Day 17 : Lousianians are NICE!!! — Perry & Lep’s Veloshack in Jackson to Fountaine Bleu State Park, LA, 97 miles, 1,418 miles total

Wow. As a Midwestern girl, I have always heard and thought that Midwesterners are “so nice”, but I have to say, I think I we need to up our game ‘cuz wow, Lousianians are really, really nice!

Morning started with us up and packed early, by 7:00 am with the thought we’d get an early start. But we were soon seduced by Perry. First, it was her hot dark Columbian coffee.

Then, it was the tour of the house that she and Lep built using salvaged wood from four different houses. It is simple and beautiful. They have antiqued bead board on the ceiling of the loft, different colors and patinas — harmonious yet random.

Then, it was her biscuits with honey and butter. Even though Perry can’t eat wheat, she made us biscuits. And for those of you who have been following our story, you know that I’m a biscuit girl. I set a new record at four.

Then, it was just Perry with her hilarious stories about the bikers who have preceded us, about reading a book on the evils of sugar only to find the advice 75% of the way through that it is better to eat junk food and exercise than to forswear sugar and not exercise, about building the house, and well, pretty much anything. She’s a wealth of knowledge, especially about bikes and bike touring. For anyone thinking of doing a bike tour, Perry could offer a million tips on what to bring (and what not to bring), how to take care of your bike (and yourself), and generally how to stay alive on a bike. She’s amazing.

Eventually, we managed to motivate ourselves away from the coffee and biscuits and Perry, and onto our bike. Perry meets 200-500 bikers a year so I imagine that we must all mush together. But for us, Perry and Lep will always stand out like a beaming example of the generosity we humans are capable of. When was the last time you housed and fed (hundreds of) strangers — for nothing???

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So, it was a little before 9 when we finally got rolling, following Perry’s final bit of advice to walk the bike across the road before mounting because the cars and trucks are coming around a blind curve. And that is wise advice that anyone lucky enough to visit Perry and Lep should seriously heed.

We settled into another glorious day of riding, although the headwind we had been expecting finally did show up. We had planned a turny unusual route to take us toward the north shore of Lake Pontchiatrain. About 20 miles in, this huge pickup truck rolls up to us, slows down to our pace, and the guy driving yells out, “Did you bike here from Wisconsin?” When we said yes, he replied, “Congratulations! That’s awesome!”, and gave us a friendly smile and wave before driving on. When was the last time you took a second to offer a stranger encouragement??? Like I said, Louisianians are NICE.

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We pushed on against the headwind, stopping at the Walker Town Park for lunch. After all these little turns, we eventually turned onto Rte 22 and prepared ourselves for the 28 mile afternoon grind. Before we did, though, it seemed advisable to stop for cold Gatorade and ice cream. I found Hagendaz ice cream bars at this little convenience (bait/booze) store where the clerk apologized that they were more expensive than the other ice cream treats. But I knew that we would put those high fructose corn syrup free ice cream bars to work, so the price was well worth it.

So there we were, eating fancy ice cream bars outside the bait and booze shop that seemed to serve as this little town’s center, when this woman comes out and tells us that we had better be careful because locals are a little crazy. Then, she goes on to say, that they are also super nice and that if we have any bike trouble, “any drunk will help you.” She’s about to climb into her pickup truck, when she gets back out and says, “I’m not one of the crazies. You got a place to stay tonight? Cuz, I live just two miles up the road.” She seemed satisfied when I told her that we still had miles to go, but were going to stay at Fountaine Bleu Park. I swear, if my answer had been unsatisfactory, she’d have taken us home. When was the last time you offered to house a stranger??? Louisianians are NICE.

Fueled up, we ground out Rte 22 in a couple hours. When we got close to Mandeville, we stopped to check the location of the grocery store. We weren’t on the side of the road but a few minutes, when a car stopped and a guy got out, just checking to make sure we were okay. He gave us directions through town to the store and told us that he and his wife had ridden a tandem in France and loved it. After ensuring we were okay, he drove on. When was the last time you stopped for a stranger who might be in need? Louisianians are NICE.

We rolled into Mandeville where Mike left me with the bike while he shopped and then we cranked out the last few miles to Fountaine Bleu Park. Unlike many of the state parks we have encountered on this trip, this park is well-marked and has a manned entrance where we got information about the park and a map (!) pointing out the camping spots, water and bathhouses. It’s a lovely quiet park along the north shore of the lake. Even Louisiana’s parks are nice!

For dinner, Mike really upped his game having bought a bottle of white wine, fresh (never frozen) gulf shrimp, and a pound of butter!!! We ate pasta with a bell pepper-portabella reduction and grilled shrimp In white wine and butter sauce. Lovely anywhere, but truly delicious as a camp meal after nearly 100 miles of biking.

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And for dessert, we had blackberries with yogurt.

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After such a glorious meal, we took a walk to the lake. We will get a picture of it tomorrow before we leave, but at night, you can see the cars on the 30 mile long causeway into New Orleans and the dim lights of the city. It’s beautiful in the moonlight.

I cannot believe that the trip is near its end. Tomorrow, we will be in New Orleans. It’s been a long, hard, fun, amazing trip. It will be strange (it always is) to leave the simplicity of the trip where our needs and objectives are completely aligned and return to the negotiation and balancing required in our “real lives.” But we are thankful that we can have these trips, these adventures, to remind us who we are, who were want to be, and — thanks to today’s Louisianians–how we want to treat others.

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