Day 3: Look Mom!
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

Today was really the first day I got into the grove of the trip. It can take a few days to unwind.

Sometimes even when you throw yourself into the trip, you do it like it's work. How far you have to go, how much time you have. Eventually you see something interesting whiz by and lament that you don't have time to turn around and snap a picture because you have to get to the arbitrary place you decided to get to, by the arbitrary time you decided to get there.

At some point you realize you should really do what you want to do. There are still days when you need to make distance, but don't make every day like that.

If I were to describe Mississippi to you, at least geographically, I would say you start with Illinois or Michigan, fields and rows of trees, sometimes clumps of trees. Forested at times. Now make it hotter and more humid, and make some standing water. Make the trees languid and reserved. Flood things more often.

Everywhere, buildings look abandoned. In the north, at least where I was, it seemed that even buildings still in use looked abandoned. Not just the stoic weathered barn; houses, garages, businesses, whatever. You go to take a picture of a place that looks like it hasn't had someone in it for 40 years, and then you see a drape move inside. Seriously a lot of what I saw made Michigan look high class.

So I left Vicksburg, MS via some back roads heading south, and was happy to see normal houses. Twisty small roads, with modest homes on big lots, mostly secluded with trees. It looked very pleasant. Eventually I was on a 1.5 lane road in the middle of nowhere. I stopped for a work meeting and took a leak. I tried the Natchez Trail Parkway for a bit, but to be honest it wasn't my thing. Pretty, but after a few miles it just repeated and repeated. I like towns, silos, falling down buildings, people on porches. Or at least some twisty roads that are fun to drive on. The Natchez Trail was a bit pokey.

I stopped in Natchez itself for some ok BBQ and crossed into Louisiana. For hours I followed highway 15 and the levees. I guess much wider than the Mississippi is the area that tends to flood a lot. To the right of the road, the ground sloped down 30 or 40 feet, and to my left it went up 20 feet, which was the top of the levee. A gravel road was on the top, at intervals there were dirt tracks heading up it. This was still too far from the river to see it through trees, etc. It's amazing to imagine the floods the walls were meant to contain.

The road itself was fun, straight for sections than a few engineered bends, which you could take with as much spirit as you liked.

In Simmesport I went south along another river, with more levees.

In Melville, I almost dropped the bike pulling away turning left from a stop sign. The road was bumpy, was repaired with variously colored asphalt. Except the one my front tire went over was actually a few inches of gravel. It washed out, then caught, hard enough to set me a little funny in the seat. I was only going a few miles an hour, so probably if the bike had fallen completely I would have ended up just standing over it. Still, after over 30k of riding, that was the closest I've come to having an issue on pavement.

Speaking of safety, I've taken to riding with no hands. This bike has a "throttlemeister", basically a mechanism that tightens on the hand grip to hold the throttle in place. You can still move it, it just doesn't move itself back to "no throttle". This is nice on the interstate for giving your hand a rest if you need it, being able to stretch out your right arm, etc. Otherwise, as soon as you let go of the gas, the bike starts to slow dramatically.

It's imperfect as a cruise control, since it's just making a constant amount of gas, any change in up or downhill - or even a change in the breeze - alters your speed. If you are trying to go 7.9 mph over the speed limit, you'll end up going 2 to 12 over. Still, nice to take your hand off for the grip a spell.

Or both hands. Like a bicycle, a motorcycle wants to stay upright, so this is no great feat of balance. However, maybe due to the wind, the bike tends to start to lean one way or the other slightly, which effectively starts you turning slightly. You can lean the other way in the seat to bring it back. With practice you can keep the bike going straight with only slight weight shifts, and even turn slightly. Of course, you do most of your stopping with the front brake, which is on the right handgrip, so you want to not do this around cars or deer or things you may need to stop for. Also gusts of wind might be unpleasant while doing this. And potholes or bumps might be bad.

Part of my plan today was to not ride until 8:00 at night. By then you inevitably don't have much time to find somewhere cool to stay and eat dinner. I was going to press on from LaFayette, LA, but decided since it was already 5:00 and I had some catching up to do, I'd find something local. Just blocks away was a small B&B/hostel type place that fit the bill perfectly.

Tomorrow I am aiming for Cleveland, TX, passing through the gulf coast town of Cameron. Google says "259 mi about 7 hours 12 mins", which means there must be a lot of slow roads. We'll see!

[ tags: dmc-lx3 louisiana motorcycle travel trip ]

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