I took Steve to the airport this morning and then came back ready for my long bike ride – the MS bike ride is this coming weekend – and as I was having breakfast, the sky turned dark and the rain came. So I sat on the porch with a cup of green tea and J came over and had a cup and we watched the rain come down. When it seemed like it had broke – I got on my bike – and headed out to the lakefront along the way spotting herons and egrets and then pelicans as I neared the lake. It felt good to finally be back in the city I love and to have nothing but a bike ride as my goal for the day.
I went right at the lake and towards the Leon C Simon bridge and there were people lined up along the sea wall fishing. I doubled back towards the Causeway and as I rounded the bend near Lakeview, I noticed that the bright red roofed lighthouse had been torn down. It’s been a lasting symbol of Katrina – that is until you turn down towards the point and West End and see block after block of devastation – lake houses all ripped apart from the inside.
The construction continues along the 17th Street Canal, where the Corps has installed a mega pumping station and the squatter shacks that made up Bucktown have all been wiped off the map, given over to large concrete retaining walls and giant pumps so inhuman in scale but they seem silly when you think of the gale force of a Category 5 headed straight at them.
Passing by the toll booth to the longest bridge over water, my ride takes me closer to the water, as the narrow path that goes all the way to Kenner has only a few small rocks between it and the lake. There is a fury in the lake causing white caps and as I get halfway down the path, the water starts lapping at my wheels and pretty soon I am riding on water as the waves crash all the way up to the grassy levee on the other side of me and the path. It does give me pause – but I continue onward – needing to get my miles in before next weekend.
As I pass the casino in Kenner, I have just a little more left before the path turns to rocks and yet I can’t get passed because of a big gush of water that has made a gulley in my way. So I turn and head back, into the headwind that is gathering more strength and causing me to pedal at about 8 mph. My stomach is tight – still queasy from whatever is going on since China that I can’t shake – and then the rains come – for the next half hour I am pedaling against a headwind that is so strong, I am clutching the handlebars, and the rain is soaking me from head to toe.
By the time, I’m in front of R&O’s, where Bucktown used to be, the rain has let up and the wind has died slightly, but not enough to make me want to follow the lake back, so I divert through Lakeview and again there is sadness – Robert E Lee is stripped of its top coat of asphalt, and the once flooded houses are still in a state of disrepair. At Marconi, a new curb is being laid for the border of City Park and a fresh patch of flowers are there by the sign. Along the way, in the soccer fields, young boys a ball in a game that must have just started as everyone looks so fresh and clean while I am stippled with mud and grass.
I pass under the overpass as the train goes by; in front of me, a mother on her bike stops to let her child in back watch the passing train. Then I smell hamburgers cooking on a grill and my queasiness gives way to hungriness as I enter City Park. A lively group has taken over Pop’s Pavillion where music and conversation fill the air along with smells of food.
Along the bayou, almost home, I am re-energized and feel I could ride another 40 miles, which I’ll have to do next weekend.