Day Twenty

Ruston, LA to Shreveport, LA

This was another excellent day. I'll call it Black Dog Monday. It started earlier than I wanted when the wake up call came at 6 AM instead of 8 AM. Somehow the desk clerk messed up when I called at 2 AM to move it back two hours. Although I was short of sleep, I got up anyway and got on the road around 7:30. Traffic was light in Ruston and Grambling. The skies were gray, but it didn't rain. I saw three black dogs about half a mile into my ride. They ran across SR 150 but didn't show any interest in me. Then I saw two more black dogs running across a grassy field. This was getting strange. I stopped in Simsboro for water and snacks. I talked to a guy drinking coffee at the mini-mart for awhile. He said he used to ride his 10-speed all over Ruston, but not since he hurt his back. He wished me luck and I got back on the road.

At the west end of Simsboro, I came across another black dog. This one was interested in me. He gave chase, and I tried yelling at him a little. He caught up with me and I slowed down. He gave me a sniff, then he ran across the road and broke into a sprint. He didn't want to chase me, he wanted to race me! This went on for a long time. He would ran alongside me on the far side of the road, occasionally wandering into the road. Soon I found myself much more worried about his safety than my own--the last thing I wanted to see was this dog getting hit by a car or truck. I got to take a long look at him. His stride was uneven and strange--I wondered if he had been hit by a car before. He looked like a mutt. He was  kind of skinny, but his hip muscles bulged out noticeably. This guy was a real runner! He stopped to, er, lighten his load, and I pushed a little harder to get away. It had been  fun but not really safe for either of us. An instant later, he caught up to me again. After a mile, I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to take him along with me. That would be pretty funny since my wife is the one who always wants to get more dogs (I say two is plenty for us). I was amazed. Most dogs either stop chasing at the end of their property or lose interest after a short sprint, but this guy had stamina! At one point, I looked at my speedometer to see that I was going downhill around 25 mph, and that black dog was still pacing me. He stopped to sniff a roadkill, and I thought that was it. Then I heard those now-familiar steps behind me, then alongside, again across the road. Sometimes he got ahead, then he would look back as if to say, " C'mon, let's go!" This went on for at least two miles, maybe three. He followed me up and down hills, around curves, over bridges... He looked so happy, like this was the highlight of his day. I know he was the highlight of mine. Finally, he stopped for another roadkill outside of Arcadia. He never quite caught up to me again, but I looked back and saw him running until I got into town. I soon found myself missing the guy a little, and even when I stopped 15 miles later at a mini-mart, I half-expected to come out and see him sitting beside my bike waiting for me!

At a mini-mart east of Minden, I had three hours and more than 40 miles behind me. The winds were favorable and I was making great time. Although the guy I had talked to in Simsboro  said to watch out for Louisiana drivers, I found most of them to be very polite (except when they are making  turns!). In fact, west of Minden a semi actually downshifted behind me and let me cross a long bridge in front of him. When the road widened again, I moved onto the shoulder and gave a wave as he passed. A couple more cars passed, then when another bridge came up, another driver slowed down and followed me. A few miles later, most of the traffic on US 79/80 turned off to get on I-20. Then I pedaled over a railroad bridge, and the road opened up into a four-lane highway  with wide shoulders for the next 20 miles into Bossier City and Shreveport. And it was virtually empty! There was so little traffic that I could ride confidently well into the right lane, watching my rear view mirror to make sure that the occasional vehicle changed into the left lane well in advance of catching up to me. What could be better? Well, the wind was mostly behind me and the terrain flattened to very gentle slopes. Everything was great until I pulled over to drink some Coke. Something very strange happened. I took a couple chugs from the bottle and swallowed. It felt like I was swallowing an apple or something. It really hurt, and I nearly doubled over. It took about five minutes to recover and go on. I don't know what was up with that. Just out of curiosity, I checked my average speed. It was an unbelievable (and likely unmaintainable) 14 mph.

As I expected, the traffic got heavier as I approached the city. It still wasn't bad, though. Near the interchange with I-220, I saw a huge plane taking off. It was a B-52 from Barksdale Air Force Base, an impressive sight. And of course I sang " Love Shack" (by the B-52's) for the next half a mile. In Bossier City, I passed the David Motel, " For Nicer People" according to the sign. A mile later, US 79/80 made a sharp left turn and there was the huge bridge over the Red River leading to Shreveport. My previous memory of Louisiana was that every big bridge had " The Kingfish" Huey P. Long's name on it. Sure enough, this one did, too. In fact, 111 bridges were built and thousands of miles of roads paved during Long's four-year governorship. Traffic was unbelievably light compared to the US 80 bridge in Monroe, so I stayed on the road instead of fleeing to the sidewalk. I liked downtown Shreveport. I stopped for a red light, looked right and saw a neat sculpture of a driller that commemorated the first discovery of natural gas in the area. As I got out my camera, a man came up to me and we talked about my trip. At the next light, I looked over to see a statue of a man with a guitar that seemed familiar. Sure enough, it was Huddy Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. Since I had been singing one of his songs throughout Louisiana (" In The Pines" a.k.a. " Where Did You Sleep Last Night," mostly the Link Wray version instead of the better-known Nirvana version), I had to take a picture. There were some neat churches in town, too. Many historical markers explained the well-restored buildings around town, including a street full of Queen Anne Victorian houses. While I didn't take pictures of the houses, I took enough other photos that I will have to dedicate a separate page to Shreveport.

When I reached Monkhouse Drive, I had to make a decision. It was only 2 PM and I still felt strong, but I had ridden nearly 80 miles. I hadn't expected to have such a great day, so I hadn't mapped out any routes or lodging options beyond the interchange of I-20 and Monkhouse. Consequently, I decided to call it a day. I checked in at the Days Inn for only $29.95. Not surprisingly, it wasn't quite as nice as some of the others I've stayed in on this trip, but it wasn't bad. I wanted to see if the Bibles still invited people to take them, but I couldn't find one in my room. That may  have answered my question. I took off my soaked cycling clothes (I really need to find a laundry soon), but I fell asleep before I could make it to the shower. I awoke three hours later, showered and went out to a restaurant called RJ's for dinner. I had only about 15 miles to go in Louisiana, and then I would be in Texas. More than 600 miles across, Texas would take a while to get through.

Totals for the day: 79.59 miles in 5:40:47 for an average speed of 14.0 mph (wow, I did maintain it, even through the city).

Click here to see today's photos.

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