Yesterday was just straight crazy. Let’s give you some context so you can understand the absurdity of our last week.
Ville Platte, LA—Deridder, LA—77 miles (124 km)
Our motel in Ville Platte resembled a trucker stop from purgatory. The lot next to the motel was completely burned down. Our room smelled like cigarettes and burnt pizza bites. The gentleman who ran the hotel was visibly inebriated and placed us in two wrong rooms before finally deciding to put us in the room farthest away from the wireless router. For dinner we ate fried chicken and corn dogs. For breakfast we microwaved some oatmeal and had some Greek cereal. It was nice.
We had a big time ride to Deridder. There was an arctic storm sweeping eastward into southwest Louisiana, so we wanted to bike as close to the Texas border as we could so that we wouldn’t get stuck in the cold weather. We made it 36 miles to Oberlin, where we split a burger and fries and complained about the cold (34 degrees). We were off to our destination. With about five miles left, I heard a loud scream behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the Bear shouting at the top of his lungs. At what, I’m not sure. Later he explained that he was trying to expel his negative energy in the form of shout. He felt bad for the girl in the car that had her window down when she passed him. He had frightened her.
We made it to our motel for the night and laid for a good eight hours before following asleep. I woke up early for the inclusive continental breakfast. When I opened the door I was slapped by a blistering chill and the sight of Deridder covered in a blanket of snow. I got to talking to Mr. Patel, the owner of the motel. He told me that in his 20+ years of living in Louisiana, he had never seen anything like this. Imagine that.
So we took a day off. Texas would have to wait another day.
Deridder, LA—Kirbyville, TX— 50 miles (80.5 km)
This was a big day for us. We were going to enter the massive beast that is Texas. It would symbolic for us, because it’s what we have been working towards. We had a big breakfast, packed up, rolled the bikes out of the door, and were ready to go. I had my headphones in and was nearly out of the parking lot when I looked back at Darren. He had a look of defeat on his face, like the day was over before it had even started. He had gotten a flat tire and we hadn’t even left the motel room yet. Not an ideal start to the day, but we replaced the tube and were ready to start the day.
Or so we thought.
Darren unscrewed the valve to put in more air, but had unknowingly taken off the wrong part. Every cubic meter of air shot out of the valve and directly into his face, sending the frustrated bear into a fit of rage. Darren took a step back, inhaled, then exhaled. “Woooosah,” he muttered.
We pumped the tube back up and were on our way for the Lone Star State.
We’ve told everyone that we’ve run into that we aren’t cyclists. We may not know the biker lingo, or the fact that we ride “10’s.” Shute, I didn’t even know what a rear derailleur was before a few weeks ago. But we biked from the Atlantic to Texas. We may not be “cyclists” per se, but we can mess with a bike.
We crossed the scenic Sabine River coming into Texas, and took a couple sweet shots at the border. The last two hours of the ride were great. There were no headwinds and we were feeling refreshed from our day off in Deridder. We averaged 17 mph or so, and for a moment it seemed as if the Bear was about to break the sound barrier.
We made it to our host family’s house around 4pm. Deb and Sid greeted us with four plates of cookies, two plates of lasagna, and some Texas Toast. Charlotte, Sid’s daughter, was 23 and had completed the Southern Tier last October. We picked her brain for some advice going through Texas. She even tried to scare us with stories about the mountain climbs in New Mexico and Arizona. She was about 5’7”, 105 lbs and had taken about three months to complete the trip. She got snowed in for a week, and also took a detour to the Grand Canyon for a few days. I was envious of her time frame, because we have time constraints given our obligation of being back in Tobati for the Kingswood Oxford community service trip on March 9.
Sid made a huge campfire outside where we hung out with the family and his three dogs. Daphne was my personal favorite. She was a 12 year old Doberman and weighed around 100 pounds. Whenever there was a noise in the woods, Sid would shout, “What’s the situation, Daphne!” He explained to us, “This here Daphne, she is an em-ploy-ee of this here residence. Her title is, ‘The Situation Examiner.’” Sid was a trucker and always took one of his dogs along for the ride. His chemistry with Daphne was palpable.
After a few hours by the fire we were off to bed.
Kirbyville, TX—Thicket, TX—57 miles (92 km)
Deb cooked us French toast and bacon for breakfast. Charlotte threw back seven slices and made us look like chumps. Kind of a boring day through Texas. We were on highways with headwinds the whole time. Plus, we were pretty pooped from our hang-out-sesh with Sid around the campfire the night before. It didn’t help that Deb gave us a whole bag of cookies that we shamelessly munched on for the entirety of the trip. The last 20 miles into Thicket was a straight road with practically no traffic—nothing but us and the wilderness. We were going a little crazy.
We biked through town, which basically consisted of a few houses scattered for a couple miles along the side of the road. There was a pack of six ten-year old kids that were driving on the sides of the roads with 4x4s. They were their very own gang. One of them even had a hunting rifle. It was the Wild Wild West. They even gave us a show. For your sake, please treat yourself to the videos below and you will see that in no way have I exaggerated the reality of this “wolf pack.”
Our plan for the night was to camp out at an RV Park. We called the number and a woman by the name of Cheryl picked up the phone. She owned the beauty salon called, “The Hairport,” that was on the lot of the RV park. She told us that she would leave the door open so that we could use the bathroom. When we arrived at The Hairport, we got to talking and she told us that if we wanted we could even sleep inside. Dude’s night at the beauty salon? Sign. Me. Up.
I wanted to give the Bear a Jheri curl like Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction, but that involved us staying up past our strict 10pm bed time, so it didn’t happen.
Thicket, TX—Richards, TX—88 miles.
We woke up to a thick blanket of fog creeping through the town. There wasn’t a noise for miles. It was serene. As we began the day we thought that we could potentially reach our first century mark (100 miles). We would reach Richards at the least, where we knew there was a biker’s hostel we could stay at. “If we feel good when we get to Richards,” Darren said, “we should just put in the last 20 miles to Navasota.” Once we got to Richards, I don’t think we could have put in another two miles, let alone twenty.
We made decent time to a small town called Shepherd, TX, where we stopped at a supermarket and got a quick bite to eat. We then headed west to a small town called Coldspring. I felt fatigued for some reason—more than normal. I stopped and checked my tire pressure and the valve on my back tire was loose and leaking air. Go figure. I pumped up and then endured a brutal 11 miles to Coldspring. The ride was full of cold headwinds slapping us right in the face. Just tough. We got to Coldspring and sat down on the steps in front of Town Hall and took a video. We knew that we had another 40-50 miles to go, and I was battling some seriously bad energy. We knew that we had to make it to Richards, because there was no place before that where we could crash and stay out of the forecasted icy temperatures. It got so bad for a while that I had to listen to Coldplay for a few minutes and tell myself that everything was going to be OK. I did the same thing a few weeks ago on the ride back to LA after a weekend with my friend Brian in Las Vegas.
So we put on our big boy pants and did the darn thing. With about 30 miles left I felt a tweak in my left knee. I stopped and stretched, applied icy hot, and then breathed while focusing on the pain (something I learned from my meditation days). I took it easy and tried not to apply much pressure to my left knee. The last 25 miles we started to go a little cooky. We went through Little Lake Creek Wilderness, which provided miles of trees on end to help take our mind off our mind. The last eight miles into Richards was Texas Hill Country—the road that never ends. I was running on fumes, as was Oso. We realized that we hadn’t really eaten solid meals that day. I had some fruit in the morning, eggs, sausage, a biscuit, hashbrowns for lunch, plenty of bars along the way, Doris’ cookies, some Gu, five hour energy, and a couple PBJ sandwiches. I know that sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re doing 90 mile days.
My adrenaline carried me the last ten miles to Richards. When we got there, I felt accomplished. At the same time, I was on the verge of collapsing.
We met Ernie and Dorris, who owned the 100 acres of land that we would be staying on. They had developed a Biker’s Hostel on their property, called “The Checkpoint Harley.” They had shut down all of the other facilities because of the cold front that was supposed to arrive that night. So Ernie put us in his “man cave.” It’s basically the room that all married men dream of—a huge flat screen TV, a massive beer bottle collection around the room, wireless internet, a bar, kitchen, and an attic bedroom—a Sunday escape from the wifey to watch football with the dudes.
That’s where we have been staying since yesterday. We took a day off today because the roads were icy in the morning from the freezing rain that came at 7am and we put in enough miles yesterday for two days of riding.
The ride to Richards broke our record of miles logged in a day. I only felt remotely accomplished this morning after regaining my motor skills after a delicious breakfast in the man cave.
Things can look pretty grim at times, but the key is to power through it. You have to have faith that things are going to work out. If you decide to settle, you’re going to regret it down the line. It’s better to put in the work and endure the pain of the moment because when you look back on it you’ll feel proud of what you’ve done.
That’s our mantra, and hopefully it will carry us to San Diego.