Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ascension Parish

This past Tuesday I drove down to South Louisiana to visit the family.

It had just been way too long. Skype is great and all, but it's a far cry from being face-to-face.

The drive down is long, 8 or 9 hours, but I spent that time with the windows down, radio cranked, singing at the top of my lungs, so I rather enjoyed it. It's fun watching the world change as you head south too. The hills flatten out. After a while you don't see any more rocks. The woods get denser. The rivers get wider. The lakes get bigger and bigger.

Sunset on Lake Ponchartrain

I rolled into New Orleans just before sunset.


...right before Randazzo's closed...


..just in time to score some chicken parm. They even let me stay a little past closing to finish eating. The guy that ran the place was great and chatty and the whole experience just made me happy.

I rolled into Gonzales just after dark and spent the next few days having all imaginable fun with the family.

Among the highlights:

Kicking the ball around the backyard for hours and hours.

Sophie - Kickball

Throwing the softball around the backyard for hours and hours.

Iz - Softball

Connect Four!

Connect Four

Taking the tiny, angry dog for a walk, hoping she will realize that I actually like her and attack me less. (It sort-of worked)


And, riding bikes in the neighborhood.


Sophie looks totally pro in those glasses. Iz has unfortunately, completely outgrown her bike and couldn't ride with us. Kathryn has gotten strong and fast enough that it's just fun to ride with her now. Woohoo!

I did go for a couple of solo road rides too.

The roads in Ascension Parish are either dead quiet or jam-packed. There is no in-between. Some of the busiest roads have only an inch or two of pavement to the right of the white line too. I imagine a breakdown would back traffic up for hours.

So on my first ride, I basically balance-beamed for miles on that aforementioned inch or two of blacktop, before eventually making it out to Geismar (Gize-mur) where everything was a lot quieter. The route just happened to take me right by the plant my Dad worked at when I was a kid and I recognized the entrance. Ha! I couldn't have planned it better if I'd known.

From there, I hung a left on the River Road and headed south.

Long stretches of the River Road are dotted with industry.

River Road - Industry

And long stretches are rural and desolate.

River Road - No Industry

I didn't get to see the Mississippi at all, but I was within a few hundred yards of it for a long time. There's a gravel road on top of the levee that I might have seen the river from, but it was cordoned off with fences and no-trespassing signs.

No luck.

After heading south for an interminably long time, I started to wonder if I'd missed my turn. It was getting late and I didn't want to miss dinner so I turned back and nav'ed my way back by dubious recollection of the relative orientation of a few main roads and the sun. It was late in a summer day, so the sun was west-southwest of me, and I was generally southwest of home. No problem right?

My route home took me right by Ashland Plantation.

Ashland Plantation

...and a good many more chemical plants.


It always seems weird to me to pass over or under an interstate on the bike.


Soon enough, I was home. No problem at all, as it turned out.

Looking at the map again later, I'd apparently failed to pay good attention to the scale. The route I'd planned out would have been like 120 miles if I'd ridden the whole thing. The roads out there are sparse and there are enormous tracts of private land between them. In Georgia, you could fit entire cities into tracts that size.

The next day I went out for another, less ambitious ride, basically just wandering around town.

Just down the street, there's a calf-roping farm. They buy cattle, keep them there while they're a good size for roping, then sell them to larger farms. They've got plenty of horses on the property too, and a small rodeo arena.

Calf Roping Farm

The cows are often lying down near the road, watching the cars go by. Sometimes they stick their head through the fence to eat the weeds on the other side too. I knew that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. I guess it tastes better too.

I saw plenty of dem crawdad, or at least the mounds them dem crawdad make.

Dem Crawdad

I mean, they were everywhere. I'd forgotten how prolific they can be. Later that day, Me and Kathryn and Iz ate some at Sammy's too.

Kathryn had pointed out this awesome fence earlier in the week and I rode by it too. It's made out of the fronts of old washers and dryers and dishwashers.

Awesome Fence


There were also a bunch of awesome farms along some bayou that I failed to take photos of. For each one, you had to cross an old wooden bridge to get on to the property, and there were no fences along the front, except at the bridge. The animals were just hemmed in by the water itself. Giant live oaks shaded the road there too. I really should have taken some photos, but I guess I just found myself enjoying the moment too much.

That was it for the outdoor adventure.

Worth mentioning, but not really the point of the trip.

The drive back was less exciting than the drive down. I drove through New Orleans again...


..and had lunch at Semolinas which I thought had long gone out of business until I saw the sign from the highway.

Somewhere in Mississippi I stopped at this gas station.

Cheetah on Methamphetamines

It seems that if you travel certain routes often enough, you'll end up at the same gas stations over and over. I've been to this one before, long ago. I remembered the giant, not-especially-threatening-looking cheetah. It definitely looks excited, but that's not exactly a predator stare. Ha! Anyway that stood out on the trip back.

When I got home, I had a voicemail from Billy, asking about doing some easy miles on the Silver Comet. Yeah, I could go for that. I'll have to give him a call.

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