It's time for another adventure.
A month ago my good friend and fellow Texas 4000 teammate, Collyn Cooper, told me that she wanted to ride her bike home to Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Austin, Texas at the end of the Fall 2012 semester. Collyn goes the The University of Texas but grew up in Baton Rouge, LA where her family still lives. As with most adventures of this sort, I thought about it for a moment, considering the possibilities of success and disregarding those of failure. The days went by as we joked about actually doing this ride. That's a 435 mile drive in the car...How long would it take us? What about final exams? Who would support us along the way? Where would we stay each night?
Only a week before we actually departed would we sit down to organize these details. We were going to do this bike ride. No longer was it small talk, we were going to make it a reality. A third teammate and dear friend of ours, Jordan McCurdy, decided to join the fun and make the journey through Cajun Country. On December 11, 2012 we would begin our six day journey, staying with friends, family and strangers along the way. There would be no support vehicle to follow us; we would carry all of our necessities with us. Collyn and Jordan had no final exams to take, but me on the other hand, I had three to take upon returning to Austin. The three of us would cycle the entire distance fron Austin, TX to Lafayette, LA where Collyn's parents picked us up to drive the last 60 miles to Baton Rouge, LA. We did not cycle these last 60 miles because of the dangers on the 25 mile-long I-10 bridge over the Atchafalaya Basin and also so I could return to Austin in time to take my final exams. Our schedule was as follows. We would end up starting and stopping in slightly different locations to avoid high traffic areas, but this is the general idea.
Day 1: Austin, TX - La Grange, TX
Day 2: La Grange, TX - Houston, TX
Day 3: Houston, TX - Beaumont, TX
Day 4: Beaumont, TX - Lake Charles, LA
Day 5: Lake Charles, LA - Lafayette, LA
Day 6: Baton Rouge, LA - Austin, TX
**All of the following photos were taken on an iPhone. Some where taking while on the bike.
And so we set off! This is my bicycle with the extent of our luggage. Each of us only brought one pair of running shorts and a t-shirt to sleep in and a tooth brush. We had two spare tubes, chain oil and a bike multitool, solar panel and speakers. What more do you need?
The three of us on the cold morning which we left. Collyn, Aaron, and Jordan.
The hills of Austin. I was craving donuts so we stopped at this lovely establishment. Pretty good! Mackenzie and Ulrika joined us for the first 25 miles of our ride. They were brave to get out in the cold!
The last time we saw any familiar Texas 4000 face. Mackenzie and Ulrika turned around at this point to head home.
Crossing the Colorado River...for the first of many times on Day 1. The first sign of "home" for the first night. Still a ways away. Aurora (my bike), the Lorax (the Thorax pack on my bike), and me. Jordan cruising down TX-71. Collyn at the scenic overlook outside of La Grange. Looking over the beautiful Texas countryside. Collyn and myself. Jordan and her new croakies, thanks to Tina! We made it to La Grange! A day before we left Austin, we had not found a place to sleep in La Grange. I started calling churches in the town and found the First United Methodist Church of La Grange who were so generous to loan their facilities to us for the night. Misty, the Financial Secretary at FUMC La Grange, made us this lovely sign for our arrival!
As soon as we entered the church, we met Ed Collins. He was practicing his nylon string guitar in the sanctuary in preparation for his worship band rehearsal later in the evening. He told us all about La Grange and pointed us to a local restaurant to try. Here he drew us a map to Bistro 108. We had a fabulous dinner at Bistro 108. It was a cozy little place and the food was outstanding! It was a frigid ride back to the church after dinner. We had to stop at Dairy Queen to get some hot chocolate to keep ouro bodies warm. Back at the church we watched the worship band's rehearsal. After their rehearsal, Ed offered his house for us to stay out. We couldn't deny his offer so we left our bikes at the church and headed to Ed's house for the night. We had no idea we were in for such a treat! Ed and his wife Mary welcomed us to his house on their 70 acre ranch. Ed had designed and built the house to his tastes, and it sure was neat. Mary got our evened started off right with some well needed laundry.
We stayed up late talking in the living room in front of the fire. Many good conversations with our new friends. Before we knew it the clock struck midnight and we need to get to sleep. Time to brush those pearly whites! Cowboy the dog. The next morning Ed and Mary showed us around the house and property. There were many hidden treasures! Ed and Mary took advantage of the lumber on their property by crafting many unique items for the home. This was once a knot on a tree, now hollowed out to be used as a bowl. This is a table they made from a downed branch.
It's shape fit perfectly around the couch. A custom shaped glass top would be delivered a few days later. Jordan and Collyn watching Ed place the table in it's final location.
Another craft from the land of the Collins, a Christmas tree. Ed took us on a tour of their land. The pond. The bull. Rusty, the cow. She didn't like us being around and would not let us get near her. Cowboy and Boomer, the neighbor's dog. Koi pond in the back yard.
It was noon by the time we departed. A late start but well worth the wait. Thank you Ed, Mary, FUMC La Grange, and Pastor Bruhn for your amazing hospitality! Jordan cycling into Houston. The roads became very straight and flat.
Collyn in her cold weather gear. My cold weather gear. Dusk heading into Houston.
We had some down time when we arrived in Houston so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a snack and drinks. Outside the restaurant was this lovely hood ornament. Relaxing in the warm restaurant. For the second night we stayed with my great aunt and uncle James and Carol Carthel. I was so good to see them since we only get to visit once or twice a year. Uncle Jim is a avid basket weaver and makes beautiful creations. Collyn and Jordan were extremely fascinated with his craft!
Along with basket weaving, Jim also grows award winning citrus. His oranges were the second best in the upper Gulf coast! It was the best orange I had ever tasted, that's for sure. The next morning we were all very tired. Luckily Carol had prepared a delicious breakfast for us. Collyn still wrapped in her blanket. Jordan also still wrapped in her blanket at the breakfast table.
I was not happy about awaking either. For snacks on the road, we got brownies, biscuits and carrot. Yum! Uncle Jim working with his plants.
Our departure location. Thank you Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol for keeping us over night! A video of us riding onto the next city, Beaumont.
We found a lovely establishment that serves steak and seafood from a drive thru window. Place your order! Jordan - "The primary ingredient in McDonald's hamburgers is the same main ingredient in make yoga mats"
Collyn - "....."
Pretty sunset behind Jordan.
Cruising at dusk. We made it to China, y'all! But we actually made it to Beaumont!
The girls! In Beaumont we stayed with the family of one of our fellow teammates, Danielle Oxford. Danielle could not be present when we arrived, but her sister, a 2012 Texas 4000 was at home to host us. What a treat to be hosted by such a wonderful family! Their house was decorated from door to door and ceiling to floor. Where do you get a teddy bear like this? Shower time! We ate dinner at a local Thai restaurant that Adriana took us to, followed by dessert at a frozen yogurt shop. Like our previous hosts, we stayed up far past our bed time visiting with our new found friends. Morning came all too quickly, but another warm breakfast was awaiting. Edith had prepared waffles and bacon for us, so as per tradition, that was also our snack for the day's ride. The three of us with Edith. Adriana and the three of us.
On the road again for Day 4, we finally made it to the Texas - Louisiana line. Riding across the Sabine river with the "Welcome to Texas" sign in the background.
Collyn and Jordan crossing into Louisiana! Party in Cajun Country! More partying. Still more partying...or at least trying to!
We signed the "Welcome to Louisiana" sign post. The three of us in a feat of photography.
The first sign of our final destination! 1.5 days to go.
We didn't stop to see what this was about, but we should have.
We found an abandoned rice dryer and went exploring.
This place as eerie.
There was also an abandoned mobile home that we thoroughly explored. Not too far down the road from the rice dryer we ran into Dean and Gwen. We had a very entertaining conversation with them! They "ate anything that moved," including nutria. They were Cajun to the max, if you could not tell. But nevertheless, a wonder couple, or rather soon to be.
Dean was quite the goofball to say the least.
When we finally made it into Lake Charles, we stopped at Jake's Cakes for some treats. Mmmm, those cake balls and chocolate chip cookies were delicious!
After Jake's, we asked some locals about their favorite place to eat. We were recommended to try The Sausage Link where we had our first proper Cajun meal, including boudin and jambalaya. Our hosts, another family of a current Texas 4000 teammate, Jeremy Roussel, picked us up at The Sausage Link. We headed to their home for the night for continued conversation and good times.
They even had an upside down Christmas tree!
Finally, the fifth and final day of riding. The roads continued to flatten, but the scenery wasn't lacking.
A proper sign of a good day of riding: chain marks on the right leg. Collyn's were looking very nice. Pedaling hard on the final miles. Rice fields.
And we finally made it to our final city, Scott, just outside of Lafayette where Collyn's parents were going to pick us up.
Such a strong young woman! This lasted for .32 seconds...
In the process of all of our celebrations, we broke Jordan's glasses. We were not happy at all.
The bikes got loaded up on Collyn's father's truck for the drive to Baton Rouge.
Our final stop, the Harley Davidson store in Scott, LA.
Detailed info about each of our days.
When we got to Baton Rouge, we drove through the LSU campus for a quick tour. We showered at Collyn's house and then headed out to dinner at Collyn's favorite restaurant. That happened to be the same night that UT was playing Oregon in the NCAA volleyball national championship game. Luckily the game was on in the restaurant and we got to see our lady Longhorns take the title! After dinner we went back to Collyn's house to relax before heading to bed. We were exhausted! Five consecutive days of cycling will really put your body to work. I can only imagine what 70 will do! The next morning we loaded up Jordan and my bikes to take to the Greyhound station. We said our goodbyes headed toward Austin. I had three final exams ahead of me and Jordan needed to get to San Antonio to see her family.
My iPhone recorded the locations of all the photos I took along the way. Proof that we really did make it to Baton Rouge!
On the bus. People watching paradise.
Jordan and I getting creative with bugle chips.
The country looks different when you're on a bus going the oposite direction. Well...kind of.
Our welcoming party at the Greyhound station! Thank you Gaby, Megan, Khoi, and Alejandro for picking us up! Reuniting! And that was that. Six days and a trip for the books. I wish my entire Texas 4000 team could have joined Collyn, Jordan and myself on this adventure, but at the same time I loved how it turned out with the three of us. Collyn and Jordan are extraordinary young women. Strong and passionate. Bold and daring. Willing to go against the norm. We encountered a lot of hesitation and opposition when planning this trip, but the three of us made it happen. We never had a dull moment. We found adventure and excitement in the unplanned and unexpected, although we were prepared for the worst. We lucked out by having zero flat tires, bike problems, physical issues, and course detours.
I would like to thank our hosts once again for all that they gave to make our trip possible.
FUMC La Grange, Misty, Pastor Bruhn, The Collins Family, The Carthel Family, The Oxford Family, The Roussel Family, and the Cooper Family.
I also want to thank Collyn for inviting Jordan and myself to join her in this adventure.
Until next time, we carry on.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” - Jack Kerouac