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.
After this encounter, I pushed on to Lufkin and following a bit of coordinating, I met up with Whitney, the local tv reporter. I contacted Maggie to meet and she arrived when we were about to wrap things up. She told me she had something for me. After we finished, I walked over to her car and she pulled out 2 cupcakes, one was chocolate. Yess! It was definitely awesome. We went to lunch down the road at one of the burger places and Maggie treated me to lunch. She contacted her editor, Edwin, who came over and we sat and talked for a while. I had to take off soon enough to make the last 50 some miles to Jasper. We posed for some pictures and I took off.
I left Lufkin around 2:30 and pushed the pace quite a bit to catch the story when it aired at 6. Everything seemed to be in my favor, the wind was behind me, the shoulder was wide and smooth, the scenery was gorgeous, and my energy was high! My spirits were up and motivation was peaking. I made really good time, way faster than I had anticipated but unfortunately I didn’t make it in time but Maggie told me it looked good! I linked up with Amanda when I reached Jasper, she had offered her couch for me and I wasn’t going to turn down the offer. We went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner and she treated me to an enormous burrito. I was starving and didn’t think I was going to finish eating it but my stomach surprised me and stretched a lot more than I figured. We hung out for a bit and went back and Amanda had a birthday cake waiting for me. It was really nice, I made my wish and blew out the candles and I can say the wish has been coming true every day.I haven’t celebrated a regular birthday party in 5 years now. The last normal one was my 18th, just before I left to bootcamp. My 19th was in Okinawa, 20th in Iraq, 21st in Okinawa, 22nd in Afghanistan and my 23rd on the road with people I had just met in East Texas. Each person I came into contact that day made today special, from the very start till the moment I fell asleep, everyone contributed something to make today another amazing day!