Enter The Lone Star State

Date: March 15th 2017

From/To: Greenwood, LA/Mineola, TX

Daily Mileage: 95 miles

Total Mileage: 925 miles

Conditions: Early overcast and 40s, turning to sunshine and mid 50s later in the day. Little to no wind, if anything it was coming from the east and pushing me west.

Currently it’s a quarter after 9PM,  you can find me sitting in front of a fire in the Mineola Nature Preserve, my camp sight for the evening. Welcome to Texas, Matt. Well get into this later.

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Todays trek from Greenwood, LA to Mineola, FL.

Rewind to 3:45AM this morning, I was on a cot in the bunk room at the Greenwood Fire Department and suddenly, the lights turn on and alarms start sounding off. It felt like the ultimate alarm clock. Where else would you need that more than a fire station? Even the deepest sleepers wouldn’t stand a chance against those lights and sounds, and for good reason too. The four firemen on duty sprang up out of their cots to pick up the call. It turned out the incident occurred right over the district line and the neighboring department ended up responding to the call. The guys were now up and energized, I fell right back to sleep. I’ve stayed at three fire stations so far, that was the first night call I experienced.

I woke up again around 8:00AM and made my way to the kitchen. The new guys on shift were there and they were very curious about my ride and what I was doing. We talked for a good half hour over coffee and I explained my well rehearsed story. Brandon, a fireman on the previous shift, was gone this morning but I took away something he said yesterday. Aside from being a fireman, he’s a marine in the reserves. When I first showed up yesterday he took me over to Pizza Hut and ordered a large pizza and some sides for us to have for dinner. Over dinner we spoke talked back and fourth about his experiences in the Marine Corps and my experiences on the road. He said what I was doing was crazy, and he couldn’t imagine doing it. To have a marine, let alone a fireman, call me crazy for doing this was a first. While I would never say crossing the country by bike takes more guts than serving as a marine or a fireman, his input definitely made me think about this ride in a way I haven’t before. Back to breakfast. After coffee I packed up my gear and shipped off for Texas. I was only ten miles from the border, and I was looking forward to finally reaching the Lone Star State. With all the dilemmas I’ve dealt with the past few days, I never thought I’d make it. I left the station with overcast over my head, and a chilling cold breeze in the air. As soon as I started moving that was no longer a problem. I made it to the border and couldn’t be happier to see “Welcome to Texas.” I suddenly felt warm and welcomed, as the sun came out and blue skies cleared the clouds. Everything was perfect, even the rolling hills were a welcomed challenge in contrast to the wind battles I’ve been facing the past few weeks.

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Texas, where these two flags are often seen flying side by side at the same height.
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Texas, were people are told to go 70mph (+10mph). It’s not ideal for biking.

I crossed over the border, not even making it five miles before stopping again. I came across a massive mural painted on a building, honoring men and women of all service professions. The mural got my attention because of the vibrant colors and details, clearly done by an expert muralist. I stopped to take a picture thinking I would soon be on my way, until a man with a handle bar mustache approached me. His name was Chris, and he was the muralist. He saw me stopped and came to ask me what I was doing. I filled him in and he was very excited about my trip, inviting me over to the mural to meet the owner of the building and take pictures.

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The building owner and I, posing for a picture.
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Chris and I posing for a picture.

These two men were very passionate about making this mural named “The Great American Mural.” They’re recording the painting process with a time lapse camera, and they plan to hype up the completion of the mural in hopes that the President will make an appearance. Check out more of Chris’s work here! He was very kind to me, and insisted I take his lunch with me on my way, in addition to some waters and snacks. I was already feeling welcome in Texas and I hadn’t made it 5 miles. I got back on my bike and started hulling it to Mineola.

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Halfway through the trek I came across a man walking his bike up a hill. I stopped to meet him, as I do with all tour bikers, and was amazed by his story. I don’t recall his name to be honest, but he’s been traveling for 15 years now, nonstop. He was coming from South America, originally from Texas and making his way home to visit his mother. I wouldn’t have bought into his story as much if he wasn’t so knowledgable about traveling across South, Central, and North America. He had hitchhiked his way throughout South America to Central America, where he rode on the back of busses until he made it to the United States, where someone donated a bike to him. He wasn’t carrying much, and he told me he was technically homeless and living off homeless shelters and food cupboards. I didn’t hang around for long, but I was fascinated by his story and the experiences he’s gotten out of his travels.

As I neared Mineola, I entered a beautiful part of the of state. I’m talking white picket fences, large open fields occupied by cattle and horses, and overarching trees along the roads guiding me towards my destination.

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Tonight and tomorrows meal, consisting of energy bars, nuts and raisins, and most importantly Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I grabbed these items on the way to the nature preserve knowing my food options out there would be limited.

I finally made it to the Mineola Nature Preserve. It’s used as an equestrian camp ground usually, but someone from the town gave me permission to stay there overnight as I was passing through. I’d contacted the local fire department, but unfortunately they’re only a volunteer station so they don’t stay there overnight. I wasn’t too upset with this option, it gave me a chance to break out the camping gear and make a fire, as I mentioned at the start of the blog I’ve been keeping warm in front of a fire this whole time. That’s a great first evening in Texas if you ask me.

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The scene right after I finished setting up camp.
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The tent getting its second use. It’s about time, seeing that I’ve been carrying it since Jacksonville FL.
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I found some firewood in the woods and made a fire to stay warm at night.

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Some cold chicken noodle soup. I wasn’t complaining it actually tasted pretty good.
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Modern day camping: a fire, a chair, and a laptop with wifi I access.

My evening was nice. I often wish I had people along with me, but tonight was a great time with or without company. I simply enjoyed the outdoors, the adventure, and  everything else that came along with it. As I’ve said before, it’s just me out here making the decisions and I’m happy to learn from my mistakes and feel satisfied by great choices. Tomorrow I’ll be heading into the heart of Dallas to stay with my cousin Rhiannon and her husband Trevor. I’ll be taking a day off in Dallas to recover and spend time with them! Come back tomorrow to hear about my journey into Dallas!

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt

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