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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Metro New Orleans Mississippi River Eastbank Levee Trail

For anyone that may be interested in riding the 22 mile long Mississippi River Eastbank Levee Trail that runs through the metropolitan New Orleans area, following is a route map for the bike trail. I created the map as an experiment to test the free mapping tool I discovered online at miejsce.info.


If the map will not display in your browser window, here's a map link.


Bike Trail Route Map Generation Tool

While looking for links on Del.icio.us that I could use with the 45 Trails project, I came across a free route map generation tool from a developer in Poland. Known simply by the site's domain name (miejsce.info), the tool makes use of the Google Maps API to generate a map which can be displayed on any website. I found the tool quick & easy to use.

For more info, visit here:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Goals For 45 Great Places To Go Bicycling

Yesterday, I was asked why I'm devoting so much time to the 45 Great Places To Go Bicycling project.

The pivotal factor that led me to commit to completing this project was Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane caused personal property damage to my home, destroyed the homes of family and friends, led to the deaths of people I knew, caused family members to relocate indefinitely, wreaked personal tragedy upon many people I know and was a powerful reminder of my own personal mortality.

I see this tour series as something I can do to inspire others to live with optimism, be healthy and enjoy the scenic wonders of the USA.

For the record, following are my goals for 45 Great Places To Go Bicycling:

1. Inspire more Americans to go bicycling - for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.
2. Inspire people to do something "big" with their lives even in the face of adversity.
3. Maintain national attention on the Hurricane Katrina recovery.
4. Identify great bike trails, bike routes and bike lanes.
5. Create a series of nuts & bolts ride profiles so others can plan similar tours (including "If You Go" type info, trail photos, interactive maps and useful links).
6. Write a book about places I discovered & people I met through the tour series.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Initial Trail Route Maps - Centennial, Coeur d'Alene & Hiawatha Trails

A wealth of information is available online about these trails but I haven't come across details describing how to ride them all in 1 tour. Apparently, there are several abandoned rail grades that could form a loop but it may not be possible at present due to washouts, missing bridges or trespassing issues.

Since the existing online trail maps vary in size and format, I used 2wheeltech.com's Google Maps API interface this morning to create 3 route maps representing the trails. These maps allow a route to be mapped over a standard, satelite, topo or hybrid map; thus, they can be useful when accurate.

If you would like to use my maps as an aid to preparing for a tour, following are links to them. No GPS coordinates were available to create the maps so please use them only as a basic guide to the approximate location of the trails. In other words, use at your own risk!

Spokane River & Idaho Centennial Trails
Coeur d'Alene Trail
Route of the Hiawatha Trail

Attention GPS Users
If you have rode any of the above trails with a GPS unit and have a database of trail coordinates, please send them to me or upload them yourself to the 2wheeltech.com trail route database. Adding a trail route is FREE.

Email Me
If you'd prefer to contact me by email, look for my email address at the bottom of any page at RideTHISbike.com.

Larry Lagarde

Bicycling the Centennial, Coeur d'Alene & Hiawatha Trails

Attention Pacific Northwest trail riders:

I'm trying to determine if it is feasible to ride all of the following trails in one bike tour without a support shuttle or car:

The Spokane River Centennial Trail
The Idaho Centennial Trail
The Coeur d'Alene Trail
The Route of the Hiawatha Trail

Send Me Your Comments
If you or someone you know has attempted a tour of one or more of the above trails, please add a comment to this post including any useful info about these trails, particularly about riding several of them in one tour.

Email Me
If you'd prefer to contact me by email, look for my email address at the bottom of any page at RideTHISbike.com.

Larry Lagarde

Prototype Folding Bike & Travel Case On Lakefront Trail

Living in suburban New Orleans just a block from the Metairie/Kenner bike trail along Lake Pontchartrain, I've been making much use of this fun trail.

Traffic on the trail is usually light and the lake is always a joy to watch. Whether it's the water lapping at the trail's edge at high tide, a school of fish suddenly jumping from the water in unison or unexpected lightning and thunderclaps broiling from the hot, humid air, there's always a hint of nature's wildness.

Portions of the trail & some trail bridges are still closed so the ride is not very long (perhaps 14 miles round trip), making it ideal for riding via a folder. Over the past few months, I've rode each of my folders on this route. Thus far, my favorite remains the Giatex DIY, a "folder" prototype that can be dismantled in seconds into major components. I'll soon be road testing on the lakefront trail a travel case/bike trailer combo that I've been developing. If you see a guy on a strange grey metallic bike with 20" wheels pulling a shiny, travel case with 16" wheels, that's gotta' be me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Great Bicycle Trails Story Series

For Immediate Release
Release Date: June 15, 2006

Beginning in August of 2006 and spanning over the next 36 months, I'm making 45 bike trips to ride and write stories about great places to go bicycling. A story about each bicycle trip will be published at RideTHISbike.com and more stories will be added regularly.

Each story will contain interactive trail maps with photos and links to nearby lodging, attractions, dining & cycling services. The maps will be updated in real time, allowing visitors like you to chart my progress. I'll also be posting entries daily from the trails via this blog.

Among the first stories I'm writing is one about bicycling the Centennial, Coeur d'Alenes & Hiawatha bike trails in Western Washington and Northern Idaho. Look for more information to be posted either here or on RideTHISbike.com as it becomes available.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

Friday, June 02, 2006

30 Miles Through New Orleans By Bike

I had a meeting at the Louisiana Technology Council on the edge of the Garden District in New Orleans and decided to get their by bike. This 30 mile ride provided an interesting look at the recovery of the New Orleans metropolitan area from Hurricane Katrina.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was HOT today but car problems left me with no alternative but cycling. The meeting was for 2pm so I began preparing for the ride at noon. I pumped up the tires. I velcroed the repair kit bag to the seat post. Into the messenger bag, I packed a change of clothes, water bottle, suntan lotion, camera, phone & papers for the meeting. Then I hit the road.

Riding the 3 blocks from the Beach Club on the Metairie Lakefront, I saw a cement crew laying a new sidewalk at one house, a landscape crew putting down sod and a new garden at another, carpenters moving in and out of a third house & roofers installing new roofs on 2 other homes. I had to wait 3-4 minutes to cross West Esplanade because the traffic was so heavy.

From West Esplanade to Veterans Blvd., there are many more FEMA trailers but I saw about the same amount of repair work. Rather than Gardens, the crews were working on roofs, sheetrock, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc.

Traffic was moderate on Veterans. I crossed after a minute or so and actually rode in the right traffic lane for a block before turning onto Green Acres. After several blocks, I turned onto Utica and took it to Transcontinental.

Traffic was moving heavy and fast on Transcontinental so I rode the sidewalk below the Interstate 10 overpass and detoured onto Vineland so I could ride backstreets to West Napoleon Ave. I crossed at the Transcontinental stoplight and detoured again onto Argonne, passing the neighborhood country club that was absolutely packed with kids swimming & playing.

I crossed West Metairie at the Transcontinental stoplight; traffic was lighter now so I rode Transcontinental just about to Airline, detouring on Finch then to Zinnia to minimize riding on Airline. Crossing Airline, I rode on the old railroad right of way. I noticed a business that sold boats before Katrina was now a storage depot for fire trucks and other parish/government equipment.

I zig zagged through the old neighborhood hemmed in by Garden of Memories Cemetery, Airline, Central Ave & the railroad corridor so I could cross below Clearview Pkwy. I rode Central all the way to River Road. Traffic on Central was heavy but the drivers were courteous.

From River Road, I road the Mississippi River levee crown bike path. There was steady traffic below on River Road. A welding crew was working on pipe at the Jefferson water works intake. I passed 4 other cyclists then exited the trail at the Orleans Parish Line and rode down Oak Street.

As I approached Carrollton on Oak, the activity grew in intensity. Near Jacque Imo's & the Maple Leaf Bar, I squeezed between delivery trucks parked on the street and vehicles driving slowly among the potholes and uneven pavement. There was pedestrian traffic and the coffee shop at Dublin was busy. Cars snaked slowly behind a RTA bus on Carrollton as the streetcar service is still not operating there.

I rode Zimpel all the way to Broadway; everything looked normal. The outdoor tables at The Boot were packed with Tulane students. Riding on the Tulane campus, I passed the Howard Tilton Library and caught a whiff of old books. The smell was not moldy or unpleasant and reminded me of research I did there in years gone by. There were plenty of cars (and bicycles) parked on the Tulane campus. I passed a person walking in cap & gown.

At Loyola University, I began riding down Freret. Before Katrina, traffic on Freret would have been intolerable but it was light and became even lighter as I rode on. In fact, rather than turn onto Napoleon, I stayed on Freret past Louisiana and rode it through the abandoned public housing project. Other than 2 men standing on a stoop of one of the buildings, I saw no activity. Just empty buildings and derelict cars...

I turned onto Washington Avenue. Watermarks were at least 5 feet up the sides of buildings. Three old men stood at a corner bar. Vehicular traffic was sparse. I crossed St. Charles Avenue and turned onto Prytania, waiting as 5 pedestrians crossed at The Rink. Between 3rd & 2nd Streets, a walking tour guide was talking about the Garden District to 15 or so tourists.

At Jackson Avenue, a discourteous driver blocked no less than 7 cars by waiting lazily in the traffic lane for a parking spot to open up. I shot between the cars and onto my appointment 6 blocks away.

At the door to the building, I flipped the quick release, folded the Hummer bicycle and entered the building, taking the folding bike up the elevator on my shoulder. When the meeting concluded, I exited the building, then rode down St. Charles to Lee Circle. Passing the 6 or so cars at the stoplight, I proceed a block up Howard Ave then turned right onto Carondelet. At One Shell Square, the security guard stopped auto traffic but let me pass as cars streamed out of the office building's parking garage.

At Canal Street, I rode down the cement neutral ground along the streetcar tracks behind a slow moving police car. There was scaffolding on the old Maison Blanche department store. The facade of the old Kress five & dime looked fresh & clean. Windows blown out by Katrina had yet to be repaired on the Texaco building.

Crossing below Interstate 10 at Claiborne, I rode in the right traffic lane on Canal until I reached Galvez. I noticed that one of the used car lots that were once famous on Canal was back in operation. On the far end of the car lot, the octagon shaped shell which was once the front parlor of a grand victorian home was all that remained of the structure.

I rode Galvez to Bienville, riding behind the new RTA bus/streetcar barn; many streetcars were queued here. Signs of life were few and far between. Two houses had workers going in and out. One person sat on their front porch. Watermarks were 5 feet or more here.

A 6' chain link fence surrounded Mercy hospital. Other than a security guard sitting in a shack, I saw no other activity in or on the grounds of the damaged hospital. Across the street, a sign in the window at Liuza's announced "bar open" to the trickle of cars on the street.

Approaching Carrollton Avenue, there were many cars in the lot for Gambit Magazine but the shopping center across the street looked much as it did before the storm. The cleaners where I once brought shirts and suits, the Subway where I bought Tuna subs for lunch, the Chinese reataurant where I would get take out, all were completely destroyed by the flooding. It's hard to describe.

Crossing City Park Avenue, I entered Lakeview by side streets. Passing the old 3rd District Police substation, I was now in the heart of the beast. General Diaz Street appeared to be a dirt road due to all the dump trucks and heavy vehicles that had traversed it. FEMA trailers took up one of the Delgado College parking lots. A woman gutting a home stopped for a moment and watched me go by. Across the street, hotdogs were cooking on a barbecue behind the baseball diamond as kids began arriving for a neighborhood league's game.

Past Navarre, the street was blocked by a signman. Heavy dozers moved back and forth behind him picking up storm debris. Dust was everywhere. Plantation Coffee House was an empty shell. Every business on this section of Canal was closed. I could hear nail guns of roofers and carpenters as well as the low moan of electric generators.

Traffic wasn't bad on Canal but I wanted to see the street of my family home so I turned onto Vicksburg. All was devastation. Home after home lay vacant with doors and windows open. Signs of rebuilding were minimal. In the 6200 block, debris lined the curb for 75 yards. Two hispanic men were picking through the debris looking discarded items that may hold value.

In my grandmother's block, the house next to hers' was for sale. Across the street, a neighbor had moved back despite the devastation and was sitting outside on a plastic lawnchair. A flyer was attached to the door knob of the FEMA trailer in front of my grandmother's home; it announced that FEMA would soon be turning on the power for the trailer.

I passed the homes of friends and family. The scene was almost as shocking and just as depressing as the first time I saw it after the storm. I passed the breach on the 17 Street Canal. The homes at the breach are long gone - just river sand is there now with the sheet pile levee behind. Across the street, the floodwaters had scoured out the ground from beneath a home, revealing the pilings below the foundation. Tourists from Iowa were taking pictures.

At Hammond Highway, I crossed the canal on the new bridge. A television crew was filming and Corps of Engineers construction crews were hard at work. I spoke with one of the hard hats. He was an African immigrant with a strong accent. We talked briefly about the Hummer folding bike.

At the new Coast Guard station, I looked north to West End where restaurants like Brunnings stood on pilings over the water before the storm. Strange, now there is nothing but water so I can see all the way to the boats in the marina.

I rode the bike path along the shoreline to the Bonnabel Boat Launch. The bike path bridge is still closed at the boat launch so I diverted into the residential neighborhood. Life looked to be proceeding normally here. Kids were playing, riding bikes and walking dogs.

At Causeway, traffic was extremely heavy as commuters were streaming onto the Causeway Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. The bike path below the Causeway Bridge is still out of service so I waded through traffic on Causeway and again a block later at Lakeway Plaza as workers streamed out.

The levee between Causeway and Lake Villa is under construction and off limits so I rode on the narrow grass strip next to half million dollar plus homes that abut the levee. There were some other joggers and dog walkers. A worker on a crane was putting new glass on a home.

At the Lake Villa Dr. pumping station, heavy construction equipment moved in and out of the facility. From here, I rode in heavy traffic on Avron as drivers avoided a miles long, bumper to bumper backup on West Esplanade. Impatient, drivers were easily doing 40 in a 20 mph zone.

Summer Bicycling In New Orleans

Partaking in outdoor activities in New Orleans in the summertime means working up a serious sweat. At 11:30 this morning, the temperature was already 86 degrees F (at least the humidity today is unusually low; it's just 53%). Bearing the weather in mind (as well as the fact that the kids are out of school & need something to do), we joined a health club this week.

During our initial tour of the club, I discovered something I didn't expect: a room devoted to spin cycles. Besides having a fleet of Schwinn spin bikes, the room offers sweeping views of the fitness club's tennis courts and a view of the Lake Pontchartrain levee. Naturally, the room is also air conditioned. Without a doubt, I'll be spending a lot of time there, particularly when the humidity and heat are oppressive outdoors.

Cycling for fun, fitness & practicality.

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New Orleans, LA. 70112
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