Opelousas, LA to St. Francisville, LA
853 ft of climbing
Opelousas gave us both some much needed sleep and good meals. Chris got almost eleven hours and I wasn't far off from that myself.
We woke with high hopes of having a big day. I didn't want expectations to be too great but we talked about St. Francisville. St. Francisville was approximately 112 miles from Washington, on the map, and as it turned out, we were almost nine miles off route in Opelousas.
We started with a giant breakfast. I had a shrimp and crawfish omelet and blueberry pancakes. Yum, yum. My Cajun omelet was excellent!
We pedaled out under cloudy skies and immediately were riding fast. It was cooler all day but we were sweat drenched from the first mile as usual. Everywhere we stopped people commented on the heat.
Acadiana is a very friendly place. It comprises twenty two parishes originally settled by the French Acadians (French who originally settled in the Anapolis Basin of Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy in Canada). In Louisiana they came to be called Cajuns. The state officially designated the region Acadiana in 1971.
The riding is flat, the people are friendly, the sun was hidden by clouds, and we motored along.
One thing I will say that can be a challenge, and we agreed we encountered to the greatest extent in Acadiana is unfenced, unleashed dogs.
You learn to be alert to barking and motion in your peripheral vision. When either happens, it's a full head swivel to determine where it's coming from. Fortunately we didn't encounter any viscous dogs but there were plenty of fast ones. It's amazing how quick some of the small to medium sized dogs are. I would sometimes look at my speedometer while being given full chase and see we were going twenty two or twenty three miles per hour.
There was very little auto traffic but my biggest fear was that on the rare occasion there was both a dog chasing us and a car on the road the two would meet. That never works out well for the dog. I used hand signals the two times it happened in an effort to warn cars about a dog they might not see.
It worked out being in front because by the time the dog(s) stopped chasing me they were too spent to chase Chris. Chris was not out of my sight all day.
The homes we rode past, whether modest ranch style newer houses, or shanties, had immaculately manicured lawns. They were huge. Some front lawns could fit two football fields with room left over for a baseball diamond. We waved at plenty of people mowing as we passed. They must have to mow every other or every third day at most.
It is obvious people take great pride in their parish and well they should.
We rode past fields of Rice, Sweet Corn, Sorghum, Soy Beans, and Sugar Cane. The landscape could be a county in Ireland for all the shades of green.
According to the weather reports it's been dry here and they are hoping for rain. The farmers don't use irrigation and rely on rainfall to water their crops.
It is absolutely beautiful countryside with meandering rivers and the occasional swamp. Contrary to my expectations of very swampy, wet bayou country, the areas we rode through are relatively dry and thoroughly cultivated.
We had a rocking first fifty miles. We rode it in under three hours averaging over seventeen miles per hour.
When we came to a town called Plaucheville we stopped for lunch. In each region we've ridden through the lunchtime ritual differs. In Acadiana, it is common for a gas station to have a grill. We pulled into one such place that was particularly busy. Maybe because it was the only lunch spot in town.
In the twenty two hundred miles we've ridden so far, we have not been to a friendlier place. We got not one sideways glance as we walked in. Everyone had a welcoming smile and good word for us. From the farmers to the local librarian. It was noontime and business was at its peak.
We ordered at the counter and took a seat in a booth. I wasn't yet seated when the woman in the next both turned around with a smile and said she and her husband had driven past us up the road. She asked where we had come from and where we were going. They were very supportive and nice, she and her husband.
As our lunch baskets were delivered. They do grilled OR fried shrimp po-boy sandwiches. Not to mention oyster. Das sum good eats uh-huh.
A group of three women got up to leave. One of them was a younger girl who was wearing a tee shirt with a graphic promoting books and reading and my first thought was they were associated with the library. One of the women stopped and asked if we were fundraising for Livestrong. Very perceptive of her. Impressive to me.
She introduced herself as Mary Chaterain (she pronounced it Shotley and I had to ask her to spell it. Hopefully I got it right). She said she was involved with the Relay for Life (an ACS event) in the area. She told us about the library organizing a contest for designing a tee shirt for the event. She said the winning design earned it's maker one hundred dollars and then one hundred shirts were made to give to participating survivors.
She said she was familiar with Livestrong and the Lance Armstrong Foundation because of literature they had received at the library. It has been uncommon to meet people familiar with the foundation and its mission.
She told me she was originally from Michigan and she and several friends from there continue to get together for a few days every summer. She said six of them are survivors of one kind of cancer or another. Their time together sounds like a real celebration of life.
Mary pulled out a twenty dollar bill and insisted we take it.
I felt so welcomed I thought if only I had a French surname I could live in a place like this.
We rode away from lunch on a real high. We felt that way all day. Everywhere we stopped we were greeted by friendly people starting in the parking lot and continuing to the cash register.
We have seen every species of road kill imaginable. First squirrels and raccoons, then the occasional bobcat, snakes in the desert, opossum everywhere, deer, dogs, birds from predator to songbird, then hundreds of miles of armored opossum (armadillo). As the climate became more damp we saw frogs and turtles. Yesterday we saw our first alligator. What will be next?
We made our way to the Mississippi River and crossed on a ferry to St. Francisville. Yahoo! We crossed Ole Miss. We stopped at the first place we saw for dinner. Would you believe Mexican?
We rode on up the hill to St. Francisville and found our place for the night. St. Francisville is definitely a town to visit again. Very well kept, friendly, and with a very comfortable feeling.
It was a glorious day. Big miles and fast. We averaged better than sixteen miles per hour for one hundred and twenty plus miles. Rocking! We rode our first hundred in under six hours.
On we go.