Friday, February 27, 2009

Fat Tuesday Bike Blogging

We made a concerted effort this year to do everything by bike Mardi Gras weekend. I think we can now call that experiment a success. There were a few snags along the way, but we made it. So here's the bike-centric summary of our Mardi Gras:

  • Thursday: I had to teach technically from 3:00-7:00. I also had a project due at midnight. Fortunately, the lab wasn't too long, and the students were just as interested in finishing early as I was, so I was able to get all of it done by about 6:30. The parades started at 5:45. I rode my bike straight from campus to meet Nora at the parades; she had ridden from home. Our normal spot for watching the Uptown parades has become immediately in front of Touro Synagogue. Touro faces onto St Charles at General Pershing, one block below Napolean. The traditional Uptown parade route starts on Napolean, and turns onto St Charles. So the synagogue is very close to the beginning of the route, which makes things slighly more predictable. As it turns out, there was a nearly hour-long delay Thursday night, so I only missed the first parade (Babylon) and the very beginning of Chaos. After the parades, we biked home together.

  • Friday: Again, I went straight from campus and met Nora in front of the synagogue. Nora was very clever and bought some food to munch on during the parade. I was able to leave campus earlier Friday night than Thursday, so we got to the parades at about the same time. And I got there in time to see everything.

  • Saturday: Our first big snag. There are a few parades Uptown on Saturday evening, but we skip those in favor of Endymion. They all meet up at Lee Circle, but we've never been all that interested in going that far downtown. And frankly, Endymion is more than enough parade for one day. It starts at City Park at 4:15. We were planning on leaving at 3:30 to bike along Carrollton to Mid City park ourselves on Canal near the beginning of the route. At 3:00, I was checking the tires on the bikes and inflating anything that needed it. Apparently I have used poor technique in inflating my tires; I don't remove the nozzle properly, which puts some strain on it. I pulled the nozzle off of my front tire, leaving a huge hole. And since it's Mardi Gras weekend, the bike shop around the corner isn't open to sell me a new inner tube. It wasn't too bad because we have a spare bike. Unfortunately for me, the spare bike is a 21-speed mountain bike, different from my bike in nearly every way possible. It handles potholes better than my bike, but is a little uncomfortable for me to ride. But it made it okay.

  • Sunday: This is the day the bikes really shined. Tim, who runs the teaching labs at Tulane (imagine a 35-year-old Van Bistrow, for those of you who know Van), invited us to his house a block off of Audubon Park in the afternoon to watch Thoth. Thoth starts near the park to allow it to pass by several hospitals, which is their tradition. They eventually get to St Charles, and then follow the traditional route. After that, my advisor Wayne Reed had invited us to his house (Napolean and Magazine) to watch Bacchus, which runs just along the traditional route. For these, the bikes were particularly convienient. It helped us avoid parking hassles, city traffic blockades, and having to get the car in and out of both areas. And it was rather enjoyable to bike from home to Tim's, to Dr Reed's, and back to home. The one snag was not having my own bike. I stupidly insisted on bringing our Jazz Fest chairs (yes, that's what Walgreens calls them), which have straps that let you carry them over your shoulder. My thought was that we would actually have a place to set them up. The problem was that, without the baskets on my real bike, I now couldn't carry any of the throws we aquired at those parades. It turned out to be quite a lot, and Nora's backpack was very heavy and nearly bursting for most of the day.

  • Monday: we were burned out, and stayed home all day.

  • Tuesday: another brilliant day for the bikes. I finally figured out how to get the gears on the mountain bike to go into the right gear (it had previously been giving me a lot of trouble). We biked to Jackson near the start of Zulu. The one snag with that was that I forgot/didn't realize that the area between Louisiana and Washington is very bike unfriendly. The result was that we ended up walking further than we would have liked. A better route would have avoided that and have been more pleasant, at the expense of being a little longer in distance. After Zulu passed us, we got on the bikes again to head towards St Charles to catch Rex. But we took a detour (which was really on the way) to check up on a hot tip Nora had recieved about a Mardi Gras Indians gathering location. We found them about a block away from where the tip suggested, but there they were. We watched them finish setting up, and followed them for a while as they paraded, blocking traffic (with corkers, even!) as necessary. We were hoping to see them run into another Mardi Gras Indian gang so we could watch them do battle. But we eventually figured out that they were probably going to head downtown before that happened, so we broke off from them and headed down to Rex (we later found out that they had gone all the way downtown to the Claiborne overpass at Canal). After we saw Rex, we biked home. We had some trouble crossing the parade, which led us to bike home along Claiborne. That would not normally be advisable, but it was nearly empty due to the parades. That led to us getting yelled at by an absolutely insane motorist a few blocks from home, but that wasn't nearly enough to spoil the weekend.

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