Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Opelousas, LA to DeRidder, LA
86 miles (1627 total miles)

We had a long day, 86 miles, but thanks to the flat terrain, calm winds, and cloud cover most of the day, we made good time. In fact, we averaged 12.4 mph, way better than we've done yet. We started out on some very back roads with very litle traffic, and went past miles of fields under water. They looked a bit like the catfish ponds we'd seen, but seemed much shallower. Finally, we saw a boat trawling by in one of them, picking up these cones which had baskets underneath, spaced evenly apart, and dumping the contents into a container on the boat. We still couldn't tell what the contents were, but the man was too far away to ask. We saw several other similar fields that morning as well, and finally we lucked out - a fisherman was right by the road with his boat and some of his catch. His name was Randy Boucher (sp?) and he was very kind to answer all our questions and let us take pictures. What he was harvesting were crawfish. He baits the baskets with a little cut-up fish and the crawfish crawl in. He said he netted 60-80 bags (see picture below) a day and they bring about $60 a bag. We were pleased to have found all that out so easily. He also told us that some of the flooded fields were rice paddies and we got some pictures of those.

The other highlight of the day was our first encounter with other touring bicyclists! We had hoped we'd finally see some other bikers when we started using the Adventure Cycling routes instead of our own, and sure enough, when we came into Mamou, LA, we saw two other loaded bikes coming towards us. Their riders were happy to see us too, and we stopped to exchange cards and stories. They were Tim and Ann Moe from Wisconsin and they were doing the Southern route starting from San Diego, CA and going to Florida. They're touring the way one's supposed to, taking their time and sight-seeing along the way, instead of the crazy way we're doing it. But we may yet slow down after we hit the Pacific - we'll see. We had another photo op with the major of Oberlin, the town where we had lunch. He heard from one of the folks in the restaurant with whom we were chatting, that we were doing a cross-country trip and came over and introduced himself as we were leaving.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. We saw some horse ranches, some rivers, some canoe rental places, lots of wildflowers, and lots of birds. I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw several egrets and some other herons, and that when we went past one of the large bayous (might have been the Morganza Spillway, I forget), we saw a lot of big white birds (must have been egrets, but I couldn't tell) nesting half-way up the trees! Today, though we saw hundreds of egrets, ibis, and herons - they flocked to those water-filled fields in large numbers. It was hard to take pictures of them since they were already fairly far from the road and tended to fly off by the time I got my camera out and zoomed in enough. We saw some birds that looked like egrets in a field of cows. (Sarah verified that they were egrets.) We also saw and heard several other smaller birds flitting around all day. At one point, in a rare wooded area, there was a raucous chorus of different birds chattering together in the trees.

We were also entranced by all the wildflowers by the roadside. There were always some flowers beside the road, a few irises and roses, but mostly daisies, four-o'clocks, thistles (the thistles here were still vicious-looking but a lot prettier and pinker than the ones we'd seen earlier), and various other yellow and purple flowers. Pat's daughter, Sarah, and her mother-in-law, Sue, both did extensive research on the purple mystery flower we put up yesterday but came up with different answers. Sarah did conclusively identify the delicate pink flower as a Showy Evening Primrose and the white spiky flower as a Spider Lily. All the flower names below are courtesy of Sarah, as well.

We went somewhat north-west today, ending in DeRidder, LA, and the further north we went, the woodsier and hillier it got (not by much though). We saw pine trees again and pine logging trucks. We got to our motel by 5:15, having left at 7:45 this morning, putting in just over 7 hours of bike time.

The mysterious water-filled fields - the dots are the tops of baskets

A fisherman dumps the contents of one of the baskets into his boat

We meet Randy who explains the whole operation to us

The paddle on Randy's boat

The baskets the crawfish crawl into

Bags of just-caught crawfish

A few escapees in the boat

A rice field

A drained rice field ready for planting

A dry field

A partly-drained field with wildflowers near the road

The ibis love the water and the food in it!

The early morning road - flat!

Another splash of wildflowers by the road

A horse ranch

A cattle ranch with egrets for company

We come into the town of Mamou...

and meet Tim and Ann, from Wisconsin

A mural on the side of the restaurant where we ate lunch in Oberlin

Pat hob-nobs with the Oberlin mayor, Phil Beard (who doubles as a pharmacist)

The Calcasieu River, looking very dry and sandy

The afternoon road was woodsier

There were several canoe rental places in one spot

The Ouiska Chitto River where canoers put in

Goldenrod or asters


Green Thread

Lyre Leaf Sage

One of the prettier thistles

A large swath of daisies