Texas day! Up bright and early in a great ol' mood and in border crossing mode. So much so that I forgot some of my morning ablutions and had to call in at a service station on the outskirts of Stark. This normally could have been done without but it gave me the opportunity to meet the best moustache and beard combo I've seen in a long while and its master, Dustin, who happened to run the garage. After doing the necessary I explained my mission and he promptly disappeared inside to furnish me with a Gatorade and a protein bar, to fuel my morning. Lovely gesture and a cool guy. There wasn't long to do much at all before the border was upon us and the Sabine River, spanned by a short bridge proved to be the border. Obligatory photos of signs were taken, before we met Jeremy – founder of the awesomely named Golden Triangle Strutters (If that doesn't want to make you join and run, what does?) who is also a techno wizard, major nice guy and running blogger, who was to join us for a few miles. We vacated the slightly sketchy scene where a smashed up car and some very curious locals who seemed a bit unnerved by our presence nd especially by Jeremy's camera drone and started the run a little further up, where a local church seemed a better place to park less… smashingly. Despite Jeremy's protestations, he kept up a great pace and when we next saw Nads and Jenny, he said his goodbyes for now and we pledged to meet up for round two later that day. It was after this that I started to contemplate just how big Texas is. You can fit 2.86 United Kingdoms in, for starters and it will be almost 900 miles, i.e. longer than Lands End to John o' Groats before I get to Arizona. More importantly though, Dr Pepper was invented here. As I ran and thought, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A teenage lad (Koda) was owing his family's lawn on a sit-on mower! This was too good to turn down and I attracted his attention and made my way, looking very strange, I imagine over the large expanse of green. I awkwardly explained my overall mission and this recent sub-mission, asking if he could film me on the mower. He was definitely a bit weirded out and said “You better ask him”. In the meantime Koda's dad had stealthily snuck up on me in full camo gear and did not look overly pleased at the scene in front of him. Cue repeating my recent speech and after a bit of a pregnant pause, he flashed a grin. “Sure”. After some basic driving lessons from Koda, I was away. I think I was a natural. I liked it so much, I'd have cut that grass for free.
Texans are very proud people for sure and why not I guess? The Lone Star flag flies everywhere, from churches to gun shops to front porches, but the signs I was really interested in are the little signs of progress, such as entering new counties, from Orange to Harris, different towns and also amusing signs, such as those that are self-deprecating (“Reintarnation – Coming back as a Hillbilly”), to a church sign that was inviting people to come in and catch their Pokemon. In the process of soaking it all in, I ran past Bubba Road and later on, Forrest St. The two fast friends together in SE Texas. I wonder how many people have passed these two places on foot in the same day before – not many I'd guess. Beaumont was our goal today and after running one extremely quick mile (5:40) over another scary bridge (figuring that the less time I have on it, the less likely I am to die), I hooked up again with Jeremy and his currently injured club mate, Ramiro, who accompanied me on foot (and BMX) through downtown Beaumont to Chili's here we were having dinner, with another of the GTS gang, Ana. Beaumont apparently has the world's biggest working fire hydrant, if you were looking for a fact. There you have it. Now the end point today was doubly special as I was meeting up with my old school friend, Paul Duffy, who I used to make bad noises next to in the school orchestra while he played trombone and I hadn't seen for 20 years. He had flown in from San Fran that day to join us for a few days, to check out life on the road and to run some miles. We picked up like it was last week and despite me packing half of the food away into a take away container as my appetite was so suppressed, it was a brilliant bookend to the day. People of Beaumont, get Strutting!
Start: Stark's Truck Stop. Finish: Chili's Beaumont. 34.1 Miles
Paul strapped on his weapons of mile destruction for the first time after a good bit of mutual procrastination. It's amazing how one change in a routine seems to throw everything out – it was like a throwback to my first few days and just like those days, we got our directions wrong as well. The new route we took led us past a building with a load of large satellite dishes outside and after we'd run past it, I decided to go back and be nosey. The building was the HQ for Channel 12 News, which provides news to the Golden Triangle area and the lady on reception seemed to take a particular shine to my accent (as have so many people!) and she was more than happy to pass on my details to the news team. Paul and I moved through town, with me showing off my complete disdain for traffic and safety, which was quite ironic as the only time time we had any issues with a car was when a woman pulled out on us after completely seeing we were crossing, causing me to give her bonnet (hood) a good old slap to let her know that she was out of order. I often see fun stuff at the side of the orad but generally leave it in place. This morning though I magpied a large Mag-Lite which wasn't working, but looked ok. At the very least it'll make a good hammer. We encountered Nads adjacent to a sawmill carpark, which was quiet as she pulled up but greeted us with a choir of circular saws – hugely relaxing. Despite the din, we managed to hear the phone ring and it was Lance Edwards, Channel 12's roving reporter and he was keen to meet us on the road. Lance was a man of his word and after setting off towards China (I know…) he caught up with us almost instantly and we loved him to bits just as quick. Whether it was his warm way, mega-professionalism and confidence or just the fact that he laughed at my jokes, I don't know and we didn't care. We weren't his first rodeo – he'd seen a few weary travellers doing Trans-USA crossings the other way, but I was flattered at being his fastest. Ah the spring in the step of a newbie. I will (have to) reign it in…but a three song medley from the Foos, Foals and David Bowie (Jean Genie is a beauty of a running track) was mostly responsible… We looked forward to seeing the end results and hoped I didn't look too… sweaty/not funny/tired (delete as appropriate).
Paul took a break for the next couple of runs and surprisingly for a San Fran guy decided to come out and brave the “hot one”. We had a walk after lunch to try and make up for some of the morning dally and then put a 7 miler in. After being a bit more pleasant recently, the humidity was back with a vengeance and it was instantly a lot for both of us, though my longer acclimatisation made me suffer less than Paul. He got back to the RV with a couple of shade breaks for a very respectable 16 miles. Not bad for someone who'd done 85 miles on a bike the day before he flew. I'd had a bit of a recurrence of my shin issue from around 18 miles in but managed it ok and when my shuffle player gave me some Dizzee Rascal 4 miles from home, shuffle was disengaged and I had a funky party all the way back to the RV park. I was greeted with a cold Dos Equis and sat down to some huge microwave meals...well...the boxes were. Funky party undone by tiny tricksy dinner. Nads' looked particularly grim which was harsh, seeing as she'd been been bitten on the bum by a huge horse fly that was big enough that we worried it could open the RV door using the handle. A Texas horsefly. You could fit 2.86 UK ones inside it.
Start: Chili's Beaumont. Finish: Cedar Grove RV Park. 37.6 miles