one of my very favorite drinks.

Miss Lou and myself.

Situations like these are what makes this trip so worth while. I love meeting new people, and meeting local people is the best way to have an authentic experience.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

being on the beach makes you contemplate your existance

what does it all mean?

beach resort for paranoid militia extremists

its bulletproof and if it floods, we believe it will float.

too many blogs.

I recently joined myspace, which i avoided for a long time. I finally broke down and now I'm addicted which happens to everyone i guess. Anyhow, i started a myspace blog and I've been writting posts for each. Ira was commenting on the fact I've been putting more of the funny pics on that one, and being too serious on this one. I was trying to do different things with each, but it is true. I want this site to be honest and fun as well. So for the very few of you who may read my other blog, I appologize if you see some repitions.

Louisiana is wet

So many waterfowl everywhere. We've been seeing tons of cranes, pelicans, cormorants, birds with curved beaks I don't know what they're called. Its really great. Our friend Marian, who is from Texas, and her father are really into birding. This makes sense, seeing all the different species to be found down here.

We're in Louisiana now. The weather here is very fickel. We camped on the beach off the side of the road.

it rained on us all night, and then cleared up this morning. Then by midafternoon it was pouring again. Ira and I parked it under an overhang of an abandonded gas station (Damaged by hurricane Rita) to wait out the downpour. We waited over an hour and realized we should get back on the road, rain or no rain.

We've been seeing a lot of hurricane damage along the way. The first town we passed through was Holly Beach. It was totally gone. It is now made up of a few trailers and mobile homes.

We've ended up at a Library in Grand Chenier during their St. Patties party. They fed us green cookies and punch. So the day is ending well.

Down and out on the Gulf.


This was spraypainted on a huge rusty oil tank resting on it's side between Highway 82 and the Gulf Shore beach. The road leading into Cameron Parish, LA is barely two lanes and there's not a foot of it not bordered by trash from Hurricane Rita. Complete towns were reduced to foundations in 2005 and are still mostly trashed, with people living in Campers and trailers on leveled lots. It's obvious most of this Parish wasn't insured because ninety percent has not been rebuilt. It's hard not to get emotional riding though miles of peoples lives strewn though water-filled ditches. Everything is out there, from lamps to lawnmowers to the contents of china cabinets.

Rain down here feels like someone turned on a gigantic shower head and then left for a month vacation. It blasts down at full intensity for hours on end, and we just spent the day riding in it.

This isn't anything like the last part of the ride. The scenery alternates between grim and boring and the weather sucks. Like Texas, Louisianans have been kind and welcoming to us, but unlike the West, this isn't a place people go on vacation. Admittedly, the isolated beaches are beautiful. Highway 82 feels more like the frontier than anything out West, probably a combination of the hurricane damage and most of the residents being roughnecks who work the offshore oilrigs. Andrea quickly noticed that she was the only woman on the Cameron Ferry and also in the packed Hurricane Cafe in town, other than the women behind the counter. I don't want to sound ungrateful, Louisiana, but if things don't change, I'd like to get out of here as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We're headed into coastal Louisiana...

We don't expect to see many towns in the next few days, so wish us luck!

Monday, March 12, 2007

footprints on the boardwalk

Talkin' roadkill...

Is the Texas Gulf really boring enough that I'm posting about roadkill? I've actually always been fascinated, but the fact it's flat and and most of the scenery is repetitive has focused more attention on the roadside abattoir. Each region has it's own flavor: we saw young moose in the Idaho panhandle, and there were rattlesnakes all over Wyoming and South Dakota. I don't take pictures, but please use your imagination.

Texas highlights:

Armadillo - I've never seen one in the wild, but there was a fresh one on the yellow line the other day. Reminds me of a Jim Hightower book.

Feral Hogs - Two so far, both late-on in decomposition. One a boar with tusks.

Rattle Snakes - I thought it was a palm branch this morning because it was laying in a puddle by the beach. Nearly four feet long.

Deer - Not that exciting unless you're from the city, but these are everywhere. I found a cool two-point antler by the roadside and it's strapped to my rack.

Birds - Dead vultures are meta roadkill. I wonder if they eat each other? Lots of Terns by the Gulf, and no pelicans so far which is nice because they are my new favorite bird.

Skunks - A live one was poking around our campsite a few nights ago, but many others are not as lucky.

Turtles - I helped a big box turtle cross the road. It seems wrong when these guys get smooshed by some teenager in a truck just off the assembly line because they can live to be over a hundred years old and deserve respect.

sleepin on the beach is very messy

Well, we've been camping on the beach a lot lately. The sand here on the gulf is insideous. it gets everywhere! it is so fine, it is hard to wipe off. here are a couple more nights on the road.

Padre Island

Lighthouse beach campground, Port Lavaca, TX.

Johnny and Angie let us camp on their property on Payton Creek. We were here on sat. night. the locals like to haul ass down this waterway in their boats for sat. night fun. it looked fun, everyone waved at us, but no one offered us a ride. oh well.

sunset on payton creek, Wadsworth, TX

we spent last night here, oh my god. we got attacked with huge rain pellets for 7 hours straight. i have never experienced a downpour like this before, and in a tent. everything was wet. we were trying to laugh about it, but it was one of those premptive laughts. the kind you know you'll feel later, but deffinitly not in the moment.

i didn't get a shot of the tent because it was dark when we got it up and it was all we could do taking it down to keep from wanting to just head to the nearest airport.

We spent last night with Helen and Phillip down here in Galveston. It was so nice to be in a house, to do laundry and be dry. This bed was super comfortable, like sleeping on clouds. It was just what I needed!