I grabbed some clothes and stuffed them in my tank bag along with my rainsuit, map, and phone. My tailbag held a tent and sleeping bag just in case, along with a gps and other small stuff. I started the ride by leaving around noon on the 30th, a little later than I had wanted to due to my late packing. I took the obvious 408 to Turnpike to I75 to I10 route. I had spent plenty of time on the side roads along that route before, and even though the rolling hills and horse pasture were tempting, I decided to make time and go interstate. My initial stop was at the first rest stop after getting on I75 to add a layer of clothes, and quell some second thoughts I was having, both due to the cold and just wondering if this was a "good use of time". The temperature in Orlando before leaving felt very good, cool with a nice sun, but a stiff riding wind made for a much chilier environment, made even worse by my northward heading.
The ride was fairly uneventful, when I stopped in Marianna Florida for dinner and the night. The temperature was pretty cold and I was going to get off of the interstate for some new road headed to Panama City soon, and wanted to travel that road in the light.
After waking around six (my Dad would be proud) and eating breakfast, I hit the interstate and was welcomed with the familiar, cold, crisp blast that you can only get on a motorcycle in the early morning and it made all apprehension disappear. After a couple miles on the interstate, I took 231 to Panama City (at this point the cold, crisp blast had become frigid) and then to 98 westward. At my first fuel stop, I noticed I was pretty close to the 30k mark; we've had a great relationship.
I cruised down 98 to just before Pensacola, where I took 87 back to I10. I went back to the interstate because that section of 98 was boring, with a few sections of 30 being its only reprieve. I was also surprised by the size of Fort Walton Beach. Mobile welcomed me with strong wind, non-vertical riding, the large cranes at the port, and a tunnel. Shortly after passing into Mississippi, probably a little before Pascagoula, I turned southward again to 90 and rode closer to the coast for hopefully a more scenic route. The road got good around Biloxi, were the large casino resorts rose up from the beaches. 90 to, through, and beyond Gulfport was very enjoyable, with a surfless, long, deep beach on one side and the old Southern mansions on the other. As a reminder of the history of the area, as many foundations stood barren as those that still held a home and lives.
I continued on 90 until the shoreline fell to the south. I caught back onto the interstate a little before the Louisiana border and continued on I10 into New Orleans and started to look for lodging. This seems like a recurring theme for me, but the city looked attractive upon entrance, with the rising buildings encircled with water. I passed by the exit for the famous Canal Street, massive above-ground cemetaries through Metairie on both sides of the road, a Hampton Inn on North Causeway Boulevard (for my points), before turning around a little past the International airport and getting a room at the Hampton. I rested a little, did some map studying, and planning for the future before heading out to the French Quarter at around 630p.
I got off I10 I think at Esplanade and took a right on Rampart. This was a pretty rough section of town, but cleaned up as you got closer to Canal. I got some food and a couple beers and spent most of the night walking around the quarter, checking out the sites, sounds, and people. Unfortunately, I am not very happy with the feel for the city that only one night provided, so I guess I'll just have to visit it again for more than just one night. I left the city and returned to the hotel at around 100a.
This morning was another early rise to get on the road. The plan was to cross the Mississippi to take 23 all the way to the delta, then, after looking around, to head back north to I55 and ride the Natchez Trace Parkway, probably from Natchez to Jackson Mississippi. This was all tentative; I wasn't real sure how the timing would work out since this would be a pretty long day ride, I didn't want to ride the Parkway at night, and I wanted to return home before Saturday. I decided that I'd start on the delta ride and decide on the Natchez ride during.
The ride started very cold again (I've been cold during this entire ride, with my only break in the hotel at night after I turn the heater on.). I crossed the bridge over the Mississippi and had to do a couple road changes through residential and commercial areas of town before getting on 23 and then going through a tunnel underneath a shipping canal before going for the the 60 or so mile ride paralleling the River. After exitting a residential area, the route become very rural. There was cattle land, including some bison, power plants and chemical producing plants, and what looked like a coal staging area (would make sense to build a power plant there too, no?). Once I reached the end, I took a right onto a very narrow spit of land that dropped into the water directly on the edge of the road then a left onto Venice Boat Harbor Road. This road lead to a large marina full of shrimping boats. A large building that looked like apartments was also on the water at the marina. This whole area was still littered with debris from the hurricane, including a massive, I think steel hauled shrimping boat run aground and a large houseboat. After looking around for a while, I headed back north on 23 toward New Orleans.
Overall, this delta ride was not the best use of riding time. Most of the road was sectioned concrete, and made even worse because it was in lousy shape. Also, even though the Mississippi was less than a quarter mile away the entire trip, it was never visible since there was an enormous dyke along its entire length. I had no evidence, but thought that a view of the delta would be made into a touristy spot, but there was no elevated area, so it couldn't be seen. I can say I've done the ride, and new experiences and places are always valuable to me, but wouldn't recommend it to someone pressed for time.
I continued north on 23 then crossed back over the Mississippi into New Orleans (they nail you for a dollar toll going into the city only, not exiting), all the while thinking about the Natchez Trace Parkway. The time was approaching on noon and I was cold. I took I10 west then I55 north; the interstates all the way from about the airport to the junction of I55 and I12 were a bridge, letting her users fly among the trees over the swamp. Over the swamp, where I think the temperatures were even lower, I decided that I would skip the Natchez Trace route. The biggest factor was the cold, which would undoubtedly get even worse as my latitude and elevation increased. I was also thinking a little about the timing, as making home by anything but very late Friday night or very early Saturday morning was not looking possible without riding into Thursday night, which wasn't really an option for me. I took I12 east after the junction and got off at the first exit to do some stationary thinking, where I finalized my plan to start the trek back east and home.
Not much to note on the trip back, just went interstate the entire way to make time. I ended up stopping in Marianna again for the night, with an outside temperature of 48 degF.
The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. I took a detour in the morning to see Marianna. I was finally able to shed a layer around Ocala and returned to Orlando at about one or two. The ride came in at 1702 miles.
The biggest downside of this trip was the temperature. I wore a t-shirt, two sweatshirts, my jacket liner, and my jacket on my upper body, and sweatpants underneath my jeans on my lower body and that was not enough. Suprisingly, my boots and gloves did a pretty good job, but everything else overwhelmed them and I was cold. I'd have a tough time adding any more layers, so I think that heated clothes are the only option.
I'm going to plan for a trip that hits some of the Natchez Trace Parkway, but hopefully during the fall or spring.
dad, tulane, decisions, places to live, the same