WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)
Avinger to Port Barre
Subject: Wanderlust 30 - Bayou Darbonne, Louisiana
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1999 07:20:18 -0700

        Two thousand one hundred eighty seven blueberry plants produce a lot of berries. We didn't stand a chance. We ate and ate and ate until Robert's beard turned blue (really! there are pictures!), but still they ripened faster than we could pick them. I thought Herb was going to be cleaned out when he offered "all you can eat or carry". Not a chance.
        The First Annual Texas Blueberry BlastRallyBlowout is history, and so are around 100 pounds of berries. About 60 or so people showed up - the many dogs running around didn't sign in, but it was a fun, festive, and feisty time. Thanks again to Herb and Wilma, and to Herb's brother (I hate it when I forget names, but I did) who cooked a 20 gallon pot of jambalaya stirring with a canoe paddle.
        An impromptu awards ceremony gave me the 1st prize as the longest distance rider to attend. Since there were no actual prizes, we decided I could keep myself as the prize. But then the next four (impromptu) prizes were awarded to women ... and *they* decided they would keep me as the prize also. It was fun for a while, but when they started arguing about which order they would take 'their prize', then started making a schedule ... I admit I did get a wee bit concerned. I could envision the scene from the movie Little Big Man where a proud Indian boasts "I have a wife and four horses". Little Big Man, bemused at himself for this is a monogamous tribe, responds "I have a horse and four wives". Thank you Helen, Cissy, Julie, and Karen for the best night that never happened :)
        One more anecdote to show how laid back a group this was, about 10:30 at night Herb got a message from one of the campers. "Herb, one of the toilets is stuck. And, oh, by the way, my wife went for a walk in the blueberries about an hour before sundown, and she isn't back yet ..." Shortly after the blueberry rescue squad raced off in a golf cart, the Avinger police pulled in with the 'missing person'.

        It is getting to be that when I am more than two days off the bike I start feeling withdrawal pains. Maybe it is just my bottom readjusting to non-saddle shaped chairs ... but ride I must and so I did. A short hour later (less if I had been 'driving Texan' but it was too pleasant to rush), yet another magic state boundary was crossed. A quarter mile past Welcome to Louisiana, there were greenwater swamps with broad bottom cypress interspersed with oil derricks. Maybe these state lines do make some sense after all.
        The AAA tour book description of California starts "California is a state of mind ...", but I've seen that apply time and time again to many states. And minds. Texas is up, active, moving, happening. Louisiana is laissez faire, happily slow, relaxed. Rolling down the Texas 2-lane, you pass enterprising men setting up trucks full of bulging watermelons on a hot holiday. You pass a teenage girl in short shorts and white bobby socks (I didn't know bobby socks were still popular) energetically washing the family car. You even pass a dozen vultures roosting on a deer carcass, having their own food festival.
        Luzian, by contrast, is not only listening to a different drummer, it is a slow drum roll. Old ladies sit on porches fanning themselves. Patrons at the gas stop saunter along the shaded path to the clerk rather than the direct route in the sun. Even the vultures have dragged their find into the bush to avoid the heat. Time is graceful here.
        Business road signs remind me of a common southern practice, but one that I associate with Louisiana. Some men here have initials ... but no name. The sign says C.L. Smith, or W.B. "dub" James (dub, short for double-u). The manager at one of my first jobs was W.L. Jacobs, also known as Dub, who was from Baton Rouge and really had no name, just initials.

        With all the moisture in the air, afternoon thunderstorms are common. It was fun to sprint through a couple of small cloudbursts, picking up the feet and tucking the head behind the windscreen, not dressed for water but not getting wet. If you go fast enough on a bike, especially a BMW with a fairing, you only get wet when you stop. But sometimes the clouds sneak up on you. I was looking up at a dark cloud while riding to gauge whether I should stop and let it pass, face shield slightly open, when suddenly it cut loose with thumb-sized rain drops. The first one went right up my nostril and liked to wash out my ears from the inside. (Good thing I wear ear plugs. :) I mean I almost choked trying to woof that back out. I've heard that turkeys are stupid enough to drown while trying to drink in a heavy rain ... all I was doing was looking, but I felt like a turkey anyway.
        Louisiana road sign: It is illegal to track mud on the highway.

        So here I sit at the edge of a channel to the Atchafalaya River, in the heart of Cajun country, at the home of Bud - another IBMWR long rider, watching small green puffer lizards blow red sacks on their neck, tropical birds competing with singing insects for claim to the quiet. What a long strange trip this has been. It is life by motorcycle. It feels good.

        "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest ... The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel until you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once - somewhere - far away - in another existence perhaps ... I got used to it afterwards."
        - Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) Russian-born English writer

Mine is the river of the black ribbon of road.

FuelPlus 273 miles, 5:19 hours 52 mph average
Avinger TX49 LA2 LA1 US71 LA1 US71 LA29 LA182 US190 Port Barre

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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