|A section of the NE Texas Trail.
The Northeast Texas Trail (NETT)is a partially completed rails-to-trails conversion, stretching 130 miles across six counties and 19 towns, from Farmersville to New Boston, Texas. Over a three-day weekend from October 26 to 28, 2012, Steve DeBauge and I completed a “thru-bike” of the entire NETT corridor. It was a challenge, logistically as much as physically—but well worth it.
|The route of the NET Trail.
In spite of some difficult and even impassible trail segments, we came away convinced that the NETT vision will ultimately yield a recreational treasure and tourism draw for Northeast Texas. That said, there is a reason this end-to-end trip had never been accomplished before—the NETT is not entirely ready yet. For every well-maintained and rideable segment, there is one that is overgrown or illegally fenced off. It will take even more hard work, passion and yes, some money, to get the entire route ready for regular cyclo-tourism.
Given the overall distance and the unknown condition of some trail segments, our plan was to split the trail into three manageable riding days, making sure there was food and lodging at all critical points. This was going to be a credit-card tour
, meaning that we would carry only clothes, water, bike tools and a credit card—no food and no camping/cooking equipment.
Our itinerary worked perfectly. Day 1, 48 miles, Farmersville to Roxton; Day 2, 44 miles, Roxton to Clarksville; Day 3, 39 miles, Clarksville to New Boston. Using tips from other trail users and extensive internet research, we mapped out all breaks, meal stops and overnight lodging we would need along the way.
|The Gang on Day 1 of the trip.
The fact that we ate well and slept comfortably along the NETT is one of the most important things I have to report. While some amenities are scarce on the NETT, we showed that it is feasible to make the entire trek without worrying about the next meal and a comfortable bed/hot shower.
My wife dropped us off at about 8:30am on Friday October 26 in downtown Farmersville. Two more friends joined us for that first day only, Travis Jeakins and Austin Arnold. They would ride with us until Pecan Gap
, and it was good to have the extra company. The early riding was steady and uneventful on the generally good segments between Farmersville and Wolfe City. On the way, we took a short break at the Celeste Exxon, and later made our first full meal stop about 22 miles in, at El Arbol Mexican Restaurant
in Wolfe City.
|El Arbol Mexican Restaurant
Fueled by a good lunch, we felt strong heading to Roxton for our first overnight stay. En route, we made a quick stop in Ladonia
to say hello to Mayor Jan Cooper (Steve and I had met the Mayor in September 2011 on our first overnight NETT trip).
Upon arriving in Pecan Gap, locals strongly warned against riding the illegally fenced trail segment just east of Pecan Gap (from CR 3550 to Ben Franklin), so we reluctantly rode around it. Finally arriving in Roxton, we checked in with proprietor Ronnie Rhodes
at the very comfortable Roxton Guest House. After cleaning up, we walked to the Roxton Grocery & Café
for dinner. The special that night was catfish, and we demolished our fair share of the perfectly prepared filets.
After a very restful night, we started out Day 2 in Roxton with a big breakfast at Big A’s
, personally served by proprietor Allen Hughes. Later, after navigating the notorious overgrowth and fences on the Roxton-Paris segment (at about 3 mph!), we met up with NETT Board President Earl Erickson for a terrific personal cycling tour of his baby, the Trail de Paris
. What a community jewel that is! Earl then drove ahead to meet us for lunch in Blossom at Weezy’s
Energized by good food and good company
, we said goodbye to Earl and pressed on to Clarksville. Our lodging for the night in Clarksville was the truly beautiful Courthouse Inn B&B
, owned by Cheryl and Perry O’Brian. After checking in, we made our way to the main square for dinner at The Italian Bistro.
Again, a very satisfactory meal. The next morning, our host Perry O’Brian pulled out all the stops with a hearty breakfast, and sent us very well-fed on our way to the finish line in New Boston.
I must admit extreme disappointment with the segment from Clarksville to Annona—completely overgrown and impassible—even worse than the Roxton–Paris segment. We were forced to spend some time on the shoulder of Route 82. A few miles east of Annona, the trail returned to rideable condition, particularly after the intersection with CR 4305. This occasionally rough trail segment conveyed us to Avery, where we took a break at the Clark/7-11 gas station.
|Off the trail at the fillin’ station.
Notice the difference between the two bikes:
On the left is a 29er with a rear, rack-less bag.
On the right is a 26 using a rack and panniers.
We could have had a nice pizza lunch there in Avery, but our plan was to make it to De Kalb. The trail from Avery to De Kalb was beautiful, and our decision was rewarded with a terrific meal at the famous Front Street Junction Café. The Sunday-after-church crowd did not seem to mind two cyclists in their midst, as we devoured a few rounds of good country cooking.
Local Bluegrass artist’s converge every Wednesday at the East Fork Junction!
After lunch, we had only about 12 miles to go from De Kalb to New Boston. These were some of the easiest miles of the entire trip. Very well-maintained trails, absolutely ready for cyclists of almost any experience level. We finished up exactly on schedule in New Boston, at 3pm on Sunday, October 28. A good friend picked us up at T&P Trailhead Park in downtown New Boston (with appropriate beverages in hand), and another great bike trip was in the books!
|All in a good 3 day’s ride!
The Author (right) and fellow adventurist Steve DeBauge.
Adventure! Great people in great small Texas towns! Fresh air, beauty and sunshine! Good food, and surprisingly good lodging!
Bad/fenced/unrideable segments, including Roxton-Paris, Pecan Gap-Ben Franklin, and Clarksville-Annona. The angry (and unfenced!) bull outside of Roxton! Some old rail bridges, while picturesque, may be scary for the inexperienced rider/hiker.
TECHNOLOGY & EQUIPMENT:
Prior to the trip, I mapped the entire NETT route in an online program called Ride with GPS. I then loaded this GPS map into my iPhone, using an app called Cyclemeter. This turned out to be very helpful. In a few locations where the trail seems to disappear, I could determine the way to go by zooming my imported GPS map in Cyclemeter. The Cyclemeter app was running constantly in the background, giving us a complete record of our trip, including speed, mileage, etc. I also used my iPhone for all photos and video, shot from a handlebar mount.
As for our bikes, Steve rides an older 26” wheeled Trek, while my steed is a Salsa El Mariachi with 29” wheels. Both bikes have front suspension, which is needed on much of the NETT. I will put in an extra accolade for my Viscacha seat pack, made by Revelate Designs.
It held all the gear needed for 3 days, and because it attaches to the seat rails and seat post without the need for a rack, my bike was considerably lighter than Steve’s rack + pannier rig—something we noticed a lot while hoisting bikes over various fences! We both carried emergency lights, which we did not end up using. I used WTB Nano tubeless tires, recommended and expertly installed by fellow NETT cyclist Kevin Campagna
(of BicyclesPlus, Dallas). Great tires and NO FLATS! Steve had just one flat with his Slime-brand tubes (on the Roxton to Paris segment, of course).
Again, the NETT has all the potential to become our own version of Missouri’s incredible Katy Trail—a spectacular recreational amenity AND economic driver for Northeast Texas. While this report is from the perspective of a cyclist, all types of users are needed! For more information, see the NETT Facebook Page.
Read the local coverage of the trip.
A big thank you to Joseph Pitchford for the write-up of his trip; it certainly makes me jealous! And look for a post on the North East Texas Trail soon. I like the looks of this!