Duct Tape and the West, or Foolishness Across America, Day 9

  Up early and out of New Orleans. I'm growing accustomed to the riding and feel itchy sticking in one place for more than a night. By day two, I begin fantasizing about riding fast and out. I took 10 West through town and out across the watery Mississippi delta. The highway turns into miles of long bridgework west of town, and police were in full fury. I began seeing bikers everywhere, scores of them riding in front and behind. A group of about ten had been pulled to the side by a troop of cop crusiers. I stopped sixty miles from the Texas line to fuel up. Every gas station had at least one or two bikes at the pumps. I met with some old Harley riders fresh out of Daytona. Most of the riders I'd seen were heading home from the bike week, worn and hungover from whatever strange biker festivities I'd missed. The lead rider of one such group came over to chat and marvel at the long ride I'd had from Delaware. He was dressed in a thick one-piece Carhartt and smoked Winstons as he filled his tank.

   I had some bag trouble a few miles down the road, my saddlebag had torn against the shocks and was threatening to tear off completely. I thanked my luck for finding it before the otherwise inevitable parade of underwear and socks that I would have left flailing down the interstate. I asked the clerk at the station for some duct tape. "Whut in th' hell you done settin' out on such a thing as un-pur-pared as such?" he scolded, but gave me the tape, no charge. He was right, anyway. I patched the hole and went on.

   Four hundred miles of riding took me west of Houston, where the rains started. The sky unstitched itself and rain begain pouring from the seams in the sky. I was exhausted: it was more than I'd ever done in one day and I was still weary from New Orleans. I scrapped Austin and pulled off into the next town for the night. I bought a few tacos and watched the steady rain, hoping to find clear skies by morning. I was across the Mississippi, officially west. Unpacked, the bike seemed little more than a seat on wheels. I looked her over, amazed to have come so far already.

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