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First time in Louisiana


1moreroad

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I had originally planned this trip for 2 reasons: (1) I’ve never been to Louisiana and (2) I wanted to see if I still enjoyed motorcycle touring before I bought a new motorcycle. Now I’ve been to Louisiana and, since I bought the new motorcycle first, it’s a good thing I still enjoy sport touring. :)
 
The bike was as ready as it would be. A 10 year old soft tailbag replaced the hard saddlebags that were ordered in May but now not expected until mid-July. It worked pretty much flawlessly. Precipitation in the South in June is pretty much a given, and the weather did as expected. Temperatures varied from the mid-70s to 90. The Aerostich works fine up until about 80 then it gets hot. By 90 with Southern humidity, it saps your energy, especially with the vents closed due to rain.
The gathering clouds in the Delta. The sign is there to remind drivers that the roads are not completely dead straight even if they seem like it.
 
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Friday just after an early lunch, the clouds opened up and poured down while riding down the Natchez Trace just before I got to the first twisty road, Old Port Gibson Road. Riding that was a challenge – visibility was so bad in the rain that I could barely make out houses at the end of driveways. I also had 2 wardrobe malfunctions – I must not have closed the vents all the way on the Aerostich, because first my pants got a little cooler – ahhh! – then they got soaking wet. The rain came down so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to change gloves. I spent hours in soaking wet, brand new A* GPs. This is a gap I have in my gear – waterproof, lightweight riding gloves. Once the rain started, it continued, off and on, for the rest of the day. Sometimes it poured for just a few minutes and other times I had steady rain for an hour. About halfway between lunch and dinner I swapped to my waterproof winter gloves. It was a relief to have dry hands again. That night, I used both the hair dryer and the air conditioning unit drying out all my gear (it worked).
 
I rolled through towns like Greenwood, Port Gibson, and Natchez.
 
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Port Gibson has the oldest synagogue in the state (closed in 1986 when the last Jews left, but maintained by Messianic Christians from Jackson). It’s built in the Moorish style, which stands out.
 
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Right across the street is a Presbyterian church topped with a hand pointing to Heaven.
 
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From Port Gibson, I took a side trip over to the Windsor Ruins, a plantation that survived the Civil War only to burn down 30 years later. All that remains are the pillars.
 
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I popped out at Alcorn State University then rolled over to the Natchez Trace and rode it to its southern terminus. I’ve ridden many portions of the Trace in the years that I’ve lived in Mississippi.
 
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I crossed the Mississippi River and rolled into Louisiana. I like to get a photo of state border signs, especially the first time I enter a state. Doing it while crossing the Mississippi is always a challenge. This time I didn’t even see a sign to photograph. I had to leave the state and come back to finally find a sign off the road in a small park down on the Sabine River (the Texas border) to get my picture.
 
Louisiana has a few good motorcycle roads. They’re hard to see on a map – you can’t tell which roads are straight and which roads actually have good curves. LA-123 and LA-124 are both good roads.
 
LA-126 crosses about half of the state. It’s a 55 mph road with 25 – 45 mph curves for 60 miles with occasional gas stations to refuel yourself or your bike. The pavement is mostly good. This might be one of the best motorcycle roads in the South outside the Ozarks or the Appalachians. I managed to ride the road in both directions during my travels.
 
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I rolled into Natchitoches too late to see the sights. Everything but the restaurants must have closed at 5 pm. The downtown has nice shops and iron railings and brick streets. All of the downtown hotels looked fancy, so I rolled out to the edge of town to stay at a decent Econo Lodge. There was still nice scenery.
 
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The next morning, I did a little touring along the Red River. The water table is high, so cemetaries “bury” their dead above ground.
 
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I did see some various plantations. The National Park sites weren’t open yet, so I continued on to Leesville.
 
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I rolled into Leesville and stopped for coffee. For a change, I had good timing and missed most of the rain indoors drinking coffee. Across the street from the coffee shop is a local owner’s car collection. This is not a museum – just a collection of cars on display. Dodges were in the main room.
 
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In the building across the street were half a dozen Corvettes and a few Camaros.
 
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As I rolled out of town, there looked to be 2 dozen more cars in the back of the main building!
From Leesville, I rolled west into Texas.
 
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I give Texas a hard time, mainly because (1) two of my best friends are Texans and (2) they're so sensitive about their state. That said, I REALLY appreciate 75 mph speed limits on 2 lane highways. Lousy for gas mileage, but oh so fun.
 
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East of the Toledo Bend Reservoir and south of Hemphill, TX-87 is a great curvy road. Highly recommended. Hemphill is the nearest town to the sites where much of the Columbia space shuttle wreckage was recovered in 2003. A resident erected a museum to the astronauts and the two workers who were killed during the recovery. It’s amazing that a town of 1000 could host 10,000 volunteers and workers who successfully recovered most of the wreckage and all of the astronauts.
 
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Instead of going through Center, TX – which is in east Texas if you’re wondering. See how easy it is to give Texas a hard time? – the GPS found TX-139 up to Haslam. Good road. From there I crossed back into Louisiana at Logansport.  I finally got my photograph of a Louisiana sign, which I celebrated with an oyster po’boy.
 
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From there I finished the day crossing LA heading east and finished the night near the Mississippi state line. I headed back to Port Gibson Road because I rode it in such bad conditions two days earlier. It’s a decent road with a lot of Civil War history. Past Jackson, I rolled up the Natchez Trace along the Ross Barnett Reservoir – nice scenery – and on towards home. I’ll just add that Gore Springs Road and Graysport Crossing in Grenada, while short, are amazing motorcycle roads. I need to spend more time there.
 
Some of the statistics for the trip:
 
Day 1 – 480 miles, Day 2 – 480 miles, Day 3 – 290 miles and home in time to take my son to camp
Average gas mileage (by tank) – 45 mpg
Average moving speed – 54 mph, average overall speed with stops during the day – 42 mph
 
All of my early impressions of the motorcycle hold, but the motor is just that much better broken in.
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