This ride was an extreme ride, in the sense that Grand Isle is the End of the Road, and therefore somewhat unusual.
First, a lesson in Louisiana geography. Louisiana has Parishes instead of Counties. If you've ever flown into New Orleans, the airport is near Lake Pontchartrain (pronounced ponch-a-train) in Jefferson Parish, just minutes from the French Quarter in Orleans Parish [side note, we are not consistent… the Parish is "or-leens", but the city is "new or-lunz"). The French Quarter, is situated on relatively high ground adjacent to the river, at Mile Marker 95 on the river. Crow-flies distance is a little shorter. [When New Orleanians want to go to the beach, we drive to Alabama or Florida]. Grand Isle is in Jefferson Parish but also in the Gulf of Mexico. You cannot get to Grand Isle without leaving Jefferson Parish. As a matter of fact, one must travel from Jefferson through St. Charles, to Lafourche Parish. There is only one road onto and off of the island of Grand Isle. This is not an example of rising sea levels due to Climate Change, but rather the relentless erosion due to tidal activity, and the fact that we have tamed the Mississippi River, and denied the wetlands the benefits of the bountiful annual alluvial flooding that connected the Isle of Orleans with the rest of the continent in the last few thousand years.
Karl and I both have Cabin Fever. Karl has been playing nurse to his wife after recent orthopedic surgery, and I work from home post-pandemic. First-thing Saturday morning, Karl texted me asking if I had time for a ride. I think I suggested Grand Isle. So this ride was not really planned out. Karl topped off with gas, and we met at a little neighborhood coffee shop to mess with his iPhone and Rever.
Grand Isle is a place that folks around here talk about riding to, but it's just a little too inconvenient to make it a regular ride. My last visit to Grand Isle was 50 years ago. Crow-Flies distance from Downtown New Orleans to Grand Isle is only about 50 miles. Shortest driving distance is 110 miles.
Leaving the city we have options for different kinds of roads. We chose River Road, which literally hugs the river. The upside of River Road (RR) is that it is curvy and scenic as it follows the bends in the river. The downside is that it is curvy with a modest speed limit so it adds a lot of time to a long ride. We followed RR to the outskirts of the metro area, then moved to US HWY 90, which will eventually be re-branded as I-49. On Hwy 90 we started making better time, but of course higher speeds means lower fuel economy. Karl had topped off first thing in the morning, and I planned to top off before we turned off of Hwy 90 to follow along Bayou Lafourche (pronounced "la-foosh").
The roads that parallel the bayou are well maintained two-lane roads. There are draw bridges every 5 to 10 miles that connect the two sides. The entire distance is a fascinating mix of "industries". There are fields of Sugar Cane, therefore some farm equipment, and there is at least one modern office building. A lot of folks live along the bayou, so there is every convenience that you'd expect in suburbia. The big industry that dominates this whole stretch of the bayou is a mix of shipbuilding, and ship repair for Commercial Fishing, Offshore Oil Exploration/Production, and Naval/Coast Guard vessels.
Our ride along the east side of the bayou was very pleasant. There weren't any traffic jams, and we moved at a nice pace. Around Cut Off, La., we crossed from La. Hwy 308 on the east side to the west side of the bayou and picked up the 4-lane highway that takes one to the end. A little further south is a community, Golden Meadow, that straddles Hwy 1, adjacent to the Bayou, and the 4-lane road that carries a lot of commercial traffic that supports the Offshore Oil industry. The folks in Golden Meadow take their speed limits very seriously. If you're ever drawn to the distant community to see the sights, remember this warning! Just past Golden Meadow, one can start to think that the road can't go much farther because you are on a narrow causeway, and for the next 20 miles all you can see on the hoirzon is water. Eventually you come to a plot of solid ground called Port Fourchon (pronounced foo-shawn). Fourchon is about the size of an industrial park. Fun Fact, Port Fourchon supports approximately 18% of the United States oil production, and is the southernmost point in La. that is accessible by car.
Readers of my Ride Reports may notice that I like to highlight my rookie mistakes. This report is no different. I mentioned that Karl had fueled up at the beginning, and I topped off halfway. Real writers will call this "foreshadowing". By the time we got to Fourchon, Karl's low fuel light was on. It's hard to know the range of your fuel when you typically ride at 50 to 60 mph, but some of our time on Hwy 90 was a little faster. Regardless, Karl is now in need of fuel, and none of the gas stations with Fourchon addresses still exist. I'm sure that all of the commercial enterprises have their own fuel dump for their fleet of vehicles. Spoiler alert, we didn't run out of gas, but we were both very nervous for the next 15 miles on the final leg to Grand Isle, where there was not just one, but two options for fuel on the island, plus we got a quick snack before turning back.
Grand Isle is building back after it suffered a direct hit from a hurricane a couple of years ago. It has a new levee (burrito levee?) that mostly survived the recent storms, but due to hostile environment, the levee is under constant maintenance. All of the buildings are elevated on stilts allowing moderate storm surge to pass under the buildings. These are hardy folks y'all. Keep them in your prayers.
Due to us piddling around early in the ride, and the shear distance, we burned 4 hours to go 130 miles. Rookie mistake number two. I'm about 3 hours from home, and I'm supposed to be showered and dressed for a reservation at the Four Seasons in 2 1/4 hours. For the return trip, we took the four lane as far as we could, then Hwy 90 instead of the scenic River Road. Due to the higher speeds, we were burning fuel a little faster. When we got to suburban New Orleans, we stopped to top off again, and while Karl was struggling with his fill-up he told me to go on ahead so I wouldn't be late. I hated leaving my wingman, but if I screwed up our reservations by being late... well I don't even want to think about that!
I hauled butt the rest of the way home. I always wonder what slow drivers are thinking when they see my little scooter pass them, going up hill crossing the Mississippi River bridge. Regardless, I stopped tracking my ride at 3:16, and our Uber was going to be there at 3:30! Mischief Managed! I was showered, shaved, and dressed nicely right on time.
It was a coincidence that our reservations at the Four Seasons was for their new Observation Deck and interactive experience, Vue Orleans. The Four Seasons opened last year in one of New Orleans most iconic modern buildings. Originally the Internation Trade Mart building, later called the World Trade Center N.O. (never liked them horning in on the fame of the New York towers), the building has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina. The Four Seasons has done a great job on the Vue Orleans experience, and I highly recommend it. From this view, I felt like I could see Grand Isle, it really is an awesome experience.
Having done this trip in somewhat of a rush, I think we'll plan a group ride, and enjoy it a little more. A group ride with 150cc scooters will keep us off of Hwy 90 as long as possible, but we have some scenic options, if we plan for them. We'll definitely wait until Spring when we have more hours of daylight so we can plan a few stops for photo-ops.
By the numbers:
239 miles, 6 1/2 hours riding time, plus 1 hour of down time, which includes our coffee stop first thing. We left the coffe shop at 9:40ish and arrived at the gas station on Grand Isle at almost 1, so about 3 1/4 hours, 129 miles. The return was 110 miles and right at 2 hours for me. The delta was the piddling around getting to the coffee shop, etc.