Saturday, May 4, 2013

Among pines, aligators, and really fat people

Welcome to Huntsville State Park
What an amazing world I live in: Just a week ago I was in arid New Mexico, and now I am a few miles north of Houston, in the middle of pine forests and lush greenery and the real possibility of encountering an alligator. OK, it may look green, but even here the effects of the lingering Texas drought are apparent. Still, compared to West Texas, this place is verdant.
The race course leads along such bayous
This weekend, I am in Huntsville State Park to officiate the finals of the Texas High School Mountain Bike League series. It’s been a long, long drive—by the time I get home on Monday I will have put another 1,100 miles on the Miata’s odometer. But it has been so beautiful along the way! The wildflowers are still blooming, and from Abilene on it has been nothing but an explosion of colors. The landscape keeps changing, too. I am now in the piney forests, yet there are gentle meadows and deciduous trees aplenty.
Looking forward and backward in the Miata

I stayed overnight in Waco, which in itself is already a heckuva long way from Lubbock. This morning I left the hotel and had another 2 ½ hours to the race venue. I walked the more-than-eight-mile-long course, which features lots of sand and roots but very little change in elevation. The faces are now familiar, and working alongside Vance, Brandi, Erin, Paul, Mike, and the other Paul is like interacting with family. I am already looking forward to the 2014 season.
At least the Huntsville team didn't have to travel 500 miles...
Tonight I am staying in the Hampton in Livingston, a place where Judy and I would relax after the first day of the TMBRA race at Double Lake, due south of here. The drive from Huntsville takes one along big lakes, marinas, and crawfish places. 
Crossing Lake Livingston at Point Blank
I stopped by the HEB and Wal-Mart after check-in, to gather a hotel picnic. Holy Moses, I uttered to myself, these people down here are really fat! Here comes a confession: My dad, living happily with German TV specials about “Amerika” is totally shocked by the level of obesity in this country, and he has a sick infatuation with square butts that tend to sway and waddle in abnormal ways. Well, had he been with me at either of these two stores tonight, he would have probably caused an international incident with his mouth agape and his fingers pointing.
Sam Houston, off I-45 looking north (Sammy is looking west)
On the way I drove by the statue of  Sam Houston’s, a magnum-sized version of the Texas hero. And then there was that beautiful name of the Podunk little town right before crossing the bridge across Lake Livingston: Point Blank! It hardly gets better than that, although yesterday’s “Ben Hur” and the close-by “Nimrod” should get honorable mentions. (Let’s be fair: New Mexico has Truth or Consequences.)
1991 special edition Miata claiming its spot
So, now I’m sitting in my hotel room, marveling at how little my Miata is in comparison to the ubiquitous bubba trucks. My rotisserie chicken dinner is in the digestive tract, but there are still a few beers left, thank goodness. 
Sunset from the hotel room
The sunset was pretty spectacular, but a size or two smaller than in West Texas. You know, bigger asses, smaller skies. Tomorrow will be the final race for all those kids, and some of them will go home as State Champions, maybe the first medals ever for them in a sporting competition. 
NICA now has 10 state leagues
The National Interscholastic Cycling Association will have lived up to its mission, and I will feel a certain pride in knowing that I have played an integral role in the success of this four-race series. May tomorrow's race bring lots of smiles and no injuries.


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