This weekend was quite a bike friendly weekend.
Saturday started off with the Natural State Expo. Its an expo for environmentally aware groups to meet the public and show them what they are doing. The Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas was there.
My bike and I took the bus into town, partly so that I wouldn't be sweaty before the show and partly so that if people asked about the bus lines "Rack and Roll" program, I could tell people that I had used it just that morning.
Our booth was pretty simple. Literature on the table, a "Share the Road" sign and our club banner on the back wall and my bike parked next to the table. It's a good one because its a fully equipped commuting bicycle and its free and 15 years old, so that when people ask questions about getting started, its obvious that you don't have to have a thousand dollar bike just to get going. Later on we also added a couple of child trailers. The bike coop had brought them to use for getting sandwiches and other errands, we convinced them that the trailers were better off in our display than they were blocking the free bike parking in the expo.
There were quite a variety of questions. People from Hot Springs all wanted to know how to get a bike path through downtown. The city is pretty opposed to it. I guess they have visions of bicyclists riding at breakneck speeds and running over the tourists. But Hot Springs is unique politically because the entire city is within a national park, America's oldest national park. So we suggested that they might even bring in the Federal government and have the park service put in the bikepaths. Other people wanted to get back into biking, but their old bikes were not up to what they wanted to do now. We pointed them to the bike coop to recycle their old bikes and I suggested they look into craigslist that had a couple of bikes just matching what they needed listed very recently. We have been having an argument with the state highway commission because they feel that bicycles are recreational vehicles and we think that they should be listed as transportation. This difference could mean millions for bike paths ect.
Sunday started off early, with me loading my recumbent onto the bike rack of my rental car and driving to Sheridan Community Center in the pre-dawn hours for the Joe Weber Arky 100. I had to take the seat off so that it didn't act as a sail while driving. It took me a while to get it reattached because I discovered that the bike store had done a poor job of installing the back rack and I had to readjust everything to get it to fit. But then, I discovered that the seat was an inch or so farther back and that I had to stretch to keep my feet on the pedals when I was all the way back in the seat. But oh well, no time to adjust that. Eight o clock, it was time to go. I found out today that BikeArkansas was doing the 100 mile route, but I didn't see him.
I had done my training and testing. So I had 4 packs of Grandmas Oatmeal Raisin cookies, 4 measures of Accelerade, lots of water, a little apple juice and a banana in an open bag behind the seat.
This was the first time I had ridden the recumbent in with standard road bikes. I found that I could keep up with people. They would lose me on the uphills, but on the flats and the downhills I was faster. I even heard one fellow who had just passed me a the crest of a hill, exclaim "What the f***" when I then zipped by him a few yards later going downhill.
The Arky is a very nice bucolic ride. Its got a lot of what I like about Arkansas. Its the part of Arkansas that really is the way America believes itself to be. Small towns, the average population of about 300, surrounded by farms, churches and small old cemetaries. Lots of birds, especially the larger ones like hawks, buzzards and crows. At about the 30-40 mile stretch, we got an unexpected treat, a long straight flat highway without a headwind.
I got in trouble where the 62 mile route splits off from the 100 mile route. The junction was badly marked and I took the wrong way. I wasn't the only one. I saw two riders going in the opposite direction while I was under the happy illusion that I was on the right path. There was labrador running at their heels, not barking, but it looked like it was just having fun joining in on the run. The cyclists were going down hill and soon lost it, so he joined up with me and the other cyclists near me who where climbing the hill. Of course, we lost the dog on the downhill. He was a danger because you just didn't know where he was going. A little while on, I decided to take a cookie break and looked at my map. The horror! I had missed the turn and was on the wrong route. I couldn't remember how long ago the turnoff had been. It seemed quite a while. But after stewing for a few moments, I decided to do my original ride and turned the bike around.
When I got to the turn off, I inspected the road. I had looked for the direction arrows when I first went through, but had missed them. This time I saw them, but while most of the arrows on the course had been painted white, these were blue and orange, like the road crews use. The road beyond the turnoff was hilly, badly paved and desolate due to the clear cut logging being done in that area. There were no other cyclists. I was so glad to see the sag wagon pass me. I knew the driver so it made me feel that I was really on the right path and not running so late that all services had been closed.
When I got to the Lono rest stop, it was relief. I had passed the previous stops, but now I needed more water for my Camelbak. I also took a banana, and discovered that there was another cyclist about a mile behind me. That was the motivation I needed. I wasn't last. And I was determined to stay that way.
The stretch from Lono to Tulip was the hardest because of the headwinds. I told myself that even though it was rough on me, it was rougher on the fellow behind me because my recumbent was more aerodynamic. As I came up to Carthage I saw a dog in the street and he saw me and came to attack. I took a long draw out of my Camelbak and as he came near, I sprayed him with water. He hadn't expected that and retreated.
I passed through the next rest stop without so much as a banana. But a few miles on stopped to take a hit off my bottle of Accelerade. It happened that the sag wagon came by and stopped. From that, I got the info that the cyclist who was behind me was now further behind and that his name was Brad.
I knew most of that was from the headwinds, and now we were back into the rolling hills so he could gain on me again. I pushed on. The roads were pretty bad here and poorly patched so it was pretty bone jarring. I felt like my power was flattening and realized that I hadn't been eating properly, so I dug out quarter of a pb&j sandwich for some long term power.
I breezed through Leola, where the route I was on, and the other route I had started down joined back up. Its a beautiful little town. Small houses on huge lots with a downtown area a couple of blocks long. I saw a sign on the highway, Sheridan, 16 miles. That sounded too close. I stopped to check the map. Sure enough, the route took a 12 mile detour off the road I was on and then got back on for the final stretch.
I got to the final rest stop and had them fill up my Camelbak. I put more Accelerade in my water bottle and got that topped up with water. Since this rest stop was manned by people I knew, I took a couple of minutes to talk. I discovered later that Mrs. BikeArkansas was there too. And then as I was finishing my stop, to my horror, Brad, the fellow behind me appeared. So we got to meet.
I pushed off and started down the detour. This was pretty easy terrain and reasonable roads. The land was well sheltered by trees so the winds weren't bad. I was all alone, and apparently staying ahead of Brad. 12 miles later, I came back out to the highway and was starting to feel good. I was pretty sure I would be able to complete the ride.
The hills were larger now, but I knew I was just a few miles from the end. The sag wagon passed me again, and the driver shouted "You're almost there". And there was the Sheridan public recreation area, and then, yes, the Community Center!
I pulled in, and saw one of my friends. I asked her the time, 4:30. And then I pulled up to chat and relax. A few minutes later Brad pulled in, and he and I got a chance to talk. Some of the people there had also been working the Natural State Expo booth the day before. One had a map of a new section of the River Trails bike route where we had just gotten the easements, so people were eager to pass that around. We had talked about it at the Expo, but this was the first time I got a chance to see the route.
Driving home was difficult. It hurt to move my leg enough to go from gas to brake. I took the bike off the bike rack and put it in my apartment, took a shower and treated myself to a beer and a ribeye steak at a local restaurant.