Day 127 Easy Living
Morning number two at Bob and Wilma’s began with a few cups of coffee and a plum filled kolache. Wilma had already left for work and Bob was still sleeping. I quietly updated the blog until Bob woke. That day we didn’t have much planned. I wrapped up another post just before 11am. A little later, Bob made a call to his long time buddy Klaus. Lunchtime was approaching and a decision was made to ride a couple of miles across town to the San Jacinto River and an all you can eat catfish joint. This place was rather unassuming. Picnic tables were the seats of choice, the building was just a rectangular metal structure, and like a lot of food joints in Texas, it had an inside and outside eating area, giving it a very open air and family cookout style feel. Bob and I arrived just minutes before Klaus, his son Nathan, and Glenn showed up. Bob is retired of course, but Klaus and Nathan had the time for a long sit down lunch due to the recent rain. This past year Texas had a severe draught and rain was absent for roughly nine months. My brother told me, before I left, that when I got to Texas, I’ll bring the rain. He was right. Texas has been a very wet ride for me. I’m not sure if I brought the rain or not, but I’m glad they’re not in a draught anymore. So there we were, sitting on a picnic table, in the outside dining area, looking at the San Jacinto river to our right and unlimited catfish on the plate in front of us. When we would get low on the tasty strips of fried fish a young lady would come around with a box of battered fish and some tongs to refill our plates. It was nice getting to know some more friendly local Texans.
Bob and I, full of fish, fries and hushpuppies, continued our whirlwind tour of Crosby when we went to Lamberts Auto Parts. The store is owned by Ellard Lampert, who unfortunately wasn’t there, and has been the only auto parts store in Crosby for many years, until O’Reillys Auto Parts built a new store nearby. We weren’t there looking for parts though. Bob took me there to meet his buddy Ellard and to show me his outstanding collection of perfectly restored antique cars. Bob understands, very well, that I’m a guy out to see and do new things and without having to ask him, he comes up with plenty to see and do. Right beside Lamperts auto parts store is Ellard’s pristine classic car collection and mock-up 50’s diner full of that generations memorabilia. As soon as the door opened the first words to come out of my mouth were “holy” followed by the “S” word. Right before my eyes were five incredibly clean hotrods which looked like they were time warped right from the past. The one that grabbed my eye though, was Ellard’s pink and white 55 Ford Crown Victoria. It was unreal! Of course the other cars were just as clean, but this one made me question whether or not I was born in the right decade. I couldn’t imagine seeing cars with this type of elegance and style cruising around everywhere. A big thanks to people like Ellard, his son who gave us the tour of the cars, and all of the other folks out there with a passion for keeping these things restored for people like me to see and appreciate.
Bob and I left the auto parts and cars behind for another few miles on the outskirts of Crosby to his son Coy’s house. Along the way we stopped by a road side stand for some cracklins. For those not in the know, cracklins are delicious hunks of fried pig skin and fat and about as good for you as a hole in the head. When we first arrived at Coy’s he wasn’t there, so Bob showed me around and let me snap some pics of his awesome backyard pool with a tiki theme and a perfectly worn old barn that sits behind the house. We mozied around for about 15 minutes and were making our way out of the driveway when Coy pulled up. At that point I had not yet met him. The day before I met Bob’s other son Blane. Coy, like his brother Blane, is into restoring hotrods. Blane and Coy went to an auction that day to get some parts for the truck that Coy is building. Bob and I stuck around for a bit, watching the guys work. They made some plans to get the whole family together for dinner later that night. I was in tag-along mode and happy to be able to join them. Back at Bob’s house, Wilma arrived home from work. Dinner was scheduled for 6:30 and when the time came, we loaded up in the Tahoe and again ventured out across town to Straight Off the Road BBQ. It’s owned by another one of Bob’s good friends, Johny Metag. As we were seated the plates started coming. When mine arrived and I saw the size of the enormous slab of chicken fried steak, I knew that I was in for another man-vs-food moment. This time food won. I had to throw in the white napkin. Even better than the food that night was the chance to sit down and have dinner with Bob and his entire family. After dinner I had a chance to speak with Blane and asked for some advice for a guy who wants to work on his own. He gave me some very practical advice that I can take with me as I start something new at home in West Virginia. After that we all jumped into our separate vehicles and headed home. Bob, Wilma, and I stayed up late again, mostly talking and telling stories. It was a special night for me, since it would be the last one I’d have with them.
Day 128 The manimal ride and Mardi Gras
That night I didn’t sleep well. The thought of leaving my new-found family, the Hearns, for a long time and the non stop rain that I could hear pounding the roof, kept me awake. When morning came for me, Bob and Wilma were already awake. I walked down stairs and greeted them. They made it one hundred percent clear that I could stay another day and wait out the storm. Mentally I was ready to travel, even though it was nasty outside. The past few days with them have been great and I’ve been living better than ever. If I didn’t have strong ties to WV, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to relocate to Crosby Tx. I soon started to pack up the Goose. We made our way outside to say goodbye. I kept a smile on my face to hide my sadness. The rainy ride and threat of thunderstorms helped me keep my mind off of leaving. Bob gave me a sincere handshake and Wilma gave me a big ol’ hug. I started the bike and knew that it was time to go. As I pulled out of their drive and rounded the corner I looked back, waving until I could no longer see them. I missed them already.
My first few miles in the rain were short. About five miles from Bob’s place I met my buddy Daniel at Cracker Barrel. He offered to treat me to breakfast. I visited him once on this trip, on Thanksgiving, and made it a point to see him again while in the area. He has become a first time father since then, when his son Colt was born on December 22nd. Seeing my friend as a dad and seeing the pride in his eyes as he talked about watching Colt come into his world was impressive. I’m happy for him. He has taken the step that I’m scared of the most. Even though he’s getting along just fine, I still can’t imagine the immense responsibility that comes with parenting. My visit with Daniel and Colt was short and sweet. He and I keep in touch pretty regularly and once in a while he makes it up to WV to visit his mom. I always come by to see him then. I had to get moving if I were to beat the sunset to New Orleans, so we said our farewells and I was off.
There I was half man, half Goose, and half platypus, ready for the aquatic 300 mile ride in front of me. I took off with trash bags around my boots and rain gear covering the rest. By the first fuel stop, one trash bag started taking in water and my left foot was soaked. I took it off and kept on going with one bag left. Next fuel stop, the other bag failed and the rain gear started seeping. I had two wet feet, wet gloves, and now wet under shirts. On my last stop, about 70 miles from New Orleans I was soaked head to toe. One of the pockets, in the rain gear, where my cell phone was, took on water and ruined my phone. I’m not sure what the point is of designing rain gear that doesn’t keep out the rain. I made it to New Orleans one hundred percent soaked to the bone and freezing to death.
The reason for going there came from an invitation from a friend of mine Sherman, from Pennsylvania. He planned to attend Mardi Gras this year on his annual walk-about. A few years ago he beat cancer and now has a new lease on life. When I arrived he was raring to go, but was patient as I got a hot shower and my things together. Our plan was to go downtown and experience the craziness. I hoped to have a good experience in New Orleans this time, after my day 39 robbery. After deciding to leave the camera behind, due to fear of damage, we eventually called a taxi and headed for Bourbon St. I just want to say that I did have a few drinks, but not like my usual self. I am very aware that folks have helped me with money along the way and want to be clear that I didn’t use any of that unselfishly donated money on drinking. Sherman, very generously, gave me some money to get home on and paid for everything while we were down town. I left the room with nothing other than my I.D. in my pocket. I appreciate everyone’s help 110 % and would do nothing to tarnish that. With that said, we had an absolute blast at Mardi Gras! We stayed out of the bars and stuck to the wild streets. In typical Mardi Gras form, one of us had to have a costume. I volunteered. We found a wild-looking red feathered mask with a long beak and a set of rubber breasts. Perfect! The looks we got were priceless. Sherman wanted to stay awake until time to leave for his plane at 5am. I barely made it, but was still awake to greet him when the taxi arrived and shuttled him away. Not two minutes after that I was out like a light after a very long and interesting day.
Day 129 Lousy-ala-sippy
Two and a half hours after Sherman left I was awake. That was way to early, so I remained in bed waiting to fall asleep. It didn’t happen and at 9:30am I got up and began packing. The plan for the day was to make as many miles as possible. With two and a half hours of sleep, a 500 mile ride was not very likely. I packed up my wet gear on the Goose and took off for I-10 east. At the first fuel stop, I fueled up and was drinking coffee when a rather rough-looking character approached me. He started telling me a story about how he got robbed on Bourbon Street and lost his wallet, I.D., and money. The guys appearance and ratty truck made me a bit suspicious. His story led to asking for gas money so that he could make it the final thirty miles home to Mississippi. I turned him down at first, then I thought “Shame on you Mike. Look at how everyone has just pitched in to help you out”. His story seemed legit enough and he didn’t want cash in hand, so I had him pull his truck to the pump. I told him that I would put ten bucks in his tank. When I went inside to pay the attendant I changed my mind and decided to give the guy $15 dollars worth of gas. I’m not traveling with a ton of loot and have to watch what I spend, but it really felt good to be on the opposite side of the helping out spectrum. This time I was giving instead of receiving and I liked it. If I’ve learned anything on this trip, it’s to give every chance you get and when I get home I’m going to look for every opportunity to help others. The guy, his name was Christian, thanked me over and over and I left feeling better for having the chance to help. It’s not all about me.
Since the day was all about making miles I only had one other stop, and that was in Biloxi Mississippi at a Home Depot. Bob and I were talking about making forward pegs for the Goose. As I was riding I thought of a way to make some without breaking the bank. I bought a piece of all-thread, two nuts, two washers, and two crush washers for $6.31. I slapped it all together in the parking. Back on the road, I propped my feet up to see if they made the miles any better and WOW was it nice to extend my feet forward. The seat felt more comfortable, the pain in my rear went away, and my knees could rest. It only took four months to figure it out, but hey, at least I did 🙂
By that time my two hours of sleep was catching up with me fast. I forced another hundred miles in against the wind and settled in Greenville Alabama around 4:30pm. Within a half hour I was out like a light. Since I was running behind on the blog I made a plan to get up a few hours later and knock out a post. I woke at 11pm, made my way to the lobby to use the hotels computer, since mine isn’t responding correctly. (it’s acting like the cursor is stuck and clicks on every thing that the mouse arrow touches) From about 11:30pm to 3am I worked on uploading all of these pictures and typing this whole post. Somewhere around midnight, the auto save feature on wordpress stopped working and one can not imagine my dismay as I tried to publish it and found out that only the first 500 words were saved. This post has over 2500 words. I could have smashed that damn computer at that point. I returned to my room mentally exhausted and frustrated beyond belief. As I write this for the second time it is Monday morning at 9:38am central time here in Greenville Alabama and I just spent another two hours online.