That’s right, we’ve left Texas. We are no longer in the largest of the contiguous states.
Before we crossed the border, we shared loving good-bye hugs with Valerie, easily our most mom-like host so far. After just two days, we were like family, but just like the families we said good-bye to when we left on this trip we said our thanks and hugged her before we got on our bikes.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the country and land used to be cheap, so the metro-area is a bit sprawling. We rode for around twenty miles before we really felt like we weren’t in Houston-area any longer.
As stated before, there have been some serious pains on this trip, knees, hands, asses, etc. Even though we rested for two days, getting back on bicycles wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do with a triple digit day recently behind us. The other thing about biking East of Houston is that it starts to seem a lot like the rest of the gulf coast, humid, hot, and mosquito infested. Our day lasted until the light was gone and we found an abandoned looking home.
The thing about abandoned looking houses in the middle of nowhere is that they are almost definitely abandoned. We set up our tents quickly as the mosquitoes were growing to be more of a cloud than a swarm. The night was uncomfortable and didn’t allow for a fulfilling sleep.
We set out the next day with Lake Charles, Louisiana in mind, but realized by the time we made it to Beaumont that we were gassed from the heat and sleeplessness. On our way to leave town, we stopped to wait for a train and didn’t feel like being on the bikes. We took shelter in the shade and realized we were definitely not going to ride to Lake Charles by the end of the day. We contacted couch surfers in Beaumont and went looking for Mexican food.
On our trip to find a good place to eat we were hollered at by a man on his porch, we assumed it was his porch. When we finally submitted and came over to talk to him we realized we were meeting a real character. His name is Lewis and he’s a talker, and a bit of a close talker at that. This ended up being an interaction that not only lasted for twenty minutes or more when we first stopped, but for another twenty minutes when he met us outside of a failed visit to a Mexican restaurant (all-meat menu). Lewis talked about God, family, homosexuality, age, and anything that seemed to cross his mind. His was a friendlier disposition than that of the average stranger. We did eventually convince him we had to go and took off without too much more chatter.
During dinner we were contacted by Steven Palmer, a couch surfing host that said we were cool to stay at his place. With burritos in our past we headed to his house. Steven turned out to be a well equipped adult that was only two years older than either one of us. He had a house that seemed to have everything a motivated and well-paid chemist could want. Luckily, it also had everything we wanted: a shower, a bed, and a host who’s willing to watch Red Dwarf episodes before going to sleep. In the morning, we found a note from him wishing us well and allowing us access to his stocked refrigerator and pantry.
Full bellies make for happy men who are ready to cross state lines. Before we could make it much past Beaumont we were flagged down though and forced to stop by a smiling stranger.
This time, instead of a single color wearing man of fifty we were faced with a beautiful, older woman standing next to her escalade waving frantically. We found out that Charlene Babineaux had also cycled across the country and that she was very enthusiastic about us and our trip. She took lots of photos with us and gave us some cash that she had, apologizing for it not being more. She actually apologized.
If the unexpected generosity and enthusiasm hadn’t been enough the first time, we were flagged down again a few miles later by Charlene and given an envelope of cash she had just gotten out of the ATM for us. She said one thing in regards to the money, “pay it forward.”
Riding high doesn’t quite describe how we were feeling after the onslaught of good tidings that had come our way in the last seventeen or so hours. When we finally made it past state lines we were feeling so good that a complete flat that delayed us about forty five minutes didn’t hurt much.
We had done something that seemed impossible when we rode face-first into fifteen mile per hour winds in West Texas, we made it out. We had ridden across the biggest unfrozen state there is and didn’t have any new enemies that we were aware of. In fact we had made friends we now genuinely miss being around, and found some benefactors along the way.
The trailer tube was repaired and we looked to finish the last few miles into Lake Charles, a city that wasn’t going to be a stop until it became one.