Day 1                                                                    
March 22nd, 2007
Prattville, Alabama   

I was up at 5am, I wanted to be on the road by 5:30am today.  I was looking at a 600+ mile day to East Texas, that would include a stop over in New Orleans, and the Bayous of South Louisiana.   I could take I-65 to I-10 and belt the miles down quick, but y'all know that is not my style.

It was pitch black outside when I rolled the door up, "dang what time does the sun come up nowadays?"  Normally I like daylight savings time, but this year they ushered it in 6 weeks early.  Well ok, but now the sun doesn't come up to almost 8am.  Whatever I gained in the afternoon, I'm giving back in the morning, doesn't make sense.  I don't like early morning rides in the dark, too many deer, they are very active that time of day.  I can be on the road at 6am in June with sun lighting the way, but not on this tour.

I'll be on the RT this tour.  The last 2 tours saw me on the Honda, it was the BMW's turn.

"Look here baby, I'll call ya when I get to Mobile."  "Ok be careful I'll see you tomorrow in San Antonio."

On that I dropped down into gear and rolled up the driveway, it was 5:33am.  I went south on U.S. 31 and stopped for gas at the Entec station near the Alabama River.  I topped off the RT's 7.8 gallon tank with 5+ gallons, and reset the gas gauge thing on the Zumo.  The gauge is mileage based, I set it to come on at 280 miles, about the time the pessimistic light on the RT goes off.

Before putting on my new leather AlpineStar gloves I brought up today's route on the Garmin 550.  I'm schedule to meet Bill Loggin in Sliddel, Louisiana at 10am, at a Waffle House off I-10.  I put the address of the Waffle House in the unit and let it crunch the route.  Pretty straight forward I-65 to I-10.  

Bill is going to escort me down to the 9th Ward.  I really have no reason for going to look at that stuff other then I'm curious.

I threaded my way through Montgomery's version of the 9th Ward and made my way to I-65 south and settled in for the 168 mile ride to I-10.  I thoroughly dislike interstate riding, but there are no back roads in this part of the country for me to see, and I needed to be on time to meet Bill, so here I am.

The morning was still dark and cool, and the 60 degree temp the RT recorded in my garage, had dipped down into the 50s in the low spots of Montgomery and Lowndes Counties.  I only had a t shirt under, and the unlined leather gloves were cool. 

Traffic was light but I kept the RT in check at 70 mph in the dark.  At a indicated 70 mph on the RT the GPS says I'm doing 68 or 67.

I rode past the new Hyundai plant on the Southside of Montgomery County, and thought about the workers there.   The jobs pay well, but I don't know.  I thought about what it must be like to work an assembly line. 

Same thing every hour of every day.  Put seat in, bolt down, do it again.  Or what about the guy that drives them off the line to the parking lot?  A unit emerges, he jumps in, and off he goes, then walks back for the next, and he better not be late or things start backing up.  Kind of like being lost in a airport parking lot for a career.  I kept that individual in mind as I set the cruise on the RT and leaned back on the Moto Fizz bag.

In the low spots fog formed on the RT's screen, as cold air clashed with warm.  There was a 5 degree difference from peak to bottom.  I was chilled and only wanted the day to warm up.  I had the screen high to funnel the cool air around me, the RT is really good at that.

By 7am morning dusk was bringing the countryside around me to life, as it peeled back the darkness.
With nothing else to do I began to toggle through all the info the Zumo was gathering.  Stuff like average speed, miles to go, elevation, time of day, compass view, and GPS accuracy.   Combine that with the stuff on the RTs computers, and I should never get bored.

Finally my hands were too cold so I took the Evergreen exit to change gloves.  When I loaded back up, a man in a white van gave me a thumbs up.  I get that all the time when I ride the RT, he was the first of many on this tour that liked the BMW's looks.

The lined gloves felt much better, I still needed a sweatshirt to complete the deal, but it was packed away and I didn't feel like digging it out.  "It will warm up soon anyway."  

South Alabama is mostly pine trees and farmland, and I-65 is as about as nice a way as the next to see such stuff.

One of the things I like most about GPS is always knowing where the next turn or way point is.  On I-40 that can be a good or a bad thing.  "Whaaaat?? Still1500 miles to Memphis?"  But on backroads, quiet handy to know your next turn is in 2 miles.

I went up and over the big bridge over the Tensaw River and into Mobile County, the arrival time on the GPS said I would be right on time for my  rendezvous.

One of the Saraland exits appeared so I took it looking for a con store to take my morning break.  I found a Shell station and went in for Mountain Dew and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I took a seat at a table in a corner.  I called Debbie as promised, and then Bill to announce my whereabouts.  I sent Chris a text and got back on the road.  I couldn't have stayed longer if I had wanted, the store was overly air conditioned.

Traffic was building in Mobile but I made it ok and went to I-10 West.  I passed a GL with a pillion pulling a homemade trailer, that was bouncing all over the place.  I actually feared it was going to break lose and take us both out.  I got around him quickly.

A few miles west of Mobile I began to see hurricane damage.  Bent tress with naked tops, houses with tarps, and scattered debris.

I checked all the fuel info on the RT and the Garmin.  I ran the numbers, I would be on reserve by the time I got to New Orleans.  Because I was not sure what I was going to find there, I decided to fuel up now.  A Shell sign on I-10 pointed the way.  I topped off the RT and for the heck of it, checked the RT's mpg so far- 50 mpg, down 3-4 from normal.  "Musta been the high screen I ran with this morning."  I'm sure the touring load had something to do with it also.

The Mississippi coast is starting to make a comeback, long way to go but progress is sure and steady, a stark contrast to New Orleans.

From Biloxi it was a short ride to Slidell.  Following the GPS instructions, I peeled off I-10 for the Waffle House.  I failed to see Bill's 06 1300 in the motel parking lot next door and thought I might be at the wrong address, I was getting out my phone to call when Bill came out and waved me in.

After exchanging greetings we went inside for something to drink and to lay out the plan.  "I just need to ride down to the 9th Ward for some video and photos, take me about 30 minutes."  As a local, Bill knew all the short cuts to get there.  "Just follow me, I know a few roads to get us around the worst of the traffic."  "OK sounds good."

We left the Waffle House on back roads.  I immediately began to see lots of damaged buildings, Bill pointed out the Waffle House we were in had several feet of water in it.

After crossing the Pontchartrain I began to see evidence of what happened here.  Cars were still in the middle of bayous, a bus lay on its side in a field, stores with caved roofs came and went, and old gas stations with nozzles scattered on the apron were common.  The area looked like Chernobyl.  As we were worked down to the 9th Ward I couldn't help but notice we were in a bad place.  I felt good having a partner for this portion of the ride and thanked Bill several times for having my back.

On the border of the 9th Ward we pulled off so I could ready my video equipment.  "Man if the jokers around here knew I was carrying about 2k worth of video equipment and other electronic stuff I'd be SOL."

With cameras rolling we rode into the Twilight Zone.  It was just amazing.  The chaos that prevailed here for those few days, had to be something.  Empty houses looked out to us as we rode up and down the streets.  I didn't see many people about, but did see 2 guys with fancy cameras taking pictures of the devastation.
​Common sight in the 9th Ward.  The markings on the front
were placed there by rescuers, it means the house was
searched and no bodies or victims were found.

I didn't see many personal belongings in the debris, but I did notice a few coolers and bicycles.  We rode up by the now repaired levee to see where the water poured in.  A few birds seemed to take notice and flew away when we came by, they were the only signs of life.
​In this picture you can see where residents kicked out
the walls to escape the rising water.  They were probably
rescued by a small boat nearby.

A house with a sign out front said it wasn't right he was suffering while folks were taking a pictures.  The sign read we should stop and make a donation.  Yeah, right.  Billions upon billions of dollars are pouring into this place, I can't help it they keep re electing politicians that skim off the top and misuse it.  
​Nothing more to add 
We stopped for pics and to take things in.  After seeing so many images of this place on TV it felt like I'd been here before.  After 30 minutes or so I had to get back on the road and head west.  We rode out to the old con store where we started to say good bye.  ​​
​Bill Loggin of Slidell, Louisiana (06 ST 1300) had my back
while I took pics and video in the 9th Ward.

Fearful I had picked up nail in the 9th Ward with so much debris around I did a quick check on the rear tire.  All was good.

I told Bill good bye and thanked him one more time for having my back.  I asked the Zumo to take me to the start of my custom route in South Louisiana, it was I-10 West through Baton Rouge.  I rode out of the depressed area, and joined in the melee on I-10.

Out of the city and west I rode on some of the worst riding of all time.  It was 100 miles of traffic choking 18 wheelers.  Both sides were full of them bringing supplies into New Orleans for the rebuilding projects, it was awful.

Bucked in wash and truck turbulence I did the best I could at keeping the RT on keel.  I had to keep the screen low, to steady the front end, if I raked it high it acted like a sail and made the BMW squirm.

If at all possible, I NEVER plan to ride I-10, New Orleans to Layafette again.

I finally made it to Reyne and went seeking for a con store to take a break.  When I found  one I broke out a Mountain Dew and a fig bar.  I called CB Shahan and reported my location.  I was scheduled to spend the night in Port Neches with him.  Since I was already stopped I decided to top off the tank before riding any further south.

With my butt rested I turned south on SR 35, and headed for Cajun Country.  School was letting out, and I got tangled with a few school buses and soccer mom vans.

At last I broke free and the riding was good.  It was quiet now, and the RT seemed to float over the road.  Swamps and wetlands dominated the landscape.  I was enjoying the ride and the culture exposure.
​The Bayous of Louisiana, don't offer much sport riding,
but the scenery is good, and the culture unique.

Fork Island is one of the last outposts before the route turns west for Texas.  There is not much there.  A gas station of some kind, and a few houses.

Along the road to Texas I saw 2 guys fishing from roadside dock, so pulled in to check them out.
"Hey what's goin on?"

In a thick Cajun accent he responded, "not much, gettin some fishin in"

He showed me his catch, and to be honest no way I'd eat anything coming out of that box.

"I see ya got 2 catfish, ya gonna fry them up?"

"oh yeaaaaaaah"

When I finished the visit I got back on the road under partly cloudy skies.  The afternoon was waning and I needed to get to Texas.  I rode past old houses with even older trees with drooping Spanish Moss on the branches.  I also began to notice Hurricane Rita damage.  Blown away barns and house trailers were everywhere.

​The cockpit of the RT looks out over the swamp.   
A sweet scent of fresh cut grass, reminded me of West Virginia smells in late summer.

I'd been struggling all afternoon keeping the RT in check on the 60 mph roads in Bayou Country.  I was on the east side of Cameron when I met a deputy.  I was running about 68 mph according to the GPS, when his light bar fired off,  "DAYUM!"  I kept my eye on the mirrors but he never appeared, I guess he just wanted me to slow down, or he was late for supper.
​I didn't see any gators, but I was looking.
In Cameron I took the shortest boat ride ever.  About 1 minute.  I don't get it, why not a bridge?  Not that far across.  The ferry kinda just rotated and the next thing I know time to ride!

On the west side I kept pushing to Texas on SR 82.  The ride along here reminded me very much of the Outer Banks of North Carolina,-minus the oil fields out in the gulf.  A stiff breeze blew across the water and the smell of salt air got stuck in my throat.

An oil platform stood guard in the Gulf, perhaps 4 or 5 miles out.  I passed a few slow moving pickups, all rhe drivers had their windows down.  When I had a car I use to drive with the windows down as much as I could.  I recall driving home from late afternoon runs in the summer.  One of my favorite running routes starts at a rural church in Elmore County, a nice 5 mile out and back course past quiet fields and farmhouses.  When I'd get back to the Prelude I'd duck behind the church, change into dry clothes and take the long way home.  I'd ride with the sun roof back, and both windows down, and even though it was still hot and humid, it was ok.  A few miles later I'd stop at the same rural store and pick up something cold to drink, from there I'd sip Gatorade, listen to music, and feel the wind.  It was fun.  I still do that when I can steal away in Debbie's Accord, but it's not the same as a PRELUDE.  That was a great car.

One of these days I'm going to have to buy a car, but don't have time for it right now.  When I do, it WILL be some kind of sports car.

The afternoon light glistened on the water, and I was looking forward to arriving in Port Neches.  I was yet to meet CB Shahan personally, but I had it on good authority he was a fine man.  Uncle Phil not going to lie to me.  He said CB was good people and that was all I needed to know.   CB has been on the ST board for a long time, and is well loved by all there.

By early evening I crossed the bridge over Sabine Lake and entered Texas, not doubt I took the long way to get here.  My preplanned custom route was complete, so I tapped in the address for CBs house and followed the directions supplied by the Zumo.  It pointed me north up SR 87 to Port Arthur.

Oil is big business in this part of the country.  I rode past refineries of bulk storage plants of all types.  Each had tall towers of some kind, and miles of pipes and valves.  The smell of oil and chemicals hung thick in the air.
I went over a viaduct and the GPS directed me to a series of surface streets before dropping me off point blank at a barricade.  The street I needed was totally torn up and not passable.   I was .3  miles from CB's house, and in fact could see the street I needed through the barricade.  "Well dayum, I reckon I'll just keep riding south down these side streets till I can find way to cross over."  I did, and the GPS recalculated my route to come in from the East, and soon I was in CBs driveway completing a 630 mile day. I saw his ST 1100 in the garage so I knew I had the right place.

I hit the doorbell and CB came out to greet me.  If you look up southern gentlemen in the book you'll find a pic of CB.  We talked liked we had known each other for years.  I met his lovely wife Wilma, and was shown my accommodations.  The Shahan's have a great place in Port Neches.

Wilma had already eaten, so CB and I loaded up in his mini van and headed to the Texas Roadhouse Steakhouse.  One of my favorite places.  Along the way we spoke about many things, but motorcycles wasn't one of the topics.  CB is a member of the "Greatest Generation" the generation that came through the depression and won WWII.  He is a WWII and Korea vet, he came home, took a job in a refinery while  going to school at night, graduated, then went to work for Prudential.  He made a good life for himself.  A baby boomer like myself knows nothing of hard times, but a man like CB can tell you everything about them, each member of this generation should be respected and admired for what they've been through.  They built the richest country ever known to man, and now they have handed it off to us, I hope we don't mess it up. 
​The Shahans-Port Neches, Texas
The steakhouse was jammed pack, but we were seated in 10 minutes or so, and not long after that we were eating.  Great service.  I love the food at the Texas, we have one in Birmingham and Debbie and I go every time we are up that way.

When supper was over we had a nice drive back home.  The tall towers of the refineries glistened in the night, you could see them in every direction you looked.  

Miss Wilma was waiting up for us, and we chatted a few more minutes, but I was tired and begged off to bed.  I'll be up early to eat breakfast with CB and a friend, before hitting the road for San Antonio.   What a great day this was, and I was looking forward to Debbie and the down time over the weekend.