The next day it was back out on the road, this time for a little longer. I was definitely excited to get moving again and make a little more progress on this journey. However, as I'm attending a ten-day meditation outside of Dallas starting on the 20th, I can't make too much progress. In order to use up some time, I'm going round about ways, doing short days, and happily spending an extra day here in Huntsville at the moment.
As I started to think about camp outside of Austin, a women waved me over and invited me to her house for the night. I was really excited as this was the first time someone has randomly invited me in! 20 miles down the road, I pulled into the Miller's homestead. Lodema met me at the gate and introduced me to her four children still living at home: Andrew, Angelina, Julia, and Karen (husband, Jim, was away for work). They have a beautiful home and farm with horses, dogs, a cow, geese, guinea fowl, ducks, chickens, and cats. They're off the grid running on solar and wind power and get their water on-site (though with the cold weather one of the pipes had frozen and broken). Their home is being slowly built by them from timber off their property and heated by wood stove and propane. Their avid cyclists, planning a family tour of the Natchez Trace Trail (from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN) in the spring. I had a wonderful evening with the family and enjoyed the freshest mozzarella and butter I've ever had (Lodema makes all of their butter, cheese, and yogurt from their cow's milk). As a Mennonite family, they're very used to simple, rich living off of the land. It was such a pleasure to spend time with this warm and generous family.
The Miller Family in front of their home: Julia, Andrew, Karen, Lodema, Angelina, and one of their dogs, Lobo.
View of the road
From there it was into the Sam Houston National Forest. As part of my way of passing time, I'm seeking out public lands to wander about in. I'd now ridden out of the oak and into pine forests. It was nice to be back in trees, but the forest didn't hold anything spectacular; it lacked the terrain variation, rock formations, or rivers that I'm most attracted to. The camping was great though, nice to feel 100% secure, be away from road noise, and go for a walk on some trails after setting up camp. I even slept in two mornings, one as I waited for the rain to stop. I was a little disappointed that the majority of the Forest seemed to actually be private land with houses, maps can sure be deceiving.
Lake Conroe in the Sam Houston. This was a nice, large lake.
Out of the Forest I rode a short rainy day into Huntsville, explored around town, then met up with Keil, my couchsurfing host. Keil is a passionate world traveller with an enlightened world view and great to spend time with. We made a good dinner and I had my first of Texas' Blue Bell ice cream, which lived up to its fantastic reputation. Keil offered for me to stay another day and I was happy to take him up on it. Today I've been learning more about this town, headquarters for the Texas prison system and home of Sam Houston. The Sam Houston State University is also here, where all students become "cops or cowboys." I toured the Texas Prison Museum. With all that I'd always heard about prison in Texas, this was an interesting place.
Today has been dark with showers, so not a bad day to be off the bike. The weather looks good for the next few days, into the sixties! A few more days of slow riding ahead.