Gateway Motorcycle Group: Toledo Bend, Louisiana – Day 3

Welcome Home

It wasn’t until we motored past the Welcome to Louisiana state line sign that it hit me. This is my home state. Unfortunately, Toledo Bend is nowhere near my Cajun Country home, but it was good to spend the afternoon back in the Bayou State.

It was another early morning. We don’t do well in the early morning. My bike’s front tire was parked on a wire coat hanger from the night before. One of the guys, Johnny Mercer, said, “I see your bike is hung up.”

I grumbled, “I don’t get it.” It was maybe sometimes after lunch before I thought about it. It was funny.

Pretty In Purple

Today was a little shorter ride. I think it was a bit over 250 miles, and the weather was beautiful. Sunny skies and moderate temps welcomed each mile. The backroads were dotted with lines of these vibrant purple flowers. Leah did a great job snapping a pic as we blew by. I’m not even sure what they are, but they are pretty awesome.

What else would we do in Louisiana but eat. This group has been such a joy to spend all of this time with. Everyone has an incredible and honest story. The way God brings people together is a miracle. It’s lagniappe that we all love motorcycles and eating out.


Off The Beaten Path

These were the roads that led us out and back. Endless ribbons of rolling hills and wide, sweeping curves almost rocked Leah to sleep. Well, let’s be honest. It almost put me to sleep too.

This has been so different from any other multi-day ride we’ve done. The first difference is that we’ve never ridden with a group. But it’s been a blast. The other is setting up a “base camp” location in one city. It’s been great not having to repack and unpack every day.

The history and architecture in this area is also incredible. Leah downloaded an app to look up each Historic Marker. We’ve always seen them on our trips but never knew anything about them. Most are local facts about people and places relevant to that area. Texas is full of them. It’s like a living history lesson.

Location, Location, Location

This contraption isn’t historic, but was way too crazy looking to not photograph. It’s a custom deck builder. Do you see the black panther? Yeah, let us know if you figure this out.

Our 6,000 mile road trip over the summer was an altogether epic adventure, but this has been so fun that we’ll do it again before the end of the year. East Texas has fantastic roads with many options to vary your out and back routes.

Nacogdoches is also a fantastic place to set up your base camp. There are plenty of great places to eat and a very cool bike shop, Lumberjack Harley Davidson.


Now to wrap up our last night together, we did what else, but enjoy a meal together. Once again, the food, atmosphere and staff were amazing. This really is a pretty cool town.

One of my friends since childhood, Donna Landry Campo, lives in Nacogdoches and showed me what’s called the “AxEm Jax.” It’s a college hand signal, but I thought she was trying to trick me into tossing gang signs.

So just to be safe, I talked Leah into doing it. See below. So, she’s either showing support for the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks, or has begun a gangland turf war between Nacogdoches  and Dallas.

Well, these days have been lived full tilt and while the biking was fun, the deepening of friendships were the greatest reward.

If your church hosts small groups, find one with a hobby that interests you and join it. If they don’t, find a new church. No, just kidding, but do start one if they don’t. It’s a tremendous way to have fun while fellowshipping.

We will wrap this adventure up with a long haul back home on Tuesday. Thanks again for coming along and God bless you.


Gateway Motorcycle Group: Piney Woods of Texas – Day 2



It’s day 2 of the ride with our small group at Gateway Church, and kickstands were up at 8:30 this morning. We showered last night, and I went to bed at 8:45pm. Our alarm went off at 7:30am and we still hit snooze three times.

As most of you know, Scott and I don’t keep regular hours. We’re usually going to bed about the time normal people are waking up to start their work day. But it works for us, and we get more work done with that schedule, so we’ve stopped trying to be “normal.”


Anyway, we said a quick prayer, threw on some clothes, and were in the parking lot by 8:15. As you can tell by the picture above, it was another scorcher of a day. Scott is full of all kinds of interesting tan lines.


It was a gorgeous ride to Palestine, which was our first stop of the day. The roads were winding and tree-canopied. Unfortunately, I missed some really good photo opportunities, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you about them. The first photo I missed was of a dog jumping on a trampoline. Trust me, it was awesome. Scott and I both saw it at the same time and laughed hysterically.

The second picture I missed was one of the historic cemeteries we passed. There was a big banner sign stretched across the gothic iron gates that said “Homecoming Party, October 2nd.” Scott was like, “I ain’t going to that party.” I also found this hilarious.


We stopped in Crockett, TX for lunch at Arnold’s Bar-b-que. I forgot to take any pictures of it or the delicious brisket I had, so I thought I’d post a picture of these cows instead, since it’s generally the same thing. There are a lot of cows in this part of Texas.


We stopped for gas along the way, and Scott took about a billion selfies on my phone. Are y’all as surprised as I am that his beard still fits in his helmet? Seriously, it’s going to take forever to delete all those selfies.


We got back on the bike and it was still hot. But the ride was amazing. Truly a beautiful part of the state. We did a big loop for another couple of hours, and I missed a great picture of a man in a horse drawn buggy. That’s pretty much the story of the day–me missing all the good photo opportunities.


Did I say gorgeous?


And hot? This was the stop where I dunked my shirt in cold water and put it back on.

The hotel was a welcome sight after a nine hour outing, and the good Doctor and I headed straight for the room and a nap. Which means he took a nap, and I thought about napping, because I’m not a good napper. And then we showered and put on clothes that weren’t covered in road grime so we could head to dinner.

I’ll admit that the food has been outstanding on this trip. Y’all know we pretty much live to eat. I’m glad I brought only stretchy pants.


Dinner was at Clear Springs Cafe in Nacogdoches, TX, and I had chicken fried ribeye. Yes, you read that right. It was life-changing. I also had peach cobbler. Scott had cheesecake like usual. The company and conversation was as good as the food.

I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to posting this and going to sleep. We have another 8:30 kickstands up in the morning. This trip has been so much fun and has been such a blessing. We prayed for a group to get involved with and get close to, and God gave us this one. It’s been awesome.

Scott’s up for the next post (we’re heading to Louisiana), so we’ll catch you tomorrow!


Smithsonian Castle and Steve Berry: What Could Go Wrong?

Smithsonian Castle and Steve Berry: What Could Go Wrong?

In early April, 2017, Leah blessed me with a fantastic birthday gift. I love Washington DC, and although we’re friends, I’m still a big fan of author Steve Berry

All of Steve’s novels involve a lot of truth wrapped around a fictional cast. Reading his work is like a lesson in geography, world history and current affairs. If only high school had been this interesting. His latest book, The Lost Order was associated by plot with the Smithsonian Castle.

In conjunction with the book’s release, Steve held a private fundraiser for 50 people to support the Smithsonian foundation. It included an after-hours private tour of the Castle led by Steve and the curator. It also included a signed copy of the book, which I’d already pre-ordered on Audible.

Jillian, Scott, Leah, Steve and Benji

Our challenge was that we flew back from an event in Orlando the night before. We had a pre-dawn flight out of DFW and into Reagan National that was scheduled to arrive in time to catch our breath, eat, change into fancy duds and head over to the Castle. oh, and we had to fly back the next morning so I could fly to New Orleans to pick up Max.

This was the jist of our chat after about 2 hours of sleep over the last 30-something hours:

“Fly early,” she said.
“We’ll sleep when we get there,” she assured.
It’s 2:00 pm and we’re still sitting in hotel lobby waiting for our room to be cleaned.
“Don’t be grumpy,” she pleaded.
Yeah, good luck with that!
Best to make the best of it.
“Don’t push it, lady.”

4 hours spent on this plush couch at the Mandarin Oriental while waiting for our room.

We did eventually get into our suite at the fabulous Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC. It was just in time to change clothes for our event. Our friends, Benji and Jillian Stein were meeting us at the hotel right before heading over.

I wasn’t happy about having to don the dress clothes and jacket. I’d worn a uniform over the course of my 25 years law enforcement career. One of my retirement “demands” was that I’d only dress up if I absolutely had to. I guess according to Leah, I had to.

Despite the days of flying and zero sleeping, the tour was incredible. Steve led the group around the castle and would read scenes from his book that occurred at various locations within the museum. It was a cool Q&A with other fans and friends. I truly appreciated Leah making the effort to do this for me.

The funny thing was, we had just spent the week with them prior to an event in Florida. I guess I could’ve gotten the book signed then and skipped the Castle. Are you kidding me? This was one of my all-time favorite adventures.

Since we had an early flight home, it was early to bed without a chance to see much of DC. I always make it a point to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial while in town. I have 8 friends’ names who were killed in the line of duty carved in those granite walls. This trip wouldn’t allow the time.

Uncharacteristically, we Ubered out to Reagan National with time to spare. We arrived and quickly moved through the airport looking for our gate. It wasn’t to be found. We’d flown into Reagan but our departure flight was out of Dulles. Needless to say, we weren’t happy with tacking another 45 minute drive in hopes of not missing the flight home. Remember – I still had a round trip to NOLA to make!

Faces of People Leaving the Wrong Airport

I’m not sure how, but we made it to the gate in time to be whisked off and back to DFW. I was sleepy, happy with a well-worn t-shirt and of course, my signed copy from Steve.

The lessons learned are many, but the most important thing to remember is that if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. There were a thousand reasons not to go to DC, but Leah only needed one reason to go. She loves me and wanted me to have this experience. For that, I’m grateful.

Adventures involve risk, but not all of them are life-threatening. Having a good plan with lots of flexibility are keys to a fantastic experience.

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