A Rude Awakening

Sam Houston National Forest to Lake Somerville State Park
Part 31 in the story of a 5-week long bicycle ride from the East Coast of Florida to Austin, Texas.

My campsite down a gated dirt road in a designated wilderness area turned out to not be as remote as I had hoped. I woke up to a mumbling voice in the distance. By the time I was awake enough to understand english, the voice was saying something about dumbass people camping in undesignated areas. Hunters had found my camp. I don’t think hunting is allowed where I was, but I know camping isn’t.

Now there was a light shining on the wall of my tent. My heart started beating faster. The voice seemed to linger for a while and so did the flashlight. I assume there was two hunters, but I only heard one voice. When he said something about going back to his car to get bolt cutters (for my bike lock?) I said “hello?” That shut him up. The light disappeared and the voice stopped mumbling.

I listened for a while and then opened my tent. The first light of dawn was in the east. The hunters were gone (or else I couldn’t see them because of their camo, yuk yuk). I couldn’t sleep anymore, so 10 minutes later I crawled out of my sleeping bag and started packing.

I wheeled my bike up the gravel road and under the gate by the highway. I stopped to change shoes and then I realized I forgot to eat breakfast. As my water heated, I began to think about revenge for the rude awakening. Of course, the offending party’s truck was parked right next to me. And, I hadn’t done my morning bowel movement yet.

I considered the possibilities, but ultimately wimped out. Leaving a turd in the bed of the pick-em-up truck would have been an excellent deposit for my memory bank. Just thinking about it now makes me regret that I didn’t do it. But, being pursued by angry guys with guns could have really ruined my day.

After breakfast, I pedaled out of the piney woods with their fresh asphalt and into a town called Richards. I stopped at the only store in town to buy snacks and take care of that morning BM. After walking out of the restroom, I was confronted with a menu. Turns out they serve breakfast. I ordered an egg on a muffin and sat down at a booth to await my second breakfast.

A wild pack of family dogs.

I must have crossed an imaginary line somewhere near Richards, because now I felt far from the bayou. The terrain looked like Texas to me. Or at least it looked like the only part of Texas I am familiar with – the Austin-area. The land is open and a little drier. There are fewer and fewer pines. The oak trees are short and grow at funny angles with no concern for gravity. I saw several oaks that had perfectly straight trunks, except they were growing at a 45 degree angle. This gave the pasture land a windswept look. It’s steer country. I rode by fields full of long-horns. That’s a clever name for them, but I would have named them “really long-horns.” Their horns are almost comical, and seem like they could get easily snagged in a fence.

Also, the hills are a little bigger. It was as if the hills of the Sam Houston forest had swelled up by a couple hundred feet and lost the flat space in between. I think I made it above 500 feet for the first time in the entire trip from the Atlantic Ocean. I was a little more tired than usual at the end of the day. I think it’s the hills. They’re not big but I’m always on them.

I wanted to play with these puppies, but I left right after taking this photo because I was luring them into the road.

In the middle of the day, I went to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park – the birthplace of Texas. On March 1, 1836 some Texas delegates met there and drafted the constitution of the Republic of Texas. I went there to eat Snickers bars and air out my feet.

I saw lots of deer in this part of Texas. White-tailed deer. Usually the sound of my wheels and heavy breathing spooked them, which sent them running down the side of the road and over anything in their way. Late in the afternoon I saw two deer leap a six-foot-high fence on the side of the road. It was six feet on the side where they took off, and a few feet higher on the other side. They seemed to float in the air; their posture perfect for sustained flight. I can see where the flying reindeer stories come from. I wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the Cervidae family can jump rivers and small human dwellings.

Armadillo.

On the way to Lake Somerville, I went into a small bar/grocery store right outside the state park. A sign said everything in the store was half-off because they’re closing. Lake Somerville has also been affected by the drought. It was once popular for boats, but now the boat ramp doesn’t reach the water. That’s why the store is going out of the business.

I asked the kid at the cash register what the lake is like. He laughed and said it’s not much of a lake. The campground isn’t much of a campground now either, he said. Despite the half-off sale, the beer I bought still seemed to be the regular price.

The rangers let me have the only campsite in the closest loop of the campground. But I didn’t have it all to myself. Most of the time, about 10 deer cautiously grazed nearby. Apparently they are not used to sharing the loop.

The boat launch that doesn’t reach the water.

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