Since today was a short day of 44 miles, we got to sleep in until 5:30. I pushed it for five more minutes, which resulted in me getting my bag out to the trailer at 6:01, one minute past the deadline. My punishment, along with Kevin (6:02), Maddy (6:05), Jenna (?), and Luke (?) was to clean the trailer that evening. But whatever, who wants unscheduled time anyway?
I rode with Roy, who gives off such kind vibes that he gets told he’s nice even when he’s making a concerted effort to not talk. He’s apprehensive that being seen as so nice makes him appear weak, so whoever is giving people/American men the message that kindness = weakness, stop it, you’re ruining the youth. own. Kayla and David’s sweepstakes for the day was to best tell the first kiss story of your riding partners, so our conversation started there and continued in that direction. You can assume which destination we arrived at.
We got to talk for most of the ride because the day’s route took us down country roads of cows, horses, MINI HORSES (we took a play with horses break only a few minutes before a play with mini horses break. Meegan: “I thought yesterday was the best day of my life because of the puppies, but today is!”), opportunities for mountain biking aka bumpy AF roads, a little trailer park bend in the roads with dogs, glaring people, and an immersive visual crash course in socioeconomic diversity, and THE TEXAS STATE LINE!!! Unmarked except for chalk lovingly drawn by Nick and Hilary, whose Garmin’s GPS alerted them to the momentous occasion. “Howdy, y’all! Welcome to Texas,” they wrote, with a line pointing out each state’s side of the back road. Texas roads got off to an improved start over Louisiana’s, and the scenery did not disappoint.
At lunch, I made myself an In n Out style protein style veggie burger and went to the bathroom next to an abandoned television in the woods as Roy played football. Then we returned to the open farm to market road, until Roy spotted a bigfoot cutout and we u-turned to go into a yard whose gate told us it was “ma and pawpaw’s home.” “Excuse me, can we take a photo with your bigfoot?” Roy asked, and the man who must have been Pawpaw opened the hydraulic gate for us. Roy got his photos, and we chatted with the small but extended family assembled under the shaded tent, surrounded by enough smokers to barbecue an entire herd at once. They asked who we were staying with in Carthage (our destination) and one woman recognized the name, telling us the man was an attorney and the woman was chatty. We didn’t catch her name, however, so we couldn’t show up and tell our hosts we knew their friend, or their acquaintance.
We rode into town, only to be flagged down by a frantic, serious Nick. It turned out he and Hilary had decided their first meal in the new state was going to be barbecue, and now that they— a native North Carolinian and an adopted Alabaman- had experienced the best barbecue of each of their lives right in Comer’s BBQ and Catfish of Carthage, Texas, they were determined to not let anyone in their wake miss it. Roy and I joined their booth and split a chopped beef sandwich with a sweet barbecue sauce on either bun. They had clued us in that the place had given them free dessert, and sure enough when a waitress came to inquire if we wanted anything else, Roy slyly said he’d love to but wasn’t sure how his pocketbook was doing, just to smooth her immediate reassurance that it was on the house. He got coconut cream pie and I took Nick’s advice and got peach cobbler, the breaded parts of which I was promised, “were the most perfect consistency, as good as [his] grandma’s.” Now grandma of mine has ever cobbled a shoe, much less a stone fruit, so I’m taking his word for it. Regardless, it was damn good.
The next stop on my and Roy’s quest to extend our 44 mile day was Goodwill. We tried on hats and Texan shirts, and left with a hat each, Roy with an NRA baseball cap and me with the Carthage, TX TSA came one he had originally picked up but deferred to me when he found his soulmate in a wearable declaration of his love to concealed carry.
The host for the night came soon enough, after a few rolling hills lined by lawns and spread out homes. Roy commented that everything felt bigger here already, though the town was small. We were staying in a private home for a change, which turned out tone tucked behind trees off the main road. It was a Spanish-style villa belonging to the parents of a woman who had done the original SUS route in 2006 and now lived in Santa Monica doing special effects. While the “chatty” mom we were promised was away, the “attorney” dad was around, as was his sister, a retired teacher and current reporter and her friend. I was aware that something was up when I saw a Prius in the driveway, but a closer inspection reveled an “Obamacare: it’s here, and it works” sticker. Our host turned out to be that rare breed: a Texan democrat, one whose beliefs lined up with Bernie Sanders’ no less. He said he didn’t face much discrimination about it, but when I asked if he thought that was because he didn’t actually need or use the liberal policies he supported, and would perhaps a say, queer, black woman on SNAP receive a bit more harassment for actually embodying the cause in a way a middle-aged white, male, married attorney did not, he agreed yes, absolutely.
Because this is my Summer of Beer (I do not usually drink beer because it is a lot of carbs and minimal alcohol, and if I’m going to do that I’d rather just eat a piece of bread soaked in vodka, but this summer I’m being a jock, so it seems appropriate), I cracked open a Shiner Bock (from Texas!), which rapidly began to tire me out. Then I and the other late bag perps cleaned and reorganized the van, which wasn’t so bad, especially because it had been an early day getting in.
Dinner was homemade barbecue, deer sausage, potato and egg salad, and coleslaw. I then began plotting my sleeping arrangements. I had found a bedroom that seemed a bit foreboding aka filled with stuff, but I was sure that if I moved the things off the bed I could sleep quite happily on it, or at least, sleep on it. But since no one had joined me there, I wasn’t sure if that meant we weren’t supposed to be there, or if everyone else had just been making assumptions along the lines of, “one must always wait in line at Cafe Du Monde.” So I slipped in and out of the room, going to bed there but waking up more than any other night this summer, perhaps from the two partial beers I had, or perhaps from guilt and anxiety of sleeping where I maybe didn’t belong. I had dreams playing out different scenarios of the morning, with people praising my finding a secret bed and yelling at me for being disrespectful to the host, that I had left a jar of strawberry Nutella open, attracting ants, and that I was at a store where they sold hydraulic bags but they didn’t quite have the type I wanted. Also, someone had posted up right outside the door to “my” (judging by the musical theater posters, a former teenage girl’s) room, so each bathroom trip was fraught with the possibility of inadvertent skull crushing.