Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Sat around in the hotel in Mena to give my knees another good day's rest after the mountain stage. Honestly, if you want to know what I did that day, check the schedule for the History Channel. Other than that, I read some, ate some, laid around some, and probably snored some. Bored. And expensive. Getting tired of staying in hotels because they're burning through my money...
38.46 miles @ an average of 11.6mph, 32.0 max
Total ride time of 3:18'41
Stayed up way too late in the hotel room, but made a cup of coffee before I left, which helped wake me up a bit. On the way out of town I stopped at a Ouchita State Park Ranger Station to chat with the rangers and ask about the upcoming parks. It's a good thing I did, because I found out that both of the parks I intended to stay at the next two days had been closed down, even though the official state maps all still showed the parks. The ranger did tell me about a small, privately-owned park south of Waldron, which I stopped at when I got to it about 20 miles down the road. When I pulled up the office was closed, so I sat down at a picnic table to eat my lunch, and as I did the owners pulled up in a grey pickup truck with some sort of machinery in the back. I walked over to ask them about fees and what-not, and asked if I could take a look at the campgrounds before I paid for them. They were amenable to this, and pointed me in the direction of the “campsites.” As I rode by them, I noticed that they weren't so much campsites as land that had been cleared years ago and left alone since. The grass was about as high as my thigh, and though they mentioned having fire rings, I wasn't able to locate a single one. This was around 2PM, so I told them that, because I had plenty of daylight left, I would look elsewhere. I thought I might ride past Waldron into a small patch of national forest where I might just hike off the road a bit to find a place to camp for the night, but as I reached Waldron I found it would be difficult to cover the next 10 or so miles to the stretch. Begrudgingly, I found another hotel and slept there for the night after consuming the entirety of a large pizza from Pizza Hut. Mmm, mm carbs. I would have made another blog post from this point, but found that, when I called the office for the network access code, the manager's cocaine supply had apparently run out, and he had passed out early. Have I mentioned before that hotel managers all seem to be on coke all the time? Anyway...
38.16 miles @ an average of 11mph, 37.5 max
Total ride time of 3:16'07
This day's ride wasn't too difficult until the last 12 miles when I headed into the national forest to find a campground. The majority of the ride was actually quite nice and I was keeping an average speed around 13.5mph, but when I turned south to get into the woods it also meant heading up a small mountain. I had intended to reach Jack Creek and sleep there, but when I arrived, the campsites were laughable. The entire campsite was more like a giant picnic ground where you would expect someone to hold a low-cost birthday party on a weekend. There was also no one there. It was, however, quite beautiful. At the end of the loop in the road there was a small swimming/fishing hole set against a cliff of diagonally-slanted slate from which huge pines grew and reflected in the afternoon light. Despite the lack of other people and beauty, I decided that it would be for the best not to camp on top of a picnic table (none of the trees in the camping area were close enough to hang a hammock), and decided to head for the next campground which was only a couple more miles down the road. On the way back up the hill from Jack Creek I passed a couple of hillbillies riding an ATV with fishing poles slung across the front. I nodded to them and rode on to Knopper's Ford, the next campsite. The ride to this site was less strenuous, being nearly all downhill, but it was on a dirt and gravel road, which I believe I have mentioned before, my tires are not designed for. Still, I made it down the treacherous slopes and to the campsite only to find that there was no running water here, just as there had been none at Jack Creek. However beautiful Arkansas may be, their campgrounds are seriously lacking in amenities such as showers. To make up for it, there isn't a burn ban, so I began to walk around the campgrounds looking for fallen branches and trees. I noticed one other campsite was taken by a couple of trucks, though their owners were nowhere to be seen.
After a half-hour of gathering wood, however, the duo returned, riding an ATV. The same hillbillies I had seen entering Jack Creek as I was leaving! They called me over to ask how far I was riding, how far I had ridden, and other such questions I beginning to get used to, and I asked them if they had any extra water. They did, and offered it to me freely, as well as offering me some “vittles” they were cooking up, and I ended up staying with them and hanging out until about midnight. They told me good spots to check out while I'm touring, such as Mammoth Springs. They told me how to avoid being licked by a bear. And their jaws dropped when they found out I wasn't carrying a gun. They had six between them. The older, and fatter one, Jack, said, “Sheeit, boy! Don' you know you in hillbilly country? I mean some of us is nice, but I reckon most of 'em are mean as hell! I'm surprised you ain't had no one throwin' cans at you yet! I wouldn't go nowhere in this country without a gun.” One of the other man's guns, a small caliber pistol, had been sitting on the picnic table since before I walked up. I assured him that the majority of the people I've met on the trip have been nothing but perfectly cordial. Still, they remained in awe of my lack of armaments, and repeatedly returned to the topic. In fact, almost everything about me seemed to blow the two away, from my vegetarianism to my stove (on which I made them some hot cocoa) to my bike ride itself. By the end of the night Jack was offering me a ride to the main road in the morning in the bed of his truck so I wouldn't have to pedal on the dirt roads and risk a flat. I accepted graciously, and soon after the boys went to bed.
By this point, I still had not set up my hammock, so I found a campsite a bit down the road with trees close enough to accommodate it, and began to set it up, but not before building a campfire with the wood I had gathered earlier. I sat next to this until the wee hours and ended up sleeping in quite late.
40.56 Miles @ an average of 10.8mph, 35.1 max
Total ride time of 3:44'03
Woke up too late for a ride. The hillbillies had gone, and too bad, because I discovered a flat on my front tire from a push pin or something like that which had worked its way into the tire and made a tiny hole in the tube. As I was fixing that an old man on an ATV (everyone rides those things out here) stopped by to chat and told me about his 50+ year old son who lives in Alaska who still does century rides. I thought, but didn't say, “yeah, on a light bike with no bags,” and after a while the old man realized I was more interested in fixing my tire than chatting with him, and drove off. Of course, the day started with that big hill on a dirt road that it ended with the day before, but it wasn't too bad. I can feel myself getting stronger and tackling hills more easily than I did even a week ago. I guess mountains will do that to you... Once I finally got to Booneville, about 12 miles from my start, I stopped to get some much-needed water, and then headed out toward Ozark. The ride there was not too terribly hilly, or anything, but a strong, persistent headwind kept my speeds down to a relatively low point, but I still managed to cross the Arkansas river and get a hotel room before sundown. Yes, another hotel room, but the next national park is still 10 miles away and up some steep hills. I'll be there tomorrow, and the next day, and probably the day after that, but for the foreseeable future, I'm in the forest in the mountains.
Anyway, as I walked up to my room, two couples from Wichita Falls were sitting outside their rooms, next to mine, smoking cigarettes. One of the guys said, “Man, I'm tired just looking at you!” And then offered me whiskey, which I gladly, and gratefully accepted. I chatted with them for a while (they were also amazed I don't carry a gun), and then bowed out to eat another large pizza (I saved a couple slices for breakfast), and get some stuff from the store. And now I'm about to go to bed. Sweet sleep, how I love you so.
Oh, and since I haven't had a quote or song lyrics for a while, here ya go:
"All the things I'm missin', good vittles, love and kissin', are waitin' at the end of my ride."