Day 35, Post 33: A very rainy day. I woke up to a storm front that extended for several hundred miles above Houston and into the Gulf Coast. Along with it came severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and the threat of hail. I battened up my new shiny new panniers and headed off. I didn't expect not to get wet, but I hoped I might manage to stay comfortable even though I would be cycling in rain.
It's funny how things work out sometimes. I stopped three times to wait for a storm to pass. And two times I timed it right - while I was safely under shelter the hardest rain fell. Boy, when it rains hard in East Texas, it is as if the entire sky opens up and tries to empty out every last drop of water in it. The second time this happened to me I was eating lunch under a tin roofed car shelter. I couldn't believe the intensity of the rain, and I was so grateful I was not biking at that moment. I don't know what would have happened to me.
Eventually I made it just short of my intended destination Silsbee, and took a room in Kountze. Nice place, another budget motel, easy to find in the south. So I am sitting dry and warm in my room, full on a southern fried fish meal and several beers, with full confidence the storm will be gone when I awake and tomorrow will be a great day for biking.
On the way into Kountze I stopped at a general store in Honey Island. While I was there I got into a conversation with a local man of about my own age who offered up some information, "Take the main highway into town and stay at the Super Eight. You don't want to stay at the other place." I had already checked out the Relax Inn (the other place), so I asked him, "Are the prices any different?" He answered, "It doesn't matter, trust me, pay what Super Eight asks 'cause you don't want to stay at the other place." "Why", I asked. "You just don't want to be there, is all", was the reply. I thanked him for the information. But as I biked away, I decided to check out the Relax Inn first. I wondered if the owner was South Asian, and that might be what the man was trying to warm me about. Was it just a good old boy thinking I was another good old boy?
I was right. Not only did I get a great price, I am enjoying a clean and well kept place run by one of the many South Asian families that have purchased mom and pop motels all over America, where the family can live and they can buy into a ready made business.
Several friends have suggested that my experience in Texas probably wouldn't be so positive if I wasn't a white male. I have no doubt whatsoever they are right. As friendly as people are, it's also clear that they may not be so nice under that veil of hospitality if they are suspicious of you. Another friend (who is black) asked me if I saw any black people when I was in West Texas. To be honest, I don't think I did. But here in East Texas, yes, quite a few. I have passed a lot of farms run by African Americans. Granted, I am only a day away from the Louisiana border. But all the same, Texas seems to be as diverse in its demographic composition as it is in its geography. I am so glad I've had this small opportunity to get to know the place a bit better. I've spent over three weeks in Texas, and my sense of it will be forever expanded.
Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.
Pic 1, Downtown Cold Spring, TX.
Pic 2, Waiting out the rain.
Pic 3, Waiting out the rain, version 2.
Pic 4, The rain breaks. Turned out it was only momentary.
More to come,