Day 24 – Clarksdale to Kosciusko

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2009 by Climberruss

Our 24th day takes us further across Mississippi to the town of Kosciusko, a distance of approx 144 miles – another long day. Unfortunately however the previous evening it had clouded over and the heavens opened quite spectacularly. By morning we awoke to a wet day with heavy rain.

A very wet start to day 24

A very wet start to day 24

So far on this trip we have been lucky for three weeks and have not seen a drop of rain – but how it changed today. It rained on and off all day long and at times it was monsoonal. I have certainly never seen rain like it. Of course a day like this could not pass without a little drama and my third puncture (or visitation from the P***cture fairy) occurred during one of the heaviest downpours – if I wanted to practise for this one, I could not have got wetter if I had stood in a shower!! Due to the intensity of the rain, I took very few photos today. The one below however just begged for me to risk getting the camera wet.

At least we know who to blame!!

At least we know who to blame!!

The red line gets ever closer to its goal!

The red line gets ever closer to its goal!

Stats for the day:-

Distance:144 miles

Climbing: 2000ft

Temps: Mid 70’s, torrential rain, 100% humidity!  (Horrible!)

Day 23 – Pine Bluff to Clarksdale

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 23 of PAC tour takes us across the last major psychological barrier of the trip – the Mississippi River. After this point we are on the home leg. Distance-wise we are well over half way, having just over 700 miles left.

The trip logo on the side window of the SAG van

The trip logo on the side window of the SAG van

Great breakfast - sausage and eggs

Great breakfast - sausage and eggs

As we left Pine Bluff it was another warm and humid start to a day which meant that the temperature would get progressively more uncomfortable as the day wore on. Peak temp tends to occur around 4pm but on a hot day it can get very unpleasant by lunchtime. The scenery today was not particularly exciting for photography as it was mainly forested areas that we were riding through. It was however quite nice to ride through as the potential for seeing new wildlife was high and also the many different and varied sounds coming form the undergrowth often led the mind astray! These sounds included the huge variety of birdlife, many insects especially chicadas which are incredibly loud when they get going and of course the multitude of unidentified noises and rustlings that come from the undergrowth. At one point as we passed by a small creek I spotted what I thought at first was a beaver. I stopped turned around and went back for a closer look and it turned out to be an otter. Unfortunately however it swam off before we managed to take a photo.

Forest closing in on the road from both sides - most of today was like this.

Forest closing in on the road from both sides - most of today was like this.

The crossing of the Mississippi River and entrance into Mississippi  State did not occur until towards the end of the day (mile 107 out of 134).

Approaching the Mississippi River Bridge

Approaching the Mississippi River Bridge

The climb up to the bridge was just about the biggest climb of what was probably the flattest day so far.

On the bridge - an old steel rivetted one.

Mississippi River bridge - an old steel rivetted one.

Welcome to Mississippi - State No. 10

Welcome to Mississippi - State No. 10

Stats for the day:-

Mileage: 134

Climbing: 1500ft

Temps: High 80’s and humid

Day 22 – Arkadelphia to Pine Bluff

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 by Climberruss

Arkadelphia to Pine Bluff was our second full day in Arkansas. A shorter day today at only 91 miles and 2000ft of climbing.  This would be treated as a bit of a recovery ride by most people after the exertions of the Talimena Parkway. A by-product of the shorter day was a later breakfast which gave us an extra half hour in bed in the morning.

After our later breakfast we left Arkadelphia and were soon out of town into the countryside. The first way point of the day was crossing the Arkansas River – a major tributary of the Mississippi.

The Arkansas River

The Arkansas River

As we continued our route across Arkansas, we were now passing through  arable land growing mainly corn and soya beans. Due to the size of the fields, the most cost effective way of spreading fertilizer is crop dusting using planes. We got to see this in action as we passed one of the farms. The skill involved in this seat of the pants flying is superb.

Crop duster refueling and reloading before the next sortie

Crop duster refueling and reloading before the next sortie

Crop duster in action.

Crop duster in action.

As we continued through the day we crossed the Arkansas River Delta. At times the views were like primeval swamp.

Swamp-like Arkansas River Delta.

Swamp-like Arkansas River Delta.

Road closed? - are you sure??

Road closed? - are you sure??

Towards the end of the day the weather started to deteriorate somewhat and eventually it rained a little – our first rain since the start of the trip.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 91 miles

Climbing: 2000ft

Temp: topped out in the high 80’s

Day 21 – Queen Wilhelmina Lodge to Arkadelphia

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 21 – The final ten miles of the Talimena Parkway and then on to Arkadelphia, a distance of approx 101 miles with around 3400ft of climbing.

The first part of the day consisted of the last ten miles of the Parkway, basically a descent virtually all the way into Mena. Mena, a typical American small town was full of churches, many of which had “advertising” signs outside.

This is good to know - or is it??

This is good to know - or is it??

The first SAG came after 33.5 miles and was a welcome sight for me as I managed (stupidly) to leave after breakfast without filling my water bottles. By this time the lack of fluid was making itself felt and so a good drink to re-hydrate and as well as a filling of the bottles was required.

The first SAG stop of the day.

The first SAG stop of the day.

After the SAG we carried on through the Caddo Valley towards Arkadelphia. The tally of roadkill (which has been high throughout the trip) continued to increase all day. All that has changed as the trip has progressed are the species involved. In the north it was mainly deer and snakes. Down here it appears that the most stupid creatures on the planet are Armadillos. The sheer numbers of these that we have seen splattered (or rather exploded) in the last few days are amazing. Armadillos, just like in the advert are “crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside’ – when they are hit they curl up into a ball and on impact they explode – spewing entrails all over the road. Add in a couple of days of intense heat and humidity and the resulting mess – whilst appetising for the  Turkey Vultures is not very pleasant to ride through as the smell is disgusting. The only smell worse is that of the many skunks that have also met their fate under the wheels of cars and trucks.

As the day wore on the heat increased and by the time we finished it was into the low nineties. As we entered Arkadelphia, most people stopped either at Wendy’s (for a Frosty shake – vanilla is nice) or at McDonalds for a milkshake. Today I chose to stop and quench my thirst at Ronnies place. Gees, I even got to sit next to the guy….

Me sitting with Ronnie. (who is who??)

Me sitting with Ronnie. (who is who??)

Day 21 Map.

Day 21 Map.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 101 miles

Climbing: 3400ft

Temp; topped out low nineties but very humid

Wildlife / roadkill: Loads of armadillos, skunk, squirrels,a couple of snakes.

Day 20 – McAlester to Queen Wilhelmina Lodge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 29, 2009 by Climberruss

Our twentieth day sees us undertaking one of the key days on the trip. Today’s route from McAlester, Oklahoma to Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, Arkansas is a relatively short day at only 100 miles but has 7000ft of climbing – mostly concentrated in the last 40 miles as we travel along the Talimena Parkway, a scenic drive along a ridge of mountain range. Couple all of this climbing with the fact that we are now well and truly into the humidity of the south and you have the recipe for an epic day.

The day started out with a relaxed rollout in warm weather (already 75f at 7am!)

The Peloton rolling out from McAlester

The Peloton rolling out from McAlester

Lon Haldeman taking photos for their website

Lon Haldeman taking photos for their website

The crew of PAC tour have a good system which allows everybody to ride. Basically the crew splits in to A team and B team. The day A team crews, B team rides and vice versa. This means that the whole crew gets to ride every other day if they so chose.

The first exitement of the day came quite early on when we encountered a road closed sign. After some deliberation we carried on towards the roadworks. When we got there, they were replacing a bridge but the way was passable. so as not to cause too much disruption to the workers, we grouped together before walking through the road works. It was bone dry and the ground was like a dust bowl. After walking through we were all covered in a thin coating of red dust – we were glad we were not working there all day long in those temps!

Everybody grouped together before proceeding through the roadworks

Everybody grouped together before proceeding through the roadworks

As the day carried on, the road got more and more hilly as we headed towards the Talimena Parkway. The temperature also continued rising along with the humidity.

The road heading towards the mountains

The road heading towards the mountains

By mile 57 we had only climbed 2000ft. The remaining 5000ft of climbing would all occur in the next 40 miles as we tackled the Parkway. It is basically a scenic roadway which runs along the ridge of a small mountain range. It does however consist of a series of steep uphill and downhill sections all of which are between 5 and 13% gradient.

The start of the Talimina Parkway

The start of the Talimena Parkway

Virtually as soon as we started the Parkway it kicked up to the first big climb. A 3 or 4 mile climb at 10%

The first big rise on the Parkway

The first big rise on the Parkway

As we climbed up , the views over the surrounding forested area were superb – reminiscent of the Blue mountains in Australia as the humidity and the sap evaporating from the trees gave the haze a bluish tinge.

Superb views along the Parkway (note the road in the distance)

Superb views along the Parkway (note the road in the distance)

Of course after all good climbs comes a good descent and the Parkway was no exception. The first major descent was an absolute screamer and I increased my all time max speed by another 4 mph cracking the 55mph barrier – it was scary!!!

55.2 mph - my new all time max speed

55.2 mph - my new all time max speed

The Parkway - a downhill followed by an uphill - both steep

The Parkway - a downhill followed by an uphill - both steep

As the day wore on and we worked our way along the Parkway I actually broke the 50 mph barrier on 5  separate descents!

The climbs however were purgatory – especially in the heat and humidity.

Just before we arrived at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge (named after the Dutch Queen) we passed the Arkansas state border and thus entered our 8th state.

Arkansas state border (graffiti'd)

Arkansas state border (graffiti'd)

The Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is situated 10 miles short of the end of the Parkway and is right on top of one of the highest points. There has been a lodge on this site since 1895 and the current one is the third to occupy the space. The lodge itself is the best place we have stayed in so far on this trip and the views were gorgeous.

Queen Wilhelmina Lodge

Queen Wilhelmina Lodge

The view from the front of the Lodge

The view from the front of the Lodge

The red line - now well over halfway.

The red line - now well over halfway.

Chillin' in the shade after a long hard day.

Chillin' in the shade after a long hard day.

After a great day we were treated to a lovely sunset.

After a great day we were treated to a lovely sunset.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 101 miles

Climbing: 7000ft

Temp: Hot! 95f

Day 19 – Purcell to McAlester

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 26, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 19 sees us continuing through Oklahoma battling through endless rollers in the heat and humidity. Another 6.30am breakfast sees us rolling out of Purcell just after 7am. Although not a long day at 111 miles, starting at this time allows us to get most of the riding out of the way before the heat really kicks in (the hottest period of the day is from 2pm until 6pm).

Morning light on a poignant sculpture in some-ones garden

Morning light on a poignant sculpture in some-ones garden

As we rode out of Purcell we passed a house with a nice steel sculpture in the garden. These types of steel sculptures are usually used to adorn the gates to ranches but this one obviously served a different purpose. I guess the family lost a son in Iraq or Afganistan.

Passing through one of the many small towns on route we spotted this painted on the wall of a store:-

Proud to be American?

Proud to be American?

The only thing missing was a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”!!

As we continue through the bible belt we saw lots of churches which all seemed to have some kind of “advertising” outside. I liked this one:-

I'm on a highway to hell!!!!

I'm on a highway to hell!!!!

As on previous days, it got hotter as the day wore on, but today was particularly hot and when we arrived at our hotel in McAlester, the thermometer on the door of the trailer told the story:-

Our hottest dat yet - 103f in the shade!

Our hottest dat yet - 103f in the shade!

At the end of every day when we arrive at the motel there are a series of things to do, just like in the morning. It goes something like this:- arrive, park bike, get beer/soda, get room key, take bag to room ,change shoes, back to bike to carry out any maintenance required followed by washing the bike down ready for the next day. Once the bike is dry (which dosen’t take long in this heat) take it back to your room. Then you can shower, chill out, go eat etc.

Today, when checking my bike over I discovered that my seat had broken. On closer inspection the rail had actually fractured. As it happens I have ordered a new seat to allow a change in case I get saddle sores on my back side. Now I will need to use it anyway. In the meantime PAC tour caries a selection of spare seats so I put one on for 3 days until mine arrives (drop shipped to a future motel).

My seat complete with broken rail.

My seat complete with broken rail.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 112 miles (now over 2500 total!)

Climbing: 4400ft

Temp; Max 103f

Day 18 – Weatherford to Purcell

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 26, 2009 by Climberruss

Our first full day in Oklahoma sees us travel from Weatherford to Purcell, a distance of approx 112 miles. For the first part of the day we continued along Route 66 , passing the original Lucille’s (our diner last night was at a copy carrying the same name).

The Original Lucille's Roadhouse

The Original Lucille's Roadhouse

Not long after leaving Route 66 we passed a buffalo ranch. These creatures are truly awesome with their big heads and thick manes, however we didn’t get close enough to get real good pictures.

Buffalo herd in the distance

Buffalo herd in the distance

As the day progressed it got hotter and hotter and the humidity also increased making it quite sticky. The terrain also changed as we moved into the repettitive short hills or “rollers” as the locals call them. There is a technique for riding these. First select a high gear on the descent and then at the right time push this gear to power you up and over the next rise. It works but after repeating the process many times in the heat it became very tiring.

The start of the "rollers"

The start of the "rollers"

By the time we finished for the day the temperature was well up into the nineties and with the humidity this was very draining. Fortunately we had a saviour in the form of the secret Red Cross Cooler kept in the lunch van.

The "secret red cross cooler" - containing pooled beer supplies!!

The "secret red cross cooler" - containing pooled beer supplies!!

The importance of the secret cooler became even more obvious when we stopped in our first dry counties. Yes, in this day and age there are still some counties in this part of the world where you cannot buy beer. If you don’t have your own supply you go without!

In restaurants for evening meals you usually get a choice of various sodas/pops, iced tea, milk or coffee. I usually had milk as its high protein content is good for recovery.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 112 miles

Climbing: 4000ft

Temps: Mid nineties again and humid.