Donations to Discovery

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So how's the prep for the Brazosport Bicycle Tour going?

Thanks for asking.... it's going about as well as can be expected.

Let's check where we are based on the plan:
  • Tour Information Packet - Pretty much done... but I'm still reviewing the route between sites and may make some minor changes to avoid a couple of bothersome intersections.
  • Virtual Tour Videos that will be uploaded to YouTube with links from the DA2W blog to show potential Tour Participants the Sites of Interests and Tour Route. Also done, but will take a few more video segments of the changes in route mentioned above.
  • Meeting with all the "Site" managers for the Tour Sites. Talked or met with most of them - am meeting with the head of the Lake Jackson Hike and Bike Committee today and still need to touch bases with the Lake Jackson Police and Fire Departments.
  • Researching / Surveying Site and Area Contacts for potential interest / demand for Bicycle Tours - So far all the feedback from the Site Managers and other folks I've talked to has been favorable.... I really won't know until I name a price and put the ads in the paper and see what kind of response I get.
  • Setting up a Business E-mail.... my new e-mail for contact for Discovering America on 2 Wheels is - Done
  • Securing a domain name for a website so that IF and WHEN I move all my activities from my blog to a website, I'll have a place to go.... so maybe someday you'll be logging on to - Done
  • Securing Liability Insurance - Have contacted McKay Insurance Agency out of Iowa They specialize in this sort of insurance and are currently in the process of finding an underwriter for my policy and will get back with me this week on a final quote.
  • Creating a Registration Form and Waiver and process for potential Tour Participants to access and return the completed document. Have a first draft done - one long and one short - will review these with my attorney and finalize the document next week.
  • Setting up an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) - I will do the registration on-line once I have the insurance quote and have the Waiver form approved by my attorney.
  • Details of Tour Schedule and Support. At this point, it looks like the 1st tour will be offered the 3rd Saturday of May.... May 15th, 2010 and I have secured ride support for it.
The Garage Sale was a success and I got just enough money to pay for the LLC, the 1st year's insurance  and pay for the next attorney's visit.... so Mission Accomplished there.

And I will likely fly back up to Albuquerue NM sometime in April, take the RailRunner Commuter train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, get my Trek 3700 Mountain Bike and backpack out of storage, take my bike to the local bicycle shop, have it disassembled and packed in a box and UPS it back to Lake Jackson and take the train back to ABQ and fly back with my backpack.

That will get everything back to Lake Jackson.

I'll evaluate how the bicycle tours go over the summer and plan to do Leg 3 - Santa Fe NM to Los Angeles CA - sometime in the future.

So there you go.... there's your update on

Discovering America on 2 Wheels

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Plan.... New Direction.... Just Going with the Flow!

It's obvious Blog Posts have been a bit spotty and infrequent lately.... and there's a reason for that.

I've been doing a lot of thinking, researching, planning.... all that stuff that Eeengunnears are supposed to be good at..... Please!

You know how anally retentive Eeengunnears like to list out things.... so here's a chronology of my thought process over the past few weeks.

I did a post a while back titled "What it costs to Discover America on 2 Wheels".  Here's the link to that post -

I had been hearing so much good feedback from people that read my blog and said how they loved my writing and my videos and my how-to stuff and everything about what I was presenting that I figured that my efforts were worth something.  I mean after all, I had put over 1000 hours in this little venture / vacation / pleasure cruise.... yeah right.... this Discovering America on 2 Wheels thing.

So I followed a widely accepted model for monetizing a blog and put a PayPal "Donate" button at the top of the blog and listed out my expenses thinking that my host of loyal fans / readers would be willing to pay some nominal amount.... say $5 for the much expressed pleasure of reading my blog and viewing the images and videos.

Good God!  You would've thought I asked people to support some sort of freakin' criminal activity or something.... I mean I was AMAZED at the lack of support.... like there was NO SUPPORT! 

Not only that.... but there was actually a connotation by several readers of wanting to distance themselves from someone with the audacity to ask for a piddly donation for the work I was doing that providing hours of entertainment / education / release to the readers of the blog and viewers of the videos.

Now here's the KICKER!

I got 1 donation for $25.... and guess who it was from?

MY EX-WIFE!!!!!!!

Can you believe that?

God bless her.... I mean that sincerely.... we have cooperated, coordinated, butted heads, had civil and uncivil discussions over the years since our divorce.... but that lady gave me the only donation I got!

Anyway.... so what's the point to this point?

Well - there's 2 points....

First, I have to calls 'em the way I seez 'em.... and the way I seez 'em is that I can't monetize the Discovering America on 2 Wheels blog.... not directly anyway.

Second, I said in the post requesting donations that I would see if there was any support for the proposed Leg 3.... the 1250 mile tour from Santa Fe NM to Los Angeles CA....

.... and there wasn't ....

so that's on hold.... for now.... at this point, I'm not doing that tour until some time later.

So where does that leave Discovering America on 2 Wheels?

With a flat on the side of the road or what?

Hell No....

You know.... I keep hearing the same thing over and over from people.... and what is it I hear?

You gotta know your audience!

Let me translate that for you in my sarcastic - what the hell does that mean - kinda way.....

What "You gotta know your audience!" really means is.... "I don't know what to say about the efforts you're putting into your blog but I have to say something intelligent cause you asked me my opinion so I'll throw out this You gotta know your audience thing!"

It's like about 95% of what most people say.... it's not specific, it's not actionable, it's completely non-commital, it doesn't sounds good, but it don't mean JACK!

So what am I doing?

When you try something.... a particular direction.... and it doesn't come out the way you planned.... it doesn't work.... sometimes you just have to back off.... scratch your head.... and try it a different way.... until you find something that does work.

So what works?

Well, I've always had a knack for going into a new situation and evaluating the pro's and the con's and getting a pretty good idea of how something works.... relatively quickly....

And I have an eye for quality and things / services / products / businesses that are well-constructed, well-run, well-managed.... you get the picture.

I mean that's kinda the Mission Statement for Discovering America on 2 Wheels..... I'm touring around looking for the Best of America.... whatever that is wherever I'm at.

Well, here's the Hook.....

When I find these little Gems of America.... I approach the Gem Manager / Owner / Head Honcho.... and ask them if I can do a little advertising video for their little piece of America and upload the video to YouTube with a link through the DA2W blog.

It's a Win-Win situation.... the Business Owner gets instant, inexpensive and perpetual advertising access to the most popular Internet viewing site in the world.... and I get something for my time spent researching the Business and preparing the "script" for the video, shooting the video, doing the editing and the necessary links and uploads to get it on my blog and YouTube.

Is this "Business Plan" monetizable and sustainable?

I don't know....I've only done it a few times.... but I can tell you.... it seems to work.... so we'll see.

So what's the breakthrough here?

Well.... it seems you have to give people something tangible for their money.... Wow.... what a concept!

What was I thinking all this time anyway?

A short (1 - 3 minute) video ad is tangible and it has some benefit to the customer.... so there you go....

You gotta know your audience!

So what other service connected with what I'm doing is tangible and gives people something for their money?

Potentially...... BICYCLE TOURS!

That's one of the things that I've been working so hard on for the last couple of weeks.

I've put together the Plan, Logistics and the Details for a Bicycle Tour of ......

BRAZOSPORT!  Right where I live!

I'm working on finalizing all the due diligence this week:
  • Tour Information Packet
  • Virtual Tour Videos that will be uploaded to YouTube with links from the DA2W blog to show potential Tour Participants the Sites of Interests and Tour Route.
  • Meeting with all the "Site" managers for the Tour Sites.
  • Researching / Surveying Site and Area Contacts for potential interest / demand for Bicycle Tours
  • Setting up a Business E-mail.... my new e-mail for contact for Discovering America on 2 Wheels is
  • Securing a domain name for a website so that IF and WHEN I move all my activities from my blog to a website, I'll have a place to go.... so maybe someday you'll be logging on to
  • Securing Liability Insurance
  • Setting up an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation)
  • Creating a Registration Form and Waiver and process for potential Tour Participants to access and return the completed document.
  • Details of Tour Schedule and Support.
Pending some unforeseen Showstopper.... I'll be announcing plans / schedule for the first tour within the next couple of weeks.

So there you go..... that's what I've been doing....

And... oh yeah.... in the middle of that little doing....

I've got to have a BIG Garage Sale so I can sell everything I haven't used in the last 5 years to finance this new "Leg" of DA2W.....


I gotta go back up to Santa Fe NM somehow..... by air or driving my truck .... and retrieve my Mountain Bike.... the Red Mule.... and my backpack and gear.... cause the storage room at A-1 Storage Rental is costing me $50 a month..... and I want my bike and gear back....

So that's what's been going on with.....

Discovering America on 2 Wheels

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What a Rare and Wonderful Day!

Tooling down CR 25... at about 25 mph... you know my luck w/ Wind and Rain... don't mind the Rain... but guess what? I had a Southeast Wind on my Northwest ride to Brazos Bend SP...then the Norther blew through and I've got a Northwest Wind on my Southeast ride home...Glorious!

Having a Hunt's Bros Pizza at Brazos Bend Home and Ranch

M and M's at the Brazos Bend SP Visitor's Center

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I Love the Rain!

You know sometimes you just gotta go w/ the flow! Gotta wild hair this morning... decided to go on the Brazosport Bicycle Club Saturday Ride... but I was a few minutes late to the departure point so I decided to ride to Brazos Bend State Park... had a good ride w/ decent tail wind to the park... stopped at the store at FM1462 / 762 to eat a sandwich... and in blows a Norther... so I grab a cup of coffee and a $5.99 rainsuit and press on... you know sometimes you just have to go with it!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

YouTube Video for Leg 3A - Southeast Texas Loop - 336 miles

I did this tour to test out the new Old Man Mountain Racks and Ortlieb Panniers I had installed on my Trek 1500.

I also wanted to take a run up the Gulf Coast through Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula to Beaumont and up into East Texas ..... places I visited and lived when I was growing up.

The Old Man Mountain Racks and Ortlieb Pannier System are a great combination and performed perfectly under some very adverse conditions.

The racks were Rock Solid and the Ortlieb Panniers were super high capacity (you can see much I had on the racks and in the panniers) and the Panniers were as WATERPROOF as they claim.

For more information on the Old Man Mountain Racks, visit or call John at (805) 692-9950.

For info on the Ortlieb Panniers, go to at 1-800-747-0588.

Here's the link to the YouTube Video for the Southeast Texas Loop -

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The People I met on the Southeast Texas Loop

My route took me from 332 South to a left down FM 3005 (we call it Bluewater Highway) to Galveston.

I stopped and talked to Deborah Broadway and Don Bright at the Bright Lite Bait and Tackle Shop and Convenience Store on the west side of San Luis Pass 979-233-8115. 

David Heard of Seabrook Tx owns Marine Taxidermy and was displaying these beautiful Saltwater Fish Mounts on FM 3005 between Jamaica Beach and the beginning of Seawall Blvd in Galveston.  Here's the link to his website:

At Galveston Island State Park, I talked to a park worker named Chad who related his own and the park's experience with Hurricane Ike.

I also talked with David Gilliland, a man who works as a lawyer when he has to and spends the rest of his time touring the country in his Honda Pilot.

Here's a link to the Galveston Island State Park website:

Galveston Island State Park

On Day 2, I rode down Seawall Blvd and stopped in at Island Bicycles to pick up a couple of tubes and talked to the owner, Jeff.  We exchanged information and ideas about bicycle tours.  Here's the link to the Island Bicycle Company website -

I took the Bolivar Ferry from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula and spent most of my time on the ferry talking to Nelson who had immigrated from the Phillipines.  He had an interesting background working on large cargo ships that came in and out of the Freeport Tx harbor.  He had just started this job working as a mate on the Bolivar Ferry within the last few months.   Here's a link to info on the Bolivar Ferry -

I met Pat Godwin, the owner of the Oasis Motel (409) 684-6152 @ 1010 Hwy 87 in Crystal Beach Tx.  Pat also owns the Coconut's Restaurant across the street where I ate that night.  Pat is a really interesting guy who is a licensed architect and also has a home construction business in the area.  While I was eating at Coconut's, I talked to Tiara the waitress and Rhonda the bartender who made a really good margarita.  Here's a link to info on the Oasis Motel -

and to the Coconut's Restaurant -

Coconut's restaurant in Crystal Beach Tx

When I was in Beaumont visiting with my dad, I took my Trek 1500 to Bicycle Sports (409) 860-5959 @ 2770 I-10E / West of 11th St and met the crew - Owner Eric Bender and Staci, Kelly and Scott.  All were extremely nice and helpful and Scott did the best tune-up on the Trek 1500 I had ever had done.  It made a big difference for the rest of the trip.  Here's a link to the Bicycle Sports website:

and a link to another organization that Eric Bender champions - the Southeast Texas Hike & Bike Coalition:

When I left Beaumont, my next stop was at Village Creek State Park.  I was fumbling around with my cell phone trying to set it up for a self portrait with my bike in front of the park sign when along comes Park Ranger Gene Cox who graciously took this picture for me:

I pedaled up to Park HQ and met Jan McAdoo who checked me into my campsite.  While I was at Park HQ I started talking to another lady who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become apparent as you read on.... I'll just say this lady worked for a branch of the State Government and was in a position to know everything there was to know about the relief efforts, follow up and aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike... she related the following items (and I repeat I'm just reporting what the lady told me):
  • during the first waves of Hurricane Katrina relief effort to New Orleans via Coast Guard Helicopters, the CG Helis were repeatedly fired on from the rooftops....the helicopters left and the Delta Force was sent in.... yes you read that correctly.... the terrorist response team Delta Force was sent in.... after a couple of days.... there wasn't any more shooting at the CG Helicopters....and there were a few more victims of Hurricane Katrina.....
  • during Hurricane Rita, the Salvation Army, Red Cross and FEMA were not seen in southeast Texas for several weeks after the storm had passed through - basically there was little help from these "relief" organizations.... this lady stated that the only way people survived and did the clean-up (and yes - the people of Southeast Texas did most of the clean-up) was because the local churches provided hot meals day after day.
  • Hurricane Rita was still a Category 2 storm when it went over Toledo Bend Reservoir nearly 150 miles inland!
  • Sea Rim State Park as well as Bridge City (and several other cities and communities around Sabine Pass) were literally levelled in Hurricane Rita and then again, even worse, in Hurricane Ike.
  • In Hurricane Ike, the Storm Surge went over I-10 at the Trinity River (that's 40 miles inland)!
  • Human corpses and animal carcasses were found far north of there.
  • Recovery is still continuing from the damage caused by Hurricane Rita in 2005 and that was compounded by the wipeout of all repairs that had been done by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
  • Here's a link to the NOAA website with access to grid images after Hurricane Rita. Click on the picture and it'll bring up a grid of squares which are individual satellite photos of that square in the grid -
  • Here's the one for Hurricane Ike (I clicked on the image to get the grid up on this one) -
  • Here's the one for Katrina -
While I was hiking at Village Creek State Park I came back along Village Creek and along the path for the walk-in campsites and met a couple from Cape Cod, Massachusetts named Roger and Donna.  Roger had done a cross country bicycle tour back in 1977 - the tour was actually created in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial Celebration and was known as the "Bikecentennial". Here's a Wikipedia link to that -

The next morning I stopped by the Park HQ to say good-bye and met another nice lady named Donna Rammo.  She and her husband were from Canada and were touring the United States pulling a small trailer. She said she had fixed Indian food (which is my 2nd favorite next to Mexican food) the night before and had come over to my campsite to see if I wanted to come over and share but I was out on my hike.  We talked about cell phone service in Canada (Donna says there's basically a monopoly and Verizon Wireless can't get their foot in the door - too bad!), about cooking and eating (my favorite subject) Indian food and about travel in general, in particular travel security (which is always on my mind).... Donna talked about camping out and traveling alone - something she had done many times in Canada... I questioned her about this - her being a woman and camping out alone in remote areas.... and she said something that I'm just now beginning to realize....YOU CAN'T LIVE IN FEAR!  It's so true.... I mean if I really thought about it and dwelt on it, I would never get on a bicycle and do what I do.... I'd always be afraid of getting run over or knocked in the head or something like that... but you can't do that... you have to live your life and your dreams.....

and Donna and her husband are doing just that.... God Bless them both!

I had made a reservation at the Big Thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx so I stopped off there and checked in and met the General Manager Lawonda Tackett.... what a nice lady and an excellent site manager for Super 8.... you can just tell when you go into a motel if it's well-run.... first off the whole staff is nice and they look happy... I greeted Becky on the way to my spacious room (as I detailed in my video on the Big Thicket Super 8) and later I met the night manager Sharon and the next day talked with several of the cleaning crew who were taking a break out by the pool.... I would go to this motel just to stay and hang out with the Staff!  They were that cool!

So I pulled all the Ortlieb panniers and Rack Pack (the ones I bought from off my bike and loaded the stuff I needed for hiking into one of the spacious rear Bike Packer Plus Panniers and donned the (scroll down a little to see it) Ortlieb Pannier Carry System and rolled the bike out of my room and realized how hungry I was so I headed back down 69 to Mama Jack's Restaurant -


This was like the best home cooking I have ever had in a restaurant.... they had chicken and sausage gumbo, red beans and rice, dirty rice, corn on the cob, a beautiful salad bar, broiled fish, fried catfish, fried shrimp.... I ain't done - homemade bread pudding, banana pudding, apple pie and peach cobbler....  I walked in there and I rolled out....

While I was there I met a real Miracle Man - H.K. Pitts - I could tell he was a cyclist cause he had the cyclist socks on and the reflective ankle bands.... H.K. was an older gentleman... I figured he was maybe 60.... I mean he was lean, fit, bright eyes, tall (probably 6'2" or 3), straight as an arrow and started talking about being here in Kountze to ride in the Continental Airlines Classic - a 1 day organized bicycle ride... with distances up to 62 miles... so we keep talking and turns out H.K. is 79 YEARS OLD!  This guy is mixing it up on a group ride for 62 miles on a fancy road bike and he's 79 YEARS OLD.... got me to thinking.... cause I'm always doing that after I meet interesting, inspirational people like H.K..... I guess I'm just getting started.... there's a lot of life to live out there!

So I finally get my bloated gut and butt loaded up on the bike and Miss America kinda growns a little bit.... cause I gotta be riding about 5 lbs heavier after my visit to Maja Jack's and I ease down 69 north to the Big Thicket Nature Preserve Visitor's Center where I met....

Paula Rivers.... this lady was obviously an avid outdoorsman.... outdoors person.... and she knew tons about the Big Thicket and the flora and fauna and bicycling and hiking and was very helpful in encouraging me to take the Kirby Nature Interpretive Trail - which was the right thing to do.  Here's a link to the Big Thicket NP website - and the trail system there - Big Thicket NP Trails

I returned to the Big Thicket Super 8 that evening and slept very well in the comfortable King Size Bed and took off the next day for Lake Houston Park.... about halfway there I stopped in Moss Hill which is at the crossroads of Tx Hwy 146 going north-south and Tx Hwy 105 going east-west....

I had gone inside the FitzPak Convenience Store for some Gatorade and snacks and had come outside to sit down and eat and drink next to Miss America (my Trek 1500) and looked and see this nice looking lady walking up the sidewalk just a smiling away.... so what do you do? 

You smile back and say hello and meet a very interesting lady named Denny Fregia.... we get to talking there outside the FitzPak in Moss Hill Tx and Denny starts telling me about this intersection right in front of us.... looked like 2 roads crossing to me.... how interesting could that be? 

Boy was I wrong! 

Turns out Denny had observed over the years how charitable organizations and individuals seeking money would come from far and wide and stand at this intersection and collect funds.....

Seems like people pulling up and doing the 4-way stop thing at this intersection had more money and charitable feelings that most places and peoples.....

It got her to wondering what was different about this place and she started doing some research on this phenomenon....

The result was Denny Fregia's naming of the intersection of Tx Hwys 146 and 105 as "The Crossroads of Wealth".... here's the logic and conclusions resulting from her research:
  • Highway 105 runs east to Beaumont Tx which was the site for a HUGE oil find at Spindletop - from the East comes Oil Money!
  • Highway 105 runs west to Brenham Tx which is the beginning of the Dairy / Cattle industry (think BlueBell Ice Cream) and the Republic of Texas - think Washington on the Brazos 7 miles west on 105(reference Anson Jones - from the West comes Cattle Money and the Birth of Texas as a Republic!
  • Highway 146 runs north to Livingston into what Denny refers to as the Cotton connection - from the North comes Cotton and Farming Money!
  • Highway 146 runs south to Trinity Bay (north Galveston Bay) which is gives access to the Gulf of Mexico - from the South comes Money from the wealths of the Sea!
Now here's the Real Kicker - according to Denny, the roads at this intersection form "a Perfect Compass" i.e. Hwy 146 at that intersection is literally due North and South and Hwy 105 is exactly East and West.....

This is starting to get freaky.... kinda like some sort of Cosmic Convergence in Time (and History) and Space!

When I took a look at these 2 Google Maps, I have to admit I think Denny is on to something:

I was still scratching my head as I put my helmet on and started to roll out of Moss Hill trying to keep my bike from being sucked into the Black Hole at the middle of the 146 / 105 intersection when this really snazzy Midnight Blue Explorer Constable Vehicle rolls up and out steps a nice looking Peace Office name of Mark Dennison.  I introduced myself and first thing I noticed was this guy looked like he could take care of all the crime in Liberty County.... I mean this guy was beefy and I don't mean fat... I mean STOUT!  He asked me where I'm headed and I tell him the exact route I'm taking cause I'm hoping this guy will ride shotgun for me or something.....

So I finally break free from the magnetic forces present in Moss Hill and continue down 105 with a lot on my mind.... I'm thinking what a beautiful day it is and how many nice people I've met.

I get to 59 and take a left (south) towards my next destination - Lake Houston Park.

I do about 20 miles down 59 South and take the FM 1485 exit and it's getting late.... probably an hour of daylight left.... and I'm thinking I'm hungry again cause I haven't eaten anything except a couple of Trail Mix bars and a muffin since Mama Jack's and that bloated belly is looking pretty flat now and starting to growl cause that's what 70 miles on a bike does to ya.  I get off on FM 1485 and I see a little Taco Shack up on the right...

So I fill up on a Beef Fajita Burrito - one of the best I've ever had - cause I don't want to get to the park and have to break out the cooking stuff.

I get to the park and go to Park HQ and check in with Paul and get a screened shelter for $26.50 / night which is really cheap for a screened shelter and they're brand new.... just built in Sept 09.

By this time it's dark and I head off down the gravel road toward the shelters and I remember Paul telling me about this pedestrian bridge they're doing handrail repairs on.... I didn't think much of it because I'm pretty tired so I get to the bottom of this hill and see the bridge and it's pretty narrow and it's got some of that plastic orange netting on the side attached to the superstructure of the bridge and I don't even hesitate.... I'm so freakin' tired I just shift Ole Miss down into low sprocket about 4th gear and head over this bridge.... and I wake up real quick....

Cause this bridge is about 3-1/2 ft wide and it has only this orange netting for handrails and it's going over Peach Creek - about 30' below - the Pucker Factor kicks in cause I'm thinking I'm clipped in.... I got about 60 lbs on this bike....and I'm rolling pretty good over this wooden bridge...

If I waver one way or the other or lose my balance I can see myself crashing through this netting and this bike and all the panniers on it and all the stuff in them acting as Cement Shoes.... like Tony said "He sleeps with the Fishes tonight!"

Holy Sh*! Batman - I get over the bridge and mumble a "Thank You Lord!" and head off in the dark with my Bell Bike Light and my Petzl Tikka Headlight on.... and find the Screened Shelter area.... and roll into Shelter #5 with this guy's help..... he kinda just randomly offered to help me find my shelter.... nice guy.... then he says.... we're having chili at the next campsite over.... and I'm invited over.... and I'm belching beef fajita burrito and about a half a bottle of taquera sauce.... and I say....

Hell yeah.... I'll be over in a minute... always got room for some free homemade chili!

So I go over and meet Brandon and his wife Erin and Micah and his wife Lisa - and Brandon wasn't kidding.... I mean they got the whole 9 yards, the kitchen sink, the food and all the comforts of home and every camping gadget and convenience ever made right there set up and in full assembly line operation....

Brandon's stirring the chili in a Dutch oven over a bed of coals and Lisa's flipping corn cakes like an IHOP short order cook and Micah's setting up the table and Erin's sitting in a chair cuddling the 2 dogs and trying to stay warm and what am I doing.....

Not a damned thing...I'm plopped down in Micah's camp chair, popping a top on a 16 oz Bud I bought at a convenience store next to the Taco Trailer and I'm watching this finely oiled and tuned Camp Machine in front of me cranking out this chili and corncakes and thinking.... Good God - I did fall off that bridge on my bike - I've died and gone to heaven!

I mean - think about this - I done rode 75 miles hauling 60# of gear - 20 miles of it down a busy interstate with bad shoulders - not to mention my knee.... I'm done up.... I couldn't lifted a finger to do nothing but I could lift that beer and fill up that paper bowl with homemade chile about 4 times with 4 corn cakes to go with it.....

Am I worthless or what?

Oh well, somebody's got to do it... might as well be me!

So I'm sitting there stuffing my face with chili and corn cakes and listening to Brandon..... and let me tell you right quick.... this guy was a talker.... but let me tell you even quicker.... this was one smart dude!

This guy had all the answers to all the questions I been trying to find out from about 20 different "experts" over the last 4 weeks.... first off, Brandon is a computer programmer / software engineer with a great passion and knowledge of the outdoors and all the equipment it takes to be in the outdoors.  He's currently working on building custom applications for an IPhone if that tells you anything.

I ask him about high resolution video camcorders and the difficulty of editing m2ts files (which is the file type for the AVCHD format cameras) .... in layman's terms, the latest high resolution consumer video cams are capable of near broadcast quality video with 5.1 surround sound and they weigh less than a pound and you can put them in your pocket all because they use this compressed formatting known as AVCHD.... anyway Brandon gives me the bottom line - the only reason you buy a high resolution video camera is because you want to watch it in high res on a big flatscreen capable of high resolution - anything else - like when you edit the file or upload it to YouTube or whatever, the original High Resolution is gonna be downconverted somewhat.... it's still gonna look great but it will not have the original high resolution quality......

Then we talk about all the camping equipment and the Coleman portable tables and stoves and 9 million other things..... and I find out Micah is a computer programmer also and he and Brandon have been friends since High School and Micah's wife Lisa is a nurse and they got this cute little boy that was 20 months olds that I swear talked in grammatically correct coherent sentences.... it was freaky how clearly and how well this kid talked..... I mean I was sitting there having a simple conversation with him... 20 months old.... somebody's doing something right with that kid, cause he's eating chili and corncakes and laughing and talking with the rest of us... and I notice that the picnic table is like decorated with pine branches and pine cones and I found out Brandon's wife, Erin, is quite the interior decorator....

So I'm kinda humbled a little bit... basically I don't say too much... I just kinda listened partly cause I was eating for about an hour straight and partly because I realized real quick this was a group of people that I could learn something from.... it was kinda like Mensa in the Park or something.

By about 10 I'm bloated again and about to fall asleep in Micah's chair (I'm so sorry I wouldn't even get up) sitting in front of a nice campfire with a group of great people so I excuse myself and go crash in the Coleman sleeping bag till about 6:30 the next morning... man I needed that.

I wake up and brush my teeth and get my coffee water going and about that time I hear some chanting and cheering from the common area across the road and then a loud shout.... shatters the silence of the morning and the woods.... turns out it's an ROTC group doing morning whatever they do in the morning....

I eat my last Knorr's side dish and jerky and about that time Brandon comes over and says sausage, scrambled eggs and hash browns will be ready in 5 minutes and come on over and eat.... can you say busted bicycle shorts!

Hey - I grew up poor so I learned to eat when I can.... so I went over and had some breakfast and found out about all kinds of neat camping equipment like North Face sleeping bags, Patagonia jackets, SAS tents and MSR Dragonfly multi-fuel stoves..... and I find out Brandon is a certified instructor for a 10-day course called Wilderness First Responder - WFR - which is a a nationally recognized program that trains participants to respond to emergencies in remote settings.
Basically, they train you to be an EMT withoug having the aid of a doctor to help you. As I said it's a 10-day 80 hour course that costs $600 that is accredited through Lone Star College. It is administered through NOLS - National Outdoor Leadership School.  I am considering taking this course.
I said good bye to my camp neighbors and packed up my bike and went on a short hike on the Magnolia Interpretive Trail and then headed to Park HQ where I met and talked to a lady named Theresa coming to the park with her grand kids and told here about the Screened shelters.
I left too late to make it all the way to Lake Jackson but had a great time mixing it up with the highway traffic down 59 South past downtown Houston.... everybody was really cool.... they let me into the flow a couple of times when the shoulder pinched down and I hit 34 mph at one point before the 288 exit off 59S.
I stopped and ate at Chili's in Pearland after dark and pedaled another couple of hours to my sister's house in Angleton and visited with her till midnight.
Got up the next morning and left in the rain and made the last 14 miles into Lake Jackson.
As said in the previous post, I met some of the nicest, most interesting people in my Southeast Texas Loop.
I'm gonna do this route again sometime and take more time with the route and the people....
Life is too short to not stop and smell the roses....
And make New Friends!

I found something on the 336 miles of Leg 3A... the Southeast Texas Loop

Let me begin this post by saying..... I'm biased.... I have preconceived ideas and perspectives on a lot of things.... based on experiences.... time.... events.... and comparisons.

Sometimes it's good.... Sometimes it isn't .... it is what it is....

For instance, I have or should I say HAD preconceived ideas / biases about where I live....

A lot of people think that where they live is the best thing since sliced bread.... and most of those "lot of people" are ignorant.... now I don't mean they're stupid.... I didn't say that.... I said they were ignorant which means they are uninformed.... they just don't know any better because most people live all their lives in one place.... they have nothing to compare their own little piece of heaven to.

That's the way I was for the first 35 years of my life... oh I went to a couple of places on short trips.... Mazatlan Mexico when I was 20.... to Breckenridge CO skiing when I was 25.... Disney World when I was 30.... but for the most part I was "untraveled".... until I met my 2nd wife.

Bottom line is that this lady has gone places and done things.... so it was kinda natural that she would "broaden the horizons" of this ole Coon Ass Redneck from Beaumont Tx.... and she did.

Within a period of a few years, I saw.... drove through.... hiked through.... backpacked in and out of.... some of the most remote and beautiful places in the United States.... Santa Fe NM, got married overlooking St. Mary's Lake in Glacier National Park and took a driving tour into Canada - Banff, Lake Louise and up the Icefields Parkway to Athabasca Glacier and Jasper for the honeymoon, toured Pacific Coast Highway 1 / Yosemite NP / Lake Tahoe in California, backpacked in Yellowstone NP several times, Rocky Mountain NP and Great Smoky Mtns NP and went to the Hill Country of Texas umpteen times..... and don't get to thinking we spent a lot of money doing all this.... we bought cheap Southwest Airlines tickets well in advance, shopped the Internet for the best rental car rates and then camped out and backpacked 75% of the time wherever we went.... Hell - I remember in 2001 my wife and 2 kids and I went to Yellowstone NP for a total of 9 days and it costs us $1800 total.... for all 4 of us... turnkey.... and it was the BEST VACATION  I EVER HAD.... we still talk about that vacation!

So what's the point here?

Well - let me just say it out loud.... before I did this little Southeast Texas Loop over the last 8 days....

I kinda felt like I lived in the armpit of the world.... Gulf Coast of Texas.... Southeast Texas.

I been to other places and talked / visited with the other people there.....and everyplace else and everybody in those other places seemed to be better, prettier, more scenic, happier, more talkative, friendlier... whatever.... everything was better elsewhere.... so I had proclaimed this little section of the world the last place on earth I would ever choose to live knowing what I knew up to that point ..... 8 days ago.

You know sometimes you can see things differently when you change your perspective.... for instance.... psychologists will tell you if you're having a problem solving a problem, change your perspective.... turn a picture upside down and look at it again.... climb up on a ladder and look down at the area of the problem,  slow down, speed up, change roles.... do something different to change your perspective....

You might end up seeing things differently.....

So that's what I did.... on Sunday, 02/28/10....

I took off from my house on a different bicycle...

With a different way of hauling my stuff...

In a different direction....

To see the same old stuff....

I'd seen for the last 47 years.

But you know what.... it wasn't the same....

Was it because I was on a bicycle instead of in a car?   Mebbe....

Was it because I was older and wiser now?   I doubt it....

Was it because something about me had changed?  

Hmmm.... might have to think on that a little bit...

You see, I left my house on my Southeast Texas Loop....

With Open Eyes... an Open Heart... and an Open Mind!

Holy Mackerel.... that's a revelation.... and a change....  for me.... an Open Mind....

I also left with an Expectation.... I expected to meet NICE PEOPLE and SEE BEAUTIFUL SCENERY!

Right here in good ole Podunk Texas - Gulf Coast - East Texas - the place they make all the jokes about...

Yep.... that was me riding the Blue and White Trek 1500 with the Bright Red Ortlieb Panniers hanging off of it (notice that color scheme - Red, White and Blue) down Bluewater Highway across San Luis Pass onto Galveston Island to Galveston Island State Park and down Seawall Blvd to the Boliver Ferry across East Galveston Bay to Hwy 87 across the deserted Rollover Pass and the devastated Gilchrist Tx to Hwy 124 and High Island to Winnie Tx to the Old Fannett Hwy (124) into the south side of Beaumont up 69/96/287 to Village Creek State Park in Lumberton Tx and then up 69 to Kountze Tx and to Big Thicket National Preserve and then west on FM 770 and Hwy 105 across the "Crossroads of Wealth" at Moss Hill and onto 59 South at Cleveland and down 59S to FM 1485 and into what used to be a Girl Scout Camp turned State Park turned city park - Lake Houston Park - and then down 59 through the heart of Houston Tx onto 288 into Angleton and then returning home in Lake Jackson Tx.

Yeah - that was me riding and looking and meeting and talking and listening and observing and DISCOVERING.....

Just like I'd been doing when I took off from Lake Jackson and went north and west into the Hill Country of Texas and up into Fort Worth and then west and north to Santa Fe NM....

and what did I DISCOVER on my 336 mile Southeast Texas Loop?

That I live in a BEAUTIFUL area of the world with widely varied terrain, scenery, features and wildlife that is populated with.....

the NICEST people I have ever met.... people with an indomitable spirit, a can-do attitude, who work hard and help each other through floods, hurricanes and more hurricanes.... and economic downturns.... and rain, heat, humidity, mosquitoes....

People that don't stand around and wait for government assistance or disaster relief.... people who pick up the pieces.... and put them back together.... and help their neighbors.... and go to work everyday.... and keep their heads up and smiles on their faces....

People who are proud of their heritage.... their homes.... their towns.... who take pride in living in Southeast Texas.... and rightly so!

That's what I found on my Southeast Texas Loop while I was.....

Discovering America on 2 Wheels

I'll talk more about the people I met and the stories they have to tell in my next post!

Recap of Leg 3A - Southeast Texas Loop

Here's a recap of the Southeast Texas Loop done on a Google Map with the Miles Cycled and Hiked each day:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back at Homebase... in the Rain!

On the last 12 miles to Lake Jackson Tx

Had a great visit w/ my sister and am heading home on Business 288

Video on the Magnolia Interpretive Trail in Lake Houston Park in New Caney Tx

This video was taken on the Magnolia Interpretive Trail in Lake Houston Park.

This 1 mile loop trail features 27 interpretive stations that locate 27 trees, shrubs and plants found in the park. The Interpretive Guide written by the Park Naturalist Crystal Scheonfeld is available at Park Headquarters and gives a comprehensive description of the attraction at each of the 27 stations.

No matter if you want to learn more about the trees in the park or just take a 1 mile hike through the beautiful forest of Lake Houston Park, this is the trail for you.

Here's the link to the YouTube video:

YouTube Video on Screened Shelters at Lake Houston Park

This video is shot at Lake Houston Park in New Caney Tx on the Northeast side of Houston.

The screened shelters in this video were newly constructed in September 2009 and are very affordable and represent a good compromise between camping out and "roughing it".

Here's the link to the YouTube video:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Arrived at sister's house in

Arrived at sister's house in Angleton...will do last 12 miles to Lake Jackson tomorrow morning... Good Night!

Stopping to eat at Chili's in Pearland

Think I'll take this exit!

Minute Maid Park and Downtown Houston

Can't very many people say they...

... rode by Downtown Houston on 59 South... on a Bicycle!

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Navigating the Minefields of 59 South

Besides darting between speeding cars on the on and off ramps, the freaking shoulder of 59S is like a random minefield w/ sunken manhole and gutter covers w/ 2 - 3" lips that would eat an aluminum rim for lunch...not to mention the raised reflectors that require me to thread a 4" opening every 30' while dodging 100's of nails, umpteen pieces of glass and metal and... oh yeah... did I mention the pieces of blown tire, 2x4's and furniture.... yee haw!

Leaving LHP

Back at Park HQ...

... and packed and ready to hit the road!

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Many Group Facilities at Lake Houston Park

This is the Pine Grove Dining Hall but there's also the Forest Cottage and Lazy Creek Lodge and a variety of campsites and shelters... this park has something for everybody!

Camp Ironwood at Lake Houston Park

What a Treat!

Lake Houston Park and the Magnolia Interpretive Trail have to be the Best Kept Secret in Houston and maybe even Texas. This 1-mile loop is well maintained and goes through a variety of forest habitat and along Peach Creek (sorry it wasn't Caney Creek) and as you can see, this section has a bridge over a wet season creek followed by a tunnel-like walk through the woods!

Continuing on the Magnolia Interpretive Trail

This trail not only has 27 interpretive stations describing trees and habitat of Southeast Tx but it also has a scection that runs along Peach Creek.

Taking the Magnolia Interpretive Trail at Lake Houston Park

Having Breakfast w/ Brandon Erin and Micah

Morning Coffee at Shelter #5 at Lake Houston Park

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

$26.50 for a newly built screened enclosure at Lake Houston Park... I'll take it

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Grabbing a fajita taco before I go into the park

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On 59S 18 mi from Lake Houston Park

Crossing the Trinity River...

one of the Great Waterways of Texas.

'The Crossroads of Wealth'

Just met the most interesting lady named Denny Fregia who told me about the history and significance of this crossroad of 105 East/West and 146 North/South... Denny has done a lot of research on this crossroad and the route and endpoints of Hwys 105 and was so fascinating I asked her to e-mail me a description of it so I could post it to the blog... Wow! Another chance encounter w/ People and History on the Road to Discovering America on 2 Wheels.

Stopping at the Fitzpack in Moss Hill...

gonna get some Gatorade and press on to Cleveland - 21 miles - doing 15 mph avg in a sidewind / slight headwind... will try to pick it up from here.

Taking 105W to Cleveland

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Heading to Cleveland...Tx not Ohio!

I'm jacked up on Catfish, Hush Puppies, Dirty Rice, Red Beans and Rice and Pickled Green Tomatoes and a half gallon of DP (all that for $6.50) from Captain Ron's in Kountze. It's an OMG beautiful day... I'm filled up... warmed up and ready to see what this whole Rig can do... the Big Dogs are pulling at the leash and I'm 'bout ready to cut 'em loose for about 70 miles! Let's go Discover America on 2 Wheels!

Stopping at Captain Ron's for a quick lunch

Leaving the Big Thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx

Big thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx

I’m at the northernmost point of my 400-mile Bicycle Tour through Southeast Texas and am currently at the Big Thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx.

I posted a video to YouTube on the Big Thicket Super 8.... the link is at the end of this post.
As you can see, this is not a typical Motel Setting. The Big Thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx is laid out on a beautiful piece of property on Hwy 69 and has the following features and amenities:

All New Facility
Outdoor Pool & Jacuzzi
Free SuperStart Breakfast
Ice & Vending Machines
Guest Laundry service
24 Hours Front Desk

The rooms have the following:

Coffee Maker
Iron / Ironing Board
High Speed Internet Category 5
Refrigerator / Freezer

The location is perfect for exploring Southeast Texas as this motel can be used as a hub for many available activities - indoor and outdoor - in every direction:

Easy Access of Hwy 69 - Beaumont and Lufkin
Camping, canoeing, natural trail, and park visiting centers
Major shopping mall -19 miles south in Beaumont
Village Creek State Park – 16 miles south in Lumberton Tx
Big Thicket National Preserve Units or Sections literally surround this location
Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor’s Center – 8 miles north
Guided Tours available
Lake Livingston State Park – 50 miles to the west in Livingston Tx
Alabama - Coushatta Casino -25 mile east in Kinder La

Activities in the area –

Scenic Driving / RV’g
Bicycling – Continental Airlines Cycling Classic - Three routes of 25, 47, and 67 miles featuring beautiful scenery and challenging hills make this perfect training for the BP MS150.
Hiking / Camping / Birdwatching – State and National Parks – National Forests
Canoeing / Kayaking – Village Creek, Neches River, Lake Livingston, Steinhagen Lake
Hunting / Fishing
Gambling and Entertainment

So if you want to stay at a comfortable, reasonably priced motel in the middle of a variety of activities in East Texas, plan your stay at the Big Thicket Super 8 in Kountze Tx.

Here's the link to the video:

That’s your Wills On Wheels Travel Tip for your next visit to Southeast Texas.

I really liked this motel and the staff and will definitely stay here again!

This is William Miller and I’ll see you down the road while I’m…..

Discovering America on 2 Wheels.

Friday, March 5, 2010

YouTube Video of the Kirby Nature Trail in the Big Thicket National Preserve

This video was shot in Big Thicket National Preserve on the Kirby Nature Trail in the Turkey Creek Unit. The Big Thicket National Preserve is located in Kountze Texas in Southeast Texas.

The Kirby Nature Trail is a 5-mile Interpretive Loop with 27 interpretive stations that winds through a variety of terrain along growths of pine, oak, holly, magnolia and dozens of other varieties of trees and through terrain bordering sloughs, creeks (Village Creek) and through "sloped terrain" which is explained at one interpretive station.

It's a well-maintained well-marked loop that will delight outdoor enthusiasts of any age or interest.

Here's the link to the video:

Finishing up Day 6 of the Southeast Texas Loop

This afternoon I visited Big Thicket National Preserve and hiked the Kirby Nature Trail. The Trail is an Interpretive Trail with 27 Interpretive Stations that winds through a variety of East Texas terrain including slopes, sloughs and along Village Creek. 

Here are the images from that hike:

I had stopped at the Super 8 in Kountze Tx and left most of my bike gear in my room -

I started at the Visitor's Center.

And then rode down to the Kirby Nature Trailhead and locked up my bike...

And then took off down the trail -

I studied the Interpretive Guide that I had picked up at the Trailhead and found the description for each station very informative and easy to understand.

The trail had raised boardwalks over many of the low areas.....

and sloughs with huge Old Growth Cypress Trees.....

This combination of Piney Woods, Flooded Sloughs and Sloped Are kept the hike interesting...

but there were still signs of the 10's of thousands of trees that were downed during Hurricane Rita...

The "top" of the Kirby Nature Trail boundaried Village Creek and a bridge crosses Village Creek on the way to the Sandhill Loop and the rest of the Turkey Creek Trail.

I took the Outer Loop of the Kirby Nature Trail back...

and arrived back at the trailhead and took a closer look at the Preserve Map.... there looks to be 6 different units so you could spend a lot of time exploring Big Thicket National Preserve.

Archer Fullingim, a well-known Texas writer, described the Big Thicket as the "Holy Ghost Thicket" for its mythical and spiritual qualities.... there are things that live in this stretch of East Texas Forest.... that live nowhere else.... who knows...when you visit, you may even catch a glimpse of