Toward evening of day three, the road I am traveling on swings inland and away from the gulf. Growing bored with the changing landscape, I decide to return back to Corpus Christi. I have, by now, witnessed more than enough of this featureless place, and I think I am beginning to miss humanity again.
With less than an hour to go before dark, I sight a small clump of what recently have become hard-to-find trees, but they are placed several miles off the main highway. Up ahead, a deserted two-lane blacktop offers to lead me northward to the grove where I can sleep securely tonight.
Next to this side road lays a wide channel -- what appears to be a deep canal. Its still water supports a number of lily pads, and along the banks grow cattail reeds. From its surface, patches of pinks and golds reflect from a peaceful but stunning sunset. I peddle down the quiet road at a leisurely pace while taking in all of the beauty.
Farther on, a high embankment blocks my view of the setting sun. Midway along this earthen barrier, a wooden bridge crosses over the canal, and from there a dirt road beyond disappears into a field of tall weeds.
I stop and dismount to walk the bike across, when suddenly and from out of nowhere, a long line of vehicles begins to approach from the north. As odd as the noisome sight looks, it makes sense -- this is oil country I have invaded, and the rowdy mob passing by both looks and acst like typical roughnecks.
As the procession with its various radios blaring their songs roars on past me, I push across the bridge and through the weeds, heading for a spot marked by silent treetops that wait not too far away.
I make my camp close to the base of a large elm. A small fire soon heats up a quick meal, and afterwards I sit staring into the glowing embers, trying to relax from this long day of cycling. The night air chills as I wind down, and a nice little shiver runs up my back.
Unrolling the sleeping bag, I spread it next to the smoldering fire, and after first removing my shoes and socks, and then while laying back and watching a multitude of stars overhead, my eyes grow heavy, so I drift off to sleep.
A faint rumbling sound of an idling motor startles me awake. I glance to the left and hear the motor revving once, along with shouts of faint laughter. Then someone yells out,
“Go ahead! You can make it.”
And then a loud “Yee-ha!” follows after the voice.
I raise up on an elbow to look back toward the embankment. A set of headlights there are see-sawing through the cut. Someone guns the engine again. The vehicle bursts through and stops for a moment. From what I can gather, it looks like I now have some unexpected company.
In a split-second I spring from the bag and leap over the hot coals, and I land in the blackness of a thicket that surrounds the base of the closest tree. From here I squat low and wait.
Seconds later a pickup truck comes barging its way toward my camp, crashing through my weeded barrier. The truck then slides to a halt less than a foot away from the empty bag. For a few moments, dust swirls forward from under the bumper, and it continues to drift on through the air, lit up by two steady shafts of light. The motor growls ominously in the dark behind the pair.
I remain frozen in place, and with eyes cast downward, I become mindful of something else -- thorns are pricking my bare feet.
The dust settles over the sleeping bag as the engine continues to gurgle.
I hear someone ask,
“Where is he?”
A thought of how handy a slingshot might be right now occurs to me.
The motor guns again, and I overhear a murmured but short conference taking place.
“You getting out?”
“Hell no, not yet -- I can’t see the dude. How about you?”
I imaging them drinking beers while they make up their minds.
“It looks like that son-of-a-bitch has took off somewhere.”
A moment later the motor races twice, and next comes a sound of gears trying to mesh. The truck then begins to back up slowly, and I close my eyes just before the brilliant headlights sweep across my face. I hear the gears grind one more time, and then just as quickly as they first appeared, the truck and its occupants abandon me and my area.
I can open my eyes again, but I remain crouched down and unmoving. Only after the set of taillights leave by the cut in the distant embankment do I realize how bothersome these thorns are becoming, but regardless of that, the winner is allowed to smile just a little.
NEXT: A Rare Canadian Visitor