Saturday, August 13, 2011


New Orleans, LA (duh)

So I'm in New Orleans right now... in a hotel room. NOLA couchsurfing community, I am disappoint. I sent out 10 requests to different people, asking if I could stay at least one of the two nights I'd be in town, and a few days before arriving I posted on the "Last minute request" board asking for the same thing. Three of the people I requested said no, and no one else responded, and from the last minute board I got one response from a guy who lived 45 minutes away. If past experience serves as any indicator, I'll get a bunch of "no" responses the day after I asked to stay, so they can keep their response rate at 100%.

Nonetheless, here I am in New Orleans. And I'm staying in the same hotel that I stayed in the last two times I came to New Orleans - but at least I've got someone to split it with, because Mark has joined me on the trip now.

It's weird to be traveling with someone - I wasn't sure how that would be. I had gotten pretty used to traveling alone, making my own decisions on when to stop and where to go. Some days I would do 50 miles, stop for breakfast, do another 50, stop for a coffee, do another 50, stop at a brewery, etc. With someone else, you can't just pull over whenever you feel like it, you have to think at least a little about when they want to stop, what time they want to get to the destination, and other things like that.

But it worked out well, because we ended up pushing pretty hard, and we needed to because it was a long day. 400 miles, which is my second longest day of riding on this trip (at least mile-wise). We got going around 9:00, did about 60 miles and then both filled up to sync up our gas tanks, and the next two legs of the trip were just over 100 miles each, with only a quick gas break between them. After that we stopped for lunch and to rest for a while.

Lunch was at a truck stop, and while it may not have been the best food I've had on the trip, it was probably the best deal. We each got red beans, rice, and sausage, which also came with two sides - and the plate of food was about twice as much as I've ever eaten in a meal. Neither of us even came close to finishing our food - and the total cost was $6 a plate.

After that, we had a little over 120 miles left in the trip, so we figured we'd stop a little outside New Orleans and get gas before finishing off the day. Well, that didn't happen. First, the last little bit coming into New Orleans is through a swamp on a raised highway, with pretty much no stops at all. I had forgotten about that part from the last two times I got to town.

The worst part, however, was the traffic. We hit some pretty bad traffic a little ways out, which turned out to be because a semi was broken down in the middle lane of the three-lane highway. It was slow going, but there were plenty of interesting people in the cars next to us to watch. But it was also extremely hot without the usual breeze of riding.

Apparently, there was also a Saints game going on as we were getting into town. And the exit we needed to take was split off from the same exit as the Superdome. And most of the people taking that exit either didn't know or didn't care that the huge line of people was waiting for that exit, so they went racing by only to try to slip in at the last second, which made the line even slower than it had been.

The thing about stop-and-go traffic on the bike is that the engine is usually cooled by the air going by it. So when there's no air, the engine gets a lot hotter. Some bikes, you have to be really careful about that because there's no alternative cooling, but Mark and I both have bikes with extra cooling for times when you're moving slow (or the air going by the bike is really hot) - a radiator on the front connected to a liquid cooling system.

But the bike still gets hot, and radiates that heat upwards... right into your face. And onto your legs, which are right next to the engine. By the time we finally got into town, we were both drenched in sweat - and almost out of gas. I actually had to flip to reserve as we were coming off the exit into town.

Mark, on the other hand - well, his gas light didn't come on. But after parking in front of the hotel to check in, his bike wouldn't start back up to pull it into the parking lot. So we pushed it there (with the help of the security guy), and then I took the little gas canister he had, went to the gas station and filled up my bike, and then tried to get some gas for him.

I say tried, because when I put my card in a second time to get gas for him, it got rejected, and the pump just said "see attendant." So I went inside, and waited in line - two guys together in front of me, one guy in front of them. And I waited. And waited. And the first guy in line still hadn't moved - I'm not even sure if he was being helped.

Eventually I went back outside and just used my debit card. I filled up the container, which then spilled over the edges and got gas all over. I wasn't quite sure how the lid worked, so I had to put the nozzle back down inside the canister, covering it in gas. Then I got back, Mark put it in his tank, and went to go get gas. About 10 minutes later he came back and said he had waited in line for a really long time - even waiting a few minutes after he was first in line, while the attendant did... who knows what.

The whole thing was kind of funny, but a pretty big hassle. We were tired from riding so far (and for so long - the last 20 miles probably took 2 hours), so we decided to just hang around and do some low-key stuff last night.

We got food at a little grease-joint staffed entirely by gay or transsexuals, went to a bar called DBA that has amazing beers on tap, and then walked back down Bourbon street and tried to pinpoint which places we went to a few years ago when we were here - which was more difficult than we expected. "I thought that was right across the street" "Wait the ATM should have been right here" "That's all the way down here? It didn't seem that far."

Tonight, we'll hang around New Orleans again and do some partying, and then tomorrow it's off to Florida. I've got couchsurfing set up in Tallahassee and Atlanta, and then I'm through the Appalachians to Knoxville, TN.

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