A trip to New Orleans
I've had a long affection for New Orleans, and it's somewhat counter-intuitive. Never been a drinker, not as enthused about late-night entertainment as I may have once been, not interested in debauchery and related pastimes, so the attraction seems mysterious to my friends and family.
Yet I've now made six trips there from here in Chicagoland over the last quarter-century. Of destinations further than 500 miles away, that's second on my lifetime list only to Vermont; I've ridden a motorcycle to the Green Mountain State nine times starting in '79, and absolutely ceased after the '03 trip. The state is now virtually a suburb of New York and Boston. Still beautiful, but it's hard to find the Vermonters, they're hidden so deeply in mountains and won't come out anymore.
The first five trips to the Big Easy were via Amtrak trains. I've always been a rail person, worked in a museum/shortline in Wisconsin for 25 years, and am able to get past the national rail service's flaws pretty much. Although, the new diner on the City of New Orleans is truly awful, and that was painful when on the most recent City trip three years ago I took the Missus, a professional chef, on her first long distance train ride. Yeah, bad news in the diner.
Anyway, a bucket list item of considerable importance to me has been a motorcycle trip down there. Streetcars and walking do fine, but I still needed to ride a bike around the place to really see the rest of it. So I chipped out almost a week of time late in October while things were still pretty warm, even though I knew the return would be downright cold as our early winter 2019 was coming in.
Traversing Illinois north-to-south in a journey in itself, nearly 400 miles. I confess to doing I-57 most of the way, finally bailing off to get to the surface roads for the last sixty-seventy miles before crossing the Mississippi into Kentucky and Missouri. Somewhere along the line, I did something to re-aggravate an old groin injury, maybe got off the bike wrong.
But that's a bad thing to do while on a trip on a 700-pound bike when you're planning to walk a lot at the destination.
Oddly, I could ride pretty well, I just couldn't get off or on or walk. Like, walk to the bike to ride it.
I made it to Clarksdale, Mississippi for the night. Clarksdale is the location of the "Crossroads", US Highway 61, the "Blues Highway", and US 49, where, as carefully-nurtured legend has it, bluesman Robert Johnson made his infamous deal with the devil to become the greatest bluesman of all time. Yeah, it's a cute story but I wanted to add it to my list, being a Chicago boy steeped in the Delta-to-Chicago blues tradition.
Down 61 to New Orleans was also the first time I'd ever run through Mississippi on the road. There really is cotton there. What do you know?
By time I hit my Metairie hotel just north of town, I was pretty much out of action, walking wise. I spent the almost the whole third day of the trip in bed with an ice pack.
The weather'd been hot on the way in, 92 or so, but by time I got on the streets again it was decent. I got my riding done, saw the city and environs about as much as I cared to. Being a city boy, slow urban traffic is not a big problem for me, but still. It's hard to be enthused about averaging two miles per hour for most of the day.
I did miss the sub sandwich shop the Missus has insisted I visit. When a chef tells you to eat somewhere, you listen, after all. But I couldn't find a place to park even the FJR within two blocks (that wasn't concerning) so I gave up on that. Have to go back I suppose.
On the Saturday morning, I was up and at it but stumbled into the French Quarter ritual street cleaning as they do many mornings. The tourists dump an ungodly layer of garbage everywhere, and every day the city goes out at dawn and cleans it up.
I was stuck behind the city crew pressure-washing the sidewalks and streets and in front of the massive Elgin street cleaner trailing to suck up the unbelievably smelly detritus.
This slime splashed up from my front Pilot Road 4 and onto the header pipes. The stench of that almost led me to dump the bike in the river. Good heavens.
And so I present a photo of my being stuck while this was going on (slowly) on Bourbon Street as my most prominent memory of the trip.
2018 Versys 650LT in the hands of the Missus
2004 Suzuki SV650S, also Hers
2006 GSX-R600, mixed ownership
In the avatar: 1966 Velocette Venom Thruxton and 1967 BSA Royal Star.