“Ow you like da’ boo-dan?” the 20-something-year-old waitress asked from behind the counter. The “boo-dan” (or boudin, as its spelled), to the unfamiliar, was a skinned sausage made with crawfish, seasoned rice, onion, peppers and the like, packed into a po’ boy sandwich roll together with fresh tomatoes, shredded lettuce and mayonnaise (with a few splashes of D.a.T. sauce for added spice). Amazingly, I had gone two days without enjoying any of the local cuisine while in Morgan City, Louisiana, and was determined to enjoy at least one “real” cajun dish. I just hadn’t expected to find it at a waterfront gas station seated beneath a dripping air conditioner vent.
Attending last year’s annual Greenhulk.net Mudbug properly prepared me for what to expect this year, at least that’s what I thought. All would gather beneath the large stilted pavilion beside Lake Palourde early Saturday morning, and constantly return to this central location throughout the day to enjoy some free food, music and company. That, fatefully, is not how the Mudbug has or normally worked. “No, no,” Greenhulk.net’s owner Jerry Gaddis corrected. “Last year’s event was unique because Yamaha was here doing demo rides. Normally, it’s just a free-for-all. You gotta go to the forum and find what’s going on before you come.”
Despite the intentional disorganization, there’s little to no chaos. Those planning to attend hop into one of the official Mudbug threads (or chime in on the event’s Facebook page), and see what is happening and simply asks to join the fun. In my case, I was bringing my 6-year-old daughter, Morgan with me and knew that sitting around the local watering hole, Gros Marina, wasn’t a good option. Neither was spending too long watching the drag races that Gaddis was officiating in the nearby Avoca Island Cutoff (a nearly laser-straight corridor cut through the bayou) Saturday morning. No, she and I wanted to enjoy some riding, and thankfully, quite a few other Mudbuggers did too.
“You missed Friday’s ride,” Gaddis teased over dinner. “It was probably one of the biggest rides (in attendance) I’ve been on at the ‘Bug.” We had pulled into town Friday afternoon and stayed until early Monday, a schedule that proved to be a day removed from the mainstream crowd, who showed up Thursday and left Sunday. Nevertheless, thanks to voracious riders Billy Crews Jr., Wade Robinson and Bryan Muirhead we had a 100-plus-mile route and a large, eager group for Saturday’s ride already lined up. Of course, Crews is a regular contributor to The Watercraft Journal and hosts his own website PWCTrailerFinder.com documenting touring routes through some of the most impressive waterways in the Gulf area.
Although you can never count on Louisiana’s weather for very long, last year’s rough water prompted me to bring our new 2016 Kawasaki Ultra 310X Special Edition (SE) media loaner. Considering the big JetSki’s thirst, I brought with me an additional 3-gallons of emergency fuel beneath the front (removable) storage bin but was assured that two gas stops would be found long the way. The cavernous stowage also permitted bringing along my camera bag, backpack, towels, sunscreen, two pairs of flipflops and a change of clothes if needed. And because I was traveling with a child, a cooler full of water, Gatorades and juice pouches was strapped to the rear swim platform.
Although the staccato whine of the Eaton TVS supercharger fetched smiles from those we passed, in all seriousness, the glistening Candy Burnt Orange hue of the Special Edition is what drew more attention than anything else, even prompting some to believe it was a custom paint job. “This should be the color offered on their $18,000 [310LX] model, not green,” one ‘Bugger quipped. It’s true that the metallic orange and a somewhat redesigned seat are all that distinguish the SE from the base 310X, leaving one to question why have a Special Edition at all, when the color could be such an attraction to the top-of-the-line LX models.
Prior to our Big Marsh Loop ride, Morgan and I set into the water alongside Ponchatoula, LA-local and long-time Mudbug attendee Cliff Schinetsky and his wife, Gena, who joined us in watching an hour’s worth of speed alley runs. The slight mishap of Gaddis’ brand-new radar gun needing be fished from the soft, silty floor of the swamp didn’t stop the fun. While a few conversion skis made strong passes, it was Ben Herman of Ben’s Performance Plus and his SVHO-powered GP1800R who came home the champion. His nearly back-to-back runs of 98.5 and then 98.7mph were tremendous to behold, particularly as it is still supercharged and running in near-suffocating 90′ F degree heat with 85-plus-percent humidity.
Most of the drag racing crowd filtered out while others left to rendezvous at the Amelia launch ramp where the Marsh Loop was set to begin. Beneath the big shadow of the bridge, we welcomed 11 runabouts with 14 riders and set off on a slightly altered route that Crews had plotted to assure nobody would be running out of gas this day. The route was wide for the most part, consisting of large stretches of the Intracoastal Waterway, passing us by several large marinas full of barges, research vessels and oil containers. We avoided the temptation of taking a short cut through the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge that would’ve taken us south to Lake De Cade, but traveled further around and arrived at the Falgout Canal Marina for lunch and fuel.
A warm winter and a recent bloom of lilies blocked us from taking a couple of routes, but our trusty navigator guided us through the tighter paths into broader waters with no trouble. By 2pm we returned to the Amelia Launch and bid goodbye to most of our group – as so many were packing up to leave early the next morning. Crews and Robinson invited us to join them at Gros, where we reunited with Gaddis and his wife Carey to sit a spell in the wash of a large fan blowing our way. “I gotta say,” Crews beamed. “Miss Morgan gets the ‘ironwoman award’ for today’s ride.” Between gulps of fruit punch, she smiled and said she wanted to go swimming at the hotel. If only I could have half as much energy…
We avoided much of the more adult-themed festivities happening at night and instead, planned for a shorter 84-mile ride the next day with just Crews and Robinson. Meeting at the Spunky Monkey bar and fuel dock at nearby Pierre Part, the air was offensively thick that morning, requiring us to restock our cooler with more drinks. With 21-gallons of premium in the tank and another 3 in the bow, we were locked and loaded for what Crews cautioned was a “long, boring ride” to Plaquemine, LA, which was anything but. Running 42-miles up the Port Allen Lock canal, the water comes to an abrupt stop at the now sealed-in Plaquemine Lock Historic Site. The lock once opened to the Mississippi River before being closed in 1961. Besides a massive earthen bank filling the lock, much of the lock’s structures and mechanisms that accessed the Old Man remain since their construction in 1908.
We would’ve stayed longer but the consistent crack of thunder and darkening skies chased us back to our skis and on a hurried return route home. A second storm rolling in from the gulf kept us from dillydallying and hastened our pace. Skirting through the lilies and past a river tug that failed to negotiate a turn, literally beaching one barge up the embankment, we returned to the ‘Monkey for lunch at nearby Paizano’s Convenience Store and gas station. Although Crews tempted us with another, albeit shorter, afternoon ride, my copilot was spent after over 200-miles of riding over two days’ time, and wanted to crash in front of the Disney Channel before dinner.
So much could be said about the Mudbug that happened outside of my personal experience this year, as everyone lives it differently. Some come to grudge race, furiously wrenching to get their ski to shave off a half second from their ET. Others come to socialize and barely use their PWC than to take from from the dock to Gros to listen to music and enjoy a few drinks. And others come to see a lush green world that they can’t find anywhere else. What I’ve learned is that the Mudbug is what you make of it, and only you decide how you want to enjoy it – and that’s why I’ll be back next year.