After saying our goodbyes to Jennifer Exum, our wonderful hostess, last night, we hit the road for the relatively short ride to Merryville, Louisiana. All the Texas hospitality and scenery we enjoyed were an unexpected surprise that made a huge impression on most of us. We’ll miss it, but it is time for another state.
Not being in any kind of rush, we stopped at the Wal-Mart Super Center to pick up a few items, before starting our ride with Chris, Tom C and Erwin. They quickly dropped us and rode ahead, which, as I’ve said before, is fine with me. They keep a faster pace, and there is no point in burning myself out to stay up with them.
The ride was pretty nondescript most of the day. A headwind sucked the energy out of us as we rode on a 4-lane divided expressway from Silsbee through Evadale, Buna and into Kirbyville.
We passed ranches and tree farms most of the day before entering Louisiana
Once we turned east in Kirbyville, the wind changed to a crosswind with a bit of a tailwind, and that definitely reduced the amount of effort required to move down the road. But now we were on a narrow 2-lane logging road with no shoulder, so we were being blown off the road by fast-moving logging trucks that were sometimes only pulling over a few feet to pass us.
We made great time to the Sabine River, which is also the Texas-Louisiana border.
A former thriving lumber town, it declined when the logging industry finished clearcutting all the timber in the area to ship out for use in the Northeast. Who came up with that business plan?
The town is now occupied by people who have lived here their entire life and want to keep the community going. And it’s hard to keep a declining community going, but they are succeding. The Historical Society is their way of collecting and displaying items with historic value and sharing them with other local people and people passing through town–people like us. They welcome bicyclists who are passing through their town and let them camp out on the property. In addition to that, they built and furnished a guest room and a bathroom/bath house building for guests to use too.
It is a very impressive organization, and what is even more impressive is that they do all of this just to share their community with people from outside the area–not because they are athletes or cycling enthusiasts, but because they have good hearts and want to share their Southern Hospitality.
Tonight, members put on a wonderful dinner of gumbo, rice, potato salad, fresh rolls, all kinds of cookies and pies, and bread pudding. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. Eddie, the President of the Historical Society, stood up and told us the history of the town, and it was fascinating. After Paul said a blessing on the food, our hosts all sat down and ate dinner with us, and we really enjoyed their company. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me, and I’m feeling a responsibility to pay it forward when I get home.