After several days spent exploring Shreveport, we headed southeast to Lake Bistineau State Park. On the way out of town, we stopped for a snack at Sonic and shocked the heck out of the girl working there when we told her about out trip. We’ve reached the point where this life feels normal to us, so it’s nice to get reactions like hers to remind us that what we’re doing is quite out-of-the-ordinary! At Lake Bistineau, we discover that most of the water has been drained, in an effort to eradicate an invasive species of plant. It makes fishing hard for Russ, but he tries it anyway. We chat with the rangers that evening, who are fascinated by our journey, and who also tell us they have several bicycle groups come through the area every year. That evening, I see the largest spider I’ve ever seen, just a few feet from the tent, and try to keep my panic under control (I think I’m getting better).

From Lake Bistineau, we head toward Lake Claiborne State Park. As we roll down the road, it starts to sprinkle, and we enjoy its cooling effect. Then it starts raining harder and harder, until we are finally forced to pull off under the eave of a Mobil gas station to wait it out. Thunder rolls overhead and puddles form on the ground as the rain pours down. We spread the tarp out over the bikes and lean against the wall, drinking a cup of coffee. Eventually it lets up and we head down the road. At our planned turn toward the lake, we are diverted by road construction, and we must continue on the very busy highway. Between the traffic and the rain continuing off and on, when we see a sign for a national forest and recreation area, we take the turn. We wind up at Upper Caney Lake, a bit of a back-track from our general direction, but a beautiful and almost-deserted location. The very friendly ranger warns us of a heavy storm headed our way that afternoon, so we pick a site and pitch camp as quickly as possible, getting the tarp set up just in the knick of time. We cower underneath as the rain pounds the ground, lightening flashes in the sky, and thunder crashes around us. We are amazed at Mother Nature’s power, and hope that she doesn’t decide to send one of those bolts in our direction. It turns out that we are also quite fortunate to not get any of the monster-size hail that landed in Oklahoma earlier. After the storm passes, the sky clears up, and we’re able to explore the lake a little.

We wake up early the next day, with the intention of picking up our plan from the day before, and heading to Lake Claiborne. In the town of Homer, we pick up groceries and grab some lunch, before getting into a conversation about our trip with one of the local police officers and the chief of police. The chief, we are told, also has a property on the lake, and he invites us to set up camp there, free of charge. We head off toward Pleasure Point, where his son points us to a flat spot right along the water where we can pitch our tent. We’re surrounded by RVs, pickup trucks and motor boats, but we are 10 feet from the water and it is beautiful.

There is also a small store and café, with frozen daiquiris and margaritas, so we feel extremely fortunate. Russ throws his flishing line out into the water that evening and reels in an astounding eight fish! We decide to dine on fresh fish the following night, if he can keep up his streak. But, unfortunately, we discover Murphy’s Law of Fishing: When you plan to eat what you catch, you don’t catch anything. Good thing the park has a cafe with burgers (and really good ones too!).

From Pleasure Point, we make our way to Louisiana State Highway 2, a marked Scenic Drive. It’s a beautiful stretch of road, with a fairly large shoulder for a large section. In Bernice, we stop for groceries at one of the saddest markets so far. And we meet more people who are stunned and confused and amazed by our journey! We camp at Lake D’Arbonne State Park that night. It’s a beautiful park with great facilities (which we discover is par-for-course with Louisiana state parks!). We learn from one of our neighbors that another bicycle tourist was there the night before – a shame we didn’t have a chance to meet him!

From the state park, we head SE to our next homestay, outside the small town of Eros. We stop for breakfast on our way through Farmerville, and regret the decision when the omelets arrive dripping in grease. The ride to our homestay is on a maze of small roads, through small communities surrounded by trees. We meet Carolyn, our host for the night, who invites us into her delightfully air-conditioned house and offers us fresh-made sweet tea. A refreshing change from the heat and humidity outside. Carolyn and her husband treat us to homemade crawfish etouffee for dinner – Yum! – and we talk about bike touring and do our best to convince them to plan their own trip.

The next morning, we decide to have a short day and just ride the 20 miles to Monroe. We’ve heard great things about Monroe and West Monroe and we’re eager to explore a bit. We wander through several antiques shops and galleries, visit the Biedenharn Museum (and their Coca-Cola exhibit!), and stop by the local bike shop. The guys at the shop recommend a small cajun-style restaurant next door for lunch, and we order an incredibly delicious Pig Sandwich (yes, that’s actually its name). We chat with Stuart, who we met at the bike shop, and he offers to ride with us out to the RV park at the east edge of town, where we are planning to camp for the night. Stuart is eager to not go back to work for the day, and we are happy to take advantage of his local knowledge.

From Monroe, we head east through the Delta, which means miles of fairly flat riding, and lots of farms. It also means we are able to ride quickly, which is a blessing as it’s extremely hot. We roll into the small town of Delhi (pronounced DEL-hi, not the way you’d pronounce that big city in India). We stop for lunch at The Chicken Basket, which promises “Sho-Nuff Good Chicken,” and it is quite good fried chicken. That evening we camp at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. It’s a brand new park that doesn’t yet show up on Google maps, so it’s almost empty and still in amazingly great shape. Beautiful facilities and a water park! If you’re in the area, we highly recommend it! Russ fishes throughout the afternoon and manages to snag a catfish, which he carefully lets loose and throws back in.

The next morning we are up early, in eager anticipation of crossing the Mississippi River. The last stretch of Louisiana is hot and flat and empty, so we are stunned when we pass another touring cyclist! He is equally as surprised and we chat in the middle of the highway for several minutes, and we discover that he knows Patrick (the guy we met back in New Mexico who ran across the US).

When we reach Delta, a small community just west of the river, we ask about how to cross to Vicksburg. The old Highway 80 bridge has been closed to traffic, and we are told that they’ll arrest us if we attempt to cross it. We are urged to ask at the mayor’s office, which we do, and his assistant makes a phone call for us. We meet our escort at the Chevron down the road – a US Marshall who follows us as we ride on the I-20 bridge across the river, his blue lights flashing. We feel like rock stars and are extremely grateful for his assistance when we get onto the very narrow bridge. He tells us that he escorts riders roughly twice a year and he is impressed that we are traveling this way. We thank him profusely when we get to the Mississippi side, and we set off to explore Vicksburg.

We discover that the Horizon Casino (on an old riverboat) has a recession special and we get a room at their hotel, which puts us within easy walking distance of Vicksburg’s historic downtown. We stop in the bookstore and chat with the owner, who tells us great stories about the town and the Delta region. And we enjoy dinner and some local Mississippi craft-brewed beers at Duff’s Tavern & Grill (which we highly recommend if you’re ever in Vicksburg!).

We’ve spent only two weeks crossing Louisiana, which stuns us after being in Texas for so long. We found great roads with very light traffic, beautiful natural areas and state parks, some of the friendliest people of the past 10 months, and lots of delicious food. We got a great sense of the northern part of the state, and we look forward to a future trip that will take us down to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.