Death Valley, or LSU, or Baton Rouge

Date: March 10th 2017

From/To: New Orleans, LA/Baton Rouge, LA

Daily Mileage: 85 miles

Total Mileage: 660 miles

Conditions: Sunny/overcast, a little wind

1.6 miles has become my frame of reference when distancing turns, destinations, or anything else. Don’t ask me why I chose 1.6 miles, but for some reason I tend to find anything within that distance close, and outside still far away. I think it started from 0.4 miles (on a bike that’s nothing) and gradually quadrupled to 1.6 miles where it finally settled. I guess being on the road day after day does that to you, your mind tends to wander from one place to another sporadically, and even yet that remains microcosm of mental and physical strain of this challenge. I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle most of the time, I tend to zone into my ride after about 20 miles, and the music helps to focus my mind on a rhythm that carries me through the distance I need to cover. I’ve learned a lot about how to take care of my body and listen to cues about how I’m feeling, allowing me to make on-the-go adjustments when needed.

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Todays route from NOLA to Baton Rouge, courtesy of MapMyRun.

New Orleans is a fun place for many reasons. You can find yourself caught in between the music, art, food, and everything else. You may find yourself around the French Quarter, passing by narrow streets echoing with the melody of countless musicians, performing to street goers passing by. You can find your way onto Bourbon Street, in the true heart of New Orleans, offering over 13 blocks of restaurants, bars, shops, among other “interesting” things. You could spend a whole day on Bourbon Street without even noticing, however I don’t recommend it. You could then venture down the neighboring Royal Street, where you’d find a much more relaxed and cultured scene; the home of many art and antique shops, possessing some of New Orleans most valuable treasures. The French Market is a fun area to explore as well, full of street vendors and cool shops with much to offer. The history of this place only adds to it’s appeal.

For over 200 years, the historic French Market has been an enduring symbol of pride and progress for the people of New Orleans. While the Market has existed on the same site since 1791, each new decade and governing flag has brought dramatic changes to the Market and helped to secure its special place in the hearts of the people of New Orleans.

What began as a Native American trading post on the banks of the mighty, muddy Mississippi River on the site chosen for the City by the French, has become a cultural, commercial and entertainment treasure which the Crescent City proudly shares with the world.

Today, America’s oldest public market has assumed a leading role in the local economy as well, providing consistently increasing revenues for city government while putting millions of dollars back into the local economy. Read more here!

I spent most of my Thursday venturing around town, visiting all these places and taking in the scenes. My bike provided the best possible transportation, allowing me to get places quickly and without a hassle. Towards the end of the day I made my way over to a suburb northwest of New Orleans, called Metairie, to spend the night with a family friend. I was happy to knock off a few miles from my trek to Baton Rouge the following day, which is located northwest of NOLA geographically.


On Friday, I woke up around 7AM, packed my gear up, and made my way out of Metairie towards Death Valley, or LSU, or Baton Rouge. I was excited to see the area because I’ve never been out there. I was right to be uncertain, as I have been most of the journey thus far, about what I would encounter along the way. Metairie took me to Kenner, where I met up with the meandering Mississippi River route for about 30 miles. It was a very scenic route, but I certainly tacked on some extra milage by going this way. It was much safer than Route 61 so I had no problem doing so. I was struck by the amount of commerce and industrial plants along the river. I passed by massive freighters, exporting petroleum and petroleum products, iron and steel, grain, rubber, paper, wood, coffee, coal, chemicals, edible oils among many other resources.

Agriculture has been the dominant land use for nearly 200 years in the Mississippi basin, and has altered the hydrologic cycle and energy budget of the region. The agricultural products and the huge agribusiness industry that has developed in the basin produce 92% of the nation’s agricultural exports, 78% of the world’s exports in feed grains and soybeans, and most of the livestock and hogs produced nationally. Sixty percent of all grain exported from the US is shipped on the Mississippi River through the Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana.

In measure of tonnage, the largest port district in the world is located along the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana. The Port of South Louisiana is one of the largest volume ports in the United States. Representing 500 million tons of shipped goods per year (according to the Port of New Orleans), the Mississippi River barge port system is significant to national trade. Read more.

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Photos taken along the Mississippi basin, along a bike path following the river.

I hit a point about a third of the way through the trek where I left the bike path and joined Route 61, which took me directly to Baton Rouge. I thought the interesting part of my ride was over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I joined 61, I noticed a swamp-like canal that ran along the road for at least 20 miles.

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This canal ran about 20 miles down Route 61.

For those of you who wold pay money to go on a wildlife tour around here, this was free and just as lively way to see Louisiana’s finest and most “natural” habitat. I put that in quotes because I was stunned by the amount of garbage and pollution in this canal, home to many different species I’ll mention next. People down here are used to the wildlife and most pay no mind to it. I saw alligators, loons, herons, frogs, water snakes, and turtles… so many turtles. I saw turtles on just about every log, rock, or anything else above water in the canal. I’m talking turtles everywhere, turtles bundled together, turtles on top of other turtles, turtles, everywhere.  I don’t know how this got so out of control, but they are certainly a large presence in this part of the country.

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Gators, Gators, Gators.

Along Route 61, I cam across this big ol’ gator laying on a log, basking in the limited sunlight it could get. I nearly fell of my bike when I saw it, I had been searching profusely for one of these creatures since I crossed the Mississippi-Lousiana border and I finally found one. I decided this was a great place to stop for lunch, and while I was at it I decided to fly the drone (a risky shot) over the water to get a close up of this fella. He paid no mind to the drone, I kept a respectful distance and soon left him to his seemingly peaceful afternoon nap. I continued down Route 61, passing by more alligators, most jumping into the water, like the turtles, when they saw me.

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Towards the end of my route I was flagged down by Tom, a local baptist pastor, under an overpass on the highway. He had done a cross country trip himself a while back, and he wanted to hear my story and where I was going. It was good to get a locals advice about where to go and what to see, so I appreciated the stop. I continued on to Baton Rouge, arriving in good time around 3:30PM. My first stop was Death Valley, where I took out the drone once again and collected some shots of the stadium.

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In the background if the Mississippi River, showing some ships heading into port.

After my stadium visit, I had to figure out where I was staying for the night (classic me leaving this off until the very last minute). I had one lead I thought of along the way to Baton Rouge. Being a previous member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Syracuse University, I decided to pay the local chapter a visit at LSU. I made my way across campus to their house, and knocked on the door. I was welcomed in and given a place to stay for the night, albeit a makeshift solution, it was a roof over my head and out of the rain and storms that were passing through.

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My bed mattress consisted of sofa cushions and my sleeping bag. Back to my college days!

I had dinner at The Chimes, scarfing down a full course meal of shrimp nachos, a salad, followed by a salmon vegetable dish. After a long day of riding, nothing is more rewarding than an excessively large meal. I stuck around college town for some time before making my way back to SAE for the night. I hung around with some of the guys, watching the Duke UNC ACC Championship as I told them stories about my journey thus far. I fell asleep pretty early, most of the guys were out for the night anyway. After all, it was a Friday night in LSU.

Enjoy The Ride

-Matt

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