Carol had to go to church to prepare breakfast tacos and perform again so was out before we woke up, but she had organised our breakfast before we went to bed. What a host! James, having owned his own restaurant where he was the chef, whipped up some delicious omelettes. We slowly got ready and hit the road. We rode together for the first 8 miles which was lovely. Even though we were going into a headwind, it felt faster and easier than it would have otherwise. We parted ways after that because while I was heading to Houston, they were going to the ACA route which doesn’t touch US-290.
The reason the ACA route heads north rather than southeast to Houston is several fold. It may be the 4th biggest city in the US, but some say it has the most impressive sprawl and who likes riding through that? There is also the slightly longer term view into the route through Louisiana. Avoiding Houston means you enter Louisiana in a more scenic and less busy part than I will be, which is going to lead to problems that I’m sure I’ll be talking about in future posts, something about swamps, minimal roads and mosquitoes.
As with the day before, I was back on US-290 for nearly all of the day and the energy and excitement I’d had to be leaving Austin the day before had gone. I was yawning and had leaden legs for the first 20 miles and the headwind meant I felt sluggish for a good part of the day. The only real highlight of the ride was when I managed to find a detour off 290 through the towns of Hempstead and Waller along Old US-290. There were two lanes in each direction, but there was not much traffic and it seemed prettier. I also had a couple of interactions with a driver, which made me smile.
A guy in a red car slowed down next to me and mentioned that the road next to me was quieter. I thanked him for telling me, but didn’t manage to get over for about a mile as there weren’t any turns onto it. It was quieter, going from a car every 30 seconds to maybe one every 2 or 3 minutes and slightly smoother road. Just after it ended, I was about to have to get back on 290 and the same car came past me again. He asked me if I had a destination in mind. I said that I was planning to go along 290 to get to to the outskirts of Houston. He told me that he had offered in case I hadn’t wanted to go past Hockley as he had a cabin nearby that he doesn’t use and I was more than welcome to stay in. I thanked him, but with my Warmshowers host Jenn 20 miles down the road I didn’t take him up on his offer. It was yet another wonderful moment of unprompted kindness and reinforced my positive feelings about Texas.
The rest of the ride to Jenn’s place was less than thrilling. Thankfully there was a frontage road so I wasn’t on 290, but passing through a huge chunk of commercial zoning meant it was busy too. I was happy to get back off 290 and through the residential streets to the home of Jenn, my Warmshowers host for the evening.
I turned onto her street and found Jenn stood outside ready to welcome me. I hopped off the bike and into a house full of incredible warmth, and that wasn’t just from the thermostat being set to 74f. Jenn is an amazingly energetic and positive lady and, just as her profile says “I only ask that while you are here that you “MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME”!” and she definitely made me feel that way. From the story of her incredible efforts to get her bike back after it had been stolen when she covered the whole neighbourhood with posters, to stories of her tours and the cyclists she has hosted. She also has a map as cool as Ellen in St Simon’s.
The barn and some of Carol’s land