I'm visiting N.O. in late September for 5 days. I will be bringing a bike and will have lots of time. Can anyone suggest rides of up to 75 miles?
I have searched on the mapping sites, but it's hard to tell traffic, bike-friendliness and scenery from them. It looks like the Mississippi River Trail is nice and long, but I don't know if it's bike friendly. I'm looking for interesting and scenic routes while I get some exercise.
I like hills, as I'm from California. Any chance of hills starting from downtown N.O.?
The rides are 99.9% flat except for the NorthShore rides mentioned above. We are talking about Louisiana, you know. :wink:
The MRT/levee bikepath is probably the most popuilar ride on the South Shore of Lake Ponchatrain bike traffic wise, particularly on Tues, Thurs and Sat.
If you can do 100-120 miles in a day on flats, you can cross the river on the ferry and do a Plantation tour ride by taking the river road. Or, make it a 2 day trip, riding up towards Baton Rouge on the "West Bank" side one day and back to New Orleans the second day. Again, take River Road each way for most of the way. Specific locations for the plantations are easy to find via a simple Yahoo/Google search - try ("New Orleans" or "Baton Rouge" area plantations) without the parentheses.
Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans along the South Shore of Lake Ponchatrain used to be the most popular before Hurricane Katrina took out a couple bridges. Now it's far shorter than it once was. However, with a city map and a willingness to detour off Lakeshore, you can ride 20 miles eastward along it. Be prepared to have fewer and fewer convenience stores/bailout points the further east you go. If you hit LA11/I-10 going out across Lake Ponchatrain itself, turn around. You've gone too far.
If you want to tour the remains of/rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina, head towards Arabi/the 9th Ward on St. Claude. Take a map and some fatter tires (28-35mm) as the road conditions are still kinda sh***y. You CAN ride the 9th Ward with narrow tires, but you're taking a gamble, pure and simple. Definitely not a high speed ride, but it is educational/instructive.
For an "architectural" tour, ride down St. Charles Avenue from Audubon Park early on Saturday/Sunday morning is a nice 5-6 mile ride. Turn it into a rectangle by dropping over to Magazine Street and heading back to Audubon Park. Bring a camera. Magazine has some potholes and bumps that really narrow tires won't like, but nothing NY City riders wouldn't be able to handle.
The Tammany Trace Trail on the North Shore is one of the popular rides in the area. It's probably easier than you want.
If you want a "challenge", you can do the "dodge the cyclist" route down the river to Venice, one of the places fishermen/shrimpers work out of/base out of during the BP oil spill clean up. I say "dodge the cyclist" because of the narrowness of the road, limited shoulders and medium-very high truck traffic on the road from New Orleans to Venice. It's another 1-day there and 1-day back route unless you can do over 100 miles in a day.
Probably the most challenging single day ride in the area, distance-wise, would be to try to circumnavigate Lake Ponchatrain itself. GoogleMap it. It's been done but it's a challenge because of the need to take the bridge nearest Fort Pike (now closed by the State), the eastmost bridge across the Rigolettes at the point where the Lake meets the Gulf. Part of the challenge is trying to stay off Hwy 190 the natural east-west route on the NorthShore but it's a high traffic road. The alternates are on residential streets. Basically, the route is west out of New Orleans on LA61 to just shy of LaPlace, north on LA51, east along the NorthShore (numerous route possibilites depending on your tolerance for traffic/residential riding) to just past Slidell, southwest on Hwy 90 back to New Orleans.