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June 13-21

Trailer Destruction Day was June 13th and I documented it here. Our progress was interrupted for a couple days while we waited for Trailer 2.0, but we were back on the road and rolling into east Texas soon enough.

Somewhere between College Station and the Louisiana border, the National Weather Service started issuing Heat Advisories. “It’s going to be very hot. Be careful. Increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.” It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced heat and humidity like that. I worked in landscaping for a couple summers in Oklahoma, but now I’m old. Every day I sweated like crazy even before we started riding. Jax panted nonstop and was only interested in running before sunrise. The air was too wet for panting or sweating to do much good, so we just drank a lot of water, stopped to rest in the shade once in awhile and kept on rolling. I may be old, but I’m not dead yet. Suck it, heat.

The best part of our east Texas leg was reconnecting with my buddy Johnny Howard, whom I’ve known for about 50 years. 50. Years! We had a lot of catching up to do and it made me proud to see all that he’s accomplished with his life.

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With a brand new steel trailer for Jax, we rolled out of Waco to Hearne, then College Station, New Waverly, Shepherd, Kountze, and our final stop in Texas was Kirbyville. We dodged and sometimes failed to dodge thunderstorms along the way, but the big challenge was the heat and humidity, which increased as we moved east. At one point, the Garmin read 107°F with all the heat coming off the road, and I’m pretty sure a fish would have been able to breathe the air. Staying hydrated was a priority, as was keeping Jax cool with lots of water to drink and water rubbed into his neck, ears and flanks. I didn’t want to ride down into the Houston area, so Johnny, a friend I’ve known since we were seven or eight, met us in New Waverly, drove us to his home in Spring, TX and dropped us back in New Waverly the next morning to resume our journey, rested and well fed. Talking to him and his wonderful wife, Mary, about the lives they’ve lived, the amazing sons they raised and their grandchildren, was food for my soul. The next day, Jax and I rode on to Shepherd. John and Mary hadn’t seen enough of Jax though, and they drove out to Shepherd, took me to a barbecue place and we talked some more before Jax and I rolled off to Kountze on our way to Louisiana. ——As always, I eventually include these posts in a blog post, which gets reposted to the @rollingwithjax page on Facebook, along with other info about the ride and/or @k9sforwarriors. To see more about our adventures or learn more about K9s For Warriors, follow the link to the website in my bio. #rollingwithjax #k9sforwarriors #veterans #cyclingwithdogs #bicycletouring #servicedog

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Hard experience taught me that a real rain cover is a must for a mesh-sided dog trailer on a cross country bicycle tour. My improvised cover didn’t cut it, so Tammy mailed me one that fits perfectly, even though nobody actually makes one for the trailer model I bought.
Last stop in Texas: the Kirbyville Veterans Memorial.
“THEIR LOVE FOR US IS HERE REFLECTED. BEAR WITNESS AND GIVE THANKS.”

June 10-12

We are in the heart of Cajun country, but the blog is still back in Texas. I’ll try to catch up in a couple of days! To see where we are and where we’re headed, click the image above or go to “Our Route and Progress” in the Menu for an interactive map.

—Cowtown—

Fort Worth was one of the biggest highlights of the trip so far. Some of my best memories and longtime friends are in the D/FW area. It was like coming home, but yet it has grown and changed. Jax and I took a rest day there and got a whirlwind tour of the revitalized neighborhoods, riverside development and downtown improvements, courtesy of my friend, JB. What a great city! I loved it almost 30 years ago and it’s even better now. The night before we left, our friends surprised us with a fundraising get-together at HopFusion Ale Works! We had a fantastic time, caught up with old friends, met many new ones and left that place with a literal bucketful of cash for K9s For Warriors. I was and still am stunned by that outpouring of generosity. If the good folks at K9s For Warriors and the warriors themselves could see how many people appreciate and support them, they’d probably be stunned too. The Instagram post below has two videos — the first has some shots from just before we reached Fort Worth and the second shows some of the people and places we saw while we were there.

—Brain Freeze—

The ride to Hillsboro was graced with a tailwind and very little traffic. The only hiccup on the ride was when Jax flipped his trailer on its back, which had catastrophic consequences the next day, but seemed minor at the time. At 25 miles, we stopped at a Whataburger in Cleburne to get a chocolate milkshake for me and some cool water for Jax. It was hot outside, so I found some shade and sat on a curb while Jax sprawled out on the concrete. In that little patch of shade at the edge of a busy parking lot, I drank my milkshake too fast and paid the price — the dreaded Brain Freeze. Seems I’ll never learn. 

Seeing my pained expression, fingers touching my bowed head, bike/trailer contraption laid out on the pavement next to a sprawling, panting dog, a woman stopped her car and rolled her window down. “Excuse me, but do you need help? Are y’all okay? Are you in trouble?” What? No. No thank you. “Are you sure? You both look like you’re having some problems.” Embarrassed, I had to explain that my problem was just Brain Freeze. ”What?” Brain Freeze. I drank my milkshake too fast. “Oh. Well what are you doing out here?” I can’t bring my dog into the restaurant. “But what are you doing?” 

Martha: “You look like you’re having some problems.”

So we talked about my ride for K9s For Warriors, their mission to help our veterans return to civilian life with dignity and independence, and how they save dogs from abandonment or euthanasia to give them a new life filled with love and purpose. Her name was Martha. She’s active in finding new homes for dogs that need them, she loves our military service men and women, and she loved K9s For Warriors’ “save a dog, save a warrior“ strategy. As Jax and I rolled out of Cleburne, I reflected on that chance meeting. Had we really been in trouble, Martha would have done her best to help us out. And I never would’ve known it if I hadn’t drank my milkshake too fast.

Help save a warrior and a dog — click here!
Gotta stretch those legs out.
The terrain en route to Hillsboro
“Goodbye, squirrels of Fort Worth. Smell you later!”

June 9

I wanted to do a multi-day post and tell you all about the big-hearted Dallas-Fort Worth people I saw in Fort Worth. However, a huge thunderstorm has knocked out power in Hearne, where Jax and I are spending the night. So I’ll do what I can from my phone before cell service goes out too, which is to share a video made by my dear friend, James Blake. He and his amazing wife, Robyn, drove all the way out to meet us at the Wildcatter Ranch, bring me a new flag for the trailer, feed me breakfast and “spy on us” with a drone. Without further ado:

Bow down before the Mighty Jax, Destroyer of Trailers

On Thursday, at exactly 2,275 miles, just north of Waco, Jax’s trailer dropped to the ground, its aluminum tongue broken in two places. It has seen a lot of wear and tear… potholes, rumble strips, etc., but that moment, on a perfectly smooth road, is when it gave up the ghost. I made a splint with a chew bone (given to Jax by Charlie Bravo, the motorcycle-riding dog he met in Price, Utah), some duct tape and a couple of straps. Then we limped to a gas station and waited for the cavalry to arrive.

I think the trailer would have made it to Florida if Jax hadn’t flipped it upside down the day before. We had been cruising down a beautiful, straight, country road outside Cleburne, Texas, pushed along by a tailwind. Suddenly Jax barked, I felt a jolt, heard a scraping noise and found myself in the grass beside the road. Looking back, I saw the trailer upside down, with Jax still inside, also upside down. On a hill above us, a Kelpie stared down with a “You don’t see that every day” look on his face. I flipped the trailer back upright, let Jax out and checked him for injuries. He was fine. Ashamed of himself, but unhurt.

We rolled on. Thinking about it later, I concluded that Jax had been snoozing on the left side, startled awake when he saw the cattle dog, leapt a little too enthusiastically up and to the right and hit the roof, sending the trailer spinning into the air and onto its back. The trailer has a wide wheel base and is very stable, so the wheels would have to be in the air, or at least significantly unweighted, to flip the thing like that. But Jax isn’t talking, so I’ll never really know.

The “cavalry” I mentioned above were Mary (a cousin of my college friend Suzy) and Don, Mary’s husband. Mary and Don are angels, and so is Suzy for connecting us! They picked us up, took us to a bike shop to look for a new trailer and put us up in a (very) nice hotel. I couldn’t find any large dog/bicycle trailers in Waco, so I ordered another one from Chewy.com — this time, the steel version instead of aluminum. Fate permitting, it should arrive today, I’ll assemble it and ride to Marlin, Texas only two days later than planned.

Don and Mary, angels from Waco!

There have been moments on this trip, like when we reached the top of a mountain pass, navigated through miles of treacherous traffic, rode through a storm or pushed through hours of headwinds, that I’ve felt excessively proud. Chest-beating, sky-roaring, look-at-how-badass-I-am proud. That’s a gut reaction and I don’t beat myself up about it, but the truth is that Jax and I have been carried this far by other people. Should we make it all the way, it will totally be a group achievement, the result of a big, cosmic web of human kindness. K9s For Warriors is part of that web, giving our veterans and many helpless, hopeless dogs “a new leash on life.” That’s who Jax and I are rolling for and I hope you’ll support them in their mission.

June 6-8

We rolled 164 miles from Dickens to Graham with temperatures topping 100° F at times. Before reaching Graham, we stopped for the night in Aspermont and again in Throckmorton. I walked from the sizzling hot sidewalk into a pizza place in Throckmorton, to find that it was even hotter and more humid inside. Their air conditioner was broken. Walking to the pickup counter was like fighting through wet flames — I can’t imagine what kind of hell it must have been like in the kitchen, with its oven blazing. The woman doing the cooking had a grim, determined look on her face. The pizza was delicious! I hope the cook survived.

Here’s the link to our route and progress, but as always you can also find it in the menu above. Also, we have raised over $17,000 for K9s For Warriors! Thank you so much to those kind souls who have contributed… every dollar is helping save both a dog and a human. If you haven’t yet donated but would like to, click on “Save a warrior and a dog” in the menu, or just click here. Thank you!

Jax took a shine to Virginia, who hooked me up with some tasty energy bars at Allsup’s after my dreams were crushed across the street (because Aspermont Donuts is permanently closed). He also met Bryan, Chief Deputy of Stonewall County, who gave us his card and said to call if we needed help along the route.
The town of Graham has a beautiful Veterans Memorial.
“HERO. He will remain here to represent all war dogs past and present that have served to protect our freedom.” I love that they went to the expense to honor canine warriors right alongside the beautiful memorial to our fallen sons and daughters.

Jun 2-5

We dodged a lot of terrible weather as we rode from Hereford to Dickens, Texas! It was windy, but could have been way worse. On a lonely stretch of road between Dimmitt and Littlefield, we met Case, a dairyman who moved to the U.S. from the Netherlands in 1986 and has a thriving business on the Llano with his son Jelmer. Lubbock, home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, was a nice town, but we kept moving and only stayed one night. Good thing, because shortly after we left, the town was engulfed by a massive “Haboob,” a type of dust storm that I am very happy we did not get to experience. Thank you to all who have donated to K9s For Warriors — we have crossed the $15,000 mark! If you haven’t contributed yet and have some money to spare, please consider making a donation… save a warrior and a dog!

So glad we left when we did!
Highlights of this segment of our trip
Had a great conversation with Jelmer and Case, which gave my legs a much-needed rest! Case said Cotton is king out here, but that he makes a nice living in the dairy business and loves the wide open spaces.