Large hail and hurricane force winds are the major threat. But there’s also that chance of a tornado that could suddenly take to whirling or a lighting strike causing my hair to frizz. Jo and I are having a true southern experience, riding a bike through a stormy Louisiana.
Lafayette was just as warm and beautiful as the people I met there. Waking up to torrential downpours and furniture being scattered all around the back lawn was exciting. Being invited into Gabrie’l and Dokoda’s home where it was dry, was comforting. The breakfast tacos they made me were delicious. And the friendship that we created will be forever.
I sat around their place during the morning hours, writing my blog, checking the weather forecast, a map, and chatting it up with my kind hosts. Jo laid around, feeling the safest in their small bathroom, wedging himself between the tub and the sink.
Leaving Lafayette, I hugged the highway, riding the frontage road for about 25 (s)miles. I was headed north, detouring around Baton Rouge. I wasn’t certain if I’d make it much further than Opsalouses, a city that takes its name from the American Indian tribe that settled here years ago. Opsalouses history records state that in 1868, a riot broke out. It is cited as one of the worst examples of Reconstruction violence in south Louisiana.
I was keeping an eye on the wall of thick dark clouds that were rolling in from the north. The wind had shifted direction as I neared the county line, approaching the town. I pealed into a gas station and stood under the awning for a few minutes glancing at my weather app. I’m checking for tornado threats in the area and I’m looking at the doppler radar to monitor precipitation. It doesn’t look good.
I scan the area for hotels. For a town of sixteen thousand, there’s a half-dozen places to sleep indoors. I make a call to get a rate. I ask the reservation clerk, Ana, if she can offer me a discount for being adventurous and riding my bike cross-country. She shaves twenty five dollars from the bill and invites me over.
The rain-drops that were falling were heavy. They were the kind that hit the asphalt and upon impact made a loud smacking sound. I was just laughing and smiling as I rode the last two miles to the hotel. As Jo and I reached the registration desk, I looked behind us, the sky unloading with lightning and thunder and enough rain to cause biblical fears.
This plush hotel is nice, but I love camping, always have. When I was young, my dad would take us out on his long weekends off. A few of my favorite memories are of riding my bicycle at the Salton Sea. Or being up in the Sequoias, a trip that we took, just the two of us, sleeping in his pickup truck with a camper shell. My dad would let me hike around by myself. At ten years old I thought I was wandering off pretty far, but I was still within the campground. I liked that freedom, the outdoors, the way it felt. And there was the time we all went to Death Valley, with my brother and sister, and towed the avocado green tent trailer. My dad pulled it with a Ford Pinto station wagon. We were classy.
And that’s what this place is. The Evangeline Downs Hotel in Opsalouses. It features a live race track for horses, a casino, and a cajon buffet.
We had just made our way into our room, Jo testing out the bed, when we received a knock on our door. Ana handed me a voucher good for twenty bucks anywhere on the property. I took a walk and fell into the jacuzzi. Aside from the two different hotsprings I dunked at along the way, this is the first jacuzzi I’ve come across on the entire journey.
After a good soak I showed my comp ticket to the clerk at the buffet line. There was shrimp étouffée, alligator sausage, ribs, prime rib, fried fish, lots of shrimp, peach cobbler, Boston cream pie and bread pudding with a carmel whisky sauce. And so much more. The three plate-fulls I loaded up on, sent me in to a blissful food coma. I sat there in my booth with a grin of contentment, feeling happiness and gluttonous, contemplating one more trip… to the dessert bar.