Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9, 2012: PAP Day 15, Morrilton to Little Rock, AR

After my long nap yesterday afternoon and a full night's sleep, I felt pretty good this morning. Last night we came up with a change from our original plan for today. Fred had decided that he wanted to drop his bike at a bike shop to get it packed and shipped. One of the candidate shops was along our route, just a couple of miles from The Big Dam Bridge, a must-do for me since our first visit to Little Rock in 2008. There were no shops convenient to our hotel near the airport, so we decided to finish the tour at the bike shop after riding across the Big Dam Bridge. Instead of me riding the additional 10 miles to the hotel, we would just catch a cab from the bike shop. In the end, that is exactly what we did. The cab ride was a high-speed, harem-scarem adventure that seemed far more risky than the 970 miles we had ridden on our bikes!

An hour or so after we started today's ride, I had a flat -- the first and only "mechanical" on the entire tour. I had picked up a one inch nail, so I can't really fault the tires. They have rolled over a huge amount of debris, gravel, glass and more without complaint.

North Little Rock: We like bikes, but not teens.

The other big event of the day, of course, was The Big Dam Bridge, which is a bike/pedestrian trail built on top of a dam, hydro-electric power generator, and shipping lock. The trail is almost 5,000 feet long and most definitely worth a visit if you are biking in the area. Here are some photos:

Fred and I agree that the Plod Across the Plains was a most worthwhile endeavor. It was, as expected, a challenging ride, though we were really quite fortunate with conditions. Yes we had headwinds most every day, but they were not as strong as they easily might have been. In addition, we did not have any super-hot days. In fact, I don't think the air temperature made it above the high 80's or low 90's. We had only one rain day, and thankfully it happened to be one of our short days. The big fear, tornadoes, never appeared, though we saw that people living here are keenly aware of the possibility. It is much more of a presence in their lives than are hurricanes for Floridians. Our conversations with the tornado survivors in Greensburg won't be forgotten any time soon.

End-point of the Plod Across the Plains
We learned first-hand that Oklahoma has an eastern section that is far from flat, and western Arkansas has plenty of ups and downs as well. We did MUCH more climbing than we expected. As on our other trips, we had some wonderful encounters with local residents. We got a first hand look at the mind-boggling scale of the food production in our nation's central plains and at the people who scratch out a hard existence to assure that we have food to eat. There is more here than farming, though. The region is being resurrected by a new wave of oil production and by a vibrant new industry related to wind farms.

In terms of our bike touring, we decided that rolling rest days are nonsense. At least for guys our age, a day off the bike at least once each week is a necessity. Finally, once again, I was reminded that foul weather can occur even when it seems very unlikely, so the packing list should always include clothes to keep you warm and dry on the bike.

The stats for the entire tour go something like this:

Count:15 consecutive days of riding
Distance:967.36 mi
Time:77:27:52 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:18,620 ft
Avg Speed:12.5 mph

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