"Enoch, haven't seen you in a while. Just wanted to say that I hope you're doing well, and if you ever need anything I'm one call away."
That's Kelby. We've been close friends for years, and when he had to use up some vacation time it was a no brainer to try and meet up somehow.
"How about New Orleans? I'm going to be riding through there anyways, and it seems like a cool town to adventure in."
"I'm on my way."
A week later, Kelby was on the flight to NOLA. He had booked us a hotel for the next two nights outside the city, then the rest of our stay we'd be at an Airbnb.
We spent a few days laughing and walking the streets of Mid-City, but the third day we were there Kelby fell victim to a flu virus. Even though it took us both out for two days, it was great to see him even if it meant just sitting in our room and watching movies.
Slightly anxious about our Airbnb situation (it was our first time using the service), we were pleasantly surprised to find warm and accommodating hosts who shared our love for good food and music.
In other notes, "Summer 16" by Drake was a repetitive anthem during these times of cabin fever.
A week later I said goodbye to Kelby at the airport. The next day would be preparation for the next leg of the journey, and I was expecting my friend Sara to fly in that night.
The plan was simple: Sara wanted to spend as little money as possible on a bike, ride it to Austin, then sell it before she headed back to Florida. After finding a local bike shop, we managed to secure a steel road bike her size.
"What can you tell me about this bike?"
"Oh it's a great bike. Steel frame, looks like her size, road geometry, really a quality riding experience." Neil, the owner of the bike shop immediately launched into an advertisement...But it was clear that the amount he wanted for it wasn't worth the price tag it was written on.
"These tires look like they're falling apart."
"Oh yeah, it's an old bike."
"What about the chain? Really rusted."
The shop owner peered at us over his thick framed glasses, his defenses slowly rising with each remark we made.
"That's what you get with something this old, but it still runs great. I've sold hundreds of bikes, and I wouldn't sell you a clunker."
Sara looked at him, her eyes deep in thought. After a moment, she responded:
"I think $200 is too much for the bike. I think in its current state it would be worth closer to half that."
The shop owner stood unwavering.
"I would however, be willing to pay that amount if new tires, cables, tubes and chain were included," Sara continued, her green eyes generating a deal-making dagger of light that blasted itself straight through the room, "but without that - no deal."
The bike shop owner quietly stood his ground, his thoughts marinating in the possibility of a sale, and the loss of overall profit. Then, after a few minutes of silence, he reached out his hand and smiled.
"You have yourself a deal."
We found ourselves in Leblanc, looking for a place to sleep. Forgoing the traditional stealth camping route, historic flooding pulled all the side roads underwater, we mustered up the courage to ask someone if we could camp on their lawn for the night.
We met Alfred, who turned out to be a pastor at the local church. After inquiring about our story and hearing how we've been getting a taste of Louisiana, he invited us to meet his family and go out to eat crawfish!
We made our way through the city of Dequincy the next morning, our taste buds still tingling with the taste of Old Bay. The idea was to do some laundry, then continue on our way - it was almost a week without washing our clothes, and the smell of the road was starting to catch up with us. While we were at the Laundromat, we met a couple that invited us over to their house for the night, Mary and Jerry. They brought news of the Sabine River flooding, causing major damage to homes and claiming around four lives - one of the biggest floods since 1930.
"Where direction y'all headed?" they asked, their eyes glistening, heads bent in our direction.
"We're trying to get to Austin by the 21st," we replied, "But with the flooding on our route, we're trying to figure out what to do. We might have to take a bus, we're just waiting for the water to lower a bit and it's unclear when I-10 will open up."
"Well, if you'd like you can stay a few days at our camp down the road, and paint our house while you're figuring out what's next."
Sara and I looked at each other, both smiling. Things had a way of working out. "That sounds great, we'd love to!"
Jerry leaned forward, his eyes twinkling like balls of electricity. "I TOLD YOU, IF YOURE GONNA TALK TO ME TALK LOUD, I can't hear ya! What did you say?"
"THAT SOUNDS GREAT, JERRY!"
"Well, okay then!"
A day passes, and we receive word that the roads are operational again. Jerry offers to take us to Lake Charles, where we'll pack up our bikes into a car and drive the three hours to Austin.
Finally in Austin, Texas! We cycled from the airport to our host, a childhood friend of my father, Eugene. I was celebrating my 21st birthday in a few days, and my father flew out from Pennsylvania to celebrate with Sara and I.
Louisiana was a blast, and so was Austin. Tomorrow I head out on my way to Pheonix, AZ.
Let's go explore some desert, shall we?