Subject: Wanderlust 16 - Orange, Texas - Fredericksburg, Texas
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 1997 23:31:22 -0700
Wanderlust 16 - Orange, Texas - Fredericksburg, Texas
"If an ass goes traveling, he'll not come home a horse."
- Thomas Fuller, English Clergyman, 1608-1661
Five trepid individuals (well, they weren't exactly intrepid :) set out from L.A. (Lower Alabama) at oh-bright-thirty. It was supposed to have been oh-dark-thirty, but the sun got a jump on us. Or we were slow in reaching critical road mass.
After more than three weeks of traveling alone I was suddenly part of a destination group. Choosing companions for traveling by motorcycle can be difficult and dangerous. Forming a group by happenstance rarely improves the odds of success. Not that there was any discord in the agreement to ride together, in fact it seemed to be 'the right thing' given the common interest and common intent.
But the danger of cobbling a group is in the different mix of road personality and riding style. Motorcyclists by their nature tend more toward individual expression rather than compromise and accommodation. Finding someone else with your riding style and pattern is not easy, and having to adapt to someone else's can cause you or them to ride beyond a skill level - either too fast or too slow. It is usually advisable to try riding a short to medium distance with a partner or group to come to understanding. We, however, said "pleased to meet you" them jumped on for a two day sprint across four states.
We did well for a while, but due to style differences we chose to split up and meet at the end of the day. Everyone else went to a more northerly route to the Interstate. I stayed my course of the old road to New Orleans. Everyone else got rained on and fought heavy cross winds. I had clear skies, no rain, and saw the big storm clouds 'over there'. While I was lounging in Jackson Square sipping a cafe au lait and munching beneigts, they were pushing through truck blasts. We all arrived at the night's destination within an hour of each other. I was the only happy camper. :)
The start of the trip was a study in contrasts. Georgia is noted for it's red dirt, but all of lower Alabama is also landed in reddish orange dirt. It makes quite a contrast against the lush green vegetation. Then as we got closer to the shore of the lower peninsula, the white sand of the gulf coast took over. White and red mixed to make almost a pink surface. We took a ferry from Fort Morgan, site of the "Damn the torpedoes" famous quote in the Civil War battle for Mobile Bay, but as it was jokingly reported, it was more likely a statement of concern than bravado. Place the emphasis here: "Damn!!! The torpedoes!! Full speed ahead!" (As in 'Let's the get flock outta here'.) There are still wrecks of the fleet in the bay. There are now also visual serenity wrecks of gas derricks in the bay - a dozen or so visible like destroyed but not sunken derelicts.
Passing though the corner of the Alabama coast, we went through Bayou La Batre, which I remember as the town in the movie "Forrest Gump". If the movie wasn't filmed on location, someone did a great job of building a set. I half expected to see Forrest on a park bench somewhere. Not long after that we passed a sign that I unintentionally misinterpreted in a Forrest Gump sort of way. There are often road signs warning of entrance to a manufacturing plant to caution about turning trucks, etc. In close succession I saw 'Plant Entrance' followed by 'Gulf Shores Baptist Assembly', and I said to myself "I always wondered where they were made."
The traveling group separated in the commercial clutter of Waveland, Mississippi, which had been continuous strip malls since we joined US 90. About one half mile later the road went to wilderness and soon became a two lane swamp skipper. These are the real lowlands of the US. In many places the water is only inches below the road level. If the oceans ever rise, we will have to form our own version of Holland's dikes or lose half of two states. I noticed the houses here near the swamps are built on stilts several feet above the water line. Along the beaches they were on stilts to protect from storm surges, but I suspect in the swamp they are built up just to keep the critters out.
After passing through the heart of the French Quarter, I paused for a coffee break along the riverwalk at Cafe du Monde, where I was simultaneously approached by three strata of people who wanted my money. A street dweller tried to strike a conversation about the bike before asking for a little money. At the same time a meter enforcer enforced me to move lest I give up quite a bit more money. And while pushing the bike across the street, I was propositioned by a lady who wanted a lot of money for her service. Ah, life in the big city again.
There is only one route marked scenic in the area around New Orleans. It is a road that offers time travel in addition to distance. LA18 follows the west bank of the Mississippi River through a dozen small towns, past fields of sugar cane interspersed with above-ground crypt cemeteries in the old wrought iron fashion. It leads to preserved and some still working plantations with white picket fences, great oaks, and Spanish moss draped everywhere. It both evokes and delivers the Old South. Young children play shirtless and shoeless in the dusty side streets. Old men in coveralls sit in the shade of an outbuilding porch and watch whatever passes. Life is slow.
The humidity literally hangs in the air in the summer. After I rejoined I-10 it passed through the Achafalaya Swamp. The entire road is built on a causeway for miles because there is no solid land below. As the parallel bridges converge in the distance, you can see the steam rising off the swamp in the late afternoon sun, hanging like a mist and drifting like a fog but being not as damp as either. Visible but not present - like an ethereal veil.
The motel left the light on for us ... and as we recounted our day we agreed to get an *early* start the next morning.
Perdido Beach cr97 cr20 AL59 AL180 AL193 AL188 US90 I310 LA18 LA77 I10 Orange
FuelPlus statistics: 461 miles, 9:24 engine run, 50 mph average
It would have been an early start if the phone had rung for the wakeup call. It appears the phone wasn't hung up correctly, and so we assembled late again. Timing was going to be off all day.
As we flew down I10 I noticed the swamps quickly give way to fields after Beaumont, and the fields began too show the sparse dispersal of trees which spoke of the coming west and the open plains. Within miles the trees shortened to scrub stature and even the roadside grass began to show the solid stalk of plains hay that would dry in place, unlike the soft wideblade grass of the wetlands. Corn jumped to be the predominant crop, and it was shoulder high here whereas only two weeks ago I was discussing the shoots pushing up through the dirt in Iowa. Even the clouds seemed to spread out and take the stance of cattle on sparse grazing land - separated by an understood self-imposed distance.
Well, we split again. It was a semi-accidental event (in a double meaning sort of way). An accident on I10 blocked the only bridge over the lower Trinity River. We turned back to a side road, but I stopped to read a map. They didn't. They took a short cut that took longer than the long way I followed and I passed them unknowingly. Trying to race to catch them, I put myself so far ahead that I just selected my own route and avoided the Interstate the rest of the way to the rally. They returned to the Interstate ... they were rained on. I had a sunny sideroad ride.
And so I arrived at the BMW Motorcycle Owner's of America 25th annual national rally. There were already several thousand BMWs in town. The locals were verbally inquisitive about what was happening - it did look odd to see three times as many motorcycles as cars on the road, at each stop light, parked along the streets, lined up in front of every business.
For me this will be the largest gathering of friends who have never met. The Internet BMW Riders will have a face-to-name gathering one night, and we will have to look at the email ids written on our badges to recognize each other.
I'm going to take another break here for a couple of days, since unless you like rallies there isn't much to report. Wanderlust will pick up when I leave Fredericksburg. When I signed in at the rally, I listed myself for the North American Tour award with exactly 7,300 miles since leaving San Francisco.
Orange I10 TX562 US90 TX1960 US290 Fredericksburg
FuelPlus statistics: 399 miles, 8:00 engine run, 50 mph average
Have Bike, Will Travel
Wire: Sam Lepore, San Francisco
88 R100RT and 95 K75RT