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2003

August

  • Boxing day

    It’s amazing that you can get a whole house worth of stuff into a 15’ by 12’ storage unit (including a giant 9’ couch), but you can.

    With much effort. Turns out the SO is great at driving a big truck (complete with a very handy ramp so you don’t have to lift the heaviest stuff up into it), and with willing helpers plied with beer and pizza, we got everything out of this place save for the bags we’re taking on the plane, the cat and the bed (which we definitely need after a day carting boxes around).

    The road trip to LA beckons. Back in dear old dirty Dublin Monday morning.

  • Goodbye bike

    soulfood_airborne.jpg

    The bike that got me the 2100 miles down the Mississippi (shown here outside a soul food restaurant in Helena, Arkansas), is going into storage for at least 8 months. I’ve already got too many bikes at home.

    I rode it today, just the 3 miles into town, the first time I’d ridden it since I arrived in New Orleans. Without the bar bag and remaining pannier on the back, it felt like a stranger. But as the pedals started turning, and I settled back into the saddle, it started to come back to me. The sweaty days, the energy bars shoved in the back pocket of the jersey, the easy first five miles in the morning, the singing to myself to distract myself from the miles slowly ticking past on the computer.

    Goodbye, bike. See you in a while.

  • Goodbye Santa Fe

    museum_fine_arts.jpg

    So we’re packing up here and leaving Santa Fe, New Mexico, at least temporarily. Since January I’ve spent much more time here than in Dublin, and it’s been very rewarding to get to know this unlikely place.

    Much older than the US, and still only partly attached to the Union, the city supports native, Spanish and ‘Anglo’ communities, allowing a much greater sense of diversity than I saw anywhere down the Mississippi. What else makes it unique?

  • The site of the book

    Still not thinking about how I’m going to write the book of the Mississippi trip - just trying to let things settle down in my mind about it all (no more Vietnam-style nightmares, at least).

    In the midst of all sorts of day to day stuff (helping pack up a house, preparing to get married in less than a month), I’ve shifted the work thoughts back to the first journey, and the book of the trip that’s being published in February.

    I want the site of the book to be great, but what should it include? A quick trip round some writers’ sites showed that there’s certainly room for improvement, and the folks on the boards had some good ideas, of course.

    In no particular order, here’s what I’m currently thinking.

  • Louisiana Flashback

    In the middle of the night last night I wake up all hot and sweaty, with the sound of cicadas humming outside. I’m convinced I’m awake, and equally convinced that I’m in Louisiana in a roadside shack. I have to ride seventy miles tomorrow.

    Something doesn’t seem quite right, but I’m sure I’m in Louisiana, and I’m disturbed, with heart racing. I thought I’d finished the trip, but apparently not. My SO wakes up beside me - ‘Where am I?’ I ask.

    ‘In Santa Fe,’ she says, ‘with me,’ and slowly I wake up properly, and realise the shadows outside the window aren’t swamp and bayou, but trees and red dirt. I have finished the trip, and don’t have to ride any more. Slowly I calm down, but am still left with the deeply unsettling recollection of being (I thought) wide awake and in a shack in Louisiana.

    A flashback to the trip - I guess at some level I think I should still be out there. I feel like a Vietnam GI airlifted out of the jungle and sent back home before he has time to readjust.

  • The end of the road

    Made it to New Orleans, after a frustrating day involving two punctures and a broken pump. I ended up riding into the French Quarter with a big foot pump strapped to the rack on the bike.

    Very glad to be done - 45 days or so on the road, 2100 miles. You’re very vulnerable out there all day, and the extended stress of finding a new places to stay, new places to eat, and working out the next day’s route was beginning to get to me.

    New Orleans was sultry and decadent and louche, and also beautiful and beguiling. I don’t think I could live there, but riding up and down St Charles Ave in the streetcar got to be a great habit. Good food and music too - crammed into the sweaty Preservation Hall off Bourbon Street for some wailing, straight ahead jazz was fantastic. The funeral dirge version of Just A Closer Walk With Thee ruled.

    No great conclusions from the trip have bubbled to the surface yet. Unlike the first book, I’ve got to do a lot of reading and research now before I can really get stuck into the writing (last time, I had most of that done). Glad to be back in a house, and glad not to have to ride the bike every day.

  • Port Gibson, donut town

    Thursday update - they’ve got internet access in the B+B here in Port Gibson, MS, so time for a quick update.

    Made it to Port Gibson, described by General Grant during the Civil War as ‘too beautiful to burn’, and it is extremely pretty, with loads of 1830s and 40s Greek Revival style houses around, and trees and stuff.

    But it’s still got the same probs as most of the towns I’ve been through on the way down - the downtown is all but derelict. Boarded up shops and no foot traffic. To get something to eat in the evening in this lovely town, you have to get in your car, drive to the edge of town and go to the Sonic drive-in.

    Don’t know what the solution is, but I’ve seen these donut towns of every size all the way down the river.

    But in my tech-haven B+B, they’ve got satellite telly, so I’ll be sitting down in front of BBC America for some good stuff tonight.

  • Leave no bag behind

    Greetings from Vicksburg, Mississippi - around 1700 miles from the start, and only a week and 300 miles from the end of the cycling journey in New Orleans.

    Much adventure since I returned from an enforced week’s break in Dublin. Worst bit was when one of the panniers took a header off my bike while I was on a mad busy dual carriageway in the rain on the way into Memphis. With the roaring traffic and huge potholes and stuff, I didn’t notice until about a mile down the road, and attempts to find it proved hopeless - even a cab ride to scour the area.

    So I’m a bag down, but fortunately it by chance contained the less crucial half of the kit, so I’m still plugging away. Graceland was more modest than you might expect for the King, and standing on the spot where MLK was assassinated was bizarre.

    Further back up the road, St Louis was a kip (as I’d been warned) - although the Arch is beautiful.

    Southern hospitality is beginning to show itself - a guy on a Harley rode alongside me yesterday to shoot the breeze, and I’ve been getting supportive honks and waves all over the place. Didn’t get any of those in uptight Iowa. Interviewed by the Banner Democrat paper in Lake Providence, Louisiana yesterday.

    Louisiana and Mississippi all the way down now, and I’ll be returning to Dublin with half as much kit, but plenty of stories.