[lang_all]A North American Bicycle Journey
I pedalled my way from Key West, Florida to Tok, Alaska. What I wrote in my journal is what I was thinking and feeling at the time, it’s just a reflection of who I am, my own personal opinions, my own perceptions, and written exactly as I saw the world around me at that particular moment.
Why I did it? That is what most people ask, and you know, it is not a simple answer. One of my thoughts was to really do something with my life and truly live. Experience the world around me before I shuffle off the mortal coil.
The story continues from:
Alabama – Day 18 to day 22 (April 1999)
167 to 84
to 10 into Greenville
to CR 7
to Hwy 80 into Selma
CR 7 South to CR 16
to 219 north through Talladega National Forest
to 82 West to Tuscaloosa
to CR 26 into Mississippi
DAY 18 continued… – April 1, 1999
At the state line, 79 turns into 167. The shoulder appears and disappears several times. When there is a shoulder, there are grooves in it making it a very bumpy ride. A lot of people are now waving and smiling at me. What a change from Florida!
Arriving in Enterprise, I check into the Boll Weevil Motel, $19.95 +tax…. can’t beat that! I’ve begun to notice a pattern developing with these cheap motels: they are usually owned by people from India, they make you pay a deposit before handing you the TV remote, the Indians have broken English and have a very difficult time explaining directions, they all use “Sweet Bouquet” soap, and I have to kill at least 2 bugs before going to sleep.
I found my room and called Canon to arrange repair. Got everything set up for overnight delivery and the quickest service time would be 3 days. After hanging up, I played with the camera and discovered a way to get it into some of the other modes. I’ve decided not to return it and just use it until the switch breaks completely. The estimated repair cost quoted to me over the phone was $125.00 + shipping. I called back and told them I’ll wait on the repair.
Now my curiosity has been piqued by this “Boll Weevil Monument” that is supposed to be in this town, so I rode to see what that was all about. It’s even marked on my Rand McNally road atlas map. After reading the sign and taking some pictures, I headed to the post office to mail my previous journal entries.
While riding back through downtown I stopped at a small drugstore. Inside there were two people sitting at one of the two small round tables eating ice cream cones. I asked the lady at the register about postcards and she pointed to a rack in the corner filled with postcards of the Boll Weevil Monument. After purchasing the postcards, we got into a discussion about the monument. This is also when I met the two sitting down eating their ice cream. Al is about 30 and the white-haired lady introduced herself as “Grandma.” The lady at the register was Jo. Well, Grandma went into detail and explained about how the tiny little Boll Weevil would get inside the boll of the cotton plant and prevent it from blooming. This forced the farmers to diversify after a majority of the cotton plants were ruined. In 1917 peanuts became the major crop and on December 11, 1919 the Boll Weevil Monument was unveiled in Enterprise, Alabama.
Upon finding out about my bike ride, Al said, “We all should do something like that.” Al enjoys the simple life and has acquired the nickname “Amish Al” because of his interest in the Amish. Jo talked about how her husband loves to cycle but has had some problems with his hip replacement. She said it is difficult to cycle around because of the roads and the dogs on the country roads. It was nice to talk to these people and Enterprise was a nice town to visit.
Today (in Alabama) – 29.08 miles
Total – 894 miles
DAY 19 – April 2, 1999
Alright now, what’s up with these weird dreams!? This time I was bikin’ in heavy snow and had to start pushing my bike and trailer through the snow.
Yesterday I entered Central Standard Time so I got to sleep an hour later before leaving at 8 am CST. It was a hot, humid, and hilly ride. The high was 85 and I had to work hard to keep myself motivated…..I just felt lazy today.
The roads sucked as usual with no shoulders as I took 84 to 189, to 331, to 10, and into Greenville, Alabama. Since entering Alabama I’ve had lots of people waving at me, and this morning wasn’t any different :-)
I rode into Elba and took a picture of the Veterans War Memorial. Then I stopped at the post office and mailed the postcards I bought in Enterprise. After Elba, I followed 189 to 331 into Brantley. I stopped at a convenience store in Brantley and felt very uncomfortable there. At the register I was paying for a couple of Gatorades and the lady wouldn’t even look at me. She never said a word to me even though I said “Hello.” She continued to ignore me and was looking at the next lady in line as she handed me my change. I said “thank you” and still not even a glance in my direction… What a #?@!&!!!
Leaving Brantley, which by the way is the home of Chuck Person (I think he’s some basketball dude) if anyone cares. I followed 331 N and stopped a few miles out of town. I was getting something out of my trailer when someone threw a beer at me. It hit the pavement a couple of feet before me and sprayed me with beer. I didn’t even flinch, just kept unzipping the bag in my trailer and ignored it. That way they wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing it got me. After Bentley, the day just kept getting more negative. All I could think about was getting out of the south and how much I hate those beer drinkin’, overweight, pick-up truck (with a confederate flag on it) drivin’, uneducated, white trash rednecks!!! I was sooo glad to get to Greenville and end this day.
Checking in to the Econolodge, the very slow talking, uneducated soundin’, white-haired lady with the lost look in her eyes(like no ones home), insisted I fill out the registration completely. Even the year, make, and model, of my bike! So I put 98 Specialized Stumpjumper. Then she asked for a tag number! I said “It’s a bicycle, it has no tags!” “Oh, and they let you ride on the roads?” Geeeez… I can’t believe the ignorance of some people. After showering, I walked to Subway to eat and then reassessed my route before going to sleep. I’ve Gotta get out of the south!
Today – 71.23 miles
Total – 965 miles
DAY 20 – April 3, 1999
I left the Econolodge at 7:15am after eating the usual Oatmeal for breakfast. Of course I used warm tap water since heating water on the stove seems like a waste of time just to stuff some nutrients in me. Heading over I65, I stopped at a convenience store to fill my two water bottles with Gatorade and bought two extra to put in my trailer. I’ve always drank a lot of fluids but can never drink just water. Since I started riding I’ve been drinking at least six 24oz. Gatorade’s/PowerAde’s a day.
After leaving the store I continued straight and there were very few cars on the road. I got on County Road 7 and encountered a lot of friendly people smiling and waving. At one point, County Road 7 ends and I had to turn left, then right, to get back onto County Road 7. It was at this stop sign where I met a very nice older lady. She stopped her car and began asking all kinds of questions about where I was going and why etc… She thought it was wonderful and was very encouraging.
Continuing on 7 I passed a farmer and his wife on their front porch. They said good morning and waved, I said good morning and waved back while avoiding the chickens and roosters that wandered out to the road. But then I hit 80 and all the nice, pleasant, riding ends.
I can’t understand why they build a 4 lane divided highway and not put a shoulder there? But yet, they build 4 lane divided Interstates and put a nice wide shoulder on them. And of course, you can’t ride a bike on the Interstate but you can on a highway with a 65mph speed limit and no shoulder! I’ll never understand why there are so many backwards things in this world.
Anyway, I rode on 80 and had to spend more time concentrating on traffic than enjoying the ride. After reaching Selma, I was stopped by a guy from a local sports paper. He said they had just done a story about cycling on the roads and wanted to do a story about my trip. He asked a few questions and took my picture. Then I continued on towards Paul M. Grist State Park by following 22E. I should have followed County Road 37. Some jerk in one of those big white box trucks almost plowed me down. I’m really trying not to let things like that bother me. I just keep telling myself that if I get upset then the other guy has succeeded. So now I try to smile and wave at everyone that honks at me, even if they are trying to run me off the road.
Turning left on County Road 16 the hills got much tougher but at least there was no traffic. After coasting down one hill, I started up the next hill and started feeling dehydrated and fatigued. This is the first time since the trip started that I had to make myself stop pedaling and rest because I was feeling exhausted. The temp was only 88 but it was very humid.
Making it to the state park, I was told just to find a spot anywhere in the primitive camping area and I could pay later. I set up my tent then headed to the office building/bathhouse on my bike to pay and shower. $11.00 for camping. Sure beats the motel rooms!
After showering, I fixed two packages of those “Oodles of Noodles”. They aren’t the healthiest, but they are cheap! This is when I encountered my first mosquitoes. I only noticed two and I killed them before they bit me. I was all alone in the park. The ranger said that the threat of rain kept people from coming to the park. My tent was set up at the edge of the woods and as I tried to sleep the sounds seemed unusually loud. I could hear the very distinct sounds of crickets, frogs, birds, and other creatures traipsing through the woods. I just kind of blurred all the sounds together and let them carry me off to sleep.
Today – 70.26 miles
Total – 1035 miles
DAY 21 – April 4, 1999
OK, now I’m wondering if I really want everyone reading my journal. After another weird dream, someone is going to try to psychoanalyze me :-) This time I was trying to use one of those gyrocopters. You know, like what that crazy guy had on the movie “The Road Warrior.” Well it never did get off the ground but could’ve been an easy way to do this trip huh??? :-)
I got up at 7:15am, and since I never was a morning person, I moved very slooooow. By 9:30am I was riding the mostly uphill 1.5 miles out of the park. Before I even got out of the park I was starting to sweat. Normally, I don’t like to work very hard the first hour of riding. I followed County Road 7 south, then west on County Road 16. I have begun to realize that the county roads are indeed the best to ride on, little traffic and friendly people.
Then I headed north on 219 and noticed more of those black bungee straps and tire treads on the side of the road. These indicate roads traveled by semi trucks. But since it’s Easter Sunday there is hardly any traffic at all. When I reached Centerville (45 miles) at 12:30, I was ready to quit. I had not eaten since the oatmeal and I was tired. But I really wanted to make the most of the decreased traffic on Easter, so I followed 82 west and arrived in Tuscaloosa at 4pm. The sign said “Lake Lurleen State Park 17 miles”, and I didn’t feel like pushing myself anymore. Oh, and you know with a name like “Lurleen” ya gots ta be in da south :-)
I checked into the Motel 6 and got cleaned up. Wearing my only casual clothes, brown shorts, green shirt with the Kokapelli Dude on it, and sandals, I headed to the Subway next door. While speaking to a guy with a tongue ring and black eye, he told me that Mississippi is a bad state to ride in. I talked to all the people working there while I ate my roasted chicken breast sandwich. The white girl was intrigued and asked some questions about my ride. The black girl was very concerned about my safety and the dude with the black eye seemed to think it was pretty cool. After eating I went back to the motel and watched the weather.
Today – 75.81 miles
Total – 1111 miles
DAY 22 – April 5, 1999
I forced myself up early this morning and was out on the road at 6:45am to beat the traffic through town. No problems and very little traffic! I stopped at a post office in Northport, a suburb of Tuscaloosa, and mailed my journal entries. Then I got some cash at an ATM…Wow! I’m going through it quick! I really have to stick with tent camping!
Riding 82 west there was a shoulder, but not one you could ride on. It was rough with gravel embedded in the tar. The highway kept changing back and forth from a 4 lane divided highway to a 2-lane highway. Then, after 8:00am the traffic and big trucks started getting worse. And I was getting tired of the hills, up and down….Well, the down’s weren’t so bad :-) I soon left 82 and got on 86 which is not a major highway so the traffic was much less. There were still logging trucks and no shoulder. I continued up and down hills and it was mostly wooded and swampy areas. The sign for the town of Carrolton read “Home Of The Face In The Window.” What’s all that about? People staring out their windows in this town, or are there just a lot of peeping Tom’s?
I stopped at a convenience store and got one of the pre-packaged turkey sub’s. I began eating and didn’t really taste the first bite as I began to devour the sub. But the second bite tasted funny, and the third was nasty! I peeled the meat out to reveal turkey meat with a greenish tinge to it…..eeewwwwww!! That was sick! I just threw the meat away and ate the bread. Sitting by my bike I hear a black guy, that just pulled up in a truck, yelling “Git yo mess outta my sh!t”, “Girl, git yo mess outta my sh!t!”…He kept yelling louder and I pretended not to notice. I hopped on my bike as the “girl” got out of the truck and began walking while the guy was still yelling something.
Heading out of town, I got on County Road 26. Wow…All alone on a desolate road. It was very quiet and I even rode up close to deer before they noticed me and ran off. I stopped for one of the “self butt massages” I give myself when there’s no traffic to see me rubbing my butt. A good reason to travel with someone of the opposite sex….Trade butt massages :-)
There was a tail wind, which helped on these hilly roads. Coasting down one I achieved 38mph! That was smooth and no wobbling since there were no crosswinds. County Road 26 ended at the Mississippi border. Turning left would take me on 14 back to Alabama and turning right was 69 into Mississippi. I finished Alabama at 56.5 miles and headed across the street to a convenience store…..
Day 22 continued in Mississippi…
Mississippi – Day 22 to day 26 (April 1999)
69 to 45
through Columbus to Aberdeen
8 West through a bunch of tiny towns to Calhoun City
made a mistake in taking some county roads not on the map after Big Creek. Got lost but eventually found my way to Coffeeville on 330 West.
to 51 North
to 278 (near Batesville)
to 316 through Jonestown (not recommended!)
to 61 North and then 49 west into Arkansas
DAY 22 Continued…Mississippi – April 5, 1999
After refueling with Gatorade, I rode to Lake Lowndes State Park. This is an exceptionally nice park. With indoor basketball courts, baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts, and even a Frisbee golf course. Finding the primitive camping area, it hit me…BAM…Oh geez! where’s the bathroom?? Setting my bike against a tree I ran to the bathhouse. That dang turkey gave me the runs! After setting up camp I showered and went to pay the $7.00 fee. Barbara was exceptionally nice and we talked some about my trip and camping along the way. She gave me an older issue of a very thick and heavy book called “Trailer Life.” Then as she was looking for a state map….BAM! It hits me again and I run for the bathroom down the hall. This really sux!
Back at my campsite I fixed black beans and rice on my camp stove. My back still had a dull ache and if I used bad body mechanics the pain got a bit worse. I did some massage and self-mobilizations then covered the area with “Li’s Muscle Balm” (like Tiger Balm.) Then I ripped the pages out of the “Trailer Life” book that corresponded to the states I’ll be in. It lists every campground in the US and parts of Canada.
Afterwards I headed back to the main office/sports complex to use the pay phone. As I was getting ready to bike out, I encountered a small group of black guys that just finished playing basketball inside. One guy made a comment about my bike so I stopped to engage in a bit of conversation. I didn’t know if any of them really believed what I was doing but one guy did say “When you get to Alaska, put a shout out for the homey’s back here.”
It was a nice evening by the lake; I was the only one camping out here on a Monday night. There are very few bugs this time of year, which makes it that much better. I washed my clothes out earlier in the shower and they were already dry from the wind that got stronger as the night progressed.
As I was laying on my sleeping bag, I thought I heard something making a scratching, digging, sound inside or under the sleeping bag. I looked inside and all around but found nothing. Figuring it must have been outside the tent, I got inside the sleeping bag to go to sleep. Then, WHA..SHI…..BAM! I was out of that bag! I had never moved so fast. I had felt something beginning to crawl on my left side. This time I found the little guy. It was one of those big brown bugs that can never fly very well.
The winds got very strong as they roared through the trees. Then there was very loud thunder and lightning with heavy rain, as I went to sleep… hoping the lightening wouldn’t be striking anywhere near me.
Today – 69.77 miles
Total – 1181 miles
DAY 23 – April 6, 1999
OK now as I’ve said before this is my unedited journal entries which includes my thoughts, dreams and my perceptions of the world around me.
So, with that said here is my latest crazy dream. In this dream I met someone in a town I was cycling through. She said her name was Amy Durandt and she was a Physical Therapist also. Now I do not know anyone by that name and have never heard of anyone by that name. All I can imagine is that the name was buried in my subconscious from reading somewhere or hearing someone mention the name. The funny thing is that she said that she was receiving those e-mail healthcare newsletters I was sending out and was shocked that she ran into me. She had dark hair, wore black clothes.
Last night the winds got really strong and I could hear it roaring through the trees around the lake. The gusts moved through them sounding like a plane blasting it’s way through the forest. Then the lightning and loud thunder followed. All I could think about was whether or not lightning would strike aluminum tent poles :) But I was soon put to sleep by the heavy rains that followed.
Waking up this morning I noticed just a bit of poison ivy on my right arm. I waited as long as possible to let the morning sun dry off my tent, then I finished drying it off the best I could myself as it started getting late in the morning. I left the park and headed to town in search of the local bike shop. Taking 69 north into Columbus, I found “The Hole Shot” bike shop just a few blocks off 69 behind the Subway. Deciding my butt has been a bit too sore lately I purchased some “Chamios Butt’r” and I also got some more chain lube, and a pair of bike socks. Originally I had on my packing list to include 2 pair but I only brought one with me. I also looked at what they had for rear racks and panniers and the guy recommended a rack that they do not have, “Bruce Gordon Tubular Cro-Moly” racks. The extra storage space the panniers will add I’ve decided will be a necessity with the amount of food and water I’m consuming.
Leaving the bike shop, I got back on 69 and headed into downtown looking for 45 north. Somehow I passed it as I was checking out the old historic looking downtown area. As I approached the edge of downtown I noticed the Bourbon Street Cafe’ and decided since it was already almost noon, I would indulge in a nice lunch. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and talked to the waitress a bit about the town. As it turns out she told me her ex-boyfriend would want to talk to me and said he worked at the bike shop. I told her I just met him and she said, “wow, small world huh.” I thought the town was a neat little town but she wasn’t too impressed with it and had thought about leaving to a larger city.
Upon leaving, she directed me back to 45N and I hopped on my bike to leave. While making a U-turn in the street… WHAP.. my bike slides out from under me and crashes to the pavement. Of course I was able to very smoothly and gracefully jump off the bike and did not fall myself :) Of course I still felt like a dork as a car started honking at me before I could get my bike back up. Inspecting my front tire I realized it blew. I headed to the sidewalk and proceeded with my tire repair. Taking the tube out I noticed it had a four inch split on the inside part of the tube. Geeez what a bummer, I just bought this “thorn resistant” tube in Key Largo. Must have been a weak spot along the seam where the split is. I put in the one spare I had with me, pumped it up and got on the road again. It really didn’t bother me I had been feeling exceptionally good today and was just very excited to be riding.
There were some headwinds but they weren’t very bad, I just pedaled north and began singing my dorky songs with my dorky made up lyrics. The riding felt great and for some reason I was on an exceptional high today. And then 2 young high school age girls drove by in a convertible silver Miata and started honking and waving as they drove by. Folks either seem to be pleasant and friendly to a stranger on a bicycle or they are hateful. There seems to be no in between.
I got in to downtown Aberdeen and went directly to the Post Office. The gloves that were sent to me were there waiting. Then I set out to look for a bike shop since I now longer had a spare tube. Unable to find a bike shop, I noticed a couple of bikes in the window of a hardware store. I went inside and a tall robust man in his fifties greeted me. He introduced himself as Walter Lann as he shook my hand. He asked if he could help, and was able to get the tube that I needed. Of course they only had Schrader valve tubes and he’d never heard of Presta valves. But, anticipating tube problems like this, I drilled my rims to accommodate Schrader valves… thanks to some advice in the rec.bicycles.rides newsgroup J
Walter asked where I was headed and took a sincere interest in me and my trip. We talked quite a bit and he called the Chamber of Commerce to see if they had a state map and camping information for me. When I pulled out money to pay for the tube he said, “You just keep it. I know you’re not poor, but this is a gift.” Come to find out, I was in Lann Hardware Store and Walter was the owner.
I went to the Chamber of Commerce and got a map and directions to the campground for tent camping. It was on the river and a nice quiet place. I met the husband and wife that live out there and care for the property. I paid $4.00 for camping and we talked about the town. He said he’s not prejudiced, but they do have a lot of problems with many of the Blacks in town. He also told me I might see some lovers that come out there in the evening. “They’re both married, but to different people.”
Setting up my tent on the “point” by the river, I watched a tugboat go by. One of those para-sailer things also flew overhead. Then I went in the bathroom, locked the door, and bathed myself standing in front of the sink because they had no showers. After that, I fixed my last package of “Oodles of Noodles” and added lots of TVP (texturized vegetable protein.) Not only adds lots of proteins but lots of vitamins too :-)
I took my old tube that was split and cut out the inside of the tube. Then cupped the old tube around my new one that I had taken out. Since the tube that was split was one of those “thorn resistant” tubes it had a 4.5mm outer thickness. So I made use of that outer thickness cupped around my other tube. This was something Ed, the Canadian cyclist, told me he had done before.
Today – 46.02 miles
Total – 1227 miles
Average Speed: 10.5
DAY 24 – April 7, 1999
Waking up to a cloudy morning I found it difficult to motivate myself. I kept waiting for the sun to dry the dew off my tent, or at least that was my excuse for being lazy :-) Looking out my tent door, I saw a tug boat going by and the guy waved at me after I took a picture.
As I was getting ready to leave, a couple walked over to me. They were staying at the other side of the park in an RV. Having permanent residence in Michigan, they go to Arizona every winter. Then, this time every year, they stop here at this campsite to watch some blue & gray shooting thing prior to returning home.
I rode out of the campground at 10:00am and stopped at a convenient store. Needing to add air to my front tire, all I could find was one of those 25 cent air machines. The air hose wouldn’t seat very well on my valve stem and it just kept deflating my tire. I gave up and just used my hand pump which doesn’t inflate more than about 35 psi. Then I went inside to buy my days supply of Gatorade or PowerAde, and all they had was All-Sport. The stuff is carbonated and just gave me upper GI gas every time I drank it. Going back out to my bike, I kept getting into a lot of conversations. Lot’s of people just curious and had never seen a person touring by bicycle. I left at 10:40am and headed to 8 West.
While leaving town, the same girl from yesterday drove by in her silver Miata and waved at me. Then she came back towards me in the opposite direction and waved again. And then again…she must have gone around the block because she came back towards me and waved again! It’s silly what young teenagers do. Almost made me feel like one of the Beatles in a way. Although I have absolutely no musical talent.
Following 8 West, there was very little traffic. People waved, even the local truckers, as they drove by. And, when a truck came up behind me, they usually got way over or would wait and drive slowly behind me until it was clear to pass. It was nice riding through there. I passed a Post Office in Trebloc that looked more like someone’s house.
Arriving in Houston, I felt a bit tired even though I was still about half of my usual distance. The roads were hilly and I did have only about 35psi in my front tire. I never realized before how great a difference tire pressure makes! Stopping at the Rexall Drugstore, a nice lady directed me to their postcard collection….of 2 postcards. There were 2 stacks, each containing a picture of a different, restored old house in town. I think the lady at the register was trying to stand back when I paid for them. I guess I kinda stunk….Ya know? That’s the only bad part about this, some people don’t wanna get too close to ya when ya smell.
I decided to stay in this town for the night so the ladies directed me to the City Hall on the other side of the town square, when I asked for the Chamber of Commerce. At City Hall they told me to go to the Civic Center as it was acting as the Chamber of Commerce. The Civic Center was about a mile from downtown, next to the city park and across from the high school. At the Civic Center I met Lamar. He arranged for me to camp in the park for the night. He said he had to leave for a while and wanted to get someone from the local paper to meet me. In the mean time, I went back to town in search of a hardware store to get some hitch pins for my B.O.B. trailer. I lost one yesterday and was using my only spare. The local hardware store didn’t have one with a small enough diameter and they referred me to NAPA. At NAPA I found the pins and bought the last 4. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of extras! While at NAPA, I talked with a lot of people, employees and customers. Everyone was taking an interest in my ride and most never heard of such a thing. One guy I spoke to outside the store kept shaking his head in disbelief.
Back at the park I met a relatively young grandmother that was sitting under the shelter watching her grandson play with the other kids. She brought him to the park and bought him ice-cream for his birthday.
Jan, the newspaper reporter, soon arrived and had Lamar introduce us. She took a couple of pictures and then began interviewing me. In the process, I kept getting off the subject a bit and was able to find out a few things about the town and this neat lady interviewing me. She sat with perfect posture and her words were articulated very concisely with a southern drawl. Although she was a sophisticated southern lady, I could detect a bit of kindred spirit with this smelly, grungy, very unsophisticated looking guy, on a bicycle. She too had interests in travelling and nature. She was wanting to go to Cambodia with a program provided through the university where she’s taking some classes. Unfortunately, she can’t go due to some family obligations. I wish I had journalistic skills like Jan so I could write better about travelling and adventure. Maybe I inspired her to be a bit more adventurous and to experience life more.
Come to find out, there’s a nice road to bike that runs near this town of 4,000. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a two lane scenic road owned by the National Park Service. It was originally a series of hunter and Indian paths leading from southwest Mississippi at the Mississippi River to Nashville, Tennessee. Apparently, every year many people cycle on it. And it’s too bad it’s going the wrong direction or I could’ve taken it!
After Jan left, I sat under the shelter and wrote in my journal and on the postcards. All evening people came out here with their kids or to walk around the park for exercise. I got my ziplock bag filled with my personal hygiene stuff and went into the bathroom. The bathroom was dirty and the sink had a lot of dead bugs in it. I managed to get myself cleaned up and washed the clothes I was wearing in the sink. I put on my other pair of bike clothes and decided to sleep in them so I could get up quicker in the morning.
As the evening progressed and it got dark, there was still a lot of traffic in and out of the park. On the other side of the park there was a baseball game with a good sized crowd and lots of noise. High school kids were squealing their tires in a S-10 and yelling at the young women playing tennis.
After writing postcards and my journal entries, I watched two high school aged girls play tennis. They were very inconsistent and one had a hard time getting the angle right on her racquet. She had quite a few wild hits. Soon the baseball game ended, the girls left, and the park was empty. I decided not to set up my tent. Instead, I laid my thermarest and sleeping bag on the concrete between the picnic table and my bike. I was under a shelter, so if it rained, I’d be all right.
Today – 36.07 miles
Total – 1263 miles
DAY 25 – April 8, 1999
I woke up several times throughout the night. I was in and out of my dreams and got up this morning feeling refreshed. A couple of dogs walked by me as I was still lying in my sleeping bag. There was a gentle breeze and a clanging of the flag pole rope. I heard two ladies talking as they were taking their early morning power walk.
It was 5:15am when I got out of my sleeping bag and noticed it was another dry morning. The sky was very dark and cloudy as I headed out of town. Stopping at a convenience store to Gatorade and snacks, I met Herbert outside. “You on a journey?” “Yeah, to Alaska.” I looked up from putting some things in my trailer to see him just staring at me in disbelief. He didn’t say a word, just stared with his eyes wide and his mouth open. So I added “I started in Key West and…” He didn’t say too much, I guess he just didn’t know what to say.
Leaving the store at 6am on 8, I rode towards Calhoun City expecting very little traffic. It was quite the opposite with heavy traffic from 6am to 7am. Otherwise it was a nice ride. Arriving in Calhoun City, I stopped a man on the sidewalk to ask about the unnamed roads I wanted to take to 330W. At first he advised me not to try going that way and directed me north on 9. After mailing my journal entries at the post office, which wasn’t open yet, the same guy flagged me down just as I started north on 9. He looked at me seriously and asked “How good are you with directions?” I assured him of my most excellent navigational skills :-) He then told me to head straight on old 8 and stop at the bait store to get directions to 330. The bridge was out on old 8 and I had to take several different roads through that area.
Riding on old 8 was very pleasant with no sign of cars, it was also very peaceful. I saw a pickup truck coming up behind me so I moved over to the right. The truck slowed down and drove beside me as the two guys in it began asking me questions. They’d never seen a cyclist before. A couple of real nice, good ole boy types, whose expressions looked as though they had just seen a UFO or something :-)
The bait store was just a couple hundred feet ahead and they drove on up. A I pulled up I was greeted by several others that wanted to check out my bike, trailer, and me. Everyone seemed a bit excited since cyclists never ride through here, let alone someone on a long bike expedition. I was given good directions and told that I need to stay in the historical part of Big Creek long enough to take pictures and see “the old Mississippi.” Going up the road I found the historical section and the smallest post office I’d seen yet. I went in to buy some postcard stamps but they didn’t have any. “We never get al call for them around here.” I ended up buying 64, 5 cent stamps and put 4 on each postcard.
William ran the post office and has been there for 13 years. He too asked lots of questions and was very helpful. He also gave me a county map showing the roads. The map consisted of all the roads, but again, none are marked. I followed the route through the hilly backwoods areas and tried to use the map. When I realized I was lost I decided to keep going straight until I found someone to ask directions from. Along the way I passed a couple of bars tucked away in the middle of the woods, they had names like “Cooters” and “Rednecks.”
Finally I found a farmer, Eugene, and discovered that there was a turn I should have taken about 4 or 5 miles back. He looked at the map and had difficulty understanding it as well. “I’m a fireman and I should know all these roads.” Most people around there just know their way around and use landmarks, not the names of roads. After another hour of biking, I stopped a guy in a small truck to make sure I was headed in the right direction. “It’s about half a mile up the road.”
Wooo Hooo! I Made It!!
It was indeed a very nice and scenic ride through there. I really enjoyed it, even if I did get lost.
Approaching Coffeeville, I saw a cafe and deli at the edge of town so I stopped and was greeted by some very friendly people inside. I ordered a chicken sandwich and tea then sat at one of several round tables that were in a row down the middle of the store. Wanting some sort of conversation, I decided to talk to the couple sitting at the table next to me, George and Pat. George is the only physician in the town of about 1000 people. We talked about some of the changes in healthcare and the increased paperwork. I think I may have talked a bit too much. When I don’t talk much all day, I sometimes get carried away once I open my mouth :-)
I also met Elsie and Rita. Elsie owned the cafe until recently when she sold it to Rita. They were nice, charming people, and made a very tasty chicken sandwich!! I was glad I stopped.
Upon leaving I was stopped by a lady walking out of a very small building, it was the newspaper office. She said someone had called her from the Graysport area, where I was lost, and told her I was headed that way. Inside she asked some questions and I felt like I had stepped back in time. I noticed how old everything looked. There was one of those really old black typewriters on her desk, like those I’ve seen in antique stores. We went outside and she took my picture with a very old Rolleliex camera. She had to look down into the camera to take the picture.
Leaving Coffeeville it was still very cloudy and the wind was picking up, I just knew it would rain soon. Feeling strong and hyped after the tea I had at lunch, I headed west to the Tillatoba Recreation Area. After 72 miles, I still felt like I had plenty of energy and wanted to keep cycling. But being unsure of the road ahead, I decided to stick with my original plan and free camp here at the recreation area. It was a wooded area by the lake with 2 outhouses and one faucet. It was very quite and there was an older couple fishing on the shore and a guy on the lake in a skiff. Will and Lucille were the couple that was fishing. It was a bit difficult trying to talk to Lucille, maybe I was talking too fast. She mostly said “sho nuff” after anything I said. I asked if I could take her picture and she said “my hair to nappy for a picture.” But Will was eager to have his picture taken and asked me to mail him a copy. I obliged and got his mailing address. We talked a bit about the area and how they both loved to fish. They go fishing every chance they get. Will said “it used to be every day.” They were both nice, simple people, who loved to sit by the lake all day and fish…even if they didn’t catch anything. There was a small dog I petted that I assumed was theirs. But after everyone had gone the dog was still there. He was a small black and white dog with tan around his eyes and had no tail. I’m pretty sure he was a stray and it seemed like he may have been abused. I decided to give him a name so I had something to call him. I named him “Buddy.” He loved any attention I gave him but when I said “enough” he’d simply lay down and watch. “Buddy” would always keep his distance unless I invited him over. It was nice having him around for the evening after the place emptied leaving me alone. He slept about 10 feet from my tent that night. During the night I heard some leaves rustling near the tent and “Buddy” growled like he was protecting me. I looked out of the tent with my flashlight and found some frogs near the tent.
Today – 72.42 miles
Total – 1336 miles
DAY 26 – April 9, 1999
It was another dark cloudy day and again, amazingly, no dew on my tent. I took the rain fly off and picked up the tent to shake off all the spiders. After packing up, I couldn’t put one of my pins back in the slot that holds the trailer to my bike. I wouldn’t go in no matter what I did. The Skewer was bent just enough on that side that the pin was missing the hole by about 1/2mm. I took out my leatherman tool, filed the end of the pin down, and was able to gently tap it in place. It was difficult to leave my new friend “Buddy.” He tried to follow me and ran as I tried to outrun him. Finally, I just had to yell at him to “Go Away.” In a way, I wanted to bring him along. Hopefully, someone will adopt him.
About three miles down the road I stopped at a truck stop at I55. I went to the bathroom and washed my face and hair with liquid soap from the wall dispenser. While buying my days supply of PowerAde, I met a cashier from Jacksonville, NC (close to my home town) and a guy about 19 from Havelock, NC (the town where I grew up.)
Leaving the truck stop, I biked into headwinds for a few miles until I hit highway 51. Heading north on 51 I had crosswinds. The winds got pretty strong at times and I had to lean my bike lean my bike into the wind to keep from being blown off the road. There was very little traffic on the roads and I caught myself saying “Howdy” to people out in their yards. Howdy!? I never say that! I’m starting to pick up a few phrases in the south. Being from the south myself, I used all the southern phrases as a child but my vocabulary changed after moving to the midwest at the age of 12.
As I continued north, I saw a cow in the road. I stopped to take a picture but as soon as he saw me, he took off running. I started pedaling and the cow started running faster. Wow! I’ve never seen a cow run before. As I caught up to him he blasted his way through a barbed wire fence! Reaching highway 6 at Batesville, I stopped at Wendy’s for a grilled chicken sandwich. Then, heading west on 6 there was little traffic but very strong headwinds. I just kept forcing my legs to push the pedals. I tried singing some of my crazy songs but I almost choked on a little bug that was blown into my mouth! Deciding to make the most of the winds for training purposes, I began to pedal as hard as I could until I felt the muscles burning in my legs. Then I’d pedal easy for a couple of minutes and then hard again to see how long I could stand the muscle burn. I was trying to make it a workout to prepare me for the upcoming Ozarks. I was beginning to think ole Mississippi didn’t want me to leave her as I was being pounded by those headwinds! Many of those driving by looked in disbelief, I don’t know if it was because I was a cyclist or because I was biking into heavy winds. A State truck drove by and a black guy gave me the power fist. Then a gold Maxima went by with someone waving at me through the sun roof.
Entering Quitman I said “Nope, I’m not gonna quit man.” :-) Then I found 316 and biked through Jonestown. This was a very small, impoverished, black community. I must have been a sight with my wild looking, brightly colored bike and the trailer with a flag. It was about 3:20 and there were people outside everywhere, pointing and staring at first. Then one guy yelled “You look pretty fly for a white guy.” and some others yelled for me to give them my bike. Upon approaching I felt very nervous with what appeared tobe several hundred young black kids just getting out of school. I just thought if I cycle fast enough I’ll be through it in no time. This was probably the first lily white guy they’d seen cycling through here as most stood in disbelief.
I found 51 and headed north, the road is actually more northeast. The road was newly paved and very smooth. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to pedal!! My speedometer was reading 23 on this flat highway. I maintained that same speed until I hit 49 North. At this section of 49 I was actually going west. This was the only place in Mississippi where I had much of a problem with traffic. Once I crossed the bridge a nice wide shoulder appeared. Taking 49 to W. Helena the shoulder was as wide as another car lane.
I couldn’t believe it, I was in Heaven!!
Day 26 continued in Arkansas
Today – 72 miles in Mississippi
Arkansas – Day 26 to day 36 (April 1999)
From W. Helena on 49 to 70 West
into Little Rock
to 309 over Mt. Magazine (highest point in Arkansas)
to 23 near the town of Ozark
to Eureka Springs
then took 62 to 37 and into Missouri
DAY 26 Continued… – April 9, 1999
Unfortunately I forgot to check my mileage at the border but I think it was about 72. I camped my way through Mississippi on $11.00 so I decided I could splurge some. Finding a Subway at the edge of West Helena, I went in and ordered a roasted chicken sub. Demond fixed my sub and we talked a bit about my ride and the town. Both towns combined, Helena and West Helena, had a population of under 20,000. Demond has lived there all his life and really wants to leave. “There’s nothing to do here.” He hope to get out of there within 3 months and go to live in Houston, Texas. Having lived north of Dallas for about a year, in Corpus Christie for 3 months and near the panhandle for 3 months, I told him what I knew about Texas. Before leaving, Demond directed me to the closest motel, the Best Western.
After I checked in I felt I needed to check my butt and see if it was bleeding. It was so sore and raw. The cream I’ve been using worked great for about 50 miles or so. Today I rode a total of 89 miles with strong headwinds, it felt more like 150 miles. Ed told me about the sores he developed and I really don’t want that to happen to me.
Day 26 continued in Arkansas
Today – 17.29 miles in Arkansas
Total for today – 89.29 miles
Total – 1225 miles[/lang_all][lang_all]
DAY 27 – April 10, 1999
I decided to give myself a day to relax and let my butt heal. Although I was paying $50 + tax ($54) a day, it was a nice new motel. I walked a mile to the Wal-Mart and was there at 8am. I turned in my film at the one hour photo center then went to look for another pair of shorts. I somehow left my others back at the Tillatoba rec. area. I didn’t find any shorts I wanted but found a long sleeve turtleneck shirt on the clearance rack for $3.00. Kewl Deal! I thought it would be good to have when I hit the cold weather. Going to the food section, I got some more dehydrated soups, instant mashed potatoes, pasta noodles, and a few power bars.
I walked back to the motel and went through the photos. At first I was taking too many photos and spent $60 on day 11 of my trip. I decided to cut back some on taking pictures but I think I cut back too much. There were some things I wished I’d taken photos of. But some days, when I’m letting things get to me, like jerks in cars trying to run me over, I really don’t feel like taking any pictures. Anyway, I picked out some for the web site and then contemplated the trip so far. Even though my journal reflects some anger I had, most of the trip has indeed been great so far!
Some people believe that most of our emotions are controlled by outside influences, e.g. how I felt after getting the beer thrown at me in Alabama. That made me very upset and all I could think about was getting out of the south. But some believe that we draw on these experiences to learn from them. And if we are being negative, then we draw negative experiences into our reality. Accordingly, if we are positive then we bring in the positive experiences. In a sense, we are in control of our own reality.
Mississippi was filled with exceptionally good riding experiences. This may have been due to the fact that I used a lot of county roads. I’m also getting better at applying what Ed, the Canadian, told me about not letting anyone get inside my head. I’ve been trying to just “let it go” and several times when someone would try to run me down, or blast their horn right beside me, I would smile and wave.
Today – 0 miles
Total – 1225 miles
DAY 28 – April 11, 1999
I left at 8:15am after gooping my butt up with that stuff. I’m finding that it is really making a difference. So, I’ve been starting to use it more and just goop a bunch of it on until I’ve got this big goopy mess in my shorts. It feels gross at first, but man it sure makes a difference for me.
Anyway, I headed north on 49 which initially had a wide shoulder. At the Monroe county line the shoulder became rough and too bumpy to ride on. There wasn’t too much traffic so I rode in the right lane until a car came behind me then I’d jump on the shoulder until it passed. The wind was blowing southeast, hitting me at an angle. Not feeling like working too hard, I just pedaled very easy . One car load of punks yelled something at me and gave me the finger and it didn’t phase me a bit. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t have even the slightest urge to give them the finger back. Wow! That was the first time I was really able to let something just go by me. The more this stuff happens, I suppose it is giving me the opportunity to learn how to control my emotions.
Arriving at 70, I saw a sign saying that trucks with oversize loads use the road up to Briscoe. The ironic part was, as I headed west on 70, guess what? NO Shoulder! What kind of backwards people design these roads??? But the traffic wasn’t too bad an I only had one truck deliberately run me off the road. Fortunately, I was able to maintain control of my bike in the loose gravel and soft shoulder. That’s when I began hearing a noise coming from by bottom bracket and realized it was getting loose.
OK, now for some reason they put a shoulder after Briscoe and there was a shoulder the rest of the way. I stopped at a convenience store in DeValls and when someone started talking to me I realized I could barely talk. Going all day without saying a world and then realizing I was speaking in a low, dry, scratchy voice was weird. I bought a tuna sandwich in one of those little triangle plastic containers. I’ve wondered who bought those things :-)
I rode into Haven and with no campground I stayed at the Haven Inn, 3 miles north of downtown, by I40. My butt wasn’t very sore at all! I finished the day with no pains anywhere. Not even muscle pain since I pedaled easy.
Today – 75.18 miles
Total – 1500 miles
Average Speed: 9.5mph
DAY 29 – April 12, 1999
Last night I dreamed I was sitting in some authoritative office with some official looking person sitting at the desk. He was telling me that I was not allowed to ride on the highway in Arkansas.
It was 54 degrees according to the bank sign in Haven as I was leaving. I was only wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt so I was a bit chilly…especially, the faster I rode! And the bottom bracket had quit making that noise…
The sky was really blue and the road into Little Rock was pretty flat. roadkill for today was turtles. I had seen mostly armadillos since entering Alabama, now I see dead, smashed, turtles everywhere. Most of them are small, 3/4″ to 2″ in length. They were everywhere! It was mostly very small towns, farms, and pastures of green and yellow. At times I felt like I was in a parade with all the people waving :-)
Just before Little Rock, a very scenic swampy area appeared and lasted for several miles. With many big trees coming up out of the smooth water, it looked like a great place to relax in a canoe. As soon as I hit North Little Rock, 70 got very narrow and very rough! I stopped at a gas station and found several bike shops listed in the phone book. I picked one that advertised “Specialized” bikes since that’s what I have.
The road got much better once I got downtown. I found the bike shop, I think it was called “Chainwheel Bikeshop”, and they tightened my bottom bracket at no charge. They were pretty cool but didn’t have any suggestions for what roads to take to Missouri.
After leaving the bike shop I continued west on Kavanaugh, it had a nice park on the right. That whole section of town was pretty cool with quaint little shops and cafe’s lining the streets. The smell of food made me hungry. I stopped at a convenience store and used the phone to call Steve. He’s been maintaining my email for me while I’m on this trip. I wanted to see if there had been any messages regarding the whole NPR thing. I decided to call the NPR member station KLRF90.5. They wanted to do a short segment about my ride and told me to call back in 2 days. This ride is turning out to be the best thing I’ve ever done and it would be great to share it with others. maybe even inspire others to ride or just build an awareness of cycling.
I took 10 west and headed to Lake Sylvia National Park and Campground. Where 10 junctions with 9, there was a convenience store. I stopped and asked for directions.. The lady inside said I needed to go north on 9/10 about a mile then turn left on 324. There was fresh pizza being made and I could smell it….Now I was really hungry! She took the pizza out and it was half Pepperoni and half Supreme (including pepperoni and sausage.) I told here I’d take a slice of the Supreme and just pick off the meat since I don’t eat red meats. She said she’d only charge me half price for the slice of pizza so I only paid $1.81 for it and a Gatorade. Actually, I didn’t have the 81 cents, I only had 55 cents in change. Instead of me having to use another dollar bill and getting more change, she made up the difference from the “Biker Box.” She said a lot of cyclists ride through here and don’t like carrying change, so they started a “Biker Box” to keep change in. Cool idea! I donated a dollar to the box and scarfed down the pizza.
As I was riding into the park I passed two Park Rangers leaving. Arriving at the camping area I found a locked gate so I unhooked my trailer and went under the gate. I set up my tent and headed to the bathroom only to find that locked as well. So I bathed while squatting next to a faucet for an RV hookup. The whole place was deserted and very quiet, I was completely alone. I guess that’s an advantage to camping early in the year :-)
Today – 89.28 miles
Total – 1589 miles
Average Speed: 12mph
DAY 30 – April 13, 1999
I slept in my tent without the rainfly on and had a dream that it started raining hard. In my dream I put the rainfly on. I also had a dream that I was at work doing wound care and had to find some latex gloves. Just more crazy dreams :-)
Getting up before sunrise, I was hoping to leave before the park rangers arrived. I decided that since the bathrooms were locked and I had no access to the shower or toilet, I didn’t want to pay. Most places allow people to come in late and just pay in the morning.
I fixed some instant oatmeal but couldn’t find my spoon. Dang-it! I must’ve left it at the motel. And that was my titanium spoon :-( I’ve been having a problem thinking clearly sometimes, especially after a long day of cycling. I managed to eat with fork and left at 7am with the temperature in the low 50’s. I was wearing my shorts and short sleeved shirt, so I was coooold! Especially on the downhill! As I crested one hill and started down I saw a deer near the road. He was startled and was running beside me, then he ran ahead and crossed the road in front of me.
The temp began to rise making it a nice ride. Not too hilly, lots of farms and pastures of green and yellow, while I headed west on 10. Not too much traffic but when there was, it seemed that if 2 cars were going to pass, it was always where I was. Most people were considerate and the trucks got out of the way. At one point, 2 big trucks were getting over to go around me and they caused a small silver Mazda pick-up truck coming in the opposite direction, to go about a foot off the road. The guy in the pick-up glared and honked his horn at me…If looks could kill…That guy had a very enraged, evil, look on his face.
Arriving in Ola I stopped at the Ola Superette and had a turkey sub. Then, while passing through Danville at 12:30, I noticed quite a few high school age kids. One girl yelled at me from across the street “You dumb-ass idiot!” It didn’t have the slightest effect of me. I only wondered what possesses some people to be so mean and cruel. Then, as I was leaving town, a trucker goes way around me on a hill and a curve, when I saw a black car coming. I cringed, waiting for impact, but the truck swerved very sharply and just barely missed. I thought that truck was going to roll on it’s side. You know, they really need to put shoulders on all roads to keep people from being hurt or killed.
Reaching Havana after 65 miles, I was considering calling it quits for the day. I met a very nice lady that told me how people love to cycle over the mountain. My original route was taking me around Mount Magazine. She told me many like to start on the north side with the lesser grades and come down this side with the steep grade. She went on to say that it was the tallest mountain in the Ozarks and the highest point in Arkansas. I decided to put myself to the test and treated myself to a Hershey bar with almonds for some quick sugar. I also bought some Gatorade, fig bars, and bananas. Another guy there went in to great detail about the twisty, curvy, road ahead and about the best scenic overlook on top. He said it’s usually 13-15 degrees colder up there and if I camp, hang my food away from my tent because of bears.
As I was starting up I thought “this isn’t too bad.” After a few miles though, I was thinking “Sheesh! When am I going to get to the top?!” As I was climbing I started sweating profusely and never even noticed the decrease in temperature. Nine miles later, I’m finally at the top. Wow! What a spectacular view! Even though it was a cloudy day I could still appreciate the view of the valley from here. I ate two bananas and used the timer on my camera to take my picture on top.
Going down was the best part. I put my bike to the test to see how fast it could take the curves. There was very little traffic so I had the whole lane to myself as I blasted downhill. By that time I had noticed the decrease in temperature and was getting colder fast. Brrrrr… The bike and trailer handled the 30mph curves very well at 35mph. As I was increasing in speed and accelerating past 41mph, I had to brake hard on a curve as my bike and trailer started to wobble just a little.
Approaching Paris, some young punk rode up behind me on a small dirt bike then turned around as he passed me yelling “Waah Hooo, You Faggot!” I stopped at a gas station and found out there wasn’t a campground in the area. One guy said I could put my tent up in his yard but he was 10 miles south. He also told me that the motel might be a better idea because heavy rains and flooding was predicted. I checked into the only motel in town and soaked in a bath tub of hot water. My legs were sore from going up the mountain. But even though I rode almost 100 miles they weren’t as sore as they were the first times I rode 100 miles :-)
Today – 94.07 miles
Total – 1684 miles
Average Speed – 10.5mph
Max Speed – 41.5
DAY 31 – April 14, 1999
I slept in late then filled out the postcards I bought several days ago. When I stepped outside, the air was cool and the sky was dark and cloudy. I left at 10am and it immediately began to rain. I was wearing a couple layers of clothes but I put on my waterproof raincoat to keep my dry. The bank sign read 45 degrees when I rode passed. I stopped at a store and inside I got plenty of stares from the locals who were sitting at tables eating their breakfast. I imagine they don’t see too many cyclists, especially in the cold rain. As I was looking around the store, a lady that was mopping the floor smiled and greeted me. She was eager to help me find some snacks for the road. They didn’t have powerbars but she suggested Granola Bars and Fig Bars. I also bought some peanuts and Gatorade.
On my way out of town I stopped at the post office and mailed the postcards and previous journal entries. Heading north on 309 the rain got heavier with water pooling on the road. My hands an feet got soaked and very cold. The wind was blowing west as I went north. I found myself leaning my bike into the wind to keep myself from being blown across the road. My face was stinging as it was being pelted by rain, so I tried to keep my head down and just watch my feet. I also had to keep my right eye shut as the wind and rain were blasting that side of my face. My hands and feet got numb, allowing me to tolerate the weather a bit more since I couldn’t feel the cold, stinging pain there anymore. I occasionally looked up when the wind wasn’t gusting to take in the scenery. The cool air is easy to breathe and I could smell the freshness of the country…the grass and trees. Very few cars on the road made it peaceful with the sound of the wind and small hail hitting my raincoat. I began to enjoy the refreshing rain, but only for a few moments at a time as the wind gusts brought me back to reality. Then I began to sing “I’m only happy when it rains…” Then I remembered that dream about the latex gloves and thought “Wow! I can wear those under my gloves to keep my hands dry!”
I hit some downhills and… Ahhh…..it’s COLD as I go 30mph!
Arriving at 23, I headed north to the small town of Ozark. Desperately needing to thaw out I stopped at “The Ozark restaurant and Pancake House.” Inside I was greeted by a slightly overweight long dark hair and a very flat affect. She just said “One?” I said “yes” and she led me to a table, sat a menu down, and immediately walked away. I found the bathroom and took off my gloves to reveal slightly blue fingers. I ran them under warm water which caused that burning, stinging sensation in my fingers. After about a minute they were restored to just about normal so I returned to the table. The waitress came over and she was more pleasant. I kept smiling but no one smiled back. The employees there seemed a bit unpleasant. But I found a nice lady to talk to seated at the table next to me. She’s lived in Ozark for 31 years and said “living here you have to be careful what you say because everyone’s related to each other in this small town.”
They didn’t have soup so I ordered the hot turkey open face sandwich. The food was very bland, had no taste. The waitress never came back to my table to check on me or refill my drink. Geeez….Bad service and Bad food! That sucked, I’d been hoping to have a nice meal with pleasant people after what I just went through.
I left and went next door to the Ozark motel. There I paid $35 for a room. In the room, I laid out all my wet clothes to dry. I opened the bag in my trailer and everything was dry :-) I’d used plastic and tucked it down the sides this morning. When I got to the bottom though…water had come in from the bottom and a few things were wet :-( I went across the street and bought:
very large vinyl table cloth (52″x90″) @ $2.50
medium latex gloves @ $1.00
two boxes of cereal bars @ $1.00 each
one box instant oatmeal @ $1.00
one package apple bars @ $1.00
1 spoon @ $.33
The table cloth will be used to line the inside of my trailer bag, I’ll wear small trash bags on my feet, and the latex gloves are for my hands :-)
I put my glove liners on, then the latex gloves, then my regular gloves…. Perfect! No more frozen hands. The rest of the day I was extremely bored being stuck in a motel room and not being able to cycle. I hated it! I just sat there and ate until I almost got sick. And by the way, they had “Sweet Bouquet” soap, cracks in the walls, peeling wallpaper, and ugly pink tiles in the bathroom…
Today – 19.87 miles
Total – 1703 miles
Average Speed – 9.5mph
Max Speed – 30.5mph
DAY 32 – April 15, 1999 [heading 3]
So far the ride has only been 1700+ miles but I’ve already begun to notice a change in me. Initially bike touring piqued my curiosity after seeing several people touring by bicycle last summer in Canada. Then as things went from bad to worse in healthcare, I knew I had to get away on a journey of self-discovery. I was really needing this time to re-think my role as a health-care provider or another possible career choice. Now I’m beginning to see myself in a way I’ve never imagined. The long rides alone are giving me much time for contemplation as I’m exposing all my senses to the world around me. I have never been one to spend very much time alone. Most of my time has been occupied in the company of others. Solitude was something I never really sought out and now I think it could be difficult to ride with someone else as I am beginning to enjoy this time alone. There is also this strange attraction to riding down a road and having no idea what the next town will be like, or what the landscape will reveal just around the corner.
As I write this I’m thinking about the forecast of heavy rains for today, but a day cycling in cold rain is far more enjoyable than a day watching TV. It is dark and cloudy as I head out into the cold morning. (9:45am)
Oh my God!!!! What was I rambling about this morning??? Geeez I don’t know if I really enjoy cycling into 30mph headwinds!!! Only 53 miles today but my knees are a bit sore from pushing into the headwinds.
I slept in late today and then had to gather all my crap that was scattered all over the hotel room. There were clothes hanging all over the place drying, my trailer was empty with its contents spread all over the floor and on any exposed surface in the room. After I checked out I went across the street to the convenient store across the street. Inside there was a small grill and a few small tables with some of the locals sitting eating there morning sausage biscuits with a cup of coffee. As I walked by the coffee machine one of the guys was speaking to another “Who’s the crazy guy on the bicycle?” The other guy glanced over at me and smiled as he said “Well I don’t know.” I laughed and admitted to my insanity :) All the guys there were very interested in my ride and were exceptionally nice.
They told me about the “Pig Trail” that I was about to go on and warned me about the twisty, curvy roads. Many people drive too fast, especially college students heading to Little Rock. There are many accidents and quite a few deaths each year. They went on to say the the grades are very steep but it will be a very nice and scenic ride.
Leaving the store with my 3 Gatorades and a fresh homemade biscuit, I headed north on 23. I’m realizing as I ride away, that these little convenient stores are one of the best places to meet locals. Unlike some of the restaurants and cafe’s, these places have many locals standing around engaging in gossip and seem to be very eager to engage in conversation.
As I headed north the wind was blowing south blasting me with freezing air. The cold penetrated through me and I just kept pushing, trying to work hard enough to warm myself. When I arrived at the sign depicting the “Pig Trail Scenic Byway”, I was shielded from much of the wind by the forest. As I made the climb up Cass mountain I was finally beginning to sweat… wooo hoooo warmth! But then I hit the downhill that froze me. The wind was penetrating through me the faster I went. Just as I was really needing to get warm again, I saw a small store, Turner Bend. It was a small gas station/grocery store with canoe and kayak rentals. I went inside for a hot chocolate and warmed up a *bean* burrito in the microwave from the freezer section(good thing I’m riding alone hee hee).
While inside I meet Brad and Lisa, who were very interested in my ride. After finding out about my website, Brad asked if I wanted to use their computer to gain internet access. COOL!! I logged on and checked my e-mail and deleted a bunch of spam. Then read my guestbook and contemplated my route change that was suggested by someone in my guestbook. Looks like I will be heading up to Golden City, then try to find a route to get to Missoula, Montana, and then head north to do the Banff to Jasper ride. Lisa and Brad were very nice, even though I accidentally called Brad Doug. I have a terrible time with names but I never forget a face :) Before I left Brad asked if there was anything else they could do for me. I felt so good there and was very grateful for there kindness to this cold stranger cycling through. Come to find out they have a website: www.tetranet.net/turnerbend/
If it were warmer I would’ve taken some time to rent a canoe to enjoy the scenery from the river. It was a very scenic area, reminds me a little of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. This has been a great route that I chose to cycle and very scenic. I would recommend anyone else to take this scenic route through the mountains. They also have Turner Bend Campground for $5 per person with restrooms and hot showers.
I continued north and just as I was about to meet my tolerance level to the cold I saw a small store in St. Paul (pop. 145). Inside I met Carrie and even though they didn’t sell coffee or cocoa, she let me fix a package of cocoa. I decided to buy a box of cocoa packets and she gave me a cup to use. And then she said that I really don’t want to drink that water so she got a bottle of spring water out of the refridgerator section and poured it into the cup for me. And again I’m greeted with exceptional hospitality! She said that they were all just a bunch of hillbillies around there as she described the area. Carrie got married a day after her 16th birthday since 16 was the legal age for marriage in Arkansas. The locals came in and out of the store and I happened to meet one guy that owns the land where the second highest peak in Arkansas is, just 18 inches shorter than Mt. Magazine. As I was leaving St. Paul a group of guys in a Suzuki Samurai drive buy yelling out cheers and giving the “power” fist, gotta love them “hillbillies” :)
The winds began to pick up and were ferocious as I could only get a max speed of 7mph on the straight flat roads, standing I could push myself to 8mph. Normally I do not cuss but I was really cussing the wind over and over. I hated it! The last ten miles would just not end.
Arriving in Huntsville I checked into the only motel, Faubus motel($32.51). The owner, James, checked me in and had a very expressionless personality and a monotone sound to his voice. I tried to joke a little but the guy couldn’t even smile. He told me “you can lock your bike and trailer up to the rail outside.” Riding around behind the office/residence, I noticed 2 vehicles under the carport and both had confederate flags on the front license plates. And just when I was thinking all the confederate stuff was going to disappear as I headed north. I went to my room, and after disconnecting my trailer, I did my usual routine and brought both of them in my room. James called my room and asked if I brought the bike in my room, I said yes and he said “well don’t mark up the floor.” He sounded a tad bit upset but I wasn’t going to leave my bike and gear outside. Well my bike wouldn’t be too bad but not all my gear.
The rooms were actually old apartments converted to motel rooms. I had a stove, oven, refrigerator and a recliner!!! After fixing some red beans and rice, I burned my tongue trying to eat it to quickly and not letting it cool. I was really hungry!
Today – 53.85 miles
Total – 1757 miles
Maximum Speed: 34mph
Average Speed: 8mph
DAY 33 – April 16, 1999
The weather channel is showing current temperature 37 degrees Fahrenheit and wind chill of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal is supposed to be in the 70’s for this time of year but they are having an unusually cold spell in this part of the country. The wind speed is 24 to 30 mph with gust 40+ mph. So here I go again off into another cold, windy day. (9:15am)
WOW what an incredible day!!! OK I left and rode into a very very very cold day. The wind was blowing hard and piercing through my four layers of clothes. I could feel the wind reaching through the fabric and touching my skin with its burning cold embrace. My hands and feet were warm due to my 3 layers on each.
II reached Eureka Springs and stopped in the Conoco station to get warmed and debate continuing my ride into Missouri today. It was miserably cold and the wind just kept stabbing at me. I decided to take a quick look in the phone book and check on motel prices and WOW there are several hundred total in this town of 1900 people. This is a big tourist town with a summer/fall population of 10,000 with all the tourism. The lady in the Conoco said this was called a “Blackberry Winter”. She also said that it may be difficult to find a room since this is the annual AA (alcoholics Anonymous) weekend. And come to find out that this is the busiest weekend of the year for liquor stores. She said that many put the alcohol in different bottles like soda bottles and that when she used to help clean the convention center after it was over, she would find alcohol hidden everywhere. She has even found bottles hidden in toilet tanks. During my motel contemplation Niki comes into the store from the 1867 motel across the street. She said they have just 2 rooms left due to AA weekend and could give me one for $45. So I went across the street and checked in.
After I checked in I decided to walk downtown and check out the historic downtown. I got about a half mile down the road and saw “The Daily Planet Internet Cafe”. Wooo Hooo I can check my e-mail again!!! Going inside I was greeted by Jana (pronounced Yah na) with a nice smiling face :) She led me to the computers and I felt at home on the net again! I can’t say enough about these exceptionally nice people!!!! Jana and her husband J.R. own this cafe’ and they are wonderful people. They let me check my e-mail and I showed them my web site for my trip. I was getting very hungry so I went next door to “Sparky’s Restaurant” and had a veggie burger. The hostess Julie told me about the local hangout, Chelsea’s and talked about this town. She said it took her several years to find this place and she really loves it here. I then returned to the internet cafe, and met Christine, she told me about the Crescent Hotel and their New Moon Spa. She said I need to check that place out since they have Physical Therapists on staff as well Massage Therapists. Earlier J.R. had offered to give me a ride downtown since it was 1.5 miles away. WOW! The hospitality!! I may not be able to leave :) So Jana drove me downtown and dropped me off to wander around a bit.
The downtown area is really quite incredible. A very old historic town dating back to when the Indians came here for the healing power of the springs. There are many bath houses and lots of people in the healing arts that live here. The town seems to draw in many of the artistic types as well. I was overwhelmed with so much information about this town that I will add more info later when I have more time to write it all down. All I can say is that I am soooo glad I stopped!!! As one person put it “this place seems to be in spiritual harmony.” The town is situated in the mountains and is filled with so many unique shops and people.
While downtown it began to rain a little so I ducked into the Chelsea’s Corner Bar. This is that locals bar Julie told me about, it was filled with many hippie types. As I made my way to the bathroom the room was filled with lots of laughter and was standing room only. The rain soon stopped and I headed back out down Spring Street. I went inside “Zarks: A Fine Design Gallery” as it started to rain again with a mix of SNOW! Sara gave me a map of downtown and pointed the “must sees” of the town.
After it quit raining again I headed back out and stopped at the Palace Hotel and Bath House. Established in 1901 and was filled with lots of unique architecture. Unfortunately, I was unable to look at the “baths” and those steam box things. But Sharon showed me pictures of them and explained the procedure as well as the origins of the bath houses in this town. After talking about my interests in holistic medicine and the many different forms of healing techniques, she told me I need to talk to Scott and Donna at Health Works. Apparently Scott had studied Ayruveda medicine and incorporates many different techniques in his practice.
By now the sun was going down so I called J.R. and he came downtown to pick me up. Back at the cafe’ I met some friends of J.R.’s and Jana’s, Christopher and Mariellen. They own the Lake Lucerne Resort here in town. We talked for quite awhile and Christopher showed me their web site and explained the history of the resort. www.eureka-springs-usa.com/lucerne/ And yet again I meet more very friendly people that are making me want to stay even more here. The evening gave me a chance to talk to J.R. a little more and discover how unique of an individual he is. He met his wife in the Czech Republic and has had a life filled with travel. J.R. is an artist with a very kind and generous personality. Mariellen had told me many of the extraordinary details of his life but many of those details escape me now as my day has been filled with so much information and new people. But by the end of the day I was beginning to feel a connection between myself and these new friends I’ve made.
I’m am so glad that I decided to stop here and I didn’t continue on into Missouri :)
I know there are many better descriptive words I can use in my writing but as I just put this stuff down I really don’t think that much into it. When my trip is through I will refine what I have written and remove all the typos and poor grammar. If I spend too much time writing it takes away from time I can be spending enjoying the world around me :)
Today – 28.17 miles
Total – 1785 miles
Average Speed: 9mph
DAY 34 – April 17, 1999
I got up at 6:30, gathered all my stuff and checked out. J.R. had told me not to pay to stay in a motel while I was in Eureka Springs. At the continental breakfast table I ate 2 small containers of yogurt, 3 muffins, and 2 glasses of orange juice. I still wasn’t fully satisfied so I filled my pockets with 2 bananas and 4 muffins. Anytime I get a continental breakfast I take a few extra things with me, since I eat, eat, eat, and eat, some more!
Arriving at the Daily Planet Internet Café at 7:30am, I found J.R. busying himself with a few things since he just opened. It wasn’t too busy so we had more time to talk. J.R. has had an amazing life so far. He started out in photography and was the youngest person to ever receive the AP award in photography. For many years he co-owned a very successful business with 3 photography studios and 1 lab. Somewhere along the way he began buying and selling art and began doing “light” photography using neon light tubes. J.R. has traveled extensively and has spent much time in Prague, where he met his wife Jana. Together they have a 6-year-old son Tillian. Now, with a family and new business (just opened 2 days before my arrival), he won’t have as much time for travelling.
J.R. was nice enough to give me free Internet access during my stay so I could update my journal entries and check e-mail. I was able to spend the morning typing the notes from my journal. Afterwards, I went next door to Sparky’s for a grilled chicken sandwich. Upon my return I ran into Christine, and this time she was with her husband Theeron. Theeron seemed to be just as excited for me as all the others have been. He talked about the best place he’d ever been, out of all his travels, a raft trip through the Grand Canyon. His descriptions of the sun hitting the canyon walls during different parts of the day sounded incredible! It was nice talking to both of them, and again I felt as if I’d made some new friends.
Christopher and Mariellen came into the café and Christopher asked if I wanted to see the resort. I rode out there with him and listened to the history of the place. It’s called Lake Lucerne Resort and was owned previously by a physician who used it as a “Sanitarium.” A sanitarium in the sense that people could come out here to relax and relieve the stress of everyday life. Mariellen originally purchased the place with her former husband, Leo, whom has since passed away. Leo was an artist and used the resort as his canvas. Meticulous detail was given to the lake, landscape, and all the cottages and chalets. It was indeed a very relaxing and peaceful place filled with natural beauty. After showing me around, Christopher offered me one of the cottages to stay in for the night. Wow! That was cool! I couldn’t believe I was going to be able to stay in such a place.
When we returned, I was able to talk to Mariellen some about her photography. She also looked at my photos and gave me some advice on light, framing, and distance from the subject. Come to find out, she was a famous news reporter that had worked with CBS. One of the big stories she covered was about a young man who stole a loaf of bread to help feed his family. The man got 17 years in prison for his crime and the story made national headlines. After his release from prison, Leo and Mariellen got married.
Deciding I needed to get out and enjoy this nice afternoon, I took the computer off my bike (so I wouldn’t add additional miles to the odometer) and rode around downtown. It was a very hilly ride through the streets. I also rode the historic loop to see all the old Victorian homes. What a neat town!
When I returned to the café I met Tracy and her 3-year-old daughter. Tracy owns “The Shooting Star Trading Post.” She provides coffee and supplies to several places including “The Daily Planet.” She told me about her experience in Alaska and we discussed my ride. During our conversation, Scott from Health Works returned my call. Scott and his wife own Health Works, providing massage therapy and some alternative healing methods. I was very much interested in meeting someone already practicing in that realm. Scott agreed to meet in the café tomorrow afternoon and talk with me.
Many people were in and out all day. It was a very busy day for the café. A group of Harley riders came in and one of them ordered a latte with 6 shots of espresso! My God! He’s going to have a heart attack! Pam came in to use the Internet access so she could check her e-mail. She was passing through and stopped in Eureka Springs for a few days. Pam decided to take a year off and travel the world. She had already been to Australia and was traveling the US until she goes to Europe. In Europe she will meet up with her daughter who is already there doing some modeling.
When things slowed down and Jana and J.R. were able to relax, I worked on Jana’s neck and upper back. After closing up shop, J.R. took me out to Lake Lucerne to meet up with Christopher. Christopher took me to cottage 16, which was a very nice, 2-story cottage. It was filled with pre-civil war antiques. It had a very comfortable feeling to it with a bit of class. Upstairs there was a 2 person Jacuzzi with very powerful jets. Wow, this is luxury!
Today – 0 miles
Total – 1785 miles
DAY 35 – April 18, 1999
Whoa, talk about weird dreams! This time I’m just hangin’ out on a sofa talking with Stevie Nicks. I was sitting on one end all slouched back with my legs crossed just making myself comfortable. We just sat there and engaged in casual conversation. Well, I got up with the sunrise and walked around the property. It was a cool morning with a mist covering the lake. I felt so relaxed just enjoying this spectacular place. There was a forest all around with Dogwood trees dappled throughout the landscape. Walking to one end of the lake I could hear water falling. This is the place where the water is fed out of the lake and where Ozarka Spring Water was originally bottled. The lake was perfectly still as the sun began to burn the mist off. I really couldn’t imagine living amongst nature like this. It was like something out of the movies.
I was quickly brought back to reality with hunger. In my haste, I forgot to bring anything for breakfast. I called J.R. and he drove out to pick me up. Back at the café, we decided to work on the sign. I spent most of the day making letters out of magnetic material. The sign out front was metal so the letters will stick to it. I made enough letters to spell out “Daily Planet Internet Café” two times, one for each side of the sign. That took much longer than I expected, but we were able to get them up by late afternoon. I was happy to be able to help and return some of the kindness I’ve been shown.
Scott and Donna, from Health Works, showed up while I was working on the letters and gave me a break. Scott walked up with a smile on his face and said, “You must be Wade.” He was a little taller than me, with long graying hair pulled back into a ponytail. As I shook his hand, his wife Donna walked up beside him. She had straight, blonde hair, and an equally cheerful smile. The three of us sat down at a table and at first I was unsure where to start with my many questions. I had been thinking of the possibility of moving into the realm of Holistic Health and getting more private, paying clients. Scott confirmed on of my suspicions about the difficulties of males performing as massage therapists. Most men seem to prefer a female to massage them (maybe a homophobic thing), and females would rather have another female massage them (maybe that whole psychosexual thing.) I also brought up my interest in Ayruvedic medicine and it just so happens that Scott has been studying that extensively. He plans on teaching aspects of Ayruveda.
Donna told me about the form of cranio-sacral therapy she does. She also discussed the transition that they are starting to go through, beginning to look at the different avenues within therapy and healthcare. While talking with both of them I could sense the passion both of them possess for what they do. These are the types I’m drawn to so I can learn from, and better myself, as a healthcare provider for my patients.
After they left, I felt like staying in town much longer so that I might spend more time with them. It is strange, the feeling I get with most of the people I’ve been meeting. Almost like I’ve already known many of them for a long time and we’re just getting re-acquainted. I was able to complete the letters, J.R. painted them, and we put them up on the metal sign that he had painted earlier in the day. Lookin’ good! Later, after we closed, J.R., Jana, Tillian, and I, all went to their home for dinner. And let me tell you, I was hungry! I ate more than the three of them combined. At least I think I’ve stopped losing weight and am beginning to consume enough calories for my energy expenditure.
After dinner, Jana showed me pictorial books of her home-Prague, Czechoslovakia. I’ve never known a thing about the place and hadn’t a clue as to what it was like. The photos were filled with images of a gothic looking town and amazing architecture. Jana was excited to share this with me and was very homesick. By looking at the photos I could see why she was homesick. I wanted to step into any of those images and immerse myself in the city and it’s culture.
Today – 0 miles
Total – 1785 miles
DAY 36 – April 19, 1999
All right, in last night’s dream I was told that someone needed to fly the plane. I said I could probably do it, it couldn’t be that hard. I took a look inside the cockpit and realized there was no way I was gonna fly this thing. And that’s all I remember.
J.R. and I drove to the café and opened at 7:30am. I started getting everything ready to leave, but I really didn’t want to go. When I realized I forgot my jacket at J.R.’s place, he let me use his car to go back and get it. I found it and was able to say good bye to Jana. Before going back I stopped at the grocery store to get milk and some batteries for J.R. as well as a few things for myself. When I returned, I spent some time talking to Sherry, a massage therapist. She also discussed some cranio-sacral, which is really beginning to interest me. We talked about our different roles as therapists and changes that are occurring. She seemed like the compassionate type with a real passion for her work.
Then finally, I was able to make myself leave at 10:45am. I said my final goodbye to J.R. and began pedaling away. What a weird feeling. I felt like I was leaving a whole group of really close friends. This is something I never imagined prior to beginning my journey. It was like I was leaving home and may never return again.
By 11:40am I made it to Tracy’s. Her shop was on 62 West, the route I took out of town. It was 9.5 miles away from the café and I thought for sure I had passed it, since J.R. told me it was about 3 miles away. The road there was very hilly and prior to getting there I saw the biggest snake I’ve ever seen. I was just getting to the top of a hill when I heard a noise. Seeing this huge, dark brown, snake near the road, I reflexively turned my bike into traffic. Luckily, the cars missed me and the snake was afraid so he slithered away.
While at “The Shooting Star Trading Post”, I met Ruby, the lady that works for Tracy. Tracy just recently purchased the property and started her business. She showed me around the property, wearing her jeans, sandals, and a tie-dye shirt. There had been a tremendous amount of work done to fix up the house and shop. Her business includes: gourmet coffee and food, gift baskets, made to order floral arrangements, and handcrafted products. After my tour, Tracy gave me an old collectable poster that is a map of Eureka Springs, a postcard showing the layout of the town, a souvenir coin, and a cluster of Arkansas quartz crystals to keep with me on my journey. Now I know that I must return to this place and repay some of the tremendous amount of kindness and generosity everyone has shown me.
Tracy had to leave to meet her boyfriend for previously arranged fishing excursion. Leaving at 1pm,
I headed up the hill and thought about all the lives I encountered in Eureka Springs. The town that will definitely see me again! After going up and down a couple of hills, a guy on a motorcycle slows down beside me. He said, “There’s six miles of steep, curvy, road ahead….Are you crazy?” And the road was indeed tough to climb up and down, but I wondered what he meant by crazy. At first I thought it was because of the climbing, but after a few close calls with cars I wondered if he meant otherwise. There was no shoulder on the narrow road and some of the cars just flew around the corners as fast as they could.
Continued in Missouri…
Today – 15.65 miles in Arkansas
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