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January 26, 2016

By meriwether, Jan 27 2016 02:49PM

Greetings All from Luling, Texas, about 70 miles northeast of San Antonio -

The Lone Star State is big . . . make no mistake about that. I feel like I’ve been putting on some long miles - about 56 today, and two days ago a 65 mile day with a pesky side wind. And still - about 680 miles to El Paso on the Texas/New Mexico border. But let’s not think about that.

I spent 3 days in Houston - actually the Woodlands just north of Houston - with one of my old fraternity brothers, Tom Lammers. Tom was one of my Little Brothers in the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at UT - TU back then. I had not seen Tom for years and years, so it was good to reconnect with him; he hosted me for 3 nights. During that respite we visited with Tom and Hetty Ball who live north of Tom in Conroe, TX. Hetty is the sister of another fraternity brother, Ron Greller. I met Hetty as I was exiting the UT campus as a Senior and she was just arriving as a freshman.

Hetty and her husband Tom are both pilots and they are the proud owners of a WW II era P-51 Mustang fighter. They gave Tom and I (two Tom’s here) a tour of the hanger and this amazing relic from from World War Two - what an amazing piece of machinery, and what a treat to sit in the cockpit of the P-51.

This plane changed the air war in Europe. In 1943 as our B-17 Bombers made their long bombing runs to Germany to take the war to Hitler’s doorstep, they initially did so without fighter escorts, thinking their nose, belly, and tail gun turrets would provide sufficient defense. But that was not the case as the German Luftwaffe (air force) swept in and did devastating damage to our bomber groups. But also in 1943, the P-51 Mustang arrived on the scene and changed the course of the war. A long range fighter with powerful armament and amazing speed, it began escorting our bomber groups all the way to Germany and back . . . and now it was the German Luftwaffe’s turn to pay the price. The P-51 Mustangs would shoot down almost 5,000 aircraft of the German Luftwaffe during the course of the air war in Europe, preparing the way for the D-Day Allied landings on the coast of France. Hitler’s Luftwaffe was just no match for the P-51 Mustang which was considered to be the best piston aircraft of World War II.

Seems like I had a lot of contacts in the Houston area who all offered me a place to stay. I would like to thank Carla Rogers, Ken and Janet Orlowski, Fred and Claudia Koperski, and Hetty and Tom Ball who all offered me a place to stay. I had initially planned to put in a volunteer day with Houston Habitat For Humanity which would have given me the opportunity to drop in on some of the other folks here. But Houston being such a massive metropolitan area, it would have taken me almost a full day’s ride to get from where I was staying with Tom in The Woodlands to the central city where the Habitat affiliate is located. So I decided to pick up the pace a bit, and set my course for San Antonio where I’m hoping to put in Texas Habitat volunteer day.

My wheels just keep spinning - sometimes I don’t know how, going through 10 mood swings in a day from “Wow - what a ride today” . . . to . . . “What the heck am I doing out here!” Today’s ride was a microcosm - struggling this morning through some Texas hill country with a rolling landscape and a headwind determined to halt my progress, and then an afternoon more serene with lessening winds, sunny skies, and ideal riding temperatures in the mid-70’s. And now today - a drop of 20 degrees back into the 50’s and more strong winds to bedevil me. Yet . . . watching the news of the areas I bicycled through just 3 months ago digging out from 30 inches of snow or struggling to survive the inundation of the Jersey Coast tidal surge . . . how can I complain?

This past week I had posted on Facebook a short video, my so-called “Ride Along With Al In East Texas”. Since not all of you are on Facebook, if you’d like to see it, I also posted it on Youtube. Here it is if you’d like to take a peek:

I have some people to thank for their donations to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children in support of my ride. Many thanks to Jane Bihn and Hetty and Tom Ball. Also thanks to Marla and Bill Janna who donated a while back and apologies for leaving them off the previous donor list.

Proceeding on through the endless reaches of the Lone Star State,

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