Several quaint idioms came to mind as I stood there glaring at the TV. “The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” “Come hell or high water.” But the one that would garner my immediate attention was, “You can’t get there from here.” Oh yeah? We’ll see about that…
I was on the flip side of my ride from Texas to Florida and back, spending the previous week attending Daytona Bike Week. Days earlier heavy rains had pounded the Gulf States but the thunderstorms had shifted direction, heading to the northeast and causing no threat to Florida. So I paid little attention to it at the time. My mistake.
By the time I was nearing the Mississippi-Louisiana border, I was receiving dire warnings from the home front. Seems those thunderstorms had been severe enough to have warranted more of my attention while in Florida. The result was swollen rivers and creeks in North Louisiana with the floodwaters headed south… right in my path. On Interstate 10 headed west, I crossed into Louisiana at Slidell and realized the magnitude of the situation when seeing the Pearl River (the boundary between the two states) out of its banks and not very far below the bridge spanning the river.
An hour’s ride later electronic signage confirmed my fears. The Interstate was completely shut down in both directions at the Texas state line due to the flooded Sabine River. I’d already ridden 400 miles that day so I figured to call it an early day and find a place to spend the night before all that traffic headed west on 10 decided to do the same. Soon I was standing in my room, nursing a beer and watching the Weather Channel in disbelief as the words, “You can’t get there from here,” echoed over and over in my head.
As the flashing road sign had warned earlier, Interstate 10 was totally closed at the Texas-Louisiana border and projections were it would remain so for up to a week—incredible. (They were even predicting the possible closure of I-10 at the Pearl River behind me.) Highway officials were on the air proclaiming the only alternative for those headed west was to detour northwest to Shreveport, hop on I-20 West and then drop back down south once in Texas. That would add a minimum of 450 miles and an extra day to my trip. Not acceptable. After two weeks, I was ready for home, family and dog. So I made a few calls.
Seems the friend of a friend who lives in the Houston area (my home base) has a passion for gambling. And he needed a fix so bad that he figured out a way around the flooded chaos, skirting the coast of Louisiana. I’d wisely picked up a road map at the tourist center when I hit Louisiana (who needs a smartphone or GPS?) and quickly found the route the gambler had taken, a desolate stretch that I had always wanted to investigate. Seemed like the perfect time for discovery.
I was up and at it early the next morning and soon found the road heading south towards the coast just the other side of Lake Charles—as did every trucker in that part of nation. Hundreds of semis and over-the-road haulers were crammed on that two-lane backroad in a similar attempt to save time and money by avoiding the state-recommended detour. But the traffic was moving swiftly and soon I found myself enjoying a cool breeze coming in off the Gulf along a beach mostly devoid of people on one side and tall stands of swamp cane on the other. Several small communities came and went in short order with most every house elevated on pilings, braced in preparation for the next hurricane. And a true rarity, a Catholic church on stilts, Our Lady of Assumption was quite unique. It was without a doubt the best day of riding the entire trip. Until I hit Texas.
A welcome sight was the Sabine Lake Bridge. Halfway across the waterway and I was back home in Texas. From that bridge to the Rainbow Bridge that dumps you into Port Arthur is about 10 miles—10 miles and three hours. Yep, three hours of torment sitting in a long line of traffic all trying to avoid the Shreveport detour. (I found out later that officials didn’t announce this possible route because they wanted to leave it accessible to local commuters that live and work on both sides of the Texas-Louisiana border. So much for that grand plan.)
With the sun beating down on the asphalt, the cooling breeze having disappeared the moment traffic halted, I sat and cooked, moving incremental distances at a time doing my best not to overcook my engine. I tried to ride the almost-nonexistent shoulder a few times but discovered a hole big enough to hide an alligator that almost ripped off my front fender. So I just waited and cooked and pushed and practiced my slow race skills.
Eventually I did manage to “get there from here” and later was rewarded when I discovered that all the traffic that had been diverted through Shreveport had caused a major jam, tying up the highway system and tripling the travel time. As for those idioms that had bedeviled me earlier, I have since adopted one that trumps them all, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”