Day 18: NEW ORLEANS, LA!!! “Finish in good style, mate” – 65 miles, 1,483 total

We woke up this morning so totally rested and comfortable in the gorgeous Fountainbleau State Park on the north shore of Lake Poncartrain. Our 97 miles yesterday were largely flat but into a headwind. Even though it wasn’t a particularly difficult day, just trying to keep up the pace beyond a total lolygag is the difference that makes us exhausted. I suppose the butter-fest of dinner I made contributed to the big sleep.

IMG_4704 IMG_4718But even after a chilll morning (including a second pot of coffee – oh my!) and posing for photos on the shores of the lake, we were rolling pretty early with visions of a Po’ Boy and a beer in New *MF* Orleans!! Our intended route was to start with about 12 miles on the Tammany Trace paved bike trail. A few miles in, there was a lift bridge with a bathroom stop. As we stopped, we realized there was a solo day biker pacing us. He said “Wow, I saw you guys when I joined the path and you were moving!” The guy is a French Professor who boomeranged back to the NOLA region recently named Marvin. We rode together for a bit and he asked us about our planned route. Upon hearing it, he made a firm veto and gave us a much better way. Simpler and totally beautiful – including passing the historic St. Genevive church – Marvin rode with us as long as he could, recommending places to visit in New Orleans (including his favorite Po’ Boy joint in the Garden District (Parasol’s)) and then we parted ways.

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One more flat day. We wandered through bayous, homes on stilts for storm surge, and ultimately made our way along the water to the city!

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We stopped on the side of the road for one last “elevensees” (we never make it to a proper lunch time before needing calories. As tempting as the Po’ Boy awaiting us was, we were not going to make 60 miles without some calories!).

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Just after some foods, we battled a 10-15 MPH headwind for a little more until we turned the corner at about 30 miles into the day. Rounding the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, it was a tailwind to guide us into New Orleans in style at 20 MPH.

IMG_4747We stopped for a stretch break (Chandra showed me this amazing Yoga stretch that somehow I had never noticed she does. It somehow releases all this stress in the muscles that get flamed out sitting in the saddle all day. For bicycle touring, it is an understatement to say that this was a life-changing moment for me). From there, it was 15 miles to Parasol’s and we were stoked to motor it out!

After a couple miles, though, Chandra said that the rear wheel was acting funny. We’ve been having issues with it going out of true and I shrugged it off “only 10 miles!” I thought – we’ll make it. Chandra persisted, though, and said “I think it’s different”. So, we stopped, I slowly pushed the bike forward, watching the rim relative to the brake pads — looked about as true as before. So we powered on. Then Chandra insisted, saying she really thought it was worse and I finally listened, agreeing to take everything off the bike, flip it over, and look for loose spokes to tighten. I spun the wheel and noted it rubbing once per revolution, I could see when the rim got close to the breaks in the bend that is known to be there, but then I felt it rub out of synch with that. Impossible! But it was. Looking closer, I found that the tire was hitting the frame – not the brake pads! Uh-oh. Narrowing down the possibilities, we found we’d blown through the sidewall of the tire and the bulge was hitting the frame.

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So, we took the time to change the tire (don’t count this as a flat, since the tube never leaked and we didn’t replace it!) and carry on. It’s a good thing I finally listened and that Chandra pushed because we had a couple tight bridges to cross and lots of crazy traffic in the city. A full blowout could have been super inconvenient. It remind me of finishing a 30-day backpacking section at NOLS. Our instructor recounted a story of running a race and being tempted to walk at the end, not having met his time goal. An Aussie runner came up alongside and said “finish in good style, mate! You’ll thank yourself later”. The timing was unfortunate, 10 miles from the end to make a repair like this, but I thought about that admonishment, and how much of a pain it would be to have a more serious blowout within those last 10 miles. So we took the time to do it right and finish in good style, and I’m thanking myself (and Chandra!) later already. While the packs were off the bike, I also tightened a couple loose spokes on the wheel and knocked a bit of the wobble out of it. The last ten miles were without the squeak that had come back to haunt us a bit, and with a solid tire that could handle city streets. It felt good!

US Highway 90 (which we had been on for 25 miles or so) gave way to Gentily street with a bike lane. A BIKE LANE! So Nice!

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Navigating was easy and pretty soon we were cruising through the French Quarter on the way to the Garden District. We sat outside at Parasol’s, toasted the beautiful day and nearly 1,500 miles of riding together with a Stone IPA and loaded up on shrimp and oyster Po’ Boys and onion rings. When the bartender came out to deliver the food, he saw Talula and said “where did you guys ride from?” We said “Wisconsin”. He said “What’s your final destination?” We said “Right here!”. He said “Hey, that’s cool!” and gave me a high five. I think I like this town! One by one, patrons came out of the bar and asked us questions. We just enjoyed the big eat, the beer, ice water, and completion!

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So now we sit in a room on Frenchmen street, showered up, waiting for our return driving crew to arrive and then will head out on the town, for dinner and music. I will write an epilogue soon, but for now, here we are. We made it and couldn’t be happier!

pre-epilogue epilogue…. I do want to say one last thing while I’m thinking of it. This kind of journey is one that draws Chandra and I closer together. But it also draws closer to the strangers we meet, the friends and family following the blog, the likes and comments on social media. It makes us feel more complete and close as a couple, but also makes us feel closer to the big world out there. Exploring is like that. Thanks for reading along with us.

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