Tuesday, January 29, 2013

P4W2 Day 24 Mittie - Simmesport, LA 104 miles

The roosters from the nearby farm started warming up at 3 AM this morning and were in full chorus by 5.  The night air was hot and humid and some mosquitoes escaped my lethal swats in the tent...so the sleep was light and restless.  Maybe three good hours.  After my radio interview was over I was sliding down the road.  Rhett was still in his house;  I don't think his level of inebriation was going to lend itself to milking the Holsteins or catching steelhead this morning.

Today was a rich and varied day of riding across the deep south.  It felt like a long day - not only because it was long but because of the tremendous variety of things I saw.  Even a flag rooting for the football team from the frozen tundra.

First thing in the morning I made my way down to Oberlin, a sleepy swamp town in the heart of the state.   They had a neat sign announcing the entrance into town.  I also figured that a second-tier college in Ohio was named after this little hamlet in the middle of a world of water.

In Oberlin I bumped into Jim Riley, a sage retired pharmacist that  had decided many moons ago to call the sleepy town his home.  He treated me to breakfast at the local diner, and I met a number of nice retired folks that told me about their very unique part of the country. 

East of Oberlin the country got abruptly flat.  Pine trees gave wave to rice fields and crayfish (crawfish) traps.  The season for these crustaceans was just starting with the early spring warm-up, and I saw several fishermen tending their traps.  The boat/buggy really is an unusual contraption for navigating through flooded rice fields - kind of like half boat, half car.  The metal wheel in the back is for moving through the water as well as over dikes that separate one field from the next. 

So I weaved among rice fields for about 30 miles today.  I saw many many birds, including a peregrine falcon.  Gulls, terns, and snow geese inhabited the flooded rice fields.  Turtles crossed the road often.  I save some from auto tires, but many more had already been squashed.  The strongest south wind of the trip blasted my starboard side for about 2/3 of the day.  For the other third I had incredible tailwinds that lifted me north by northeast towards the Mississippi River.   Moving across the state today was like moving a checker  - some east, then north, then east again, etc.

Pine was the flare of Day 23 and crawfish the flare of Day 24.  In Mamou I stopped into a local fish market.  A couple nice college guys told me about fishing for crawfish and how to eat them.  So I bought a pound and put them in my panier (the double plastic bag to avoid crawfish juice spillage was a good idea).  An hour later I sat down roadside and ate them.  I wasn't particularly adept at getting the tail meat out, and ended up impatiently eating the tail just like I do shrimp - Beowuf style (shell and all).  And the Cayenne pepper they boil crawfish with - not good for saving one's ration of water while biking with a fearsome crosswind!

After the town of Ville Platte I abruptly departed the flooded rice fields and pedaled through the really pretty Chicot State Park.  That's where the state arboretum is located.  I had forgotten how many species of oaks occur in the southeastern U.S.

The weather was very threatening today, but for the most part held off.  With the hot humid air, even given some passing rain bands ahead of an approaching front, I left the rain jacket packed away.  The lightning and tornadoes held off.  I pressed on through many quaint small towns, across many muddy cypress creeks, and very close to the mighty Mississippi.

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