Journey’s end and Mardis Gras …

After 1,202 miles and a puncture apiece, we arrived in New Orleans at 2 pm on Saturday. The fifty three mile ride from the Rectory, our lovely B&B in Garyville, was mostly on the, paved, levee cycle route. However, due to a spillway being opened to divert water from the swollen river into a lake we had a three mile detour. There was much heavy industry, mostly petro- chemical related, on both sides of the river; being serviced by huge pipelines, cranes and shipping. It was good to see a big group of ducks in the water and an Osprey flying over the environmental impact can’t be too bad.

The Old Rectory B&B, Garyville, Louisiana

Our arrival into New Orleans could not have been more symbolic – blocked by the tailend of one of the many Mardis Gras parades taking place this week. The road was blocked by thousands of people lining the streets to watch the huge floats pass by. This necessitated another detour to get us to our hotel in Canal Street, one of the city centre’s main arteries.

Old Paddle Steamer, The Creole Queen sailing upstream – New Orleans

Our afternoon and evening was whittled away waiting for and watching one of the bigger parades with 37 enormous floats and numerous marching bands, mostly from schools, universities and colleges. The crowds were unbelievable, many people were already in situ outside our hotel when we arrived at 2.30ish; the parade did not start until gone 7pm. Quite a few were well and truly sloshed by then. Generally the atmosphere was very good natured. The floats and costumes are very elaborate and colourful.

One of the Mardis Gras floats

Unlike our South West carnivals each parade is just one ‘Krewe’ (carnival club), which may have thousands of members and many floats. Today, Sunday, there were three parades in the morning from some of the smaller Krewes with another, much larger, scheduled for this evening.

The parades are chaotic as the people manning the floats are continually throwing objects, mostly coloured strings of beads, into the crowd. It is a complete melee and the litter that is left behind has to be seen to be believed. The authorities did a great job cleaning up overnight. Any religious connection appears to be very tenuous indeed!

Best Mardis Gras decorated building in the French Quarter

Tomorrow will be our last day in Louisiana, just 15ish mile ride to Louis Armstrong International Airport for flight evening flight home.

High water and levees …

View of the swollen Mississippi River from our bedroom window just south of Baton Rouge
We made it to the 2nd longest river in the US, 2,350 miles (the Missouri is 100 miles longer). The mighty Mississippi starts in Minnesota, is joined by the Missouri, the Arkansas and Ohio rivers amongst others and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Due to heavy rain and snow melts way up stream the water levels are at the 4th highest since records began. Trees and telegraph poles are half submerged and fields are sodden. The photo below shows my bike on top of the levee near Baton Rouge. The river level is many feet higher than the road and land protected by levees. It is not hard to see why there is such wide spread flooding when the levees are breached.

Our cycle from Jackson into Baton Rouge became increasingly less pleasant the nearer we got to the State Capital, with heavy traffic, lots of debris on the shoulder, when there was one, and roadworks. To cap it all, we got caught in a thunderstorm and were very soggy by the time we arrived at our billet for the night, a casino hotel built right over the levee and into the river. The ‘house’ made nothing from us as our dollars remained firmly in our pockets.

Closing half the 100 miles between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, our ride today started out closely following the river, the few places we could ride on the levee gave a wonderful view of the huge ships plying their trade. This area is very industrial with many oil refineries and chemical plants. Approaching the little town if Garyville, where we are spending the night in a lovely old house, the shoulder we were riding on suddenly turn into a quagmire of mud and sand, presumably from lorries pulling out of a unpaved road. It was like our trip along the Mekong all over again, the mud clogged up our wheels, covered the frames and our bags. Very fortunately, we were only 3 miles from our B&B where the first thing we noticed was a hose pipe!

A huge Shell oil refinery at Convent on the Mississippi
It was a bad day for Gavin’s tablet though, which has provided mapping and the ability to book accommodation as we travel along. In the first scare it got left on a post of a bridge we sat on to eat our lunchtime sandwiches. We had got about half a mile before it was missed, happily it was still there when we pedalled back. This evening it wasn’t quite so lucky when it accidentally fell from a table onto a wooden floor. Despite its now badly shattered screen it looks as though it will limp on to get us to New Orleans tomorrow.
On of the many Plantation Houses from 1800’s. Built with wealth from sugarcane and slave labour