Way too Comfy in Beaumont

    Alright, so at long last I’m in Houston, and yes, one day I will actually make it to Mexico.  Ya see it all began with a little lady named Michelle from Beaumont Texas.  It was Easter Sunday, and, seeing as how I’m now officially a homeless vagabond, I was sure that I would be spending it alone – while everyone else in the known world (ie Louisiana and Southeast Texas) was living the good life and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ by boiling crawfish and hunting for Easter eggs.  Well, Michelle, whom I had found through Couchsurfing, had called me back (well after I had already given up hope on her) and asked me if I still needed a place to stay in Beaumont.  Well, seeing as how I didn’t particularly want to camp for three nights in a row on the way to Houston, I said absolutely.  But then suddenly she remembered that Sunday evening was her family’s Easter dinner!

    Somehow I didn’t think that I was going to get an invite, and I was wondering if there might even be a possibility that I would be out on the streets for Easter, but then something miraculous happened.  I got invited to the dinner!  Unfortunately, my timing was a little off, since my ETA was 6:00pm at Michelle’s house in Beaumont whereas dinner was slated for that same time in Port Neches, several miles away.  Since one was West and the other Southwest of me, Michelle said to ride towards Port Neches and she would pick me up on the way.  I told her that I’d hate to be an imposition and that I could just meet her there, but alas, there was a minor obstacle preventing this.  According to Wikipedia, “the Rainbow Bridge was built with a 680 foot (210 m) main span. In addition, it has a vertical clearance of 177 feet (54 m), which was intended to allow the tallest ship in the US Navy, the USS Patoka, passage under the bridge,” and this was indeed the bridge that stood between me and a yummy home-cooked meal (haha! me professors can’t stop me from citing Wikipedia on my own website!).  So I met Michelle in Port Bridges and soon after we were rolling along.  Michelle was a sweet, outgoing and unpretentious girl and we quickly hit it off.  A few minutes later a looming object became visible in the distance, an arch that just went upward continuously into the sky and eventually dipped back down on the other side.  This was the Rainbow bridge.  And to make matters worse, it was a one way bridge with extremely narrow lanes and no shoulder.  I wave of relief passed over me now that my rescue was put into context and I was able to appreciate the sheer engineering magnificence of the bridge from the safety of Michelle’s little 4 wheeled vehicle.

    As we pulled up to her family’s home, I wondered how Michelle’s family would receive me, but based on her feedback, was optimistic.  Her family seemed to immediately take to me and I was so joyfully pleased to be surrounded by all of their sweet and gregarious personalities (oh and some incredibly delicious food too!).  And I must add that my favorite moment was when Michelle’s father came in from preparing to start gardening and asked in an exasperated tone just where exactly 6 pairs of left handed gardening gloves would possibly disappear to?

    Once dinner was over, Michelle’s mother had prepared me an Easter bag filled with all of my favorite types of chocolate eggs (I swear that woman is a psychic), which those of you who know me know that it didn’t last the ride back – and it wasn’t no long ride neither.  Michelle and I decided to head to a local bar called Thirsty’s (apparently all bars in Beaumont end with ‘s) and mingle with some of the locals.  Well, once we got there, the six of us in the bar all got to talking and trading stories, and I must say that one topped the cake.  A young lady named Laura told us about a time that she was driving home from Dallas and had some rather unfortunate luck.

    Well, it was late at night and she was driving down a pitch-black, windy old country road – when suddenly she smashed into something and heard a loud cry.  She got out of the car only to find that she had hit a huge pig, and it was still alive and moaning!  She stood there staring, panic-stricken.  Then, from the underbrush to her side, a withered little country woman emerged shoe-less, smoking her extra-long Virginia Slim through a plastic filter in her night-gown and mentioned that she had just been sitting on her front porch sipping on some peach schnapps when she had heard the accident.  She asked Laura if she had hit a cow or a pig, to which Laura told awkwardly replied, completely in shock and uneasy.  A few moments later a portly farmer in overalls with no shirt underneath also appeared and, glanced at the pig disappointedly, then pulled out a shot-gun and shot the creature in the head to put it out of its misery, then kicked it into the ditch.  He lamented the death of his poor pig Hannah, then disappeared back into the darkness.  Soon thereafter the police came to investigate the situation and question Laura, at which time a tractor came rolling up and the man in the overalls lowered the shovel end, scooped up Hannah, and rolled away with her battered carcass.  The questioning had soon ended and Laura was allowed to get back into her now dilapidated car and drive off to meet her friends at a bar for a Saturday night drink and to tell them about the red-neck version of the twilight-zone type of night she had had.  This was my introduction to Texas.

    The next few days found me growing more and more comfortable, however, just hanging out with Michelle around Beaumont: cooking breakfast together every morning, me reading and working online at a coffee shop while she was at work, then meeting for lunch, and finally with us cooking dinner and usually watching a movie in the evenings.  One of the nights, another Couchsurfer named Kellen came to join us on her was from Maine then Asheville, across the country and finally up to Eureka, in Northern California.  Although quiet, we welcome her company and I enjoyed the poetic style in which she traveled – with her quaint little vintage yellow car and a sweet little tan labrador named Nika.

    Well, before I knew it I had been in Beaumont for five days and, if I remember correctly, I’m supposed to be on my way to South America.  I finally got up the initiative to tell Michelle that we couldn’t just hang out forever, that I was on a quest to find my holy grail, and that I would be leaving in the morning.  Since I had postponed the journey to Houston for so long, I decided not to dilly dally any longer by splitting up the journey into two separate days, and instead I decided to take the near 100 mile journey in one day.  The next morning, after a somewhat scattered breakfast, I hugged Michelle and thanked her for all of her wonderful hospitality and company over the past few days and set off for Houston.  I pedaled with a fury, as the weather man had predicted afternoon showers, but alas, the showers never came and my evening-time I was arriving at my destination in Southwest Houston and was welcomed by Sam and his wife into their lovely and immaculate home.  After my obligatory pre-socializing shower, Sam and I headed to the grocery store for dinner’s ingredients and had soon returned and began fixing a wonderful supper of tender chicken, several Thai dishes and sticky rice.  Sam and I spent a few hours getting to know one another and as the night dwindled on, retired to our beds for the evening.

    And there you have it, I’m finally in Houston and intend to spend the rest of the weekend here exploring the city and acquiring the remainder of my equipment before heading for the Mexico border and my first exciting encounter with the border patrol!


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