|Nov. & Dec. 2003||Louisiana HSTA Newsletter||Bob Chappuis, Editor|
On November 16 a small group met in St. Francisville for a lunch ride to the Front Porch restaurant in Clinton. Tony Crowell, Honda ST1300, Ann & Ret Favret, Honda GL1800 Goldwing, Cindy Earle, Honda VFR800 and Norval Wallen (prospect) Kawasaki Vulcan showed up at Bob & Stacie's place a few miles northeast of Historic St. Francisville. A winding, 160 mile loop up into Mississippi and back down to Clinton was planned but the weather called for a change of plan. The temperature was nice and cool and a few sprinkles of rain could be felt but the weather radar showed a thick band of heavy precipitation just north of our location. We thus decided to ride a shortened, meandering circular route that would keep us closer to home and hopefully out of the heavy rain.This plan worked out well and we only encountered light rain and everyone seemed to enjoy the tight, twisty, country roads common to East an West Feliciana Parishes, especially slippery Jones-Vaugn Creek Rd. which had a few bikes a little sideways!. We made it safely to the The Front Porch and had a great meal. Most ordered the Sunday Special: fried catfish covered with crawfish etouffee for just $7.95. Delicious and enough to satisfy without making you want to take a nap while riding home. With the threat of more (and harder) rain no one was up to more back road exploring so after lunch the group parted ways, each heading to there home destinations.
This turned out to be a great little ride despite the weather and it proves once again that all it takes is a handful of riders for a fun day on the road.
Wow, what a fabulous weekend! The weather was just about perfect. Cool enough to make the campfire inviting but not too cold for riding. Good thing, since I only had one connector on the VFR for electric vest hookup. (Guess who got to use it) Each day dawned cold and gray but the clouds quickly gave way to bright blue skies and warming temperatures. The turnout was good with 20 members coming from 5 states, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Indiana. The food was excellent both at Friday nights restaurant and at the Saturday night cookout and the route of Saturday's ride, scouted by local member Drew Newcomer, drew high marks from even the hard core curve carvers.
Planning for this year's Cajun Christmas (the 14th annual) began immediately after the 2002 event. The low attendance last year prompted your hard working State Co-directors to ponder on a plan to revive this once popular, and Louisiana HSTA's ONLY, annual event. We felt a large part of the problem was location. The traditional location near Ville Platte [Francais for FLAT TOWN] meant good roads were scarce and although the 40-year-old cabins at Chico State Park had a certain "rustic" charm the malfunctioning heaters were NO FUN at all. If memory serves no less than three cabins had no heat in 2002. We decided to search for a State Park with newer cabins and located among the gentle hills of North Louisiana. We also felt a more northerly location would help entice our many friends from the Dallas, TX area as well as some of the very active Arkansas members. The short list included Claiborne Lake SP, Lake D`Arbonne SP and Caney Creek Lake State Park. A quick study of the Louisiana State Parks Web site revealed the fact the Caney Creek had just opened 19 new cabins in June 2003! Sounded perfect so Stacie and I took a weekend in August to check it out. The cabins were terrific and the layout seemed fine for our Cajun Christmas event. So we made the call to move to Caney Creek and started spreading the word through the newsletter, website and various email list. The decision proved to be the right one. Without exception, everyone who attended found the location, accommodations and roads a big improvement. Of course the superb weather did not hurt either!
Stacie and I rode up to the park together but in separate vehicles, the Blazer was needed to haul food and other items to provide for Saturday night cookout. The ride up highway 61 through Mississippi to Natchez is always scenic and enjoyable. Once across the river with Vidalia and Ferriday behind us we soon turned North of 84 onto 34, which would take us all the way to Chatham and the turnoff to the park. 34 is not a bad road at all, scenic with gentle hills and a curve now and then. We arrived at our cabin around 3:30 and spotted Drew Newcomer's red pickup parked in front of a nearby cabin. Drew had volunteered to help with logistics since his home is just 40 miles from the park in West Monroe. He and I cruised over to the campground in search of John Watts who was camping in his RV. We easily spotted his big rig by the Kawasaki KLX650 parked out front. We took the tour of John's plush home on the road and after filling in John on the evening dinner plans we headed back to greet more arrivals. Randy and Chris Martin on an 04 Goldwing and Bob Burditt and Steve West both on Yamaha FJR1300s arrived from the Dallas area and David and Sherita Miller and their daughters Samantha, 6 and Rachel, 4 arrived in their GMC Yukon. (One or all of the Millers have attended every Cajun Christmas since the first in 1989 and this was Samantha's 6th!).
Brad and Cinda Mobley of the Dallas area would arrive Saturday on Brad's Honda ST1100 and Cinda's beautiful, black BMW 1100RS as would Steve "Santa Claus" Kirkendoll of Indianapolis on his Goldwing. More on Santa Claus later. The last of the Friday night arrivals (and almost late for dinner) were Ann and Ret Favret of New Orleans. The Favrets have been members for just over two years and have been on numerous club rides on their 2001 Goldwing but this was their first Cajun Christmas.
Friday evening dinner was planned for the Warehouse #1 restaurant, a restored warehouse on the Ouachita River in downtown Monroe, La; about 45 miles away. Drew Newcomer had made reservations for 15 for 8:00 pm. We all piled into the three four-wheel vehicles for the trip as the night was cold and dark and everyone had enough two wheeling for the day. We located the restaurant without much trouble and after a short wait we were seated and enjoyed an outstanding meal. Afterwards we gathered at Cabin 12 for some eggnog and camaraderie and to make plans for Saturday's activities. We agreed on a 10:00 am ride departure to let the temperature warm a bit and a lunch stop in Jena, La. By this time we had that settled it was obvious that the combination of personalities made for a very compatible and festive group and we enjoyed ourselves until it was good and late.
Saturday morning was chilly and gray and most folks slept late but around 9:30 everyone was hanging out around the bikes ready to take on the 170-mile route that Drew had put together for us. Drew, Steve and Bob Burditt had taken off in the truck for breakfast and to pick up Drew's BMW. At 10:30 they had not returned however so we decided to start without them. We would see the three of them in Jena but would never actually manage to all ride together as they arrived for lunch just as we were finishing up. I led our group consisting of Stacie and I on the VFR followed by Randy and Chris on the Titanium 04 Goldwing and Ret and Ann on the black 01 'Wing with John Watts bringing up the rear on his green Kawasaki KLR650 Dual Sport as we rode out in the 41 degree air under sunny skies. It was an unusual group, for sure but to the rural folk we encountered they were, no doubt, just "motorcycles". I recall seeing one other biker all day and he gave an enthusiastic thumbs up as we passed. Our route started in Chatham, the closest town to the park and with a population of about 600. We gassed up and headed East on 4. We were supposed to take 4 to Columbia then 165 to Grayson and 126 and 849 to 843 but a map compatibility problem with my Garmin GPS resulted in an alternative route. Subsequent to plotting the route that Drew had sent me with my GPS software, Garmin had delivered an updated MAP CD which I had installed just before the weekend.
Although the roads were obviously the same, something in the GPS's brain was not matching up and the route line displayed was not exactly following the road lines and I was having to do some guesswork I guessed wrong and ended up taking 499 to Sikes and 126 to Grayson instead of 849 and 126 to Grayson. 499 however was just fine and once we got back on 126 we were back on track for the best leg of the route, 126 at 503 (near Nickel) to Aimwell and Manifest. Burditt later proclaimed that this section of road was as good as anything that Arkansas has to offer! Personally, I'd say that126 is as twisty and hilly and a long a road as you could ask for, if only more of its length was in better condition. Anyway, Near Manifest we turned east onto 8 and rode to Whitehall at the intersection of US 84. But rather than waste good rubber on a flat for laner we went straight on 460 which looped South to 127 which turned back North to Jena. We had a nice lunch at a Popeyes and a pleasant chat with an old timer and his wife. Before leaving town we crossed the highway to Wal Mart for some last minute shopping. From Jena we took 127 North to Sikes and the backtracked to Chatham. Several of us gassed up again and checked mileage: 186 miles or 198 total including the legs to and from the park to Chatham according to my GPS. Not a bad half-day ride! The graphics shown on this page were generated by my Garmin GPS V and Mapsource. The first is the actual track recorded by the GPS unit overlayed on a map. The second pic is a graph of the altitude readings recorded depicting the elevation changes during the ride. Back at the cabins we found that Brad and Cinda had arrived and learned from the Millers that AR member Rick Hall of Texarkana had stopped by. Rick had planned to make a day trip but had misjudged the distance and had to turn around and head back after just a short rest. About 4:30 or 5:00 Santa arrived on his Goldwing.
The first time Steve Kirkendoll came to Cajun Christmas he truly earned his Santa Claus nickname. It was a cold, dark, wet and windy night and our faithful group of HSTA`ers were becoming increasingly frustrated over our inability to get a campfire started to warm our shivering bodies. The recent heavy rains had soaked all the wood we could gather. All of our efforts to start a blaze were proving futile when off in the distance we heard not the tinkle of sleigh bells but the mellow growl of a flat six Goldwing. As the sled cruised into view we saw presents stacked high in the back: A LOAD of DRY FIREWOOD! With his full beard and black leather boots, Steve certainly looked the part of Santa Claus. Fortunately the weather this year was much better and dry firewood was plentiful. But it was really good to see old Santa again!
As it started to get dark we gathered tables and chairs around the campfire we had going in the area behind Cabin 12. Stacie and Sherita strung Christmas lights around several trees surrounding the area and we fired up the charcoal grills. John Watts volunteered to cook hamburgers while I got after a couple dozen Cajun sausage links. A table full of hamburger fix'ns, various chips and dips, a casserole and brownies and cookies rounded out the meal. Chef Watts did an excellent job with the burgers and the sausage managed to get cooked also despite the fact the sausage cook was paying more attention to the SEC championship game playing on the TV on the back porch: LSU was whooping Georgia! As usual, there was more food than we could eat and an abundance of liquid refreshments also. Next it was time for the Crazy Gift Exchange. Everyone picked numbers and took a turn either picking a wrapped gift from the pile or stealing a buddies gift. There were some fine items to be looted and the action got a little intense at times. I managed to snag a nice chain cleaning brush. The fun continued until late into th evening with the fire and spirits keeping everyone warm and merry.
Our out-of-state visitors got an early start Sunday morning, Steve Kirkendoll was on the road by 5:00 am and the Texans rolled out of camp at around 8:00. The rest of us took our time packing up. Stacie and I headed out at about 11:00 and had an enjoyable ride home. Stacie and I enjoyed this years Cajun Christmas immensely and appreciate all the support and encouragement from all who attended.
Well, that wraps up another Cajun Christmas and another year for the LA HSTA. This year's Cajun Christmas was one of the best yet! Everyone who attended this year gave it high marks and the new location and the Saturday ride were big hits. Next year should be bigger nd better. And I hope everyone will agree 2003 has been a good year with club rides just about every month plus two great weekend events. The trip to Birmingham was well attended and loads of fun. If you did not attend a ride or event this year we hope you will try to ride with us in 2004. If you are too far away to make our scheduled rides please consider organizing a ride in your area. A meeting place, a route and optionally a lunch destination is all you need: pass your plan on to me and I will be more than happy to get the word out via newsletter, web site and email. Also, we are lucky in that our neighbors to the west and north both offer numerous rides throughout the year. The 2004 events calendar is online at our national web site at www.ridehsta. Check it out and pick an event to attend, you won't be disappointed!
Don't let the cold weather scare ya! SUNDAY, JANUARY 18 - MEET AT 10:00 AM STARBUCK'S COFFEE BATON ROUGE (Corporate Blvd) Route and Destination TBA. Check the WEBSITE, EMAIL OR CALL. email@example.com (225)635-3171 (Home) (225)281-0799 (Cell)
Stacie and I want to thank everyone who attended rides and events this year and wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Prosperous and Healthy NEW YEAR. Keep in touch, ride safe and
|HAPPY TRAILS, Bob and Stacie.