Last night I ended up eating at a place called Whataburger. I spotted it from up in a tree and thought to myself “That looks like a great place to feel like a pile of trash for a few hours!” As a result I was lethargic about finding a place to set up camp. I knew there were a few of those display barns down the road, so I made my way there. I’m not the biggest fan of sleeping in them, but they provide cover and menial warmth. The problem is that I feel domesticated in them and unchallenged. Half the fun of setting up a camp outside is the fear element that any minute I can be held up or messed with. I kind of like that fear. Plus I like sleeping in a hammock more than on a wooden floor. This barn had no windows though, so the sunlight never woke me up. I woke up late. It was kind of like being in a sensory deprivation chamber. Except it was a windowless barn off the side of a Texas highway and not at all like a sensory deprivation chamber.
About 10 miles down the road I was pulled over. There were a few things I could have been arrested for, so I just kept my mouth shut. Getting hassled by the cops has actually been kind of a regular thing in Texas, but the only dirt on me is under my fingernails so I’m never worried. He pulled me over for riding my bicycle on the road. I bit my lower lip so hard it bled. Now wasn’t the time to mouth off about bicyclist’s rights. I don’t know what he wanted me to do since there was no shoulder and the only option to get off this road would require me to bike ahead 7 miles, or back 10. He thought about it for a few seconds, stared at me, and told me to “be safe”. Then he drove off. I went back to biking.
East Texas is not at all what I expected. For some reason I anticipated oil field after oil field. Instead there’s oil refinery after oil refinery. Also, I skipped Houston. It’s the fourth largest city in the U.S. and I had absolutely no desire to see it. I’m not sure why. There was just nothing I heard about the city that was redeeming. Plus I’ve seen my fair share of cities on this trip. I want to soak in the open countryside while I still can. There’s plenty of that out here. And animals! Tribes of turtles poke their heads out of every swampy river I pass over. I didn’t think I would be seeing the bayou until I reached Louisiana, but it sure looks, smells, and tastes like the bayou here. I think my first real glimpse at it was in Bridge City. Yes there is a town called Bridge City and it’s creatively thought out name refers to the two massive bridges one must traverse in order to enter the town. Biking up the bridge was a real treat. That is if a treat consists of terrifyingly clutching onto your handlebars while cars zoom past you at 70mph and the wind pushes you around like a… INSERT SIMILE HERE. It wasn’t that bad. Bridges break up the monotony of long boring stretches of road. It’s like when a girl grabs your balls during sex. You didn’t really ask for it, and it’s not really that exciting, but it’s not going to stop you. It’s just something different. Yep, bridges are like when a girl grabs your balls during sex. I reread that, had the option to delete it, yet there it remains. Shall we continue?
Tonight I’m in Orange, Texas. I am right at the border of Texas and Louisiana. All that separates us is a river. I had the option of crossing it, but that would mean I’d be leaving Texas. I don’t think I want to do that just yet. I have grown quite fond of this state. I think I’ve been here for about three weeks. When I entered the state, a stranger gave me a beer and said welcome to Texas. That’s the best welcoming to anyplace. The winds of the west challenged me physically and mentally. San Antonio reminded me about family values and the value of friendship. Austin reminded me about the pros and cons of romantic relationships as well as the inspiring nature of selfless friends. I dig Texas. And tomorrow I’ll say I dug Texas. Until my inevitable return. I’m not kidding about Austin. That place had a grip on me.
Orange is a pretty wicked town too. It seems to have made a ton of money in the lumber and shipbuilding industry and managed to keep it all in town, which from what I’ve observed about many cities in this state, that’s almost never the case. Orange appears culturally well rounded with a few museums, a university, and some well-kept parks. Not to mention it rests right on the river, so it’s rather appealing. I leaned over the fence by the river and watched the sun set between two buildings.
I got pulled over again. Again. Again. Again. Again. I get it. I’m a vagrant. He asked me where I was headed. I said New Jersey. He laughed and then realized I wasn’t kidding. “Be safe”.
There are a few homeless people in this town. I met one named Ray. I’ve met a lot of homeless people on this trip. I can tell when they’re lying to me. Ray was a hustler. It didn’t take much for me to realize that. So when he asked for money for food, I told him I’ll just buy him food instead. I was hungry and could use some conversation. He was hesitant, but agreed. Our conversation mostly consisted of him telling me about his woes and inability to find a job. I was sympathetic, but only to an extent. He told me about how his family was robbed. When I asked him to go into detail, he just kept saying “We were robbed. They took my glasses. They took my phone.” I asked him about his family, but he wouldn’t go into further detail. He seems content living a beggar’s life. I had so many questions for him, but once he finished eating his food, he split. It was frustrating to say the least. I understand how fortunate I am given my ascribed status. Ray was obviously resentful of the things I had. I felt guilty, but I also worked my ass off and made sacrifices to be on this trip. It’d be naive to think that we were equals in this country though. I’m white and he’s black. It’s totally fucked, but that still means something in this country. Ray has to deal with more bullshit than me. It’s undeniable. There are too many unknown variables in explaining why Ray is in his current state. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m certainly not going to stay up tonight feeling sorry for my whiteness and for his blackness. I can get mad at America. It’s an easy target because it doesn’t have a face. It’s going to keep me up all night. What do you do? There’s still such an obvious discrepancy in the way race is dealt with in this country. Will it ever be alleviated? How will it be alleviated? I don’t have the answers. I’m just going to get mad and listen to Reagan Youth because I’m still a kid and I don’t know what to do. Shit. I used to say that at 17. I don’t think a 24 year old can still use that line. What a cheap cop-out it is anyway.
Total ascent: 494 ft.