Thursday, May 31, 2012

Road to New Orleans: Riding, Hitching, Loving, Wheeling

I biked 94 miles from Asheville to highway 85, awaking at 4 am and leaving in the still dawn, cresting two little mountains and enjoying the roller-coaster descents off the back side. I hitchhiked for 4 hours the next day, and stretched to the tether of my sunburnt morale, cursing every single-occupancy truck and SUV with their slouching owners barreling up the onramp without me. Finally I got a Hail-Mary ride with one guy all the way to New Orleans, and jumped out early, now landed in the bird-and-bullfrog-cackling everglade forest outside of the city.

I'm feeling pretty invincible. Which means I'm past due for a mugging, a collision, breakdown of communication, the extinguishing of inspiration, heartbreak, or possibly all of the above. My forearms and biceps look lobster red through the caking sunscreen, an irony, my body rippled and lean. My bike is heavy-slung, war-proven, dotted with talismans from the road, including a new leather and copper saddle obtained through the guile of a good deal; and dirt, scratches, and stickers from a 900 mile ride.

Along the way I discovered the American south, the multitude of worlds, confirmation of stereotypes, and stereotype-defying surprises.

New Orleans has been an indulgent revival, clothing-optional swim parties and 3 dozen oyster meals. A place to see old friends and make new ones, to be cosy, to love. Sometimes eaten by flies in the heat, sometimes stupefied by air conditioning. The city is decrepit and opulent, decadent and hungry. The scabby roads and Spanish Moss remind everyone that the swamp wants the city back, but the humans are giving entropy a run for her money in a rude industrious way.

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