|Date||April 21-24, 2005|
|Hosts||Dallas Area Tandem Enthusiasts (DATES)|
|Who (else)||Judy Allison and Malcolm Boyd, Christina Chan and Rich LeGrand, Debbie and Alan Cudworth, Claire Hamanaka and Walt Willard, Cheryl Prudhomme and Mark Cook|
Walt's report about the Tammany Trace before the SWTR, and the SWTR itself.
This year, we knew we would have to make the time if we were to do it. When Al's work plans allowed him to leave a day earlier for SWTR, we decided to do the same and meet up with he and Deb on Monday afternoon.
The website says: In the early days, the railroad was the lifeblood of St. Tammany Parish. Today, this spur is an extremely popular recreation, transportation and educational corridor. Now called The Tammany Trace, it is Louisiana's first and only rails-to-trails conversion. This multi-purpose public path, created from the Illinois Central Railroad corridor, meanders through loblolly pines, live oaks, and magnolias from Slidell to Covington, Louisiana.
"The White House Millennium Council chose The Tammany Trace as one of 50 Millennium Legacy Trails."
Like our first explorers, you can crisscross urban, suburban and rural St. Tammany on foot, skates, bicycles, and horses and in wheelchairs. This 31-mile asphalted trail and parallel equestrian trail connects five communities--Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe, and Slidell.
The Trace, as locals call it, also serves as a wildlife conservation corridor, linking isolated parks, creating greenways, and preserving historic landmarks and wetlands. You can observe the natural habitat, bayous, streams and rivers from the vantage point of 31 bridges built on the original railroad trestles.
It also has a brew pub trailside !
Al determined it would be good to stretch out the legs after a long day of driving with a short ride. We drove to Abita Springs (where the brew pub was) and started off to what we thought was the end of the trail a few miles away. Sure, we checked the sign for a clue, but notice we missed the No Dogs sign! In actuality, we went the opposite direction. The surface was fresh blacktop, and there were signs posted that indicated it was just finished. It was so smooth, we didn't figure out our direction until we got to the tunnel in Mandeville that cut under that main road. We opted to save the rest of the trail in that direction for Tuesday and made an about face. It's amazing how much faster the pace is when you are riding toward the brewery. We got back to our start point, passing a bike rental place with an old tandem in front. Now warmed up, we continued to the end of the trail, which was hard to miss with it's little cul-de-sac and a sign 'End of Trace'. Back to the brew pub, I mean the start point for the day, and we had clocked about 23 miles. We changed and adjourned to the brew pub to relax. My Abita Amber was excellent.
Tuesday we drove to the tunnel in Mandeville and parked alongside the trail. A neighbor noticed our NJ plates and pointed out that the Mandeville trailhead was two blocks further down the trail. An old train station had been refurbished and had restrooms and tons of parking. There was one local sitting beside his bike working on a plastic grocery bag full of crawfish. We were off. The weather was sunny and warm and gorgeous.
We had gone quite a ways until we reached a closed gate guarded by a green lizard. Feeling adventurous, we went around the gate.... to the next closed gate a quarter mile or so.... to where the rail bridge was swiveled in the open position. So, we backtracked to a cross road, went out to the highway to the next cross road, and cut back down to the trail. The end of the trail at the Slidell trailhead was less dramatic. It just stopped. We enjoyed a very nice facility that had a deck out back that meandered down to the river and provided a view of one of the 31 trail bridges.
On the way back, we noticed a sign to the harbor, so we took it. The bike path went right to the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, then ran alongside. There at the edge was a sailboat with two furry residents standing guard. Even dogs on boats have bikes!
Next stop: Southwest Tandem Rally in Fredericksburg, TX !!!
Tuesday afternoon we parted company, with Al and Deb heading to the south shore and New Orleans to do some more exploratory riding. Our next stop was Rich and Christina's in Austin. We drove about three hours, got the last room at the hotel and some restaurant tips. With one stop in Houston to cash in some See's candy vouchers, we arrived in Austin mid afternoon. Rich and Christina and Lucy seemed to be settling in nicely, and were already planning the next block party. We worked on our Tex Mex food fix by dining at Chuey's, the favorite of a certain Tour de France winner, and even consumed a few Shiner Bocks.
Later, Rich went to pick up Mark and Cheryl at the airport. It didn't seem the least bit odd having a DOGS reunion in Austin. We all turned in relatively early, and Mark wasn't too antsy to see if his bike arrived at the hotel in one piece.
The next morning we all packed up, with Rich and Christina's bike on the roof of their RAV4, and Mark and Cheryl and their gear. I was trying to envision adding Mark and Cheryl's tandem to the load list for the return trip from Fredericksburg back to Austin Less than an hour and half later, we were in Fredericksburg, trying to check in to the hotel early. As the rooms gradually all became available, we met up with Malcolm and Judy, and Al and Deb. Malcolm and Judy had been doing the preride, which started in Boerne nearly a week before with about 20 teams. They had nothing but praise for the ride organization. At the unofficial 2 o'clock DOGS ride, we picked up a few other mileage hounds, and Malcolm and Judy's easy pace belied their Thighs of Steel that come from a week of riding in the Hill Country. We managed a nice little 17 mile loop before the ice cream social.
Friday was a 59 miler that encompassed the Willow City Loop. This loop through private ranch property was recognized as one of the Ten Best in the country. The wildflowers and views are the major asset. We only saw Malcolm and Judy's disappearing rear view for a short time at the beginning until we caught up at the lunch stop. The DOGS regrouped at lunch and we headed out together, but after a very short while we noticed Malcolm and Judy missing. Turns out they had a flat as they were leaving the lunch area. At least they had plenty of assistance.
Saturday's ride was a smorgasbord of 4 individual loops. After some discussion, the group altered the order slightly, and we arrived at the lunch stop at the LBJ Ranch in a timely fashion. We had nearly 55 miles on the day. Sunday was a trip out to Luckenbach, something of a country western music gathering place for Willie Nelson and the like out in the boondocks. We were waiting for Rich and Christina, and were getting concerned, unable to make contact by cell phone. As we started to back trace the route and attained a cell connection, we learned they had taken a wrong turn. Christina had lost one contact, but there were others who were off track too, so they rode with them. They happened to be the Hoyts. Jim owns the Richardson Bike Mart, or RBM as everyone knows it. He gave Lance his first racing bike. Rich said he had lots of stories about his trips to the Tour over the last few years.
So after that little 27 mile jaunt, we all cleaned up, checked out and headed across the street for a Mexican lunch. Nice time.... I even endured the Happy Birthday singing by the staff and DOGS in the obligatory sombrero.