Posted 4/20/2011 10:21 PM (#57431) Subject: Fort Jesup Historic Site near Many, LA
Ride Report: 4-2-2011
Destination: Fort Jesup Historic Site near Many, LA
My wife and I had decided earlier in the week that Saturday would be our day to take the sidecar rig out on the road and get away for the day. I’d prepped the R90/6 with CJ sidecar the evening before and with the recently installed Ural windshield, we headed out mid morning toward Many, LA. Being that we live in Ragley, LA, it was a straight shot up Hwy 171 through DeRidder, Leesville, and a few other small towns and villages.
After a short donut stop in DeRidder, we continued heading north on Hwy 171. The ride was good, even going into Leesville where they’ve recently black-topped some of the road. Prior to this, it was an irritatingly rough ride into Leesville. The sun had finally burned off the morning fog, but with the mild temperatures, it was a good thing we’d both brought long sleep shirts to put on under our jackets. Our ride to Many was uneventful, but enjoyed as we rode through the spring-time country side and waved to other riders who’d also been longing for this kind of Saturday to arrive.
After arriving in Many, we stopped in a strip-mall parking lot to see if I could find an e-mail I’d received from a fellow rider friend (I love my iPhone and what it can do for me). In it, he’d told me there was a restaurant in Many that served the best catfish po-boys; at least according to the article he’d sent me this was the case. It just so happened there were three Harley’s pulled into the lot and as we sat on the bike and I searched my “inbox” for the name of the place, the riders came out of a Subway in the strip-mall. We talked a bit and shared our home towns and destinations. Seems they too had heard of the allusive local diner, but had no luck in asking around Many for its identity or location. With a parting wish for a good ride, my wife and I decided to head into the old down town area and see if perhaps we could find some place to eat on the way.
As luck would have it, we didn’t find this “po-boy heaven” and finally settled for a quick bite at Burger King. Neither one of us was too hungry, and besides, we were already planning where to eat dinner on the way home (is it just me, or does riding seem to become a quest for good food each trip?). We gassed up the bike and I notice the sidecar tire was a bit low, so then began a hunt for a working air machine. We located one at the Texaco at the intersection of Hwy 171 and Hwy 6. I pulled out my handy-dandy mini-computer (that’s what my phone has become to me) and looked up the location of Fort Jesup on the mapping program and checked our location to it. The historic site is located just 6 miles to the east from Many on Hwy 6, going toward Natchitoches. We rode through the old down town area again and viewed some really nice older homes along this old route. After 6 miles from the down town, we sure enough came to the sign directing us to turn right onto another road to find the fort. We barely rode another two-tenths of a mile when we came to the fort.
Now let me state here that if anyone is expecting a standing fort, complete with barricaded walls, watch towers, a large swinging gate made of logs, and multiple original or restored buildings, then you’ll be deeply disappointed in visiting Fort Jesup State Historic Site. The site is made up of a large reconstructed barracks building that serves as the sites museum and information center. The only original and still standing building is one of about 6 kitchens that was situated behind one of the enlisted barracks. The large tract of land that Fort Jesup occupied was sold off after it was abandoned by the Army and so the original buildings went the way of building materials for settlers and locals who needed such things to build on their land. The 6 original enlisted barracks and their kitchens were bought by one man who began a school at this site. These buildings survived for years as such until, sadly, they burned down from a fire (all except the one kitchen). Today, visitors can walk the grounds and see where foundations were for some buildings and view old farm implements or items used in the fort’s bustling time period. The brochure for Fort Jesup also listed up-coming events that are sponsored at the site, to include period re-enactors who demonstrate such things as life of a soldier, a woman/wife on post, and other interpretive guided tours. Fort Jesup was occupied from the 1820’s to the 1840’s and served as the primary post for forces heading west into the newly annexed Texas. Prior to serving as a jumping-off spot for west bound troops, it was built to defend the then western frontier of our Louisiana Purchase from the Spanish. For a history-buff like me, just listening to the park manager and viewing the museum and model diorama of the original fort was all I needed to imagine the grounds as they’d been almost two hundred years ago.
If you’re into history and want to learn more about this site, then by all means visit Fort Jesup. And if you know when you want to go, you might want to call ahead and see if the park manager, Carrie, is going to be available to greet you. I was so taken and impressed with this young woman and her enthusiasm and knowledge of this fort and its history that I could have stayed on for hours asking her questions and discussing its role in our country’s history with her. But alas, the open road was calling (and my wife) and it was time to head out on the second leg of our day trip in west Louisiana.
After one more picture of the fort (you can’t go somewhere without documenting your rig in the photo) we headed back to Many on the same road and when we reached the intersection of Hwy 6 and Hwy 171, continued west toward Texas, which is only about 20 miles away. But our destination now was the east side of Toledo Bend lake, so we ran west on Hwy 6 for about 6 miles, then turned off onto Hwy 476 heading south toward Negreet. This small highway is a great ride in a sidecar. It had just enough gentle turns and curves to provide some gear changing, but also some great rolling hills and pretty countryside to view. (note to self: remember this road for the fall months when the leaves are changing). My wife was now turning her head back and forth with a big smile on her face, enjoyed the colorful road-side wild flowers, the bright green farm lands, and the tall, shady pine forests.
From the “metropolis” of Negreet, we joined Hwy 191 and traveled south along the east edge of Toledo Bend lake, treated with rare glimpses of the water through the trees or coves that crept close to the highway. The road straightened out a bit, but still gave us hills to climb and dip upon. Somewhere just before the community of Toro, we crested a hill and I witnessed a hill-top view of the piney woods off to the east, giving one a great view of the country we were passing through. I couldn’t stop in time, so I pulled over to the side of the road (be aware, there are no shoulders along this route, only occasional gravel shoulders or culverts that offer a stopping point). After carefully checking for traffic, we turned around and climbed back up the hill. I found a small drive that attached to the clearing I’d witnessed and we pulled over on the hard dirt so that my wife could share in this view with me. It was breath taking for us “flat-landers” from the south, but was marred by smoke that was crossing this part of the state from fires burning up in Rapides parish and blowing toward the southwest.
We continued south and crossed the Toledo Bend dam and when just past the second spillway, which is on the Texas side of the lake’s boundry, turned into the south side observation point. We spent a while dismounted and stretching our legs, taking in the view of the lake and the below spill-way river. As was expected, we were not alone – other riders were pulling in and out during the time we spent here. We visited with a couple from east Texas who were also out riding for the day. Listening to their stories of rides to the northern states of our country only wet our appetites for such adventures and provided encouragement to my wife and me for future journeys. After what had to be over 20 minutes of sharing riding stories (actually we listened more than shared – their stories were much more interesting), we saddled up and headed off back up Hwy 191 to the Louisiana side of the dam and turned east on Hwy 392 for a short 4 miles or so, then turned south on Hwy 111.
Hwy 111 will take one all the way to Junction, LA and this was our original plan, but after reaching the next intersection, meeting Hwy 8, our stomachs over-rided our plans and we turned east to head for Leesville with our goal to then head back home on Hwy 171 and toward a catfish dinner in DeRidder. What can I say – I was hungry! This part of the journey was rather mundane after some of the sights we’d seen, but then, my hunger wasn’t into viewing any more open country. We made good time by being able to travel faster. We met and turned onto Hwy 171 south and began our second-to-last section of this trip. Note this: when you drive on Hwy 171 south out of Leesville, try to remain in the left lane of traffic. Approximately 3-4 miles of this road is so pitted and deteriorated (especially the right lane) that I actually cracked a windshield on my R75 by hitting a pot-hole riding through about a year ago, but that’s another story.
We survived the treacherous escape from south Leesville with only minor bumps and a few annoyed drivers who didn’t appreciate my left lane use and arrived at “Catfish Cabin” just to the north of DeRidder off of Hwy 171. When you reach the Yamaha dealer on the left going south, be prepared to turn left off of 171 about a tenth of a mile further. You can’t miss the big yellow sign for this restaurant along the road and it’s only about 100 yards down this side street to the left. I highly encourage you to try the fried catfish dinner with baked potato and a trip to the salad bar – whether you get the 2 piece or 4 piece plate, well, that’s up to you and your stomach. My wife munched on her fried shrimp and fries, but soon had to ask for a take-home box. Those roasted peanuts they give you as you sit down just always do her in.
After a great dinner and a long day, we climbed back aboard the rig and motored our way home, riding through DeRidder, where we were passed by a very new CanAm Spider touring model pulling a matching trailer. While this rider didn’t even acknowledge our classic bike and sidecar with a nod or a honk, the older couple out cruising in their convertible Mustang, enjoying the open air ride as we were, gave us a big smile and a “thumbs-up” as my wife waved back. Guess it takes a real connoisseur of classic rides to appreciate such a fine sidecar rig as mine!
Twenty minutes later found us turning into our drive off of Hwy 171 in Ragley. We’d traveled a good 200 plus miles and spent over 9 hours away from home. While it wasn’t a trip that rivaled our fellow east TX riders we’d met, it had been the longest trip we’d undertaken on the sidecar rig. We were now more psyched than ever to begin planning a real over-night journey on the rig, maybe as far as Arkansas or the Texas hill country. Where ever we decide upon and whenever this expedition might occur, we knew one thing for certain – we are definitely a sidecar couple! We’ll look for you out there on the road. Until then, be careful and have fun!
Posted 4/20/2011 11:52 PM (#57433 - in reply to #57431) Subject: RE: Fort Jesup Historic Site near Many, LA
Posts: 1680 Location: Summer Grove, LA USA
Thanks for the report Roy.** Looks like y'all have settled well into sidecar travels. Good to hear that the state may be re-surfacing Hwy 171 South of Leesville; it has been brutal for years. And, yes, riding to eat is customary around these parts. We hope to see you next month in Rusk.
** Remember: No pictures, it didn't happen.
But then you have to master the art of posting pics here.
Posted 4/22/2011 8:54 AM (#57460 - in reply to #57433) Subject: RE: Fort Jesup Historic Site near Many, LA
OK, Swampfox, got those photos you wanted. I have more, but figured these would prove we were there. This was my first posting on site, so I'm still learning. Looking forward to Rusk get-together.