After a great week in Fort Worth, Texas, we headed north to the small town of Denton. We hadn’t planned to go up to Denton, but then folks kept telling us what a great place it is, that it’s like a “mini Austin.” We rode north out of Fort Worth, through a few small towns, and reached Denton right before a storm blew through. We spent the evening with our hosts, Nick, April & Jessica, dining on Thai food and drinking beers over great conversation. We explored downtown the following day, and had the opportunity to meet up with a local couple getting ready to head off on their own adventure. And we spent our second evening in town chatting about our trip and bike advocacy, over beers and ice cream, with some local Denton folks. It was a great couple days and we were glad that we followed the clues to head north, instead of just following a schedule that would send us straight east.

From Denton, we enjoyed a leisurely ride up to Ray Roberts State Park. Howard, our host for our second night in Denton, rode with us part of the way out of town, and showed us where to catch up with the greenbelt path that goes into the state park. This greenbelt is a magical stretch – knee-high grass, tall trees, chirping birds, river off to your right – and we were thrilled to get off the highways for a little while. At the end of the greenbelt, it’s a quick hop up the road to the state park, where we pitched camp and set off to find a good fishing spot for Russ. It was the first time he got to cast his new fly rod into actual water (instead of the street out front Ashley & Frank’s house in Fort Worth), and we were both surprised when we reeled in his first fish. Later that evening, walking around the lake, we ran into a guy we had met in Denton, and the three of us spent the warm evening chatting and watching his dog chase armadillos in the dark.

Leaving Ray Roberts, we weren’t exactly sure where we were headed. Everything that we could find on the map seemed to be at least 50 or 60 miles away, and it took us awhile to debate if we wanted to push that far. We finally chose a destination in Lake Lavon, figuring that we’d make do somewhere along the way if the opportunity came up. It was a hot and windy day, meaning that we made very slow progress. We never stumbled onto anything else, so we wound up at Lake Lavon quite late in the evening, exhausted. But we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve had along this trip. After a shower and some dinner, we watched the lake fade into darkness, and then crawled into the tent (with the rain fly off) and watched the stars come out above us.

It was extremely hard for us to get up the next morning (day 282), as every muscle screamed from the long day before. Eventually, we pulled ourselves together, and decided to “wimp out” on a short day to a motel in the nearby town of Greensville. It turned out to be a swelteringly hot day, and the allure of an air-conditioned room helped push us down the road (along with a little bit of lucky tailwind). On our way into town, we stopped at a mini-mart for cold drinks and happened onto some delicious fried chicken, signaling to us that we had finally reached the land of good fried foods. Our motel had a pool, full of cold water that took the edge off the heat, and internet, which enabled us to get some work done.

From Greensville, we headed southeast to Tawakani Lake. We knew that the state park was already full, but we had found a private park (Wind Point Park) with tent camping that we could shoot for. We stopped at a small tackle shop along the way for Russ to pick up some new flies. Opened 50 years ago, it’s still run by the same woman, with help from her son and grandson. At Wind Point, we found a beautiful spot right along the water that later proved to be right in the path of the wind. Perhaps we should have guessed this from the name of the park, but we were too spell-bound by the beautiful location. That night, a storm blew in and the sky broke open and we discovered that we had been so spell-bound that we had pitched out tent in the low spot, and we woke up in the morning in the middle of a giant mud puddle. Yuck.

We rolled everything up in the morning, trying to knock off as much mud as possible (without a lot of success), and hit the road early. The storm from the night before had cooled everything off and we were happy to feel cool for a change. We met up with one of our readers, Michael, who had connected us with his sister- and brother-in-law just outside of Mineola. We spent the afternoon chatting with Michael, met up with Jessica and Tim for dinner, and pitched our tent on their lawn that evening. Thankfully, it didn’t rain two nights in a row.

The next morning, with the threat of high winds, we were up and on the road early. We made a quick stop at a coffee shop in town to get online and problem-solve our destination for that evening. We decided to head for the town of Gladewater, hoping that the winds would hold off for us until we arrived. About half-way there, Laura’s front tire sprung a leak. Checking for debris, we found a handful of glass shards, and had to boot the tire with an M&M wrapper. (And made the decision to order new tires as soon as possible.) In Gladewater, we found ourselves a nice air-conditioned motel room, and had a small world moment when we discovered that the woman checking us in has family in Long Beach and is planning to move there to help them run their motel out there (a motel which we long thought looked like a great little place).

Day 286, we were up early to ride into Jefferson. We have learned, with the heat and humidity out here, that it’s best to get on the road by 8am and into camp (and hiding under some shade) by 12noon. Jefferson, we had been told, is such a cute little town that we couldn’t skip it on our way to Caddo Lake. It’s also the Bed & Breakfast capital of Texas, so we decided to do as the Romans do, and found an overly-decorated room for ourselves for the night (at the extremely friendly Excelsior House Hotel). That afternoon, we wandered around downtown a little bit, trying to explore before the shops closed. But we eventually gave up when we felt we couldn’t sweat any more, and we retreated to our air-conditioned room, thinking what a long, long summer this is going to be for us.

The next morning, we enjoyed a late morning and a delicious breakfast at the inn. On our way out, we got to chatting with the folks at the front desk about our trip. Before we knew it, the manager had run next door and grabbed the owner of the local newspaper (The Jefferson Jimplecute). We did an impromptu interview before heading off, with a container of fresh muffins from the inn’s kitchen (yum!). By the time we reached Caddo Lake, the heat was in full force and we were dreaming of a shower. There were hiccups with the new computer system at check-in, but the office was air-conditioned, so we were happy to wait as long as needed. With a site secured for two nights, we rolled down the road to the lake, and were delighted and stunned by the scenery, which was something we had never experienced before. Our site was under the cover of tall trees, covered in Spanish Moss, at the edge of the water, and a short walk to the fishing pier. I sat out in the shade while Russ fished, both of us wondering if the enormous population of turtles had scared away the fish. That night, we saw our first fireflies of the season.

We had already decided that we wanted to spend our second day at Caddo on a boat tour of the lake. Originally, we thought that we’d rent a canoe and take ourselves out. And then we were warned about how easy it is to get lost, and we decided that we’d just let a professional do it for us. The tours that leave from the state park were booked up by a school group, so we rode into the town of Uncertain and hopped on the Swamp Thing tour. It was a great ramble through the swamps and bayous, although we never got to see an alligator. The rest of the day was spent lazing around by the lake, with Russ attempting to catch some fish from the boat launch instead of fishing pier (still with no luck).

From Caddo Lake, we headed for Shreveport, Louisiana, excited to finally cross into another state. Unfortunately, we chose a small road, so we didn’t get any sort of grand welcome as we crossed the state line, and we would have missed it entirely if I hadn’t noticed a small sign signaling the end of that particular county in Texas. This small road also meant that we didn’t get bombarded with the drive-thru daquiri places that we had heard so much about (in fact, this was about the only thing we’d heard about Louisiana!).

We had worked out a bit of a lay-over in Shreveport, after our hosts invited us to stay a few extra days and give a presentation to the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society. During our four-and-a-half days in Shreveport, we explored some of the sights, met some of the folks working to make the city more liveable and bike-friendly, watched a few storms from the front porch, and chowed down on Louisiana specialties (homemade gumbo, crawfish, bread pudding, Abita beer). Thanks Maurice & Valerie!