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Motorcycle Trip Over Atchafalaya Bridge

Motorcycle Trip Over Atchafalaya Bridge

Have you ever drove over a bridge in a hurricane? How about a motorcycle trip over the Atchafalaya Bridge in Louisiana? I can say it was an experience that will never be forgotten. Motorcycle Trip Over Atchafalaya Bridge

Back in 1989 my friend Robert and I decided to ride from Knoxville TN to Houston TX on Honda 450’s. His bike was a 1972 CL450 and mine was a 1986 Nighthawk 450. Our plan was to ride to the beach in Pensacola FL for the weekend. Then after the weekend, take off across I-10 straight towards Houston. Seemed easy enough until we got caught in a Hurricane on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.

Starting The Journey

You would think riding through a hurricane would be the scariest part of this trip. But we had a real concern riding over the bridges in Alabama. We had made this tip several times in a car but on the bikes, it was a real adventure. It was exciting riding through the Mobile Alabama Bay Tunnel and Bridge. Then up and over the Horace Wilkinson Bridge that goes over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.

However this trip was turning into an unexpected adventure. There are three states between Florida and Texas heading westbound. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The whole trip was very scenic but being on motorcycles lead us into some scary moments going over some bridges.

Almost As Scary As The Atchafalaya Bridge

Alabama on I-10 is about 66 miles across and some of that land is swamp. Some of it is just hard core woods and brush. So they built some bridges up and over these atrocious obstacles. However, the nerve-racking part was at the peaks of the bridges. The peaks were connected by metal grates, I am guessing for land and bridge shifting. Now for a car or truck, no problem but for a motorcycle, not so much.

These grates were were running parallel with the road. They were about four inches wide with three inch gaps between them. They were about ten to fifteen feet in distance to travel on. Meaning we had to keep our tires centered on the top of those four inch wide grates. We had to keep balanced and straight for about the ten to 15 feet without dropping our tires down into the three inch gap. Not sure what would have happened if we did drop off in that gap, and really don’t want to think about it. But there were at least three of these bridges that were made like this. We were so glad once we got past the last one, or so we thought.

The Motorcycle Trip Over Atchafalaya Bridge

After our hair raising experience riding over grates that should have never been made that way, we finally made it to Louisiana. Just a couple of miles short of starting over the Atchafalaya Bridge,   we pulled into a McDonald’s off exit 115. It was the last exit before going over the bridge. A bridge that ran 20 miles over swamp land and water. I will say the trip did have it’s funny moments. The first thing we noticed pulling into the McDonald’s parking lot, was the sign that pointed straight down at the ground. It read, “Beware of Hole”. That made us completely forget about those scary grates.

We went inside, sat down to eat and then the strangest thing happened. As crazy as it sounds, the employees start boarding up the windows. I had to ask, “Are you all closing up, or going out of business?” They looked at us like we were stupid and said, NO, there is a hurricane heading this way. We were thinking that they were over reacting, we were way inland, no hurricane is going to come in this far. So we got done eating, hopped on the bikes and took off.

The End Of Time

Atchafalaya tropical Storm barryOff across the Atchafalaya Swamp, on that 20 mile long bridge with no exits or shoulders. We got about 5 miles across when we saw a sideways funnel in the sky. The sky got dark from the purple and grey clouds. It looked like the end of time. The 18 wheeler in front of us started blowing from one guardrail to the other. We started having to lean the bikes side to side. Almost to the point of laying them down, from one excess to the other to cut the 75 to 80 mile an hour alternating cross-winds. Swamp water was blowing up over the sides, cars and trucks were going all over the road. We really thought that was the end but after a few miles of hell, the storm let up.

 

What A Ride

We made it to the other side, and you know what the crazy part of the experience was? You would have thought we just got off the most awesome roller-coaster ride there had ever been. It was scary and real life threatening, but an adventure that we will never forget. We survived the abrupt blast of the unpredictable cyclone, Tropical Storm Allison of 89…

View the list of Louisiana Hurricanes

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