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2/16/14 Bucket Ride Day 1

2/16/14 Ride Day 1

20140216_115331It was nice to start the day from a hotel room rather than from a crazy airport terminal.  Since the hotel had Wi-Fi I got a bit of work done before we set out for day one of our ride.

We decided to take a quick detour and see the French Quarter of New Orleans.  It was a fairly uneventful ride but still required some navigation and I was thankful to have GPS on my phone.

20140216_120611We landed at one of New Orleans’ great visitor’s centers called Basin St. Station and were welcomed by its very nice staff.  One of the staff members walked us through our map, gave us directions and even called one of the other visitor’s centers to see if they had a specific type of map that would help us navigate the city.  Awesome!  If you ever get to New Orleans, I highly recommend stopping in at the Basin Street Station for great info about the city.  By the way, it is FREE!

20140216_132517As we were getting ready to leave the station and continue on to downtown for some food, we noticed an oddly painted coffin sitting outside the center.  On closer inspection, chills ran down my spine, the coffin was memorializing the August 29, 2005 disaster called Katrina.  1,464 people lost their lives in that storm and I didn’t know it yet, but I was soon to see some of the devastation first hand caused by that storm nearly 9 years ago.  

20140216_130911We realized that it was already after 12pm and we had not eaten since breakfast and left the station in search of some food.  We had lunch at the Jagerhaus on Bourbon St.  That was the best “hamburger” that I’ve ever had.  I can only describe this hamburger as SARCASTIC!  It was huge, with sauerkraut and sausage piled so high that I am sure the chef was loved watching people try to eat it.

20140216_143747With lunch over, it was time get on the bikes and head east.  Did I mention that we spent some time navigating?  Yeah, we spent several hours navigating, with the goal of getting out of the city and on the right track.  It was slightly frustrating.  GPS is an awesome tool, but you really need to be moving to make it work properly and we were constantly having to stop and re-orientate ourselves.  My phone’s GPS did not like this very much and sometimes it would send us in the entirely wrong direction.  We traversed up and down downtown New Orleans, with me pulling a trailer.  Every time we had to start or stop or turn around it was a HUGE pain in the butt!  Pedestrian traffic was totally unpredictable and they would just walk off the sidewalk into the street at any moment.  It was very hectic and rather frustrating.

20140216_143853Dad finally stopped and asked a couple of police officers which direction was North.  They looked at us a little strange and couldn’t really answer the question.  I guess in New Orleans, you don’t use North, South, East or West.  If you ask someone for directions you need to know your target destination and then they can tell you EXACTLY how to get there.

20140216_142540At one of our “ask for directions” stops, I experienced one of the coolest marketing approaches that I’ve ever seen.  Six guys standing around trading out charged Samsung cell phone batteries.  They were actually from Texas and they own a bicycle messenger company.  They are literally bicycle messengering charged Samsung cell batteries for free to any location in the French Quarter.  Free!  Super cool.  So, if I need a fully charged battery anywhere in downtown New Orleans, I would just send a tweet to #poweron and they would deliver a battery to me.  I wonder if I can talk them into riding with us and handing me new batteries every few hours.

20140216_145722Downtown riding was really stressful, from the pedestrians, to the cars and even the other cyclists.  I got passed on my right by a girl on a silent “fixie” right as I was trying to maneuver away from a random taxi that pinched me between it and a parked car.  All I heard was a little high pitch gasp and the girl and I saw the blur of her as she barely cleared me and my trailer.  I think there were probably about 2 inches to spare as she squeezed between me and the parked car to her right.  GRRRR!  She and I arrived at the same red light at the same time, of course she ran it.

20140216_150807We finally got out of downtown and headed in the right direction. As the roads opened up the landscape changed dramatically.  We went from a bustling down town French Quarter with music, street performers and generally a party atmosphere to the remains of hurricane Katrina.  The massive scope of this natural disaster left me with a very strange feeling.  I wondered about the lives that were affected, but all that was left for me to see were old houses.  Some of the houses were abandoned, some were rehabilitated.  As I rode by I was reminded of the commemorative coffin I had seen just a few hours before.  1,464 people died.  I can only imagine what it was like for the people that had been living in the houses just 100 yard from where I was riding.

20140216_144000Lost again! Dang it!  We had been making so many starts and stops and u-turns that the GPS was virtually useless at this point.  I had another opportunity to learn about dad’s way of thinking as we pulled up to another intersection not knowing which way to turn.  I pulled to the side of the road and tried to coax the GPS to tell us where we were.  Dad, on the other hand, saw flashing police lights and a bunch of officers around the corner restraining someone.  He had no hesitation to walk over to the one officer standing on the outside of the “circle of police” and ask him for directions.  Meanwhile, I’m still fiddling with my phone and dad came back saying, “Um, the cop just sent me away, he said he was in the middle of a crisis situation, but to me it looked like he was just standing around.”  In fact, that is exactly what the officer was doing.  I think the officer may have realized that his “in the middle of a crisis situation” response was a bit dramatic since the “offender” was strapped to a gurney, still very verbal but completely immobile.  Eventually the officer walked back to dad and gave us great directions.  My GPS, on the other hand, was just pissing me off.  Old school wins.

20140216_150811As we exited the city we came up on our first real obstacle, and it was a scary one.  I was incredibly apprehensive as fear came over me.  It was the same type of fear I’ve had before doing something that could potentially kill me.  Our obstacle was a highway overpass that required a very long circular type of onramp.  The fear came from not knowing what was in store for us in terms of road conditions, traffic volume or length of the over pass.  We were hard to see because of the curve of the onramp and cars would not expect bicycles on this road. I also knew that dad would need to walk his bike because of the steepness.

We sat at the bottom of this onramp, just looking at it.  There wasn’t much thinking to do because it was the only way to get to where we were going but I just didn’t want to start.  I knew that once we got on that road we were 100% committed and there was no turning back.  I could feel my heart as it thumped in my chest.  Dad and I discussed a little strategy and I decided that he would proceed first and I would start as he got several hundred yards up the road. I didn’t mention this to dad, but my thoughts were that we would be less likely to both get hit by a car if there was enough space between him and I.

What seemed like an eternity later, we were both at the top of the overpass and on a very wide road with great shoulders.  Huge relief!  I felt like I had a weight lifted off as we just made it through our first real unknown. Everything went fine.

20140216_150832

The view from the top of this bridge was amazing.  As the cars whizzed by, dad and I stopped and looked over the edge back down from where we came. It was pretty impressive!  Bonus, this bridge is a draw bridge, super cool!  We were indeed on an adventure.

The rest of the ride was uneventful with just a few more miles ahead before we decided to finish the first day at the very first hotel we could find.

Total miles 28, total time on the bike 9 hours.  Only 650-ish miles to go.

 

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