Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Pulled in all directions

January 19th, 2012

It wasn’t the first time. Directions. Given in good faith but frequently flawed. Lefts and rights confused. Crucial twists and turns missed. Helpful landmarks omitted. The odd phone call to remedy. Assuming there’s cell coverage. But, as darkness approaches, in the cold and wet, less than amusing. No matter how well intentioned the advice may be.

I’d reached Poplarville, my first town in Mississippi. Following notes scribbled on the map to find the small apartment Margaret kept for passing cyclists. Quickly finding them to be flawed. Soon heading out of town. Never a good sign. Fortunately I’d a cell signal and was able to call her. She was very apologetic.

I’d not exactly known what to expect of my ninth State. Mish-mash of mostly film and television influences. Late 70s US drama Roots. Gene Hackman in the film Mississippi Burning. Scribbled in my pocket book Klu Klux Klan. And mud pie. Imagined it to be mostly flat and swampy. Instead gently rolling green fields. For the most part at least. And still the loose dogs, free to chase passing cyclists. Defining feature of both Louisiana and Mississippi.

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Beyond the Mississippi

January 18th, 2012

Dixon Correctional Facility. Long line of prisoners shuffling inside the wire. Not shackled but most wearing bright orange woollen hats. Fifty or so. Not a single Caucasian. Later passed by a minibus marked Prisoner Transportation. It stopped by a Baptist Church, small groups in the parking lot assembled for a funeral. On the shoulder two of the Sheriff’s patrol cars, the officers gathered around one. Chatting.

I’d left Lep and Perry’s home earlier. Breakfasting on fresh fruit and grits – coarsely ground corn. Almost immediately gentle rolling hills replacing flat, featureless plains. Gradients perceptible but not unpleasant. Little, bar the prison, to return my thoughts to the road. Instead mulling over what I might do when I returned home. Just a single truck sitting on my tail for a while. Pressing on the horn. Impatient imbecile. Arrogant. He could wait.

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Colonial Clinton

January 18th, 2012

Ken makes a brief stop in Clinton, Eastern Louisiana. Looks a bit Colonial…

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Grand Designs

January 17th, 2012

Grand Designs. Explaining it was a television programme about innovative house building and renovation projects. Exactly the sort of thing they’d just finished doing. For the second time. Lep and Perry having built a similar property on another lot. This time a few additions and modifications. Fine tuning. Open plan living area a little broader. Generous kitchen island. And little details. Shower embedded with smooth pebbles. Desk lamp base a model Penny Farthing. Biker Soap dispenser in the bathroom. Journal for fellow riders to share thoughts with other travellers.

I’d felt a bit jaded when I’d arrived. Irritated. A series of minor incidents. Cafe I’d been recommended. About to leave before my coffee finally arrived. Twenty minutes. But remarkably good food. When it eventually turned up. Even if it wasn’t quite what I’d ordered. Club sandwich rather than salad. "Our menu is somewhat large. Our kitchen and staff are not" said the sign.

Cracked asphalt, major highways rather than minor roads, eventually giving way to better shoulders. Later approached by a man in a gas station. Had someone been "******* with me?" he’d asked. A few uplifting glimmers. Smart new bridge across the Mississippi. Brief encounter with German rider Stefan, heading for California.

Back in the cafe I watched two women enter. Shuffling past uncleared tables. Into the single female restroom. Mother and daughter. Perhaps. Emerging five minutes later. Sidling off out the door. But good conversation over dinner. Huckleberry Finn. Fermented mare’s milk. The works of John Steinbeck. Restorative.

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Cajun pedalers

January 17th, 2012

Ken reaches his stop for the night, staying with fellow cyclists Lep and Perry, as the light fades… Quietly confident he’s got the right place..

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Crossing the Mississippi

January 17th, 2012

Ken reaches the Mississippi…. but no sign of Huckleberry Finn…

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Gas stations and Post Offices

January 17th, 2012

Ken continues to find little in Western and Central Louisiana pleasing on the eye….

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Bridge over the Mississippi

January 17th, 2012

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Bridge over the Mississippi river, near New Roads, Louisiana. Big bridge. Big river. Pretty much brand new, opened a few months earlier. No sign of Huckleberry Finn… Or alligators…

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Cypress swamp

January 16th, 2012

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I’d thought this to be Mangrove swamp – something about the roots – but have been wisely informed that as this is inland, it’s Cypress. Mangrove coastal apparently… Now you know! Just as bad with my birdwatching..

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Cajun spices

January 16th, 2012

I’d breakfasted in a small cafe in Mamou. As much intrigued by the mish-mash of French and English on the radio in the background as the server’s name. Boniquica. I’d had to ask her how to spell it. Her sister-in-law’s similarly obscure but I forgot it almost as quickly as I’d been told it. She was from out of State. Struggling to conceive what might draw her to Louisiana, and Mamou at that.

Pondering the map. French influence – Ville Platte, Plaucheville – with a teasing German presence. Hamburg. Mostly unkempt. Suburbs often little more than shanty towns. Tired single storey wooden shacks, paint blistered by the summer sun. Children’s toys scattered amongst the junk outside. Old cars. Often hard to distinguished the abandoned from those still struggling along. Just bright white water towers bearing the town’s name offering the merest glimmer of civic pride.

Past the occasional stack of crawfish pots besides the rice fields. Barely more than subsistence farming. Into Bunkie and another cafe. Bright and friendly affair belonging to Kelly, Tommy and their daughter Miranda. Names I could spell. Chicken salad with some complimentary funnel cake fries. Resembled pancakes rolled up like cigarillos, deep fried and dusted with icing sugar. They too were from out of State. Florida. Lots of English friends.

The road out of town mostly shattered tarmac. Crazed. Uncomfortable. Made more so by a driver who steadfastly refused to pass, despite ample opportunity to do so. Instead the occasional burst of her horn. I watched the queue of cars grow, knowing they’d blame me for the hold-up. But to pull over would plainly encourage her to expect the same in the future, cementing her inadequacies. And that I couldn’t do. Firm believer that you should never reward stupidity. Goes against Darwin’s concept of natural selection.

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