Day 5 (July 16th):
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A long day in the saddle for The Chief (tm), but we’ll get to that.

Departure from Oak Mountain State Park was without incident and also a confidence-boosting learning experience. To wit, I had mentioned that the parking area had been the “furthest” from the site itself. Technically accurate, even if it was only about twenty yards or so, with a small incline up from the site. Thing is, remember, with all the junk I was shuttling between trailer and tent, a forty-yard round trip for each load I could carry would have added much packing time and effort. So I figured I’d roll the trailer down, fill it up, and if I couldn’t manage to physically pull it back up the incline, I’d just bring the bike down -- right past the “No Vehicles Beyond This Point” sign -- and power it out of there (“a$$hole Northerners!”) However, I was happy to discover that it was took no real Herculean effort to tug it back up top, even whilst wearing rubber flip-flops, so if it hadn’t been that bad for me, it couldn’t be that bad for the bike out there on the road.

One option was to head back northwest for just a bit, cut mostly west across Alabama, and then diagonally down to New Orleans. Another was
maybe 60 miles longer in distance down though AL first, then west along the Gulf of Mexico. I decided to take the latter route, thus eventually getting some Gulf views I knew I would now miss a few days hence (See “Day 7” when it becomes available).

OK, so we’re back on the highway and pointed southwest. Let me say this: if there is an energy/gasoline crisis in this country like I’ve heard something about, you wouldn’t know it by the driving habits on the Interstates. I’ve mentioned that prudence limits the rig to a very un-The Chief (tm)-like 65MPH top end, so I am accustomed to getting passed by people…but I was being blown away by people. My favorite was seeing full-size pickups, with all the windows open and tailgates up, go absolutely steaming by me; do you have any idea what kind of mileage such a truck loses when the guy is going 85 MPH?

Shortly after leaving I needed to refuel, and a Conoco right off the highway beckoned with unleaded at $3.839, down among the lowest prices I had seen thus far. When I pulled in the guy was actually changing the prices right at the moment, so I had to ask if they had just gone up, or down. “Down”, he said, which meant that I had picked a great moment to arrive! Ah, but there was to be another cost -- the cost of time -- for after having paid, I went back to the pump, but it wouldn’t start dispensing. A few cycles of lowering and raising the handle, replacing the nozzle in the cradle, pressing the buttons, etc., and nothing but beeping and buzzing. Walked back inside, axed if there was a problem, the woman said no, it should be all set. Back outside, same thing. Now she comes out and says that when they reset the price, it mustn’t have yet updated at the pump, except that the prices did match those on the sign. More cycling through, more beeping and buzzing. FWIW a big pain in the ass to move the rig to another pump at a gas station, so here I am just waiting for it to start to work. Finally it did, but not before I watched other folks dispense twenty gallons in the overall time it took me to do six. Twelve minutes at a G-D gas station seems like a very long time when it’s hot and you’ve still got hundreds of miles to cover.

Naturally the Interstate itself didn’t go near the Gulf coast, but “Scenic Route 90” did. Now, unlike at any previous destination, here I actually had an important timetable to meet in reaching New Orleans to guarantee safe, covered parking for the motorcycle & trailer, unavailable at the hotel. I had to reach the hotel, check in, get all the junk up to the room, and get to the parking area by 5 PM. The Alabama route had already been taking too much time, so now I realized I’d have to scrap the Scenic Route, essentially having added sixty miles and one hour to my trip for no reason whatsoever and clocking in at nearly 400 miles and six and a half hours in the saddle.

A long day, indeed.

If there was any consolation, the route did take me through Mississippi, adding that state to the list of ones covered on the trip, though it just missed the northwest corner of Florida. At one point there was a very tall bridge crossing a wide body of water, and it was easy to note that the bridge was the highest thing for as far as the eye could see. Later, while crossing a long elevated stretch over a delta or river basin, what looked to be an ugly thunderstorm loomed in the distance, with cars from the opposite direction still running their wipers. With little other cherce I kept the fingers crossed and went with the “ride it out” plan; I rode through it, it was strong but brief, and after emerging from it into the sun again I was nice and cool. A win!

The rig needed gas again pretty badly and it bummed me out for it meant that I would have to take what I could get, right off the highway, regardless of price. Dodged a bullet – yes, I had to pay $3.999, the highest yet, but at least I still hadn’t yet shelled out for anything with a “4” handle!

I thought I was going to be busted for speeding through this ridiculous "construction zone"/ rip-off-friendly highway strip nearing Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana. They were using laser, which my Valentine One radar detector can receive, but laser readings are essentially instantaneous and you really have no time to slow down at all. My bike is definitely big enough to reflect a signal so I thought I was finished -- a costly ticket, perhaps some other ugliness, definitely missing out on the parking thing I so desperately needed in New Orleans. Instead they grabbed one of the full-size pickups I’ve mentioned previously, and I pushed on unscathed.

The bridge/roadway across the lake was very long and completely straight, and it demonstrated the size of the thing because there nothing but water for the entire view on either side. The roadway  touched down again on a strip of land, which I estimated from the GPS image to be about three miles wide,
between Ponchartrain on one side and the Gulf on the other. There was nothing along the sides of the highway, but I would imagine there were once houses and/or businesses away from it and towards the water, because there were two or three elevated interchanges along the way. Kinda weird, though -- the first interchange had obviously long ago been completely abandoned. Same for the second. And the third. So anything on this entire strip of land, three miles wide, five to seven miles long, had been rendered completely uninhabitable after Katrina, and deserted. Odd, spooky, and depressing. And in spots the highway itself was very uneven, as if perhaps the ground below it had settled if it had been underwater for any amount of time.

Heading further southwest and nearing New Orleans, there was still the occasional dilapidated residence or building here and there, but there were also many much newer-looking, and out-of-place-looking, apartment complexes that must have been constructed to take in folks who had been displaced. It was also interesting to see how many of those spillways there are, and how far in they go, and to imagine just how well they conducted the floodwaters into, through, and over the neighborhoods. I’m pretty sure I remember that the NOAA was giving at least four days’ heads-up that The Big One was really coming this time, and of course I wasn’t even staying on top of those news developments, not living in the area. Why, then, were the effects so bad for those who did? Who was asleep at the wheel?

Motored into central New Orleans on the elevated I-10 roadway, first passing by all the huge, ugly industry/oil/gas/refinery complexes to the city's east. On Canal Street downtown, one could clearly see that for as many buildings as had been “rescued” after the flooding, many others (still standing) had been left to fail, but the streetcars were cleaned up and running and full of people.

Pulling into the French Quarter and driving down Bourbon Street under my own power was pretty cool, having walked it -- and crawled it -- many times in the past. I reached the Inn on Bourbon, a Ramada property, and checked in. I was disappointed to note that the fitness center was undergoing renovations, which settled the question of whether I would have time/inclination to do a treadmill run at any point during the stay (happily, I was able to bang out 103 push-ups in my first set of that workout, tying my all-time high and edging the 101 I managed at the hotel in Knoxville.) The room also was on the fifth floor, which unfortunately meant it did not have a balcony overlooking the pool (in the French Quarter!) Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever been as cold indoors as I have been when I entered that room, because they obviously had left the A/C blasting in advance of my arrival (can’t blame them, though, as the afternoon sun can really heat up a place quickly down here). Having said all that, I truly cannot recommend this place enough for its unbeatable combination of location, price, condition and amenities. Oh, and they actually had tea in the room!

Priority #1: patching a call to my parking man, Angel. He operates a tour bus and cruise ship shuttle company ( and had told me he normally left at five, but would stick around if I could be on my way quickly. Truth is, the timing was very tight, and he in fact stayed until I arrived at more like 5:15, saving me the aggravation of figuring out where to safely stash the rig for two overnights. His location was everything I needed. He was a very nice guy with some very interesting stories, and he even drove me back towards the Quarter on his way to his ferry over to the Algiers side and beyond. Yes, I’m pretty sure the pen I had brought along to take notes fell out of my pocket into his van along the way, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Priority #2: get my hide back to the Acme Oyster House on Iberville before any lines started to form outside. The Chief (tm) waltzed in without any delay and selected a seat at the bar, soon to be greeted by one of more tantalizingly attractive bartendresses in recent memory. In person, picture a combination of Vanessa Williams and Tyra Banks in her prime, with a spirit and personality off the charts; what’re you, kidding me? I knew pretty much without looking at the menu that a soft-shell crab sandwich and a half-dozen large, yet creamy and smooth oysters were in order, but the beverage was another question. Without hesitation my girl hooked me up with the Abita “Andygator” and had the kindness to inform me that it had a thirteen percent alcohol content, which basically put the “choose your hang-over level” option squarely in my court. Somewhere along the way it became apparent that there now was a line outside the door, as folks were coming in to the bar, ordering drinks to go, and taking them outside to help mitigate the wait. Two nice young ladies did such ordering and then came in and sat down near me; chatting with them subsequently keeping me in the joint a little longer than I had planned, I figured that an oyster shooter was indicated. And by that I mean just one of them, not three, as my man Sammy has been known to order, inexplicably. I made sure to specify I did not wish to be killed by it.

Um, can you believe that smoking is no longer permitted  in establishments which serve food?

Finally getting out of Acme, I discovered that it is no longer very easy to find a White Thing (tm) anywhere, and once you do, it can set you back as much as eleven dollars. Still, it was felt like coming home, even if it hadn’t been purchased in the establishment owned by this man.

This is a funny town. At this point, at ten o’clock after a long day on the road, a normal human in a normal place would be forgiven for thinking that the night feels like it may be nearly over. Heck, at a campground, by now you’d be on full headlamp power and trying to keep the bugs from following you into the tent. Here, it’s another story, for at ten o’clock there aren’t even that many people out yet. Those who might be, like my man Kendall, would naturally be attracted to scenes such as this, but we are still talking about a fairly narrow demographic.

Another funny thing is that you’ll see one bar that is PACKED and another one, right next door and very similar in style and decor, literally EMPTY. Or that the strip clubs do not permit full nudity, yet there can be, and was, toplessness right there on the street. I don’t mean inebriated young gals giving bead-throwers a show -- though there was plenty of that -- but a group of older broads who had done body-painting of their bared upper torsos in order to fool the eye. And yep, they fooled the eye, and you could tell from the looks of many fooled peoples’ faces that they wished they hadn’t been. And no, I didn't take any pictures -- YUK.

Pant mishap! Must have sat in someone else’s Red Thing (tm) residue whilst purchasing my own White Thing (tm). Even though I didn’t get a chance to wash the the shorts for a few days, the stain came right out, which is good news because otherwise I might have had to wear one of the other three pairs I’ve brought instead.

Here are a few random pics before I hit the sack at 4 AM.


Acme Oyster House

Your Hostess With The Mostest

White Thing

Hello, Johnny!

Kendall's Favorite

Pant Mishap!

Famous Door

Grab & Go

Free Shots