February 20, 2017
My wife and I are in Houston today, the last day of a three-day biking hiatus. But the forecast is for heavy rain until mid-afternoon, so there is some time for catching up on blog entries. At least it’s relatively warm, 65 degrees.
I want to return to the past week’s activities. I spent last weekend, two nights, in Corpus Christi. It’s a nice enough city, with an attractive location on a fairly large bay of the Gulf of Mexico. The problem with cities from a cyclist’s perspective is the traffic. My motel was on one of the busiest thoroughfares, about seven miles from downtown, out where the car dealerships and the franchise restaurants are located. There was not an easy cycling route to the center of the city. So I avoided the trip altogether, instead opting to ride to the nearby bay and investigate the shore. There was no wide, sandy beach, and the February water temperature (about 62 degrees) was not inviting to swimmers. But it was attractive enough in its own way, and at low tide it had that distinctive aroma that is unmistakably exotic to landlubbers. Other than a few people fishing, I mostly had the landscape to myself.
A 2015 article in Men’s Health magazine claimed that Corpus Christi is the fattest city in America, so much so that it should be called “Corpulent Christi.” Indeed there is no shortage of overweight and obese people and the fast food and buffet restaurants that enable them. Texas is big and so are the portions on the plate.
On the way into the city I rode by a gym, and decided to play Michael Moore. I walked in and found the manager at the desk, a burly but fit man in his late 50s. I mentioned the magazine and asked him what he thought of the statement. “Yeah, that might be true,” he answered. “You wouldn’t know it to see the guys in here, but it’s the culture. They eat tacos for breakfast; there’s not much worse in terms of what makes you fat. I guess we got it all here: the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and the most aggressive drivers, too.” I didn’t mention that I’d had breakfast tacos on three of the past five mornings.
On Monday (February 13) I left Corpus Christi in the morning for my first stay with hosts I found on Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org), an organization that matches touring cyclists with people willing to host them. My wife and I have been members for five years, and we have four or five cyclists, often couples, stay with us in a typical year. We’ve met some nice people this way. Probably half of them are foreigners touring Canada and the U.S. by bicycle.
My hosts lived in Aransas Pass, Texas, on the far side of Corpus Christi Bay from the city. It’s about a 25-minute drive by car, but a fair amount longer by bike because the main bridge downtown is closed to bicycles. My available route was to cross over to Mustang Island, a barrier island, by causeway, and then up the island to the town of Port Aransas, where there is a short ferry back to the mainland. The total distance from my motel to my hosts was 39 miles.
This was my first time as a Warm Showers guest rather than host, and I have to say that the experience could spoil a person greatly. I should probably protect my hosts by excluding their last names (although they can be found on the Warm Showers website), but Dave and Janet showed me hospitality beyond compare. Their beautiful home right on the water of the bay would rival a five-star hotel. I don’t have room here to describe all they did to welcome me, from Dave riding his bike out to meet me, to a pasta dinner, to warm conversation (Dave did a 4000-mile coast-to-coast tour last summer), to a guest suite with a huge bed, to breakfast of french toast, to a packed lunch. The experience was overwhelming, and my gratitude is boundless.
The blue waters of Corpus Christi Bay:
My wonderful Warm Showers hosts Janet and Dave:
Ten days into the trip: