Sunday, May 17, 2009

Art and home decorating help needed

I love spring. My flowers are blooming.

And I have the garden in.

But here is the challenge of the day. Debra bought in a very nice new couch for the living room.

It clearly needs a picture above it. I have spent the morning scouring the internet for an appropriate picture. I have a notion that a Hudson River School landscape might be good, and I'd like something that has a local connection, and will go well with the various Audubon prints we have.

So I think I have it.

"Disinterment of the Mastodon" by Charles Willson Peale, who was from Maryland. Painted in 1806. Thomas Jefferson was convinced mastodons were still living in the American West.

Now I just have to figure out where to get a print. I wonder what Debra will think of this plan.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 9 - New Orleans, LA!

It's great to be in New Orleans, bet very sad to be done with the bike ride.

While Jim rode to the airport to get the rental car, I had a very leisurely ride through Kenner, Metarie, and northwest New Orleans to get to the hostel. It was a beautiful sunny spring morning.

I got stuck behind a train in Metarie.

I came into New Orleans on Canal Street. I rode around the French Quarter, then went across town to the hostel.

After checking in and locking up the bike, I strolled over to the Avenue Pub (my favorite bar in New Orleans) to have a Bloody Mary and to wait for Jim.

When Jim showed up, we went out and got boxes (Bayou Bikes and the U-Haul store on Elysian Fields for future reference.) Then it was back to the Avenue Pub for lunch and to watch the Maryland basketball game.

After we got tired of the humbling of the turtle, we walked over to the Quarter.

The first ridiculous sight was this customized Mercedes parked on Bourbon Street.

Note the Buick portholes on the fender. I can't think of a better upgrade for a Mercedes. Better even than the Lambourghini scissor doors. When you lift the hood, there is a shrine to the New Orleans Saints, with each exhaust manifold dedicated to a different player.

The interior is even more amazing. Yes, the leather is *all* ostrich. That's Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video on the big screen. And don't overlook the gearshift lever!

We spent the evening walking around and barhopping. I had some tasty oysters for a snack.

There was a jazz parade for somebody's wedding reception.

I have to say there is no place like New Orleans.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 8 - Kenner, LA

Are we in New Orleans? No. We are at the Motel 6 next to the airport so Jim can conveniently pick up a rental car tomorrow.

Jim is done. I say you didn't ride your bike to New Orleans until you've ridden your bike to New Orleans.

And we had quite a gruesome ride today to get almost to New Orleans where there is lots of fun stuff to do, but not quite. We rode 70 miles, about 60 of them on the "Airline Highway", aka Highway 61, which more often than not does not have a rideable shoulder, so we rode in traffic on what amounts to an interstate.

Dinner was Chinese food in a strip mall a couple blocks from the 6. Entertainment was basketball on TV and Turbo Dogs back at the 6, just 15 miles from the funnest city in America.

We did find some excellent lunch at Friendly Friends' Cafe in Garyville.

This place is in what was once an old post office next to the highway in the middle of nowhere.

We also saw Mr. Hanky along side the road in LaPlace.

There were a few miles where we got to ride along the top of the levee, which was very nice. There is a bike trail about 30 miles out from the center of New Orleans along the levee. You can watch the ships and the barges.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 7 - Baton Rouge, LA

Today was all about racking up the miles. 106. That's a lot. We conquored hills in southern Mississippi, and horrible roads and traffic in Louisiana.

The weather was perfect, temperature around 80, and a light tailwind. I'm really beat but I feel good.

No good food today. Breakfast was a Shoney's, where a local cyclist saw our bikes and tipped off to the terrific oscure back road that kept us off Highway 61. Lunch was fried chicken at a gas station in Centerville, MS, which turned out to be the best meal of the day. Dinner was at Appleby's across from the 6 here in Baton Rouge; it was horrid, with the typical train wreck service of Appleby's.

The entire state of Louisiana is a dump. It was all logging trucks all day, and in Louisiana they didn't build the roads to handle a loping trucks every 2 minutes. The pavement is wrecked.

But we pesevered and did 106 miles. We can spend most of Saturday having fun in New Orleans.

-- Post From My iPhone

Day 6 - Natchez, MS

It was 75 miles of easy hills today, with perfect sunny weather; temperatures were in the 70s. The first 25 miles were on the horrifying Highway 61.

Look at that spacious shoulder! Look at the speed limit. This is basically riding on the interstate, in traffic.

At Port Gibson, we had lunch at Sonic, the only option. Woe. We had hopes for this restaurant/laundromat/car was, but the restaurant part was closed.

The remaining 40 miles were on the spectacular Natchez Trace Parkway, which has no trucks, really no traffic at all, and the smell of pine trees and springtime.

I ran into another bicycle tourist, who was on a mission to ride to all 50 states, with her dog!

Her trip journal is a The dog runs alongside. She says they do about 25 miles a day, and mostly stealth camp.

Our goal for Natchez was to find lodging walking distance from Fat Mama's Tamale's, home of the "Knock You Naked" margarita. Messing around with Google Maps turned up a place called the Natchez Eola Hotel just a short walk away. So I called them up and they quoted me a rate of $70. OK, fine, it's almost certainly the cheapest option downtown, but that's pretty high for some Mom and Pop no name motel.

Well it turns out the Natchez Eola is the flagship hotel of Natchez. It was built in 1927, and it's very swanky.

For the record, this is not the fanciest hotel where I've ridden my bike into the lobby. (That would be the $360/night Westin in the Chicago Loop that Debra paid for.) But for $70, who knows what kind of people you're gonna get?

These guys have a piano bar in the lobby. The piano guy was playing "The Logical Song" by Supertramp, but still.

What's going on with this place is most of their business is package tours with the riverboat casinos. There are tour buses lined up outside at all times.

Fat Mama's Tamales is not what it once was. They've remodeled and raised their prices. You are no longer eating in an old garage that's about to fall over. It's not the same, boudin or no boudin.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 5 - Vicksburg, MS

It was a very long day. 92 miles and nearly 9 hours of pedaling. We only got in before dark because of fortuitous tailwinds in the afternoon.

Vicksburg has a very nice historic downtown, with lots of places to eat. Unfortunately, all the motels are outise of town next to a mall. So we wound up at "Garfield's" in the mall. They had Electrolyte Replenishment Therapy, which is alwayys a good thing.

Vicksburg is the end of the Delta. There are hills now, suitable for putting cannons on top and having civil was battles. We rode in past the cemetary, a huge green hillside with thousands of gravestones.

Lunch was at an ice cream stand in tiny Rolling Fork, birthplace of Muddy Waters.

At Rolling Fork, we got on Highway 61. Contrary to my expectations, 61 was fine until we crossed the Yazoo River. Then we had a few miles of divided highway, speed limit 70, and no shoulder. The Mississippi Highway people are complete idiots.

The last highlight was breakfast in Greenville.

This place was in the back of a mostly abandoned shopping center. We were tipped off by all the pickup trucks parked in front.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 3 - Getting to Clarksdale

Clarksdale was a blast, but getting there was an adventure. This is because Helena, Arkansas is a desolate, abandoned wasteland. It was foggy in the morning, and I found a restaurant in downtown Helena, the "Roadkill Grill", that opened at 10 on Sundays.

So we loafer around the 6 until the fog lifted and rode the 7 miles to downtown. We sure were hungry when we got there. Here's the Roadkill Grill:

It's as deserted as the rest of Helena. Ninety percent of Helena appears to be vacant. There was only one miserable option for food. Across the river in Mississippi.

It's the buffet at the Isle of Capri Casino and Resort Hotel. A slots barn in a cotton field next to the levee.

We had to wait a half hour for it to open, then stand in line for a half hour to get the food. All while breathing cigarette smoke.

-- Post From My iPhone

Day 4 - Greenville, MS

78 miles in just under 7 hours. The forecast said high near 70 and partly cloudy, but it never got over 60 and the sun never came out. It's because I bought sun block. They were right about the modest tailwind.

We had breakfast at the Rat recommended Haven's Rest, a regular diner run by Lebanese folks. I hammered out 40 miles to Rosedale, and then spent an hour waiting for Jim here at Williams' Fast Food.

This is the only restaurant open in Rosedale on Mondays. It's you basic grill with the local African-American youth playing pool and fighting in the back room. The couple that run the place are really nice and the burgers hit the spot.

I felt really good today, and I spent much of the day cruising on the flat, smooth road between 14-15 mph. Never waste a tailwind. I only took a picture of two sights.

This is an Indian mound. It's 1000 years old. It's blurry because the camera is all sweaty because I was feeling especially good today.

This is the crack in the road coming in to Greenville where Debra got her tire caught and wrecked and broke her arm 7 years ago when we tried to ride from Memphis to New Orleans.

The Crack is the same as it was 7 years ago. It may even be bigger. It certainly has not been repaired.

The highlight of the day was dinner.

The original Doe's Eat Place. It's a cinder block building. You enter through the kitchen. You eat at picnic tables with plastic tablecloths. The plates and silverware don't match. It's been there since 1947.

And it has the best steak anywhere.

-- Post From My iPhone