Friday, April 4, 2014

Apr 3 (Day 93) - Louisiana Arrival, very hard riding, thoughts on dogs

My next few days are going to be completely scheduled around and dictated by the weather. Tomorrow is going to be a complete disaster with thunderstorms most of the day. Winds are going to be strong from the south tonight, so it is possible that migrating birds will take off from Mexico this evening run into the storm as they approach tomorrow. This should cause them to drop out into areas such as City Park here in New Orleans. Right now I plan to spend most of Saturday in City Park looking for migrants that have been put down by the low pressure system. We are supposed to get more thunderstorms on Sunday and Monday, so it is possible I could be in New Orleans until Tuesday. If I left Tuesday, this would give me 5-6 apparently clear, moderate riding days to get into position in Eastern Texas by April 13-14. 

Today's ride to New Orleans was really rough. There was a ton of south wind today, and this made riding very difficult as I made my way south and west. I also made a detour to search for a previously reported Shiny cowbird which I did not find. I am not sure about the status of this bird as the information was relayed to me secondhand. I figured it was worth a shot, but it did add a few miles to my journey. When all was said and done, I ended up cycling 82 miles today (after covering 92 yesterday). The only real bird highlight of the day was the Upland sandpiper I spooked from the roadside during the middle of my ride. It flushed and landed in the road affording nice views before a passing car pushed it off. 

South to New Orleans

Roadside fun

State #17


I mentioned yesterday that it was interesting to note the lack of development along the Mississippi coast. I surmised this was due to a realization that beachfront building in the Gulf may not be worth the effort due to the destruction leveled by recent hurricanes. However, today as I rode towards New Orleans, I was shocked to see new construction in areas that I see as having a huge hurricane target painted on them. The areas south and west of "The Rigolets" on the map is just one huge, flat, open marsh. This is the outflow that connects Lake Ponchatrain to the Gulf.  You can see that highway 90 crosses right through this area. I really have to question the judgement of people who chose to build along this stretch road (there were lots of them). If you have to build your house on 25-foot tall stilts, you probably shouldn't be building in that area. Why we do not create policy that forbids building in areas that are very likely to get destroyed in the future is really beyond me. Despite being adjacent to one another, residents of Mississippi and Louisiana are apparently applying very different risk calculations to their rebuilding efforts.

The wind really affected me negatively today. I had planned on spending tonight with a cyclist here in New Orleans, but I was so tired and frustrated when I finally arrived that I decided to bail into a Best Western in the French Quarter instead. I simply could not face dealing with a host and telling my story tonight. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with all of my hosts, but sometimes I just need a night to myself; Tonight was that night. I spent a few hours relaxing after I arrived, and later I headed out for dinner and a long walk through the French Quarter. This is my first time in New Orleans, and my hotel provided a fantastic launchpad from which to explore Bourbon and Royal streets. I can already see why so many people speak so highly of this city. Things streets were very lively, and live music poured out of any number of drinking establishments. Sonia has spent much time here in the past, so I plan to return with her in the future so she can show me what I will certainly miss on this trip. 

Lastly, I had an interesting experience with 2 dogs today. When I arrived at the area where the Shiny cowbird had been reported, 2 dogs came running out from under the house next door. This presented a big problem as the blackbirds and cowbirds would not come down to the seed when the dogs were running around. At the outset they behaved very aggressively towards me; There was lots of barking and snarling. Eventually, they came over and sniffed at me, and soon enough I was scratching them as if they were my own dogs. With the dogs rolling around at my feet and away from the seed, blackbirds and cowbirds appeared in droves - The Shiny was not among them. I alternated between scanning the flock for 2 minutes and scratching for 2 minutes. The dogs seemed to really like the attention I was giving them, and I could sense that this was going to be a problem. I have spent time with a lot of dogs over the years, but these 2 seemed to bond with me in ways that others have not. After 2 hours of culling through the bird flock without success, I decided it was time to leave and head towards to New Orleans. I could see this was not going to be easy as both dogs were now glued to my legs. I got on the bike and started to pedal away, but they followed me to the end of the block. I started to pedal faster, but they started running after me. I figured I could outrun them, but this took much longer than I hoped it would. The smaller guy dropped out after about 2 minutes of straight sprinting, but the bigger guy stayed with me for at least a mile. When he was finally exhausted, he just sat in the road and watched me head around the final bend and out of his life. It was a very strange and different attachment that developed during these two hours, and I could not help but wonder what they were thinking as their apparent new best friend sprinted away never to be heard from again. Dogs have a full range of emotions that we can identify, and probably a host of others that we cannot. It is no wonder than so many people keep dogs as companions, and why so many people think of dogs not just as pets, but more as family members. They really are amazing animals.

I took this photo once I realized 
something different was developing


  1. The Bayou mentality of home is very different from our northeastern philosophy. It's not the same calculus of risk. It's more of a build and live, and if a storm knocks you down, rebuild and live again. Houses are not seen as such permanent places, but more as transient shelters in our transient lives. Very different from what I'm used to, but ironically it can lead to a much more resiliant approach to the fragility of life.

  2. Just got tuned-in to "Biking for Birds" by Peter Kurtz of the Pennypack Environmental Center in Philadelphia. I'll add the blog to the list of blogs I check every day. With regard to the dogs, I thought that you were going to write that they turned nasty again as soon as it was clear you weren't going to be providing scratches on a permanent basis, so this is a much better outcome. I used to ride my bike in a rural area of southeastern Ohio when I was an undergraduate, and there was a notoriously vicious dog that would come charging out of a house and chase bicyclists on a route that I favored. It got so bad that some cyclists took to carrying a chain with a heavy lock just to use as a "bollo" in case they were attacked. I never did so; I figured I'd swing, miss the dog, and get the chain entangled in my front wheel at 15 miles per hour.