Harry on his Bike

Days 35-38

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Day 35.   Sunday, October 8
     I awoke to drizzly cold weather, packed up, and biked through the
still-sleeping town of Lampasas looking for a place to eat breakfast.
The bank's thermometer read 33F and then 1C. It didn't seem that cold
so I checked my cyclecomputer thermometer: 42 degrees Farenheit,
which I believed. Still, a cup of coffee would be good to wrap my hands
     There was only one open restaurant on the far side of town. It was
a brick structure, with no windows out of which I could watch my bike
while I ate. Knowing I'd never enjoy my breakfast while worrying about
security I biked on, hoping to find another cafe. No such luck. After a
couple of miles of countryside I ate a granola bar and again resigned
myself to having a late breakfast.
     The next dot on the map was Briggs, about 20 miles. My hands
got colder, my stomach growled louder, and on this Sunday morning
I was praying not for world peace but for Briggs to have a cafe. Two
hours later I drove through the desolate town (population about 75), and
on the far side came to a gas station that also had a small store, a pool
room, and a grill. They served minimal breakfasts and coffee.
     I went to the restroom, washed my smelly hands, and let the hot
water run over them for three minutes to restore the feeling. The sign on
the wall  explained in easily-understood words the consequences
of improper disposal of the paper towels; to insure their instructions were
followed they had let the towel dispenser remain empty. I shook my
hands dry, went out to the grill, and ordered two fried eggs, hashbrowns,
and coffee, after being reassurred that refills were unlimited. It was a
very satisfying breakfast.
     The rain quit, and a few miles later I turned off Highway 183 and rode
on Farm Road 195 the rest of the way into Georgetown. The surface was
smooth asphalt, the shoulder was 14 feet wide, and there was no traffic.
The temperature was now almost perfect for biking (mid 50's), and I had
plenty of time to reach Georgetown by early afternoon. So I actually
deliberately slowed down---for the first time on the entire trip. The small
town of Andice had an interesting-looking cemetary,  so I spent a few
minutes reading gravestones. I biked on through the town, and saw no
people, but the parking lots of several churches were full and the sounds
of hymns floated through the still air.
     As I approached Interstate 35 I turned on the GPS and clicked "go to"
and then the code for Georgetown. My nephew had given me the GPS
coordinates of his front yard, and my GPS then showed a picture of a
road, complete with centerline. My job was now to guide my bike down
this road, and I would be pulled by my nose to his house. If the picture
showed the road going to one side then I should turn until the picture
showed the road going straight ahead. The distance remaining and the
estimated time in route to my destination also were shown. So the last
few miles were biked without me looking at a map. After making the
proper turns I finally found myself in a front yard with a distance remaining
of 0.00 miles. Magic.
     I rang the bell and my nephew Harry answered. No sooner had we
wheeled my bike into his garage than his wife Janis appeared, bringing
a tall glass of orange juice. She'd been reading my reports!
     Harry works for Dell Computer, so Janis took a picture of us, 
with Harry holding my Dell laptop, for possible inclusion in a Dell newsletter.
     After my clothes and I had a good washing, we had a pleasant after-
noon, and I helped Harry with a two-man domestic task: route an antenna
cable through his attic without falling through the drywall ceiling. We
managed to finish without disastrous results.
     While retrieving something from the bike I discovered the rear tire flat,
but at least I was in a dry, warm, well-lit garage, and had an experienced
cyclist (Harry has ridden the Hotter'n Hell Hundred) to help me fix it. We
patched the leak, pumped up the tube, and set it aside to see if it would
remain inflated.
    Around six Harry, Janis, their charming 17-year-old daughter Bailey,
and I got in their van, picked up Janis's mother Margie a couple of blocks
away, and Harry drove us to a marvelous Mexican restaurant (Chuys)
where Margie treated us all to a fine dinner. The decor was modern
Mexican with an Elvis theme, velvet paintings and all. The place was
so popular that we had to wait for a table, but that pain was lessened
by an inexhaustible supply of chips and a selection of salsas. The two
Harrys managed to consume most of the contents of five baskets of
chips, and I was no longer ravenous when we finally got a table, but I
had no difficulty in finishing a huge plate of fajitas. It was all so good
that I didn't order any sopapillas (that's the way they were spelled) for
there was no place to stuff them.
     The arrival back home was soured a bit by finding that the tube hadn't
held air, but we found the second leak, patched it, mounted the tire, and
I was soon all ready for an early start. The stay at Georgetown was a
pleasant break from the normal routine.

Day 36.   Monday, October 9
     Harry had to be at work early, so we'd said our goodbys the night
before and he was gone when I awoke. I did the last packing and Janis
saw me off just as it was barely light enough to see the road. My next
major goal was the home of my sister Jean and her husband Ray in
Beaumont, 255 miles away. That translated into four too-easy days or
three pretty-stiff days of biking, with these estimates subject to modifi-
cation depending on the winds. I'd make a decision as the day developed.
     The sky was still overcast, and there was an occasional spitting of
rain. Harry had suggested a farm-road route that would take me to
Lexington, then Highway 77 south to Giddings. By that point I'd have
biked 70 miles, and I could then decide if I wanted to go further.
     This route was very pleasant. I was on the edge of the hill country,
and even with the less-than-perfect weather the hillsides were beautiful.
Not all ranches raised cattle,  burros were common as well.
     I had a pork barbecue lunch at a fine restaurant in Lexington, and by
3 o'clock I arrived at Giddings. I bought two frozen 12-ounce orange
juices and headed east, deciding that I'd let the fates determine whether
or not I should continue: If I saw an appealing motel on the east side of
town I would stop.
     No motel, and soon I was biking along a four-lane undivided highway
with no shoulder and lots of traffic. Fortunately, the drivers were not
aggressive, and seemed not to mind having to move into the left lane
to pass me. I, in turn, would move onto the grass whenever I would see
congestion approaching from the rear. This lasted about 10 miles. I
then crossed a county line and suddenly had a wide smooth shoulder.
I was averaging an acceptable 13 miles an hour so I should make it
to Brenham, 35 miles past Giddings, by six.
     But then I noticed the sloppy side-to-side handling of the bike, the
first indication of a low tire. The rear tire once again had a leak. I was
still 15 miles from Brenham, and though it was not raining I would much
prefer to fix the tire in the comfort of a motel room. So I pumped it up
and pressed on. Every 4 or 5 miles I'd stop to give the tire another 75
strokes from my pump.
     I entered Brenman and was relieved to see a motel, but there was no
restaurant in sight. Since motels usually come in groups I went on, but
saw no more until, to my great relief I found one on the far side of town.
I got a very good room with a refrigerator, microwave, 32-inch TV, remote,
ice, two beds (it's nice to be able to spread stuff out on the other bed) for
only $32 total. And, there was a steak-house on the other side of the
     The 105-mile day had put me in no mood to fix the tire that night, so
I postponed the repair till morning. The steak-house had a soup-salad bar
("Sorry, we're out of soup." but they had excellent chili at the salad bar
so who needs soup?), and it came with the 1/4 chicken dinner. I filled
up on salad and chili, ate one piece of chicken, and took the baked
potato and the other huge piece of chicken back to the room. I slept
well, knowing that I now had two easy days to Beaumont.

Day 37. Tuesday, October 10
     The leak was very slow, but having a sink makes finding it easier. I
ate the remains of my chicken dinner as I did the easy repair, and set
out at dawn.
     The beginning of the day was frustrating, for a wind kept my average
speed under 9 miles an hour. My goal was Humble, 80 miles away, and
knowing that it will take at least nine hours of biking to get there didn't
raise my morale. I was now out of hill country, and the only climbing
I would do was when I'd come to an overpass. I continued to have a
good shoulder, but the highway builders had glued buttons on the
shoulder with about four inches between them. To avoid a big bump
every 30 feet I had to carefully steer the bike between buttons. This
constant attention made for exhausing biking.
     After 54 miles I finally reached the intersection with Highway 1960,
the road that would go north of Houston and eventually take me into
Beaumont. I was getting hungry so I stopped at an IHOP for coffee
and another breakfast. I've had good experiences with IHOP in the past,
but the soggy hash-browns and over-priced coffee ($1.29 for coffee?!)
made me swear off them for the rest of this trip. But, maybe the bad
breakfast (at 2 p.m.) had a positive effect, for after getting on the bike
again my speed increased to more than 14 miles an hour. (Of course
the fact that the wind shifted might have had something to do with it.)
     The next 26 miles were the most unpleasant of the trip. The highway
was just a street that went through an urban region. Although there were
always two or three lanes in the direction I was travelling, the rightmost
lane was no wider than the others. I'm sure my presence was an
irritation to some drivers, especially the many who did not trust their
judgement as to just where the right side of their car was in relation
to me. There was plenty of room for all vehicles to stay in their lane
and pass me with three feet to spare (I was biking within 18 inches of
the curb), but many would wait until they could move into the adjacent
lane before passing me. This, of course, would irritate all the drivers
behind them who were slowed down. I felt bad, but there was nothing
I could do but move along as fast as I could. My detailed map of the
Houston area showed no alternate routes.
     So it was with great relief when I finally came to Humble, and
suddenly a shoulder appeared. I managed to find the only motel in the
area, a three-stored structure that looked more tired than me. I
entered, and asked the man at the desk what it would cost me for a
single. He got out his chart and said "$38 for the third floor, $42 for
the second floor, and $46 for the ground floor." Well, I was tired enough
to cough up $38, assuming I could get the bike up the stairs, but I
glanced at his chart and saw another column for tax, and a third
column for the total. "Is $38 the bottom line?" I asked. "No, tax
is $6.60, for a total of $44.60."
     So when I asked what it would cost me he had told me what he
would get out of the deal, evidently figuring that I wouldn't be bothered
at all by the extra 17 percent that went (supposedly) to various city,
county, and state funds. Without even looking at the room I knew I
wasn't going to pay that much for this place, so I turned and walked
towards the door. After a few steps I paused, and asked "Is that the
best you can do?" "What do you suggest?" was his reply. "$38,
bottom line, if I can get my bike up the stairs." He paused, judging
my resolve. "OK", he sighed, "but you are getting a great deal,
because that is a 45-dollar room." (Then why did you tell me it was
38 dollars?)
     I took the key and pretended to investigate the stairs while really
checking out the room. It was OK, and I figured I could get the bike up
without too much damage to my body, so I returned and said that I'd
try. I removed the front panniers (the rear are too hard to remove), and
barely managed to struggle up the four short flights. I then returned to
fill out the paperwork. When presented with the VISA slip to sign, it
said $38.55.
     "We agreed on a bottom line of $38," I said.
     "It's only 55 cents more," he replied.
     "That is an insignificant amount, I guess." I set my logical trap.
     "Yes, it is" he agreed.
     "So, since 55 cents isn't important, then charge me $37.45. That
way the insignificant amount comes from your pocket rather than mine."
     Well, I won the logical argument, but he kept the extra 55 cents,
aware that I wasn't about to move on after hauling the bike up those
stairs. I was too tired to argue, but let him know that he didn't under-
stand the basic concept of a deal. He said that he didn't have any
change, but that he would be there in the morning and give me 55 cents.
     The best part of the day was the Pancho's Mexican Buffet that was
only a 7-minute walk from my room. And their sopaipillas were excellent.

Day 38.   Wednesday, October 11
     The first thing I noticed when I awoke at 5 was a rear flat tire. I
     I'd become quite efficient at turning the bike upside down so I could
easily remove the tire, so the repair took only a few minutes. The cause
was another of the small wires from pieces of truck tires that are scattered
along the sides of interstates and main highways. My tube now had
about 8 patches, but I'm reserving the two spares for when I must fix a
flat in pouring rain.
     Getting the bike down the stairs was easy: I just hold the hand brakes
and slowly walk it down. I went into the office, and of course the deal-
breaker wasn't there as he said he would be, so I told the night clerk (a
very pleasant grandmotherly type) to tell the man when he came in to send
the 55 cents to my address. (Anybody want to buy that debt for 2 cents?)
     The sun was shining (for the first time in six days) by the time I'd
biked a few miles to a long bridge that crossed Lake Houston. I stopped
halfway across to admire the view and photograph a large flock of herons
in the distance. 
     I decided to have breakfast at the first place I came to. The highway
between Humble and Dayton is a 24-mile stretch that would be a great
place to open a restaurant, since (except for a McDonalds and a Dairy
Queen) there are none there now. Some orange juice remaining from the
two frozen containers I'd bought the night before, and a granola bar, got
me to Dayton after fighting a steady headwind for three hours. As I
neared the center of town I saw a mailman and asked him where was
the best place to eat breakfast. Without hesitation, he described how to
get to the Kountry Kitchen, only a couple of block away.
     I entered, found that I was the only person there at 10:45, and told
the three ladies that worked there how I'd found the place. "Oh, we pay
that man to recommend us", said one. After eating the terrible pancakes
I was tempted to say that I believed her, but at least they were filling.
     There was only a 40-mile homestretch to cover before reaching a Black
Russian and a three-day rest, and the weather decided to make me pay.
The wind was a steady 12 mph in my face, holding me to 9 miles an
hour. I refused to let my average fall below that figure, so I pushed hard
all the way to Beaumont. When I arrived at my sister's home at 3:15 I
was exhausted. After a warm welcome by Jean and her husband Ray I
collapsed on a stool in their kitchen and they passed me glass after
glass of orange juice.
     After cleaning up and unloading some essentials from the bike, we
drove to a nearby nursing home to visit my 93-year-old mother. I hadn't
seen her for about three months, and was relieved to see that she is in
good spirits, in no pain, and happy to be there. The staff is very caring,
and appreciate her cheerful attitude. She was glad to see me, and as
she always does, expressed her happiness that her children also are
happy with their lives. Until very recent years, my mother was an avid
traveller, and would never hesitate to sign up for a trip to any exotic place.
She urged my father to accept a position as geologist with the Argentine
government oil company in 1939, thus exposing my sister and me to the
adventure of living abroad for four years during turbulent times. Whatever
love for the unusual is within me, I owe a large amount to the influence
of this remarkable woman.

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