Miles fly by and I get restless as I get closer to my destination. Florida roads are flat and that helps too. Weather is cooperating as I see no rain on the forecast. Google Maps route sends me to a dead end on a dirt road blocked by ranch gates; fortunately it’s just a few miles detour back to highway.
I am revisiting my plans on where to go next every minute. Plans are nothing, planning is everything. St Augustine is out the window; Gainesville too. My route makes a sharp right turn south.
I’m at the ferry dock at 7:30am, watching the thick fog come in across the bay. One crew walks out on the dock and comes near to me and the only car in line to announce the fact: the first run is cancelled. The earliest one is an hour and a half away. I ride to the intersection and find a bakery to have some danish and coffee. The owner is on the phone talking to his brother as I leave. “There is a guy here who cycled all the way from Vancouver… Yes, Canada! Hold on, let me ask… DO YOU WARSHIP GOD?”
Mississippi and Alabama is over at the blink of an eye. Bogalusa is a town formed around a pulp mill and railroad tracks — that explains the increasing log truck traffic.
I lose Daniel after we enter DeRidder at dusk. I miss the first campground’s sign and move to (not so) Pleasant Hill Park. I leaf through their cyclist guest book after I cook my dinner in the kitchen. The book has entries dated 2006 and they all seem to say that it’s the best place they stayed the entire southern tier trip — really? Meanwhile a family of cats are scratching my tent.
The “heart of Texas” is what I am riding through now. Leaving Austin, my path goes quickly through Cedar Creek and Bastrop. I go into a “Chick-fil-a”. After I finish eating, someone asks how my meal was and offers to refill my soda cup — a new experience in a fast food restaurant.
Desolute, dreary, bleak, barren… Just when I am about to give up on Texas, I hit the Hill Country. Scrubland is replaced with juniper, oak and maple stands; desert scene with gentle rivers and lush valleys. White tailed deer jump around. Armadillos — flat, half or quarter — sleep by the side of the road.
Yes, there are hills, too.
The El Paso hostel is a bit run down. I think the clerk put me in the noisiest room. No matter, I am sound asleep. The town has a few decent bike shops and next day I hunt for a couple of spare tubes and spokes. Shop owners seem friendly and helpful. I buy a bus day pass to explore the city, but end up using it only once and walk everywhere. The other side of an avenue south of downtown is all Mexican; shops, produce, signs, people, everything, even the dogs. I thought I passed the border by accident. The waiter in a Thai restaurant keeps asking me how my food is. It got a bit colder since you asked a few minutes ago.