Travel Blog

Hoping not to get busted flat in Baton Rouge while cycle-touring

By | Travel Blog | No Comments

Both Janis Joplin, singer of Me and Bobby McGee, and Kris Kristofferson, the man who wrote it, were born on the Gulf Coast, and their gritty music is as part of this landscape as the sun and sea themselves.
Joplin recorded the iconic road song just before her death in 1970 and it topped the charts the next year, playing over and over again on my home-town radio station, and me, as a 10-year-old, instinctively understanding the pain, the longing and the wanderlust in every heart-felt refrain.
Fiona and I were on our way to Baton Rouge, and although we were feeling faded, we did not want to become busted flat — metaphorically or physically.
We had a fairly good ride into a KOA campground near Baton Rouge, but then the wind came up, making cooking nearly impossible and almost blowing out tent away.
We are both working remotely on this trip, and because of that, we were delayed the next morning in leaving, getting away just before noon.
The route through east Baton Rouge was through poor industrial areas, with trains, tracks, trucks and heavy traffic roaring past us while the wind blew grit in our faces.
We rode past prisons, and a high-school so covered in barbed wire that it was unclear if it was a jail too. There was some sort of sports day going on behind the barbed wire, with soldiers assisting in the events and a wall of police cars parked across the street.
The bike route took us under the freeway, and we cycled on meandering paths as vehicles raced overhead, sounding like some of the jets taking off at the nearby airport.
Sometime after pedalling past a women’s prison, with signs about children and contraband, the shoulder disappeared completely, cut away in a deep trench by bulldozers. We were forced to walk through dung-coloured clay as thick as cement, gumming our bikes and pulling debris into our tires.
Google is not the safest or most reliable way to navigate, and it took us through a miserable shoulder less country road, filled full of transports, pickups and logging trucks. A few frustrated rivers sounded their horns at us, one gave Fiona the middle-finger salute, and we ground on and on, eventually making it to a freeway with wide shoulders.
By then the wind was in full fury, gusting up to 60 miles per hour, threatening to either stop us in our tracks or blow us into traffic.
We crossed the Mississippi River, seeing its muddy flood waters spilling through green forestland. But what should have been a glorious moment was instead highly dangerous, white knuckle riding, our eyes stinging from the wind as pickups raced by.
As we neared the town of New Roads, getting perilously late for an online business meeting that fiona had to attend, a small miracle happened. The wind shifted and the same howler was now at our back, pushing us ever faster to our hotel. Fiona made
The meeting on time and I went and bought enough beer to float a
We weren’t busted flat. And for now, at least, we were gloriously free.

That time we went Waaay Down Upon the Suwannee River, and bumped into a true Rebel

By | Travel Blog | No Comments

Way down upon the Suwannee River,Far, far away, There’s where my heart is turning ever,There’s where the old folks stay.

We spent a rather leisurely day cycling toward the Suwannee River State Park, humming Florida’s official state song, and pedalling along some relatively quiet roads.

We saw that there was an upcoming country music festival. And another event, an All American
Golf Cart Parade.

The road names and attractions were quaint:
Willow Bend, Stagecoach, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

The Suwannee River State Park is beautiful, with tall pines, Saw Palmettos, winding trails, and of course, the wending, wild, black waters of the Suwannee River itself.

We needed to buy some food for the campsite, so after we registered we pedalled to a gas station/food mart a few miles away. We have a routine where one of us goes in and sees what’s available while the other stays outside and guards the bikes. I waited outside while the cook staff prepared a takeout meal of deep fried gizzards, while fiona shopped for more demur fare.

Standing outside was an older man, smoking a small cigar and joshing with anyone who came and went from the store.

He was curious about us and our bikes. We talked about where he’d worked throughout the West installing rubber roofs on massive warehouses in blistering heat.

Then he paused and looked at me.
“They as like to kill me,” he said, scowling at his cigar as he put it on a nearby empty newspaper box.

He started unbuttoning his shirt a bit, pulling it down from the shoulder to reveal a pale upper arm.

“That’s my name,” he said, gesturing with his chin toward some sort blob of multi-coloured ink on his bicep.

I had to look a little closer and I realized it was a confederate flag.

“I don’t understand,” I said, because I really didn’t.

“I’m Rebel,” he said. “My name is Rebel Wilkes.”

About then, Fiona came out with our food, and we began to pack.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said, because it was, and frankly, I still don’t understand what the hell we were talking about.
We went back to camp and had a great evening. A great hike, met some wonderful people, but including a couple from British Columbia, an even managed to cook a pretty good pasta meal on our one-pot, one-burner stove.
Later, as we settled into our sleeping bags, Fiona told me how she saw people giving Rebel money. One said, “do you have change for a $20,” and when Rebel said no, he handed Rebel the money, saying “you strike a hard bargain,” and went on his way.

I thought about that for a while. Rebel talked to anyone when I was there. White, Black, and even us Canadians.
I thought that giving money to Rebel was a kind gesture.
I guess I’ll have to leave it at that. Try as I might, I don’t really understand the South. The contrasts leave me baffled sometimes.