Perhaps Lafayette teens haven’t known the joy of cruising around an established route – trying to catch the eye of a certain someone. Sources say there was a time when lots of kids headed to the Beaver Park. Others went to Judice Inn or a place called Hopper’s Drive-In. Maybe there was just too much else to do?
However, in many of Acadiana’s smaller towns, cruising a set path was a rite of passage.
“My mother didn’t let us going riding around. She said that was when trouble started. When I started riding around, I found out she was right,” a friend from Welsh said. “We’d head past Mobil to the second stoplight, turn right and sorta-kinda make a figure-eight back.”
In Rayne, there was a more structured route.
“There was the Short Route and the Really Long Route,” a Rayne native told me. “You’d go to the turn-around in front of McDonald’s, down the boulevard, turn between a bank and a house and pass the Chinese restaurant – the Short Route. Or, you could head all the way down to the Depot Square and turn around.”
Riding around was a huge part of life for teens in the town where I grew up. Through Jitney Jungle’s parking lot, right on Hwy 80, down to Sonic and back. However, I didn’t learn about riding around in earnest until I moved to Magee, Miss.
In Magee, there was not a complicated series of turns required to pass a Friday night.
Nope, there was a block. A single block.
Legions of kids from all over drove around and around one block.
Main Street. Right. Pass the parking lot. Take the right at the Baptist Church. Another right. Pass the library. Start all over again. The bold and confident could stop in The Parking Lot. They’d lean on their cars. Some of them would smoke. They’d talk to each other and then get back in their cars and ride around some more.
Timing was critical. Imagine if the person whose eye you were hoping to catch went the other way at the same time you did. If you were feeling bold, you could stop at the parking lot. If you were fortunate to pass a certain someone, your heart would go flitter-flutter, when he or she rolled down the window and said, “Meet me in The Parking Lot.” These were heady times.
On occasion, guys lined the beds of their trucks and filled them with water. Bikini-clad girls splashed right by the Baptist church.
Riding around The Block was legend – a sort of rite of passage. Many marriages came from going around the single city block.
A few years ago, local police shut The Block down.
Looking for a trip down memory lane, Yancey Sanford started a “Ridin the Block” Facebook group. In a month, the group has nearly 800 members, significant for a town the size of Magee. After many messages yearning for a Riding the Block reunion, Yancey took the idea a step further. He approached Magee’s mayor to get approval to open The Block — all public streets — once more for old time’s sake.
“I gave them my best sales pitch,” he wrote. “I told them it could grow as large as Crazy Day (Magee’s annual festival), or larger, simply because the participants have an emotional attachment.”
The mayor said OK.
And on July 18, for one night only and one night only, several generations of Block riders will come from near and far to make another trip around The Block.