Tuesday, August 27, 2019
The weather had stalled my plans to leave this past Saturday or Sunday to tackle both Arkansas and Louisiana. It as looking like I wouldn’t get a chance to ride until Wednesday late or Thursday. As Monday was coming to an end, the weather was looking pretty decent. A few patches where I might get wet, but the rain seemed to be spotty. I did a quick plan and got everything loaded to leave today after voting and when my bride took her aunt and the puppy out.
The goal for today was to get to Baton Rouge, the farther past there would make the rest of the trip easier and give me more time to sight-see along the way. But my first site was in Meridian, MS to visit a Doughboy. I left Florence and headed south through Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia, down through Russelville. Following familiar back roads through Hamilton, Sulligent, and Vernon, I wind my way to Columbus. From Columbus, I hit US-45 and head to Meridian. I find my way to the Doughboy and can only park behind for a picture of the bike and the statue. I get that picture and walk around to get a few more. Then I am back on the road.
I hit the interstate leaving Meridian, then exit north of Hattiesburg to head west to Sumrall,a sleepy little town in the south. School is out since this is an election day also in Mississippi. I pull into the Trent Lott Veteran’s Park for my picture of the Huey there. I grad a picture of the tank for my brother and ready to hit the road again. As I leave, I see people under pop-up tents doing some politicing with all the campaign signs out. They wave, I wave back and head toward Baton Rouge.
I stay mostly on back roads, avoiding the interstate as much as possible. I come into Central, AL from the east. I stop at a traffic light with the GPS telling me to turn left. I see the memorial less than a block away. I patiently wait my turn at the light, then pull into the parking lot. I notice that the parking lot is of the local Masonic Lodge. Shame that I was there on a Tuesday, they met yesterday. I could have had a great meal and met some Masonic Brothers. I make my way to the Tour of Honor Memorial and get my required picture. I add one of my poker chips as I see another rider has left one too.
I notice a much larger memorial area behind the Tour of Honor site and I make my way over to it. There are markers for different groups that have served, POW, women, and even “Service Animals.” Service Animals? I make a quick check and see that this isn’t on the list of K-9 memorials, but I get some pictures anyway. I’ll submit and see if this qualifies as finding a new site.
My next stop is the “Gold Star Family” memorial in Baton Rouge. I make a short ride on I-110 and exit at the Capitol Building. I follow the GPS directions, but seems that the GPS didn’t get the memo about restricted access roads around some government buildings. I loop a couple blocks around the Capitol, trying to make my way to the memorial. The memorial is in the park, off a walking trail. It is late enough in the day that there are few people around, most of them are walking in the park. I find a ramp to the bicycle path and pull the motorcycle on it just enough to get out of the way. I see the memorial just ahead. Do I ride the motorcycle to the site and risk police attention, or try my luck at a couple of pictures. I opt for the latter. I get a picture of the bike with the memorial in the distance and a closer picture of the memorial. I have never noticed before if the other Gold Star Family memorial have the state on one of the panels, but this one has the outline of Louisiana etched on one panel. A lady with her some ask if I want her to take my picture with the memorial, I graciously decline since it is getting dark and I want to get to the other side of Baton Rouge before too late.
I hop back on the interstate and head south east. Do I go to New Orleans or stop near Baton Rouge. I keep toying with the options and end up on I-10. I see a Sleep Inn at the next exit with a Cracker Barrel next door. I make the decision to call it a night. I get a bite to eat, checked in to my room, and start my plans for tomorrow. I brought along a miniature bottle of The Macallan, that helps to sooth the soul.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Rough night last night. Seems that a couple checked into the hotel about midnight and didn’t use the elevators to bring their metal trunks upstairs. Instead, they decided to drag the damned things up the stairs and down the hallway. I was the lucky person who was across the hall from them. Did I mention that the desk clerk this morning mentioned that they had eleven trunks! I think they were drunk from all the giggling going on too. Anyway…
I had done research and looked over various options for today. Grand Isle was the primary target for today. If I got no other site, that was the one to visit. Doing my planing last night, I decided to scrap the Huey in Slidell and the Doughboy in New Orleans. My plan is to go to Grand Isle, Elton, Ville Platte (for a Huey), Marksville, then in to Alexandria, LA for the night.
There is only one road in to Grand Isle, and that same road out. And there is no direct route to that road. I leave Baton Rouge and head toward New Orleans. Serious construction delays slow me down. I watch the ETA on the GPS go from 9:30, to 10:00, I really start to panic when I see 11:30. And the heat on the interstate is awful when stopped.
Suddenly, the traffic is flowing like there was never a problem. The ETA settles on 10:15 and I take that as a challenge. I exit I-10 and head toward Houma. Soon I am on the one set of roads that lead to Grand Isle. I know that I will soon be leaving civilization for a while, and decide to top off the tank before heading on the toll road. I ask the clerk how much is the toll. “$3.50, $3.75, or $4.00, not really sure. Also not sure if you have to pay both ways.” Thanks. I but 4 $1’s in my outer pocket with a pair of quarters. I have two of the three tolls covered with exact change.
I head south to Leeville and soon reach the toll booth, $3.75. “Keep the change” as I roll on down. Luckily only have to pay when heading to Grand Isle. The road to Grand Isle is similar to the road to Key West, FL, a cross between an elevated highway and a bridge. Speeding isn’t much of a plan with the cross winds coming in, so I maintain posted speeds. There isn’t a lot of traffic and I admire the view. Unlike the road to Key West, there is very little signs of life along this stretch.
I reach Grand Meadows and turn left to reach Grand Isle. A short stretch of 45 then huge signs warning of strict enforcement of 25mph. 5 miles to go, but it is rather quaint, I decide to not test how strict they may be. GPS is now telling me that my ETA is 10:15 and to “exit the road in 1 mile.” I continue straight and see the parking lot next to the memorial. I pull in a get some pictures. I finally made it here! I thought this would be one of the hardest for me to reach this year and it has proven to true. Next target is Elton, LA!
I retrace my tracks toward Houma. I look at the clock and see that I will be near Cut Off about 11:00am. I had been told about a diner in Galiano named Kajun Twist where I had to stop. I put the address in the GPS and soon I am in a near empty parking lot about 11:15am. I beat the lunch crowd, but there are still people here. This cute little place is only one 11:00am until 2:00pm. A small menu of everyday items, but the daily specials are on the chalkboard. I am not a guy that likes things spicy and I am still trying to keep my weight in check, so I order the shrimp salad. A huge salad covered with popcorn shrimp. It tasted better than it looked, and it looked great.
I asked the waitress about a memorial park in town that I had been told about. Seems that everyone in the place was excited to tell me all about it, each with differing directions. But they all agreed, “if you get to the stop light, you have gone too far!” The owner comes out and asks if I have heard of the Tour of Honor. I laugh and hand him a poker chip with my Tour of Honor number. I said I had been referred to his place by Dave (and he joined in with Friedrich!). He joined me for a bit until my lunch came out. He was so excited to learn that someone came because of Dave’s recommendation. I enjoyed my lunch, paid, and ready hit the road.
I follow the sorted directions of the clientele at Kajun Twist and find the memorial park. I had ridden right past here on the way to Grand Isle and never noticed it. I pull in and to walk around for a few minutes. I still have a tight timeline to follow, as well as I am now watching rain developing in spots to the north.
Finally back on the road and heading northwest. Next stop is Elton, LA. I need to make up for traffic from this morning, my long lunch stop, and my extra visit at the memorial park. Though not all interstates, I am making for for lost time. I get on I-10 at Lafayette and head west. I keep thinking about Little Feet when I see I am heading toward Lake Charles, LA. I exit I-10 before getting to Lake Charles and have a short trip to Elton. I keep watching the radar and the skies. I might be able to pass between two storm cells, but I might get REAL wet. I reach Elton and not traffic on this little road. I get my pictures and ready to hit the road. Suddenly, bumper to bumper traffic in both directions at 45 mph! Where did all this traffic come from? I need to make a left, but decide to make the turn to the right and tackle one lane at a time. I go a few blocks then turn left onto a side street to circle the block. I make a right this time, pass the memorial and take off.
I get to the main intersection and pull into the gas station. Clouds are real dark ahead of me, radar shows a strong storm cell just a head of me, but it may be dying out. A clap of thunder and a flash of lightning causes me to wait for a few more minutes. You can feel the rain coming. I don my rain suit and prepare to head to my next stop.
As I start back on the road, I am met with rain about a mile ahead. Not real hard, but hard enough that I am glad I am wearing my rain suit. Radar keeps showing it should be ending soon. As I pull into the parking spot near the Huey in Ville Platte, the rain has stopped. I get a picture and look over my route.
The rain has set me back. I am wet and tired. At least my belly is still full from the lunch at Kajun Twist. I call my bride and ask her to make a reservation in Alexandria for me. I’ll scrap Marksville tonight since the rain storm is moving that direction. I hop on the interstate and in about an hour I am in a dry hotel room, just beating the rain.
Day 2 is in the books and I have visited Grand Isle.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
I spent most of last evening looking at several options. I want to get to Monroe for the night. From there, it is a comfortable, but full, day ride home. I am close enough to El Dorado, AR that I can visit that particular Tour of Honor site, making it a lot easier to finish Arkansas later. If I go to El Dorado, I might as well make the trip to Texarkana to visit a Doughboy site. I also have to backtrack to visit Marksville, which I missed yesterday.
I think I have it all worked out now.
- Backtrack to Marksville (LA-5)
- Jonesboro (LA-4)
- Shreveport (LA-6)
- Texarkana Doughboy
- El Dorado, AR (AR-2)
- Huey in Ruston, LA
- Stop of the night in West Monroe
I head back down the interstate to Marksville. I find the memorial in the parking lot of the casino. I wind my way through the parking lot to find an opening in the barricades to ride closer to the memorial. I park fairly close and get a few pictures. I see the security guard driving through the lot, almost like he is trying to find an opening to come to ask me to move. I finish up my task before he can get to me. I am out of the lot and on my way.
I stop for gas before leaving Marksville. I see a broken wagon wheel with an historical marker. I ask the attendant at the gas station about the marker. The story is that the original founder of the town was traveling westward when his wagon broke. He and his family decided to settle in the area.
My make my goals on Jonesboro. So much zig-zagging back and forth today, but this stretch of back roads are beautiful. Weather is fantastic! I pull into Jonesboro a little before lunch and can park enough close to get a few pictures.
Time to hit the interstate. I take I-20 into Shreveport and follow the GPS directions to the American Legion. Every now and then, being able to think quickly helps. The GPS wants me to turn onto a street, but I see the entrance to pull into the parking lot. I park close to the memorial and get my pictures. From here I can see the interstate, I could have almost seen the park from the interstate if I had been a little taller in the saddle. I enjoy the solitude for a few minutes before heading out.
I head out north on I-49 from Shreveport. Speed limits are 70 and 75 along this stretch. I enjoy the higher speeds for a while, until I notice the low fuel light. The area is pretty desolate, I pass a few exits with no signs of gas nearby. I decide I need to turn on the bike’s GPS to find me a gas station. I leave the interstate at the next exit and head back south. As I near the previous exit, the bike’s GPS tells me to turn around. I have gone 15 miles now. I go back 10 miles (along the road I was just on) and turn left to head to the next town. Another 10 miles up the road and I find a gas station. I pull in and gas up. I follow the Garmin GPS to get back on track. I rejoin the interstate at the exit after the one I used to start my search for gas. This exit is a mile from the previous exit. I mention all that to tell you that there is a truck stop with plenty of gas at this interchange.
Back on the road I head to Texarkana. I follow the directions and start to wonder where I am going. I head along several train tracks, through an industrial area, then through the train yard. I am about to give up and make a U-turn when I see a cemetery ahead. I continue into the cemetery and along the center road are markers for veterans. at the far end, there is the grave for Mr Otis Henry and his mother. Two angels flank a young man ready to enter the business world, with a Doughboy standing guard above them. I take a few pictures and slowly ride out, paying attention to the markers and reading the plaque for the Rose Hill Cemetery.
I make a few turns through town and find myself on US-82, which takes me right to El Dorado, AR. Light traffic, great weather, and open roads, what can be better? All good things just come to an end. As I enter El Dorado, US-82 turns to bypass downtown and I am now on Business-82, which is stopped. I see several traffic lights ahead, none seem to be timed to a smooth traffic flow. I inch my way through town and make the turn toward the Community Center. The parking lot is full and I wait for a spot to open up. I soon have a parking spot for the bike, though not as close as I would like. I take a picture of the bike and walk over to the memorial. This is a memorial with part of the World Trade Center. I take a few pictures and a video on the phone. I have to redo the video since the first was a bit too emotional.
I pack the camera and everything back on the bike. Based on how far it is to get to Monroe and that the other sites for today are bonus sites, I decide to just head to the hotel. I look over the map and see that there are several hotels with restaurants nearby, a welcome change. I make a reservation and hit the road.
Quick trip to West Monroe, but I am still tired. I have seen some great places today, weather has been pleasant, light traffic overall, and I am now safe in the hotel. The one local place that was not a chain is now closed, so I pick a place that I don’t have at home. I end my evening making my routing plans for tomorrow.
Friday, August 30, 2019
I scaled the route to include a K-9 memorial which is about 10 miles south west, and Winnsboro (LA-7) which is about 30 miles south east. I leave the hotel and stop as the gas station across the road. I look over the route and make the decision to just do Winnsboro to finish all the Tour of Honor sites in Louisiana. Though I want to visit another K-9, I would rather just get home. I adjust the route to only include Winnsboro and home. Fueled up and off I go.
I hit the interstate and make the quick ride east to my exit toward Winnsboro. Morning before traffic and schools, the road is all mine! Slow, winding curves, clear skies, 75 degrees! I ride through town and see the turn into the park. I pass the memorial before I realize where it was. I find a place to turn around and park as close as I can. “No Parking” signs abound, but the place is deserted and I ignore them to get a few quick pictures.
I make my way back to the interstate and it is still early. As I approach Jackson, MS, it is nearing morning rush. I decide to hope on the Natchez Trace to bypass Jackson. As I near I-55, I need to get one more tank of gas to make it home. I decide that I might as well stay on the Trace since it is only a few miles from the house. I set the cruise just over 50 mph (speed limit on the Trace is 50 mph), and just relax. I enjoy the deer, turkeys, a beaver, even a hedgehog or two. No pictures since I would have to stop, get out the camera, and they would scatter if I did that. I need to get a camera to mount on the bike similar to a GoPro for times like this.
I cross the Tennessee River and make the exit for Florence. This stretch of road gives me a chance to open up the bike on last time. I’ll not post the top speed as it might be used against me in a court of law, just saying…
DONE! I have visited all seven of the Tour of Honor memorials in Louisiana. I also added another ToH site from Arkansas, making that state easier to complete. So, my tally with these last few days:
- 8 Tour of Honor sites (7 in Louisianna, 1 in Arkansas)
- 2 Doughboy sites
- 2 Huey/Cobra sites
- 1 Gold Star Family memorial
- 1 denied K-9 memorial (acually for “Service Animals” and was reviewed as not meeting the goal of honoring K-9’s.
- and I completed another state, making this a total of 7 states completed.
I still have two months to complete a few more states by the October 31 deadline. I want to finish Arkansas in the next couple of weeks. Kentucky, Illinois, Virginia, DC, and Maryland are also on my list to complete this year. Might try to add Ohio and West Virginia. So many sites and so little time. Guess another Tour of Honor Iron Butt may be on tap.