Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mardis Gras videos and airboat rides..OH MY!

Okay, going to try this AGAIN!

                                Airboat ride at the Miccosukee Indian Reservation in the northern Everglades

                               This is what a Mardis Gras parade looks like!  People are crazy!

This is a New Orleans city school marching band marching on Canal Street.  Notice in the background the float going the other way.  The parade runs down the one side of Canal, crosses the neutral ground (where the trolleys run) and then up the other side of Canal.  You can also see the many port-a-potties in the neutral ground!

And this last band..... well, just watch them!  Let the good times roll!!!

Enjoy the videos!  Let me know if you can't get them to work.


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cajun Riviera to Winnie Texas - Feb 25

56.34 in just under five hours. We woke up in the morning to a thick wall of fog, so I went back to bed! When Pam started to tell me about an impending wind change, a high wind warning, dangerous thunderstorms and possible hail, I figured I better get up and ride into what was potentially a dangerous and miserable situation. Pam wanted to get the Rv to our next destination before the high wind affected her ability to maneuver a 37 foot wind interceptor.
We put a few LED lights on the bike, and I wore my brightest orange jacket, and I was on my way, with the wind out of the southeast, at my back.
Mike starting out in the morning.  So glad I bought him that jacket!!
A foggy start to the day.

 All was good, except the fog was preventing me from seeing very much scenery. I had a scary dog incident that turned out to be pretty funny. I was riding along in the foggy conditions, and I saw what appeared to be three dogs come out of the high grass along the road. They crossed, pretty far in front of me, and based on the sightings of a dead coyote and a dead wolf over the last couple of days, they started looking less dog like, and more dangerous. When encountered by a pack of potential wild wolves, my hair has a tendency to stand on end, and a plunger full of adrenaline shoots into my arteries, where it is pumped quickly through my body. Under these conditions, I can pedal a bike pretty damn fast. One of he dogs only gave me a token chase, but the other two brought all they had. I got up to about 25 mph, and realized the two dogs were working their asses off just to stay even. They can't take a chomp under those conditions because they are too busy running. It's the closest I have come to pulling the car antenna that I carry taped to my bike for just this occasion, but I didn't. As we were racing along, one of the dogs, who was running in the grass, suddenly went ass over tea kettle. I think his front paws sunk in some mud and he looked like the Tasmanian devil spinning and throwing mud. The third dog was in hot pursuit, and didn't want to quit until a tanker truck came by, and scared him off. As I rode off into the fog, I yelled back at the last one to 'go back and check on his buddy' because he may not have realized he was the last one standing. Seconds after that was over, I realized that my quads were on fire, and I was sucking wind pretty hard. 25 seems to be about as fast as a dog can run. Which is good to know.

Doggy friends came out of the high grass.

The area I was riding in was grassland, bayou, cattle range, mixed with natural gas refinery areas. While I was still in Louisiana, I saw a pretty big alligator, another pink ibis, and tons of ducks and egrets, mixed with several curious cows that stared at the orange streak going by in the fog.
Louisiana suddenly ended with a huge bridge that rose into the fog over the Sabine Lake that separated Louisiana and Texas. As I was taking a picture of the bridge, Pam went cruising by in the Rv, so I took her picture too. I came down off the bridge into Texas at about 30 mph, wind still at my back, fog and clouds getting darker.

One of many tanker farms

Pam rolling down the highway

The first of the two large bridges that we crossed

These are the masts of huge fishing boats

 Port Arthur, Texas was a huge oil refinery, or so it seemed, as I rode for miles with the refinery smell, and the smoke stacks with gas burning off in the fog. Every kind of truck imaginable was in the area, but all were safe and courteous to a biker, which is way more than I can say about the trucks in the Washington County area, which scared the hell out of me. Another huge bridge took me over the Intercoastal Waterway again, thru more refineries, which were so huge, they made the old steel works in Pittsburgh look like a small operation.

The second bridge we crossed.  Had a heck of a view!  

Only 2 more miles to the campground......

Soon after Port Arthur, I turned onto Texas route 73, which was a 25 mile long, straight shot into the wind to Winnie, Texas. The wind had changed from southeast to due west, while I was riding north for a short time. Texas better not be like this everyday, or I'm not gonna like it. It became very desolate, with some cattle ranches, and flat scrub lands for as far as you could see. I did see four antelope, which were pretty cool. As I progressed over the 25 miles to Winnie, the wind gradually picked up. I was going 12 into the teeth of it, then eleven mph, then ten, then struggling to go nine, then eight mph. Holy crap! The last ten miles I was just trying to keep moving, as the wind continued to get stronger. Pam said we had wind gusts up to 38 mph! Previously, the wind going into Key West was the worst I had encountered, but we have a new champion!
The day ended on a great note, with the clouds clearing up and the temp going into the mid seventies as I battled the wind. We sat in the sun for a short while, then headed across the street to  AL-T's Cajun Steakhouse. We had a meal that was the best of both Louisiana and Texas. Appetizers were boudin ( boo-dan) links with ranch dressing and a cup of étouffée. Boudin is like stove top dressing in a sausage skin, breaded and deep fried, and étouffée is like a thick gumbo. We then had out first Texas ribeyes. They were huge, cooked to perfection, and there will be more Texas steaks consumed, even though we are now out of coon ass country, so the Cajun food may be about done.

More videos!

I've been having a hard time getting a strong enough signal to upload these videos but I think I finally have it, so here it goes!!!

First off, a shout out goes to my neighbor Cyndi for letting me know that the videos are working.  I did try to reply to your comment, but I don't know if it worked!  I'm still trying to get the hang of this blogging thing!!

This video is from Royal Palm Visitor Center in the Everglades.  We just happened to see this Anhinga catch a fish (he dove underwater and speared the fish) and we videoed him eating the fish.  He drew quite an audience and everyone was cheering him on!!!

Okay, it just took 30 minutes to upload one video, so it looks like I'm only giving you folks one tonight.  It's incredibly windy here in Winnie, Texas - 40 mph wind gusts, 30 sustained, so maybe that's the problem???  Who knows?  The next round of videos will be from a Mardi Gras parade, so hopefully I can post them soon!

Spending time on the Cajun Riviera, just because we can! Feb 24

Sunday, Feb. 24. We woke up late, and decided to do some housekeeping and have some Jeep fun. We could drive on the beach of the Gulf, even though it was narrow, and near high tide. We saw two dead dolphin on the beach. They had a blackish tint to them, oil slickish to the uneducated , probably just died of natural causes, but you never know. We beachcombed for seashells, to put in Pam's hobby box. Some of the shells were blackish (oil ?) and some are nice. The Louisiana Gulf beaches are not of the beautiful sandy variety, like the Outer Banks, but are filled with shells, crushed and whole, lots of seaweed, and incredibly polluted by man. They are in no way recovered from Rita and Ike, and the piles of black sand indicate the BP oil spill will take years, or decades, or centuries, to recover. That being said, I saw a fisherman pull out a huge fish of some sort, and the birds were plentiful. The backdrop of off shore oil rigs and wells cast an eerie mix with the fishing boats. The Gulf horizon is very busy, compared to the peaceful ocean horizons that I'm used to. After our Jeep adventure, where we checked out many small beach developments that were once beautiful, but are now under various stages of repair and desertion, we chilled at the Rv. Pam was motivated to wash the Jeep and Pace Arrow, I wasn't.
The day ended with rain, thunder, lightning, and multitudes of mosquitos that drilled through the walls of the Rv. Chemical warfare was the ultimate finish, after hours of fly swatter warfare.

Some people were riding on the beach

Cruising down the beach

Dead dolphin

Now why did the Jeep need a bath???

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lake Charles to somewhere on the Gulf Coast. Feb 23

60.75 in under five hours. We are between Holly Beach and Johnson's Bayou in the Louisiana back country. A sign said it was the 'Cajun Riviera'. We are in the western most, southern most tip of Louisiana, just a stones throw away from Texas. I had a choice of riding US90 through a row of towns into Texas, or heading due south and hitting the Gulf. I chose going south, fortunately. What a beautiful ride, after a rough start. Maps weren't real clear, but the only two bridges across the Calcasieu River were I-210 or I-10. So, after getting advice from a cop, headed onto I-10, which merged with US90 to get across the river. The bridge, which was about a mile long with a surprisingly, steep grade and descent , had no shoulder, just a narrow walkway, elevated like a sidewalk with a curb. After watching the truck traffic traveling side by side with no shoulder, I decided to walk my bike across the bridge. First time I've had to do that in 4000 miles. ( today my odometer turned over 4000 miles since we left the Outer Banks). A few miles more on I-10, and it was back off the interstate to US90. The road and the shoulder were newly paved through a heavy industrialized area (PPG, Citgo, and lots of oil, chemical, natural gas), until I turned onto LA27, due south. What a beautiful ride, through one town, Hackberry, which was so photogenic, I took several pictures. The majority of the trip was through the Sabine Natural Wildlife Preserve. Whenever I wasn't in the preserve, there were plenty of gas and oil wells. I crossed the heavily used Intercoastal Waterway again. In the preserve, it was water or grasslands as far as you could see in every direction. The only sign of man was the road, telephone poles, and an occasional pull off for the preserve. I rode out a one mile observation loop that was paved with elevated deck in places. I saw an alligator in the water-actually scared the crap out of him, as I rode over an elevated section. He did a mad scamper, slashing and splashing, as I rode above him. He made me look, I'll tell you that! I also saw a ton of great blue herons, and even saw a pink ibis, which is often mistaken for a flamingo because of the vibrant pink color on such a big bird. We also saw one in the Everglades. When the Gulf finally came into sight, there was a coastal town called Holly Beach. Actually it looked like an Rv resort with a few beach houses mixed in. I found out that was all that was left after Hurricanes Rita and Ike, which were direct hits. What they didn't destroy, the BP oil spill affected. I stopped and talked to two Cajuns, who were two of the 12 permanent residents in town. Donnie and Faith ran a flag and t shirt store, which looked like it was its last leg. Don was also struggling with what was left of a commercial crabbing business. He said he received no FEMA money because he wasn't going to wait for two years for help, so he bought a trailer, added on a screen room, and built a plywood shack for his business, and FEMA told him he couldn't prove there was any damage, even with photos. He got nothing. He said BP was sending him 14 dollars a month interest, but his money is still, to this day tied up in court and litigation. He'll get it when all the appeals are done. For such beaten down people , they were great, upbeat, and a hoot to talk to. I stayed for a hour and listened to them tell stories with their Cajun accents, and sense of humor. They offered me a place to stay if I needed it, invited me to a dinner of boudin (that's boo-dan) and beer bread, and gave me a pound of dried shrimp for the road. Imagine jerky made of shrimp. Salty and goes good with beer! I took plenty of pictures, and could have listened to their stories all night. They gave me advice about the roads, and also local wisdom ( i.e. don't let anyone cook boudin ( boo-dan) for us unless they are a coon-ass). A coon ass is what Cajuns call themselves. They said that there is some bogus boudin out there!
I finally caught up with Pam, at a nine-site Rv place. The owner wasn't there, so she had to turn on the water and electricity herself, and we have to put payment in a pipe somewhere on the property, and he'll get it Monday. Crazy, but not as crazy as the mosquitoes. We have never seen so many! I'll never complain about Rodanthe N C again. The motor home was covered with them at dusk, and they were everywhere inside from going in and out (as few times as we could). We ended up spraying inside after I went Bonsai on them with a fly swatter for a while, and they just laughed at me. I hope we can get out of the Rv tomorrow.
We did go for a walk on the beach, and looked at all the off shore drilling rigs (there must be twenty of them in sight), and collected seashells that were black or stained from BP oil.

Oil factories

I-10 bridge where I had to walk my bike across

Fishing boats

All about shrimping

LA 27 is part of this trail

You can drive on the Gulf beach, as long as you follow these rules!  Remember - No displays of Power!!!

Hit a stretch where there were blanket flowers all along the  road.  Haven't seen them since we left the Outer Banks!

The walkway where I scared the alligator.

Along the walkway

Bike needed a rest.

Holly Beach

Chunk of hardened oil.

Donnie and Faith make t-shirts.  This one says: Pooh Yied pronounced - poe yea.  It's Cajun for  yee haw!   And now you can speak Cajun!

Looking at oil rigs.  See the dots out on the horizon??

Nature preserve

Donnie and Faith's flag sales.

The flag says: Heritage Not Hate

New Iberia, LA to Lake Charles LA - Feb 22

97 miles in 7:06. The day dawned very overcast, and stayed that way. Not even a hint of sun. The temperature was supposed to be in the 60's, but as I have said before, 60 and sunny is nice, 60's and cloudy is not so nice. I wore several layers, worked up a sweat, but couldn't pull up my sleeves, and all exposed skin plus my feet would chill easily. I think the humidity puts a chill through my bones, even as I work up a sweat. By the end of the day, when I pulled up to the Rv, I was shivering, and I continued to be cold for hours, even under the covers in bed.

The trip itself was an education, very unique, and the day ended with many unanswered questions. I rode through miles and miles of rice growing ponds in various states of preparation. They were approximately one to two acre ponds, with dirt walls and drains controlling the depth of the water. They looked to be about a foot deep when they had water in them. Some were totally dry, with a smooth silty bottom. The soil here, in the Mississippi delta is a beautiful, rich, dark color. Some of the ponds had vegetation in them, some did not. Some of the ponds had wire trap looking things scattered throughout them, with red or white pieces of tubing on top. I have know idea what they were. I've never seen crawfish farms, and I thought maybe that's what the wire things were for. I have no idea. I'm gonna research it on the Internet and post if I learn anything. There were also the craziest boats that were for navigating in these ponds. They had a metal wheel on the back of the boat with tractor treads, which is lowered and digs in the mud in the bottom of the pond for traction. What they are doing in the ponds I don't know.

This is one of the rice fields with the fancy boat

Close up of the boat - Pam saw the boat cruising thru the water and then driving up onto the land!

 I saw one sign that said something about rice and soy beans. There were many metal grain silos that could have been for grain. Another question came about when I saw these mud nests, or mounds in yards. What type of critter built them. The first thing I thought of was all the gophers in the movie Caddie Shack. These people need Bill Murray down here as an exterminator...or not.

Unknown mounds

Added my foot to show the size of the mounds

I spent the day on LA 14, which had many different personalities. There were no shoulders anywhere. Fortunately, there was little traffic. I will say that this has to be the friendliest area I have ever been in. I must have had 100 people wave or acknowledge me as I rode by. I've never experienced anything even close to the percentage of passing cars responding positively to my being on the road. One guy even pulled up along side of me just to chat and say hi. People of all ages, genders, waving, flashing headlights, and not one middle finger! The drivers also were very, maybe even overly, safety conscious. No one squeezed by. People went completely over in the other lane to get around me. People slowed and would not pass if there was anyone coming the other direction. No one came up on me from behind and got too close. No one punched their gas pedal to get around me after slowing. No exceptions! Unbelievable! I better not get used to that.
I went off the main road and passed thru several small towns. The places were pretty nice, old fashioned downtowns, mom and pop places with no stores bigger than a Dollar General. One town, Gueydan, claimed to be the duck capital of the world.
Sorry we missed the duck festival!!

There were ducks and egrets and who knows what other kind of birds on each one of the ponds that I mentioned above. I noticed, just like the cattle in Florida, they all spooked for the guy on the bike, even though cars and trucks didn't bother them. Every duck, and there were thousands or tens of thousands, flew as I rode by. I saw more egrets in one day than I've seen in my life (and there were plenty in the Everglades). The ducks outnumbered the egrets tenfold, and there seemed to be many types, none of which I recognized from the ponds at home. I also saw between a dozen and two dozen hawks. I'm not sure what type, but they were always on a telephone pole, scoping for a meal. I saw one flying with a snake in its claws. What a day.
The last thing I want to talk about is the different personalities of LA 14. Don't ride a bike, or a motor home(according to Pam) on LA 14. That road opened a can of whoop-ass on mine. The jarring road, especially in Vermilion Parish, where I spent most my ride, absolutely wore me out. The bike didn't roll, it bounced down the road. Every impact went through my legs, wrists, arms, back, and neck. The last third of the trip wasn't as bad, but it was too late by then. The damage was done. I was totally demolished by the time I finished. The road damage and the chill made it one of the most difficult days I've ridden, and I didn't even mention the wind, which was really pretty much of a non factor, even though it was always present. LA 14 was a winding road, so the wind was hitting me from different directions all the time. It was the best of rides, because of all I have mentioned, and it was the worst of rides because of the toll it took. I thought the motor home was going to fall to pieces, it was shaking and rattling so badly!  After I parked for the day, I had to be very careful when opening cabinets because things were just falling out!  

And this wasn't a really bad section!!!!

We stayed in a Walmart parking lot in Lake Charles, and finished our day at a cool restaurant called Steamboat Bills. It was a place like Coleman's in Wheeling, where you had to get in one of two different lines, depending on what you were eating. Everyone, once again, was in the steam line, getting steamed crawfish in huge amounts, with steamed corn on the cob and potatoes. These people really LOVE their crawfish! We got in the other line and had catfish and shrimp. We just can't quite sit down to five pounds of crawfish like everyone else. We also still have to try étouffée, boudin (pronounced boo-dan) and cracklins. I was in bed by 8:30 and got 12 hours or more of sleep.

Little town I went thru

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feb 21 Rain wind and taxes

The weather channel said we were going to have two days of rain, high winds with possible damage, blah, blah blah. The weather channel is in the business of viewer ratings to sell commercials...don't really have confidence in their forecasts. They' ve cried wolf too many times. That being said, we decided to lay low for a day, and ride out the storm. We had some rain, not much. I would have gotten wet if I was riding. The winds were rockin pretty good, even though we couldn't feel much where we were. We heard there was a gust of about 40 mph. The storm seemed to run just north of us, and it was a big storm that impacted N. Carolina and Pennsylvania. Just not us!
Pam worked on the videos for the blog, and a multitude of the other things she does to keep this ship afloat. I pulled out the brief case full of receipts from the last year of Grant Street Lawn And Garden, and relived my last 6 months of work, one receipt at a time. I got quite a bit done, and hopefully one more rainy day will allow me to finish.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Finally! Videos are downloaded from the camera!

Pam - I have been trying for almost 2 months to download some HD videos from our camera.  Since today was a rainy day, I got to do a lot of Google research time and found a way to bring these videos to you!  I hope!!  Anyway, I'm going to start with videos taken in the Everglades, and I'd appreciate if some of you could let me know if you could or couldn't open the videos.  If it works, I have some Mardi Gras pictures to post too!

Alligator at Royal Palm Visitor Center - Everglades

                                      Another Alligator at Royal Palm Visitor Center - Everglades

                                            Anhinga airing his wings after diving in the water.

Houma to New Iberia Feb 20

88.1 miles in 6 hours. Last nights weather said it was going to be cloudy all day and a high of 60, with an east wind. The day dawned ( for me, at 8:45), with the sun shining, temperatures and wind as expected. 60 degrees in the sun is so much better than 60 on a cloudy day! The day was enjoyable, weather wise, partly because I overdressed, and it kept me warm, which for whatever reason, is what I wanted to be today. I was on the road by 9:30, temps in the low 50's, headed for US. 90, which was about three miles from the campground . US. 90 west was elevated, over swampland, for about 10-11 miles, which was cool to ride over, especially with the wind at my back. I got off 90, as soon as I could, and onto a more scenic, local road, LA 182, which basically parallels 90, except for a few side trips, following what they call the Bayou Teche. Teche is an Indian word, which means 'snake', which is what this waterway did, with lots of curves, and small towns all along it. I read that the Bayou Teche follows the original path of the Mississippi River, a long time ago, before it spread out into a delta, and changed course. The small towns were great to drive thru, much more scenic than 90, which has basically turned into a limited access highway, like an interstate, with exits and entrance ramps, and no businesses or red lights.
I have decided, based on what I've seen since I've been in Louisiana, that their roads are worse than Pennsylvania's, which I've always heard were the country's worst. I understand they don't have money because of Katrina and other issues, but man, I got my butt rattled off today. Every single side road in New Orleans was the same way. Pam said US 90 almost broke the frame on the motor home also. The roads don't freeze and thaw and get potholes like they do in PA, but they just crumble and deteriorate, slowly, and are never repaved or patched. In PA, the potholes make the roads so bad that they have to be replaced, hence the endless construction. I haven't hit any construction, or replacing down here, and my rear end can testify to the crappy roads. I hope Texas is better, because we are getting close! If you drive on US 90 from Houma west, be aware that as you go onto any size bridge and exit the bridge, there will be a BIG dip.  It's like they just took a bridge and dropped it onto the road without making the transition gradual.  If you are in a motorhome or towing, you must slow down (speed limit is 70) to 50 or 55 as you approach the bridge and you still get bounced!  As to the highway, some of the road is nice and then you get to the rolling, bouncing parts!  I had a glass of water half full and the water was splashing out as I drove!!  Seriously!  And I wasn't speeding - really?  I'm in a 1999 motorhome with a gas engine, loaded to the gills!  I'm slow.  On a positive note, there were many times that I drove on the elevated roadway over the swamps and bayous - that was cool cause I'm way up in an RV so I get a good view of the swamp.
Now back to the trip itself. When I got off US 90 onto LA 182, I rode along the Intercoastal Waterway I think, and saw miles and miles of ship building, ship repair, and everything to do with the shipping industry. Towns like Amelia and Morgan City were very, very blue collar, all shipbuilding. I then went across a very narrow, long steel bridge over the Atchafalaya River, which I had never heard of, and I still can't pronounce, and the landscape totally changed. I started to follow the previously mentioned Bayou Teche, and everything became about sugar cane. Each town, and there were many, was sprinkled among endless sugar cane fields. The laborers obviously lived in mobile homes and older places, but the land owners lived in theses grand old mansions that dotted the landscape. It seemed every business was there to support the sugar industry, and one town, Jeannerrette, was nicknamed the 'Sugar Capital of Louisiana'. I saw tons of cane harvesting machinery and trailers used to carry it, all sitting idle, just waiting for the growing season.
In my travels today, I did notice leaves starting to pop out on the cypress and maple trees, and people were cutting their grass and working in their yards. I think spring in the south is very near, and we have successfully avoided winter. Now with the forecast of 2-3 inches of rain coming over the next few days, its time to get ready for spring showers, and the inevitable storms that are going to blow through this area.
Two other things that I wanted to mention, that have nothing to do with each other, are the wild mistletoe that we have been seeing in the trees around here, and the sewer grates along these lousy roads. I didn't know that mistletoe was an airborne seed that caught onto a host tree, sort of like Spanish Moss. We can see clumps of it way up in trees along the road. It was pointed out to us on our swamp tour yesterday, and we both saw more today.
As I was circumnavigating the bumps today, and also in New Orleans, I noticed many, many sewer grates that were placed in the road so a bicycle's tire will go right down into the slots if you hit the grate. That is testament again, I believe, to the old age of the roads down here. I would have thought that would have been corrected any time a road is redone. I haven't hit one yet, but its just one more thing to watch for around here, along with traffic, bumps, splits in the roads, etc.

Statue of an oil rig in Morgan City

Iron bridge that Mike traveled, Pam got to go across the one on left.

Sugar cane field with young growth

Spring is on its way down here!!

Lampposts mentioned above - note there are no chickens!!  HAHA

Nice little town

You never know what you are going to discover down here!

Sugar cane factory

Plantation house on a sugar cane plantation.