12/1/17. As part of the new, more relaxed regime now that we are close to Houston, Wednesday saw us riding from Port Arthur to Beaumont – a distance of only 15 miles/25 km.
And not very exciting miles they were too. The “highlight” was when we turned off the service road following the freeway to go through a complex of four “State Correctional Facilities”, complete with signs advising us not to pick up hitchhikers. We are grateful for the advice as Stephen had been contemplating offering a lift to a couple of guys in natty suits covered in arrows! The jails looked just like PoW camps and we cannot even begin to imagine how grim life in a Texas prison must be!
Also on the way we passed an Intertek office in Nederland – Stephen just cannot escape the company – and any number of other oil industry related businesses. This was Boomtown in the early 1900s when oil was discovered round here. We even passed by a couple of “nodding donkeys”, ancient and rusty but still working.
The southern suburbs of Beaumont, while not exactly “smart”, were definitely a step up from the parts of Port Arthur through which we had passed, albeit with fewer churches. Soon we were at our target motel, right by another freeway, where the receptionist gave us access to the wifi so we could reserve a room through booking.com at a price $10 cheaper than the one she quoted face-to-face. She claimed that she was unable to match the online price even though the hotel would pay a 20% commission as we understand it. Their loss, not ours!
Next morning, the first few miles were through a commercial district (principally oil related) but after crossing a railway bridge we suddenly found ourselves in a very pleasant residential neighborhood on quiet roads. Eventually these then led us out into the countryside where we had a very pleasant ride past several ranches and stopped for a chat with a local cyclist, Julie, outside a soccer training place.
We were headed for Village Creek State Park which is about 15 miles due north of Beaumont. However, the only direct road is a freeway and, while for most of the way there is a service road alongside, at a crucial river crossing this service road disappears (according to our online maps at least) leaving cyclists with no way across that we could see.
We followed a longer alternative route plotted on Google Maps which would take us west, then north and finally east. Unfortunately the turnoff to the north was blocked by a padlocked gateway and signed as “commercial traffic only” so we had to keep going westwards for another 5 or so miles to Sour Lake (appealing name?) before we could turn off the busy State Highway (wide shoulder thankfully) and head north.
After 67 km (nearly 3x the distance by freeway) we arrived at the State Park and we checked in for 4 nights having first invested $70 in a Texas State Park Pass which waives the entrance fees ($3 to $7 per person per day) and gives 50% discount on a second night’s camping fees. As a result we have recouped $31 of the $70 already.
The weather has decidedly taken a turn for the better. After the freezing conditions last weekend when we holed up with Chris it has been in the low to mid 20s (centigrade) for the last few days. This is not the only occasion on which we have seen large fluctuations in temperature in very short spaces of time and, judging by the TV forecasts, it happens across much of the country.