This last week has been a humbling experience – with regard to the weather and the goal I have. I’ve learned I have to be acutely aware of the weather and that wind is a foe. I’ve learned that everyone I talk to about New Beginnings Work understands and thinks giving a helping hand to those released from prisons and jails is good. Getting donations, though, is harder, so if you can, please go to this link and consider a donation-all the funds will be divided equally among the 4 non profits. www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work
Because of weather and terrain, I hired a driver from Uber to take me from Lubbock to Austin, then rented a car to drive myself to New Orleans 2 days later. I was able to cycle around northeast New Orleans. Damage from the hurricane is still apparent – large empty lots, dilapidated streets, damaged empty buildings. Along a canal I saw a number of people fishing. I tried to find a way to get to the trail on the levee for Lake Pontchartrain (rebuilt and reinforced) and asked a woman – Mabel – how. She lamented that there are now no steps up to it like there used to be so people can’t easily stroll, fish and so forth without going several miles to find an entrance. I went to the French Quarter the next day by bus and got a nice walk in, enjoying the music in the streets from the bars and restaurants. (I’ve heard “Elvira” twice – once at a karaoke bar in NOLA, the second time while cycling past a biker’s bar in Alabama).
As I headed east from New Orleans to Bay St. Lewis, the dreaded headwind was there. After about 20 miles I came upon Rigolets Bay and Seafood. Shanna was so friendly and wouldn’t let me pay for my peanuts and soda and offered to refill my water bottles. She and Bryant both talked about how the wind kept all the fishermen out that day (except for 1). I have something in common with people who fish. We don’t like wind! Shanna told me of many bridges ahead over many bayous and I rode for easily another 20 miles or so in isolation with trees at times blocking some of the wind.
When I left Bay St. Louis the next morning, an intimidating bridge awaited. At least it had a walking/bike lane. The wind was fierce and it was drizzling. As I hit Pass Christian and Gulfport, I knew I couldn’t make it to Moss Point since it took me 4 hours to go 23 miles (should have taken about 2 hours with no wind). I saw Maryland tags on a car and stopped to talk to the couple sitting on a bench looking at the Gulf of Mexico – a couple from Chestertown on a road trip. We chatted for a while and they were interested in New Beginnings Work, knowing nothing about prisons and rehabilitation programs. As we talked more, they became very supportive of the mission. Energized a bit by the conversation, I lasted another 90 minutes or so before calling a cab.
Yesterday was a short day – under 40 miles – and headwinds of 10-12 mph were manageable. Katy at a Chevron in Big Point Mississippi told me how to avoid a bridge closure. I passed a herd of cows/steers and got the look. 2 tiny dogs tried to chase me (really?). About 25 miles later at a tiny rest area in Alabama, Justin approached me. He was curious about my loaded up bicycle. (He and his wife are cyclists). After talking a bit, I found another believer in the benefits of these rehabilitation programs. One person at a time, one day at a time, the journey will continue even though I am feeling a bit beaten back by the weather.
I’m changing my route to Pensacola, though, staying more inland. Gulf breezes are only pleasant when one is on the beach or strolling.