Here's what's up with me...
Tuesday, May 4th 2010
Springtime trip begins
A few months ago my friend, Biff, and I started talking about taking a road trip this spring and began looking at lists of Motorcycle Events to see where we might want to go. When we saw the 2nd Annual New Orleans Bike Week coming in May we knew that needed to be our destination. I lived in New Orleans for a few years and love that town. The thought of visiting some of my old haunts and chowing down on some gulf coast seafood made this a must-go event. Unfortunately, Biff had something that prevented him from going but another Biker friend, Tricky Dick, heard I was going and decided to join me for the trip.
I left out of Rogers and had decided to go down to Hwy 412 in Springdale and head East to go meet up with Tricky Dick.. As I went through Rogers, Lowell, and Springdale, everyone I came in contact with seemed to be on valium, all moving at a snails pace. The trip that usually takes 20 minutes took 50 minutes. It was very frustrating.
Once I finally reached Hwy 412 I went east and saw quite a few bikes. The weather was absolutely perfect - beautiful blue sky, with warm sunshine and a slight breeze to keep me cool. A saw a couple of flocks of geese flying north and have a good feeling that the weather will be good for this trip.
I stopped at a gas station in Alpena, AR to top off my tank and get a drink and met three young folks in a pickup who were headed in the same direction but didn’t know the roads so I gave them info on the route to take. After paying for my gas and checking my bike over, I took off down Hwy 62 East.
About 50 miles down the road the highway dept was widening the road and one lane was shut down with a flagman so I had to stop for while. I ran into the same thing about 20 miles further and then twice more before I finally cleared the construction area and got to Mountain Home. I caught up with the pickup that I had seen in Alpena and gave them a wave.
I wanted to pick up some beer for my riding buddy for letting me bunk at his shop this evening before we start for New Orleans in the morning (I hate to go somewhere empty-handed). As I got to the little town of Viola near Tricky Dick’s place I noticed there was no beer available and was told it is a dry county. They said I could drive north 10 miles into Missouri and get beer so I took a slight detour and picked up some for my friend. I ran into a couple more bikers and the guy running the gas station in Missouri where I stopped and got to talk about the trip plan and told them to follow my website blogs about the trip.
I headed back down Hwy 62 through Salem, AR and found Tricky Dick’s shop. He has several bikes and had left one of his Drifters setting out in front so I’d know I made it to the right place.
He welcomed me with cold beer and showed me his shop and we made plans on where to eat this evening. We spend the time making plans for the trip to New Orleans in the morning with our first night destination to be Vicksburg, Mississippi.
This is going to be a great trip! Watch for updates as we travel along.
Wednesday, May 5th 2010
The Journey to New Orleans continues
We left Salem (Arkansas) before daybreak - about 5am. It was rather chilly and a little foggy in the valleys so I wore warmer clothes than usual. We headed south on Hwy 197 and it felt like the bike was a knife cutting through little bits of Americana as we passed through Evening Shade, Batesville, Knob Hill, and numerous other little towns.
I fully expected to see Burt Reynolds at the city limits changing the population sign in Evening Shade. (Note:Burt Reynolds played a small town coach in the town of Evening Shade on a television show a few years back.) The sleepy little towns were an awesome sight so early in the morning as the large orange ball of sun started beaming above the horizon.
We made it down to Helena and crossed the Mississippi River - it was quite a site with all the tug boats and barges pushing up and down the river. I noticed the river looked swollen today.
As we reached the Mississippi side of the river, Tricky Dick wanted to stop for a few minutes at a casino. I noticed that my arms were beginning to get slightly sunburned in spite of my sun screen so I bought a long-sleeved T-shirt to protect my arms. We left and headed south on Hwy 61 riding past miles of freshly plowed farmland on either side of the road. We came across a very bad accident that blocked traffic for quite a while as they used the jaws of life to free someone from a car that was involved. I was glad when we got that safely behind us.
We stopped to get gas when we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi, then checked into our hotel. I found a laundromat and got some help from a real nice lady named Viola to get my clothes washing. WE plan to go out and check out the local eateries and see the town this evening before continuing on down to New Orleans tomorrow. Looking forward to getting to my old stomping grounds.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Next Leg of Trip to New Orleans Bike Week
Thursday morning was another beautiful blue sky, somebody must have ordered it just for this guy!
I headed down I20 East to Jackson, Mississippi and turned south on I55 and saw the first sign marking the mileage to New Orleans (168 miles). Stopped at a Harley Shop but it wasn't open yet so I took a couple of pictures and left one of my business cards in the door. I stopped for gas when I got to Hazelhurst and between there and McComb I was hit like a ton of bricks with the sweet smell of honeysuckle. It was pleasant for a while but got to be a little much before I finally drove past all of it at McComb.
At McComb when I stopped to get gas again I met some other folks from Arkansas - Dave, Dave Jr., Kevin (female), and Bo. They had been visiting some relatives somewhere in southern Mississippi or Louisiana and were on their way back home to Mountain Home, Arkansas. Enjoyed visiting with them and sharing a few poems. Dave Jr. is a multi-faceted musician who plays country music. Hope we cross paths again sometime.
It was only 134 miles to New Orleans so I should be there in a couple of hours. Everyone I've met on the open road has been ever so kind and friendly, and there is still not a cloud in the sky - not one.
More later from New Orleans.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Friends back home
I've been talking about this awesome trip I've been on but I want to take a minute to talk about my buds that were not able to tag along.
Ron is in the Veterans Hospital after wrecking his Harley and will be laid up for a while. I hope you get better soon and back on the road.
My best bud, Biff, had some things come up that kept him from coming on the trip. Sorry you couldn't make it, wish you were here.
Jimmy is recovering from another knee surgery. I hope your leg gets better so you can ride again.
See you all when I get back.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
Final Leg of Trip to New Orleans Bike Week
I left McComb, Mississippi and it was only 100 miles to New Orleans. As I continued south on I55 I was greeted with deep piney woods and purple an dyellow wildflowers on each side of the road - very colorful. At the Louisiana state line the flowers were replaced by green grass.
Just past Hammond, Louisiana the road raised up on stilts to keep above the flood basin. There were cypress tress covered with cudzu vines and Spanish moss gently waving in the breeze. As I got closer to Lake Pontchartrain I began to see a few houses rising on stilts out of small spots between the cypress trees. The 'car ports' were actually 'boat ports' and each had boats setting in the watery "garages" beneath the houses. There were no roads through the swampland so their only transportation is the waterway.
I began to see row after row of Lafitte skiffs and shrimp boats with the nets blowing in the wind - none of them can go out because of the oil spill. It's a sad situation and many people are out of work because of it.
The cypress trees got fewer and fewer until they were replaced by all water around the raised roadway. I saw wisps of white clouds moving in and by the time New Orleans came into view it seemed to be covered in a gray mist. I turned onto I10 and traffic got really intense with cars cutting in and out of the road. The road wasn't in very good shape, full of bumps and cracks.
I crossed over a bridge into New Orleans east and looked to my right to see Ballinger Shipyard where I worked at one time. It was good to recognize some of the places from my time here a long time ago.
Counting the exits to my hotel I was happy to find it right next to the highway and easy to access. I was checked in by a nice, friendly young man named Zin. I was given lucky room number 711 overlooking the parking lot and swimming pool with all the usual ammenities. I'm glad it is close to the elevator to reduce walking distance.
I'm going to rest and cool off a few minutes then go check out the downtown area and rally grounds. Hopefully I'll find a nice restaurant and have a good seafood meal then rest of for all the activities for tomorrow.
Thursday, May 6th 2010
There was a few hours of light left so I headed to the downtown area. Traffic was extremely erratic and there were a couple of accidents along the way. Note to anyoneentering I-10 in New Orleans, no one uses turn signals and if they use the left signal, they will turn right just to confuse you.
Came off I-10 ramp and went down to the French Quarter to get some oysters before the black tide of the oil spill causes problems with the seafood. Stopped at Acme Oysters on Iberville right near the river; a jumping joint with a lot of people. Sat down in the bar and conversed with a young lady who was a transplant to New Orleans who had chosen to move here because of the atmosphere in the Big Easy and enjoyed being a pedestrian instead of having to drive around. She seemed quite knowledgeable and it's very comforting to know there are people in the world like her. I'm sorry, my memory of names is not good and I can't remember her name - sorry about that- but if she is following my blogs please know that I truly enjoyed conversing with you.
I went out from there to check out where the rally was being held. When I found it, the signs were not very informative so I had to go around the block 4 times before finally finding the place to enter the grounds. I spoke with the security guard to get rally information because I didn't plan on actually attending the rally until Friday. He really helped me out and I enjoyed conversing with him too.
After leaving the rally grounds I met a Police Officer on a scooter that I enjoyed talking with. He was very friendly and extremely buff - looked like he worked out a lot. He asked questions about Arkansas (like what the crime rate was like). He was truly one of Crescent City's finest.
Then I headed towards the uptown or Garden District area on Magazine Street. It is one way most of the way. Note to people coming into New Orleans to look carefully at the street signs because there are many one-way streets and you can easily enter the streets going the wrong way. The street conditions are not real good. I spent most of my time swerving and weaving past potholes and ridges in the pavement. Normal for New Orleans because there’s a heaving of the grounds that keeps them torn up. So be very careful and keep your eyes on the road.
I switched over at Napoleon to St. Charles to get to Garden District. It was really nice to see the landmarks I remember such as churches, community centers, Garden District mansions and such. The wrought iron work of the fences and gates, particularly intrigued me because I enjoy welding and working with metal.
I got to my old haunts where St. Charles meets Carrollton where the street car makes the turn around and found that one of my favorite iconic eateries that I used to go to was no longer there. It was called Camelia Grill - but, much to my delight, old Cooter Brown's was still there. Cooter's is a bar and eatery that I frequented often when I lived here. When I walked through the door it was like walking back through a window in time' nothing had changed. I got some grub and a good ol' Dixie Beer and sat down to enjoy it with the comforting feeling of being back in familiar old territory. I talked with a couple of people inside and, different than home in AR, once you buy a beer inside an establishment you can walk outside the door so I took my beer and strolled outside. Damn it did feel good to be back in Naw-Ah-lens (New Orleans to most folks).
There were some college-aged students on the picnic benches out front of Cooter's so I began conversing with them. One of the young ladies in the group said she really liked poetry. I think her name was Alexandra. She had a friend with her whose name I forgot. It was truly an honor and a pleasure to speak with her because she was alover of the art of poetry and it sure feels good to talk to someone who appreciates not only poetry but the way a poets mind works.
Now to the embarrassing incident - remember I said the streets in New Orleans are in disrepair, so when I went to back my bike out of my parking space I back directly into a dimple into the street and because of weakness in my left hip and leg from injuries, I had to gently lower my bike to the street where it wallered like a beached whale. It was totally and completely surprising to me when this young lady leapt to her feet and helped me to lift my bike back up. To her, my undying thanks. I will never be able to thank you enough for your help if you are reading this. I would never have been able to lift my bike back up without your help in the condition I'm in. Be assured that with the enhancements that I've put on my bike, it did not get damaged at all. It was a true test of the enhancements (like the covers for the highway bars and side bars that keep my bags from getting scratched), not that I would ever want to do it again because of the embarrassment.
From there I headed back to the downtown area now that it was twilight time and proceeded to try to find the onramp to I-10 East back to my hotel. I went around the block 4 or 5 times looking for the I-10 East onramp. I was starting to lose it and freak out. There again, another young lady in a car, seeing my reaction, pulled next to me at a light, rolled down her window and asked me if I was looking for the I-10 Dast onramp. I replied "You must be very observant." and she said, "Yes, I am." She laughed and said you have to get on I-10 West in order to get to I-10 East. Again, note to someone not familiar with layout of New Orleans, you have to know to head the opposite direction sometimes in order to get where you are going. Ha Ha!
After I came back from Cooter's I decided I wanted to eat a sandwich. The only thing close to my hotel was a Popeye's chicken which didn't sound so good so I talked with a guy that said there was a sandwich shop down the road at Chef Mentaur highway. When I got there I saw the sign for the 'We Never Close Sandwich Shop'. It was about 9 pm so I pulled in to the parking lot and went up to the door. Much to my surpise, it was closed. Note to sandwich shop, maybe you should invest in a new name like "We sometimes Close Sandwich Shop". So I went down the street and found a Dominos pizza and got them to make me a sandwich that I brought back to my hotel and ate it while watching TV and drinking beer. What a life.
Got back to my room, took a shower, cranked the AC up to full blast and proceeded to find a channel on the TV that talked about all the different sites of New Orleans.
Friday, May 7th 2010
I woke up bright and early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and decided to head out to the rally. I got it together and had the continental breakfast at the hotel then packed up, saddled up and headed to the rally. On my way downtown, there had been an accident on the bridge coming out of New Orleans east that had traffic at a standstill. I had to practically walk my bike across the overpass, breathing in exhaust fumes and dodging traffic to stay alive.
Once I got past the accident the traffic was movingback up to 70 mph and I got some air in my face and started feeling a lot better. Now once I got off of I-10 downtown, as I was already familiarized with where the rally is, I went right to the entrance and met the same Security Guard that I had talked to the night before. He didn't make me stop like everyone else, he waved me in and let me park in the most prestigious spot in the parking lot. Damn, it's good to make friends.
Once I got off my bike I talked to a couple more fellers that were from British Columbia, Canada. They were very nice and it was good to see other vagabonds that had come long distanced to attend this rally. If I'm not mistaken, I took some pictures of them and of my bike. I'll upload the pictures after I get back home. I went on in to the rally and started poking around and checking out the scene. Since it was very hot and muggy, the first place I headed was the Broken Spoke Saloon tent to re-hydrate my body via Anheiser Busch. Then I headed over to the tent for the official rally merchandise. I was probably their best customer because I new exactly what I wanted and in what quantity. The lady that was waiting on me was very friendly and helpful in me getting all the souvenirs from the rally that I needed. Of course, being the Biker Poet, I had to deliver a couple of poems and they were well received.
Then I headed in to check out all the vendors at the rally. They were all very nice and I had several conversations and did many impromptu performances where my poems were well received. After meandering around for a little while someone said one of the food vendors was handing out samples of smoked meat, this made my ears perk up. It was very good meat but of course it made me thirsty again so I HAD to resume my position at the Broken Spoke Saloon tent where they had some scantily clad young ladies serving the beer. It was much like Coyote Ugly because every once in a while one or the other of them would jump up on the bar and start swinging their hips to the music that was coming off the stage. Yee haw! There was one young lady that wore fishnet stockings, had white skin with black hair who reminded me of Elvira. I would say she was the most interesting-looking of the bunch.
After re-hydrating again I finished my walk around the rally grounds. It was getting extremely hot and muggy so after a while I decided I needed to go air it out. I would jump on my bike and ride to the French Qtr. I’m not sure if this was a good or bad idea. The roads left much to be desired and the traffic was horrendous and almost deadly. I think when people enter the French Quarter they must check their brains in before they enter. Anyway, I went to the regular haunts I had been thinking about: Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square, etc... Then I decided I was getting a little hungry and wanted to get out of the craziness in the French Quarter so I was going to go by the Central Grocery to get me a true, authentic muffalletta sandwich. But the only place I could find to park my big ol' bike happened to be in front of another sandwich shop a few doors down called Franks. I parked and got into a heated conversation with one of the cooks out in front of Franks. Where he said the muffallettas at Franks were much more authentic and better than anyone else’s and he would make it for me to make sure that it was better. And I’ve got to say for fact that he made one of the best muffallettas that I have ever seen or tasted in my life. It was so large that I had to unhinge my jaw in order to take a bite out of it.
I took the rest of my muffalletta and packed the rest of it on my bike and proceeded to head out of the French Quarter to get away from all the crazy people. Of course I passed by Jackson Square, the St Louis Cathedral, and the horse-drawn carriages that carry people around the French Quarter on my way out. At least the site-seeing part of it was very amusing and I enjoyed it.
Once I got out of the French Quarter I knew I had to get on I-10 West to go East so I proceeded to right where I needed to go. I stopped at the gas station around the corner from my hotel and restocked some brew for my room fridge at the hotel. Being later in the evening, after finishing my muffalletta and watching a little TV, I pretty much shut it down for the night to start again tomorrow.