Based upon the tales of the Geezers who went on the 1999 Tour to Lafayette for the Mardi Gras festivities, it was easy to attract the usual suspects and others for the 2002 Tour by putting out E mail and Pathfinder notices. Eventually Joe & Margaret DiMonico, Jim & Freda Foreman, Ron & Anne Hitchcock, Gary Ingram, Fred & Bonnie Kamp, Fenton & Linda Ramey, Tom & Karen Russell, and Jim & Penny Speck took the plunge.
Since Mardi Gras fell upon February 12, it was decided to arrive in Lafayette Thursday, February 7, so as to get in our customary 5 days of riding. There were a multitude of travel plans. The Foremans, the DiMonicos, the Hitchcocks, the Kamps, the Rameys and Gary Ingram planned to start February 6 and spend the night at the Casino Magic in Bossier City, LA. The Kamps and Hitchcocks were in Bonnie’s hastily acquired new car (the green machine having expired two days earlier) sans the customary roof rack, which would fit no longer. The DiMonicos in their van caravaned with them and took the Indian Nation route. But first it was necessary to breakfast at the Shawnee Cracker Barrel so that the ladies could shop as well as eat. Since this was during the snow and ice incident, the group reported back on road conditions to Gary Ingram, who elected to sleep late rather than caravan. Taking the Indian Nation Turnpike saved a trip to Colorado since we got the equivalent snow storm and pine trees laden with snow. Jim Foreman had obtained marvelous rates for us at the Casino as well as in Lafayette. So we enjoyed the luxuries of the Casino and didn’t lose enough money to force anyone to cancel the Tour. Meanwhile everyone else traveled on separate routes (some via Dallas) and varied schedules.
Sure enough, we all arrived in Lafayette and dined that evening at Randol’s at a table somewhat removed from the dance floor, but close enough to enjoy the Cajun music, dancing, and celebration. Back at the motel we had to decide were to ride the next day. Fred had prepared maps and cue sheets for 16 rides based on Internet interface with local riders and clubs and intelligence gleaned from the 1999 Tour. The Wilderness Trail ride was drawn. This was agreeable because it was only 24 miles and promised a tail wind on the return portion.
The next day dawned only slightly warmer and slightly less windy that encountered in OKC. So we sallied forth and immediately hit road construction on the chosen route from the motel to the start of the ride. We handled it well. Karen ignored the detour signs and led us all into an apartment parking lot cul de sac. Except for Jim Foreman, who followed the detour signs and never quite made it back to the rest of the group. The rest of us recovered and, thinking Jim was ahead of us, got back on the route. We refreshed ourselves at Mouton’s store and some of the brave ones tried the Boudin balls, which contained mysterious and spicy ingredients known only to the Cajuns. Tom led us back through the construction to the motel. While the riders were riding, the non-riders were shopping for Mardi Gras necessities, such as wild beads and colorful hats. That night we dined at Prejean’s at a table right on top of the music. A fine time was had by all. One of our neighbors from the motel sat in with the band and was well received by them as an old acquaintance. He played the spoons.
For the Saturday ride, we chose the Tour d’ Acadiana route to St. Martinsville. This was to be 42 miles and risked a head wind on the return. Once more we stumbled through the construction and finally made it out of town to a more rural road. All of us except Fenton. He immediately declared an emergency due to a flat. He bravely urged us to continue, planning to catch up with us. Alas, it was not to be. After effecting repairs, he found that the new Zefal pump he had obtained at the swap meet wouldn’t work. But wait! Here came the three racers that the rest of us had encountered traveling in the opposite direction. Seeing a fellow bicyclist in need, they stopped to help and promptly blew his tire off the rim. Fenton flagged down a passing motorist and returned to the motel. The rest of us enjoyed the Evangeline-based historic aspects of St. Martinsville and the Spanish Moss laden trees on the return leg. That night we decided to attend the King’s Mardi Gras parade in Lafayette, using a game plan Fenton came up with. We went to the Original Don’s Steak and Sea Food, which had private parking and was right on the parade route. When the parade came by, the waiter told us and permitted us to interrupt our meal while we went outside to enjoy the parade. Then we came back in, finished the meal, and settled up. At the parade we amassed great quantities of beads. (Fred claims that he flipped his tee shirt and they took his beads away).
Gary had to leave Sunday in order to consider his tax plan on his vast holdings in Argentina or someplace. Penny opted to sleep-in that morning. The rest of us had so many objectives that bicycling took a back seat. Our plan was to ride 10 miles to Breaux Bridge, eat breakfast at Caf des Amis, ride back the same route, and then drive to the rural Mardi Gras parade at Church Point. Jim Foreman was to drive Freda and Bonnie to the Caf. Once more things strayed off plan. Tom, Joe, and Jim Speck encountered no difficulties and rushed ahead to the Caf. The rest lost sight of them and soon Fred became lost using his own map. Meanwhile Fenton had another flat. Once again he encouraged the other to go on, but this time he borrowed Fred’s pump. So Ron, Karen, and Fred came to a fork in the road and took it. Somehow they got to Mulate’s Restaurant which was on the map. They then began to search for Caf des Amis, which they knew was on Bridge Street. This seemed hard to find until viola, they realized that the street sign “Rue du Pont” meant “Bridge Street”. After snail-like service, we despaired of getting back to Lafayette in time to make the Church Point parade. But we did. The parade consisted of a lot of horsemen, a lot of tractor-drawn wagons, most containing ice chests of beer, charcoalers and Porta-potties, and lots of costumed fun lovers. This parade goes from farm to farm, whooping it up, and chasing down chickens for later conversion to gumbo. Boy, these folks have fun. We added to our bead supply. After the parade we drove to the Chretian Point Plantation and toured the 1830s house. That night we dined at Logan’s Steak House, throwing our peanut shells on the floor.
Monday, Jim and Freda had to leave for OKC. The rest of us planned to sag to Jefferson Island and ride about 10 miles to Avery Island, where Tabasco Sauce is made. Once more we got lost and stopped a helpful Haliburtons man for directions. We made the 10-mile trip in 12 miles. We shopped in the gift store and ate in the Deli. We opted not to ride any more and drove back to Lafayette. That night we dined at Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn. The rest of the diners didn’t seem to be as much in the Mardi Gras mood as our group, but we had a marvelous time.
The next day the DiMonicos, the Hitchcocks and the Kamps had to caravan back to OKC due to doctor’s appointments. (Geezers do a lot of this). The Rameys also left opting for the Dallas route. Before leaving, Fenton conversed with our spoon playing neighbor (Mr. Foret, who also played the fiddle), and was surprised to learn that they lived in a prosperous area South of New Orleans that Fenton thought was a swamp. As the Forets left, they asked those of us left to tell Fenton that they were “off to the swamp”.
On Fat Tuesday, only four geezers were left to enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities. The Russells and Specks headed to downtown Lafayette after breakfast to observe the Queen’s parade. It was a really beautiful day; the floats were pretty and the beads plentiful. There was to be another parade later in the day, so many of the observers were equipped with lawn chairs and coolers (some containing margaritas!), and there were many concessions cooking up good stuff to eat.
When the parade was over, it was agreed that we should ride to Grand Coteau. The short route was directly north on the freeway access road, which wasn’t that pretty, but we knew we would be late getting back to Lafayette if we took a longer route. When we got to Grand Coteau it appeared to be a sleepy little town, and we rode through to the Popeye’s to have a lunch of red beans and rice. The town of Sunset, just next door, was about to have its parade, so after lunch we rode a couple of miles down the road, found a spot to observe, and had a great time among the small town Cajun crowd. We met Jerry Boudreaux, owner of the local towing and wrecker service, a Harley Davidson fanatic, and a dyed-in-the-wool Cajun. He spent a lot of time with us, and made the afternoon more fun. The floats were similar to those we had seen at Church Point on Sunday, as it, too, was a rural parade.
After the parade we started back to Lafayette. Jim had figured out a route, we missed a turn, and after a couple more false starts, were back on the access road headed into town.
On Wednesday we decided to visit the Jean Pierre Lafitte National Park in Lafayette. The Rameys had spent a lot of time there earlier in the week, and recommended it highly. We weren’t disappointed. They showed a 35-minute film about the history of “Acadie,” the French pronunciation of Acadia, with French subtitles. We then spent quite a bit of time in the museum and gift shop, and dropped a few bucks on Cajun recipes, instruments, and books. It was well worth the visit. Due to time constraints we did not visit the adjoining Acadian Village.
About 11:00 a.m. the Russells took off for Houston and the Specks drove their motor home to Jefferson, Texas to camp for a few days. It was a great trip.
Now it’s time to start plans for the Geezer’s proposed fall trip to redo the Katy Trail. Meanwhile, Fred still has his 16 ride maps for anyone interested.