Today was basically a straight shot down US 65 from Lake Village, AR to Tallulah, LA., just about 70 miles. The day started out pretty well.The skies were overcast (that's a GOOD thing), and we pretty quickly established an effective pace line rotation with each of us (including Fred, who was feeling stronger today) spending a minute at the front before rolling off. In spite of the steady headwind, we held a pace of around 15.5 into the little town of Lake Providence, halfway into our 70 mile ride. The first place we found that looked promising was "The Dock" -- an interesting combination of Subway franchise and Louisiana seafood restaurant. As it was only 9:30, the cook had not yet arrived, so Fred and I both had subs and Ray snacked on some of his stash of raisins, bars, and what-have-you. I must say that the Subway veggies and toppings were clearly a cut above what I have previously encountered at other Subway shops. For example, there were baby spinach leaves instead of just shredded iceberg lettuce. In addition, there was a lakeside deck that we enjoyed while eating, a clean bathroom, and a drinking water spigot that made it easy to refill my Camelback. Oh, and Fred bought a little bottle of hot sauce manufactured by the Panola Pepper Company, which we passed earlier in the ride. (He used it on his sub this morning, and tonight on his fried rice, declaring it to be "addictive".) I had tried to interest the guys in a tour of the facility (Visitors Welcome!) but neither Fred nor Ray seemed interested.
On the road again, I questioned the wisdom of my choice of a foot-long sub, and it may be one of the factors that made the last part of the ride difficult for me. By 50 miles the sun had come out and our enthusiasm started to wane. We were riding a relatively busy highway, arrow straight, with nasty rumble bumps along the left edge of the shoulder, under a blistering sun, with no shade in sight for miles at a time. Whenever it was necessary to leave the shoulder to avoid obstacles of some sort, we had to roll over the bone-jarring bumps. Anyway, less than 9 miles from our destination, we were all desperate for a stop and searched left and right sides of the road for a patch of shade. Ray, who has proven repeatedly to be the eagle-eye of the group, spotted a cluster of oak trees maybe 25 yards off the road beside some cultivated farmland. We rested there a bit, laughing hysterically at one another's not-really-all-that-funny comments, proving that our brains had become addled by the heat. We basically limped in from there at 12 -13 mph, with no attempt to resume our pace line.
After some time to shower and recover, we got together and talked over our past three rides in light of the long rides to come in a few days. One way to handle long rides is simply to slow down a bit, but that would put us on the road into the afternoon and the hottest part of the day. On the other hand, if we push the pace, we risk one or more of us becoming exhausted. All in all, we figured the best bet would be to revisit the itinerary to see if there might be a way to get the rides down to the 60 - 80 miles that we have been doing. Turns out that it is possible to eliminate both of the upcoming centuries. We are now going to do a direct route from Natchez to St. Francisville instead of riding the long and twisting, mostly shadeless, Mississippi River Trail route that we had originally planned. On our rest day in St. Francisville. we may take the ferry across to New Roads and do a casual ride up the MRT a little way to see what there is to see in that section of the trail. From St. Francisville our new itinerary is:
Sunday, June 1: Poplarville, MS
Monday, June 2: Ocean Springs, MS
Tuesday, June 3: Dauphin Island, AL
Wednesday, June 4: Pensacola, FL
Thursday, June 5: REST DAY
We will take another look at the remaining segments, which include one 95 and one 100 mile day, to see if we can do something about them as well, though that may not be possible.
Tonight there was a very dramatic thunderstorm here, but it has stopped raining for the moment. The chance of rain is very high for tomorrow, so it will be a miracle it we make it through the day without getting wet. That's not really too much of a concern as long as the rain is not in the form of lightning storms. If we encounter anything like that, we will just take cover as quickly as possible and wait it out. It may take all day to get to Natchez but we shouldn't have the heat or sunshine to deal with!