Monday, June 6, 2011

April 18: Deridder, La – Crowley, La (85mi)

The wind was from the south but a good part of the ride was in a southeast direction. The day was uneventful and I got to Eunice, my planned stop, in the late afternoon. I stopped for food and was trying to figure out where to stay.
I follow the weather pretty closely since it plays a huge part in how far I ride and the next day was supposed to be quite windy from the south. A good part of my ride the next day was riding right into it so I rode south out of town and set up camp next to the tree line. 
First it was hot and humid; it was fine if I could keep part of my body exposed outside the sleeping bag. Second, that wasn’t going to happen. The mosquitoes were pretty brutal. So I tried tucking myself inside the bag but I just started dripping sweat. Finally, the skies threatened to open up and it started to sprinkle a bit. It was around 9:30 when I got my bike repacked and I was hitting the road to pedal the next 20 miles to Crowley. Forget camping, I was getting a hotel. The ride was a guessing game; guess where the rumble strips are, guess if that was a dead armadillo or flat turtle I just bumped over, guess where the shoulder ends and the gravel starts and guess where the potholes and road debris are. I don’t have a headlight on the bike, just a flashing red tail light. The passing traffic lit the way for a brief moment and I used that light to see what the road ahead looked like and based my decisions off that. It took about 90 minutes to make the dash further south and by the time I got there, I was soaked in sweat, humidity and rain sprinkles. I didn’t mind the ride because it meant that tomorrow I would have 20 less miles to ride the next day.

April 17: Jasper, Tx – Deridder, La (55mi)

Leaving Texas today!
I actually get a little apprehensive leaving a state I enjoyed and starting to ride through a new one. I wonder if this new state will top the last one and I wonder what sort of experiences are coming my way.
Either way it all turns out to be great. I left Amanda’s around 9 and on my way out of town I stopped at a local donut shop for breakfast. I parked the bike outside and walked in. Besides the workers, there was only 1 customer sitting inside. Im leaving his name out for his safety, not sure if it would matter or not but best to be safe.
He asked about my bike and what I was riding for. I explained what was going on and asked if I could sit down with him. He said ok and he started talking. The stories he told were unreal. He is Filipino and served in the Army there and was on the police force for some time. He talked about firefights with the guerilla forces and counter ambushing them and saving a comrade. On the police force, he had to deal with corrupt officials who would arrange the release of legitimate criminals. To fight this, him and fellow officers would find ways to beat the system. They would arrest the criminals on Fridays and leave them in the back of the cop cars and drop the car off in the jungle till after the judges would go home for the weekends so the release paperwork wouldnt be signed off until business resumed on Monday. His best friend was blackmailed into arranging for him to be assassinated but he was tipped off fortunately. He then came to the United States to start again and raise his family away from that life.
After he left, I asked the girl working there if he comes into the shop a lot and she said he is there all the time. I asked if she ever heard his stories, she hadn’t. I think most people would believe he is full of crap but having been to the Philippines, I know what he told me is completely true.
I didn’t have much energy this morning and was dragging myself along. It seemed to take forever to reach the state line but there it was, the Sabine River. As I rode over the bridge, I saw a nice beach on the Texas side and a few females sunbathing and on the Louisiana side, a family fishing. It was so literal: everything is better in Texas. I took some pictures at the state sight, parked my bike and went down to the river for a swim. I swam from the Louisiana side to Texas and then back. I checked the depth of the river in the middle and went back to the bridge and jumped off a few times. It was a good rush and improved my day.
Feeling refreshed, I got back on the bike and kept pedaling on towards Deridder. The ride was uneventful and I ended up getting a cheap hotel just outside town. I got bored after a bit and walked down to the gas station to talk to people.
The reason I craved socialization was because the moment I crossed into Louisiana, my phone service disappeared and stayed away all day and night. I got lonely and needed interaction so I walked into the gas station down the road, bought some food and talked with the people working. I even offered to do some work to cure some of my boredom as well. I hung around till closing time, walked back to the room and called it a night.

April 16: Nacogdoches, Tx – Jasper, Tx (77mi)

Before I took off on the road, Sean went online and checked the Daily Sentinel, the local paper, to see if the story was published and it turned out it had. Happy birthday to me. Ill take it J I stopped at a gas station on my way out of town and grabbed a few copies of the newspaper and carried on my way south to Lufkin.
I rode along for about an hour and then pulled over on the side of the road. I needed to call the reporter I was scheduled to talk with about the ride when a white SUV pulled in a stopped. A man stepped out and asked if I was the Marine. Of course, I replied. He said his name was Keith and he was standing on the balcony of his hotel room when he saw me pass by leaving Nacogdoches.  He had the newspaper tucked under his arm and went back inside to read the news and drink his coffee when he saw me on the front page and read the story. After reading it, he had to catch me.
Obviously he did. He had lost an uncle during World War 2 on Omaha Beach at Normandy and lost another in Vietnam.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

April 15: Rest Day in Nacogdoches, Tx.

I realized the night before that I haven’t taken a complete day off since Roswell. I was due for a day to recover and today seemed appropriate.
First thing to happen was a text message from Robert Raisanen; then a call from him. His close buddy, Jacob Perry, from the Marine Corps lives in Nacogdoches. I got in contact with Jake and we arranged to meet up later. Sean and I got on our bikes and rode to the coffee shop where his buddy Sean works.

(This is going to get confusing quick, so ill refer to Sean Bibby by his last name and his friend Sean by his first name)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

April 14: Tyler, Tx – Nacogdoches, Tx (78mi)

Ok, long day, gotta pace myself. Unfortunately, I slept late. Woke up at 9 and after eating, packing and hygiene time, I hit the road around 10:30. My late start turned out to be a good thing but I didn’t see the results of this until my day was nearly ended. I pedaled 25 miles south to Jacksonville then directed myself east. The weather was amazing, the wind wasn’t too terrible, spirits were high, and the country side was gorgeous. The shoulder was wide enough for most of the way that I could have the flag flying and for everyone to enjoy. Occasionally passing motorists and bikers would honk or give a thumbs up and boost my mood. After a good ways, the shoulder narrowed then disappeared and I had to ride the white line and roll the flag up a bit. Traffic is pretty considerate; they pass and give me enough space.
The day passed by and it was getting closer to sundown and I passed through a few towns and made a stop at one of the restaurants to gather intel and  met some more cool people of course. I cruised down the road and made it to the end where I turn south to head to Nacogdoches and made a brief stop to sip on water. I posted the bike up against a road sign and while hydrating, a vehicle pulled up and a guy got out. His name was Billy and he had passed me when I was riding through Jacksonville. He saw the flag and wanted to take pictures for his photography class but didn’t have time to stop. So when he finished what he needed to do, he came back looking for me. We did a photo-op on the roadside and I asked him where I would be able to get some food and meet people in town. Flashback Café was his recommendation. I rode in and found what I was looking for. I didn’t want to leave the bike outside so the manager allowed me to lock his bike up in the office. I was starving and sat down at the bar and ordered food. I was talking to the bartender trying to figure out my best option where I would be able to stay. I wasn’t feeling like spending money on a hotel so she was helping me figure out where parks or places would be to relax without being bothered. She left to get my food and a girl sat down at the bar, Rebecca. We got to talking a bit and of course the ride came up and I explained a bit about it and such. We talked briefly and she got her drink and left. I was eating my burger and looking at my phone, examining my maps when Rebecca came back 30 min later with a guy in tow.
“Hey Levi! I want you to meet my friend Sean! Sean, this is Levi, hes the guy I was telling you about!”
Sean sat down next to me.
“Sean Bibby! Nice to meet you! Man, that’s awesome what you’re doing! Where are you staying tonight?”
“Im not sure yet, still figuring that out.”
“Well, I have a couch, you can stay at my place tonight!”
“Aw man, awesome! Thanks!”
“No problem, come hang out with us!”
And that’s how I met Sean.  We rode our bikes back to his place that night and I crashed out. Up until this point, I hadn’t taken a complete day off from riding since Roswell, Nm and was in need of recuperation. He said I could stay a second night if I needed to. I woke up that night at 3:30am, it was raining. Thank goodness I wasn’t stuck in the outdoors getting soaked. The roof overhead and comfortable couch was even more appreciated after that and I fell back into a deep sleep.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

April 13: Canton, Tx – Tyler, Tx 39mi

Woke up this morning feeling a bit weak. Legs feeling lazy, body feeling heavy. The ground was a tad uncomfortable and the street was closer than I thought so traffic woke me up. I didn’t wake up early either, I was crawling out of bed around 9:30, so passing traffic could enjoy my morning routine. I had dissected my panniers (the bags on the side of my bike that holds all my gear) the night before and had to repack everything so it would fit properly. Most of my gear is sleeping equipment so if all of it is pulled out, repacking takes about 20 or 30 min. My dirty laundry was mooshed in the bottom of one of the panniers and I packed the compression sack with my clean clothes and mashed my sleeping bag in as well. The mashing and condensing is required for obvious reasons, so everything will fit. Once its all packed up, it fits snug and looks neat.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 12: Plano, Tx - Canton, Tx

Did quite a bit of urban riding today, rode out of Plano southeast to Rowlett, crossed the lake to Rockwall, then southeast to Terrell, east to Wills Point and then southeast again to Canton. I stopped in Rowlett for lunch and grabbed some Subway. I was about to leave when another biker, Paul Brown, came back outside where I was and we started talking. He took a photo and said he was part of a biking club and he spread the word. I rode the bridge across the lake to Rockwall and got a few calls from people I havent talked to since before I left, it was good to catch up and see how things were going.