I love riding my bike. It makes sense on so many levels. Its my transportation, exercise, and time to think. I save money on gas, stay in shape, and get to blow off some steam.
New Orleans is a great place to bike. The city is small enough to get to most places in 15 minutes and anywhere in 30 minutes. It is checkerboard-flat. The traffic is extremely mild. It’s hot, but not as hot as walking. You get the wind blowing in your face, and there is a lot of shade from the live oaks overhanging the streets. Most of the city is beautiful, and if its not, then its at least interesting and foreign.
On the other hand, much of that beauty is lost looking down for potholes, broken glass, and other hazards. While you may be biking through a historic area where the trees are 150 years old and the houses are even older, you don’t really get to take it all in. At first, I thought the quality of the roads was a litmus test for the quality of the neighborhood. Then I realized the roads were horrible everywhere except the very nicest of neighborhoods. The ground here is soft and constantly shifting, and there are places where the asphalt rolls like waves.
Aside from daily transportation, I’ve taken a few bike trips in the area. On the first trip, a friend from bar review class and I rode out along the Mississippi River to Destrehan. The top of the levee is well-paved for running and biking, so we effortlessly cruised the curves of the river without any car traffic. Before my family moved to Georgia, we lived in Destrehan, and I still remember the painting of the Destrehan Plantation hanging in our living room for a number of years.
The pavement ended at a second plantation.
It was nice to be able to get our of the city for a change of scenery.
Weary from our travels, we entered a bar in Destrehan in search of food and libations. The sign on the outside of the bar instructed us not to bring any guns, drugs, or fight. The transition from the bright sunlight to the depths of the bar left us blinded. The only things we could see were the slot machines in the corner and a lone gambler determined to blow all his money that Sunday afternoon so he could have something to work for the following week.
I approached the bar and asked whether they were serving lunch. The bartender, who had surely seen better days (perhaps as a truck-stop prostitute), answered, “No, sir. This is a bar room.” And we went on our way.
Finding food was a challenge on a Sunday. I began feeling queasy because the night before I attended a bachelor party that ended poorly for me. I was rescued by a snowball stand that served Frito Pie. If you, like my companion that day, are unfamiliar with Frito Pie, it is Fritos covered with chili and cheese. In this rendition, the cheese was of the nacho variety. The fat, salt, and preservatives attacked the loose alcohol particles in my body, and I was as good as new.
We came across other novelties during our ride back.
These pictures aren’t from the trip, but they fit with the theme of pictures of random stuff.
About half way through the return trip, the clouds broke, and the temperature skyrocketed. Luckily, we discovered a public waterpark in Kenner, and we jumped right in the fountains with the kids. I was hoping the kids would be in to a splash fight, but they treated me like I was just some old guy at a waterpark with all my clothes on.
All together, it was an eventful 45-mile trip. It sounds further than it is, and we took pretty much all day to do it.
On a more recent trip, my girlfriend, Grace, and I rode out to Lake Pontchartrain. The highlight was riding through a swath of City Park that the city has allowed to return to a more wild state. Its an eerie holdover of the post-apocalyptic New Orleans brought about by Katrina. I was delighted to see plenty of people out swimming and fishing at the lake.
What’s the moral here? Biking is great for a number of reasons, particularly in New Orleans. If you haven’t been on a bike in a while, give it another shot. Don’t be afraid; it doesn’t take any special skill to not get hit by a car. If you’re complaining about your weight and/or gas prices, then maybe its time to get on a bike and tap into the strategic energy reserves you’ve been stockpiling around your waist. You might actually enjoy it.