October 11 – 23
From Café de LaSalle we drove a short distance to our next stop for the day, the Swamp Pop Museum, which tour leader Greg had again arranged to be open for us. Ville Platte refers to itself as the Swamp Pop Capital of the World, honoring a late 1950s and early 1960s musical genre that rose from the boggy wetlands of Louisiana. A local record label produced swamp pop legends such as Joe Barry, the Boogie Kings, and Tommy McLain.
Indigenous to the Acadiana region of south Louisiana and an adjoining section of Southeast Texas, the Swamp Pop sound is typified by highly emotional, lovelorn lyrics, tripleting honky-tonk pianos, undulating bass lines, bellowing horn sections, and a strong rhythm and blues backbeat. It is exemplified by slow ballads like Cookie and the Cupcakes’ “Mathilda” (recorded 1958), considered by many fans as the unofficial swamp pop “anthem”. But the genre has also produced many upbeat compositions, such as Bobby Charles’ “Later Alligator” (1955), popularly covered by Bill Haley & His Comets.
During the genre’s heyday (1958-1964), several swamp pop songs appeared on national U.S. record charts. These included Jimmy Clanton’s “Just A Dream” (1958), Warren Storm’s “Prisoner’s Song” (1958), Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” (1959), Rod Bernard’s “This Should Go On Forever” (1959), Joe Barry’s “I’m A Fool To Care” (1960), and Dale and Grace’s “I’m Leaving It Up To You” (1963.
From there it was off to the lunch stop (we were the lunch wagon that day), situated in a parking lot outside of another regional market, T-Boys Slaughterhouse Meat Market and Grocery. Featuring a cornucopia of fresh meat, boudin, sausage’s and other Cajun delicacies, it was a sight to behold. This was the tough part of the day for me as each rider came in describing what a great day it had been on the bike with the blue skies and a great tailwind combining to make nearly perfect cycling conditions.
After the last rider departed Brian and I closed up shop and drove to the final campsite of the trip, Lakeview RV Park and Beach. Joanna had arrived before me and set up the tent, then gone off to get the massage we had scheduled. While drinking a beer or two (as it was the end of the tour, all drinks were on the house) I began to pack and sort for the next day’s drive to New Orleans (NOLA), our next destination and one we’d been looking forward to, as we’d be meeting with Jessica, Kris, Kim, Marty, Bev and Dillon to spend a long weekend in that great town.
Prior to dinner, we all gathered in a barn on the property for the farewell map talk and trip wrap up. This is the time when staff gets recognized, dubious honors are awarded (rider who came the longest distance, etc.), and final logistics are discussed. We broke for dinner, bringing our food back to the barn to be treated to a concert by a trio of local musicians.
An example of how the music infuses the lives of folks in this region, it was announced that the fiddler was nearing his 90th birthday, a testimony to how hard work, honest food, and the Cajun spirit contribute to longevity. We listened to the music to the end of the performance, watching fellow tour participants dance in a lively fashion. One downside of this style music is its repetitiveness, the same basic rhythm and chord patterns repeated from song to song, the upside though that dancing to it becomes a simple task to master.
Our plan for the next day was to get an early start so that we could finish not long after noon in order to make the two-hour drive to NOLA and check into our Airbnb. Joanna took off for her 49-mile ride and I hopped in a van with Greg the tour leader and staff member Margie as we made way to the first rest stop. Joanna made good time into it and I was encouraged that we’d finish early that day.
On the way to the lunch stop Greg got a call from Todd, another staff member that Brian, who’d been out early on his bike marking the course, had crashed breaking a bone in his hand and was on his way to the hospital. We pulled over at an abandoned gas station and waited for Beth Ann (another staff member) to arrive (she was also riding the course that day) so that she could switch places with Margie and provide relief at the lunch stop.
As it would turn out, Brian’s injury was serious but fixable which was good news. The downside was that the crash meant he couldn’t finish updating the route markers, which would cause Joanna to miss a critical left turn, sending her off course for the rest of the day. This added a few extra miles to her ride but using the map function of her phone she was able to figure out how to get to the finish at our original starting point, Bayou Wilderness RV Park.
I’d showered prior to her arrival and while she was doing so, loaded her bike into the car and got it ready for the drive to NOLA. It had been, yet again, an eventful tour, one we will long remember for the miles ridden, the sights seen, the rain, mosquitos, headwinds, and last but not least, the emergency room visit.
As with the 2016 Blue Ridge Bliss tour we took with Adventure Cycling Tours, this one was another excellent choice. They offer a number of different of tours, Fully Supported, Van Supported, Self-Supported, Inn to Inn, Family Fun and Educational. We like to do the fully supported versions as they include all meals which are prepared by a caterer. The van supported, while attractive, feature meals that the group cooks and as they are only a couple of hundred dollars less, we figure we might as well let someone else do the cooking.
That being said, some tours are only offered as van supported so we may we selecting one of those in the near future. Only time will tell. For now, freshly showered and the car packed, we made our way to the I-10 and after stopping for a quick bite just off the interstate at a Taco Bell (Joanna loves those Crunchwraps) headed east. Traffic would be a bear as we crossed the Mississippi at Baton Rouge and again as we approached the outskirts of New Orleans, but unexpected delays on the road are just part of the price of travel. We’d make up for it once we hit town.
T-Boys Slaughterhouse: https://tboysboudin.com/
Lakeview RV Park and Beach: http://www.lvpark.com/
Adventure Cycling Tours: https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/