3/11/14

Texas

Texas is big.  Texas gets hot, cold, windy, and remote.   Texas is hard.  I was in Texas for more than a month, logged over 1,300 miles, got sick 3 times, and of the 5 flat tires I've had since I left CT, 4 were on Texas roads.  I spent many lunch breaks sitting on guardrails, the only place to sit for miles, trying to put peanut butter into a tortilla flapping violently in the wind. Fortunately, Texas has a diversity of beautiful landscapes and many wonderful people.

I arrived in east Texas via Port Arthur and Beaumont, oil towns, and then rode on to Kingwood, a suburb north of Houston (the oil town), then to Montgomery, Carmine, and eventually to Austin.  East Texas wasn't particularly exciting, but full of kind Warmshowers hosts, which I appreciate even more after riding through west TX and camping for weeks at a time.

Riding through Beaumont I had to navigate around a sizable anti-abortion march in route to Jeff and Comeka's home.  Jeff and Comeka treated me to pizza and football playoffs, a day of rest, and to my first Tex-Mex meal.  Then on to Kingwood, which is suburban car land, and made me happy I wasn't getting any closer to Houston.  My Warmshowers host in Kingwood, Nathan, recently did a tour himself and so has hosting down to a science.  He has everything ready that a cyclist might ask for, including a little tray of extra toiletries in the bathroom labeled with a note to cyclists to help themselves, and had plenty of extra dessert.  In Montgomery I camped out at my first bike shop, Lake Conroe Cycling.  In addition to a couch, TV, dual headed shower, and hot beverages in the shop, Cindi provides an electric space heater for your tent on cold nights.

Somewhere around Kingwood I started getting a cold.  Leaving the bike shop the weather took a turn for the worse, with temps dropping throughout the day. After 75 miles of riding the scenic rolling hills to Carmine temps were in the low 30s with light rain.   No chance of fighting off that cold.  Fortunately, in Carmine there is a very special Warmshowers host.  Carol, in her mid 80s, lives alone well off the beaten path on a small piece of property by TX standards (~100 acres).  She has a barn with a bunkhouse which she has been using to host cyclists for years.  After a cold night I awoke to frozen pipes and a coating of ice on the ground.  So I spent a second night and had the pleasure of lending Carol a hand around the house. We went to a neighbor's to pick up a load of scrap wood, filled the tractors with diesel, I moved a microwave, burned some trash and kept the firewood supply coming. Carol was delighted with all we accomplished and gave me a special present. Carol is a woodworker, and carves children's names out of wood with letters that link together like a puzzle.  She carved Madeline and Lily and mailed them to Connecticut.   Reportedly, Madeline figured it out, but Lily is still working on it.

Carol on a cold morning with her mule and mine.