Bicycle Maintenance

January 12, 2008

Over the past two days I had the following repairs done to the bicycle:

1. Replaced brake pads. The original pads, front and back, were worn down to the plastic and were in fact quite useless on the trip to the REI bike shop. Amazing timing. Incidentally, the mechanics there were too busy to do any other work same day.

Today I took it to Blue Line Bike Shop and they bumped it to the top of the line, for which I am thankful.

2. Tried to get the wheel trued, but ended up replacing it altogether. The old rim had developed a terminal crack crossing an eyelet. I don’t know if this was the result of their truing attempt or if it was a pre-existing condition, but considering the abuse heaped upon it and the difficulty I had with changing tires on it, I was glad to say good-bye to the old one.

3. Replaced the rear tire. Neither bike shop had a similar slick touring tire, so I took what they had at Blue Line.

Repairs were not made to the rear derailleur, a Deore LX, which had a squashed return spring that was causing some problems with the index shifting. I’ll replace it on down the road, but it’s not a pressing problem since I can get acceptable shifting in friction mode.

I’m surprised at the number of rust spots on the chain and pedals. I rode through quite a bit of rain but I expected more resistance from these components. I kept them well-lubed but I think just about every time I camped, it rained heavily. This in addition to riding in damp conditions and getting soaked a few times (especially the last day).

All told, over 2300 miles. Tomorrow morning I’m going to post the trip statistics and the tour log numbers.

I’m working on relocation efforts, presently. Trying to get a place to live without having a job and not being a student is unusually challenging. I’ve done this a dozen times before, but I always got a job first. Now I’m doing it in reverse order, so if I don’t have any luck soon, I’ll have to resort to a cheap motel at a weekly rate. Ah well.

Waiting on the arrival of my Essentials kit that I left in the care of a friend.


34 is like 33, minus twelve pounds

January 9, 2008

Birthday. Decided to drop the sea anchor in Houston (not Austin) for the Extended Wintering option.

This means that I won’t be making any posts for a while.

Leg III to begin in late summer/fall 08.

EDIT 1/16/08: Make that same time next year.

Houston, Texas

January 8, 2008

Leg II: Complete.

Making the distance to Houston was no great challenge. Humid and warm, labored breathing. The rain came on without a proper introduction, Gulf-coast style, and I was drenched for about half an hour.

Hung up my wet socks and my soggy shoes at my friend’s house before I rushed in to find the bathroom. Not much for ceremony. Would’ve spiked my helmet if it’d occurred to me.

But. Done deal. Leg II: successful. Hoyt lives.

And I rode every damn mile.

No Takebacks!

Stick around and I’ll post a link to my web site when it launches.

Dayton, Texas

January 7, 2008

Winds from the south at 20 mph, gusting at times. 70s all day. Clouds uncharacteristically low and stacked high all day, moving fast to the war zone up north. Dark and leaden. It’s a grim, embattled day with an unseasonable crosswind. Not the kind of day to go looking for beauty in Texas.

Happily left Beaumont but 90 was shoulderless heading out, but fortunately with little traffic. It picked up as the day wore on and I scored a shoulder pretty quick. By the time I made Liberty, it felt like rush hour in a construction area.

Plenty of beaten up homes with paint peeling off, front porches collapsed, two or three rusted heaps of cars in the yard. And spotless new cadillac SUVs with rims in the driveway. Priorities in this country are seriously out of whack.

Lots of refineries off in the distance and even one of those sinister towers with flames spewing out. Then, fields. Then, piney woods.

Texas does excel at roadside rest stops, something that I did not encounter more than a couple of times on the entire trip. A younger me once slept at these spots on bicycle tours through Texas; totally legal as long as I didn’t “erect a structure”. A little risky, sure. There’s always an anonymous vehicle parked there with tinted windows. And if there’s a bathroom, well, don’t go in at night.

Liberty, Texas. Dumpsville. One of the gas stations has a sign that reads in handwritten letters: No sitting or standing in front of or near store. Man. That’s pretty harsh. Everything is barred up. Not the kind of small town that I associate with Texas.

Crossed the Trinity. Man, just as ugly here at its end as it is in Dallas. Didn’t see any bodies float by, but I’m sure if I waited long enough I’d see a missing person go drifting by on her way to the Gulf.

Scored a hotel and made the walk into town through ant piles and knee high grass. No sidewalks here or in just about any of the towns I’ve been through on this trip. Everyone drives. No crosswalks, lights timed for cars, no pedestrian crossing buttons. Sensors won’t detect me because I don’t contain at least half a ton of metal, so I have to jaywalk. Drivers honk, teenagers hoot from their passenger windows. And everywhere there are machines, tanks of chemicals, rows of tractors and used cars, coils of tubes. Everything is ugly, and the roar of passing trucks is abominable.

Thought I’d take a chance with what by all appearances was a really bad idea: a Hartz All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Buffet. That’s Hartz, the same guys that bring you worm pills for dogs and cats. Same logo, not kidding. It was godawful. I passed two bbq spots for it. Man I’m stupid sometimes.

In the restaurant an impossibly obese man says to an impossibly obese woman, “I like your shirt. I speak English, myself.”

“Thanks! I got it on the internet. My husband says I shouldn’t wear it because I’m gonna make somebody angry with it.”

I don’t see, don’t even need to see it. This conversation takes place in front of the two foreign-born food servers.

Strange to say, but making Houston might actually be an improvement. Called a friend to coordinate my inner city strategy, which will be a challenge with H-town’s Ring of Decay™.

Morning now. Ready to ride.

Beaumont, Texas

January 6, 2008

Last entry didn’t take. Will be brief here.

Bypassed I10 chokepoint and rode to Bridge City. Crossed the Neches Rainbow Bridge, bigger even than the SUnshine over MS. Strong south wind made it darn tough.

Refineries until Beaumont. I think the whole city got hit by an ugly bomb. Downtown was boarded up and quiet. Made a hotel and hiked around a bit, found a bike shop and finally got a proper spare tube.

Headed out presently. Going to make outskirts of H-town tonight. End of Leg II on Tuesday morning.

Orange, Texas

January 5, 2008

Rain. On and off all day. And with it, some warmth.

At the state park during the night a whole frat colony materialized from who knows where and made a lot of noise. They took about three hours to erect a tent… It was hard not to laugh. I was grateful when I heard the rain.

Bailed in the morning but heavier rain forced me to shelter at the fast food row on the way back to US 90. Even had some pie.

It was almost noon when I hit 90 again, and I scored a monster piece of glass on the rear tire. Patched it and noticed just how thin the rear was. Really needs a change.

The rain was coming down again when suddenly the shoulder disappeared. Dammit, Louisiana! You suck! My goal had been to take 109 up to the Deweyville crossing, but with the rain and truck traffic, I had to fall back to 27.

And a slow leak with a pump-up every hour.When I patched the tube I noticed that the hole was right next to a floppy seam. Should’ve sanded it down.

It was a damp ride into DeQuincy. Things had dried a bit as I rolled through the desolate downtown section. Spooky town. Then the usual fare of dollar generals, family dollars, etc. And out into one of the most uninterrupted stretches of pine country I’d seen yet, alongside a railroad track for company.

Asked about motels in Stark and was told that there was one in Mauriceville. Had an offer for a ride from the most obsessively nice woman. I would’ve declined even in the middle of a hurricane. No way I’m missing out on my one golden moment:

Crossed the Sabine and kissed that sweet Texas dirt! Homecoming at last.

It was Louisiana’s parting gift that there was not, in fact, a motel in Mauriceville, leaving me in the dark and backtracking once again.

Rode to Orange in the dark, but even though I was beat, it was a comfortable ride. Misdirected again, but I finally ended up at hotel row and picked out a cheap one.

In all, it was a heck of a roundabout to bypass the I10 bottleneck over the border. If I were any one else, I’d have just ridden I10 and taken my chances, but knowing my luck I’d be ticketed.

Ate at a nearby cajun joint but didn’t want to drop $18 on a buffet. What the hell. Who charges that much for a buffet. I love cajun but not the seafood, and the two are almost inseperable; hence the high price. But this was Texas-side, and I saw chicken fried steak on the list. Woo hoo! It was pretty darn good. And Shiner Bock to boot. On an honest wood plank table varnished and gouged with initials, with a sign reading “Manager’s Special: Bucket of Imports 5 for $12”. Just one for me, but it felt like home again. My spirit was revived.

Sam Houston Jones State Park, LA

January 4, 2008

Made this here state park just now and set up camp, ate. Long day, maybe 78 miles.

Left Rayne on 90 but no shoulder. Came back and tried backroads. They were fine but had a dire dog chase with a big ol fast hound and his buddy in close pursuit. Got him in the nose with Halt and watched him go down. It was a close one. Fun, and gratifying.

Backroad route turned sour when I hit a “pavement ends” sign. Finally got back on 90 and rode it all day with a beneficial cross-to-tailwind.

Made several acadian towns, all miserable and depressed. No Justin Wilson jumpin’ around here, no zydeco on the gazebo. It looked like Katrina had come back for seconds and thirds. Dusty and decrepit.

Didn’t stop for lunch, but I did grab a bag of chips at a gas station that was damn near covered in protective bars. A young man there from New York told me about how he and a friend had handcuffed themselves to something (I forget what, exactly) so that they could stay through one of the big hurricanes, but they were cut loose by police.

No shoulder most of the day and a whole lot of honking, but some of it friendly. I can’t believe I haven’t scored a flat in three days now. I’ve been riding over minefields out here.

Lake Charles is a dump. Somehow I criss-crossed it twice looking for something interesting, and it was a dump the whole way.

The park is nice though. Wish I’d remembered

Falling asleep while typing. tired. night y’all.

Rayne, LA

January 3, 2008

Rayne, Louisiana bills itself as the frog capital but I ain’t heard one yet. Maybe it’s off-season. Maybe they’re frozen. Night three of the big freeze.

Left New Iberia near noon. So much traffic! I thought I was going to be touring quaint little acadian towns but it’s nothing but pickups, trucks and really dangerous old ladies in sedans. Even rolling through random streets it’s that way. I tried a couple of routes, all choked.

Motorist hostility has been very high, although the people are generally friendly in person. I get honked at frequently, even when I’m on the shoulder. I had one guy yesterday honking from behind me at a red light and motioning for me to scoot over.

Had an exhausting conversation with an old cajun lady yesterday while eating lunch. She was favorably impressed but wouldn’t let it go. She’d clean a table, ask me some questions, clean another table, and ask some more questions. On and on. Mmm, room temperature food.

The third most frequently asked question, after “How many miles you get on that thing?” and “Are you riding for a cause?” is “Why do you have a rat on your bike?”. Also it is expressed as “I love the possum on your bike there.” I have a giant stuffed toy rat glued to the front lowrider rack, with his head hanging over the wheel looking down. He has been a faithful mascot, but the epoxy came loose on one of his front paws so now he rears up on his hind legs in a headwind or when going downhill. The correct answer to the question would be “because I like rodents.” But this is often a difficult thing to tell someone in small town America when you’re wearing lycra underwear on the outside.

Made Lafayette and spent an hour exploring. A nice town, in parts, reminded me somewhat of Amarillo. Headed out on 90 and things got bad on the outskirts. The crummy shoulder became no shoulder with a deepy gully, and even though I10 ran close by, there was a lot of traffic and a few trucks now and then. I had stopped before it ended but people had been honking in passing now and then. I was not welcome here.

I have the right to be on the road, no doubt about it. But stories of cops hassling bicyclists in Louisiana on this road and others like it made me look for an alternative. This is where google maps comes in really handy. I took backroads in to Rayne from there on. Unlike other parts of Louisiana where smaller roads are not throughway, west Acadia is gridland. County roads are laid out in a grid pattern, making for convenient backroads.

Backroads Acadia is also Katrina relocation country. Rows of mobile home communities surrounded by farmland. It is a strange thing to see a bunch of kids wearing gang colors on a mobile home porch. No stores, nothing, just fields.

The towns are poor. Dirt poor. And to see a casino sucking the life out of what’s left is maddening. Every town has them. They’re not what you find in vegas, or atlantic city. They’re a mirror image of the dumps in South Dakotee. Basically just extra rooms nailed on to gas stations with slot machines. If you’re going to piss away six dollars an hour, why not do it instantly with a one-armed bandit rather than waiting for it to happen on television with lotto?

So, Rayne. Got a hotel. Ate some fried frog legs at Chef Roy’s. These are big, big, BIG frog legs. There’s a lot of meat in the thigh but the flavor is mild. A nice dinner place but expensive. I don’t think the locals eat there. Everything else on the menu was seafood, and I’m not entirely averse to it but I prefer things that can get around on land at least part of the time. That means my cajun food choices have been limited to chicken, frogs, and alligator.

My server was angelic. She came straight from the pearly gates to feed me some frog legs.

Heard this one old cajun gentleman at a nearby table. Man it was somethin’ else. Lots of folks in Acadia have a Southern accent, no accent, or a touch of cajun, but this old guy was just about incomprehensible. Sounded like Justin Wilson on muscle relaxants.

Morning. Going to be taking backroads all day today. Getting the Halt! spray on the ready.

New Iberia, LA

January 2, 2008

Cold morning, as it seems to be across the Southeast. At least the tent was dry. I was not eager to face the wrath of the northwest wind on US 90.

So I headed straight to food. Heard a few cajun accents, but not many, and got the FAQ rundown from an older gentleman who didn’t seem aware that I was chowing down on the buffet. He was hard of hearing so I practically had to shout. While I was in the middle of stuffing my face.

Crossed an endless series of bridges, some just over little country roads. Saw mostly farmland, surprisingly. Was expecting bayou and swamp, but all I saw all day was broken cane straw. Sugar? Don’t have a clue what it was. The shoulder was littered, sometimes covered, in the stuff. A few houses here and there, isolated patches of trees, but not an especially scenic or interesting ride.

Wind was at a cross-angle for the first ten miles but it blew hard and without compromise, keeping me at an angle. Then the road shifted, or the wind shifted, and I faced a headwind for the rest of the day. It was fierce, cold, and just plain uncivil. Made 9-10mph till the last ten miles when things got worse.

The shoulder disintegrated into deep gravel and there was constant truck traffic, so I had to grind along at 8mph while squirreling through chunks of cane. Miraculously, no flats at all. For the first time since I made Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.

Passed a cop writing someone a ticket.

High temperature of 44. At least it was sunny. But when I made town and got off the bike, I was literally limping. My left toesies had lost circulation and were almost solid white. It took about ten minutes of rubbing and a hot shower to get em back to the world of the living.

Got a nice Best Western at the “business rate” and discovered that I could hear everything the next door neighbors were saying. So I turned on the tv to drown them out and found the perfect fix: the world’s most disgusting infomercial. You may have seen it before; it seems to play on a lot of cable channels. It’s the one from Dual Action Cleanse (basically a glorified laxative) where they show fake human waste and, even worse, talk about it for a solid half-hour. So how ya like that, neighbors? I cranked the volume and they were out within minutes. Woo.

Had some CFS at a nearby Chili’s. Didn’t feel like riding into town to find the real thing. But even though the menu said “country fried steak”, the usual bogus label at chain food places, the server didn’t give me a strange look when I said chicken-fried steak. And it was pretty darn good, hand-breaded and all. The highlight of my day.

It’s morning now. Cold, windy. Should be cross to tailwind today, at least. Route still uncertain. Far too many interstate chokepoints heading west. Probably three days to Texas, two more to H-town.

Morgan City, LA

January 1, 2008

Wish I could say that I woke up with the world spinning around me after a wild New Year’s bash, but the fact is that while the rest of Baton Rouge was still splayed out in bed, I was climbing the Mississippi. I say climbing because the Sunshine bridge (US 70) is in fact a mountain. The tailwind that delivered me out of town was a fierce crosswind all across, and I was buffetted back and forth even to the brink of the shoulder. Damned dangerous… Would’ve taken a ferry if I had to do it again.

Landed on the other side with a flat. Again. This time, glass. The rear tire needs to be replaced; it’s not threadbare yet but there are strings coming out of the sidewall.

The patch held on the oversized tube and I rolled on against a cross/headwind through farmland and bayou. Beautiful bayou. Had a great shoulder but I lost it running into Pierre Part. Also encountered no bicycling signs at two small bridges abd one pontoon bridge. It was the only way across, so I crossed. Not sure why the sidns are there, but I didn’t have any trouble.

Doesn’t feel like cajun country yet.

The wind became my friend again and it was a fast and easy shouldered ride all the way here to Morgan City. Skirted a giant levee on my right, crick on my left the whole way. Made it to a city park with a campground.

Freaking cold. 27 right now at 7am. Toe warmers are spent and it’s time to emerge from my coccoon and find some grub. Strong 30mph headwinds today will probably limit my progress going northwest on US 90.