MO2NO Day 8: Columbia, MS to Pearl River, LA

I finally managed to leave late enough to take advantage of the free hotel breakfast, so I ate a bagel, two little danishes, and a biscuit with syrup on it. Lots of carbs. Then, it was off to the road again.

Having ridden an extra 30 miles yesterday, I had a shorter day today; only 75 miles, and that almost entirely flat. It was easy riding, but it did turn out to be somewhat stressful because of traffic. The road from Columbia south didn’t really have a shoulder to speak of, and it was heavily traveled by trucks loaded with either pine logs or pine chips for making paper. It’s true, when one passes you get a flood of Christmas memories, as that’s another situation marked by the smell of mass pine-tree-icide. On the other hand, these guys are in a serious hurry to get somewhere, and I learned fast to get out of the way if it was going to be at all difficult for them to pass me.

By about 8:30 I had reached the Louisiana line — my first state boundary since Day 3. While behind me there was a bit “Mississippi welcomes you” sign, Louisiana didn’t splurge for any of that stuff — just a marker for Washington Parish*.

The road, although it had a new number, was still pretty much the same. Actually, a bit better in a paradoxical way. Mississippi highway 35 was recently paved, with a wide paved shoulder that was completely unusable for me because a) as usual, it was strewn with gravel, broken glass, old auto parts, and dead armadillos and b) it was separated from the right-of-way by a spoke-breaking rumble strip. Louisiana highway 21, on the other hand, hadn’t been repaved in a good while, and the paved shoulder was full of cracks with weeds growing in them, but it was obviously done before the rumble-strip edict came down, so I was actually able to swerve onto it to dodge log trucks.

Eventually I came to the charmingly named Bogalusa, and my map showed another road parallel to 21 just to the west. So I rode through the middle of town in search of that road and something to eat. I was looking despairingly at the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut when suddenly I went through a cloud of donut scent. I looked back and saw the Donut Palace. There were loads of pickup trucks, always a good sign. I ordered a ham-egg-cheese croissant and a donut from the guy behind the counter and found a table. At the table next to me were three middle-aged to old men, talking loudly, and after a while I went over and asked if they could give me directions.

They were happy to; of course, they didn’t recognize “Highway 1075,” but after some discussion they came up with directions to “Avenue F,” which from the description was clearly the one I was looking for. Then we talked a while about my trip, and road conditions, and the log trucks. One of the guys was a retired executive from Great Southern Lumber company, and they explained how the log truck guys are paid by the load. I’d guessed that from watching them drive. Bogalusa once had a huge lumber industry, but they cleared out all the good lumber trees by the 1930s. After that, they went into paper, which can be made from smaller trees, and the company does a 20-year rotation of tree planting and harvesting so that they never run out. Some lumber harvest has come back too, after some decades of more careful forestry.

An odd thing — after 1 1/2 days in west Tennessee and 4 1/2 days in Mississippi, I hadn’t seen a single home flying the Confederate flag. In one partial day in Louisiana I saw two. Of course, the Confederate flag is part of the Mississippi state flag, so maybe they don’t feel like it’s necessary.

Anyway, 1075 was a nice respite from the log trucks, and when I got back to 21, it was at the St. Tammany parish line — the parish where my sister Gerry lives. I made it into Pearl River without incident. After a shower, a beer, and a light lunch, I’m feeling vaguely human. Only one more day to go, and that’s a short one — the victory lap into New Orleans and Elysian Fields Boulevard.

*Due to its French Catholic heritage, Louisiana calls its political subdivisions Parishes instead of Counties. One of many ways that Louisiana, unlike most of the US, preserves some regional identity. Hot sauce is another.

2 Responses to “MO2NO Day 8: Columbia, MS to Pearl River, LA”

  1. Joel says:

    Fantastic Alan.

    Only thing is I’m getting hooked on reading the posts every night. May be I can take up a collection and you can head to the Keys.


  2. Allen says:

    I have this feeling they may want me back at work sometime.

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