Editor’s note: This is writer Kevin Carlson‘s second guest post for NOadventure. If you have an adventure you’d like to share, email me about it – guest posters get a FREE NOadventure tshirt!
If you want a great bike ride with plenty to see and just enough miles to warrant a cold beer or two, hop the ferry with your bike at the end of Canal Street and take the lovely 5 minute boat ride across the Mississippi. Its free. The ferry ride is lovely and it gives you a whole new respect for New Orleans as a port city.
When you get off the ferry, head to your right where you’ll be greeted by a marvelous statue of the most famous ambassador of New Orleans, Louis Armstrong.
Head toward the bridge on the nicely paved levee for an easy 5-6 mile round trip ride. You’ll see a whole new side of the city. Along the way, you’ll pass thru Mardi Gras World where remnants of floats lean up against the buildings and soak up the sun.
The old river is on your right and you can actually see the shoreline and the tankers rolling by. You will be heading towards Gretna, a sleepy little town with a prominent water tower. Gretna is the home of the Gretna Festival, held every year in the first weekend of October. This year(2010) had headliners Reo Speedwagon, Doobie Bros, and Charlie Daniels as well as lots of local acts like Amanda Shaw. Imagine a mini-jazzfest complete with awesome food vendors and a great festival atmosphere, right smack dab on the river.
Peddling on the smooth asphalt of the levee is a treat, especially if you’re familiar with the potholes and ragged conditions of the roads here. On your 5 mile journey, you will go under the Crescent City Connection Bridge. It’s an awesome structure when you see it from this perspective.
Along the way you’ll see driftwood and every once in a while a gator will sun up on the banks. Don’t worry, just give him a few marshmallows and he’ll be on his way. There are egrets, seabirds, and occasionally a hawk will make his presence known. This part of the river is nice and you can actually see the water meet the shore. If you’re like me, you have to stop and launch a few rocks in the water; to NOT to do it would be uncharacteristic of me.
One of the cool things about this stretch of levee is that it is not that well traveled. You’ll see a few people here and there, but it is not as well used as the levee from Audubon Park to Harahan. You can bike for speed or leisure. The path is wide enough to accommodate anyone.
You’ll soon pass a refueling dock where tugs and tankers stop. It may sound unpleasant, but it’s really not. You’ll pass through it fairly quickly with only a touch of diesel in the air.
Next is the downtown area of Gretna. The levee path comes to an end near a Coast Guard facility, which gives you the option to head back, or explore the downtown architecture of Gretna. It is fun to experience this little American downtown with its historical buildings and pleasant landscapes.
Heading back, you may encounter a headwind coming off the water, but I have found that this only makes the beer taste better, knowing that the Olde Point Bar is open and ready to serve up a pint or two of your favorite suds.
It is closed in this picture, but they put out tables on the sidewalk and there are always colorful locals as well as tourists here; it’s truly a drinker’s landmark in Old Algiers. When you come off the levee, you simply keep going past the Ferry station and ride out against the one way on Patterson road(hardly any traffic). The Olde Point is famous for being used in lots of movies. In fact several locations in Old Algiers are readily used in feature films as well as HBO’s Treme series.
Another drinking establishment on the point is the Crown and Anchor, a British Pub with Guinness on tap to make your mouth water. They don’t have food per say, but you can get sandwiches close by at a wine and cheese shop called the Vine and Dine. There are other dining options as well, but not many.(Editor’s note: What about the Drydock?)
If you can navigate the potholes, exploring Old Algiers on a bike is a treat. The historical relevance and the charm of this place is truly beautiful. The ferry will sound when it’s backing away from the dock, so time yourself accordingly. If you hear the horn and you’re still drinking, you might as well order another because the ferry comes every 1/2 hour.
If you’re not into beer and you’d still like a beverage, Toot De Suite is a great little coffee stop.
Then its back to the Ferry down the sweet paved bike path.
The West Bank is pretty cool. Riding back on the Ferry makes you think about the old steam ships that filled this port. Makes you wonder about Spaniards, French, and pirates that make up the history that surrounds this awesome place.
Editor’s note: For more on the Westbank – check out the three part NOadventure Journey to the WestBank series:
Part 1: Algiers Point
Part 2: Jean Lafite Park
Part 3: Asia Minor
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