June 16th - Into Arkansas

Our trip has been maintaining a blog at sc2scqt.wordpress.com. Each of us is assigned to write a journal entry once a month (ish) and the 16th was my day. Without further ado, here's the cross-posted journal entry. Sorry about the formatting...

Today held a laundry list of accomplishments. It’s the longest day so far – at 95 miles, it beat out our prior record holder by 7 miles. We crossed another state line into Arkansas, our 5th state so far (we cross 13 in all). We stayed a really funky canoe outfitter instead of a church. And we crossed the 1000 mile mark. We have ridden 1000 miles. On bikes. From South Carolina to Arkansas.  It’s a little crazy.

Since today’s ride was 95 miles, we started early. Wake-up was 4:30, well before dawn. We packed quickly and headed outside for air, brake, chain checks and then breakfast. I enjoyed watching the sky gradually illuminate.

Dawn in Clarksdale
Dawn in Clarksdale
The van and trailer glowing before dawn
The van and trailer glowing before dawn

Our route meeting was at 5:40 in the morning – with bugs coming out, all of us were eager to hit the road. We briefly discussed the route, and Robin said that the weather would be clear and the traffic light.

Beginning to gather for the morning route meeting. The outfitting company painted their bus (background) with all sorts of cute slogans.

Groups started to head out around 6:00 in the morning, while the sun was still behind clouds. Like yesterday, the root was fairly flat and covered lots of farmland. The first 40 miles went by in a blink, and we were in Arkansas before I knew it.

Giving our 5th state a warm welcome.
Giving our 5th state a warm welcome.

Now, I grew up in the suburbs, around 15 miles from Boston, on what I thought was a large 1/4 acre plot. In Newton, MA, there aren’t tractors on the road or semi trucks carrying enormous metal tubes or cropdusting planes. So I was a little surprised when, not 10 minutes after we came into Arkansas, a tractor crawled into the highway bridge to return to Mississippi. If nothing else, it’s nice to not be the slowest thing on the road.

A tractor with some fiddely thing attached driving towards the Mississippi at about 15 miles per hour.

Most of our route went through small towns and empty farmland. The scenery was gorgeous and an abrupt change from the Appalachian mountains we had been crossing through.

Cruising towards Stuttgart on a wonderfully wide shoulder.

When we ride more than 90 miles in a day or the thermometer breaks 90°, the leaders arrange for two lunches. Or first lunch was at mile 39, right outside of a gas station. Someone asked really nicely, and the manager offered to let us fill all of our Camelback’s with ice. If you’ve ever exercised in the heat, you probably know the feeling of cold water hitting your core and magically granting a second wind.

Second lunch was about 30 miles later, at mile 74. We all refilled our Camelback’s. By some fortunate twist of fate, the insurance phone we stopped in front of offered us use of their ice machine. In 93 degree weather, ice can make or break a ride.

Resting in the shade at second lunch, 75 miles into the 95 mile ride.

Just after lunch, construction forced us to detour from route 79 for a few miles. Crews were building a new bride to cross the White River. Said detour brought us through a pristine nature preserve full of egrets and swampland.

The wind started to pick up in the afternoon, and around 2:00, we faced blustery on-again, off-again headwinds. The wind was tough to bike through but kept us cool. Have you heard the expression “it’s so hot you could cook an egg on the sidewalk”? That’s how the pavement felt today.

A crop dusting plant going about his business. The pilot made wife sweeping turns barely 200 feet up.

Our host today, the Episcopal Church of Stuttgart, was everything we could have hoped for. They set up snacks as we arrived, and about 20 members of the church joined us for dinner. I think everyone enjoyed chatting with the locals, many of whom have lived here their whole lives. One was an industrial engineer, another told us about local companies. The pastor had already retired twice (he used to be a state trooper) and insisted that working with the church was the easiest job yet.