Louisiana is said to hold the soul of the South. A historical part of America that is bursting at the britches with festivals, food, music, and of course, some can’t miss motorcycle routes that could include each of these highlights. Do you know the difference between Cajun food and Creole cuisine? It can all be settled by a simple tomato.
Whether you plan to ride down for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, one of the many Jazz Festivals in Louisiana, or even test your bead grabbing skills at the world-famous Mardi Gras. It’s a state that will welcome you with open arms. Be warned though, it might not let you go! You can check your preconceptions at the state line, set your cruise for 70mph, and settle into your saddle, this ride might leave you yearning for more.
To get the inside track on the best back routes to ride, photo-worthy road-side stops for your sportster, and some local favorite lunch spots where you can loosen your leathers, we talked to one of the state's most road-worthy riders. A man with a bounty of Bayou miles, who is better known to his beer-buddies as “Pants". Joey “Pants” Pons let us in on one of his favorite Bayou rides, with detailed route information and photographic evidence of just how good the food is. Here’s what Joey had to say about this magical part of the world he calls home.
Where, or what is "Bayou Self"?
Here’s an old Cajun riddle: What’s the loneliest bayou in Louisiana? Bayou Self.
If you’ll pardon the temporary illiteracy, for this sport touring rider, riding "Bayou Self" can be very rewarding. I often ride with friends and others in groups of all sizes, even leading group rides on occasion. Those definitely have their place in my riding repertoire, but when given the chance, I really don’t mind the solo trip. It gives me a chance to spend time with the person inside my helmet.
The riding in Louisiana is pretty good. Like most places in the deep south, the weather is best between October and May. Our summers with high temperatures and high humidity can be brutal at times, but fall, winter, and early spring are usually mild and relatively dry, which makes for great riding weather.
The 290-mile route described in this article is a great ride which offers nice roads in central Louisiana and just across the Texas border. The roads are curvy, but not too technical and can be ridden at either a spirited or relaxed pace. There are plenty of natural and man-made sights to see and enjoy as well. The place I’ve chosen to highlight for lunch is the kind most riders dream of. Excellent food, excellent service, and excellent prices. Riders looking for lodging accommodations for this ride can find them in Lake Charles, Alexandria, or Natchitoches. I recommend the latter, as the town of Natchitoches offers a great blend of history and culture to enjoy while you stay. Moto-campers can find good primitive camping along the Longleaf Scenic Byway, located within the Kistachie National Forest adjacent to the route.
Where you start is only as important as you make it...
Because this is a loop ride, you can really start anywhere, but I’ll begin in the town of DeQuincy, LA. Like thousands of others throughout our great land, the arrival of the railroad in the early 20th century put DeQuincy on the map. Stop at the Railroad Museum on Highway 12 and poke around. For the low price of FREE! This former railroad depot has been converted into a nice display of memorabilia. Outside, there’s an old locomotive engine, a coach car, and a caboose on display. Climb aboard and let your imagination bring you back to another time.
The DeQuincy Railroad Museum is filled with wonderful treasures and memorabilia.
From DeQuincy, ride Hwy 389 north and into the piney woods, where it always smells clean among these aromatic trees. Here, you can enjoy the curves of the blacktop in isolation, except for the occasional logging truck. In Merryville, turn left onto US Hwy 190, but watch your speed as the Louisiana State Police are known to patrol this area heavily. After crossing the Sabine River into Texas, the limit changes instantly to a more enjoyable 75 mph.
All along this route are interesting old places to pull over and poke around
Highways 2626 and 1414 are fantastic back country roads, lined with farms & ranches, and running in and out of the east Texas hills. There are several historical markers along the way. If you are so inclined, stop in at one or two and learn something about Texas history. Likely an event associated with early Texan settlers or maybe even a WPA project.
Catfish, a Bayou kind of lunch!
In Burkeville, I turn north onto Hwy 87 and get ready for some fun. This 30-ish mile rollercoaster is wonderful with nice sweepers running through the yellow pines of the Sabine National Forest. Don’t get too impatient with slower vehicles, as I have found these people to be very courteous, and they will move over for you in short order.
The Sabine River serves as the border between Louisiana and Texas
Hemphill is a great place to fill up your bike’s fuel tank, and 6 miles north from there is a great place to fill up your personal calorie tank. In Milam, at the intersection of Hwy 87 and 21, Martin’s Corner is a great spot for lunch. I’ve never had a bad meal there, but if they are offering the Catfish Special, then the decision is easy. For $10, you get a delicious fried catfish, french fries, coleslaw, hush puppies, and a piece of cake for dessert. Go ahead and leave those last few fries on the plate. After all, you’ve got much more riding to do!
Martin’s Corner in Milam, Texas is a great place to stop for lunch
You can’t go wrong with the Catfish Special from Martin’s Corner
Winding back across the border through history...
After lunch, gear back up and turn East on Hwy 21 and cross the Toledo bend reservoir on the famous Pendlelton Bridge, re-entering Louisiana. On the other side of the bridge just inside the border, you can stop at the park and learn more about how this trophy bass fishing lake was constructed.
The Pendleton Bridge crosses the Toledo Bend Reservoir
Then turn south on Hwy 191, run her up the gears and sit back and enjoy the lake views while you ride the wide open smooth sweepers. Next, it’s back into the piney woods with highways 474 and 118, which are both very good motorcycling roads to ride, with plenty of old buildings to stop at and look around. On highway 118, you can take a break at the Peason Ridge display and learn about the logging community that once thrived in these parts.
The Peason Ridge was once a thriving logging community
In the village of Kistachie, turn north on Hwy 117 and then take a right onto the Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway. This is a fantastic road that has very little traffic. It offers the rider some nice open curves to enjoy as well.
The roads throughout the Kistachie National Forest are curvy and lots of fun to ride
Be mindful of the possibility of a deer or turkey poking around on the side of the road. Then take a minute to stop at the Longleaf Vista to check out the overlook. There’s a short loop trail there if you feel like a walk to stretch out your legs.
At the end of the byway, turn right onto Hwy 119, and then right again onto Hwy 8. Leesville would be a good gas stop, and if you get a mid-afternoon sweet tooth like I do, grab an ice cream cone at the Marble Slab Creamery on McRae Road. From Leesville, take Hwy 171 and 27 south back to Dequincy to complete the loop.
Most people view Louisiana as a maze of swamps and impassable waterways. In the southern part of my State, that topography is prevalent. The central part of Louisiana however, which has been depicted in this article is filled with forest & small hills, and is a great choice for any motorcyclist. This ride is a stunning scenic pick for a get together among friends, or just a solo jaunt through "Bayou Self".
Louisiana is a great place to explore “Bayou Self”
If you are looking to enjoy this beautiful ride through one of the most scenic routes in Louisiana there is a link attached below. Or of you have something equally as special to ride, drop us a line, we’d love to hear about it. Big personalities, big routes and big rides, its all down in one of the Souths best kept secrets.
Goggle Map Link To The Route: https://goo.gl/maps/oR5Cwjnrbjq
*** Note: On the google maps link, there is one technical problem. At the intersection of Hwy 118 and 117, the route shows to take a couple forest service roads (which are not paved, by the way) and then it doubles back to Hwy 117. That is wrong. You simply turn left on hwy 117 and then right onto the Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway.
Ride Report Writer: Joey “Pants” Pons
Introduction Writer: Kix Marshall