Shreveport, LA to Longview, TX
It was another beautiful day to be alive and touring, and I was happy to be returning to Texas, one of my favorite states. My Louisiana experience was mixed, with several bad experiences overshadowing the good ones.
My last encounter with a Louisianan was not good. I stopped at a gas station for water, Coke and a Hostess cherry fruit pie (which I had been craving for days). As I counted out my money, the clerk started putting everything in a paper bag. " Oh, I don't need a bag," I said.
" Well, now you've got one," she replied, shoving the bag toward me. How's that for customer service? I mean, I've been through this " no bag" routine dozens of times on this trip, and this was the first time the clerk gave me any trouble at all. It was a minor irritation compared to my meeting with the welcoming committee five days earlier, but it left me feeling sour.
US 80 from Shreveport to the Texas state line was a nice road with good shoulders. I couldn't help but wonder if the roads in this corner of the state  were better because of the influence of oil money. I rode past the turn-off for the American Rose Society Gardens. My wife and I went there last May. Greenwood was the last town in Louisiana.
At the state line, a concrete silhouette of Texas greeted me. I was glad to be back, and my surroundings seemed to improve with my attitude. The first Texan I came across was a woman walking toward me on the shoulder of US 80 in Waskom. She flashed me a beautiful smile and said hello. I was thrilled to be in Texas. US 80 joined I-20 west of Waskom, so I rode on a couple of farm roads. Farm roads and ranch roads are the secondary highway system of Texas, and they have a reputation for being great cycling roads. I was not disappointed. The road was smooth and infrequently traveled, so I relaxed. The only threats were dogs, and soon a German shepherd was running alongside me, getting too close for comfort. What a big head he had. With a big mouth. And big teeth. Shouting at him did not deter him, but he gave up soon after I was past his property. Not far down the road, two more dogs ran toward me from across the street. One, a dachshund, never got anywhere near me, though his little legs tried. A yellow lab came out to the road, but he just greeted me from there and didn't chase.
In tiny Jonesville, I began to see signs: " Lost dog, Jack Russell, white w/brown spots, *Allie*, $200 reward" and a phone number. I saw dozens of similar signs over the next ten miles. I started thinking that maybe I could find Allie. But if I found Allie, what would I do with her? I had no way of transporting her home unless I emptied out a pannier or something. Alas, I didn't have to worry about it, as I didn't see any dog resembling a Jack Russell terrier at all.
As I neared Marshall and my return to US 80, a minivan passed me, going unusually slowly. It turned around ahead and pulled off the road. A man came out to greet me (I forgot his name). He was a fellow cyclist, drawn to the curiosity of a pannier-laden bike. He said, " I saw those panniers, and I thought, either he's on a long trip or he's one of those nuts who trains with panniers full of bricks." We talked about my trip, and he told me about the most dangerous times to ride in Texas. He said the blue-haired ladies on Sunday morning were bad because usually they didn't even notice cyclists. However, he said the worst time to ride was Friday afternoon. A lot of construction workers get off early and celebrate the weekend by drinking a beer or two in their pick-up trucks.
In Marshall, a cowboy and horse made of exhaust sytem parts outside of Dick's Muffler & Brake Center caught my eye. Check it out on the photo page. Marshall is the hometown of champion boxer and grillmaster George Foreman, and it also claims to have the biggest  Christmas light display--over five million lights throughout the town. Of course, I was three months too late to see that. I had about 20 more miles to Longview, my easy goal for the day. Gladewater, another 12 miles beyond Longview, was a possibility, too. Halfway to Longview, it started to rain, but only a sprinkle. If it didn't get worse I'd be fine. The Weather Channel, however, had shown torrential downpours in Dallas, less than 150 miles to the west. When I reached Longview, I passed up a bunch of motels, deciding to put in another hour of riding to get to Gladewater. Then west of downtown, it started to rain harder. I saw a Comfort Inn across the street and decided to give up for the day. As I waited for a break in traffic on the four-lane highway so that I could get over to the motel, it started pouring. The minute or two I waited seemed much longer as I was getting soaked. Finally I got across and parked under the motel canopy. The room rate was a little higher than I wanted, $60 for a queen. Tammy, the clerk, let me sweet-talk her into giving me the corporate discount (my corporate credit card came in handy) and a first-floor king room for only $50. Ironically, by the time I was registered for the night, the rain had passed and I could have gone to Gladewater after all. Oh, well.
When I got to my room, I turned on the TV. Flipping channels, I noted that Walker Texas Ranger and Texas Justice were on at the same time. What's a Texas-phile to do?
For dinner, I went to the Waffle Shoppe of Texas across the street and had an excellent monte cristo with thick slices of turkey and ham. It was a nice change from eating breakfast all the time. Back in my room, I called my wife and continued editing photos for my web site. Around 10:00 I thought about going to the gas station next door for a Coke. Then suddenly, the sky exploded with rain. Incredibly, it poured  even harder as I watched, and the wind gusted. I was glad not to be riding a bike through that! Then the lightning started. It was a tremendous storm.
Totals for the day: 60.25 miles in 4:39:14 for an average of 12.9 mph.
Click here to see today's photos.
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