March 24 - April 12: Texas

4/12 - Silsbee (76 miles 1770 total)
76 miles from the san jacinto inn in cold springs to the pinewood inn in silsbee, TX
it was in the 50's this morning when we went out to the trailer to get our breakfast, snacks, then packed up & headed down the road. again today, there was little if any wind. there wasn't as much haze as yesterday, so the sun was brighter. i imagine highest temps were in the low 80's.
sari, roma, & i pedalled thru the town of shepherd, then headed toward dolen. at one point we had a run-in with some dogs, but between roma's orange marine whistle, my deep "NO," & sari's dog-dazer, we kept them at bay. speaking of dogs, rita got a message today that the dog that bit her in del rios does not have rabies, so we're all relieved that she doesn't have to do anything further on that score.
along the stretch to dolen i spotted a pasture where about a dozen miniature ponies were cavorting. i thot they might run off when we stopped & approached them, but au contraire. they romped over to the fence to say you can see in this photo of me petting a pony nose.
shortly thereafter, at about 22 miles, we met my 4 iowa city friends at the intersection of farm roads 223 & 787; they had ridden from cleveland this morning. we then all headed down the road together for silsbee, where we would all overnight at the pinewood inn.
a bit further along i took this photo of our group alongside a truckful of logs. from left are jim, barb, sari, roma, betty, & jan. several of these loaded log trucks went past us on the road today. on some of them, the logs weren't as neatly piled as they are on this truck, & some logs seemed about to slide off the back.....which always makes a cycler kind of nervous.
this photo clarifies why log trucks are so common on roads in this area. (notice the panniers the iowa citians carry on their bikes. sari, pannierless, is riding behind them.)
we were riding through "the big thicket," a section of texas that once covered over a million acres. even today there are areas so thick & brushy with undergrowth as to form a nearly impenetrable jungle. the thicket has always served as a handy hiding place for outlaws & smugglers. during the civil war, the big thicket became a refuge for service-dodging texans. the confederate army regularly sent in squads to look for these men, who became known as "bushwhackers," a term that survives today. at one time, the big thicket boasted nearly every variety of hardwood & pine native to southern texas, but nearly a century of lumbering has greatly depleted the timber. today, however, several large sections remain in their native state, & are protected as the big thicket national preserve (info from the adventure cycling map).
it was nearing noon & we were getting hungry. jan spotted an opening along the road where workers were building a house. we pulled over & asked if we could picnic in the front yard, & the woman of the house gladly agreed. she even brot out some folding chairs for us to use as little picnic tables.
here we are at our roadside picnic. from left are mary (me), barb, jan, the kind woman who let us use her yard, jim (seated), & betty. we enjoyed some of barb's homemade oatmeal cookies for dessert.
one of the fellows working on the house came over to chat as we were leaving. we thot we were getting pretty good at understanding the texas drawl, but we couldn't easily catch onto what he was saying. soon we realized his accent was french; he has moved here from france & now owns a construction business in this area....daffodil homes.
here's a photo of this very friendly & talented texan.
mid-afternoon we rode into kountze. we'd been alerted that mama jack's was a good place to stop for a snack, so we pulled in when we got there. we surveyed the buffet spread, then chose to have just a dishful of our favorite. for most others, that was the cherry cobbler. i, however, enjoyed a dishful of a delicious okra/tomato/onion concoction.
as i cruised along this afternoon, i saw this little patch of spider lilies along the roadside. we all stopped to photograph them.
it was about 4:15 when we arrived at the motel here in silsbee. other riders had arrived long ago, & many were in or sitting near the swimming pool. michelle cooked supper this evening & it was scrumptious: spaghetti with a veggie marinara or pesto sauce (many of us had both), steamed broccoli, green salad, cheese/jalape?o bread, sliced cantaloupe & honeydew melon, cookies & cake. my 4 iowa city friends dined with us.
at the map meeting michelle noted that we'll ride 86 miles tomorrow (if we want to)....& that we'll cross the border from texas into louisiana. my iowa city friends will ride the first 40 miles with us before they veer off onto another route for the rest of their 5-day bike trip. it's sure been fun having them share a bit of our cross-country experience.
elaine made the BITCH socks presentation to loralee (in photo) appreciation for the delicious brownies loralee treated us to last week; the new acronym label is Brownies In Texas Considerate Caring Compassion Helpful (elaine decided if one C word is good, more than one is even better).
(those of us who like fresh air & therefore have the doors of our motel rooms open tonight have found out that our motel is evidently located near the silsbee auto racing track.)
If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, feel free to e-mail me with your request, and I'll save your note and get back to you after the ride. Stay tuned....

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