Day 100: ~30 miles from Steven F. Austin State Park to Houston, Texas. Country and suburban highways. Rain.
Gee, more rain. What a surprise. It was not raining as I got ready to leave but by the time I got out of the park it was a steady rain. The riding today is quite nice though – country highways with very little traffic. Pro tip: the best time to ride in Texas is, can you imagine, Sunday morning? Of course – I pass church parking lots overflowing with cars but no one is actually on the roads. What great timing to ride into Houston. I bet this downpour helps too.
I planned this day’s route to add a few miles but avoid the suburban jungle for as long as possible, and boy am I glad. Traffic is still pretty low as I enter Katy, a border-city that is basically Houston. Every road is a 4-lane parkway with no shoulders and maybe or maybe not a sidewalk. Google maps show a few of the dark-green lines indicating separated trail facilities, but in reality they are just curving sidewalks overflowing with water. By the time I get close to my host’s house I am miserable and freezing again but it is about 90 minutes before my host will be home. Shit. But then I see my savior – Chipotle! I walk in, dripping all over the place, take about a minute to convince my numb, frozen hands to unclip my helmet. I change in the bathroom and, although I know it’s a ‘health hazard,’ I just walk around confidently in my socks and what little dry clothing I have – should not have left my sandals strapped to the bike rack…
I hang around in the little alcove for almost two hours until I don my wet clothing again (I need something dry to wear at the house) and leave to meet my host. I meet Techy and his family of four, a wife and two children. I dry off and change, throwing my clothes in the laundry. I spend most of the night chatting with Techy – his wife does her own thing but he basically follows me around. We have some good conversations and I find myself working with him to explain the basic concepts of calculus to his amazed 7th-grade son. There is really an equation to draw all those infinite rectangles!? Amazing! Also, they feed me yummy stir fry with rice, BBQ pork and beef, and coconut water out of a coconut. Yum!
Day 101 (2016-12-05): ~15 miles from West Houston, to slightly less west Houston.
Fried rice with ham and more coconut for breakfast? Sure, why not! I am happy to discover a combination of fan and newspaper stuffed inside my shoes have dried them out, though they are still pretty crusty from all the dirt. Techy continues to follow me around and we talk this morning as I wait out the rain and plan to meet my next host at 13:00. It is only a 15 mile ride towards downtown, but still on the west side of Houston. This place is absolutely huge. Did you know the whole state of Connecticut would fit inside Houston? Check out this visual aide to see just how big this place is…
Despite the short ride and only mild misting, the ride to my new host went south quickly. I was following a series of trails along a levee and next to the bayous, but after about 8 miles the trails started to have closed signs. Not wanting to brave the craze of the suburban parkways I continue along. At first it seemed fine, but then shit went downhill. I apologize I did not take any pictures – again, the rain and temperature foils my photography. At one point the trail was washed out for several hundred feet and, not wanting to slug through the mud I could see next to it, I decided to veer away form the water towards the unpaved path nearby. Wrong move. At first the trail was kind of solid but it soon became a mud pit. I could barely even push my bike and dug my tires and feet in a few inches more than once. Yuk! When I finally manage to return to the road I ditch the rest of the trails and apologize as Josie once again wails away.
My host lives in a million dollar home. No joke – it is for sale and I looked it up. As I ride through this expensive neighborhood I smell gas…is something about to blow? It persists for several blocks, messing with my head a bit before I finally realize the culprit – gas street lamps. Seriously, what century are we in? Leave it to Oil Town to use gas lamps. At the house I greet my host Clotho and use her hose to wash off my bike and bags and come in for a lunch of very good chicken and quinoa stew with butter bread. Clotho, my host, fuses about a bit before leaving for her appointment. I wander around the house, taking it all in, before relaxing on the couch to journal and route plan for the final stretch of my ride.
My friend Alyse picks me up and we drive to the original Lupe Tortilla, a Tex-Mex chain unique to Houston. Our veggie quesadillas are good and the margarita is a change of pace for me. We chat over dinner for an hour or two then continue the conversation at the pub next door. I haven’t seen Alyse since her graduation in 2012! It’s so good to see an old friend, even if for a very short time. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a photo