Day 26 - Martin Dies State Park, Texas

OK, everybody sing!

We are the Champions
My friend
And we'll keep on riding till the end
We are the Champions
We are the Champions
No time for losers
Cause we are the Champions
Of the World

Today was a monstrous 102 mile day. And I got in with enough light to set up the tent.

I have discovered the secret weapon. The special ingredient. Popeye's can of spinach for riding the bike.

Boudin Balls.

That's pronounced "Boo-Dan".

These are fried balls of dough with pork mixed in. I gather this is a cajun thing. I found Boudin Balls at Ray's Fina Tire Service Gifts Deli and Fuel, which is on SR 28, 25 miles west of Alexandria.

You might not think a gas station convenience store is very special, but when your the only place of business for 20 miles in any direction, that's a different story. Ray and Sharon's place is special. Look, they had a picture painted of it:

RaysFinaPicture (242K)

This place is really nice, and a barbeque sandwich with boudin balls is a great way to start the day, especially when you're expecting to go 40 miles to Leesville, the first town, on a Payday bar and corn nuts. (CORN GONE WRONG!)

I just know if it wasn't for those boudin balls, I wouldn't be here now. I planned to do a century today. I was mentally prepared and ready. I got up at 4:30, so I would be on the road by the first light, which is about 6:15. I was so ready to go, that I had the bike all packed up by 5:30, and it wasn't even starting to get light then. There weren't even any birds singing yet, except for an owl.

I had to get my coat out, and lie down and take a nap for half an hour in the dry spot where my tent was.

So at 6:00, I'm on the bike and climbing up the gravel road to the entrance to the KOA. But something is wrong. The back tire is all mushy. Is it the sand and gravel road? No. It is my first flat tire of the trip. What a deflating experience.

I walk the bike up to the porch of the KOA office, unload everything, take the wheel off, and start looking for the hole in the tube. The owner of the KOA comes out, offers me coffee, and helps me find the hole. He's really nice, this is a good KOA.

It's a snakebite, I've been lax about keeping the tires pumped up to full pressure.

So I patch the tube, pump the tire up, put the wheel back on the bike, and then I notice that there is now a hole in the sidewall of the tire, which is ruined. I must have torn the sidewall trying to ride the flat on the gravel.

I dig out one of my spare tires, and put it on the wheel. Meanwhile a couple who appear to permanently reside here have come to the office for coffee. They sit on the porch with the owner smoking cigarettes and keep me company.

I get the new tire put on, I pack the old tire away for last resort emergency use, and load up the bike again. When everything is all loaded and ready to go, the permanenet resident guy observes that the tire is flat again.

So I unload everything again, take the wheel off, take the tube out, and throw it away, because I hate it, and it already has three patches on it, and I only have a couple more patches left in the patch kit. I replace it with an new tube, and pump the stupid tire up again for the third time this morning. By the time I get everything loaded up again, it is 7:30, and I've blown a whole hour and a half of daylight.

This is not a good way to start a century day. I'm hungry at this point too. Those boudin balls were a lifesaver when I came upon them 15 miles later.

After 40 miles I got to Leesville, which is the last major town in Louisiana. I got there at 11:00, right in time for lunch, and since I was very hungry, there was a train.

Train (213K)

Eventually, the train went away, and I found a nice cafe in the center of town. For some reason (probably to torment the handicapped) there are three steps between the street and the sidewalk. I was pushing my bike up the steps when I heard the horrible, horrible sound of all the air leaving my rear tire (again). I unloaded the bike again, and discovered that I had somehow torn the sidewall on the brand new tire I had just put on the bike 40 miles ago. I put my last spare tire on the bike.

This is very bad. I now have no spare tires, except for one last resort emergency spare with a hole in the sidewall. The front tire is very worn. The next city big enough for a bike shop is Austin. It is about 250 miles from where I am camped now.

But I am a very lucky person, because my wonderful and fabulous wife Debra had just rearranged the business travel she had to do this week in Texas so she could spend the weekend with me in Austin. She called the bike shops in Austin and found my tires, so I can get them when I get there. Let's hope I don't destroy another tire, and have to have her rescue me. That would not demonstrate independence and self reliance.

Once I had a hearty lunch at the Leesville Cafe, I was determined to complete the 100 mile ride to this beautiful state park before dark. So I rode like I was possessed, and made it with 45 minutes of light left, just enough for me to set up camp. And I set a record average speed for the bike trip of 13.2 mph.

This is pretty great, since it's no longer flat. I'm out of the swamps. From where I camped last night to Leesburg is very flat, but not utterly flat like yesterday. It's similar to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It's all pine forest, and it appears to be a tree farm owned by a lumber company. There are lots of log trucks, and I gather they turn the "forest" of pine trees which grown in neat rows into paper and plywood. After Leesville, there are 50 miles of rolling hills, nothing big or steep, to Jasper, where racist ex-convicts drag black people behind pickup trucks until they die. This state park is 10 miles past Jasper. There's not much out here, Jasper is a small town. The main industry appears to be lumber, and Ft. Polk back by Leesville.

Today was a monster day, 102 miles and I changed the tire 4 times. Here is the route.

Actual26 (118K)