2020 Tour of Honor – Louisiana Ride

August 4

Got up REAL early, had a cup of coffee and my leftover breakfast from yesterday. I already had the bike packed last night, so I was out the door shortly after 7am. A quick stop to top off gas and I was rolling!

I wasn’t expecting any new roads until after Gadsden, but I got a surprise. A truck was across the road with both front tires and back tires in the ditches. He apparently had tried to make a turn off the side road onto US278, but didn’t make it. There were only a few cars in front of me, so I passed them and turned onto the road the truck had come from. The GPS said that I could make that turn and be back on the main road in just over a mile, off I went! The road made a sharp turn to the right, but the GPS pointed for me to go straight. That road turned to gravel and looked like it was someone’s driveway, I wasn’t taking that chance. I kept a watch for a road where I could make a turn, but no luck. I came to another biker who was heading in the opposite direction. I asked if there was a way out in the direction I was heading. He said that he was also trying to get around that truck. I wound my way for about 20 minutes and finally came out back on US278, only a few miles from where I had made my turn. I think that the truck may have already been cleared of the road. Oh well, I did find a neat new road.

I made my turn onto AL77 and took off for LaFayette where the K9 Memorial was located. I had tried to find this one earlier this year, but was on the wrong road. I got to try out my skills on a loose gravel road. Not something that I am great at, but the BMW handles it a lot better than the Harley did. Someone had left a poker chip, so I tossed one of mine to the marker.

I exit the way I entered and made my way to Auburn University. There is another K9 Memorial at the Veterinary school. Someone had left a poker chip here too, so I added mine to the collection.

My stop for the night is Mobile, and no planned stops along the way. I hop on I85 and head to Montgomery. Traffic is moving, except for a lane closure due to a fire in the median. Speed picks up quickly from there. I make the turn onto I65 from Montgomery. A few minutes into the ride here, traffic slows to a crawl. About 30 minutes later, we finally see what has been the problem. It looks like a small mobile home had caught fire and was being towed down the interstate. And from the back, it looked like it had been hit too, since the front looked smashed in on one side. They made the exit from the interstate and we were rolling at full speed.

Originally, I had planned to get to Mobile shortly after 4:00pm. With the detour on US278 and the slow stretch on I65, it was after 5pm when I pulled into the hotel. Tamika was outside on a smoke break when I pulled up. She commented that she hadn’t seen me in a while and thought that I didn’t like them anymore. She said that she didn’t remember seeing my name on the reservation list. We chat outside for a few minutes while I make my reservation. Then I tell her that I now have a reservation and that I was making it while we talked.

I walked over to the Mexican place nearby. Fajita salad and a margarita for supper. The salad was one of the best that I have had. There was a lot more meat that on usual salads, and not overloaded with lettuce. I would put this margarita in the top three. Good flavor, not over powering of either lime or tequila. I will have to have one here again when I visit new time.

Did a review of my route for tomorrow. I may cut out one site, but it will still be a long day.

August 5

Up early and on the road. Topped off the gas in the bike and was rolling by 6:30am. This gave me the incentive to get past New Orleans’ morning traffic. The route didn’t get me close enough to downtown for that it be a major concern, but there was a little traffic. Once past New Orleans, I saw a sign about road construction. I thought it was 6 plus miles. The “plus” part was three decimal points! No, that can’t be right, My eyes are playing tricks on me. A few miles up the road, I see a construction sign for 3.7 miles. Ok, I can see tenths of a mile, I have seen that before. A little while later, I see a sign for construction for 3.087 miles. I slow down to make sure I saw that right. I did. The question I have is: Who in their right mind is going to try to be that specific in the distance of construction. That is a thousandth of a mile, about 5 feet!

I get into Houma, LA and head to the K9 memorial. GPS tells me it will be on my left. I notice a series of memorials on my right, but nothing but a vacant lot on my left. I park on the side of the road and walk along the various memorials. I see the K9 memorial on the side of the street where I am parked, the opposite side from where the GPS coordinates have me looking. (I sent a note to Eric and he has updated the GPS coordinates on the website for others.)

I make my way to Cut Off, LA and the Veterans’ Memorial there. I had visited this site last year, even though it was not on the list of sites. I drop off a poker chip and get some pictures.

The roads in southern Louisiana are pleasant. Hard to keep talking about nice roads, I feel like I have used so many of the superlatives. From Cut Off to Thibodaux, it was mostly a backtrack from getting to Cut Off. From Thibodaux, I spent time in farm land, small towns, all while avoiding interstate. I get the Plaquemine and a Sherriff pulls out of a parking lot and follows me at a distance. As I make each turn to the memorial, he gets closer. As I approach the memorial, he is directly behind me. I pull into the parking lot of the memorial and find a Huey. The Sherriff makes a turn and heads out to another part of town. I park under the Huey for a picture, then walk over and preview the memorial. I see that I can park on the street in front of the memorial, though it isn’t the exact same angle of the sample picture of the Tour of Honor. They did accept my photo, so I must have done good enough.

I see the time and I would be trying to get into downtown Baton Rouge as people are starting to leave. I expect that there will be too much traffic and I scrap that site, heading to Ville Platte’s Huey. I passed up on this site last year due to a storm. This year, I get to the site THEN find the storm.

I stopped to top off the gas before hitting the interstate. I see the skies darkening. I see a gap in the dark clouds and hope that the road will get me into that gap. As I hit the interstate, I know that I am going to get wet. I stop to put on my rain jacket, then ride into the rain. The rain lasts only 5 to 10 minutes, then the skies are clear. But the rain is following me. I decide to get to the hotel and see what the storm does.

The storm never hit the hotel, but not sure if it hit Alexandria. Doing the planning for tomorrow, I see that the Huey in Pineville is only available from 9am to 5pm. I would have missed it today anyway, and I will be long gone before 9am tomorrow. I decide to add Ball’s Huey and the LA1 (Alexandria) to the previously planned route for tomorrow. I run into a problem in that none of the cables will work to program the GPS. I manually remove the previous route and recreate the new route on the GPS. The biggest advantage is that I can hit interstate avoidance on and off as I want.

August 6

I was up early and ready to hit the road. I had a lot of sites on the list to visit and I didn’t have time to waste.

I already knew that I was not going to visit the Pineville Huey since it was at the museum which would not open until 9am. I don’t plan to be anywhere near Pineville at 9am.

I made the short ride to Ball, LA to visit the Huey at the Veterans Park. No real place to park, so I just stopped on the edge of the road. I got a few pictures and a guy from the local town government asked if I was out of gas. I explained what I was doing and gave him a poker chip. He told me about a new memorial that they had recently dedicated. I got a quick picture, then headed out.

I made the ride to downtown Alexandria. This memorial is at the police department. Several markers with “End of Watch”. Not often I get to park in front of a police department, ON PURPOSE! I enjoyed this but left before the shift change or people started asking questions.

Oddest “round-a-bout” that I passed through. Sort of a round-a-bout, but one road enters at 55+ and others must yield to them. Only way to resolve this would be to add a stop-light.

I had set the GPS to avoid interstates. I spent all day enjoying the back roads of Louisiana. I have seen deer on this trip than I can remember.

I saw one Cobra today that really has fallen into disrepair. Between rust, moss, and a door broken off, it needs some TLC. There was an M-60 tank that was in much better condition.

On the ride today, the GS starting doing crazy things. At first, I thought that there was some sort of electro-magnetic interference, but that would have impacted other items. When I stopped, I cleaned the screen and rebooted the phone. Things were better the rest of the day.

I was on a mission to visit the K9 memorial in West Monroe. The GPS had me turning, then it started recalculating and the time to next site added about 45 minutes. I then realized that I had passed the memorial. I turned around and headed back to the site. At first, I thought that this was at a church, as I was leaving, I realized it was at a library, named for the handler.

My last stop of the day was at Monroe Tour of Honor site. This was at a museum. I got a few pictures, then went inside. I wished that I had more time to explore, but it has been a long day and I am ready to get some rest.

I checked into the hotel and parked next to the room. This was different from my hotels that last year or so since this has doors to the outside, not doors all in a hallway. I unloaded the bike, made a call home, and relaxed a few minutes.

I went back to Froghead Grill for supper. I got a chicken walnut salad, then had the brownie sensation for dessert. Once I finished the dessert, a family walked past and asked if it was as good as it looked. They mentioned that they did not expect me to finish it. I told them it was fantastic and I only finished it because I wasn’t a quitter!

August 7

My last night on the road, and I get my best night sleep. I was out last night about 10:30. I woke up at 5:30 for a bit, then finally awake enough about 6:30 to get moving. Since the bike was right outside my room, I took my time about loading it. Once loaded, I walked to the office to check out. I topped off the fuel across the street from the hotel, then hit the road.

Less than 2 miles from the hotel to the Natchez Trace. Too many people feel that once you have ridden the Trace, there is no reason to keep riding it. For those with that opinion, they are not looking at the right thing.

There was little traffic in my direction, once past Jackson, there was a few miles with a long stream of cars heading into Jackson. I think that the roads are going to be empty, then I see 6 police cars from various areas along the side of the road. There were 2 pickups, and a LOT of skid marks in the road. There were about 15 people (not counting the police) standing on the side of the road. One of the police officers had a video drone and was viewing the skid marks. I assume everyone was ok since there was were not any ambulances.

Thinking that one police incident deserved another, an hour or so later, there were 2 police cars which had 2 other cars on the side road. As I rode past, one person was being guided into the back seat of one car, and another customer was waiting with his hands behind his back.

Those two incidents were the extent of all the police that I saw today. But there was plenty of wildlife. I have seen fawns and does this entire trip. Today I saw a few turkeys, vultures, and some other large birds. There were a few carcasses of other critters.

Leaving this morning, the temps were right at 70 degrees. In the sun, it was great. I forgot that once I got on the Trace that there would be a lot of shade, which meant it would be a bit chilly. Not unbearable or requiring me to stop to put on a long sleeve shirt, but cool enough to notice. The temps today topped in the mid 80’s.

The skies were mostly clear, a few clouds to just add some color. The trees and farms kept the air so crisp. It is hard to explain how beautiful it was.

I was getting 57mpg before I exited the Trace. Then I picked up speed to get home. Total time from Clinton to home was about 5hours, that included the time to fill up when I got to the Circle K.