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.