Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cajun Country

Texas Longhorn
After riding across most of Texas, we finally took a decent photo of a Texas Longhorn. 

Rice Field with Crawfish Traps
We took Saturday off in Deridder, Louisiana and on Sunday we rode to Mamou, past numerous rice fields.   This being Sunday in the Bible Belt, we had our main meal at noon, fried chicken at a gas station/convenience store/restaurant.  While at the gas station I asked about the traps in the back of an old pickup truck.  The traps were for crawfish.  For the next two days we saw crawfish traps in many of the flooded rice fields.  Mamou is known as the center for Cajun Music but on Sunday everything was closed.  The next day our plan was to ride to Simmesport but strong head winds blowing unobstructed across the rice fields slowed us down so we spent the night outside Bunkie and rode to Simmesport the following day.  On the road we passed through Chicot State Park, where we first saw cypress trees growing in a small lake. 
Cypress Tress

White Hall Plantation House
The motel in Simmesport was less than pleasant and we were glad to leave, walking across a bridge with no shoulders over the Atchafalaya River.  Much of the land east of the Atchafalaya River is protected from the Mississippi River by a 15 foot levy.  East of the Atchafalaya River we passed the White Hall Plantation, built in 1849, one of several on the route to St. Francisville. 

St. Francis Episcopal Church
We also rode past St. Stephens Episcopal Church and Cemetery.  The church and cemetery were consecrated in 1859.  The church was constructed of hand made bricks.  The stained glass windows were made in England.  The Confederate Monument was erected and dedicated in 1904.   At lunchtime we spotted a sign pointing to the Old River Landing on the riverside of the levy.  The simple restaurant was built on floatation devices and anchored by poles 20 feet high at the edge of the “Old Mississippi River”.   During one of the frequent floods along the river, the course of the river moved a few miles eastward.  Most of the structures along this section of the river are either elevated permanently or on floatation devices.  After a simple lunch and a delightful conversation with some of the locals, we continued on through New Roads and across the new bridge over the Mississippi River.
Confederate Monument at St. Francis Cemetery 
Elevated Trailer Along Mississippi River

Restaurant on Floatation Devices Along Old Mississippi River
Crossing the Mississippi River at New Roads
The ferry across the Mississippi River closed after completion of the new bridge.  The old Adventure Cycling route, which used the ferry, now bypasses St. Francisville, but we chose to stay in St. Francisville and visit some of the sites.  

Myrtle's Plantation House
The following morning we visited the Myrtle's Plantation, the site of several murders and thought by some to be haunted.  

Central Hall of Myrtle's Plantation House
Oakley Plantation House
In the afternoon we visited the Oakley Plantation House where John James Audubon worked as a tutor and drew some of his bird sketches.  Although often thought of as a naturalist, he actually shot the birds and used wires to position the birds for his sketches.  The house itself was very interesting, clearly having been built with louvers along the south facing porch for maximum comfort during the hot, humid Louisiana summers.  After a short ride to Jackson, we stayed in the charming Old Centenary Inn and enjoyed a steak dinner at a local restaurant.  The following day we rode past the Clinton Courthouse, built in1840.
Clinton Courthouse
Confederate Monument at Clinton Courthouse
Louisiana Logging Truck
Much of the route through central Louisiana is on country roads through the forests, some native and others carefully planted for timber. The lumber and paper appear to be the main businesses in rural Louisiana and we saw many logging trucks on the road.  Most of the logging trucks gave us plenty of room when they passed us but the road shoulders were littered with branches and small logs that had fallen from the truck. 

Guest Cottage in Poplarville
Our plan was to take Easter Sunday off in Bogalusa.  Unfortunately the motel and the area in general were less than pleasant, so we crossed into Mississippi and rode to Poplarville just ahead of a violent thunder, hale and lightning storm.  We stayed in a guest cottage behind a residence and were even invited by the owner for wine that evening.  We took the following day off and yesterday rode 70 miles to St. Martin, just above Biloxi.  Today it rained heavily in the morning so we stay at the motel, working on laundry, routes and the blog.  The forecast for tomorrow is improving so hopefully we can move on to Bayou La Batre in Alabama.

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