Yes, we entered Mississippi today, only two more states to go and 7 more riding days. Wow, hardly seems like 3+ weeks ago that we all sat on our bikes in the parking lot in Troutdale, OR, no one willing to make the first move to roll out and get this Tour underway.
The parking lot was still on the dark side as breakfast was at 6:00 and ride out at 6:30. Long day today, 134 miles with temps surely to be in the 100's and the humidity nearly the same. The breakfast benches were configured just a little differently today, they reminded me of a pre-school line-up of sorts.
Steve, from the Southern Transcon will be riding with us today and then will drive the 5 hours home to KY from Clarksdale, MS.
Sunrise as we left Pine Bluff
Today was particularly flat, topographically, but actually quite rich in experience. Road kill was plentiful: hog (not sure if it was domestic or wild), many snakes, raccoons, and, of course, armadillos. I was struck today with how frequently we cyclists smell death. Those riding in cars might smell a skunk, but the smell of death is not a part of a car passenger's experience, especially not these days when windows are sealed tight for climate control.
Climate control was the mo for all of us today. It's a tricky thing to balance fluids, electrolytes, and fuel on rides of >100 miles in high heat and humidity. Thanks goodness for Hammer Products designed to fuel and hydrate endurance athletes. I even broke out my Ice Collar today, an extra large men's soccer tube sock, which I filled with ice and tied around my neck. A fully stuffed sock would be totally melted in 10 miles. I'm sporting it at the "Welcome to Mississippi" sign.
The crop dusters were doing aerial acrobatics for us, I'm sure of it. As they'd disgorge their belly of airborne pesticide all I could think of was Agent Orange. I recommitted to buying organic and local.
We crossed the Arkansas River early in the day, a warm-up to the Mississippi River crossing at the end of our day.
Crossing Tom Sawyer's River at Helena, AR was anticlimactic this time around. In the 2006 Transcon we crossed about 7:00 a.m. with the sun rising over the river and no hint of traffic. And, I was flooded with a river of emotions anchored in finally being east of the Mississippi, where home had been (and still is) for me, all my life.
This year we crossed about 1:30 p.m. in the heat of the day and the heat of truck traffic. The nearly 1 mile long bridge has only a 12" shoulder which makes sharing the lane with trucks and cars anything but a relaxing photo opportunity. You just want to get off the bridge safely.
Churches are also plentiful in these parts, most quite humble in structure. This one made me chuckle.
St. Matthew Gum Bottom Baptist Church. I don't know what Gum Bottom means to them, but to me it meant cleaning the under side of pews of gum bored young'ns had stuck there for posterity.
Click on the pix to zoom in.