Chasing your shadow down East Texas freeways is glorious. Especially on roads you have never ridden before.
That was me last November. I was on highway 90 headed northeast to the Piney Woods of East Texas. My destination was Village Creek State Park in Lumberton but the real story is the ride: A 300 mile loop around Southeast Texas and the Upper Texas Gulf Coast in the cool breezes of early November.
Here is the route I took. Purple is Thursday night and Red is Friday morning.
I left work about 2:30 and shot straight out 90 towards Liberty.
I got to Village Creek State Park just before 5 and set up camp. I had just finished up as a guy in a huge fifth wheel travel trailer backed into the site next door. I figure he might have been about twenty feet from my tent. I picked everything up and moved it to a much more secluded spot. I never felt like I was in the woods though.
But there were some points of interest. The State Park had one of these:
The evening was nice and relaxing. Dinner from a pouch and a movie on my phone in the heated tent.
My air mattress died so I didnít get great sleep. Up the next morning. Since Iíd done the bike camping thing before, I figured it would only take an hour or so to get packed up and ready to ride. It took two and half hours. I am going to get bigger bags. Things pack up great in the garage but at the campsite, itís a different story. I need to be able to stow and go.
After I got everything packed and on the bike, I realized that I didnít have the bike keys! They were STILL IN THE BLOODY TENT! The tent that was packed under two bags, a chair and 3 ropes.
Thankfully, I had placed a spare key on the bike in a very accessible location. Still, it took a couple of seconds to remember all this and the litany of filth that issued forth from my growling mouth was one for the textbooks. I grabbed the spare, apologized to any trees I might have offended and started the bike. It was frigginí time to go.
I was headed south to Beaumont. Grabbed I-10 over to Winnie (worst stretch of the ride) and then took 124 South to High Island. I loved that road. Long and flat with green fields and a few muddy brown canals. The sun was set to ultrabright and everything looked clean and vibrant.
I am a coastal person. As I got closer to the ICW (Intracoastal waterway) I could feel my batteries begin to recharge (they run on salty air). I noticed a very unlikely looking bridge in the distance. Surely I wasnít expected to ride over that damn thing. No, surely not.
Once I got on the bridge though, it was actually quite exhilarating and I had to fight the urge to stop at the top and get off for pictures. Iím doiní it next time (and there WILL be a next time as this is the way I will go on the big ride-South Padre to Key West in April).
I stopped at the bottom to snap some shots and take in the ICW. Remember, this deep ass channel goes from Boston, down through Florida and all the way over to Brownsville at the Texas/Mexico Border. Iíve fished it many times and I love to watch the tugboats cruising down this unassuming river.
South of the channel lies High Island.
Anybody familiar with this area will know about the oil boom that occurred in the early 1900ís. Itís pretty much why Houston is what it is.
These "Nodding Donkey" oil pumps are pretty common around here.
High Island gets its name from the salt dome it sits on. From Wikipedia:
A salt dome is a type of structural dome formed when a thick bed of evaporite minerals (mainly salt, or halite) found at depth intrudes vertically into surrounding rock strata, forming a diapir. It is important in petroleum geology because salt structures are impermeable and can lead to the formation of a stratigraphic trap [where oil and gas collect].
Salt Domes are also used to store Natural Gas. Back in í92, the one near Brenham exploded. A little boy was killed and we heard the explosion 70 miles away in Houston.
Iím not sure if they store natural gas in the High Island dome but I have never heard of any issues in this area.
Finally, I made the eventual turn west towards Crystal Beach
Iíd been to Crystal Beach countless times, but never from this way. I love coming at familiar towns from different directions. Itís like having old friends do something that surprises you (in a good way).
The ride across the Bolivar was really nice. Remember, this area was flattened during Hurricane Ike back in 2008. The week before the storm, we rented a beach house out here for my wife's 40th b-day party. One week later, after the storm surge subsided, all that was left of the house was, literally, a dark spot on the sand.
The community is coming back nicely. The area will always have a storm-wracked look to it though. Itís just the nature of life out here. Every 20 years or so, the Gulf rises up to reset the land.
I passed through Crystal Beach to my favorite part of the ride, the Ferry from Bolivar to Galveston. Everyone should ride this Ferry at some point!
image from Bolivar Chamber of Commerce
Iíve never ridden a bike onto a boat before. It was frigginí cool!.
The ride across the bay is about 20 minutes. Just enough time to relax, stretch legs and take pictures. The Ferry ride is just one big, orgasmic photo opp.
Lets get to itÖ
The flags were flying at Half mast in respect of the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
You can see some interesting ships on this ride. A few years back, J and I saw the USS Texas (attack submarine) launched from the Port of Galveston to Galveston Bay.
No such luck today though. Still, there was maritime eye candy to be hadÖ
...and one lonely Sailboat.
And a buttload of seagulls.
They were our fighter escort across the bay.
As we got close to shore, I got ready to go.
Off the Ferry and through the Historical Strand district. I could go on and on about the Strand but Iím only going to pick one thing to highlight right now. The last time we were there with the kids, we met an amazing artist named Elizabeth Punches. She graciously invited us into her studio. Her work is amazing (my art commentary does not do justice). See it here: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethPu...udioAndGallery
. I wanted to stop by but I was really behind schedule.
I stopped at Yagaís for ďa quickĒ lunch.
Recommendation: DONíT go to Yagaís. The food, service and facilities were not good. I think it may be the only bad meal Iíve ever had on the Strand.
Over the causeway to connect up with Highway 6. Iíve never been on this road before. It skirts Houston to the west and goes all the way up past 59. The first bit was really cool. Did you know that there was a military dirigible (think nazi-sub hunting blimp) base in Hitchcock back in WW2? I didnít.
Santa Fe is about where the magic ended. Then it was just solid traffic and stoplights all the way up to Richmond. I took Richmond to Eldridge because I lived there during College. Nice to see the old neighborhood. I took Eldridge all the way home.
What a great ride. I didnít feel the same level of sadness that I felt during my first camping ride. Iíve gotten better at this. The packing, the prep work, the being alone. Its getting easier.
I still missed my wife and kids and I felt a little guilty that they werenít experiencing what I was. But it was much less pronounced than last time.
I found areas in my packing and gear approach that will need work.
I got a taste of what the coastal ride will be like (f***ing glorious) and got used to longer days in the saddle (5.5 hours from camp to garage).
If anything, riding along the coast surpassed my expectations. More please!