“Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls” ~ Bob Weir ~ Grateful Dead
I am writing this from a little slice of heaven called Pecan Island. It’s in southern Louisiana, in the marshes. I was referring to it being in the bayous, but I have been corrected. It’s the marshes. Marshes are natural land formation with water, water everywhere. Merriam-Webster defines a bayou as:
1: a creek, secondary watercourse, or minor river that is tributary to another body of water
2: any of various usually marshy or sluggish bodies of water
I left Texas on January 14th, rode through the very depressed town of Port Arthur, past the oil refineries, over a HUGE bridge onto a tiny spit of land leading to Louisiana. Crossing that huge bridge was a bit hairy. I got about a quarter way up and had to get off and walk the bike, and I’m glad I did, because a few minutes later, I heard the whoop-whoop of a police siren, and turned to see a motorcycle cop ahead of four truck carrying wide loads. Those loads were so wide they took up almost the whole width of the bridge. I pulled my bike up on the narrow curb and watched them pass. The noise and rumble was deep. I decided that with all the news about old infrastructure and collapsing bridges, I was going to just wait until they got to the other side and see if the bridge holds up!
I finally got to the top – the view was spectacular. Then the sweet coasting ride down to Pleasure Island. By then it was raining and I was getting cold, so I pulled out my sweet new rain jacket and bundled up.
Seven miles later, another big bridge, this one took me into Louisiana. Finally out of Texas and into Louisiana. The traffic was big. More wide loads. All of this big cargo was going to new LG plants being built in Louisiana. The ride was cold but beautiful with lots of bird life hanging out. I saw a gorgeous crane that was white with pink wing feathers, but it was so fleeting I couldn’t get a picture. I learned later that it was a roseate spoonbill.
Close to noon I stopped at a gas station/grocery store/snack bar. The snack bar had red beans and rice and boudin balls. I’d never had, nor heard of boudin balls before, but they were delicious fried rice and pork balls. It was one of the best lunches I’d had. If I could ride through Louisiana eating red beans and rice and boudin balls, I’d be a happy girl!
More riding. It was to be a fifty-six mile day, so I rode steadily, and the weather was getting better – the rain stopped and the sun came out. Still a head wind, but I’m beginning to suspect that there is no such thing as a tail wind. About 15 miles before the ferry to Cameron where my hotel room awaited me, I got another flat. There was no place to change a tire. There was no shoulder to the road, no place to sit down. So I started to walk my bike and after a bit some guy in a truck stopped to ask if I needed help. I said I had my second flat of the day and was looking for a place to change it. He put my bike in the back of the truck and gave me a ride to the Holly Beach Fire Station. His name was Larry and he was the retired fire chief of Cameron Parish.
Larry was on his way to a board meeting at the fire station. He opened the big door and wheeled my bike in. I had a place to sit and patch my tire. One of the trucks was out on a call. He told me that when it came back, to just tell them Larry let me in. The truck came back awhile later, and my “Larry” password was fine with them. They went upstairs to the board meeting. I got my tire patched and put back on, and now I was stuck inside the fire station. So I did what I’ve always wanted to do and took pictures of the fire trucks. With my mascot, Pokey, of course.
About a half hour later Larry came down and told me I could come upstairs and use the facilities, and I was grateful. After, we went back down and he opened the door. By now it was pitch black outside. I started loading my bags on my bike, but Larry said, no – he was giving me a ride to my motel. People are so nice. I am now constantly amazed at how kind complete strangers can be.
I was glad for the ride because it gave me a chance to talk with Larry. He told me that the Cameron Parish fire department used to have sixteen firemen, now there is one paid fireman and two volunteers – this with two fire stations – Cameron Parish is large. After hurricane Rita, a bunch of people who evacuated didn’t come back. Then came hurricane Ike, and even more people left for good. The population has diminished so much that the Johnson Bayou High School only has an enrollment of fifty-eight students. The local elementary school has it worse – there is only one child in the third grade class.
According to city-data.com, the town of Cameron in 2010 had a population of 406. That is a 79.3% decrease from the year 2000. Larry told me that with hurricane Ike, the water covered almost the entire parish. The storm also wiped out all of coastline by the Cameron Ferry – an expensive project of sand dredged from the gulf and dumped by the inlet was recently completed. Without that protection he said an ocean surge would flow right into Lake Charles in the next hurricane.
The other interesting thing about this inlet, is there is a rare albino pink dolphin that frequents the area. You can see pictures of it if you go to Google Images. Since I crossed the waterway in the pitch dark, I did not see it for myself. But there may be a field trip to Holly Beach in the near future, so there is still a chance.
There is only one motel in Cameron and I had a reservation – not that I needed it – I was their second guest of a grand total of two for the night. No couchsurfers or warmshower hosts are registered for the area. Well, there are two couchsurfing hosts registered, but they have not filled in their profiles or provided any information about themselves. Anyone who merely submits their name and city isn’t really a participator. I ended up staying for two nights because I woke up feverish and with a raging migraine. Headaches are so rare for me now, that I am amazed at how much they hurt and how I used to have them almost daily. I took this time to get plenty of sleep and fix my second punctured tube. I also said goodbye to my Nai’a Cruises t-shirt. I love this shirt because my brother designed it when he was dive master for Nai’a Cruises in Fiji. It wasn’t a total goodbye though – I cut the bottom part off and I am now wearing it as an infinity scarf – it helps when the wind is blowing!
The next day, January 16th (also my brother’s b-day!) I got back on the road, pedaling to Pecan Island. But that story is for my next post.
I would like to thank the kind and informative Larry, of the Cameron Parish FD for his help and all the interesting local knowledge. It’s people like him that make this journey so interesting.
PS – the quote for this blog has nothing to do with this blog…I just like it.