Monday, September 25, 2006

Day 16 Paul's Valley, OK-->Mena, AR

Departure: 7:35 a.m.
Arrival: 3:50 p.m.
105 miles
3,500’ climbing
Departure Temp: 51
Arrival Temp: 81

Everyone had read the route card for today and those who had ridden the route before were freely sharing their experiences of the endless steep grades hill after hill. Most were wondering if they had what it would take to get to Mena. I had made a decision days before that I was not going to ride those 50 miles with the 13-15% grade, that I would SAG through that section. Then, last night Lon suggested I ride the valley route (Rt. 63) that was virtually flat (3,500’ of climbing vs the 7,250 along the top of the ridge). That sounded like a winner so I recruited Dana M., one of the other recumbent riders, to join me. We went ‘off SAG’ after the 2nd rest stop at mile 51.5.

Our ride was a thoroughly enjoyable one, in some ways one of the best. The weather was perfect—blue skies (again); mid-upper 70’s; good road surface; enough hills to make it interesting but not so many as to do us in; and minimal traffic. Those conditions afforded us the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Ozarks that surrounded us the entire route and the bucolic pastures with cows contentedly grazing instead of being penned in concentrated feed lots. Dana and I were good company for one another; acknowledged our entry into a new state with a picture at the Arkansas border (Did you know that Arkansas is the Nature State?); and continued to note that the most frequent road markings in these rural areas are for cemeteries and “school bus stop ahead.” I’d love to know how far these kids have to come just to get TO the bus stop and then how far they have to go to get to school.

Since we would be passing through several little towns on the way to Mena we expected to find some mini-marts, but alas there was only one gas station the entire 60 miles. We made it our lunch stop at mile 77. Susan Notorangelo had provided us with some tuna/cracker snacks and we had cached a small stash from the van just before we went ‘off SAG.’ Good thing because that gas station featured only hunting knives, ammo, bandanas, and huge cans of baked beans. I asked a guy on a motorcycle who was gassing up what the need was for such knives. He said, “We all carry knives or guns. You know, if you’re baling hay you need to cut some rope.” So way out of my life experience, for sure

The folks I talked with who came in before I went to dinner reported it was a great day on the ridge. I haven’t talked with the folks who came in toward the end of the group.

Tomorrow is our shortest day yet—89 miles—to Arkadelphia.

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