Day 25 - Opelousas to Kinder - Two Far 2021 - Sooo... Far - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2021

Day 25 - Opelousas to Kinder

Mudbugs and rice

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Today was the kind of day that makes us love bike touring.  We happened on interesting places, good local food and nice people.

We were on the road just after 9:00.  The hotel desk clerk had to take our picture before we left.  Several of the staff wished us well as we departed.  It's always nice to get a friendly send off in the morning.  We were back on US 190 for most of today's ride.   The area is very rural and some of it appeared not very prosperous.  There were many run down dwellings and boarded up old businesses.  It seems that we have seen more burned out homes and businesses in recent days than is usual on our rural tours.

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We are still traveling along the railroad which parallels 190.

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And today, Kerry got to see a train.

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I spotted this rusty old car.  I have no idea what make or model it might be.  It looks pretty old to me.  Does anyone know what it is?

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Bob & Jan ThompsonHard to tell without seeing the front end. I own a 37 Ford, and this could be a 37,38,39,40,41 Ford Coupe. May be a 42 Ford, but they were rare due to the war effort.
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2 months ago
Bob & Jan ThompsonTo Bob & Jan ThompsonUpon second thought...can not be a 41 or 42 Ford Coupe. All other years apply.
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2 months ago
Jeanna & Kerry SmithTo Bob & Jan ThompsonThank you, Bob, for your expertise! Is your 37 Ford drivable? Can we see it the next time we get to The Villages?
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2 months ago
Mike ObermeyerI have to agree with Bob. It's a 37 to 40 Ford Coupe.
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2 months ago

Just before we reached the town of Eunice, it started to rain very lightly.  Kerry saw a car dealership with a large portico which we pulled under to put on our rain covers.  They worked like a charm and we didn't get any more rain all day.

We had a fast food lunch while we were in Eunice.  We had a nice chat with a father and son there, but we didn't get their names.  If you guys from Burger King are reading this, it was nice to meet you!

West of Eunice, we started seeing more of these crawfish ponds.

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And this boat for harvesting the crawfish.

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Kerry here - 

About 8 miles west of Eunice, I saw this business with some workers outside on break and decided to stop and see if we could learn about crawfish farming.  

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Lunchtime at Toups Crawfish
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Jose volunteered to tell us about crawfish farming. Thanks Jose!
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Jose told us that the ponds we had been seeing were crawfish ponds / rice paddies.  Known as double cropping, the field is drained in the spring and the rice is planted.  After the rice sprouts, the field is flooded.  (Side note - I always thought rice was grown in water because the rice needed the water.  However, upon reading about rice, I discovered the water is actually a form of weed control)

Shortly after the field is flooded, small crawfish are released into the field in order to breed and grow.  When the rice is ready to harvest, the field is drained and the crawfish burrow into the mud.  After the rice harvest the field is reflooded so the crawfish will emerge and continue to grow.  The crawfish are then harvested from around January thru mid spring, and the cycle repeats.

We asked Jose if we could tour the facility, and he said we would have to go to the office to see about that.  Upon entering the office, we met Linda Toups, one of the owners.  She was very happy give us a tour. 

Linda explained that they were a processor / wholesaler.  They bought crawfish from farmers, graded them (cooking some - more on that later) and then resold them.

Linda Toups. Linda and her family own the business and adjacent farm.
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A farmer bringing in crawfish to the facility.
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The fist step in the process is receiving.  The farmer brings the crawfish in and each bag is weighed and tagged.  Each bag weighs between 40 to 50 lbs.  Toups only buys from accredited farmers and each delivery can be tracked throughout the process and beyond.

The first step of the process - weighing the mudbugs.
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The second step is sorting or grading the crawfish.  Toups grades the crawfish as "peelers", "field-run" and "good-field-run".  Peelers are the smallest and good-field-run are the largest.

A crawfish grading machine. It consists of a series of rotating rollers. The rollers on the right are spaced the closest together and the smallest crawfish (peelers) fall through the gaps. Field-run crawfish fall thru the middle, and the largest crawfish drop down on the far left.
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After the crawfish are graded, the field-run and good-field-run are rebagged and sold live to individuals and distributors.

Live crawfish in cold storage ready to be shipped out. They can stay alive for up to 5 days.
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Keith A. SpanglerCrawfish are the best eating! Yummy yum
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2 months ago

The smallest crawfish (peelers) are cooked and then frozen at the facility.  The fist step in this process is to wash them and then they are cooked in a steam tunnel.

Loading live peelers onto a conveyer which will dump them into a steam tunnel to be cooked.
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At the end of the steam tunnel, the crawfish  drop into hoppers which are wheeled into the peeling room and then shoveled onto the peeling tables. 

Manually peeling the crawfish. The employees are paid an hourly rate, with production bonuses for exceeding a minimum standard. The vast majority of these workers are migrants.
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After the crawfish are peeled, they are laid out on large trays and individually frozen.  They are then boxed in 25 lb. boxes and sold to distributors.  Wal-Mart is one of their customers.

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Mike ObermeyerThanks for the info. I had no idea how that all worked.
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2 months ago
Jeanna & Kerry SmithNor did I.
I knew about dedicated crawfish ponds, but I had never heard about growing rice and crawfish together.

I was also really surprised when I saw the roomful of women peeling the crawfish. I figured that would be automated, as it is for shrimp.
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Curt & Helene ReedInteresting! I will stick to golf!
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2 months ago

Back to Jeanna...

Having had fun with Linda learning all about crawfish processing, we got back on the road.  Right across the street from the Toups plant, we saw Linda's son's rice fields, which she had told us about.

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We also saw the first rice storage facilities we recall seeing so far.

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Can't end the day without a cow picture.  These came toward the fence as we pedaled by.

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Elton is about 10 miles east of Kinder where we are spending the night. Adjacent to our hotel is a large casino owned by the Coushatta Tribe.
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I thought is was an old detention building or jail of some kind, but I really have no idea.

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In Elton, we stopped at a convenience store/deli and had one of the best treats of our trip.  We bought one of their crawfish boudin balls.  Boudin is a pork sausage with many variations, popular in French cultures.  In Louisiana, Cajun boudin is a spicy pork and rice mixture stuffed into pork skins.  Cajun boudin balls are the same mixture battered and deep fried.  Other proteins added to boudin balls include crawfish, shrimp and gator.  The crawfish boudin ball we had at the S&W One Stop in Elton was delicious!  I'm sorry that we only have one more day in Louisiana to try some more.  Maybe it's a dish that will carry over into east Texas...

We stopped at a convenience store at the casino before we checked into the hotel.  Most of their items were not priced, which tells you what you need to know about the prices.  We were discussing how much Diet Coke is really worth to us, when this guy came up.  He said he had seen us riding and would buy us anything we wanted.  We settled on one large fountain drink, which he insisted on paying for.  Thanks, Robby!  

Robby - thanks for the soda!
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Today's ride: 55 miles (89 km)
Total: 1,088 miles (1,751 km)

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Alain AbbateLoved hearing about how the same land is used for rice and crawfish, and the peek into the crawfish processing operation. Toups Crawfish must be a major employer in that area.
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2 months ago
Jeanna & Kerry SmithTo Alain Abbate I think it is a major employer. I know they employ 90 women as peelers. As well as the guys who work in the plant, they also employ men who grow and harvest rice and crawfish on the family farm.
Of course the whole visit put us in mind of our Jack and the Beanstalk adventure.
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2 months ago