Coast to Coast Ride

Monday, April 30, 2012

St. Francisville

The plan was that we would have a "short" day, 48 miles, leaving us time to explore St. Francisville. We followed the published route, which wandered very indirectly toward St. F-ville. The route leads to the ferry landing for the ferry crossing of the Mississippi. We knew that the ferry was replaced about a year ago by a bridge not shown on our maps. We didn't realize that the bridge is substantially south of the pld ferry so that the new highway leads you around three-quarters of a big circle around St. f-ville. We wound up doing 60 miles on a hot day. No rest for the wicked.

We had our first view of the Mississippi. We were across the river from the infamous Angola State Prison.

The new bridge is beautiful. It's named for Audubon, the bird painter. He lived here when he wasn't out compiling his encyclopedia of birds. Mostly his wife lived here and instructed young ladies for a living to support her husband while he fooled around with birds.

St. F-ville was involved in Civil War fighting. Union gunboats shelled the town (it was animportant river port then) and seriously damaged the Episcopal church, built by "the Fighting Bishop of the Confederacy". Nevertheless, the captain of the Union gunboat was honorably buried at the church. He was a Mason and hoped for a Masonic funeral. Federal and Rebel Masons declared a truce for a day and gathered together to bury their brother.

We stopped at a market in Morganza for Gatorade (among us all, we sometimes down a gallon of Gatoade a day) and saw animal parts for sale that I could hardly identify, let alone consider eating. I would have liked to try the green onion sausage.

Dinner tonight was at the Myrtles, a former plantation housesaid to be haunted. No ghosts joined us.

We're in touch with another couple of cyclists we first met back in Sanderson. They are a day ahead of us. They advised us to divert from the published route tomorrow. We'll try their route tomorrow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ville Platte. Simmesport.

We're in Simmesport, Louisiana,on Sunday night. No bank vault is closed up as tight as a small Southern town on Sunday night. We found a truck stop gas station and bought some pre-made sandwiches for dinner. We dined pn them flopped on the bed in our dingey motel room. The sandwiches were, thankfully, better than I expected.

I think our motel tonight is the worst of our trip. Steve thinks that honor goes to the Ville Platte motel, painted garish yellow with lavender accents.

I wanted to go to the Chinese restaurant buffet in Ville Platte. Itmight have been bad, but there would be some vegetables. I was out-voted. We went to a Creole place. Michele and Steve were very pleased with their meals. I had the chef's salad and Michele's baked potato. I got even today. I had my best meal of the trip at lunch, chicken and sausage gumbo at a roadside diner with a giant stuffed snapping turtle in a glass case, an alligator onthe wall, and a truly bad-looking fish, an alligator gar, mounted on the wall. we urged Steve to buy a juvenile alligator head as a gift for Christina; Christina will just have to wait and hope until Steve gets home to find out if he did!

Speaking of snapping turtles, we encountered a turtle trying to cross the highway outside Ville Platte. Michele picked him up to take him across the road; the turtle responded by trying to rip her thumb off. The turtle went flying into the weeds.

We have seen our first rice fields, flooded. Other fields are flooded for raising crawfish or mud bugs as they are locally known. There are dozens of wire cages in the flooded field. The owner harvests the crawfish by reaching each cage in a little paddlewheel boat and dumping the catch into a bucket on board.

We have had nice scenery on pleasantly quiet roads with intermittent headwind and intermittent rough roads surfaces. The temperature is not too bad. There's been some cloud cover for shade. The humidity is high; we're sticky allthe time. Ibetwehave much to learn yet about humidity.

We have just about 900 miles to go. Sounds like a long way but the end of the trip is in sight. We all made flight reservations tonight and Michele and I made a car reservation to get to DC to visit Nicole and Andrew.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Out of Texas At Last

It feels like we've been cycling in Texas since Carter was president; it's actually only three weeks.

We're in De Ridder, Louisiana. We had very fast riding condions today. We averaged an unprecedented fifteen mph through the morning.

There's acampaign poster below that shows the candidate holding a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other. I wonder where he stands on the part of the Bible that talks about turning the other cheek?

There's acultural shift: we suddenly see cajun food. We had excellent catfish at lunch. Steve was served the biggestbiscuit I've ever seen!

Our road crossed a number of bayous with still, dark waters. The Sabine River is the Texas boundary.

Our campgroud last night lookednice, but it is right next to a freeway. The noisekept all three of us from sleeping well. And the mosquitos attacked relentlessly after dark.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two uneventful days: Richards to Shepherd; Shepherd to Silsbee. Michele had two flats. At least she spaced them out, per day. We had one of the best meals of the trip at Shepherd at The Grill. I had chicken-fried steak. Steve had the venison sausage. Halfway through, Steve and I traded plates and we were both happier. Michele had a steak to replenish protein. Then we had two peach cobblers to replenish fat! After a meager breakfast at our motel, we stopped at Honey Island for lunch. There's a grocery/feed store/cafe. We had a round of excellent bacon cheeseburgers and about a gallon each of sweet tea or Dr Pepper. I yakked with an old Korean War vet for a while. Michele tells me to report the following signs that we are now in the South: streams are now marked bayous; lots of dense forest, sometimes overhanging the width of the road (and the shade is welcome); we can't open our mouths while biking without inhaling a bug; the instant we stop pedaling and lose the breeze of travel, we feel sticky; iced tea is now served sweet; shrimp is on the menus; I haven't understood a full sentence uttered by anyone I'm not riding with; there are crawfish mounds in the ditches alongside the road.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I forgot to mention the ice cream parlor in Brenham. We arrived in Brenham just after five. The Almost Heaven ice cream parlor closed at five. We begged for three root beer floats. The staff graciously made us floats which we guzzled gratefully.

Steve found some beautiful back roads to get us to Navasota. Along the way, we encountered a man taking his pet heifer for a walk. He walks her every day. I'm sure he had the poop bag ready to use.

The bank has the old-fashioned wooden tellers' cages with wrought iron bars. Crossing the Brazos River seems to have changed thecuisine. We had our first experience of Southern comfort food at Rattler's Pit, built at an old gas station. Steve had chicken spaghetti, a mass of pasta with some kind of melted cheese mixed in with chunks of chicken. It was a culinary experience, hopefully not soon to be repeated.

We are settled at Checkpoint Harley (ala Checkpoint Charley in Berlin). It's a working ranch operated by a retired military person and his German wife, Doris. They have some cabins and some tent space for wandering bicyclists and motorcyclists. Doris gave me a ride into Richards nearby to pick up sandwiches for dinner.

We are on a new more showing of elevation. That does not mean there are not lots of rolling hills. We did have a view today that showed no hills or mountains in front of us. Steve stopped at one point because pwe were at an elevation of 100 feet. Hopefully that portends good things for the future!

Monday, April 23, 2012

We find ourselves in Brenham, Texas. We had expected to be in Burton tonight, but there were no rooms available in Burton so we had to press on. There's nothing on route between Burton and Navasota. The additional 50 miles was too far, so we veered off-route on Hwy 290 to Brenham. We had headwinds and rolling terrain most of the day. Turning onto 290 was a relief because we had better grades, a broader road shoulder, and even some tailwind when 290 turned away from our route. Today I was the turtle hero. I assisted one turtle and saved another. The first was crawling across the roadway. I picked him up and put him down on the far side of the road. The other turtle was on the shoulder on 290, a four-lane busy highway. The turtle appeared to be unhurt, but he was flipped onto his back. He was waiting helplessly for someone to run him over. I felt good about the rescues. We see so much roadkill of helpless animals that I feel ashamed of humans' indifference to the damage we cause heedlessly. Les advised us to "Czech out" the kolaches at Weikel's Bakery at La Grange. Kolaches are a Czech version of Danish pastries. This area was settled largely by German and Czech immigrants. Andrew introduced us to kolaches back in Kerrville. The Weikel kolaches were better, though the bakery was such a hassle to get to by bicycle, across a narrow bridge with heavy traffic and a couple of miles from our route, that the kolaches may not have justified the detour. We stopped again at Round Top, stated population 90. we passed a multitude of flea market areas for antiques en route. We are told that 50,000 people may attend the annual two-week antique sale. Round Top has an old school building labeled "Round Top Public School 1878 - 1912 Round Top Colored School 1912 - 1953". There's a park at the center of Round Top where we found a couple baking pizzas in a mobile wood-fired brick oven. We ordered pizzas. Michele promptly dropped ours; Michele was ready to cry so they gave us another pizza. We are told that this area was all cotton farms a century ago. Round Top had as many as 5000 people then. A disease called "cotton rot" devastated the area. Round Top never recovered. Many fields along the roadway are awash in wildflowers. Yellow and red daisies predominate. Other fields are filled with white flowers.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Forgot to mention that Bastrop State Park was part of the huge wild fires last year. We passed through miles of burned miles of burned forest. This area was know as an isolated region of Loblolly Pines and hard woods. We could see new growth of oaks and pines. Our route took us through the 2 parks, very quiet. One drawback was the steep gullies we had to climb out of. Bugs are winning...I'm going to the tent.

Buescher State Park

We had a wonderful visit with Les and Cyndi in Mountain City. Yesterday Les took Michele and me to Austin for a tour. We explored the capitol building. Texans know how to build an impressive statehouse. I'll try to put up some photos later; i'm having trouble blogging, perhaps because I am using too much memory on the ipad for photos. You may have noticed that some photos aren't loading successfully and that I haven't been able to label what photos are there. We're camped at Buescher State Park east of Bastrop. We're a little over halfway by mileage at 1700. We hope the second half will be easier. We are enjoying foreflies. We first encountered them back at Brackettville, which was also the site of the rubber snake incident. Andrew found room in his stuff tobring along a rubber rattlesnake. He placed it where Michele would encounter it at got a small shriek for his trouble. We stopped at a supermarket in Bastrop for a hot chicken, someveggies, and a cherry pie. We dragged the food to camp for dinner. Mosquitos are devouring my ankles! See ya.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I apologize for Falling behind in my reporting. It feels like we haven't had a moment.

We went off-route from Kerrville. Andrew was anxious to visit Fredericksburg, a town established by German immigrants. One of the ways the German heritage is maintained is through the presence of several craft beer breweries. Andrew and Steve wanted to test their products so we rode north about 25 miles to Fredericksburg. The place turned out to be charming. The old buildings have been carefully restored to house fashion, decor, and other tourist-oriented shops. Steve came closer than ever on this trip to completing his quest for the perfect chicken-fried steak, which he washed down with local beers.

Steve's father played a song about Luckenbach, Texas, on family road trips. Luckenbach has haunted Steve ever since, so we had to include a visit to Luckenbach. Luckenbach turned out to be a highlight of the ride! Luckenbach consists of one building, a combination general store/post office/bar. The post office sign announces the population as 3. Behind the building, there are some picnic tables arranged around a chair. The chair is commonly occupied by a country western singer, sometimes a legendary one. Jimmy Lee Jones was playing while we we there. There are acres of parking that fill up at night.

We reluctantly remounted our bikes to get to Blanco. Blanco has a courthouse in a plaza surrounded by old buildings. The courthouse was built about 1880. Within four years, the county voted to change the county seat to another town, so the courthouse was used as a store, an opera house, and then a hospital. We went to the edge of town to camp at Blanco State Park on the Blanco River. Michele and Andrew lured me into the swimming hole behind the dam where I promptly fell on my butt after slipping on the algae-covered rocks. The water was cool and refreshing. Michele asked the campground hosts about the possibility of mosquitos; a few minutes later, the hosts cruised by on their golf cart to hand us bottles of bug repellent.

Our routes diverged the next day. Steve branched off to ride directly to Austin. Michele, Andrew and I rode to Mountain City where Andrew's father lives. We are flopped at Les' house for a welcome two days of rest.

Les took us to the Salt Lick, a BBQ place outside Austin that has fed generations. It's the best BBQ I've ever had. You may recall that we met some other cycle tourists back in Sanderson and then lost them en route to Langtry; we ran into on pair at the Salt Lick. Yesterday Andrew drove us to Austin to pick up Steve. We visited Lance Armstrong's bike shop. We drove to San Antonio for puffed tacos and a visit to the San Antonio missions, the most famous of which is the Alamo. Les and his wife Cyndi drove down to meet us. We enjoyed the River Walk along the San Antonio River and dined at the edge of the river.

We had to say goodbye to Andrew this morning. He's flying home to Nicole and Ft. Belvoir. I think we'll explore Austin with Les this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

End of day in Kerrville

Waiting for Chicken Fried Steak

Hill Country

Andrew eatind cereal


Exotic architecture on Guadalupe River

Steve climbing