Friday, November 2, 2012

Pineywoods Purgatory

Pineywoods Purgatory
Lufkin, Texas
October 6, 2012 (Two days before "The Crash")

Back when our life was pleasant and simple, we had registered for the annual Pineywoods Purgatory in East Texas.  

I had heard there were over 670 registered riders for this scenic tour.
Headed to the starting line up we met Mark Robinson.
At the start time, it was still a little chilly, but the wind was mostly to our backs making our speed look impressive.  

Still short of the first rest stop, we met up with Mark again. Earlier at the start line, Mark said he was shooting for the 100 mile route. There were also a 72, 50, and 25 mile course options. Christine and I had already decided to take the 50 mile route (53.14 miles), so we had no pressure.
Having chosen a shorter route, it took the sting out of looking up and seeing the "gentle rollers" looming on the horizon.
In the past, we have ridden the 50 and 72 mile routes. Whereas we can't speak for the 100 mile course, the ride name of "Purgatory" comes from the h--- of "just one more hill." 

Christine making good time and enjoying the scenery even though still bundled up for cold weather.
Plenty of evidence of a fair amount of rain this year. Much more than last year.
On many of the rides, one comes across interesting places in the rural section of the ride. For the Pineywoods ride I liked the small community of Sweet Union represented by the Sweet Union Baptist Church.
Sweet Union was founded in 1865 by freed slaves from the nearby Wiley Thompson plantation. The original name was "Hogjaw" stemming from a report that a local man was charged with stealing a hog. He denied the charges, but a witness produced the hog's head which he said he found in a stump. The man was convicted and the town name of Hogjaw stuck.
The new community grew to have a school/church combination by 1887. In 1899, the structure was replaced and the community renamed Sweet Union. 
Now a days, the above Baptist Church is about the only evidence of a once thriving community. 
Part of the charm of Pineywoods Purgatory.

At the rest stop located at the intersection of FM 1247 and 1911 is the final decision point of going 102 or 72/50 miles. Mark was to turn left at the stop sign and Christine and I were going to turn right. 
All of the rest stops had plenty of good foods, liquids, and friendly volunteers.
We continued on FM 1911 through scenic tree-lined smooth roads. 
At the intersection of FM 1911 and Hwy 69, one must make another decision. Go straight on 1911 for the 72 mile route or turn right for the 50 (53.14) mile route. We turned right and were in for a big shock. They had repaved the road, or at the least the shoulder, with the roughest chip seal we have experienced in ages.
Christine and I seriously discussed turning around and taking 1911. We would gladly trade the additional 20 miles to get off the rough jarring highway.
We continued on Hwy 69 dispite our better judgement.
Nice scenery helps if one is going to loosen teeth by painful vibration. 

Right outside of Wells, Texas, was an outstanding display of flowers and Halloween-themed displays.

I took this picture as it shows two large pine trees growing from one trunk. 
I took this picture because it was just one more hill. Jerry, I haven't bothered you with grade percentages since there were only two hills that registered 10% or more, and only twenty that were 5% or more. The 120 other humps were gentle rollers of less than 5 %. 
When I got to the crest, I decided to hold up for Christine to catch up. I think she took more time to admire the flower display back down the road than I did. 
One can discern from Christine's posture that she is in her Sunday-stroll gait rather than attacking the hill.

Unlike me, she can finish a hill with a smile. 
Eventually the rough re-paved portion of Hwy 69 ended. Even so, it was a delight to finally get to FM 843 for a couple of reasons: one, it was a smooth road with trees, and it began the last leg of the ride.

There were several sections of different flowers lining the road but most of my pictures turned out too blurred to use.
Last but not least rest stop. They had pies, cakes, cookies along with the usual rest stop goodies. We were less than an hour out from the lunch provided after the ride back at the Convention Center. Did that stop me from sampling the cake and pie?
Examples of pine trees that were throughout the ride. We estimated that most of the trees were from 80 to 100 feet high. Compare that with our 10-foot mesquite and 6-foot cedar "trees". 
They may be weeds to you but flowers to us.
One of the last small declines before the end of the ride.
As we entered a major traffic area, the safety personnel set out cones to protect the riders. 
Late in the season for crepe myrtle, but there was still a hint of how pretty they were during the height of the season.
Back road leading back to the Convention Center.
Finish line coming up in the distance.
As we crossed the finish line, only two spectators were present. However, they clapped and cheered as we crossed. We appreciate the welcome committee. Outback Steakhouse provided the lunch after the ride and it was outstanding. We were once again impressed with the ride, scenery, volunteers, and the condition of most of the roads. Weather permitting, we hope to return next year. 
The following day as we were returning home, an old church beckoned us off the highway.
The church turned out to be Saint Paul Evangelical Lutheran founded by German settlers in 1894. Present building dedicated in 1919. Another little jewel discovered by simply turning off the road to explore and enjoy.   

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