In the end, the leprechauns had the last laugh. We did not have any more encounters with them until the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, when we all awoke to find gold glitter on us (to include in Old Man’s beard! Ha!). We wrongly assumed that all non-government run lodging and camping must spray for such pests, so our guard was down. However, to be fair, Louisiana has so much precipitation and standing water, I am not sure how one could ever truly chemically rid themselves of unwanted pests here. The storms and downpours are serious events here when compared to the prolonged gentle mists and showers we were accustomed to in Seattle and the drought we experienced in Albuquerque. With all of that said, we survived St. Patrick’s Day and have had a well-rounded tour of Louisiana, to include splurging on its infamous cuisine.
We took a day off in New Orleans and traveled the city by trolley, to the delight of the kids. We went to the Children’s Museum for a relaxing morning of play, followed by a Cajun lunch. We then went to the French Quarter where the kids had an age-appropriate tour (that I highly recommend). We closed out our whirlwind sightseeing with beignets from Du Monde Café and watching street performers in Jackson Square.
While we were in New Orleans we discovered that our friends and former Seattle neighbors, who are on a cross-country RV tour, were also in Louisiana. The following two nights they generously drove to our locations to hang out with us and share stories about our differing varieties of adventure. The constant newness of people and scenery in an ongoing adventure is exciting, but there is something to be said for the ‘familiar’ and relationships with some history. We relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company and took a break from being the newcomer in a new place.
The bike route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is over 100 miles long and has no lodging along the way. Knowing that, a Warm Showers host offers his workshop for touring cyclists as an overnight stop to break up the journey. After 55 miles we were beyond grateful for his thoughtful generosity, and the boys relished the opportunity to speculate about the owner’s plans for all his automotive works-in-progress.
Upon leaving the workshop, we had to tackle a day even longer than the day before to make it to Baton Rouge. In addition to the lodging challenge that forced our distance, we were faced with a weekend forecast filled with thunderstorms that we wanted to avoid. We ended up staying in Baton Rouge an extra day because of those storms, and arguably should have stayed another day beyond that. During one particularly heavy downpour early on in our departure day’s riding, we took shelter at a gas station, at which point we questioned the wisdom of our departure. While in Baton Rouge, we ventured out once to check out the Louisiana Museum of Art and Science. It was not a big museum, but what it had was very well done, especially their Ancient Egypt exhibit that includes a real mummy. The kids especially enjoyed the hands-on science room, where Otter and Tango dominated the Keva planks table.
Once out of Baton Rouge, the weather improved and things turned rural quickly. Rice fields and grazing cows appeared frequently and traffic reduced considerably. Again, lodging options were sparse. Our map mentioned camping in a local small town park, which tugged at our nostalgic memories of doing so in Montana and North Dakota. However, when we looked over the only Warm Showers option in that town they specifically said they do not recommend camping in the park, so they offer the area behind their restaurant for touring cyclists to camp with greater safety. The librarians in an earlier town voiced the same sentiment about the town park, so we heeded the inside scoops and pursued the Warm Showers host. Much to our delight, the family-owned Cajun seafood restaurant was an immersive experience. The family warmly welcomed us, taught us how to sort, cook, and eat crawfish, and offered us ample conversation, all the while keeping up with the rigors of a busy evening of business and little ones running about.
Since leaving the restaurant, our route has taken us through crawfish farming country. Rice fields are flooded and dotted with rows of crawfish traps. Upon further research, we learned that the rice farming here has evolved into crawfish farming for many farmers. The crawfish eat the rice and we eat the crawfish (along with the waterfowl that eat both the rice and the crawfish). This change in harvesting objective has apparently been met with booming demand while keeping overhead expenses to a minimum. Instead of expensive rice combines, farmers utilize small boats and crop dusters. We had the good fortune to see one of each in action among the fields during our ride.
Most recently, Lil’ Mo turned five! It is a bittersweet milestone, as our family’s little people years are now over. It appears it is only me feeling sentimental about the conclusion of this chapter, as Lil’ Mo is diving into her big kid rank with both feet. She informed me she can no longer ride in the grocery store shopping cart or go in the men’s restroom given her advanced age. I tempted her with a farewell grocery cart ride to pick out her birthday cake, which she sheepishly accepted. When asked if she felt five years old, she asserted (with that feisty spark in her eyes) that she actually feels six years old. With this promotion to big kid status, she requests she be referred to as Big Mo on the blog going forward. I will oblige from here on out.
Louisiana is a state that wears so many different faces. On the surface, it is desperately in need of new roads and stricter enforcement of its littering and dumping laws. Yet, the longer we are in this state the more we have come to appreciate the subtler characteristics of it, such as its overwhelming friendliness. If someone is out on their porch as we ride by in our full sideshow glory, nine times out of ten they will wave, if not holler a hello. Drivers wave and often toot their horns at us. Often, when we are pulled over to take a break (which are frequent lately due to a multi-day, demoralizing headwind), someone pulls over to make sure we are okay and not in need of supplies or assistance—a school bus driver, a farmer, a rough looking guy in a pick-up with an accent I struggled to understand…. The Cajun restaurant family has no interest in cycling, but they are interested in meeting new people, sharing their culture with others, and caring for the welfare of travelers. When recently eating at a Subway (generously afforded by our Seattle preschool benefactors), one of the customers who engaged us informed us that Louisiana is God’s country. Perhaps it is. The good food will fill your belly, and the kindness will fill your heart.