October 11 – 23
Today’s ride would be longer at 42 miles, but not grueling given the very flat landscape we’d be pedaling through. In fact, we’d only gain a little over 800 feet during the week, making headwinds the only challenge we might face. After pedaling a short 7 miles we landed in St. Martinville at its historic downtown square, enjoying snacks underneath the Evangeline Oak.
The tree gets its name from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie,” which chronicles a pair of lovers torn apart after the 1755 British invasion of Nova Scotia during the French and Indian War. Thousands of predominantly Catholic, French-speaking Acadians were expelled from the region; approximately 3,000, the predecessors of modern-day Cajuns, found refuge in South Louisiana.
Longfellow’s poem left a lasting impact on Louisianan folklore, culture, and oral tradition. The town of St. Martinville christened a shrine to the fictitious star-crossed lovers along the Bayou Teche in the form of this majestic live oak tree. We went next door to the Museum of the Acadian Memorial, which our tour leader Greg had arranged to be opened for us and spent 30 minutes or so perusing its contents.
Along with the regular exhibits, most of which had to do with the civil rights movement, there were a number of full-size costumes used in various Mardi Gras gatherings, most of them intricately and brilliantly decorated. It was a nice stop, but more miles beckoned, and we took off for our eventual destination the Frenchman’s Wilderness RV Park in Butte Larose.
Riding wise, this would be one of the best days of the tour with mild temperatures and a slight tailwind that pushed us along as we rode next to the Atchafalaya River. After crossing over a levee and pontoon bridge, we rode five miles or so, and as recommended, made a brief stop at Ducet’s, a local market, where I picked up a six-pack of Coors in cans to toss into the beer and wine pool at camp.
Given the fun we’d had last year riding our bikes on the Camino de Santiago, one motivation for buying my new bike was to be able to mount a rack on it and carry a bag or panniers. For me, this means the Topeak Explorer Disc Rack and their MTX Trunkbag DXP. We were going to use this set up (and a similar one on Joanna’s cross bike) to do the Katy Trail at the beginning of our three-month road trip earlier in the year, but my hyperextended knee put the kibosh on that.
So, having it along on this tour meant I could easily store that six pack of beer in the trunk. We rode fast into camp with that slight tailwind, fetched our gear and set up the tent in a slightly raised spot between two trees. Thus, would begin a couple of days of incredibly inaccurate weather predictions. Greg, our tour leader, through no fault of his own informed us that rain might be on its way but more than likely would miss us.
It also marked the start of multiple days of the worst plague of mosquito infestation I’ve witnessed in my life and this campground would be ground zero. Despite the sunny predictions, rain started late in the afternoon and would continue on through the next day. This pushes the skeeters out of their resting places and as a result, we all huddled underneath a large tent with high powered fans constantly blowing to try and keep them off of us.
In bed, in rained all night, almost has hard as it did that night in Black Mountain. When we woke up the next morning, it had lessened slightly but we were astounded, and relieved, to find that the new tent had held up nicely. The ground was so saturated that a small lake had formed under the floor, enough to make it feel like we were on top of a water bed.
Most of the time camping in a tent is easy (well, maybe not as easy as staying at a nice hotel) but this was one of those times you dread the most, breaking camp in the rain, meaning you get wet while you pack up wet gear. All we could do is hope for the rain to stop and provide us with a dry afternoon in the afternoon as the only thing worse than breaking camp in the rain is setting up wet gear in the same. As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right. We would see what the day would bring.
Museum of the Acadian Memorial: http://www.acadianmemorial.org/the-museum.php
Frenchman’s Wilderness RV Park: http://frenchmanswildernesscamp.com/
Topeak MTX Trunkbag DXP: https://www.topeak.com/us/en/products/bags/122-mtx-trunkbag-dxp