Margaret and Dick   


Atlanta to Austin - Day four: Brandon MS to Monroe LA

Distance:  135 miles

Rolling speed:  15.9 mph

Total time:  10:35

Calories burned:  5,619

Weather: glorious with a headwind

Close encounters of the dog kind:  0

Irate motorists:  0

Other cyclists seen:  2

Roadkill report:  cottonballs, mostly

Road surface:  from sublime to ridiculous; generally fine

Sore muscles:  better


The prettiest road:

I have to stop paying attention to morning intuitions.  After a bad encounter with a dog yesterday, I had a small panic attack and asked Dick to escort me for the first 40 miles...unsure of route (since US80 merges with I-20 and we were shunted to an old frontage road), unsure of territory, unsure of energy level, just generally insecure.  It ended up being the prettiest 40 miles we expect to see on the entire trip:  live oaks and a sleepy road winding through woods and cotton fields.


Rolling on the river:

Herman Smith, the superintendent of the Vicksburg Bridge Commission, is our new best friend.  He jumped through lots of hoops to secure a special event permit so that I could ride across the Mississippi River on the old Hwy 80 bridge, which has been closed to vehicular traffic for many years.  County Commissioner Patricia Anderson Segrest also turned up to wish us a warm welcome to Vicksburg and a safe trip.  We were treated to a train crossing and a barge chugging under the bridge during our visit.  While Dick was stressing out over fast-moving trucks on the I-20 bridge (in background), Herman accompanied me as I mosied across the classic older bridge.  We stopped in the middle of the river for loads of photos, of which my favorite is shown below.  I'm from Illinois, and like most people raised on Mark Twain, I feel a strong emotional attachment to the Mississippi and can remember every time I've crossed it.  This was definitely the best.  Thanks, Herman and Pat, for taking time from your Sunday afternoon to provide the high point of the trip.


Down on the bayou:

Louisiana is flat flat flat.  Cycling is fast and glorious when the roads are smooth, and still pretty fast when the roads bumpy.  After several evenings of disappointing food in small towns over the last few days, we tucked gleefully into a Cajun feast in Monroe:  gumbo and blackened catfish, but forgot to save room for bread pudding.  No worry -- we'll be back to repeat this entire day in slo-mo.


FAQ:  Doesn't your butt hurt?

The butt is only the beginning.  I spend 58 minutes per hour trying to find a comfortable position for my hands.  I spend 2 minutes per hour on the aero bars, giving my hands a break but trying to find a comfortable position for my crotch.  About 5 minutes per hour I pedal standing up to return blood flow to sensitive areas.  If you ever happen to join us for dinner some night, you'll recognize me as the one in the flannel boxer shorts.


The body:

During long cycling stage races, one often hears of a cyclist "riding themselves into condition" and becoming stronger as the race progresses.  I'm amazed, relieved, and pleased to say that I'm experiencing this phenomenon.  Today was fantastic -- I've never been stronger.


Day five:  145 miles to Marshall TX (Texas!)