Day Trip to Winter Quarters Plantation 5-28-17

Steve Kinchen, Sr/ June 4, 2017/ General Rants & Raves About Riding, Touring/ 2 comments

Finding time to ride in the recent months has been a real challenge for this intrepid rider.  Between a busy work and travel schedule, it seems like when the time has been available, the weather has been uncooperative.  I rarely ever choose to start a day of riding in the rain but have no problem dealing with it during an otherwise enjoyable day of riding.  So the notion of a holiday weekend, with a reasonably decent forecast for a multi-day ride seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.

The plan was for a Sunday-Monday ride, but the combination of deteriorating weather forecast for Monday and a few other extenuating circumstances made Matt, Jr, and I alter our plans and return home late Sunday.

Riders for the day were Trent, Matt, Randall, Jr, and Herman.  Our ride plan seemed set and we planned a 7 am rally time at Loyola and I10 for the Southshore riders and a meeting time in Hammond for 8 am at a neat little breakfast joint called the Yellow Bird Cafe.  The variety of pancakes and waffles to select from was a nice treat and I opted for the whole grain pancakes with almond granola and a side of bacon.

The prime directive of the day was to avoid the interstate, except for the run home.  Trent led us along some very nice roads including LA Hwy 51, MS 584, LA Hwy 24 to Gloster, LA, HWY 33 (through Knoxville, MS), Liberty Rd to Natchez, MS.

Just past Liberty MS, Trent made the call to pull over and give us a chance to don our raingear.  Jr did not bring his rain suit along, but the rest of us suited up and, after a brief visit from the park manager to let us know that there was a covered area a little further down the road that we could have used to wait for the weather out, we hit the road towards Natchez.  Just under a mile down the road, the heavens opened up on us and Jr was wishing he had packed his rain gear.  We stopped in Natchez to allow Herman a chance to top off his fuel and we took off our rain gear.  Matt and I curiously watched as Herman busted out the polishing spray and microfiber towels and began to detail his bike.  Did he not realize that there was more rain to be had during the day???  Just a mile or two down the road, we hit wet streets and a light drizzle… so much for detailing his bike!

LA Hwy 65 would take us to Hwy 608 and our first and primary destination of the day which was Winter Quarters Plantation just south of Newellton, LA.  Situated on what is now called Lake St. Joseph, this waterway once connected to the Mississippi River and served as an outlet for the movement of the crops and supplies for the 15 plantation homes that once stood along its banks.

We were not aware of the fact that the house is closed to visitors at this time.  By looking at the sign below, it seems as though it has been closed for quite a long time.

 

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then this one must be multiplied many times more.  After reading this historical marker, I began to look around and envisioned the movements of troops, supplies and support personnel during the war of northern aggression.  I had never heard of the “march to Hard Times” and have been compelled to research that reference.

The best information I found led me to discover that “the march to Hard Times” was to the location known as Hard Times, LA which was a strategic water crossing point for the Mississippi River on the way south towards Vicksburg, MS.  Further reading is available here.  Not much to be had on Wikipedia.  I found a map location of Hard Times Plantation in Tensas Parish, LA with some photos on Mapcarta.  And lastly, a reference to the Hard Times Landing historical marker on waymarking.com

In the absence of any security or site personnel, a few of us walked around the site and took a few photos of the home in its current state.

Winter Quarters Front

Winter Quarters Rear View

The rear of the house overlooks fields as far as the eye can see, and one can envision this as a fully functioning plantation.

I noticed something odd on the rear stairs…

Closer examination revealed a “stair-climber” chair.  I do not think that was original to the house!  I wonder when it was installed… was it to help accommodate tours? Or maybe this home was occupied by aging residents that needed help getting up and down the stairs?  Unfortunately, there was no one around to ask!

Look at those modern A/C units!

I noticed what seemed to be a partially open door so I got in a little closer:

Partially open door begging for me to come inside…

Sure enough, open… I was about to explore it a little further, but I looked over and noticed Trent with his helmet on and putting his gloves on.  That meant this mystery would have to remain!

The rain had subsided for the later part of the morning and during our time walking around the plantation home (during said time, Herman was found detailing his bike again…), but as we started following Hwy 4 to Hwy 578, and then Hwy 425 to Hwy 17, we could see the storm front closing in on us.  We dropped south towards Winnsboro, LA to find some lunch.

Being a holiday weekend, and a Sunday in a small town, options were limited.  We happened upon a Mexican joint connected to a hotel that seemed to be open.  Our timing could not have been more perfect because as we pulled into the parking lot, the rain started.  Once safely inside the restaurant, I was a little concerned as we were literally the only folks in the joint… something that is not usually a good indication of a quality place to eat.

The service was very good and the food was even better.  We had some language challenges when Randall was trying to order “crunchy” tacos.  The waiter could not make the connection between “crunchy” and ‘hard shell” as opposed to “soft shell”, no matter how many times Randall reiterated his request, the waiter wasn’t getting it!  As the amusement was turning into mild frustration, I blurted out, “Hard Shell, not soft”, to which the waiter replied, “jes, jes.”  This joint will definitely go in the log for future reference.  I had the plate below which was two beef enchiladas, a taco, and beans.

Herman, Matt, Jr and I decided to head back to New Orleans after lunch, however, the next stop on Trent’s ride plan was essentially taking us in the same direction near Sicily Island in search of a few waterfalls.  After a missed turn or two, we arrived at the first scenic turn off only to discover a loosely packed gravel road that we would have to traverse up and downhill for approximately 2 miles to get us to the point where we would have to walk another mile to the first waterfall.  As it was pushing after 4 pm, the riders heading back to the city said our goodbyes and were on our way.

Trent had forwarded this site along to us a few days before we rode for us to review: https://sicilyislandhills.wordpress.com/waterfalls/

An interesting excerpt reads as follows: “Not long after you leave the asphalt of LA 8 the gravel road enters the forest and beyond the curve shown below the road continues up a loose gravelly curve and hill. Notice the Interstate 40 sign nailed to a tree.”

We thought it was a joke… until we read the caption on the official website

With one fuel stop to home, we managed to avoid the heavy storms that were tracking southeast from Texas and Arkansas.  I do not mind being on the interstate after a full day of scenic riding in order to bust it home or to our next destination.  I actually find it somewhat therapeutic and less stressful than canyon carving or mountain pass riding.

It would be great to have one more day like this before we take off on our grand adventure to Nova Scotia, but I do not think that time will allow for it.

-Steve

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2 Comments

  1. You’re going to Nova Scotia? When?? Can i go????

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