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Grand Road Trip of Graeme Lowen

Excerpts of Travelogue, Riding in the USA

Text and Photos by Graeme Lowen

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Road Trip USA Day 29
After last night's fiasco trying to find camera and getting back to the motel, I did some more work with google and found a Walmart only 10 miles or so away that sells cameras. So, this is where we went in the early morning rush hour traffic. The larger negro lady assistant had a bit of difficulty in understanding my Kiwi accent but she did manage to understand what I wanted. I picked one out and brought it, assembled all the bits of the strap and lens cap and my handle off the old one, and then got her to put it in a locked cabinet that had some power points in it, to put at least some charge into the new battery. The only reason it went into a locked cabinet was that was where the low down points were.

Maree went and found a seat near the Walmart pharmacy while I went for a walk outside around the other shops that were around the huge carpark. Half an hour later I went back and picked up the camera and Maree and off we went on our journey to cross the Lake Pontchartrain causeway. The stop at the gas station and its method of pre pay was quite a novel experience. I was instructed by the young female assistant to put the cash into the machine , as much as I needed, hit enter and out came a receipt for the amount as well as a code number. I went out and filled the bike up and went back to get my change.

Here is where the code number comes into play. You have to enter the code number to get your change back. It will spit out notes as well as coins. A very clever machine indeed. I guess it is because the new generation of shop assistants, generally are not that good at doing the money change thing???

She was the one that old me the Lake Pontchartrain toll was $5 ,cash only. Once again, I guess ,that from the toll collector's point of view, it is quicker to take a $5 bill than to have someone muck about with a machine that relies on a good internet connection and the power supply being on.

Back outside Maree is talking to a local guy about where we are from and where we are heading to after we cross the lake. I mention about taking 90 as a scenic route but he advises us against going onto it too soon, as it takes you through part of New Orleans where car jackings are quite rife by youths with AK 47s. He did think that we would be reasonably safe being on a motorbike as the youths are after cars.

Away we go armed with this bit of insight from a local and the $5 note that has become Maree's responsibility to hand over to the toll collector. The signs to the causeway are easy enough to follow, just keeping going straight ahead and not take any turn offs that are not relevant to you, and you get there easy enough. Once on the concrete causeway I am happy sittin' on 55 mph as otherwise the bike starts to wallow a bit between all the gears. I have to admit that I am the only one doing this. Along the way there are couple of draw bridges and three higher parts so that smaller boats can pass under without using a drawbridge. There are also three cross over sections where you can go back the way you came, but only with a police assistance. I did notice one cop car sitting in one of these cross over bays, whether he was there waiting for this to happen or just keeping an eye on traffic? Once over this 23 mile long causeway that must have taken some years to build, I manage to get on the 610 and then onto the I 10 and pass the two turnoffs that would have taken us on the coastal scenic route without any mistakes. It was a welcome break from the heat of the midday sun when we pulled into Middendorf's seafood restaurant, we could see the food was a bit on the pricey side but went ahead anyway but the final bill did take us a bit by surprise. Still, I guess when the restaurant has been around, in one form or another close to the same site since the 1930's, you can charge a bit more for the ambiance?

It was not long after leaving this restaurant that we saw the back end of this huge rocket booster that caught my attention. Seeing as how it is not something a Kiwi gets to get up close to this sort of thing, we had to go and have a look. It sure is a one huge bit of machinery.

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Road Trip USA Day 30
This morning started off well until Maree asked me where her gloves were?? I recalled putting them in the little well under the handle bars, on the right hand side, opposite side to where I put mine when I take them off. After that I have no recollection of doing anything with them and they were not there in the morning. We looked through all our bags and in the room before accepting the fact that they were lost somehow.

It was about an hour later that I was struck with the thought that they must have been lost last night when I went out. I am sure that I would have felt them slip out from under the handlebars. Then I realised that I had gone around the back of the end of the motel unit but we decided against going back to have a look. We will simply have to get another set along the way.

The new camera on/off button works well and I discover that I can use my thumb to turn it on but it will all take time to get used to. We ran out of Mississippi quite soon after leaving the motel and then it was into Alabama. The ride around the edge of Mobile via the tunnel and the cause way, and in less than about an hour we were back out of it again? And into Florida we arrived. The sign for the Welcome Centre was not far inside the border and so we stopped in there for a break. As I am riding this narrow road that had a 25 speed limit, I saw red and white flashing lights behind a SUV towing a boat. He must have been going too fast somewhere along the way.


After taking some photos, I headed inside where it was nice and cool. I got talking to one of the ladies behind this big counter about maps and GPS. In the end she gave me a map and said that this too was a gps ."A Good Paper System'. And it never runs out of power. But it was the ice cream machine that intrigued me. It was like a game machine. You put in your money and it would give you change after you had punched in the letter and then the single digit number. The freezer lid opened, the mechanical arm moved to over your choice, a vacuum started up and a wire wound flexible tube dropped down and the vacuum held onto the ice cream of your choice, lifted back up, moved over the outlet box and dropped it into it. Rather fascinating to watch. So fascinating that I used my cell to video the whole operation. The ice creams that came out were very well frozen and one had to let it thaw a bit before being able to eat it. The Blue Angels aerobatic flying team were featured around here a quite a bit as there were cast into the fly over pillars not far away.

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Road Trip USA 2023. Day 31
We just follow the I 10 into Jacksonville with relative ease until the angle of the sun blanked out the screen. Damn. I am aware when the gps is talking to me but I cannot hear it clearly when the scream of a big rigs tyres are beside me, and there are no stops on an Interstate unless you get off it. And I cannot always figure out just where the purple line is heading to when I have to face four lanes at 65 mph.

I do know that I have to be heading south on the I 95. This goes well for a couple of lane changes until I fluff one and head left instead of slightly right. Still, I keep my cool and make sure I do not go off In an easterly direction but take off ramps that look like they are heading west, until I chicken out and get off the interstate and find a likely looking calm carpark to pull into.The one I pick is in bit of a hospital grounds and so I pick a spot away from the doctors designated spaces and sort out the GPS.

I had set it to go to a Cycle Gear shop to buy Maree some new gloves but I was aware I was miles from it, so I set the GPS for Maggie and Alans place. As luck would have it, I am right beside the I 95 South. Back onto the interstate again and it kept narrowing itself down untill I had to leave it and its mad rushing traffic and take to some more rural looking roads with a lot less traffic on them for the most part.

We eventually arrive at 93 Twin Flower place in this nice little modern community. It is welcome relief for Maree to be inside and out of the heat of the midday sun.

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Road Trip USA Day 32
There are no photos for today as we spent most of the day indoors waiting for the storm to hit us. Maggie says that we will get very little as we are on the outer edge of it. The community of St Johns is one of the places where you are unlikely to have to evacuate. Maggie showed me an evacuation booklet of what to prepare for and the areas that are most likely to need evacuating in the event of a storm or hurricane. She was not quite aware of this when they brought the place a year or so ago.

We had a couple of light rain showers and a few wind gusts but not much at all. One wind gust did blow over one dead Long leaf Pine tree into the rest of the bush. It is called Long Leaf as the needles are much longer than the ones we have on the Pinus Radiata in New Zealand Alan and the neighbour had been discussing getting it cut down so that it would not fall over onto one of the houses but that is no longer an issue. This tree is a native to the southern part of America and grows rather tall and skinny. It would take a lot to make a log cabin but I have no doubt that they were used extensively for building somewhere along the line.

So all in all, the storm in this little part of the world was a non-event but we did watch with interest all the flooding elsewhere.

I have remembered about the spouting on the house. Maggie informed me that the only bit of spouting required by the developers are the bits over a doorway. Anything else, the home owner has to get it done at their expense, and this is on a brand new house. The splash guards are in place as in a good, almost monsoon type rain, it flows down the valleys and completely over the top of the spouting. The spouting is not designed to hide the ends of the roofing, unlike we do in New Zealand. There are no stormwater drains around the house as such, but there are 'French drains'. They are the American equivalent of a New Zealand field tile drain.

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More historic stuff around the old town. Then I had to do a reverse rack with the GPS and the 'recent places' list to get back home. But on the way home I stopped in and had cruise around two of the other estates.

One had mostly two storey houses, while the second one had mostly just single storey house's. It had been a good day for me. When i got home I was asked if I had got wet as they had been subject to a rain shower passing through their part of the world.

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Road Trip USA. Day 34
We did make our way back to the old fort and it was open this time. The entry fee of $15 is only payable by card! I had to have a talk to the young male attendant behind the desk about what happens when the power goes off and to remember that cash is King when the power goes off.

Anyway, once inside the camera is running hot as you will see. Most do not have any thing that I have written on but you will just have to read them in sequence.

One thing that I do know that the reason for the curved roof in each room, is that it gives the roof more strength and thus more fire power is able to be mounted on the upper gun deck.

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Most of these photos have been worked on, in that I have cropped out a lot of the unnecessary parts to give you a larger print to read. All of the information has the Spanish language on it.

Also by cropping out some of the photo, you get an enhanced photo of what my mind sees.

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Road trip USA. Day 35

This morning we leave the sanctity of Maggie and Alans house and go out and face the GPS and the traffic. It starts off well with it seeming to know that there are road works on the way out with a closed road. It takes us around it out onto the 295 north. I took this north route because that is where the purple line is heading but the words are reading to the South. Even I was able to work this one out. Once I had completed this manoeuvre, the GPS got its act together and behaved rather well after that. We kept heading north until I felt it would be prudent to refuel, and so I took an off ramp to where a gas station was nearby. We have not been into a Race Trac station quite as flash as this one felt. But it was the sign on the Men's Restroom door that I found quite humorous. WE do not often get that sort of advice.

Outside we had observed a large, bellied Harley rider talking with his female who was in a small pick-up truck. They were both quite loud talkers. He left on his Harley just as I came out for the last time from the shop and she spoke to me. I was just a bit puzzled by this as she acted like she knew me? It transpires that I reminded her of someone she knew from out of state. We did spend some time talking about where we were going and what to avoid.

Back out on the I 295 just buzzing away with all the heavy traffic flow which went well until we came to some new lay out and I missed a lane change. This then made the GPS want to do a U turn on my part, which was all very fine as I got off the interstate to look for a quiet place amongst the gas stations around. But twice as I thought I was in the clear to do so, some motorist would suddenly appear and I would have to 'recalculate'. As I was going around for the first time, I noticed tow larger type dual purpose rider sitting in a bit of an 'off site' from the construction. I did get back to where I should have been, only to miss the next move again!!! Back around I went again over, now familiar bits of road and to get it right the third time. The two trail bikers have now moved on.

I must have been going reasonably quicker than I thought as I caught up with the two bikers and so I just tagged along with them in a staggered file formation as much as three bikes can. I did observe one rider take both his hands off the handle bars to flex his arms and shoulders !!

The rivers we crossed were all looking like they had extra water rations in them. Possibly from the storm? The other thing I experienced was that if you are out in the fast lane and you have bit of a safety gap in front, the vehicle behind you seems to have this obligation to fill it regardless of if they will actually gain anything from it except, they are now in front of you. I watch them for a while and eventually they do disappear into traffic further ahead of to them I guess it must make them feel good about themselves? Or am I reading it all wrong? I recall one incident when a faster vehicle came up behind me and I was beside this big rig and so I simply speed up to 90 and he still followed me untill I pulled to the right and let him go past. Then I pulled in behind him and he dropped back to 80 again. It still amuses me even after all this time the antics of some drivers who seem to be unable to read the traffic conditions ahead of them at times.

Still, in other situations where I am unsure of just who should go next at a junction or waiting to get out of somewhere, someone will aid you with a bit of a gesture. This was quite appreciated when I was trying to get out of a gas station where we had stopped for a break. Just as I was wanting to get across a small tow lane street, about five big rigs had decided that they had needed to leave from the truck park across the street. I am waiting patiently for them to go past and when they had all passed there were a few cars behind them. The first one simply stopped and waved for me to go. It is this sort of thing that then makes you do the same for someone else in a similar situation.

We crossed the state line from Florida and into Georgia not that the landscape altered much at all. But we did notice the Highway Patrol is being rather active today. But it seemed that they had mostly a commercial vehicle stopped. Into an off ramp that would take you to the town of Savanah if you wanted to go there, to pull into the BP station only to see all the pumps out of service. So, it is around the pumps and go to the Exxon station a scant 50 metres away. The lady behind the counter was unaware that the BP was out of service. Lunch was had at the Hardee's restaurant because it was handy to the gas station. Here we got smart and we shared a hamburger and fries but got ourselves a drink each. It worked out well.

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I took a photo of the road number sign just so you could make it out clearly rather than one that has been taken at 75 mph. It shows the state that you are in, although not all the signs have the state written on them. Just some now and then in a calculated logical sequence somewhere. Then it is the direction that you are headed in so I know which On ramp I should be looking for as the gps usually shows you which one you should be taking. The GPS also tells you which Interstate or road you should be looking for. They have things called Country Road, which is abbreviated to CR and a number.

We carry on along the interstate and after crossing the Savanah River we now find ourselves in the state of South Carolina.

Over a few more bridges undergoing a widening process and flyovers that have not long been finished built. These sites always have some masses of equipment parked up around the place somewhere. At times it is the sheer number of the same piece of equipment that astounds me.

Eventually I have to find some lodgings in the mid afternoon heat to stop my pillion from melting and so we find ourselves at a Days Inn again near a place called St George. Tea was held in a local sports bar and restaurant as it was within easy walking distance for Maree. It was an interesting place for us to go and eat with all the big TV screens around. The two very colourful signs with the sharks were well done.

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