I woke up with the drawstring on my sleeping bag pulled so tightly that only my nose poked out. I didn’t know why it was still dark when I opened my eyes and I frantically tried to uncover my head until I found the zipper. It was still cold out but I had slept soundly. The moisture that was still in the air from the last rain was now frozen on the ground. Still in all my clothes – rain gear included – I heated some water for oatmeal.
While I was eating breakfast, one of the campground hosts came into my camp to chat. He was tall, old and goofy. He wore earmuffs, laughed constantly and drank coffee out of one of those giant plastic gas station mugs. He was really chatty and told me all about the drought and how he was born and raised in Louisiana. He talked and talked. Maybe no one ever camps at Double Lake in winter, because he sure had a lot to tell me. I didn’t have much patience with him and I lost interest in his life story pretty quickly. Maybe he was just boring, but it occurred to me that perhaps the last month of being on the road alone had conditioned me to be impatient with people.
I had really gotten used to being alone. After the initial loneliness wore off, it was so incredibly easy – I didn’t have to wait for anyone, or hold anyone up, or discuss the route with anyone. All the decisions were my own. I also didn’t have to make small talk and now I was finding I could hardly stand it. I was perfectly content with talking to myself. I may have made myself permanently crazy. but then again, maybe this guy was just especially boring.
He was really nice though. He even looked up a weather forecast for me on his Droid. He must have been extra hip too, as smart phones weren’t particularly popular among retired people in the rural south.
It was after ten when I finally started pedaling. I spent the morning riding through the Sam Houston National Forest. After 25 miles, I emerged from the forest and rode into a town called New Waverly. The grocery store had almost nothing so I bought some overpriced snacks and got back on my bike. A few blocks later I arrived at King David’s BBQ. King David’s BBQ is a portable building next to a giant BBQ smoker. Next to the barbecue there are a couple picnic tables. The place was popular and most of the patron’s were really large – they knew good food.
The Bible’s King David beheaded Goliath, but this one served me a goliath pulled-pork sandwich with a sweet tea and it was delicious. I ate and chatted with the locals on the picnic table. They were especially interested in my route, so I showed them my map and they gave advice about the roads. One of them mentioned that his advice might be no good because the furthest he’s ever gone on a bike was a 5-mile trip to Huntsville and back when he was a kid. I already knew where I was going.
After lunch, my path took me back into the Sam Houston National Forest. New Waverly is sandwiched between two sections of the forest. This section, the eastern one, was hillier and smoother. It was really one of the most pleasant rides of the whole trip and probably the most hilly stretch of road so far. I enjoyed the hills, but lots of hills meant I was spending nearly all my time riding uphill. It was worth it for the quick descents though. The pines here were older than the other section of forest. They towered overhead and filtered the sunlight nicely.
In the middle of the forest, I met a bike tourist named Dana. She was about my age, and on her way to Florida from Northern California. We talked about good camping spots nearby. I was a little embarrassed because she had ridden much further than me that day.
That night, I pushed my bike under a gate and down a dirt road at the edge of the national forest. I found a nice place to camp surrounded by big trees. There was still plenty of light so I took a walk in the woods. Before falling asleep, I talked on the phone with Lilli in Austin. She was now just three days away.