Back in the Lone Star State

It really never has felt so good to be in Texas.

After New Orleans, there wasn’t much to look forward to. Days of 75, 90, 70, and 78 miles without much rest at all, and after Baton Rouge, no towns of more than 6,000 people.

The familiar sights, smells, signage, Highway Patrol cars, and even random brands that I take completely for granted have all brought tremendous comfort. Pecan pie with lunch and accents and attitudes and license plates and the merciful escape from muggy swamp weather. Today I even biked across the Trinity River and was highly tempted to canoe northwestward until I reached the Fort…

Along the way, there’s been driving rain that was so thick I couldn’t see, alligators as roadkill and alligators swimming in roadside drainage ditches. Catastrophic tire failures that consumed three tubes and required hitch hiking in the rain. Speechless firemen, a hedgehog, a small-town police station that kept me up until two in the morning suppressing laughter at the better-than-TV action and quotes and having genuinely enriching conversation before sleeping outside in their backyard. Two broken spokes on my rear wheel (again) and a wheel so out-of-true that it smacked the brake calipers at full open and even the frame until I did a very jury-rigged repair job, minus two spokes. And so much more that escapes me at this hour…

The onslaught of miles has been overwhelming, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The sun is starting to do concerning things to my skin, as all the SPF 70 in the world cannot fight back eight and ten hour days outside. My legs have a soreness so deep and profound that it has become more of an ingrained fact than a temporary awareness. Mercifully, the vultures of Texas have led to a 95% decrease in the amount of roadkill I have to pass. There’s some kind of beautiful metaphor in there, but I’m trying to quickly post an update on a host’s computer before bed.

From New Orleans we rode to Baton Rouge, then Opelousas, DeQuincy, Kountz, Texas, and now Conroe. Tomorrow I’ll be heading up to College Station, a town that I have somehow made it this far in life without ever visiting (Hook Em). Excited for some Texas college football (SEC..??) and even frat tailgates. It looks likely that I will be using Sunday as a much-needed day of rest in College Station to catch up with friends and offer my legs momentary respite from the miles before conquering 100 on Monday in order to arrive in Austin. The sense of relief and joy that I’ll experience there will rival that of opening the front door of the lovely Grayton Beach homestay.

Hopefully in the coming days in College Station I’ll have some computer access to write better posts that are more episodic, possibly poetic, and even edited(!). There are more stories to tell than there are people willing to listen, but I do hope to begin recording the best ones while they are still fresh.

It’s been one heck of a battle to get this far, and I am admittedly re-evaluating my finish line, but I would not trade these experiences, revelations, or sometimes crushing solitude for anything. Whenever and wherever I finish this ride, I think I’ll be about a week of healthy food and swim practice away from half-Ironman ready.

Speaking of food, it is becoming increasingly frustrating trying to find a complete, satisfying meal after intense days of riding. Rural southern towns scarcely know what vegetarians are, let alone what they eat, and the idea of a complete non-meat protein is actually laughable. It’s been great making do and expressing joy at Burger King and the smattering of Subways across the south, but eventually it takes a toll eating so many grilled cheeses and cheese-only quesadillas and trying to continue riding. The re-emergence of donuts just prior to reaching east Texas has been a joy. The past two breakfasts have been a trusty cup of Community Coffee, two old fashioned (one cinnamon and one glazed) and an egg and cheese croissant sandwich. The healthiest, most satisfying meals I’ve had since the Big Easy. I still dream about some of those meals…

At the risk of seeming like I’m not having a blasty blast, I’ll paint this mental image in your head until I get my film developed:

On a long stretch of very desolate road a few hours after crossing the Texas border, with my wheel frustratingly cattywhompus and my resolve evaporating with my sweat in the newly-dry(ish) air, I pulled off to the side of the road to find miniature ponies with immaculately combed manes and straight-bangs over their eyes, Zooey Deschanel-style. I laughed out loud at these guys, fed them some long green grass, and rode a few feet down the road to notice the gate to this ranchette. The half-circle above it had very comforting rusty “WELCOME” letters; the gate itself said “We don’t call 911” with a Colt .45 underneath the inscription. The mental image of the man who hung that sign brushing miniature ponies’ hair to indie rock goddess perfection is likely the only thing that got me through that day.

Hipster Pony

I am so tired that this post is likely worthless, but I figured I’d at least share that I made it back to Texas.

Cheers!

5 Comments

  1. John… I LOVE the last paragraph!!! The whole thing is GREAT, but the last one is just supreme. I am glad to know you are re-evaluating the rest of the ride. This is a TREMENDOUS achievement. And, without back-up, the desert is invitation to disaster. I DO hope you will reconsider. I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!-J. p.s. If you do decide to do it, I think I should ride from behind in the car.

  2. i’m in as well……have wanted a l o n g h o t car trip in a 20 yr old, gas guzzlin’ behemoth for such a long time. when do we start?

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