Day 18: Alexandria, LA to De Ridder, LA

We got some breakfast at the buffet in the Days Inn lobby, but their choices were limited due to the post-hurricane renovations that were in progress. As we prepared to get on the road for the day, Ray noticed that his rear hub bearings were a bit loose. It was on the drive-train side, so he’d need to pull the rear cassette off to make the adjustment, and we do not have the required tools to do that, so we had to kill some time to wait for Red River Cyclery to open back up. So, we stopped in at the local Sherwin-Williams store, which was just a couple of doors down from the motel, and snapped a photo with the manager. Then, we took a ride for a few miles down the road to find the IHOP restaurant to get a more substantial breakfast. We got back to the bike shop a little early, but Mike was already there, and so was nice enough to let us in so that Ray could get started on his repairs. I used his computer to do a quick catch-up on e-mail.

We finally got on the road around 11am, taking the main highway from Alexandria to Leesville. The highway was pretty tedious and boring, without much interesting to look at, but the pavement was good most of the way, with four lanes and a wide, smooth shoulder, except for one five-mile stretch where it was only two-lane with a very rough chip-and-seal shoulder. But the hills were mild, and it wasn’t too hot, so it made for pretty easy riding. In Leesville, we stopped at the Ranch House Restaurant for some lunch (which had been recommended to us by the ladies in the A&W Drive-In the day before). The highway turned straight south from there to De Ridder, and it was a bit rough at times, as the sun came out stronger and hotter, and at times the shoulder was very rough and strewn with debris, and the main road lanes had uneven cracks every 10-15 feet. There was also a lot of semi-truck traffic, mostly going to a from a local timber mill.

We stopped a few miles short of De Ridder in a small town called Rosepine, to grab a Gatorade in this gas station/convenience/archery/fishing shop. The owner there was quite a character, who had lots of stories to tell about his experiences with the home and farm loan industry, and how through those dealings, he’s not surprised by the current mortgage crisis and other financial troubles the country is having.

It was just a couple more miles down the highway to De Ridder. We had spokent to Tracey Blackwell, the Sherwin-Williams store manager, earlier in the day. We told her that it was going to be a long day for us, and not to expect us until tomorrow morning, but we had made better time than expected, so we stopped into the store to say hi. They were having a busy day, due to many customers, plus unexpected problems such as their computer crashing, and their fork lift breaking down, causing them to have to unload their weekly shipment of products by hand. So, we let them get back to business without chatting too long. They directed us through town to the Stagecoach Inn where they had arranged a room for us, plus La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant right next door, where they provided us with dinner.

Another project Tracey and her staff were working on was a large batch of paint for renovations at the local Wal-Mart store. Even though Wal-Mart sells their own brands of paint, for their own projects they turn to Sherwin-Williams for quality!

After dinner, we caught up on the weather-related news on TV, and could see that we’d have to make some kind of decision about whether or not we’d be able to proceed the next day, and if so, how far, due to the coming of Hurricane Ike to the eastern part of Texas.

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