Louisiana Travels for June 23

Carencro resident Richard Fredette took off from St. Paul, Minn., in his 1932 Fort Boattail Speedster Saturday.

He’s sharing the country’s backroads for the next week with 94 other drivers in The Great Race, a road rally for vintage and antique vehicles covering 19 cities and 10 states. The race ends Sunday, June 30, in Mobile, Ala., and includes stops in Baton Rouge, Crowley and Covington.

But this is no leisurely Sunday afternoon drive.

“It’s a timed, speed, distance rally, in other words, it’s not just speed, who gets there first. Every car will be on the same route; we leave one minute apart, by a random drawing each day,” Fredette said.

Each driver is given basic illustrated directions at the start of the race, with signs posted along the way, as well as four to nine checkpoints a day. There are no GPSs or anything similar in the car; it’s strictly a speedometer, a clock (like a kitchen clock), a stop watch, and pencil and paper. A two-person support crew can help with repairs only in the evenings when the race has stopped for the day.

“It (the instructions) may say go 40 miles an hour, at the curve it may drop to 25, and you stay at 25 for 2 minutes, 20 seconds, then go on up to 40, so you can’t instantly go from 25 to 40 and 40 to 25, so you have to know how to do that maneuver,” he said. “ It may say wait 15 seconds at a stop sign, go on out at 40. You can’t wait 15 seconds, because it takes a certain amount of time to stop and a certain amount of time to accelerate back up to 40. So you have to know what that number is, 7.8 seconds or something like that, so the navigator (riding with him) will keep me there for that length of time and then we’ll take off.

“Now that’s assuming that there’s no traffic coming and you can leave at that time. If a couple of cars are coming the navigator will count how many seconds we’ve lost. The easiest way to gain it back is I’ll have to go 10 percent faster for whatever time it is that we lost. For every second you’re early or late at a checkpoint, you lose a point. We’re up in hills and mountains and curves and everything and it becomes a challenge.”

Fredette, who’s sponsored by Tony Chachere’s, has competed in The Great Race 15 times, winning in 2009. The winner this year will get $50,000. And there was the 2003 race, when he led all the way, but lost on the final day by 5 seconds.

Precision driving, to say the least.

“It’s just a challenge,” Fredette said. “I built this car (last year) and I’m competing against the best that there are, just, just to compete. To do it. The year I won, we lost a minute, 9 seconds I think, in 4,400 miles of racing in 14 days. I couldn’t do that in my car with cruise control.”

Fredette has driven through a great deal of the country, but ironically, can’t say he’s seen much.

“We’ve gone from Disney World to Disneyland, Washington to Washington, the Carolinas to Los Angeles, and we’ve gone through some beautiful parts of the country, but I have to look at that darn speedometer,” he said, laughing.

And with Fredette’s open-air type of vehicle, if it rains, they get wet.

“The first of last month we raced in Joplin, Mo., and it snowed on us in that race. But you just have to keep on going, in the snow, in the heat, whatever Mother Nature throws at you.”

But there’s something, or rather someone, that keeps him going back.

“The majority of times my son (Kenneth Fredette) does it with me,” he said. “You know, I’m 69 years old, and he’s 44. How many men and their sons spend more than a couple of hours together ever? We spend two weeks together in the car going across country and we still walk out friends. That’s something you can’t put a price tag or anything on. He’s a tremendous navigator, we get along well, and we have a good time.”

The Great Race stops in downtown Crowley at 11 a.m. and downtown Covington at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 29, after spending the night in Baton Rouge Friday, June 28.

The caravan of cars is scheduled to pull in at 4:45 p.m. at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel parking lot downtown. Prior to that, Mayor Kip Holden will arrive at 4:30 p.m. in a famous car, the Leslie Special, driven by Tony Curtis in the 1968 comedy The Great Race.

The event is free and open to the public, who will be able to visit with the racers and view their cars.

There will be food, drinks, and live music by the Fabulous Bagasse Boyz starting at 6:30 p.m. and Na Na Sha at 8 p.m.




4th on the water

The Creole Queen Paddlewheeler, docked along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, will host its annual sparkling soirée aboard the historic riverboat this July 4th.

The Independence Day dinner cruise offers a spot to view the fireworks show on the river. There’s also a special dining menu, open call brand bar and D.J. entertainment.

Cost for the evening is $119 per adult, $69 for youth (ages 6-12), $20 for child (ages 3-5).

Boarding of the Creole Queen, located at Poydras Street Wharf/Spanish Plaza, will take place from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the fireworks begin.

Upon completion of the fireworks show, guests will cruise the river until 11 p.m. The cruise may be altered in case of inclement weather conditions.

Reservations are required. For more information, call (504) 529-4567 or (800) 445-4109.



Expo in N.O. in November

The Spice of Life Women’s Expo is coming to New Orleans for the first time in November. The event will run noon-8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The event is being produced by women for women and will feature more than 200 booths and displays, cooking demonstrations by local chefs, fashion shows, shopping, lifestyle and makeover stages, business products, networking and social activities, and wine and food tastings.

Additionally, expert speakers and presenters will offer seminars on a wide range of topics relevant to women — beauty to business, educational, motivational, inspiring and fun.

A “Spicy Hour” with live music by the Yat Pack is planned for 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 8.

Paramount Shows, which is producing the expo, expects to draw about 10,000 women over both days.

For more information, call (504) 539-4602.



Louisiana Travels is a biweekly column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to travel@theadvocate.com or jbergeron@theadvocate.com or mail to Judy Bergeron, News Features assistant editor, The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810.