Change may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. The annual Greenhulk.net Mudbug PWC Rally didn’t start off the as the open-ended explorative cruise-fest that it is today. Rather, it was more of an outlaw drag race held clandestinely in the shade of the tupelo and cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss.
Spectators used to line the edges as a pair of highly tuned PWC screamed down the bayou in a winner-takes-all, heads-up race. Soon, the liability of a single wayward ski careening into the crowd put an end to this format. Single ski radar runs replaced the drag racing, but even those began to wain in popularity. Again, all things change as it were.
Meanwhile, those looking for a little more tranquility found that the Morgan City, Louisiana location provided a seemingly endless supply of waterways to explore. While the racing was underway, others were blazing trails through narrow passages previously only known to by locals. Soon, digital images and video footage of weaving through the swamps at speed drew more people’s attention than the racing. And so it is today.
Unable to bring the whole family on this year’s pilgrimage, I brought my 7-year-old, Natalie. Having learned that her older sister would be at summer camp, she launched an aggressive begging campaign to bring her in her sister’s stead (which I was more than happy to oblige). Typically the “girliest” of my three daughters, I was intent on pushing her limits.
First, we came equipped with The Watercraft Journal’s freshly broken-in 2021 Sea-Doo RXP-X 300. Aaand it came equipped with RIVA’s Pro-Series Sponsons, Oil Catch Can and Speed Control Override Module (SCOM). This would give us a slight advantage both in the twisty natural chicanes as well as in the long straightaways. Second, I had reached out to seasoned long hauler and friend to the magazine, Billy Duplessis to help plan some rather extensive rides for the weekend.
Leaving early Thursday morning, we ventured south, encountering heavy rain in Alabama. Although knowing better, I left the official Sea-Doo cover on the RXP-X knowing full-well that it wouldn’t last long. Sure enough, before reaching Mississippi, the cover had snapped one of its clips and began flapping violently in the wind – scuffing all of our recently detailed surfaces dull.
With the cover removed and stowed away, we reached Louisiana and crossed over the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge into New Orleans. Passing just outside of the Big Easy took some patience, as traffic tends to trod at a less than hurried pace, but of course, we were a little antsy to get out of the truck by this time. Morgan City lay just an hour ahead and we were anxious to begin our extended Mudbug weekend.
The next morning began at Doiron’s Landing, a local Chevron filling station. Arriving at 9am, the pumps were already lined with skis on trailers ready to ride. With our RXP-X topped off and the day’s parking pass on the dashboard, we drove over the berm to the levee and launched our Sea-Doo. It didn’t take long before 31 other watercraft joined the idling throng.
Donning a bright neon yellow hat, “Pretty Ricky” Johnson led our caravan with Billy aboard his red Yamaha FZR taking up the rear. With two Mississippians in command, I knew Natalie and I were in good hands. Prior to commencing, Billy warned, “We’re lookin’ at a long one today. You up for a full day’s ridin’?” I glanced at Natalie who nodded affirmative, but I wasn’t too sure she’d feel the same in a few hours.
Ricky led the pack up the causeway into Little Bayou Sorrel in to Big Fork Bayou. We dipped into Flat Lake before cutting back northward into Dog Island Pass and Duck Lake. We meandered toward Cypress Island, taking the Lower Atchafalaya River into Yellow Bayou before cutting upwards and returning to the main Atchafalaya River, its heavy current pulling us southward.
Before pouring into Flat Lake, we peeled left and beached on a sandbar to rest and socialize. Natalie took right to swimming as I mingled with the group. Others poured over each other’s modifications, the few new models and shared tales of other grander adventures.
From the sandbar, we journeyed below Doiron’s (a few choosing to “tap out” early) towards downtown Morgan City, around Bateman Island and beyond Amelia. Skirting Atchafalaya Bay, we ventured east through Lake De Cade towards Falgout Canal Marina for fuel and food. Just a few miles south of Houma, I worried that my passenger had had enough, but after a cheeseburger and cold drink, she was all smiles. (It was a good thing too, because Billy warned that we were only half way done for the day.)
Following a circuitous route back northeast, occasionally intersecting with the Intracoastal Waterway our group meandered towards Amelia, circumventing Lake Palourde. Passing the old stomping grounds where radar runs and drag races were once held was a bit nostalgic, but our group’s pace had increased and a those remaining were beginning to wain. Ricky and Billy opted to poll the group – who wanted to check out and who wanted to keep going?
Several peeled off, returning to the eastside launch at Dorion’s while I and Natalie aboard our trusty RXP-X soldiered on. We ventured north, up the Avoca Island Cutoff, towards everyone’s favorite waterfront watering hole, Spunky Monkey Daiquiris. Opting for a Gatorade instead, we refueled the Sea-Doo (for what seemed like the third time that day) and relaxed in the shade. The afternoon was getting late but Ricky showed no signs of slowing down.
Billy leaned in close and teased Natalie, “You wanna go swimming? We’re goin’ to a great place!” And that was all it took for my 7-year-old to catch her third wind. Loading up again, we veered up and around into Lake Verret, skimming the coastline for a break in the trees. Suddenly, Ricky hooked east and pulled into an open grove. The lake’s floor rose suddenly and we were on a shallow sandbar tucked into a shady grove of cypress.
We swam, played, chatted and joked for nearly an hour as the sun sank low into the western horizon. “Sun don’t go down until after 8,” Billy mused. “That still gives us plenty of time.” It was already after 7pm. After taking a few shots with the drone, we packed up again and idled into deeper water. The skyline began to fade to orange and our shadows stretched far ahead of us as we streaked across the glassy-smooth lake. Natalie was spent and so was I, and from what I could see behind us, so were the rest of our group.
I chased Ricky as he veered south, coming to a stop in the shade beneath Parish Road 906. “Hey man,” Ricky laughed. “Don’t follow me, I’m trying to hit 200. Go ahead and head back to the launch.” And off he went. True enough, Ricky, Billy and his wife, Gina, and a couple others continued riding until their GPS’ registered over 210 miles. As Natalie and I sped back to Doiron’s, we had totaled 186 miles for the day. And absolutely incredible feat – particularly for a 7-year-old girl.
Saturday and Sunday’s rides began eerily similar. Both days we set in on the industrialized waterfront launch at Doiron’s, followed Pretty Ricky aboard his Yamaha FX HO and bright yellow cap, and racked up absolutely bonkers mileage (albeit nowhere near Friday’s 9-hour ride). Saturday had us return to the sandbar on the Atchafalaya River, and shooting plenty of tight, winding routes through the bayous. The added aggressive cornering of the RIVA Pro Series sponsons saved our bacon more than once, even narrowly avoiding a downed tree.
Admittedly, I’m going to have to publicly eat a little crow when it comes to the 2021 Sea-Doo RXP-X 300. In reviewing previous iterations of the musclecraft, I found it sporty and energetic, but not a good candidate for all-around touring and casual riding. The prior T3 hull simply was too aggressive for wide, sweeping turns or traversing wind-blown lake chop. With the 2021 redesign, the modern RXP-X and its slightly resculpted hull resolved both of these behaviors.
Equally, it’s improved Ergolock-R saddle, vertical posture and increased footwells are far more forgiving than before. Lastly, it’s 42-gallons of storage – including a very generous glove box – makes this vehicle surprisingly accommodating. My only caveat is that you got to add the 1.6-gallon, foam-molded Lid Organizer storage bag ($60) and Sea-Doo’s spring-loaded, Boarding Ladder ($215). Seriously, these need to be standard equipment. They’re the best.
As a bit of a surprise, both Greg and Jerry Gaddis joined the fray on Saturday, which was an added treat. Greg piloted the Greenhulk Garage’s 2021 Yamaha GP1800R SVHO while Jerry rode his stock RXP-X 300. Our path took us under a few low bridges, past some rustic waterfront homes, as well as a pit stop at everybody’s open air gas pump, shrimp broil and live music venue – Gros Marina. If it’s not authentic zydeco music, it’s classic rock blasting over the water, and Gros has plenty of both.
On Sunday’s abbreviated ride (most folks needed to head home to be at work on Monday), we charged the lesser-traveled grid of canals cut into the swamps by the oil refineries. These trails are often perfectly geometrical, ending in 90-degree turns and long straightaways running for miles on end. Ricky discovered an overgrown service canal which made for some fun serpentine action through the branches and trees – all great exercise for the Sea-Doo.
Circling back south through Flat Lake, we took the final hairpin at full speed back to Doiron’s Landing. Concluding three days’ worth of incredible riding was bittersweet, as we knew we probably would never repeat such a feat like this again. In all, we amassed an incredible 14 hours of total engine operation time on the Sea-Doo’s dashboard – all without a single hiccup or issue.
Certainly, anyone with a GPS, a solid sense of direction and plenty of fuel could handily explore the routes we took this weekend any time of the year; but nothing is quite like the camaraderie and memories made at an little homespun get-together in Morgan City, Louisiana by the name of the Mudbug. The fun, friendship and unmolested nature is unlike anywhere else. Simply put, there are no other places on the planet that’s like the Mississippi Delta region.
Photography provided by Billy Duplessis and Ian Nuschk