March 31, 2010

The Country of TEXAS

Howdy. We made it into Texas. After beating it out of DeRidder, LA at around noon, I knew we would be pushing it to make it to Texas and find camping before it got dark. Luckily the wind was at a minimum that day, and I was rested up and ready to hit the 13th state of our journey. The sun was setting as I approached the Sabine River that serves as the Louisiana-Texas border. When I got to the bridge I could see the oh so familiar giant green sign that reads "Welcome to Texas." What a great feeling—I have made it to the largest state. I have so many ideas of what I will encounter and see in this huge state. Some good, some bad.

After taking some pics of the state line, we headed up just a little ways and saw a road leading back toward the river. We took it back a ways to get away from the sounds of the road, and to ensure that no one would see us. I got the tent set up and gathered wood for a fire. Before making it into Texas, I had stopped in the last town in Louisiana and gotten a 24-oz. can of Bud to celebrate the new state. So I built a huge fire, made some dinner, listened to the river run by, and enjoyed the beer in the moment. I have been having a great time, but I feel that there is more to be done. I just wasn't sure at that moment what exactly it was. All I knew is that it would come to me soon.

The next morning we got moving. In Texas they have the normal state highways, then off of those you find the Farm to Market (FM) roads. These roads have no shoulder, but a lot less traffic and sometimes no lane lines. Off of those are the county roads—most of which are red dirt or gravel—and off of those are ranch roads, which lead to houses or pastures for the farmers. I have decided to take the direct FM roads to get where I need to go. I was battling some big hills that day, and there was yet another storm moving in on us. As I neared Spurger, TX, we rode by a house with a guy working out front. I had seen his truck that was parked in the driveway pass us a few times that morning. As we got near his driveway, he called out and waved us over. I pulled in and met Jared Ernst.

He asked what we were up to, and when I told him of our big adventure, he asked if I was hungry. Being that it was lunchtime, I sure was. We went inside and he said to help myself to whatever was in the fridge. As I cooked up an egg, bologna, and cheese sandwich, he told me he had just gotten back to shore after being out on the oil rigs in the gulf for two months. He has been a commercial diver for these rigs for five years now. He does welding, fabricating, and any repairs needed, all underwater. He let me try on his 35-pound helmet and told me how one day in Fort Wayne, Indiana, while working as a commercial roofer, he decided his job sucked and that he wanted to get paid doing something he loved. That's how he ended up where he is now.

When we stepped outside after lunch I noticed some cows on his land, so I asked about them. He said, "Eventually I want to get a full blooded breed of Sanaga Trugas Cows and take the calves we get and give them to the kids at the 4H school up here so they have something to do. The kids that are underprivileged that can't afford a cow or can't take care of them. My wife and I have the land and the facilities for it. We are going to let them come do it here and let them keep the profits." Wow. That is amazing. He and his wife have put a lot of money and time into this cow idea. And it is all for the benefit of the underprivileged kids. That's kindness. After a quick much needed shower, I got back on the road to try to get some pavement behind us before the storm moved in. I noticed a road that would be somewhat of a shortcut by a couple miles and give us a better chance of finding a good camping spot for the storm, or so I thought. The spot was great, it was big tree field with new trees planted. The road leading back to it was dirt and the spot where we set up the tent was high ground on completely hidden from the road. We set up the tent as the drops started to fall. It rained on and off that evening and night.
The next morning we woke up to a muddy road leading to a muddy road. I decided we would wait out the morning and let the sun dry up some of this mess. I packed everything up slowly and we tried to make our way out afternoon. As I tried to make my way down the muddy road about 50 yards to the road, I got stuck. I tried pushing, pulling, kicking, and screaming, but it wasn't moving. So I had to unload all of the heavy stuff which is pretty much everything! Pedal down thru the mud to the road and then walk everything piece by piece back to the rig and reload it. It took over an hour to do and by the time we got to moving the sun was high and hot in the sky. I made my way toward Woodville TX. in attempt to get on a road with a shoulder and hopefully flatter. As I connected with Highway 190 I saw some big huge hills in the very near future. These are some of the biggest hills and wind that we have encounter yet. I have gotten over all of them but it is getting harder and harder to do so. We went about 5 miles and I saw a paved road that was heading back south. I decided to take it to try to avoid the monster hills that are on this major roadway. Traffic has always been a trying issue with us. But here is TX it is stressful. The posted speed limit is anywhere from 60 to 70 mph, but most everyone does 10 to 20 over that. And they drive these big 'ol dually diesel burning pickup trucks that come screaming up behind you. It is nerve racking and I had to get away from it. So south we went on FM 256. The road was paved for about 5 miles then I saw the dreaded sign "Pavement Ends" oh no. I had just come up and down some big rollers, and really didn't want to turn around. If I had been on the original rig I wouldn't of had a choice but with the Pedi-truck from Main Street, it wasn't really a problem. So we made our way south on this road made of red clay. I was amazed at how quiet it got the further down this path we went. As we got to the hot part of the day I tried to find a spot of shade to have a nap and wait out the heat. We found a nice spot with a breeze and layed down to rest. Coop stirred and started to growl soon after and I wondered what could be getting him riled up. Then I heard the familiar sounds of horses. I held on to his collar as the trail ride passed us by. There was a couple of covered wagons and people of all ages on horses of all sizes. After the nap and temperature drop we got back on the road. As we came to an intersection I looked at my map trying to figure our next move. Go east to get to a paved road soon or head west and pick my way along the dirt roads and hope not to get stuck or have to back track. As I pondered my choices a truck rolls by real slow and the guy driving asked "whats up bud?" I asked him for advice and he climbed out of his truck and we started chatting. He told me it was his day off and he was over at a neighbors and was heading home to wait for his kids to get off the bus. He told me to come over to his place and look at a Texas Atlas that he has. I followed him to his property and made my way down the dirt driveway to his house. His kids had just gotten home and they all introduced themselves and asked me questions. Bob went inside to help his little girl with something and Brice gave me the tour of the 40 some acres his dad owned. He took me down to the pond and told me stories of the little adventures he has had growing up here in Texas. He was a character. When we got down to the pond he showed me the boat his dad had gotten them so they could do some fishing. His big bro Chase showed up on a 4 runner with some poles and tackle and his sister Ammie and his dad joined a couple minutes later. While the kids tried to catch that nights dinner, Bob and I talked of the adventure and raising kids today in this semi-messed up society. We understood each other and shared the same opinions. After no luck at the fish the kids headed up to the house to say hello to their mom and Bob and I headed over to his Neighbours house. We pulled up to see Joe walking to the garage with a rifle in hand, I turned to Bob and asked if everything was cool. He said that everyone in TX has guns and Joe is a rifle man. This state was founded on a land rush. So people down here are inherently over protective of their property and everything on it. They shoot first and ask questions second. We sat down to chat with Joe and drink and couple of cold ones. Joe asked if I needed anything and I told him I was fine he called his wife and told her to make up some sandwiches and snacks and pack it up with a couple pairs of socks. We got to talking and Bob asked if I need a lift down the road. He said that the next 20 some miles west there are some huge hills and it would make it easier to get a hitch thru them. Knowing I am behind and tired of the hills I accepted. Me did some measuring and decided we would need a trailer. Luckily Bob had one that was just the right size. We decided I would camp out next to the pond and we would load it up in the morn and get moving. I slept good that night knowing I was going to get some help over the hills.
We loaded it up got some coffee and hit the road he took me down some serious back roads and told me about the area and how the pine tree farmers are wiping out all other trees to plant the fast growing high demand pines. We talk of PresBo and his ideas for this country. We chatted about all sorts of stuff when all the sudden I read the sign for New Waverly TX. "Whoa. I am getting a package here from my good friend Todd. We gotta stop. We did some 70 plus miles!" We had gotten lost in our conversation that we didn't realize how far we had gotten. We pulled into a parking lot and unloaded the rig with some help from passerbyers. Said our goodbyes, good lucks and thank yous. I went to the post office and got the package that had arrived that morning and made my way west towards the west side of Sam Houston National Forest. What a beautiful forest! The hill weren't to bad but the traffic was crazy that Saturday afternoon. I went about 10 miles to the Lake Stubblefield camp area and pulled into the packed camp ground to find out they were filled up, but there was room at the overflow area and it was free and I could use the showers there. I made my way over to the overflow area and pulled into the large field. the perimeter was full of bug tents and cars. I saw a spot for enough room for my trike, tent and dog. I pulled up and before I could unload Coop we where surrounded by our neighbours wondering who the hell we where. I was given beer and invites to hangout. I unloaded everything and stood the trike on end. I had to adjust my gearing and derailleurs. After that we went over to the other campground and took a shower. These shower house sucked. It only had one shower and I had to hold the button the entire time to keep the lukewarm water drizzling on me. We got back to the site and I loaded up things and talked to more people. The people to he left of us had a small village set up. There was 5 large 8 person tents and a huge kitchen area. This group from Houston do it up when they camp. I went back and forth between my neighbors chatting with everyone. I ended up getting pretty drunk and helped for about 10 min in the cooking of a cow head for barbaco tacos the next day. I slept under the stars that night more like passed out.
The next morning I crawled out of the tent and did damage assessment. I had thrown up out of the back of the tent sometime during the night so I needed to clean up the splatter off. I strolled over to the Houston Village and looked for things of mine left behind from the night before. I checked on the Cow head and found out Matt had stayed up til 7am keeping the hot logs loaded for the 39 lbs head. He didn't stay around to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Unfortunate he didn't do a great job at distributing the heat so only one side cooked to the point of tender, shredded beef that is babacoa. So when I was chosen to clean it up due to my culinary back ground I didn't realize it till I got to the other side. So they ate the done meat and gave me the rest to finish cooking. I was planning on staying for another night or two and Shane was heading out that afternoon to do some more camping. He was on spring break and had never been to the National forest. After everyone packed up and said goodbye we had the area to ourselves. I gathered up wood from the all the other sites and waited for my friends arrival. I took the meat that I had finished and mixed it up with a bunch of leftovers the Village people had left for me. When Shaneo showed up after getting lost for awhile, we ate and got to drinking.
The next day we went for a couple hikes and road into town to get some more ice and beer. On the way back to the campground we saw some cyclist working their way east. We pulled over and talked to them. I don't think they thought to much of me due to the fact that I was driving Shanes Kia. We talked about what each party has seen and encountered and tried to hand out tips for routes and things to see. I told them they had to make it to Fred's Lounge in Mamou LA on a sat to take in the Cajun music. They told me I would love Austin and Austin would love me. As we talked another solo cyclist stopped by that was heading west. He is a English Teacher in NYC and is doing a spring break ride. He does close to 80 miles a day and stays in Hotels and grades papers. He does it more for the cardio aspect of it more than the freedom that we have chosen to live. After Shane had given the three riders his info we went back to the camp area to relax.
The next day I packed it up and said a final goodbye to Shane. I hope to meet up with the West family again if it be in Pine Prairie or where ever I decide to live. I wanted to get to Austin within a week and got to moving.

Till next time
Love and Licks
Sean and Coop.

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