Friday, October 28, 2011

Texas part I

Well, we crossed the Lone Star state border with some memorable photos and riverside grilled cheese. After being in this huge state for three days, we like it. We've been attacked by Mosquitos, had headwinds galore, been chased by dogs, and met some nice cowboys.

Thursday- clouds threatened rain all day, and the last 20 miles took us over two hours. Grrrr. Luckily as it was getting dark and the rain really started coming down, we pulled into a town that greeted us with a 6 pack of Lone Star tall boys, delicious BBQ for Emerson, and a Texas size burger for me. After weeks of touring, I am still amazed at the amount of food we consume without gaining a pound...

After a few rounds of pool and beers, we retire to the city park as a cold front moves in. Through the night it pours rain, but as luck would have it, it's so windy that our tent is totally dry when we pack up in the 40 degree morning. Bring it, Texas!

Friday we did a short and windy 46 miles to Richards TX, and are now at a ranch/ bed and breakfast where you can pitch a tent, use the kitchen and take showers all for $16. Doris and Ernie our hosts, gave us tour of the ranch, the steers, and donkeys, after dinner.

folks we met going eastbound.

eastbound friends!

first sighting of a prickly plant


cowboy town

we love bacon

That's right. bacon + peanut butter + oreo. Trust me, it's good.

The Ranch day I

Then! This morning we had coffee with Ernie and he says "no charge, y'all just have a good trip " oh man. We end up staying here all day relaxing in the sun at the ranch. Emerson gets a tour from Doris while Ernie takes me deer hunting! After a practice cross bow session, we stationed ourselves in the tree stand and waited for nightfall. The crescent moon, some cardinals, and a squirrel came out, but no deer. We're going again tomorrow am, and Hopefully I won't stay up too late at the neighbors' Halloween party tonight. We hear there is a bonfire and a margarita machine...

We may or may not be in Austin for Halloween come Monday! But either way I'll be an Indian warrior, hoping that Emerson won't back out of being a cowboy.

Yours until the tumbleweeds cease to move,
Emerson and Hollie

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


!!! Today we crossed into Texas, it just got a little bigger. Stopped for some great BBQ at Belli Deli in Kirbyville, TX. It's a pretty interesting spot and the owner had some stories... Interesting guy, home made sauce and flavorful pork. We made our way to Silsbee, TX and have made it to the city park and set up camp. Good Night!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cajun. Country.

Bonjour!  And greeting from Cajun Country.  Since we last posted, alot has happened, as usual..... we spent the rest of our time in New Orleans soaking up some culture and doing some hard-core relaxing; the New Orleans Museum of Art (free-day!) brought us Faberge eggs, Buddhist statues, Gothic paintings and even some of my favorites- Joan Miro and Picasso!  The New Orleans Film Festival taught me about their charter school system and the sometimes-corrupt politics, and we stayed with one of my closest friends from childhood, Emily Steffan, who was a lovely and fabulous host- thank you!!  Then we delved into the good stuff-  White Russian daiquiris, po boys, muffalettas, beignets, boudin, zapp's potato chips, Abita beer, BBQ, sausage, and red beans n rice.  The Live Oaks, the Spanish moss, The Garden District, the streetcars, and the French Quarter at night all made it hard to leave.  We were making friends by the end of the week, but had to be on our way....

We got to Baton Rouge and spent two nights with Emerson's friend, Noah, who put us up and showed us a good time.  Big Man (Emerson) usually goes to bed by 9pm when we camp, but he managed to stay out late two nights in a row, talking to a pretty lady... :)  A party with a fire, s'mores, a few beverages, and the next day we are on our way.  We left Baton Rouge feeling less-than-peachy, but made it about 45 miles before looking for a camp spot. 

We peaked over to the other side of the levee, and I see this navy blue SUV coming toward us, kicking up tons of dust and for a minute I think it is my Uncle Phillip, a farmer in Arkansas.  I wouldnt be terribly suprised to run into my uncle in these parts, he'd probably say, "Damn Hollie! What in the hell are you doing on those two wheels?!  I'm coon-huntin'"  or something to that effect.  Anyway, it wasn't Uncle Phillip- it was a man named Toby Simmons who has a heart of gold, not unlike my uncle.  Toby was giving us advice on where to camp, but before we know it we are at an authentic Cajun Gumbo party down on the banks of the river.  HELL YES!  I had hoped something like this would happen to us, but you just can never plan this type of adventure. We meet Patrick, a self-proclaimed "crazy Cajun" (who was hard as heck to understand with a combination of country and french accent), but welcomed us in like family.  I think they figured if we were crazy enough to ride our bikes from Tennessee, then we were crazy enough to party with them! They had a CAULDRON of Gumbo, I kid you not, and were roasting a whole hog.  Cochon de lait is one of Acadiana's most famous and most delectable dishes -- marinated, pit-roasted pig. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night... The stars were bright, the gumbo was hot, the cracklings were fresh, and life is good!

The next day more good fortune arrives, as Toby feeds us bacon + tomato gravy over rice, then takes us out on his boat and proudly shows us some secret spots on the Old River outside of Morganza, LA.  He was born and raised on this river, and after 31 years in the Navy mostly on a submarine, you can tell he loves every minute of this fresh air, this land, water, and all that depend, enjoy, and thrive from it.  We see alligators, herons, cranes, cypress, swamps, and fish.  I am elated- Alligators yeah!

Toby Simmons, our gracious host.

More pictures to come... the public library computers are slow :)

We finally tear ourselves away from Toby's around 2pm, make it 40 miles with some rain, headwinds, and a lunch stop in an old train car.  We camp behind the community center in Plaucheville, luckily under a pavilion so our stuff stays totally dry while it pours through the night. Luck strikes again!

In the middle of the night, I wake to what I think are chainsaws in my ear.  Then I realize it is Emerson's snoring, as he has caught a small headcold, with his late-night carousing and the change in weather.  In addition to his recent foot odor, I curse him repeatedly in my grumpy sleepiness, and think perhaps he is a bad tour partner.  I finally doze off, only to awake in the morning to him cooking bacon + eggs and a cup of coffee for me.... I take the cursings back, realize that Emerson is great, and honestly I am not sure I could ask for a better tour partner.  We laugh alot, eat alot, ride alot, talk alot, and have fun ALOT.  And to sum it all up, we are having the time of our lives.  We're on an adventure that we can't quite stop long enough to fully contemplate now.  We only know that we are lucky, healthy, happy, and seeing the country from the best seats in the house.

  The Gulf Coastal Plain has been good to us, and we hope to cross the Texas border tomorrow.


Yours until the Mississippi River ceases to flow,

Hollie and Emerson

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Old Friends, Gumbo, Alligators, and Great Times!

So much has happened since we left New Orleans that we are going to post a brief overview until we get to a computer for a full post:
Pulled into Baton Rouge Thursday mid-day
Had pizza that evening with Mick ( my real boss) at Fleur de Lis (Pizza!!)
Stayed with Noah (old Knoxville friend)
Met a huge crew of Baton Rouge kids
Good Times!!!
Had a fire Friday night, not much sleep to be had.
Rolled out around 11:30 (a little later than planned)
Met Toby outside of Morganza, LA (~40 miles outside of Baton Rouge)
He took us to a Cajun blowout on the levee ( pig roast, gumbo boil, and cracklins) met another crew of great people who were amazingly hospitable!
Tomato gravy and rice for breakfast!
Toby took us out on Old River today and we saw our first alligator!!!
Back on the road and made our way about 40 miles to Plaucheville, LA
Got a spot in the city park and are still recovering from the past 72 hours
This is great!!!

More to come!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Last Morning in New Orleans

Most our bags are packed, a pot of coffee is on, we are well rested and about to part ways with the Big Easy. This has been a whirlwind few days full of excitement, danger, food, and drink. Well, No danger but atleast all the rest is true. Once we are settled again we will do a full post. All is well, and bike touring is great!!!
We are bound for Baton Rouge today and then back on the road towards the great american west!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bucket of Fun

I wake up most days to completely clear and serene blue.  Sometimes in my sleepy state I wonder if the blue in the sky will make my eyes more blue than they are.  We have been so lucky with weather and good fortune; some folks have told us they have been cheering us on and praying for us, and I think it must be helping  :)


It's only been a week and a half since our last update, but hot damn!  Adventures have been around every corner, and a lot has happened to us... There's also lot about food in this post, but if you know me and Emerson, there's a lot about food in our bike tour.


 The cypress swamps have replaced the cotton fields, the sugarcane replaces the soy beans; the sun sets a little earlier everyday, and we have watched the moon wax, become full, and wane again.  We moo at the cows, cluck at the chickens, enjoy the live oaks, cicadas, crickets, and take in the intense heat of southern Mississippi and Louisiana. We visited the birthplace of THE KING, Elvis Presley, in Tupelo, MS, where we ceremoniously ate peanut butter + banana sandwiches, and paid our respects. After our first century, we met four other cyclists going the same route we are, down to New Orleans and over to California  They took us in, we took them in, and before you know it we are traveling six deep for a few days.  It was basically a rolling party the next few days on the trace, and helmets just happened to be required.

We pulled into beautiful Natchez, MS, with a torrential afternoon thunderstorm, watched the bright pink sunset and took in the breathtaking views of the river. The stench that later ensued from the motel room we all shared was almost of unbelievable levels.


On the way from Natchez to New Orleans we explored some back roads, some gravel roads, and some too-much-traffic roads.  We also explored Big Mama's biscuits n gravy, Pig Out Inn BBQ, and made some of our own "camp gourmet" food including deer burgers and salmon + cheese grits.  We've camped without a tent behind a church, behind a police station with permission from a mayor, and in sugar cane fields.  It's harvesting season so we awoke in the middle of the night with an 18 wheeler loading up a trailer full of cane about 30 feet from us.  We hoped it wouldn't come any closer and we could stay hidden in the reeds. Success was ours, until the rhythmic mooing of cows across the levee kept us up half the night. mooo mooo mooo.  Uggghhhhhh.

As we get closer and closer to New Orleans, the promised city of our first rest days of the trip, we feel as though we will never get there and the unending River Road is some kind of cycling purgatory. It is low traffic, but my legs feel like lead, we are hot, and my bum hurts so badly I think I can't go on.  Emerson is waiting for me at an overlook over the River, about 20 miles from our final destination.  We run into a lovely couple, Larry and Jenny, who convince us to come down into a NOLA suburb, where an Oktoberfest is blasting some Lady Gaga polka-style.  It's getting dark soon, but we were at our first real low point in the trip.  Two hours later, full of delicious German beer, great conversation, encouraging words, and a few renditions of "Billy Jean" polka-style, we fly through the city.  We watch the sunset on the Mississippi River and channeled our inner Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  We then flew though the city at breakneck speed, racing the streetcars on the "neutral ground,"  with cars, bikes, horns, the sound of Jazz somewhere in the distance and the smell of good food all around.

Chicken with liederhosen. 

We've been in NOLA less than 48 hours, but those hours have included doing our atrocious-smelling laundry, the French Quarter, cajun food, a drag show, a saints game at a bar (where they had free jello shots every time the Saints get a, not that good), Beignets at Cafe Dumonde, a BBQ + Blues Festival, street jazz, Audobon Park, a pizza pickup by bike, Bourbon St, and riding around getting our bearings.  This city is amazing, but sometimes it makes no rhym or reason as to layout or traffic.  We are getting the hang of it though, and having a blast.

Our legs are sore, our minds are clear. Our hearts are happy and the road is good.

Fleur-de-Lis, Fun, and Fenders to you,

Hollie and Emerson