The Writing Traveler: Just me, the road, and the rain by Charles Breakfield


The Forbidden City of China, replicated in Kay Texas, features the Terra Cotta Army of Chin.

By the time the sun came up (sort of), I was riding along and humming the Credence Clearwater Revival tune “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”

First Day – “Good for Righties and Lefties”

My first day’s effort was to travel on my bike to Caddo Lake just north of Marshall, Texas.  I picked the first full moon week in October out of habit but this year it was cooler than I was expecting.  So much so I had to stop and put on more clothes and my heavy rain gloves before continuing on.  I got to Caddo Lake earlier than I expected so I pitched the tent and decided to travel to Jefferson to see the Scarlet O’Hara museum.

I made the mistake of asking the gate gal for directions to Jefferson on the way out and she said, “Oh it is very complicated but go out the front gate and turn left. It’ll take you to downtown Jefferson.”  I followed her directions but unfortunately ended up in Uncertain Texas which, by the way, marks the end of that road.  I knew for certain that it was not Jefferson so a U-turn and another 15 minutes ended the detour and with the help of my GPS, we were able to get to Jefferson.  Jefferson is a motorcycle rider target destination on the weekends and downtown Jefferson was packed.  After a short tour of the city, I headed back to Caddo Lake.  Never did find the Scarlet O’Hara museum.

Someone is bound to ask, how much rain did you get while at the park?  Sometime in the middle of the night, I heard thunder and it started raining.  Not a big deal since I was in my nifty tent and quite dry.  However by the time the sun came up (sort of) I was humming the Credence Clearwater Revival tune “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” since the rain would not let up.  I finally decided that I would get moving during the next lull and get ready to leave.  As it turned out I ate in the rain, loaded up in the rain, and drove out in the rain.  Just so you know you cannot squeeze out the water in your tent while rolling it up in the rain.  Oh I got the lull in the rain I was looking for but it was Sunday afternoon late and 200 miles south before it happened.

About halfway to Jasper via US 59 on my way to Martin Dies SP, I found the dividing line between the cold front I was trying to outrun and the warm air to the south.  I welcomed the temperature change and the rain began to subside but not before every piece of glass on Swan, my face-shield, and my glasses became completely fogged over which provided a reasonably exciting drive time until I could clear everything.  I took the jog to US 96 and stopped at a Wal-Mart to secure a tarp that could be used for more shelter if it started to rain again.  As it turned out the tarp was an invaluable acquisition so more on that later.

Charles Breakfield

Day Two:

I sacked up my provisions for a two-day stay at the Martin Dies Park on US 190 and began the drying out process for the motorcycle and all the gear that was wet.  The rain had abated and I even saw some blue sky sneak through the clouds from time to time.  This is a great State Park with lots of large pine trees along with lots of other flora and fauna.  Did I mention the sign posted when coming into the park, Do Not Feed the Alligators?  Alligators?!?! There on the Neches River they have American Alligators (are there European Alligators?) and it was a little unnerving to be in just a tent in case the Alligators did their food shopping at night so I got a cabin which also allowed me to hang up and dry out my gear.  I was able to wipe down the motorcycle and let her dry out too.  I didn’t bring her “jammies” so she had to sleep au natural.

The next morning provided another dry day and after breakfast, I wanted to do the nature walks and see the park.  After a good night’s sleep (translated, no rain) and breakfast, I decided that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least see some Alligators and so off I went.

The paths wind by the Neches and over several areas that look more like bayous and bogs from Louisiana than Texas.  It looked like a prime area for Alligators and I expected to see some soon.

There were several foot bridges with terrific panoramic views and something of a pier stuck out into the Neches which was over in another section of the park.

My area of the park had several large pine trees and an excellent view of the pond just a stone’s throw from my cabin. However, I didn’t see any Alligators during my explorations which begs the question, “if the signs say beware of Alligators in the forest and you don’t see any alligators, are they still there?” (just a rhetorical question.)

I didn’t realize how wide the Neches River was until I saw this picture.

Oh just so you know, I had the camping area of the park all to myself and only had to share it with Texas-sized mosquitoes.  You know, the kind that set on the edge of your bed at night and argues about which one of them gets to go first.  I am told that a Colt .45 automatic (with 2 clips of ammo) is the only thing that will save you from them feasting on you.  Since state parks don’t permit you to shoot their wildlife I did not get a chance to test this theory.  A good camping tip to you folks, don’t bother going to sleep until you get all the mosquitoes in your tent/cabin. If you don’t get carried away by them you certainly won’t survive their onslaught during the night.  After 2 days with the vampire mosquitoes, my new nickname was “lumpy”.

The Third Day:

After a two-day stay in Martin Dies SP (most of the gear was dry but not all), I had a terrific scenic ride west on US 190 to US 59 on my way to Cut-n-Shoot Texas (no really, that is the town’s name just like Uncertain was that town’s name) which is just east of Conroe.  The ride provided forests, winding roads, and logging trucks.  What a ride!

The RV trailer park was dry and relatively mosquito-free, and I got a chance to dry out the remaining wet gear.

I would have liked to have found a place to get a T-shirt with the town’s name of Cut-n-shoot on it as a souvenir of this RV destination, but alas no local entrepreneur was offering this item.

Day 4:

I enjoyed another dry ride from Cut-n-Shoot through the northern outskirts of Houston so I could take the I-10 freeway to Katy Texas and see the Texas version of the “Forbidden City.”  This is a 1/20th scale version of the first Chinese Emperor Chin’s city which is still available for touring in Beijing.  While the Katy version of the Forbidden City is quite a bit smaller, it is 8,000-10,000 miles closer so time and distance being what it is I settled for the smaller version.  A determined man of Chinese descent wanted to provide Americans with more exposure to the Chinese historical city, and so beginning in 1996 he began ordering and assembling small replicas of the Forbidden City and an incredible display of the Terra Cotta army for those who can’t quite get to Beijing to see for themselves.

Stepping in through the gates to get into the exhibit area is like stepping into a time/space dimension warp and you are transported to China.  However, you will feel a bit like Gulliver (Thomas Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels) as most of the exhibits are not life-size.  The replicas of the Dragon Throne, the empress’ transport, replica weapons, several full-sized warriors made of fiber-glass, and the Male-Hound gate shown below were regular size.

The Forbidden City tour begins just as it would if you were a tourist in Beijing with the outer buildings and the walk into the city proper.   The Forbidden City is outside under a covered arch that protects it from the elements, which was important as the weather delivered a strong, fast-moving rainstorm that soaked everything not covered for protection.  By the time the Forbidden City tour was over, the rainstorm had moved on, leaving the temperature quite comfortable for 10 minutes.  Once the sun came back out, the humidity and rising temperatures took over and we were in a sauna bath.

Just to be clear, all the buildings and Forbidden City structures were built in Beijing at the City itself to ensure authenticity to the original structures.  Everything is then shipped to the buyer for final assembly wherever that might be.  Notice if it weren’t for the arch structure in the above picture you would not be able to tell that it was a miniature display of the real thing.

Terra Cotta army of Chin had life-size figures made from the same type of clay that was found when the Terra Cotta Army was discovered.  Six thousand warriors keep guard here in Katy.   The original site in China boasts 10,000 Terra Cotta warriors.

Behold, the army of Chin.

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