December 6, 2012
Merryville, LA to Silsbee, Texas
Today was the beginning of a period of cold weather and waning enthusiasm. Just four days ago I wanted to keep pedaling the Blue Bicycle forever – across Texas, over the Rockies, to the Pacific and beyond – eating candy, sleeping on derelict land, and bewildering locals the whole way. but now I felt nearly ready to go home, flop down on the couch and see what’s new in reality TV (or is it just called TV now?).
Various factors coalesced to darken my mood, like being bombarded by Christmas lights and decorations on every street, and holiday music coming from the walls of every gas station, grocery store and public restroom. Aside from being really annoying, that stuff reminded me that I had a family and friends and I would soon be relaxing with them in Fall City, eating, drinking and celebrating. but mostly it was the cold that dragged my mood down. The temperature today may have got to 45 degrees but most of the time it was much colder. I finally traded my leather gloves for a pair of fleece gloves and I didn’t take them off for three days, not even to sleep.
The scenery was finally beginning to change after hundreds of miles of fairly uniform terrain. After riding 600 miles west from St. Augustine, I thought I was beyond the range of mossy live Oaks, only to see a giant one draped in moss and colorful beads in New Orleans. It was hard to tell the difference in terrain and climate from one week to the next, though the land was looking drier, slowly but steadily. In Texas, the land was changing rapidly compared to the last thousand miles. Tall, scrap pines were more prominent and there were even some dry, wide open areas.
The changing terrain was exciting and it made me want to keep riding and exploring, but it was also a reminder that I was nearing my destination and I would be quitting just before the first dramatic climbs of the whole Southern Tier route. Now that I was freezing cold all the time, it was comforting to know the end was in sight.
With the morning rain still clinging to my beard, I left the land of Parishes and crossed over the Sabine River into Texas. I snapped a couple photos next to the Welcome to Texas sign, but I was too cold to stop for long. Texans are a proud folk. Texas flags and Don’t Mess With Texas signs hung over the landscape immediately across the border, even though these symbols of Texas were on a bayou and just miles from a place called Beauregard Parish. It didn’t look like Texas to me, but they are still proud of it. It reminded me of the Nirvana-loving French guy in the New Orleans hostel who thought it was strange how Americans feel like they all share a common bond, despite the tremendous size of our country.
I stopped for lunch at a boat launch. I can think of no less than five boat launches where I stopped to eat. This one was by far the coldest. I heated oatmeal and made tea and tried to eat, but I was too tired and cold. My tea cooled down so fast I could hardly ingest any of its warmth. After eating I didn’t want to get back on my bike or move at all, so I huddled at the picnic table, occasionally boiling water, for the next hour. There were two small cats in the bushes who also looked cold and hungry. They were nervous, but eventually began creeping towards me. I assumed they were approaching me for food. But the younger and more daring cat suddenly broke into a run, and leaped right past me to a pile of cat food in the bushes. It was nice to see that someone feeds those thin kitties, and at least they have each other for warmth. After trying unsuccessfully to pet them I took off alone.
At this point in the trip I was too cold and tired to write in a journal or take many photos, so I don’t really know what happened. I know that I did make it to one of the worst camp spots of the trip – acres of people living full-time in RVs next to a busy four-lane highway in Silsbee, Texas. Other than the location and size it was fine. The tent sites at the RV park were an afterthought. I got a nice site in a patch trees. The fee wasn’t expensive, but it’s not fun to pay to sleep on the dirt next to a 40-foot RV. The owner of the place was really nice and she dragged a space heater and extension cord from the office all the way out to the mouth of my tent.
At first I objected to using the space heater outside, but I gave in because there was nowhere to walk and no warm places to hide out in other than the bathroom which was only slightly warmer than the air. So I turned on the space heater and read Death of a Salesmen by headlamp until I could no longer keep my eyes open. I turned the space heater off and slept in most of my clothes. The rest of the week was forecast to be even colder.