I had originally been thinking of staying in New Orleans for Christmas & New Year, but was eager to get back on my bike and with Diana & Martina leaving to go to Miami it made sense. I still knew people in town, but I’d seen the key parts of town.
US-90 and I-10 head east out of New Orleans and thankfully the vast majority of traffic takes I-10. It meant that after navigating some very impressively potholed roads I was out of the city limits on quiet roads. I was making fair progress before my rear wheel started feeling heavier and I realised I had a puncture. I pulled to the side of the road and found the bit of wire from a burst tyre that had avoided my Mr Tuffy liner. While sat there, a truck pulled up next to me and the driver asked me if I was OK. I told him that I’d probably be fine and was just fixing a puncture. He parked himself behind me on the shoulder so as to ensure nothing would hit me and then got out to talk to me. His name was Anthony Dieudonne and he owned his own business that had 65 people working for it in the road construction industry. His son is in college and in the future both of his kids will be working for the business. He was lovely to talk to and had was mentioning how he is hoping to travel to France in future to explore his roots as that’s where they come from 4 generations back. He mentioned how if we had met a few hours later, he would have invited me in for a warm meal and a place to stay. When I was about to leave, he opened his wallet and gave me some money to contribute to the trip. People like Anthony are spectacular and to quote something my granny said when I spoke to her on Christmas Day “The people in America are bloody brilliant, absolutely out of this world.”
A little while later down the road I found myself being caught by a cyclist, the first one I had seen outside of a city for a good while. He was down in the area from northern Utah for the holiday and enjoying being out on training rides. I sped up to ride with him and even doing so he had to slow down. He had done some short tours in Europe and was a pleasure to ride with before he had to turn back, probably to not keep family waiting too long.
I crossed into Mississippi and was surprised to see signs for NASA and the “Westonia Scenic Byway to Space”. I hadn’t known about the Stennis Space Centre or it’s history. I considered taking the byway, but it would have been a detour and would have meant arriving in Gulfport & Biloxi later.
10-15 minutes later, I was flagged down by Essie & Jessie. They are twin sisters who had been driving from their home in Gulfport to the Louisiana border to buy some lottery tickets when they had got a flat. Just as when I had stopped to help John on the way into NOLA, I had no hesitation in stopping for them. They thanked me for stopping and told me they’d been trying to get help for a while before asking me if I knew how to fix a tyre. When I told them I didn’t have a driver’s licence and had never changed a flat they were slightly surprised, but were much happier as I told them I’d give it my best shot. A truck was coming along and so I stood into the lane a little, made eye contact and stuck my hand out. To Essie & Jessie’s amazement, it stopped as well. It was being driven by an older man and he shouted instructions to me so I could change the tyre.
After a bit of time all was changed and the truck drove off. Essie & Jessie both thanked me and popped their heads into the car briefly before trying to give me some money for helping them. I thanked them, but turned them down. I’m not sure how much it was, but it wasn’t important. I didn’t stop to help them with any possible thought of being given compensated for my assistance and didn’t feel comfortable being paid to help people who were having a problem. Yes, on the blog it’s possible to contribute money to me through Paypal, but I see that as being very different for some reason. If they had offered me a drink or some food, I’d probably have taken it but taking cash for helping them would just have felt wrong. Maybe there’s some twisted morals there, but I’m OK with that!
Anyway, the rest of the ride was pretty after I made it to Bay St Louis and the Gulf of Mexico coastline. I had the beach and coast to my right and sped along until the outskirts of Gulfport when US-90 got much thinner and lost it’s shoulder. It made for some rather unpleasant riding all the way to the Post Office where I stopped to pick up a couple of general delivery packages. Jennifer had forwarded me my wash bag that I’d forgotten at her place, and Spokes Etc had sent me a pump for a photo competition that I had won.
After leaving the post office I headed along the shoulderless US-90 for about an hour as it got progressively darker and I was thinking how Chris would be shouting at me for my limited visibility. I wasn’t really sure where I was heading, but had my eyes open looking for something. When it was dark enough for me to not be able to ride in my sunglasses, I knew I had to find a place to stop quickly. About 10 minutes later, the traffic was clear in both directions and my gut told me it was time to pull off. There was a house set a little back from the road with Christmas lights on and I decided to ask help there.
I walked up the stairs, rang the door bell and was met by a man called John. I explained my situation and he seemed a little unsure about where I would be able to put up a tent. He mentioned that there was a big neighbourhood watch presence in the area and they would be unhappy with me camping. He pointed at one possible place by the side of his house and asked me if I’d eaten yet. I informed him that I hadn’t as my first goal was to find a place to sleep, then I’d consider food. He invited me in, introduced me to his mum, Jean, and organised me a plate of pasta.
It turned out that Jean was from near Peterborough and had moved over to the US back in the 50s. Her house was dotted with things that reminded me of home such as PG tips, Cadbury chocolate, mince pies and HP sauce. It was an absolute pleasure to get to feel that slice of home in Mississippi and I was amazed at my day full of the universe smiling at me.
Riding over a bridge