Day 17: Mamou, LA to DeRidder, LA

Miles today: 65.7
Total miles: 1143.1
Ride time: 4:57:29
Avg speed: 13.2
Max: 21.2
Weather: sunny, hot (83), windy from the south southwest.
Terrain: flat until the last 25 miles when rolling hills appeared
Dogs maced: 1
Food: oh my gawwwd
Roadkill: increasing exponentially with western travel
Ready for Texas: somewhat

Today was the best day ever!!! I left the sketch of the sketch campgrounds (wasn't really that bad), where I had camped out between a storage unit and a motel where all the TVs had been stolen, around 7:50 this morning. On my way out of town I spied a sign telling me I had just obliviously missed out on the Cajun music capital of the world. Nooooooo!

Sulking aside, I rode a beautiful 25 miles, during which I maced dog # 2, to Oberlin where I stopped for an early lunch at Main Street Diner. I fueled up with the lunch special: fried pork chop, rice and gravy, corn, a roll, and a piece of coconut cake. YUM!! The diner was owned by a friendly man who is also a pastor. He told me of his travels in life and the lessons he had learned by moving around a lot in his troubled youth. He said his principles are the same as when he was selling drugs but his values have changed. I found his story very uplifting and his spirit wise. He and one of his employees were traveling to DeRidder as well this afternoon for a dentist appointment. I looked forward to seeing them on the road.

After lunch I again headed west. The winds were helping periodically, and at times I was able to maintain speeds of 16-17 mph. Woo! Not too far outside of town I encountered these three lovely souls:

Meet Jenny, Andy, and John. They started in San Diego and are heading to St. Augustine. They Said they pass someone heading west nearly every day. Yeah! Maybe I will catch one after all. While we were talking, this old fellow moseyed on over, tail wagging, to say hi:

He's eaten a few too many truffles.

Onward! Not five miles down the road another cyclist comes up on my left. On my left!! It took me a second to realize he was going the same direction as me! His name is Dae and he is from Maryland. He recently became sick of his job as a web designer and quit to set out on the road for a while. He is traveling ultra light, meaning no camping gear, meaning he sleeps in hotels every night. We rode the last 30 miles into DeRidder together and boy did they go by fast! Having a companion is pretty sweet. But it also made me realize how much I enjoy riding solo. We might try to ride together again tomorrow but it might not work since we are touring in two very different styles. We'll see.

Once we hit DeRidder, Dae and I parted ways as he went off in search of his hotel and I went off to find the post office where I had goods waiting. Woo hoo! What glorious packages there were to claim! Super thanks to Anna Morgante for the tiny shampoos and larabars. She also gave me a pinwheel to distract the wind. Haha. Nice one. Christy and Lucas sent me some spending money. Thanks a bunch you two!!! And thanks to Janna, Karl, and Kyle for the big box of chocolate, candy, fruit leather, smoked salmon, bear claws, stickers, ear plugs, etc. Much appreciated and I've already made a dent in the chocolate!

Now that I had my goods, it was time to celebrate Saint Patrick properly. I asked a man on the street where I could get a beer around here and he directed mento a restaurant called Prestley's. There I was able to watch most of the second half of the UK game (go Cats!) and witness their glorious last second shot victory over Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And, of course, drink beer. Lots.

Well, I couldn't just sit there among whispers of fried okra and not order anything. It would be a crime. So I got myself a crawfish Po'boy:


And then this guy walked in:

This is Louis. He is probably the feistiest man in Louisiana. He had me laughing for about two hours straight. Amid stories of him getting stuck in a dumpster while diving for salvage wood behind a cabinet shop and his sassy back and forth with the owner,bartender, and wait staff (all good friends of his),I gleaned a few things about this very awesome person. He is 65, a Vietnam veteran and used to build motorcycles. Killer! He also makes beautiful crosses out of salvaged wood which are decorated with the fleur de lis. He gave me a signed photo of one to carry with me and keep me safe. They call him Big Lou, though he stands a couple inches shorter than myself. And he is one of the most kind-hearted people I've ever met. He is also the main reason this has been my favorite day of the tour yet. Thanks for your company, Louis! You made my day.

Well, now I am home sweet home, back in my tent at pine grove estates on the east side of town. Things are finally starting to settle in, both physically and mentally. My knees are great, my energy level at the end of the day is awesome, and I just generally feel good most all the time. My pants are also starting to fall off. But it's also been a while since they were washed.

Texas tomorrow morning. Hill country in the next few days. Austin on Monday!! So excited for what is to come and by what has come to pass. Louisiana, you have been good to me. I will be coming back to visit for sure. Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone!


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