Though it never seems to dip below 90 degrees in Louisiana, we still get to see some Snow. In this post we visit song place Shreveport, fall in love with a tree, learn the history of “The Great Raft,” kick off a water ski and try to determine the perfect way to say “Louisiana.”
Friday, July 5th, 2019 (cont.)
With song place 75 of 92 completed, I rolled south out of Texarkana. I didn’t have much daylight left, so I navigated towards a secluded wildlife refuge close to the Louisiana border. I was still struggling with a sore neck, not being able to look to the right, so I didn’t want to log too many miles.
I believe that it is true that I write less about weather than your standard motorcycle publication. Growing up in Nebraska, I am not surprised by either 0 degrees or 100 degrees F. (-18 or 38 C) That said, I was finally starting to feel the heat. Judging by the depression made by her kickstand in the hot blacktop, it appeared that Annie was too.
Don’t worry, Annie, we all know muscle weighs more than fat!
With the road wind whipping, temperature is never too much of an issue. I had a pleasant ride to the secluded area.
I had the pleasure of seeing my first bald cypress trees of the trip. I will write more about these later, but they are an amazing plant.
I set up my tent up on a grassy spot rather than down by the boat launch for the bayou. I thought this would put me less at risk for being eaten by mosquitoes or by the local Fouke Monster.
Saturday, July 6th
It was another tough, sweaty night, with probably just 4-5 hours of sleep. Around midnight, a truck rolled up and drove around the area. This was a dead end road, about 12 miles from the last split, so I can’t imagine what brought them down there. I also had another battle of wits with a mouse, which once again ended in a draw.
I had a bit more range of motion in my neck which was nice. I loaded up and rode some final county roads in Arkansas.
Soon I was in a new state and a new song place, Louisiana.
As well as the state being mentioned, the song includes cities Ferriday and Shreveport. Shreveport, which sits in the NW corner of the state would be my first stop. I arrived without much of a plan and made my way downtown.
Shreveport is kind of at a hard time in its history and in some places it really shows. Loss of industry, crime and a decreasing population have presented major challenges to the city.
Some of the historical buildings are well kept up and some were in real need of attention.
As I neared downtown, it was almost like I crossed an invisible line. Everything within a 3-4 block radius of the city center had been fixed up and was in great condition. At the middle of this circle appeared to be the source of this cash infusion: Casinos.
The Red River (which surprisingly does have a reddish tint) divides Shreveport on one side and Bossier City on the other. “Bossier” rhymes with “closure.” No one could explain to me why.
I went to a visitor’s center near the river which was run by the Army Corps of Engineers. There I met a guide named Joseph who was amazingly helpful. I wanted to learn more about the most interesting aspect of Shreveport’s founding and he was a treasure trove of information.
The Red River has not always been navigable. Around 900 years ago, a natural log jam began to develop. By the early 1800’s this tangle of fallen trees stretched for around 160 miles and was dubbed The Great Raft. Henry Shreve was a steamboat builder and had been working to construct a specialized boat for the purpose of clearing rivers. He was tasked with trying to make the Red River navigable.
Tree by tree, he and has crew worked from 1832 to 1838 to clear the river. The newly extant port was named Shreveport in his honor. The Red River continues to be wildly variable, as demonstrated by the chart below. It shows all of the river’s different paths over the span of just 90 years.
I just love this story and am so glad I got to learn more about it!
I wandered around the Shreveport side for awhile longer, which was really well kept.
The pelican is the state bird of Louisiana. It appears on their flag and is the name of their NBA team in New Orleans.
I crossed the bridge to Bossier City and walked around a swanky shopping area called The Louisiana Boardwalk.
There was a statue of a guy with a guitar up on a high pedestal. As I approached it, I thought, “Wow, those ears really look familiar….but no, it couldn’t be.” Upon further inspection, I realized that it was, indeed, a wonderfully done statue of Hank Snow.
(Picture from the next day)
In case you are new here, Hank Snow is the original singer of the Americas version of “I’ve Been Everywhere.” He was originally from the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia. My visit to the museum in his honor (This post…and this one) remains one of the highlights of my trip. I met some wonderful people there who were so excited about my journey and also performed the song for the first time.
Hank Snow had performed in Shreveport many times on the the show Louisiana Hayride, but I was still perplexed as to why there was a statue of him. I looked all around the area, expecting to find some other country singers featured, but he was the only one. Honestly, I was kind of freaking out about this, but it was impossible to explain my excitement to any of the casual passersby.
I’ve sent a number of inquiries out about the statue and am still trying to unravel the mystery. Regardless the reason, this was such a special experience! Snow, the precipitation, has surprised me at numerous times during my journey. Still, this statue will be remembered as the most surprising Snow of all.
I went back to Shreveport to check out the Municipal Auditorium. This was the building where Louisiana Hayride was recorded. The two fine gentlemen below were regular performers here:
Unlike the Grand Ole Opry, which mostly featured well established acts, the Hayride gave chances to unknown and up-and-coming artists.
One such artist was newcomer Elvis Presley. The Hayride was his first exposure to a broader audience and helped propel his career forward.
Hank Snow was also pivotal in Elvis’ early career, though some shady business dealings by Elvis’ eventual manager would effectively end his influence.
I knew a potential spot for my Shreveport photo would be the Once in a Millennium Moon mural downtown. I pretty much just scouted it out, as I knew I wanted eastern morning light for the “official” photo.
I thought I found a few good options for camping in the city limits, but I thought better of it. Urban camping is always a gamble in a bigger city and I didn’t have a sense of what the safe or unsafe parts were.
I instead rode west of town looking for a spot. It probably took me about 90 minutes to find something suitable, but I eventually found a home for the night.
I was truly visiting Louisiana at the absolute worst time. I’m used to it being hot in Nebraska in the summer, but the humidity sort of “lifts off” at night and there is always some sort of breeze. Down here, the air is thick all night and I scarcely felt a breath of wind my whole time in the state. I tried to remember back to all of my freezing nights in the tent on this trip and that helped me get some sleep this night.
Sunday, July 7th
I wasn’t in the best of spirits in the morning. It was my sixth tent night in a row and I was starting to feel sort of beat up. I really needed a shower too. Still, I was able to stay focused on my goal, packing up early and heading downtown for some pictures.
First up was the Hank Snow statue. I had to rig up a system of a selfie stick on my tripod and hold it as high as I could reach to try to get a level picture of the statue. The base of it is probably 10-12 ft off of the ground.
I made sure to don my Hank Snow Museum shirt, which I was so glad that I brought along.
Even though I was across the river in Bossier City, I think I might use this photo to represent Shreveport. Shreveport is visible in the photo, but unfortunately only the gaudy casinos. Hank Snow is so under-appreciated in the history of this song. This trip wouldn’t exist without him. Having this statue serve as the “official” Shreveport image seems a good way to pay him homage. Maybe something like this:
I went to a church service on the south side of town. Beforehand they played a video with some of Shreveport’s iconic places. It was only during this that I realized I had forgotten to go get my picture of the mural.
After the service, I made sure to rectify this!
It really is a well done piece of work. The detail is wonderful throughout.
I didn’t connect that deeply with Shreveport, but I still felt OK leaving at this point. Nothing earth-shattering happened here, but I still enjoyed learning about the city and I’ll always remember finding the Hank Snow statue.
My goal for the day was to reach the other top corner of Louisiana.
Early in my ride, I saw the first tasseling corn I’d seen this season.
Like a recovering alcoholic walking by a liquor store, I can’t explain to you the restraint it took to not just break off some ears and start husking. It’s in a Nebraskan’s blood.
In the little town of Ringgold, I saw a sign for a “Biker Church.” I thought I’d just whip around and get a picture, but I ended up meeting some really nice people.
Bubba spoke with one of the thickest Louisiana accents I have ever heard. He was the perfect person with whom to practice my pronunciation of the state. “LOO-siana!” he said while punching the air during the first syllable. Upon hearing about my trip, he handed me a $20, saying he wanted to buy my next tank of gas. I should have given him $12 or so of change!
I stopped by to see the sight where Bonnie and Clyde were finally gunned down.
The monument was defaced quite a bit. A bright boy who was visiting at the same time opined, “The police just need to look these people up on facebook.” I would not be surprised if he holds elected office someday. 🙂
A pretty nasty storm system was blowing through and I made it to Monroe just in time to cover Annie and duck into the library for about four hours. By the time I was ready to go, the storm had passed.
Annie passed a big milestone about an hour after we were back on the road: 80,000 lifetime miles. Smile for the camera, baby!
Annie will probably get her own post sometime while we are on the homestretch. I don’t feel like I have to brag about the “feel,” “performance” or any subjective measure of my steady steed. All I have to say is check her stats. This machine has been incredible.
I arrived in Lake Providence and didn’t look for a place for my tent. Once again, a kind soul from the community on the motorcycle forum ADV Rider was going to help me out. It felt amazing to arrive at the lake house of my new friends Triesch and Sandy.
They accepted me as one of their own, as did their dogs. 🙂 I took one of the best showers of my life, only finding one tick on me in the process. Not too shabby. Treisch took me to a local restaurant where we picked up some true Louisiana food, including gumbo and etouffee.
It was an amazing welcome and I really enjoyed getting to know them.
Monday, July 8th
We had an easy morning and I got some work done. Not without some help, of course:
I wonder what my total number of dog selfies is by this point?
In the afternoon, Triesch took me to his lumber shop where he keeps most of his vehicles. I was really interested in his BMW K100. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one before.
I also sat on his Goldwing and wondered if this trip would be possible on a bike like that. 🙂 He has a nice shop in the back where it seems like he always has a few projects going. I almost felt disappointed that I didn’t have anything to fix at the time.
We also picked up their boat and went out on the lake. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better experience on a boat before. The lake was absolutely glassy and we did not see another boat out. (Perhaps understandable on the Monday after July 4th weekend.)
We got up close and personal with some more bald cypress trees and Treisch and Sandy answered all of my questions about them. Perhaps the best way to define them is that they are the tree that wants to have things both ways. They grow fine on land, but also want to grow in the water. They are coniferous, but they still want to shed their leaves in the fall. They want to live for a long time, but they don’t want to grow too high.
A normal sized tree of 20 or 30 feet can be hundreds of years old. They grow much slower when they are covered by water. A bald cypress in North Carolina holds the distinction of being the oldest tree in North America at 2,600 years old.
They also grow “knees” which are upward protrusions from their root system. Scientists are still divided on what purpose these serve. Personally, I think they are just there to look cool.
I apologize for making you feel like you are in biology class. I’m just kind of obsessed with these trees!
We got some magic slushies from a little shop on the lake which were almost a little too tasty.
Since we were out on the lake, I decided to try my hand at water skiing. I tried wakeboarding about five years ago, but it had probably been a couple decades since I was last on water skis. I was able to get up on my first try, probably due to Triesch’s expert driving and the perfect conditions. I had forgotten how exhilarating it is!
As I was gliding on top of the water, I suddenly realized what month it was and that my health insurance had expired at the end of June. It’s funny when things like that hit you.
I’ve always been one to “move the game forward,” so I decided I wanted to try slalom skiing. This is the technique where you kick off one of the skis and carve back and forth using just one. Triesch gave me some great pointers and I was able to stay up through some shaky first moments.
All the grace of Bambi walking on ice. 🙂
After finally finding a place for my right foot, I was able to slice around for a minute or so.
My Dad loved waterskiing. It was a standard Sunday afternoon activity for him growing up. This made an already great experience even more special for me.
We had a calm, relaxing evening and I was so thankful for some AC.
Tuesday, July 9th
I’m so glad I got to know Triesch and Sandy. They really helped me out at a time that I needed. I will always remember their home as a cool oasis in the middle of a hot, sticky chapter of my journey.
Sandy even signed the phonetic pronunciation of Louisiana on Annie’s trunk, so I will hopefully remember it. 🙂
This was a pleasant opening stanza to my time in Louisiana. As great as the trees are, the people are even better! We will still have some more adventures in this state next time in song place Ferriday. Thanks for coming along!
16 to go!
Stay statuesque, everybody
Realtime update: I’m still with my friends Todd and Lesa outside of San Antonio. They were about ready to evict me but I made them pancakes today and now they said I can stay as long as I want. Welp, I guess the trip is over then. 🙂 I’ll be back on the road soon headed for Amarillo, then Santa Fe, then it will probably be time for my family reunion in Colorado.