February 15 2010 by Jason Fogelson
I woke up in Galveston eager to ride. I had planned a route that promised to take me past some very beautiful scenery today, from the Gulf waters to wildlife sanctuary to National Forest lands. I skipped the complimentary breakfast in the Best Western Beachfront Inn's cafeteria. I just slugged down some of the free coffee in the lobby, loaded up the Electra Glide and checked out of the hotel.
I was ready for the cold weather today, more ready than I had been yesterday, anyway. I had two additional layers of clothing on top, purchased at Academy Sporting Goods last night: A good thermal ski shirt, and a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. Total investment: under $10. Perhaps the best $10 I've ever spent.
I headed north to the end of Galveston Island, where I cued up for the Galveston Island Ferry to Bolivar Peninsula. The free ferry service takes about half an hour, giving gorgeous views of the bay in the process.
I rode the length of the peninsula, which is still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Rebuilding is in process, but the area has been devastated, with many homes and businesses destroyed in the 12-foot floodwaters. Riding through the region is a sobering reminder of the sometimes destructive power of Mother Nature.
Back on the mainland, I rode through the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Even riding though on a motorcycle, I saw a wide variety of birds, including one of the largest Great Egrets I've ever seen. It's a birder's paradise -- just watch out for the gators.
I zoomed up to the town of Liberty, and on through the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, a 23,000 acre bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem that harbors lots of different bird species, along with deer, squirrels, turtles, alligators, snakes, river otters and bald eagles. It reminded me of the Louisiana Bayou country, with dense thickets of trees opening up to wide marshland. The crisp air had a very swampy, musky scent as I rode the Electra Glide through the Refuge. Despite the cold, I was very glad to be traversing the region on two wheels in the open air, rather than in the recycled air of a car.
I stopped for gas in Cleveland, before heading into yet another area of beautiful wilderness, the Sam Houston National Forest . The Forest covers over 160,000 acres in three counties, and includes woodland, grassland, lakes and rivers. It's also a stunningly beautiful place to ride a motorcycle.
I rode along the shores of Lake Livingston to Point Blank, then turned west on US 190 toward Huntsville. A tiny sign in Huntsville inspired me to turn off the main road to visit Sam Houston's gravesite. Sam Houston (1793 - 1863) was a major figure in the history of Texas. He served as President of the Republic of Texas, then as Texas's Senator after it joined the Union. His last elected office was as Governor of Texas from 1859 - 1861. He also served as Governor of Tennessee from 1827 - 1829, making him the only man in US history to serve as governor of two states. He is buried in Huntsville, where he retired after Texas seceded from the Union in 1861, rather than become part of the War Between the States. His grave is tucked away in a small cemetery on a side street in Huntsville, and is tastefully understated for a man of such impressive accomplishment. I spent a few quiet minutes paying my respects to the great man, and to the others interred nearby.
Then, back on the Electra Glide for the final push into Bryan. The town of Bryan adjoins the city of College Station, home of Texas A&M University. The Aggies dominate the area, casting a large shadow.
The Best Western Atrea at Old Town Center is conveniently located in the middle of Bryan. A newer facility, it feels like one of those fancy boutique hotels that keep popping up all over the place -- only without the attitude and the high prices. It's a really nice, upscale hotel, and my room is gorgeous.
I decided that tonight was the night for me to get a helping of that famous Texas beef. The helpful desk clerk, Scott, recommended a nearby restaurant for dinner, and called ahead to secure a reservation. I was grateful, and a little skeptical. Did I really need a reservation for dinner for one on a Sunday night in Bryan, Texas?
Turns out that there's a world-class restaurant in town, just down the road from the Best Western: Christopher's World Grille . Chef Christopher Lampo is a Certified Executive Chef, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a native of Bryan, Texas. His international experience includes working as a private chef for celebrities including Michael Douglas, Mick Jagger, Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington. Christopher's is the preferred caterer to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Foundation, and from my one meal at the restaurant, it's easy to see why. I had the evening's special: a 24-ounce rib-eye steak with a twice-baked potato, and a Texas port wine poached pear tart for dessert. I couldn't have asked for a better helping of Texas beef.
Now I'm back at the hotel, planning tomorrow's activities and ride. I'm finishing the day tomorrow in Austin, Texas, but I want to spend some time exploring Bryan and College Station before I leave the area. Perhaps a visit to the Presidential Library is in order?
Wherever I wander, I know that my best meal of the trip has already happened.
Miles traveled: 262