Natchez MS to Winnfield LA - 91 miles
Central Louisiana is flat. Even the parts that the locals call hilly are really pretty flat. This was the first day of this tour when I did not use my granny front ring!
Louisiana has less roadside litter than any other southern state I have ridden in. Coming into Mississippi on US 11, I saw a sign that read "Litter Free in 2003". That sign was surrounded by litter. Louisiana has a different sign: "Up to 3000 dollar fine and community service if you litter." That and, maybe, the road gang I saw cleaning US 84 means there is almost no litter.
Louisiana roads got shoulders! All but about five miles of the 95 miles I biked in Louisiana today had wide shoulders. The only section of road without shoulders was very old and in disrepair. I bet they do good shoulders on all re-paving jobs.
Louisiana, at the end of May is quite hot. The heat index today got over 100 F and it is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. It is also windy which helps with the heat but, until this afternoon, has hindered my riding. Finally, I got to head North, or at least Northwest and that cursed south or southwest wind became my friend. But first I had to ride with it as a strong cross wind for 30 miles and then as a headwind for nine miles. That nine miles was not fun!
I left the B+B (Wensel House, Natchez, an excellent place) this morning at 9:20 and got to Winnfield at about 7:30 this evening. I crossed the Mississippi on US 65 and rode for about ten miles before turning onto US 84 in Ferriday. Actually I stopped about a mile into Louisiana to get a map from a visitors center. I pulled in right behind a Harley rider and we were talking and joking around as we entered the building together, so the, very nice, lady inside thought we were both bicyclists. I pointed out that leathers just won't work for summer bicycling in Louisiana!
Crops along LA 84
Riding 84 was, other than the wind, pretty uneventful. It is essentially a flat road through large fields of crops for the first 20 miles. There were sometimes trees planted as wind breaks along the road which helped reduce the wind a lot, but often it was pretty much like riding on a very flat part of the plains. I stopped at Wildsville for a quart of Gatorade and again at Archie for a liter of Pepsi. I had had an excellent breakfast in Natchez and I picked up some candy bars m a Dollar General store near the welcome center: I got Payday bars and Marshmallow Rice Treats since anything chocolate is a disaster in these temperatures. Those, along with the Gatorade and Pepsi and several refills of my three water bottles, were enough to keep me going till Jena where I stopped for a 'blue plate special' at about 4 PM. Jena is about 38 miles from Winnfield and 62 miles from Natchez. The last 30 or so of the miles to Jena were much faster and more pleasant that the first 30 since I was now heading northwest and the wind was, still, blowing at 10 to 20 mph out of the south- southwest. As a fellow on the touring list who lives 100 north of Natchez commented to me in a recent email, this has been an unusually windy spring and early summer.
Flags near Archie
At Archie, I visited for about half an hour with a truck driver. We talked about bicycling and about his son who recently graduated from LSU and is now in school studying Physical Therapy. Earlier, at Jonesville, I visited with a fellow from Winnfield who saw me debating which route to take. Later, at Jena, I visited with a very down home family (mother, father, and two teenaged sons). It was a good day for visiting and that helped me overcome some negative vibes I was feeling about this state.
After Jena, 84 gets 'hilly'. Not real steep hills, but the road is mostly uphill for quite a few miles and hilly till Tullos, about 16 miles later. I stopped by the road near Tullos to R+R in some shade. I leaned my bike against a marker on one side of the road and walked across the road to a shaded area maybe 75 feet away. Two sheriffs cars cruised by while I ate my snack and the second one came back to investigate my bike. He hadn't seen me on the other side of the road., and he wondered what the bike was doing there without a rider. He was very pleasant when he did see me, but I was glad not to be in woods taking a leak!
Speaking of woods, after Archie and before Tullos there were actually some pretty woods. After Tullos there was only scrub pine on the hills. There were lots of log trucks between Jena and Tullos and lots of truck traffic in general. After Tullos, it was 20 miles of almost nothing other than the scrub pine. US 84 deteriorated after Tullos and even lost its shoulder after about 15 miles. That wasn't a big deal, but the generally bad road conditions - cracks, patches and potholes - made for a tiring ride. I stopped again, because I was hot and tired, a few miles before US 84 was joined by LA 124 and got its shoulder back. Then I cranked on down the road wishing that I didn't have to ride the last half a dozen miles to Winnfield. A tourist's gotta do what a tourist's gotta do? Some thing like that...
Drawbridge near Winnfield, birth place of Huey P Long