Okay Bayou



We've turned our backs on Texas. We’re in Louisiana, at last (I’m going to suggest “Louisiana At Last” as a state slogan to the guv’nor when he and I share a PB & J [Po Boy and Jameson] next week){I love brackets}. Texas was interesting in parts, in LARGE parts, but so was Mama Cass, and I expect most guys were glad to be done with her too.


(we’ll just pause here to allow a portion of my audience to leave the building, shuffling sideways down the row, muttering in a disappointed way… all because I couldn’t resist some cheap, sophomoric humour)

I write from inside our tent, set up on a covered, fairground stage in Merryville, La., population 1128. Why, you ask, do they call it Merryville? Because a hundred yards in front of me pennants fly from the big top of a travelling circus - in town for one night only - bringing me back full circle to my formative days as a billposter for Martin & Downs Travelling Tent Circus. At the safe remove of a single American football field, Seb and I can eavesdrop on an evening of dramatic music, needy performers, and, of course, the profane-laced cacophony of teardown – that’s showbiz, folks.


It’s now morning. The circus convoy just pulled away, spewing diesel and strewing popcorn. Merryville has reverted to Melancholyville. But, in the middle of the night, as I was anointing the grass from my mark on stage left, dim shapes moved about me. By the final clench and shake, I could make out 5 ponies and one camel, apparently free-ranging about the bandstand. It was weird and it was wonderful. I felt safe. I knew why they were there… to protect me from the clowns.


10 Hours Later…


Seb and I were treated to another dose of southern kindness today. We’d stopped at Walmart for Seb to fill up on protein bars, bananas, and hummus, and got talking to an employee named Joseph. He and his wife were leaving soon for a three-week bike tour to Oklahoma, and for awhile we shot the breeze about The Life Cyclatic. Then I asked him if he (or Walmart maintenance) had a pair of vise grips I could borrow to remove the cleat that’s been lodged in my pedal since it ripped out of my shoe three days ago (my own tools weren’t up to the task). He came back with a pair that was a tad too small, that failed to do the job, so we said thanks anyway for trying, saddled up and headed out of town (trust me, we’re getting to the good part now).


Imagine our reaction when, I kid you not, 4 miles out of town we were flagged down by Joseph waving a set of larger vise grips that he’d bought with his own money for us to use. Whaaaaaaat????? They worked beautifully and, after turning down the offer to take them along with us, we thanked him as best we could, a little overwhelmed by his over-the-top consideration, and carried on feeling warm and fuzzy and plenty alright. Wowza.

More time passing…

Our tent is now backed up against the Sheriff Department building in Oberlin, La. First we tried: the fire department – nobody home and all locked up. Then we tried:  the ambulance house – nobody home and all wide open.  And finally we met Sheriff J.W. Pepper swaggering down the street and he was kind enough to let us pitch our tent for a spell (actually, we talked to dispatch in at the office, and I guess the Fire Department was monitoring her conversation with the Sheriff, because they called dispatch and demanded dibs on the Canadians since we’d tried the fire department first. Dispatch told them to go climb a rope, the exotic, foreign cyclists are cop business now.

I write from the Main Street Café, quietly blogging while the chicken n’ dumpling special works it’s way slimily through the inner man. The look of my just-consumed dinner special was pretty disturbing: mouse torsos in a dust and cobweb sauce – I felt like Oliver eating gruel before the invention of colour, or happiness.  


Quite a few more hours later…


Nowwwww… we’re in Opelousas, Louisiana, a town name that I can never say the same way twice, and never like the locals. After having a conversation with the local pharmacist about eye drops (clouds of yellow pollen have been fogging the landscape for the last few days), I was reminded why I don’t wear a hairpiece. Once you spot it, and this one could be spotted from Uranus, you simply can’t resist looking at it constantly. It’s like opposite-world to what women have to go through with men checking them out, except the pharmacist had to say to me “My eyes are down here, buddy!” - it’s so embarrassing to get caught.


For the first time this trip, and because it’s Friday (weekend special time at the car rental places), and because we’re close to New Orleans, Seb and I have rented the Silver Beetle of Salvation and are taking the next couple of days off to tour Cajun country. Tonight and Sunday we’re staying with Sarah Scott, cycling fanatic and Warmshowers poster girl, and tomorrow night we’re hanging with Chad in Gramercy, another free spirit in the best and most fiscal sense of the term.

Later gators.