April 14, 2001 - Houston, TX 103m***

Thunderstorms, hail, flooding, wind – the first half of the RAAM ended a bit early, about 35 miles before plan in Houston. Well pick up about there in the second half, in 10 days or so. For now, lets stick with the narrative. This also disrupted my ability to get out an update yesterday, so heres the first day late one.

The day started usual for west Texas (for the trip), warm, drizzly, headwinds. Outside the door of my room at the Luxury Inn of Gonzales (recently decertified by Best Western), the flags in the used car lot next store were blowing toward my face.

The wind just slows you down a couple mph, and Ive gotten used to it.

Heading east from Gonzales, there was nothing but rolling hills, 90-95 degree heat, and the wind. About 12 miles into the drip, my day was defined.

An eminently doable distance, even with the wind. Past this, the only things to take pictures of were a few Historical Markers, and town signs, unless of course youre into the varieties of cows at the countless ranches. The first one:

I was pleased to learn that Gonzales had been burned to the ground. Nothing was open but two gas stations (Easter Sunday). Fortunately one of them served something they called fried chicken. I got the dinner (8 pieces and 8 rolls) and a couple of beers there.

I shifted away from the name/population green signs to the branding signs. Theyre much more interesting.

Shriner had the nicest place for breakfast, and farther east, more interesting local history. Still 30+ miles between towns, I stopped at another historical marker that came with its own, interesting plaque.

Somebody had taken a small caliber gun and tried to blow a big hole in this one (upper center), but only dented it. The higher caliber bullets on the lower left do a better job. Then another town, with a water park (opening in May), restaurant and gas station.

Farther down the road, a less damaged historical marker.

You cant imagine how excited I get when I see the brown signs that say Historical Marker 1 mile. Something to ride for. What will it be?

This one had only one bullet hole in it. Ive spared you perhaps dozens of old church, county, dead town, long dead local notable historical markers, but I cant help it with these interesting ones. Old Jimbo, the wild man polisher. This part of Texas is well forested, hilled and rivered. Easy to hide and live off the land.

Getting closer to Houston, I found a bad place for geese.

Eagle Lake is in the distance, behind the flooded field. Things flattened out past this. ALT 90 paralleled railroad tracks. After a Propel, water, packaged sandwich break in East Bernard, 85 miles into the day, around 4PM, I set out at a 15 mph cruise thinking about how best to tackle Houston. I knew I had to find a great bike shop, and try to get USAir to let me go home a day or two early, and find a place to stay. All that became rapidly irrelevant.

It had been still. 95 degrees, stifling hot and humid. Still sure to make the 135 miles to get to Houston. Then, all of a sudden, boom. The temperature drops 20 degrees. 20+ mph headwinds. Huge dark clouds (known to me as the black clouds of death) appear from the northeast. Careful consideration determined they were blowing SW, toward me, with lightning, etc.

Overhead it was still sunny, but time was running out. Able to cruise at only 8 mph or so, on a rare section of the road with no shoulders, with 2 lane traffic at or above the posted 70 mph speed limit. How far was the next town?

Then the dogs attacked.

A pack (5) of them, a variety of medium sized kinds, came barreling out of a farm to chase and maybe bite me. SOP here is crank up the speed, yell and point. It works fairly well on one or two dogs at a time (their speed limit seems to be 20 or so.) I could only get up to 18, and after what seemed to be a couple of minutes, they were not giving up. My defensive maneuver, look for a break in the cars, quickly jog over to the opposing lane shoulder, get off the bike and be prepared to defend myself with the bike and air pump.

3 of the dogs followed. An oncoming pick-up truck, with the choices of me, the dogs, or oncoming traffic, fortunately picked the dogs, and labeled on of them. Road kill in action. Rapidly devolved the attack mode. The rest of the dogs went home. I and the truck went on. The storm fast approaching.

Made it to Rosenberg TX when the first giant raindrops hit. The only immediately available shelter was a Wells Fargo Branch. It was dark, windy, lightning and thunder, and sheets of rain. (Note: this was again not forecast. But it made headlines.

Those dots, (I believe) are actual drops of rain. It looks like night (all the streetlights came on, I used a flash) but it was only 5:30 PM. I waited there until actual darkness hoping for a break. None came. Took a taxi to Houston Hobby where I rented a car and checked in at a Marriott Courtyard for the night.

The next morning, today, I dropped off my bike at the Northwest bike shop (on the northwest side of the town, about 20 miles W of Houston Bush Intercontential Airport, went to that airport, and flew home.

Im now regrouping in Charlotte, and may get a summing up of the first half out in a few days. Otherwise the next update is around April 30th.

Thanks for your support.

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