Tuesday, February 9, 2010

DeRidder to Mamou. We enter Acadiana.

All of the rivers we crossed today were flooding at least a little bit after the big rain.

Our secure campsite at the Mamou police station. Notice the razor wire.

These tractors are using a disc to turn a rice paddy. This was crazy to watch. It looked like tractors driving through a lake, and they actually pushed a huge wave across the field.

Dani eating at the cafe in Oberlin, LA. Notice the chili cheese fries.

This is the Hangover Burger, chili cheese fries, and a BLT. Food fit for the Gods.

DeRidder to Mamou, LA
Day 97
73 miles

Note: Acadiana is a part of Louisiana made up of Acadians (also known as Cajuns) that probably has the most dense French speaking population in the United States. This is where the Cajun culture originated and continues today. Check it out.

The rain stopped around 9:30 last night, finally. Rain down here takes on a new meaning. I have never seen a storm with so little wind that dumped two inches of rain so quickly. It is seriously like there are no rain drops, but just huge buckets full of water being dumped from the sky. When the rain stopped, we winced as we walked out to our tent to assess the damage. Luckily, most of our stuff was surprisingly dry. The whole yard at the campground, however, turned into a big swamp. The ground is so saturated here that the water doesn't really soak in, it just sits in puddles or turns fields into small lakes. We are way out of our element here. I have never seen so much standing water. This does not happen in the dry West.

This morning, much to our surprise, we found that a wind came up over night and dried out our rain fly. The floor of our tent was completely soaked, but that is pretty expected when your tent is pitched in a puddle. We packed our stuff up and got out of camp at a good time. So good, that we decided to take a leisurely trip back into town to eat some doughnuts. When we finished with our fried dough and sugar, we headed down the road.

As soon as we left DeRidder, the route varied from a East to South East heading. The wind was blowing very strong from the North, so when we would head South even a little, our speed would dramatically increase. At times we would cruise at 16-18 mph on flat ground! Gotta love days like that. When we headed straight East, the wind was so strong from the side that when a gust would hit us, it became a fight just to keep everything rolling straight down the road.

We reached Oberlin, basically the first town of any size after DeRidder and decided we were making such great time that we should stop at a lunch spot. We only found one cafe, but it looked ok. As soon as we went in, I knew we had made a good choice. We both agreed at the beginning of this trip that we would sacrifice our food ethics to try some truly new food. Well this cafe fit the bill. I ordered what might be the best hamburger of my life. It was called the hangover burger and came replete with bacon, a fried egg, ½ pound of beef, smothered in cheese and topped with hot sauce. The bun was sweet and soft and lightly toasted. This burger was enough to leave anyone with coronary heart problems, but seriously, it tasted so good that the endorphin release probably negated the truck load of cholesterol. We also shared chili cheese fries and fried snickers! I have been looking for fried candy this whole trip because I have never had it before. The fried snickers were great, but we started talking to the staff and they told us fried Oreos were even better. They fried some up for us on the house just because they thought we needed to give them a try. My god they were good. By the time we hit the road, our guts with filled with so much grease that it is almost unfair to say that we were not emitting carbon, or at least methane.

We rode onto the small town of Mamou and looked for a grocery store but we could only find a Family Dollar. These stores have slim pickin's, but we found enough to make a meal and headed off to find a campground listed on our map. Come to find out, the campground was closed. We then rode the three miles back into town to find a hotel, but it was also closed. We started having the sinking feeling that we did not have anywhere to stay. We went to a store and asked if anyone knew where to camp in town and they looked at us like we were crazy. At this point, we started getting a little worried. The sun had been down for over an hour and we still had no place. We have never done this before, but we decided to try asking at the Catholic Church in Mamou. We Knocked on the door and asked if we could put a tent up in the yard. The first gentleman we asked looked at us like we were a bit crazy, but said he would get the Father and ask him. Father came to the door, and told us that it was probably not going to work to put our tent in the yard of the church, and he didn't think the backyard was safe because it was a bad neighborhood. We were glad he was looking out for our well being, but we still needed a place to stay.

After Father became more comfortable with us not just being some random crazies, he called the chief of police and hooked us up with a spot at the Police station. We went to the Police station and chatted with the dispatcher named Miss Stephanie while we waited for the chief. Miss Stephanie told us that this cold weather right now is not common for Louisiana at all. El Nino continues to follow us on this whole trip. When the chief came down, he showed us where would could put up our tent in the impound lot behind the station. We were definitely safe here, we were in a locked fence topped with razor wire. They also let us use the cooking facilities in the station, so we were able cook and eat inside. Thank goodness for the Mamou police. These folks were more than accepting of our weird travel method and took us right in. There is something about the South, the people here have a way of making us feel at home almost instantly. It is amazing how accepting many of the people seem to be.
We went to bed and were able to let down knowing we were safe in our own locked yard at the police station



Don Oyler said...

Three cheers for the chief of police, the Catholic church, and southern hospitality. It's really refreshing to hear how many really nice people you have met on this trip. God bless the good old U.S.A.

Fr. Sibley said...

Hey y'all - it is the priest you met yesterday in Mamou. My name is Fr. Bryce Sibley. Glad I was able to help and that the police were kind to you. Thanks for writing such kind things about us! Fee free to drop by if you are ever in the area again.

Anonymous said...

I gotta read this again just for the food. Y'all have fallen! I am sure all that hard bicycle riding negates the deleterious effects.

I also got some welcome hospitality from the Catholic Church in 1985 (St. Cecelia in Illinois) - come to think of it every church I ever stopped at was welcoming and felt safe. My favorite memory was camping near a small church in Indiana on a rainy Saturday night, and a young girl went in to practice on the organ for the Sunday service. It was heavenly to hear.

Paul and Diane said...

This is your best post yet. My stomach was rolling just thinking about all that fried stuff. Was your campsite the impound lot or just an impoundment? Check it out:http://www.mamou.org/index.aspx Viva la cajun!

Staci said...

The Acadians were in Maine too...hence Acadia National Park!
Maine probably should just be a Canadian province anyway.
I can't believe you're in Louisiana already! You'll be back in the arid west before you know it, longing for some rain for your poor tomato plants;)
Also, one of the first places Jon stayed on his trip was in a church in Idaho. They had a whole set up in their basement for cyclists! I imagine you'll encounter lots of churches with lots of really sweet folks on this leg of your trip!