Coldest Night of the Trip

Silsbee to Double Lake, Texas.
Part 29 in the story of a 5-week long bicycle ride from the East Coast of Florida to Austin, Texas.

Something about passing down roads and through towns that I know I will never see again snapped me out of the post-trip-depression that was already setting in yesterday. That feeling of seeing something for the first and last time makes bike-touring for me. That’s why I don’t enjoy a bike ride as much as I do a tour. Sure, nothing beats a bike ride, but an out-and-back ride or a loop lacks the brand new sights, never to be seen again. But, you can’t set off from your home and move in one direction the whole time.

I woke up and noticed the goofy space heater that the campground lady hooked up outside my tent. I must admit, it was nice to turn the space heater on pointed at my torso to slowly thaw my body. The cold woke me early and the space heater coaxed me out of my sleeping bag. After one of the quickest packing sessions of the trip in the cold crisp dawn, I returned the space heater to the office. In exchange, the office lady gave me some cookies. The day before, the office lady got on the wrong foot with me – she materialized from nowhere and asked for money while I was hoping to go unnoticed and sleep for free. But free food, especially free food high in fat and sugar, is a good way to earn a more favorable opinion from me.

I did a lot of miles today and I did them fast. It was too cold to stop, so I crammed the honey buns into my mouth from the seat of my bike. I did a couple of 25-mile stretches without stopping, which is unusual for me.

In the afternoon, I got to the edge of the Sam Houston National Forest and pedaled through big pine forests and rolling hills. It certainly didn’t look like anywhere else I have been in Texas. The pines were thicker and older than the pines to the east. They weren’t even planted in straight rows, like the pines from Louisiana to Florida.

Believe it or not, this is a hill. Biggest one I’d seen in a while.

The incredible Texas drought was evident in the small bodies of water I passed. Sandy or grassy banks went on forever, usually ending in the lowest point with a puddle. Or nothing a ‘tall. The parallel cement tracks of a boat launch marched towards the water, stopping short of actual H2O.

I wanted to spend a night in the national forest, and Double Lake Recreation was a good day’s ride from Silsbee – 75 miles or so. My map said it was a primitive campground, so I hoped it would be cheap.

Ten miles left to go. The road went northwest towards the town of Coldspring. in Coldspring, the highway made a hairpin turn and continued South. A shortcut could have saved me a lot of at least five miles. I thought about taking a dirt road that went in the right direction and missed Coldspring, but I wasn’t sure if it went through so I decided against it. Maybe if I had someone with me I would have done it.

That happened a lot – I didn’t take a chance because I was alone. Nothing bad happened on the trip, but on the other hand, I would probably be writing more exciting stories in this here blog if I wasn’t alone.

Oh well, I made it to Coldspring and I was glad to see it. I hung a left and the campground was three miles away.

It wasn’t cheap, but I had the whole place to myself. Double Lake looked more like Patch of Tall Grass. There was some water in the center of it, which I later learned was the runoff from the recent rain. While I was hunkered down in a teepee in Louisiana watching the rain, the Texas dirt was being penetrated by moisture for the first time in months. It may have raised the level of the water in Double Lake, but most of Texas was still in “extreme” or “Exceptional” drought.

A ranger came by just after dark and charged me $18 for camping in the primitive site. He also told me all about how cold it was (I already knew). The night before was cold and this one was going to be colder. I read in the bathroom for a while. It was a little bit warmer than outside. I went to sleep early because there wasn’t much else to do and I needed the warmth of my sleeping bag. I put on nearly all my clothies – multiple t-shirts, a thermal, a wool shirt, a sweatshirt, a fleece, long underwear, shorts, pants, two pairs of socks and rain gear. Then I stuffed a couple water bottles full of boiling water in my sleeping bag.

It worked. I slept comfortable without getting strangled by my many layers.

There’s supposed to be a lake here.

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