Welcome to Texas. Not.

10/1/17. Having had a less than perfect night (Stephen due to the “interactions” from next door, Christine due to cramp in her legs) we headed off westwards on a coolish morning. The forecast said it would get warmer throughout the day. Fingers crossed!

For once Stephen was the reason we just missed the ferry 3 km down the road. Christine set off while he handed the keys back and arrived just as it readied to depart. Meanwhile Stephen was struggling to untangle his helmet straps from his handlebar bag and, by the time he arrived at the ferry it had just about reached the other side (the crossing only takes a couple of minutes – it’s not a wide river). We sat down to read to pass the half hour wait.

The fare was the princely sum of 50 cents each and, once across, we had a lovely ride with the sea on one side, the marsh on the other, and the wind at our backs. It was made even better because the road was so quiet – the only traffic came from the ferry in groups of two or three vehicles every ½ hour or so.

As we approached Texas we passed the occasional small plant related to the oil and gas industry as we had elsewhere in Louisiana (you can also see platforms out in the Gulf every so often) until we came to a very large one in the course of construction right by the next river which marked the border between the two states. Climbing onto the bridge over the river we could see many more oil plants on the Texas side.

Our first steps in below (where we saw the “Yee Haw” sign below) were actually on a manmade island, Pleasure Island, which was formed from the dredgings when they were making the channel to allow large ships to pass through Sabine Lake.

The island is largely untouched compared to the scale of development on the mainland just across the channel, with a few houses on the lake side of the road and the RV park that was our destination. Arriving there mid afternoon the first person we spoke to in Texas was the least friendly and helpful we have encountered in two months in the States.

She brusquely informed us that tents were not allowed and then tried to ignore our protests that the website we had checked the previous evening stated the contrary. She insisted that the only place to camp on the island was the small park 8 miles back down the road by the bridge to Louisiana.

Eventually she called her manager to reinforce her stance. She was only marginally more friendly. At least she didn’t keep trying to blank us but she was equally intransigent despite us playing the “But it’s 8 miles into a headwind and we’re completely whacked after 50 miles riding” card. Finally she conceded that camping was allowed on the narrow strip of land between the road and the canal “but there are no amenities and you are not allowed to use ours – they are for guests only”.

Just before we reached the RV park on the opposite side of the road to where camping was allowed, we had passed a small park with a children’s play area and two portaloos. As there was a reasonable looking piece of grass in the permitted area and the toilets were only a couple of hundred yards away, with a very quiet road in between, we decided a night’s free camping was called for.

It worked very well although there were more mosquitoes than we had encountered elsewhere so we shut ourselves away in the tent as soon as we had eaten.

With no bread for breakfast, we headed off to Port Arthur on the other side of the canal to get something to eat. First off we had to cross the Martin Luther King Bridge which is a high one to allow ships to pass underneath. The access ramp took us 2.7 km to reach a point about 200m horizontally from where we had camped – but 50m up in the air!

As we came off the bridge we had a spectacular view of America’s largest oil refinery! The panorama picture (here) doesn’t really do it justice unfortunately.

We then cycled for a total of 16 km through poor neighbourhoods – clearly Port Arthur is not an affluent place but, judging by the number of churches, a deeply religious one – before reaching a Mcdonald’s where we used the wifi to locate a hotel at a reasonable cost and indulged in some junk food.

The hotel was a further 7 or 8 km away but unfortunately a lot of that was back in the direction from which we had come. This meant that we were heading into the strong southerly wind rather than benefiting from a “push”.

Once in the hotel (by late morning) we had an easy day reading and planning as we have a few “spare” days before we fly to Costa Rica. The airport in Houston is 2 or 3 days ride from here but our flight is in 12 days time. There are several state parks in the vicinity so we will take a leisurely time staying in some of them.

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