Today was a special day for me. I dedicated the ride in honor of the astronauts of the last NASA Space Shuttle Columbia mission. Their STS-107 mission ended in tragedy about 10 years ago (1 Feb ’03) when the shuttle disintegrated over TX and LA upon re-entry into the atmosphere on their way to the planned landing in FL. More info can be found here:
Today I rode through the middle of the area where Columbia broke apart and came back to Earth. I’ve been working my way up into this part of TX/LA over the past couple of days to complete this route. The ride gave me time to reflect on the importance and honor of great exploration in our country’s history and hopefully also our future.
I’ve setup the summary below to show the Columbia portion of the trip first, and then the remainder of the pictures and story for the day.
Columbia STS-107 crew (from NASA website):
- Commander: Rick D. Husband, a U.S. Air Force colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a previous shuttle during the first docking with theInternational Space Station (STS-96).
- Pilot: William C. McCool, a U.S. Navy commander
- Payload Commander: Michael P. Anderson, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and physicist who was in charge of the science mission.
- Payload Specialist: Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut.
- Mission Specialist: Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-born aerospace engineer who was on her second space mission.
- Mission Specialist: David M. Brown, a U.S. Navy captain trained as an aviator and flight surgeon. Brown worked on a number of scientific experiments.
- Mission Specialist: Laurel Blair Salton Clark, a U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon. Clark worked on a number of biological experiments.
Columbia taking off in FL on 16 Jan '03 (from NASA website):
From the NASA website - the Red/Yellow is a radar image of the debris that came back to Earth when Columbia disintegrated. I added the Blue Line where my cycling route was today. If you want to locate this on a map: the city just to the North of where the debris field starts is Tyler, TX and on the lower end just to the North of where it ends is Alexandria, LA.
Hemphill, TX is in the TX county where much of the pieces of Columbia came down. This was the town I was headed to on the ride (its roughly in the on the initial edge of the Red/Yellow above on my Blue Route).
Local history of Sabine County (where Hemphill is located and where some of the primary recovery efforts focused in finding pieces of Columbia)
The courthouse in the Middle town square of Hemphill. The gentleman on the far left in the picture came up to me and said "hi" just after I snapped the picture. He said "that will be the best picture you take on your ride." I politely asked him "why" - turns out he's the judge of the county! He hopped in his pickup truck and drove away with a wave!
Outside the Columbia STS-107 museum in Hemphill.
Perhaps its possible to read the inscription on this rock, if you zoom in. Powerful.
This is the monument that the residents of Hemphill built to honor the crew of STS-107 and residents that assisted in the search after the disaster. You can't read it in this picture but it says "their mission became our mission" reflecting on all of the work that local residents put in for months after the disaster to help the US Government recover as many pieces of the shuttle and its crew, as possible.
Summary of the ride:
I rode from Lufkin, TX to Many, LA today. A Century Ride and also my 5th State and Phase III by entering the SouthEast US!! 101 miles and about 2,900 ft of climbing throughout the ride; a good workout for my legs - they definitely "got in the game" today. Once outside of Lufkin, the ride started out on Hwy 103 then down County Hwy 1592 down to Hemphill, TX and back up to the main course on Hwy 87, then on TX Hwy 21 which turned into LA Hwy 6 when I crossed the border into LA.
Weather: ditto again with just about every day of my trip – gorgeous day – sunny all day with Temps starting out in the high 50s and up to 80 in the afternoon. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather so far – just about every day has been totally clear, blue skies!! There was a 5-10 mph wind in the area today, with it primarily at my back for most of the day – makes for a great ride!
The ride was mainly to the East today. Most of the ride was through heavily wooded areas with plenty of country homes and small horse/cattle ranches. Also, I crossed over many, many rivers in the area and I saw 100s of fishing boats on the road (behind pick up trucks), an Armadillo (my first; he wasn’t moving much though) and a few pontoon boats. Those facts along with the strong Southern accents I’m now hearing have definitely announced the fact that I’m “in the South.”
On to the pictures!
Typical landscape I rode through today in Eastern TX. 180 degrees different than West Texas! Forests everywhere here.
Lake Sam Rayburn.
Angelina National Forest (1 of 2 that I rode through today).
Forests on the right and you can see fields on the left, just behind the line of trees - lot's of logging in this area; I'd think that its one of the primary industries supporting the local economy.
With a few ranches sprinkled into the landscape.
Video: friendly horses that came over to say hi to me!
Entering Sabine National Forest.
About to cross a 3 mile bridge that crosses over the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The TX and LA border is in the middle of this, so this is also my last few minutes in TX (I first entered the state TWO weeks ago...).
Louisiana (LA)!!! Fifth state on the trip.
From the LA side - looking back on the Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Logging trucks. I saw dozens and dozens of them today - lot's of logging! When they/I were each on the road, the last thing I could do was take a picture - so I saw these parked and thought now would be a better time to snap a picture of them...
Picture to prove that there really is a town called "Many" that I'm in tonight.