Monday, December 21, 2009

Louisiana - the "Big Easy"

Heading west enabled us to leave the snow that we experienced in New Mexico and Texas, however, we were faced with another challenge...the torrential rains! By Dec. 15, Louisiana had hit the record for the most rain in a month, 22.24 inches, and they still had 15 days of the month to go! We were in Raceland, 40 miles east of New Orleans, and we had to wait out a rain storm that brought down 8 inches of rain during the night and that next morning. (You can see the flooding in the pictures.) Because of the wet conditions our only chance to camp was if we had a raft.

We made it to New Orleans and we were greeted by Ward's cousin, Russ Carll, and his wife, Angela. We stayed in their quaint B&B in the French Quarter, 1 block from Bourbon Street. So, of course they had to show us some N'awlins culture. After enjoying some crawfish bisque and oysters we listened to some fantastic jazz music!

We were also able to learn more about their culture by visiting the grade schools and talking to the children through our Pedaling For Pencils program. We were so impressed with the structure and support that these schools provided to these poverty stricken kids. As a result, you could see the respect that the kids gave the staff. We were also very intrigued that every child knew what year they would be going to college per staff encouragement.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Good Ole Southern Hospitality

We experienced the Texan Southern Hospitality that you always hear about. Marty and Gary Summerall hosted us one night in Corsicana. They have a beautiful B&B and have had Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman stay there in the past. Marty was originally from Mississippi and put on the southern charm.

We spent 2 nights in Houston with Malte and Courtney Bruegmann. Malte was an exchange student from Germany that stayed with Ward in 1991. They put on the ritz and Malte even took us on our first helicopter ride around Houston. All I can say was incredible.

Paul and Monica Lucas from Bedford were very gracious to put us up for 3 nights and store our bikes and bags as we took a trip to the midwest to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our families. Paul is also a biker that has cyled across the U.S. in the past and has ridden RAGBRAI (7 day bicycle ride across Iowa) 5 times. He is the Rotary District Governor Elect in that area.

Mark and Eileen Morton from Muleshoe put us up one night and fed us jumbalya and chili that was literally worth $400 a pound. Their passion is to go to other countries and to hunt exotic animals. They bring the meat home to eat, display the hides around the house and mount the heads in their grand room. I felt like I was in a zoo.

Not shown but also wonderful hosts have been Steve and Sandra Burda, and Darrel and Betty Branhagen. We found Steve and Sandra through warm showers (a biker hospitality org). Steve is also an avid cyclist and they were kind enough to watch the Packer/Dallas game that Sunday afternoon. Sorry Steve, the Packers won!

We knew Darrel and Betty from the RAGBRAI. They had gone with us (Decorah Bicycles) many years and Darrel is originally from Decorah. They invited their bicycle club over to their house that tonight and we had a fun talk with all of them.

Thanks Texas for showing us what you are made of.