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Day 6 - Abbeville to Houma - 104 mi / 168 km

I wake up at 2pm to a beeping sound. My camera/cellphone is demanding a recharge, which I respond to immediately. Now awake, I turn on the TV and flip to the Weather Channel.

Morning forecast is five degrees above freezing with winds from the south/sse. DAMN. Plus, after two days of battling the wind from the north and looking forward to cycling south with the wind on my back, the wind is going to be in my face AGAIN, all day.

6am - I put on all the clothes I brought for the trip, including my evening/dinner clothes.  I tape my pant legs at the thighs, calves and ankles so they won’t billow in the wind. I'm far removed from looking like a trendy cyclist, but I am warm.

I'm pleased with myself for "thinking outside the box" and breaking the separation between cycling and normal clothes. Goodbye to Abbeville:


and onwards to Erath -


and then Delchambres.


To the north was Lac Peigneur.

Lac Peigneur

Lake Peigneur (Cajun French for "comber", one who works with wool) was a freshwater lake popular with sportsmen until an unusual ecological disaster in November 1980.

At the time, Diamond Crystal Salt Company operated a saltmine under the lake. A Texaco oil rig was drilling down from the surface of the lake searching for petroleum. The drill bit entered the salt mine and set off a series of events that turned the lake from shallow freshwater to deep saltwater. The generally accepted explanation for the environmental catastophe:

  • The Texaco drill punctured the roof of the third level of the salt mine.
  • This created a hole in the bottom of the lake, like a drain in a bathtub.
  • The lake drained into the hole, expanding the size of the drain hole as the soil and salt were washed into the mine by the rushing water, and filling the huge caverns left by salt mining over the years.
  • The resulting whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, countless trees and part of the lakeshore.
  • So much water drained into the caverns that the freshwater flow of the Delcambre Canal reversed, making the canal a temporary Gulf inlet and open to incoming saltwater
  • This gulf seawater surge created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall ever in the state of Louisiana
  • As the lake refilled with salt water. trapped air within the caverns was severely compressed
  • The air forced its way to the surface through old vertical mine shafts and erupted as geysers in the lake.

No human lives lost, although three dogs were reported missing. In the days following the disaster, nine of the eleven sunken barges popped out of the slowing whirlpool and refloated on the lake's surface.

The event permanently affected the ecosystem of the lake by changing the lake from shallow freshwater to deep saltwater. The biology of the lake changed with the introduction of salt water plants and wildlife, displacing eons of freshwater habitat.

Texaco and their drilling partners paid $32 million to Diamond Crystal (for business loss) and $12.8 million to nearby Live Oak Gardens (for tourist fishing loss) in out-of-court settlements.

Since 1994 AGL Resources has been using Lake Peigneur’s remaining underlying salt dome as a Storage and Hub facility for pressurized natural gas.

Delcambre sideroad

Concrete cemetary. common to what I’ve seen since entering Louisiana, people appear to be buried almost at ground level in cement caskets.

Back to Hwy 90 (which I had traveled on extensively in West Texas) and back to streaming traffic, uneven shoulders and headwind.  Several times pieces of side road would show up – I would simply dismount, carry my my bike across the grassy drainage ditch and continue pedaling.

The wind continued to be persistent in its pervasiveness and erratic in its behaviour.  It’s one thing to have a consistent resistance, like going up a hill.

It’s another thing to be set up for lulls and false hopes and about to settle into a rhythm and have that determination sucked away by the next impersonal hard gust of air.


At one of my panting, head-over-the-handlebar moments, I look at the asphalt composite – rather than gravel, I see broken seashells.


I'm now a third of the way into the day’s trip, feeling good in a determined kind of way, and Morgan City was the next milestone at 67 miles.  I have the choice of sticking to the highway with the open fields and the restless uncontrolled wind, or turning off and taking sideroads, hopefully with some shelter from roadside trees and few dawgs. I turn off to Baldwin:


Baldwin has a Burger King.  I need comfort food.  I leave my trip computer running while I hoover up a whopper, fries and a coke. Once back in the saddle, my day’s average trip speed had dropped from 12mph to 11mph – such is the price for the bike standing still.

Baldwin blends into Franklin - Historic Franklin in fact – the main deserted street has antique-styled lamp posts running down its centre, with sagging boarded buildings lining both sides.


There are no highway signs.  My attempts to smilingly wave down black drivers for directions are studiously ignored with head turns and acceleration.  No-one was going to challenge me, but no-one was going to help me either.

I look at the sun, reference the wind and choose one of three ways out of downtown. It's the right choice, and has the added re-enforcement of the highway announcing itself as the “Scenic Spanish Trail – Bike Route” – I have visions of smooth broad roadway shoulders where the cyclist is king.

spanish trail

The next five miles convince me that the Louisiana bureaucrat who designated this road as cyclist friendly:

  1. never sat on a bicycle and
  2. ever traveled the “trail” in question. 

Broken asphalt, non-existent shoulders and an almost unrideable main highway made a mockery of the “cyclist/scenic” designation.

bear crossingI labour through this piece of highway to get back onto the windy Hwy 90, with a new sign complementing the mileage markers – “Bear Crossings”:

GREAT, not only did I have to worry about dawgs chasing me, I could now add bears as possible pursuers.

I conclude that, unless these orsines were rabid, they would not come out to shake me down in daylight.

The miles crawl by – where is Morgan City? Pattison appears, its main street essentially Hwy 90 with all its fast food outlets and chain hotels. 

Finally, Berwick and the two bridges to Morgan City – Big shiny fast Hwy 90 or smaller rusty local Hwy 182. 

berwick morgan city

I choose 182 to get a look at local life.  The Berwick Bridge was narrow, with occasional bridge gaps in the metal grating so wide that I preferred walking my bike across these rather than risking a tire slipping into the gap.  Good view of the other bridge though. 

Pretty clear that Huey Long (past governor of Louisiana in the 1930s) made sure he was immortalized through at least two bridges in LA (here and entering New Orleans).

huey long

Immensely popular for his populist social reform programs and willingness to bulldoze acceptance of his legistative agenda ("I used to get things done by saying please. Now I dynamite them out of my path.").

Long was accused by his opponents of dictatorial tendencies for his near-total control of the state government and his pervasive patronage appointments.

In 1935 At the height of his popularity at age 42, the colorful and flamboyant Long was assassinated.

Morgan City

I sail down the far side of the bridge, turn and roll into a very genteel neighborhood.  A marked contrast to the busy highways and rusty bridges. From there it's Railroad Street and I'm clearly now, in every sense of the word, on the “wrong side of the tracks”.

A dog the size of a small horse leaps up from the edge of a nasty looking trailer park.  Fortunately he's chained to a tree – the tree branches shake as the dog lunges at me repeatedly as I briskly ride by.

The next light is the Morgan City Cemetery – very big and like the earlier one, concrete plots.

morgan city cemetary

My road ends without the expected connection to Hwy 182, and I don’t feel like retracing my route.  I see an overpass in the distance, calculate as to where it might touch ground, and zigzag back through streets and arrive at Hwy 182 – I’ll take it!

Three miles on I'm immersed in serious road reconstruction. I stop and ask for directions and the guys in the pickup truck are very helpful. Then one asks “Where you goin’” and I respond with my elevator speech:

“Well, I’m from Canada, and every year I fly down to the States for a 500-600 mile solo bike ride.  Over the past years I’ve done San Diego to Tucson, Tucson to El Paso, El Paso to San Antonio – this year it’s San Antonio to New Orleans and next year New Orleans to Jacksonville, and at that point I will have cycled across this great country of yours”.  I always enjoy the reaction.

One of the interesting questions invariably is “How have the people been?” or “How have you been treated?” and I can always say that I have treated well by everyone I’ve met (and I have been).

This answer makes people feel good and I can see it in their faces – there’s a piece of positive validation that they don't get about other Americans from TV, newspaper or radio.

Part of the roadcrew advice is to swing north and get on Hwy 90.  It adds a couple of miles, but it gets me away from the broken Hwy 182.  Soon I'm on another enormous and long causeway complex – not only does it cross a river, it spans miles and miles of swamp.

I get pretty good at slaloming through the 1-2 inch gaps between the highway reflectors while maintaining 10-12mph speed.

Top of causeway

Swamp beside causeway

Finally, a sign for Houma and the Bayou Black Drive.  I have spent the day battling the wind and still doing so.  Now I'm sprinting away from untethered dawgs every two miles or so.  I'm seriously tired, and the sun is sinking on the westerly horizon.

In spite of this, I'm really taken by the scenery.  The trees and the waterway were really something.

Bayou Black Drive

One funny detail – throughout my trip, every couple of miles I would come across small strands of plastic pearls, gold, green and purple – no other colours.  Were these breadcrumbs laid out for me (ie was I getting delusional) or was this litter across every road and highway in Louisiana?

Well, at this point, I had no desire to confirm or refute my little hypothesis by roaming the countryside on other roads and highways.  I ground out the last six miles, getting to the Ramada at dusk, went through my cleanup routine and emptied my pen into my journal during the intake of a barely passable meal in the hotel restaurant, then partook of some local entertainment.

ramada bar

The hotel bar was full of happy people drinking, clapping and two-stepping around the floor.  I asked a Rosalind Carter look-a-like as to whether this was a convention, seeing as everybody knew each other.

Nope, it was Thursday nite, and every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday all the local folk came down to dance the evening away.



Dawgs in Pursuit





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