Friday, February 26, 2010

Crusty Scabs in New Orleans

While on vacation, I was lucky enough to get to ride a bit in New Orleans for the first time, and it does not disappoint. Maybe it was just the French Quarter, but there were bikes EVERYWHERE. Although, if I have to hear another Who Dat I might just vomit. Nothing against the Saints specifically, but oh em gee es tee eff you pleeeeeease just for a sec.

But yeah, New Orleans itself was great. Obviously it's got the whole tourist thing going on, which would normally be a bit of a turnoff, but I think being on a bike gave me the feeling of gliding over all of that. I know I'm no local, but being on a bike made me feel like one. The city itself has a very crusty, scabby feel. I'm not consciously trying to evoke Katrina, but I can't help it, it feels like a city that's been through a lot. It's not run-down so much as simply lived-in.

Well, except for the roads. THOSE were run down. Sheeeesh. I'd always heard that New Orleans' roads were bad, but this was beyond bad. The worst roads I ride on in Memphis were better than the best roads there. I dunno if 23c's would cut it there, at least without patching tubes daily. Luckily the bikes we rented were relatively hefty:

rental bikes

A coupla neat hybrids. It had been a little while since either of us had ridden with a freewheel, but I think for the first time in a city with no guide, it's actually preferable to fixed. Being able to just coast and look around was very nice. Plus, they fitted the bike culture there a bit more than our bikes would have. Like I said, there were tons of bikes, but almost no skinny-tired road bikes at all. Most people seemed to sport heavily customized mountain bikes - we're not talkin' about customized parts, more like crazy shit welded all over the bike and milk crate baskets. We also saw a guy on a very nice tall bike, as well as a few fixed gears, but even among fixed gears the culture differed a bit on the crusty side. We pretty much only saw conversions - no track frames at all.

We rented our bikes from the pretty-dang-rad Michael's Bicycle. This place pretty much ruled - the staff were friendly as all get out and it was stuffed with the gills with all kinds of great stuff, from the new Chrome bicycle shoes and bags to Surly frames. It's a pretty small space, but they managed to pack it with pretty much everything I like. Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

Michael's Bicycle

And of course we got to visit the marvelous Plan B, which I'd only been able to read about in the Chainbreaker zines up to this point. It's pretty much a lot like Revolutions in Memphis. Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit during shop hours so we only got to poke our head in, but it still looked pretty nifty. Anything infused with that intoxicating odor of bike grease is pretty much ok in my book, and it was basically everywhere.

Super meta!

Also housed in the same building as Plan B was the Iron Rail, a kinda of book co-op/anarchist bookstore collective thing. Lots of zines to read! All in all, it's a pretty awesome place for a collective.

One of my only regrets is that we didn't really know any locals there, so we had to just blunder around on our own and hope to find cool stuff. Plus, we were only there for a day, and so didn't have time to really see all that much. Maybe we can wing down for the next polo tournament or an alley cat or something, 'cus New Orleans was awesome.

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