Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Battle of Houston

I got up and went through the usual routine to get my day started. As I was getting ready to leave, my friend living in Houston, Sean, sent me a text. He had gotten back late from New York the night before and went straight to the office, only to work through the night. I don’t think I miss those days. As I would have a long day I didn’t have time to see Sean and we agreed we would get together at some point.

There were a number of healthy Houstonians out and about for a run or a ride on Saturday morning. Planning my exit from Houston was difficult enough, but actually executing the plan proved nearly impossible. I was lost for quite some time, but stayed close to the downtown area, eventually riding through it. As I was downtown I called Sean back to see if I was anywhere near his office.

As I was only six blocks from Sean’s office I was going to stop by for a bit. I was able to find Sean’s building without issue. The one problem was that there was a marathon just beginning on the one remaining road between his building and myself. It is just one of the many things that can go wrong on a daily basis. I was able to do an end around and eventually made it. Sean had work to do and I needed to get rolling, so I didn’t stay long, but Sean was able to set me up with some directions out of town and a pocketful of energy bars.

By the time I was leaving, the marathon had gotten underway, but now there was a parade going through. I had to dodge horses and ride through puddles of horse urine to get back on track. By this point I was rather annoyed. I disregarded just about every traffic sign to try and get out of Houston.

Again I had run in to the trouble of planning by map. One road I was planning using was in such bad shape, that it wasn’t even possible to ride on it. It was different from Kinney County, Texas, where that road was new and in terrible shape. In Kinney County, there had to be a roomful of engineers sitting around trying to answer the question. “How could we make this road new, but bumpier?" The road in Houston was just old and not really rideable.

Eventually I made it out of the Houston area and onto a secluded road with lots of greenery on each side. It was the first day since California that I was out riding among trees and grass, at least for the better part of the day. It was a pleasure in comparison to the rest of my morning. I even passed a couple of other cyclists on the road. I think I scared the crap out of them though as they probably weren’t expecting anyone to come up from behind them on a bike. The road took me across the San Jacinto River, where there were a number of people on boats and personal watercraft out enjoying the day.

As the day wore on and I rode further east, the terrain became swampier. It was becoming obvious that I would soon be leaving Texas and entering Louisiana. I also saw the first signs advertising crawfish for sale. I was really looking forward to my fill of those critters.

In the afternoon, there was one dark mysterious cloud hanging in the sky. The rest of the sky as far as I could see had white, puffy clouds all around. I am sure I don’t have to mention that my path took me right under the single ominous cloud and rain hosed down on me. There was no place to hide. The area was wide open and there were no buildings around. I wasn’t expecting rain, so hadn’t prepared as I usually would, by packing all my stuff in plastic bags before putting it on my bike. Fortunately it only rained for 15 minutes. It was just long enough for me to get a nice soaking.

The day was dragging on and I was getting really warm. The humidity had been quite high for the last couple of days and it was taking its toll. My back was aching and I had to take a couple of short breaks before I finally reached Beaumont, Texas.

I found a Days Inn and when I asked the desk clerk about possibilities of going out to get some dinner, she said, “You are going out? You are asking for trouble." I was glad I stayed in such a nice neighborhood. The clerk told me to walk across the parking lot, cut through the lot next door and then through the hole in the fence to the Waffle House. That was pretty much my only option for dinner, so Waffle House it was.

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