Bridges, Bayous and Levees... Atchafalaya Basin - Southern loop

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by slartidbartfast, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    Just after Christmas on a clear, cold day, I took off and rode a short stretch of the road along one of the levees that contains waters in the Atchafalaya Basin. Today, inspired by that enjoyable trip, with equally gorgeous sunshine but much warmer temperatures, I undertook to complete the entire loop south of Interstate 10.

    The trip encompasses well over 100 miles of roads following the levees, a good portion of them being gravel or dirt.
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    #1
  2. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    My DR350 is well suited for the ride, being long-legged enough to handle the 50 miles of interstate to get there, and light enough to handle the dirt and occasional bit of grass or other excursions from the road.

    Interstate is always boring, especially in the flat-lands where there are no curves and no scenery. The best bit of I-10 in Louisiana is where it runs elevated for around 18 miles, crossing the Atchafalaya delta.
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    It was a relief to be off the interstate and onto the back roads, headed for Butte LaRose
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    Over the pontoon bridge, across the levee and onto Henderson Levee Road. I'll be following the levee for almost fifty miles
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    #2
  3. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    The first eighteen miles are blacktop, with the levee on the left and a swamp or bayou on the right. I'm not the only one out enjoying the glorious weather on two wheels.
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    I passed several groups of prisoners, decked out in traditional black and white stripes, mowing and collecting trash from the roadside. There were also lots of beehives every couple of miles. I didn't see many bees buzzing about them though - More on that later.
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    The asphalt ends just past the turning to Lake Fausse Point State Park. I turned in out of curiosity and at the gatehouse, had a fifteen minute pass stuffed into my hand. I am pleased I got to look around as it's a great location with picnic and camp sites, some really nice looking large cabins and a conference center of all things.
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    They told me the cabins are fully booked for every weekend through June - So much for the state of the economy!

    I had a good chuckle at this enormous redneck penis compensator.
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    Those stacks have to be at least ten times the required size - except they're not needed at all of course. This thing's like the big brother of a Honda Civic with a bean-can tailpipe... only having the added possibility of melting or setting fire to anything carried in the bed.
    #3
  4. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    Back on the levee road. It's dirt or gravel from here on.
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    I soon found a nice spot to stop for a snack. I'd brought a flask of tomato soup and a bag of cookies in the tank panniers.
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    More beehives - but I still didn't see any bees - or much of anything else. Only one vehicle went by while I chilled out and enjoyed the view over Lake Fausse
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    I had hoped to see lots of wildlife but I don't think I stopped for long enough to really look hard. I saw a few butterflies, flocks of birds and a number of great blue or white herons fishing in the ditches and swamps. Most of them ignored the sound of the bike going by but if I tried to stop or even slow enough for a decent photo they took of immediately. One had an enormous crawfish in its beak - which got away because of my presence.

    The road got steadily worse (or better, depending on your opinion.)
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    There were only a few places where I felt compelled to stand up, either to let the bike dance around under me in deep gravel, or for a couple of miles where the road was especially badly potholed.
    #4
  5. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    I found a boat launch, on the basin side of the levee, with a nice pier.
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    Pretty soon, I started to see fields on my right. Agriculture making it right up against the barrier, while the Atchafalya river is free to flood on the other side. It spoiled the feeling of solitude and being at least somewhat in the wilds.

    After nearly thirty miles of dirt, the road petered out
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    There is a road along the top of the levee all the way - and it continued from here. However, there are numerous signs reminding you that it belongs to the Corps of Engineers and mere plebs like us are not allowed to use it. I found a couple of spots where there were no signs and I suppose I COULD have pretended I didn't know and ridden on top of the levee for a few miles instead of alongside it - but I didn't take advantage of course :evil
    #5
  6. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    There were just a few miles away from the basin, to get to Morgan City, where I could cross the river and start up the levee road on the other side.

    It appears you don't need to have an antebellum plantation home to have gorgeous live-oaks in front of your house. Even some of the most beaten-up ramshackle trailer homes are surrounded by majestic trees, dripping with Spanish Moss
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    While cruising along quite happily at about 55, I suddenly caught site of a cloud of tiny specks in the air ahead. Before I could react, I was pelted with bees, taking several dozen "hits" in the space of a second or so. Well at least I know they're not all hiding in the hives.

    I pulled up a few hundred yards down the road the check whether any of the little critters had got down my neck or in my helmet. Unfortunately for the bees, my speed seemed to be just enough to finish them all off on impact. I scraped bee guts off my visor, jacket, camera and various bits of the bike, including the new seat.

    In no time at all, I had crossed the river at Morgan City and worked my way through the city and on to the Eastern levee road, Hwy 70.

    This is a great example of a typical S. Louisiana major river crossing, with several bridges adjacent to each other, one of them looking so rusty you'd swear it was about to fall down. In this case, the old bridge is still in use and on the other side is an equally rickety looking railway bridge, with an elevating center section.
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    #6
  7. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    I have driven Highway 70 out of Morgan City many times. It's much busier than any of the other basin levee roads and has a higher speed limit. With the sun on my back and the bike running well, I was just enjoying the ride.

    About fifteen miles north of Morgan City, Hwy 70 turns right and the continuance becomes Hwy 997, Bayou Pigeon Road. After a further twelve miles the blacktop road turns right, crossing the bayou. I took the dirt road following the levee of course.
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    The road soon turned to loose gravel. While I have ridden quite a bit of it at one time or another and never fallen, I still get occasional pucker moments. Not too far along, I came across an unexpectedly sharp curve and a gate leading me to the Bayou Sorrel Lock, where the Intracoastal Waterway (a busy shipping canal) crosses the levee
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    There is a bridge here, but it was open to allow a vessel to pass.
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    Unable to cross the waterway for an unknown time and not sure whether I was supposed to be here anyway, I turned around and rode back to where I had left the asphalt.
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    #7
  8. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    At this point, it was getting a bit late and I had already covered around 175 miles, so I left the basin behind and headed for home.

    On the way, passing through Plaquemine, I snapped a photo of another decaying old railway bridge that looks like it would never bear the weight of a train, yet somehow survives. This one swings up - or at least I assume it does, I don't recall ever actually seeing it open. The counterweight always fascinates me, as some of the holes in it have extra bits of concrete just stacked in them, presumably to adjust the balance. I wonder if they have to remove or add weight to account for all the rust.
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    The biggest bridge on my trip, I crossed a few hours earlier in the opposite direction. This is the bridge over the Mississippi at Baton Rouge. I guess the river is over 1/3 mile across here and from where the road leaves ground level on the West side to where it returns to the same level as other roads on the East is just over a mile.
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    You don't see this very often - A Hummer used for hauling anything more than a few schoolkids around. The tall building in the background is the Louisiana State Capitol building. It is the tallest State Capitol building. Constructed by Gov Huey P. Long during the Great Depression.
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    I arrived home just as I was beginning to think it was time to swap out my tinted faceshield. Perfect timing!

    225 miles altogether - and my new seat meant that I didn't spend the last 150 squirming, cursing, and standing up every couple of minutes to ease the discomfort. We don't experience too many days in Louisiana where the temperature is just right and the humidity tolerable so I was happy to have got out to ride during this one.
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    #8
  9. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    I hate to end a ride report on a sour note but during my ride, I couldn't help noticing the amount of trash accumulated in various places out in the basin. You would think that the people who come here to enjoy all that nature has to offer would be more considerate.
    Filthy pigs!
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    The roads and ditches are littered with beer cans and every place where someone could stop to enjoy the view, they have done so, while leaving every piece of disposable garbage they brought with them behind to spoil it for others. How f***ing stupid can you be?
    Filthy pigs!
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    Even worse, along quiet stretches of the blacktop roads, wherever there is a place with no residences near enough to possibly see (and a few places where there are), I encountered localized mounds of trash bags, old furniture, and the usual old appliances and tires. This is deliberate, premeditated dumping of household waste. I got so mad when I saw this, it almost ruined my day. It's not as if I haven't seen it before of course - In third world countries where there is no municipal sanitation!!!!!! Some people just don't deserve to live in a civilized country!
    Filthy pigs!
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    #9
  10. grizzzly

    grizzzly The Pre-Banned Version

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    you go into Mexico and you see that alot. and as there are more coming up here to work there is more of it here:cry in some areas it is just a cultural thing.
    #10
  11. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    I GUARANTEE there were no Mexicans involved in what I saw today
    #11
  12. Daryl A

    Daryl A Adventurer

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    Nice job. Ridden those same levee roads on a Concours, I'm sure at a much slower pace.

    I'm with you on the litter problem in this area. I live off a rural highway and the classless a**holes will come from somewhere else to dump their trash here.
    #12
  13. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    You might be surprised how slow I was going. The DR plods along nicely at about 40mph and just over 3500 rpm in top gear and that's all I was doing a lot of the time. I'm sure most other riders would have been doing 60+ in a cloud of dust but I just don't have the experience or confidence - on loose gravel especially.

    I think the "classless" will just leave their trash in their own yard. Collecting it up to dump in someone else's yard or alongside the highway is a whole other category of lowlife scum.
    #13
  14. ozarkrider

    ozarkrider Discombobulated Sociopath

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    I was born and raised in Baton Rouge and still have a lot of family on the west bank. My Mom was from Plaquemine and I remember that old railway bridge only being open only once. And it does swing up to let boat traffic through.
    My paternal grandfather use to work at the lock there in Plaquemine. The gates were opened and closed by hand using capstans. Way too much work.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I was down there over New Years to see my Dad buried in Brusly. Sad time, but had a good time visiting and driving over some old familiar roads.
    #14
  15. BluesCruiser

    BluesCruiser Adventurer

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    Sometime around 1925 my dad had a job in a sawmill on the Atchafalaya River. I have heard stories about it, but never really knew what it looked like. Thanks so much for the pics and the story!

    Dave
    #15
  16. AviatorTroy

    AviatorTroy Long timer

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    Thanks for that ride report, that struck a nerve with me for some reason. I just drove from FloriDUH to Austin TX last weekend for a little vaca time with the wifey and went right past your ride loop, so it was really cool to see what great local riding there is for the taking there if you just know how to find it.

    Also, I mean no offense whatsoever by this, but unfortunately, when I think of the deep south, I think of this, among other things....

    It all goes down to a system of education, of lack thereof, and general ignorance for what is acceptable in modern society.
    #16
  17. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Neat report :clap:clap:clap Been awhile since I've done that route. The Basin is a beautiful place. I was looking about Henderson yesterday in my daily ride about. :clap:clap
    #17
  18. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Love those blue pipes

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    It was perfect weather for a ride. It turned out to be a good route although I was honestly expecting it to feel a bit more remote. I had especially hoped to find spots where I could see more wildlife - Maybe should have gone along the top of the levee where I could see into the basin side most of the time. Need to find some more roads like that within easy distance of Baton Rouge - Any ideas?
    #18
  19. jonnyw

    jonnyw Been here awhile

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    If so I dont think it was a bunch of illegals.:lol3
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  20. RottVet

    RottVet Been here awhile

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    What a nice report on a place I knew nothing about, other than the name on that long bridge on I-10. Next time I am down there on my GS, I will go off interstate for awhile. Thanks!
    #20