Down on the Bayou - Motorcycle Touring

Huntin For Crocks And Po'Boys In The Big Muddy

Can you believe Hurricane Katrina was more than four years ago? I can't. It seems like no more than last year that the 6th biggest hurricane ever recorded hit the gulf coast and devastated one of the coolest towns in the world, New Orleans. From a rider's perspective the tragedy was more than a legendary city sunk deep in the Mississippi Delta with lives lost and otherwise destroyed. As we all know it was far from just New Orleans, but also the entire gulf coast delta area in Louisiana and Mississippi, which left hundreds of miles of beachfront coast road (and the cool little restaurants and shops that went with them) trashed as well. The whole area continues to struggle to get back on its feet, as the vicious Catch 22 of not having tourist infrastructure is keeping the area from rebuilding quickly and attracting more tourists (and their money).

But fear not, there is something you can do. Sure, there's agencies, and various forms of direct assistance, but the best thing for the problem, is simply to go there and party with the best. Trust me, it's better this way. Nobody likes a hand-out, but to earn your money doing what the Delta folk do best is definitely the way to go.

If adventure is what you want, it can be had in spades. With the still-leaky dikes and levees everywhere, it seemed like washed-out roads (requiring reroutes) were commonplace, like on my way to lunch in Bay St Luis, MS. Heck, just out for a ride along Lake Pontchartrain after one of the usual torrential downpours there was inches of standing water everywhere. It made being on the outside of the Levee seem like a really bad idea. But the whole urban area is ripe for motorcycle exploration like few others. Though all the towns and wards and parishes are side-by-side, these bridges and huge floodgates make it seem like crossing an international border. Cross a set of floodgates and suddenly the scene changes. On the other side could be a park, or a university campus, or one of the beautiful aboveground cemeteries, or just a change in scene to an older part of town. The streets of old Metaire are a twisty mess but give way to the gridlike precision of New Orleans proper.

We've all heard of the Ninth Ward and the horrors bestowed by the Hurricane and rising waters. I rode through there too, while some areas still look like a spooky wrecked zombie town, others are clearly rebuilding, and still others look miraculously untouched. Don't be afraid of the dark, visit and get the best, cheapest PoBoy Sammich you've ever tasted. But don't go South on 23 expecting to follow the river to its end, there's nothing but gas fields and cow poop that way.

Instead head through the Bayous of US 90, past all of the stilt houses that the fishermen still haunt and take a real Swamp Tour on a flatbottom boat. The folks at Cajun Encounters did me right with the ravages of the Hurricane, gigantic crocs from afar, and good-sized snakes up close. Surprisingly, the Bayou doesn't smell, didn't have an inordinate amount of mosquitoes, and has a peaceful calm to it. Under the trees, you escape the heat of the day as well.

But, as everybody knows, the French Quarter is the main attraction, and it still doesn't disappoint. As you may or may not know, the 'Quarter was spared most of the destruction of Katrina, so it's still in its 18th century glory. A bike is the best way to get in and out or find parking for that matter. Be sure your suspension is up to snuff as it's mostly cobblestones that'll run under your tires. The food is unreal, the drinks are too, and excellent live music is everywhere. There are a glut of culinary schools in the Big Easy, while Louisiana ranks first among states in obesity... Coincidence? Nah.

This was originally intended as a trip down Mississippi's Blues Highway to all the little Delta towns that spawned the most unique of American music styles, but near hurricane-force wind and rain on a bridge out of town turned me right back around and kept me near all of the beautiful and exotic charms of the city itself. An act of God? You be the judge.

Cajun Encounters
55345 Hwy. 90
Slidell, LA 70461
(504) 834-1770
30 13'52"N 89 40'12" W

Chartres House Café French Quarter
(504) 586-8383
chartreshousecafe.com

The Sycamore House Restaurant Bay
Sait Luis, MS.
(228) 469-0107
www.thesycamorehouse.com

Down On The Bayou