My train pulled into Union Station at around 9:30AM this morning. Got led down to the basement warehouse area to pick up and reassemble my bicycle, and got home by 10:30. The actual train travel part of traveling by train may not be very efficient, but getting there and back and on and off the train sure is.
Our last day of riding, from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, was close to 90 miles. One of the longest days we did throughout the trip. I had a pretty great adrenaline kick going, just from the knowledge that I was nearly finished with this big, long trip that I had been doubting my ability and desire to do just a month before. That certainly helped me along.
In the end, we decided not to take the Levee Path in New Orleans at all. It would have been nice to finish the trip on a car-free path, but it just didn’t make as much sense once I figured out where Michelle, a friend of mine whom we were staying with in New Orleans, lives. We would have had to have ridden across the city on surface streets anyway, so we just stuck to Highway 61. There was a part of it, I think where the suburbs turn into the city, that was relatively terrifying. We were fortunately riding reverse-commute style, so, although it was rush-hour, the traffic on our side of the road was pretty light.
The city itself seems like a pretty nice place to bike, save the absolutely awful condition of the pavement. All of it. Main roads, side streets, bike lanes, wherever you are in New Orleans, the pavement is torn to pieces. But we saw a lot of other people out on bikes both as we were riding in, and on the day and a half we were in the city before our trains left. Alex pointed out that everyone was riding cruisers, which seemed to be pretty much true. Or at least far more true than it would be in Chicago or Seattle. The bike shop we went to there was even stocked almost entirely with cruisers.
On Thursday night, we tried to stay up as late as possible, going out and celebrating the completion of our trip. Given that we’d grown accustomed to waking up before dawn, and being on our bikes from dawn ‘til dusk every single day, we figured we could probably make it to about 10PM if we tried. We went for veggie burgers/sandwiches at 13 first, then walked down Bourbon Street sipping silly-looking sugary drinks for the novelty of it, and finally stopped in at the bar Michelle works at, Molly’s at the Market, right before her shift started. With the help of some frozen Irish coffees (basically, alcoholic, caffeinated milkshakes - delicious), we actually managed to stay there hanging out for two hours, until about midnight! We were pretty proud of that. But also extremely tired. So we walked back to Michelle’s place and fell asleep.
On Friday when we woke up, we walked down to Cafe du Monde, where we bought and ate 6 beignets each. Apparently most people know what a beignet is, but I didn’t, so - it is basically a funnel cake but with a solid piece of fried dough instead of funnels. But, fried dough with powdered sugar nonetheless. And this is apparently a breakfast food. Because we hadn’t done quite enough to erase the health benefits of having bicycled nearly 1600 miles in four weeks yet, we then stopped in at another cafe on our walk back for breakfast burritos.
After several hours of errand-running, laundry-doing, and Friends-watching, Michelle took us to a Thai restaurant around the corner from her house for dinner. She then went off to work at the bar again, and Alex and I contemplated going out, but decided we couldn’t do two nights in a row. Also, Alex’s train left at 7AM the next morning. But me, I’m just old.
Alex somehow managed to pack up and leave early in the morning without waking me, so I woke up around 7, and biked over to Satsuma Cafe, which Michelle had recommended for breakfast. I had possibly the best French toast I’ve ever consumed, with fresh strawberries, candied pecans, and just a tiny bit of syrup. It actually made me sad, in a way, since it’s in New Orleans and I’ll likely never eat it again.
Packed up my stuff, biked around for a little while, and then rode over to the Amtrak station. Prepped my bike for the box like a pro who’s done it before, got all sad that it was over, and boarded the train. There were some crazy people on the train, but they don’t really seem worth talking about anymore. There were also a fair number of drunk people on the train, far more than there were on the one from Chicago to Albuquerque. New Orleans’ influence?
And so, I guess that’s it. It was a fun trip. I liked having something to do every day that I actually enjoyed doing. I met some nice, interesting, and crazy people. I saw parts of the country that I either had never seen or had never paid attention to. I hung out with some old friends, and even ran into one randomly. Although I’d kind of still like to be biking down south (just continuing across Florida), it’s good to be home for Christmas. And I’m sure I’ll do this again someday, somewhere else in the country. Or world.