There was a torrential downpour / dramatic lightning storm / monsoon the night we stayed in Moss Point, fortunately 100% dry in our motel room. When we woke up it was 40-something degrees and still blowing cold wind, and the storm had caused the wind to shift so that it was coming straight out of the north. We had plans to make it to Mobile, AL this day, which is North of where we were, so we headed out with that plan in mind.
About 10 miles down the road we saw a big colorful sign that read “GATOR RANCH” so we screeched on our brakes and went in for a $5 self-guided tour, and it was AWESOME. They had some baby gators in cages, but more impressive were the giant adult gators roaming around the bayou/marsh, with little walkways that you could explore on.
I got to hold a baby
One of the big ones! Click the picture for a video.
When we left the Gator Ranch the wind was still blowing at uncomfortable speeds from the north, so we held a miniature roadside powwow and decided screw it, we never get the wind at our backs, let’s take this as a sign that we’re supposed to go south and just do that. So we did! And it was FABULOUS. We covered 50 miles in no time at all, flying at 16-18mph the entire time. We stopped for the best pulled pork sandwich in the world in Bayou La Batre, also the home of Forrest Gump, and wound up on Dauphin Island on the Alabama coast.
Crossing the border – click the photo for our Border Crossing video
We got to the one campsite on Dauphin Island and set up camp – it was cold and was getting down to the mid-30s that night, so we tried to make a camp fire. Unfortunately everything was a little wet so it wasn’t going so well, so both of our neighbors came over with their gallons of fire starter fluid and torched us up. Making friends everywhere.
We got a great breakfast in Kirbyville to power us up and over the TX-LA border. It was clearly the kind of place where everyone knew eachother; I watched with ammusement as each person walked in the front door, said hi to the waitress, walked themselves behind the counter, grabbed a coffee mug and poured themselves coffee. Apparently everyone was a regular, maybe one day we’ll attain that status. We eventually were asked what we were up to and wound up having a conversation with the whole place where we receieved lots of our favorite “California?!… New York?!?!” comments and well wishes.
New friends in new places
The point is, WE FINALLY MADE IT OUT OF TEXAS. We stopped for a photo and video shoot at the state line, click on the picture below to see our celebration video:
We had serious hopes of crossing the Louisiana border this day. We really wanted to make it happen. The weather, unfortunately, had something else in mind, and when we woke up this Sunday morning the sky was dark and there was heavy rain predicted that morning. Fortunately the RV Park where we were staying had a dreamy community center with a full kitchen and a big TV with two heavenly recliner chairs in front. It was a bit like this:
Click on the picture to watch the scene
By the time we left Silsbee at 2pm we had eaten an entire loaf of bread and most of a block of cheese, oatmeal and most of a box of raisins, and about 6 cups of coffee while watching 2 episodes of Sportscenter and 3 episodes of Friday Night Lights. It was a splendid morning. But then we figured we’d better get on the road so we could make it to Louisiana, so we put on all our reflective gear and headed down the highway.
But then, sure enough, it started raining and then it started pouring. The next and last town in TX was Kirbyville, and in the midst of a developing monsoon we frustratingly had to end our day prematurely and take cover in the one and only motel in town. So 30 miles and $45 later we safe and dry and on the hunt for food. There were only 2 options that were open because it was Sunday, and Jenny’s Fried Chicken got rave reviews.
Since we were getting fried chicken, we thought we’d health it up with some veggie sides. Between the two of us we got 2 orders of fried chicken, 2 orders of broccoli, a baked potato and rice and beans. 20 minutes later the waitress brought over a gigantic platter with paper plates filled with various colors of fried things and a huge potato smothered in sour creme and bacon bits. No broccoli to be found. Madeleine pointed to some mysterious fried nuggets and asked “what’s that?” The waitress said “yeah, that’s your broccoli.” What?? I took a bite: cheese sauce with miniscule specks of green bits (must be the broccoli), battered and deep fried. Broccoli.
Post broccoli bite reaction
The rest of our meal
That night it dumped buckets and buckets and we were very glad to not be in a tent.
We started this ride on March 5, so yesterday was our one month anniversary! On one hand it seems like we’ve been doing this for months and months, and on the other it seems wild that it’s been a whole month. We really appreciate all of our friends and family that have been following the trip and who have contributed to our fundraiser, and we’re excited to keep going these next couple of months! As one of our friends from the road put it when we told her about our fundraising effort and the Live A Big Life initiative, a part of living big is seeing the world around you and learning all you can from the people and places along the way. We’ve really loved Living Big so far:
Favorite thing that’s happened:
MJ: Meeting our road pals!
SL: Going all these small, off the main road towns or communities that we would otherwise never find ourselves in.
MJ: Oh man, I don’t know. Other than Blair’s house? I loved Marfa, TX and Silver City, NM. Austin was awesome too.
SL: Probably Silver City, NM. It has good people, good culture, good walking around, good coffee, good people watching, the whole shebang. It was a great place to spend a rest day.
Favorite day of riding:
MJ: Riding to Van Horn, TX. For the last 40 miles of the day we had our first (and still only) solid tailwind of the entire trip. It was an absolute dream. We just flew. I felt like I could have ridden forever. Maybe someday we’ll get another tailwind. Probably not.
SL: What she said. Also, riding into Del Rio was awesome because it was the turning point from being in the interminable West Texas high desert (grey, brown, little to no nature, little to no change in view) to suddenly seeing trees, flowers, lakes and animals. Very exciting stuff.
MJ: Cochineal in Marfa. Amazing. Also thoroughly enjoyed my donut the next morning.
SL: Any one of the outrageous breakfasts we’ve consumed, most of them consisting of some combination of pancakes, eggs, toast, biscuits and bacon.
What’s surprised you:
MJ: Food deserts. We have ridden for literally days at a time without coming across any non-processed food. It is hard to imagine that people live in places where nutritious food is literally not available within a 50 mile drive.
SL: Definitely the same. It’s been like one big anthropological study of what people eat and what’s available where. It’s been really educational and valuable to ride into town after town and have our only options be a gas station mini mart and maybe a fast food restaurant, and of course the ubiquitous liquor store. We’ve gone a full week without being able to buy fresh produce. Crazy, interesting, and a little bit sad.
What’s been the most interesting part so far:
MJ: Meeting people who break with all the stereotypes I associate with a place.
SL: Going so many places that, were we not on bikes, we would never go and seeing what every town has (post office, liquor store), what few places have (fresh, healthy food) and everything in between.
Least favorite ride:
MJ: Riding over the mountains east of Phoenix to Globe was terrifying and miserable. We climbed 5000 feet in 10 miles but mostly I hated it because I was sure we would die. Luckily we didn’t but I would never do it again.
SL: 100% agree, that day was awful. In addition to all the vertical climbing we also had to go over 80 miles, including winding through this mountain pass with a narrow tunnel and no shoulder during any point. We both felt pretty happy to be done with that forever.
Least favorite place:
MJ: Fort Hancock, TX. Gross.
SL: Yes. Nothing good about Fort Hancock. We slept in our sleeping bags on top of the motel mattress because we were afraid of the sheets and covers, and ate peanut butter on stale bread in our room for dinner. It was a low moment.
Favorite comment from a total stranger:
MJ: The multiple times we’ve been asked if we’re packing heat and subsequent suggestions that we do so.
SL: Guy at a gas station: “Y’all? California?! No shit. F*ckin’ California. Y’all?! Damn!” And got in his pick-up truck and drove away.
We made the mistake of dawdling a bit when we woke in Shepherd, and rather than making a quick exit we wound up in an interminable line of our fellow Shepherd Sanctuary guests to use the kitchen and bathroom. So for no good reason we finally rolled out around 9am and resumed our trek in East Texas, as the hills dwindled even more and the tree and ranch-lined roads went on and on.
It was a fairly easy day of riding, we were thinking of making it a long haul of 90 miles to Kirbyville but instead stopped in Silsbee because the NCAA basketball Final Four was on at 5 and we wanted to make sure we were in a good position to watch it. As we approached Silsbee we suddenly slammed on our breaks: in a wooden bar/shack on the side of the road, dozens of pickup trucks and Harley motorcycles were lined up for what appeared to be a BBQ cook off! As we decided whether or not to go in, a lady outside in a full leather suit waved at us and yelled “Y’all hungry? Come on!” So we did.
Nothing could really capture the people watching we did, but here’s a small slice
Unfortunately we seemed to arrive just as the trophy ceremony was taking place, and therefore the eating was over. But we did hang out for a few minutes, soaking in everything we saw and heard: cowboy hats, head-to-toe camouflage, head-to-toe leather, Keystone lights as far as the eyes could see, “Just you two? Riding through here? I know y’all are carrying guns. What? You’re not?! You’re crazy!”
Wings and fried pickles and cowboys and country music
We stopped at the grocery store in Silsbee to get some provisions and headed over to the RV Park where we were camping. We made fast friends with the Park hostess, Miss Rita, who gave us a tour on her golf cart and then brought us out some freshly baked and delicious cake. Right next door was the Texas Honky Tonk, clearly a local hot spot where they agreed to put on our basketball games. Surrounded by cowboys, crappy beer and fried food, we made an evening of it until the indoor cigarette smoking became too much, and we finished off our evening eating non-fried food and watching basketball in the RV common area. RV Parks are the best.