Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day Sixty-nine, 090508 - Lake Charles, LA

Day Sixty-nine, Date Friday, May 8, 2009
Time in Saddle: 5:30
Distance for the Day: 56.1 miles From east of Beaumont, TX To Lake Charles, LA
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3037.4 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 277'/300’, Highest: 333’ Accumulated: 558’
Speeds: Avg: 10.1 mph, Max: 26.9 mph
Weather: Cumulo-stratus overcast, 72° high-humidity
Expenditures: $9

At 5:30am, I emerged from my hellish little cocoon, and swung whatever I had handy around to clear the immediate airspace of the “tiny vampires” (pants, shirt, sleeping bag, mattress) to give me batches of moments to get dressed, get things packed up, and then I got the hell outta there! I stopped a few hundred yards up the road to finish packing things right (sans mosquitoes), and realized my goggles were missing. Oh, no – that ain’t happenin’. I thought I remembered seeing them at the (hell) campsite, so I looked around where I was right now – nothing. I rode slowly back towards the hellsite, checking the ground to see if they’d fallen onto the road – nothing. I went back to the hellsite, looked around, didn’t see them. Hmm. Maybe the last time I saw them was at last night’s first campsite. I rode back toward it, looking more on the road, and got to the spot where I’d hung my hammock – nothing. I went back to the hellsite. I went back to the stop point. I was stumped – did I drop them on the road, and did someone then find and pick them up? That wasn’t likely. I went back to the hellsite, and widened my search area. Got ‘em! Whew. They’re more than a hundred dollars a pair, and can only be found online. Losing them was not a option. With everything accounted for, I took off east towards the Texas/Louisiana border town, Orange, TX, which I made at 1:49pm. I checked in at the library, there, but found they didn’t have free wi-fi, but the Laughing Dog CafĂ© up the street, did. So, I went there, got a hot coco and muffin ($5) and spent time checking email, and researching tents. I originally got that bivvy sack to save weight and space, but realized it would only work in cool weather. It was fine in the cold, wind, and rain, but failed miserably (my misery) in warm and humid. I would have liked a pop-up, self-erecting tent, but couldn’t find any that were compact, single-person, and available from an American company (they’re more available in England – go figure). So, I found and bought a highly rated single-person tent from REI, which I would have delivered to my Warmshowers contact in New Orleans.

Continuing on from Orange, I passed into Louisiana at 1:50pm, and heading towards Lake Charles, LA. At 2:34pm I hit a barrier: the bridge crossing the river Sabine River had no shoulder, and was a 70mph highway. I stopped in at a rest stop with tourist info center for a cold soda, then went to that bridge. Seeing it was not crossable, I went back to the rest stop, and checked in at the visitor center. Yes, there was an alternate route, but it would involve quite a lot of extra mileage. If I could get a ride from someone…”I can give you a ride,” said a clean-cut looking guy. Wow. Thanks! (Just like that.) We went out, and loaded my trike into his open bed truck. We weren’t sure if it was legal to have passengers in the back, so I lay down, out of sight, and kept my trike from rolling around, as we accelerated out of the rest stop, and crossed the bridge. I was able to look straight up at the clouds, overhead, and it was a pretty cool view; they were a lot more 3D when you could look up at them as you were moving underneath them at 65mph. We must have gone about 5 miles or so in a few minutes, and he stopped and let me off on the other side. Thanks! A sign said 26 miles to Lake Charles, and it was 2:46pm. Onwards!

I made it to Lake Charles at about 6pm, and was wondering if I should find a spot to overnight, early, before continuing on. I stopped in at a mini mart on the east side of town to get supplies ($4) and was pulling out when a couple of guys yelled, asking what route I was taking (10? 210?) I said, “Hwy 90,” at which they smiled and gave the thumbs up. They knew Hwy 90 was the same as Hwy 10, and that I had a surprise waiting for me. I went a few more miles east, and at 6:43pm in the late afternoon, I found a humongous steel bridge rising a few hundred feet in the air crossing a lake-like body of water (the Calcasieu River) with no shoulder, and traffic going 60mph up it. Hokay, another cycle unfriendly bridge. Super-unfriendly, I’d say. Obviously, I’d have to catch another ride over. I tried to head back to the mini mart, to see if I could snag a ride, there, but the road to get to where I was at the base of the bridge was one-way with no shoulder, so I couldn’t go back. I decided to try thumbing a ride at an on-ramp to the bridge, but after 2 minutes of that, I decided that wasn’t going to work very well, so I should try another tactic. There was a turnoff under the bridge that led into the town of Westlake. I would go into Westlake, and check the gas station there for open bed trucks or empty looking vans. I pulled into the first gas station, saw an open bed truck with a man and his young son that was just beginning to pull out of the pumps, and put up my hand indicating I wanted a word with him. He stopped, and I asked if he was possibly going over the bridge. He was, and was quite willing to give me a lift over. YES! Wow. Two instant rides in the same bloody afternoon. Talk about *lucky*! We loaded my trike easily into the back of his truck, and I got quite a nice view of the river as we whizzed high into the air on that elevated bridge. The water was an even-colored muddy brown, and I could see a few casino complexes, a large paddlewheel boat, and amusement park along its edge. Then, we descended to the east side, and we pulled off and unloaded my trike. After a solid handshake and heartfelt thanks, he took off, and I took a few pictures, before continuing on, myself. It was getting on to sunset, so at the east side of the town of Lake Charles, I began searching for a campsite. I found a guy on a side road off of Hwy 90 at a small, stand-alone business building in a quiet neighborhood, got to talking with him, and asked if he would mind letting me hang my hammock on his property. Like others before him, he was intrigued by my story, and agreed (N30° 14.224’ W93° 9.302’). I think his name was Michael, and he was an arborist (tree specialist). I found a couple of posts in front of an open shed in the back that I could use, and he said feel free. There were some horses in a field on the other side of the shed who were curious about what I was doing, and the ubiquitous mosquitoes. I am starting to get some mojo on how to avoid them, though. If you do a few things, and then walk away for a while, you can sort of fool them, by leading them away from where you really intend to settle. So, I’d do some setup stuff, walk away, brush away or squash any that came with me, and then go back and do a few more things, and walk away, again. I still got a few bites, but nothing like the night before. When I was ready, I untied my shoes for quick removal, walked to the hammock, got in, zipped it shut, took off my shoes, hung them on the outside of the hammock like I usually do, and then zipped shut. I then hunted for any skeeters that might have followed me inside, and killed them, and then settled in to sleep. There were still a few more in there with me, but I got at a few of them, and the one left got his fill early, and then left me alone. I slept well this night, to be sure.


VinceC said...

Hi Don!

What, you made it all the way to Louisiana, fending off cougars and Imperial snakes along the way, only to be eaten alive by mosquitoes?!?


obi_donkenobi said...

Hi Vince: Yes, I'm afraid it's true. You know the saying: It's the *little* things that count. Well, in this case, it's true. :-P