Perhaps day two was the most challenging day that we faced--not so much physically since we walked about 4 miles less, but definitely mentally. The first day, we had the excitement of starting the journey. The last day, we knew we were heading home. The middle day was just that: the middle. We were sore and tired from the previous day. Many of the ladies had blisters that troubled them. The journey wouldn't end today, and there needed to be a reason to continue. There needed to be something that would drive us to endure the in between.
I visited with the ladies before we started. (Yes, at this point, I was the only one representing the male of the species. The other men dropped out.) I told them I figured this to be the hardest day because it was the middle, and I said, "We can approach this a couple of ways. One, we can simply try to press on and endure, or, two, we can take our time and enjoy the journey." I think we ended up doing a little bit of both; part by choice, and part by accident.
We began the day from the same place we ended the night before: Phillipsburg. The ladies the previous evening had informed me of a route to our next destination which would keep us from having to travel down SH 36. I had driven it the night before, and it looked promising: back roads with little to no traffic. It was very different than heading down a highway. Perfect.
One small problem: I didn't know it as well as the rest of the route. During the planning of the walk, I had driven the rest of the route four or five times. I knew it very well. This route had been roughly sketched the night before and driven while I was fatigued. Can you say trouble coming?
Well, luckily, the trouble only lasted about a quarter of a mile. At an intersection, I turned right instead of left. By the time I realized my mistake, we had almost topped a hill. Believe me, I received my share of grief for having taken that turn. The whole thing about guys not asking directions or looking at maps came up, and I knew better than respond due to the face I was out numbered 9 to 1. It didn't help that we had one of our ladies limping pretty badly with a severe case of blisters--more on that case later in a special post.
Fortunately, that was the only turn I missed badly. We arrived at Salem Lutheran Church in Brenham for a snack. The initial leg of this journey had taken a little longer than I anticipated, so we also ate our lunch at the church.
The next leg had me a little worried as we would travel down FM 109. This stretch of road between Brenham and Industry can be very busy, and there is little to no shoulder. I was glad we had our tractor following us to slow traffic down and provide a buffer. No longer would we be able to walk several abreast and string out--we would have to close it up and walk in pairs.
Initially, we had no issues. Traffic backed up a couple of times, but we made steady progress. Our next scheduled stop would be Salem Lutheran Church in the little community of Welcome. It was approximately a mile and a half before we ran into our first and only bit of trouble during the journey, and it came in the form of a Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy. He pulled out tractor over.
Of course, I was immediately on the phone with the Austin County Constable. This gentleman is a member of my congregation, and I had consulted with him numerous times about our trip to make sure we were keeping things legal and safe. When I had told him about the tractor following us, he admonished me to make sure we had a slow moving vehicle emblem on it and that we would be driving in daylight. I told him we would take care of it.
I told the Constable that we were receiving static. He told me to see what happens, and if they tried to write us a ticket, he would intervene. I couldn't see how we would get a ticket. We weren't breaking ANY laws. We had the slow moving vehicle sign. We were traveling in daylight. The tractor and trailer were registered and licensed.
The sheriff made some kind of lame excuse that we were not using the tractor and trailer for farm purposes. Never mind we were hauling HAY BALES on the trailer. (You want to be a stickler for the law, then I've got you on that one.) He demanded that we send the tractor and trailer ahead and said that it couldn't follow us.
Well, we sent the tractor ahead to the county line. I knew the Austin County Sheriff's department wasn't going to give us any grief. I had informed them of the situation at my member's request, and they knew what we were doing. I should have done the same in Washington County, but I figured we would be there such a short time, it wouldn't matter. WRONG. I'll know better if there is a next time.
I called my church member and informed him we did not receive a ticket and that he sent the tractor ahead. The response cracked me up. That's all I'll say at this point other than that the Sheriff's deputy decided we needed an escort to the county line. We accepted it, and were only too happy to get into Austin County.
It was during this escort time, that we received an unexpected pick-me-up. Pastor Kerry Nelson, who works in the Synod Office rode up on his Harley Davidson. He offered words of encouragement as we traveled. It was a great spark in the midst of dealing with the turmoil with the sheriff's deputy. I think it gave us the energy we needed to make our next rest area.
After what seemed like days, we arrived at Salem Lutheran Church at Welcome. Our Men in Mission had a rest stop waiting for us there. There were beautiful shade trees and cool facilities to rest in. I could tell that no one was in a hurry to get moving again, yet, we needed to press on. I had let the group know we would be stopping in a very short while at the Welcome Country Store. It's a unique little joint not five minutes up the road while driving. In our condition, it would take us a 1/2 hour. It almost took more.
In fact, we started to get strung out as we walked to the store. I even received a request to slow down, but the store was only a little bit ahead. I knew they would be refreshed by their stop there, little did I know just how much. The full story will appear in another post to appear shortly.
We made it to the Welcome Store. We sat. We drank sodas. We talked with the locals. Our spirits were renewed once again, and we prepared to tackle the final leg of day 2. It was a good thing our spirits had been renewed because we still had to face "The Hill."
This area of Texas is full of rolling hills. It makes for some gorgeous countryside, and as far as things are concerned, The Hill is not gigantic. It probably only raises 100 feet in elevation. But those 100 feet are steep, and we would be tackling it toward the end of nearly 20 miles. We stopped on the side of the road for a breather about a mile from the hill. I let everyone know what to expect. Most of the ladies had trained in Houston and Katy. The land is flat down there. 2X4 flat. I had trained on hills. Another lady from my church runs bleachers. I wasn't worried about us. I was concerned about them, but we had it to do.
I guess I shouldn't have worried too much. The ladies made it up the hill. One even dared to run up the darn thing. I'm too old to try such a foolish thing. :-)
A few blocks into town, we made our final stop: Industry United Methodist Church. The Methodists gladly helped out this Lutheran bunch, and they made some of the best chicken spaghetti and home made peach cobbler I think I've had. Their hospitality was tremendous at the end of a hard day.
The most trying day was over. Day three would be the end of the journey.