In the spirit of the current stages of the TdF, the Northwest Arkansas Roadies rode one of our mountain stages on Saturday.
[Editorial comment: Our available mountain stages are getting fewer and farther between because of the propensity of our county government, a collection of simians, to chip seal anything that is a) picturesque, b) has a river/creek close by, c) quiet, d) characterized by light traffic, e) used by cyclists.]
The temperature at the start of the ride was around 70, give or take a little, and it was foggy. This beat the alternative from the preceding days, during which we had isolated deluges in our area. The road was dry save for the effects of fog in places. The wind was fairly benign at the start of the ride.
We had 21 riders, one of whom was our guest, BikeWNC. He was en route back home and decided to ride with us.
Here's the group assembled at Drake Field in Fayetteville just prior to the start of the ride. Your author is on the right side of the group, and BikeWNC is in the middle in the Hammer jersey.
The group consisted of various and sundry age groups, from 20-somethings to 60-somethings, and various and sundry levels of experience and capability, from newer cyclists to veterans, from slower ones to hammer heads, an eclectic group.
We rode south on U.S. 71. We are fortunate to have this route, as it is either four lane or two lane with ample shoulders. The bulk of the north-south traffic into and out of our area is on I-540, which leaves mostly local traffic on 71.
Around 12 miles south of Drake Field, we pulled into Brentwood rest area for a break and to re-group. Given the diversity of our typical group, we re-group every now and then.
The rest area at Brentwood was constructed during the time that 71 was the primary north-south artery for northwest Arkansas. With the advent of I-540, it fell into disrepair for a while, but the citizens of Brentwood took it upon themselves to rejuvenate it. Not only did they do a fine job with the original facilities, but they enhanced the area with a timber pavilion, which is a great place for a break. The pavilion can be booked for outdoor gatherings. It has been my experience that the people at the gatherings will often offer food to cyclists. I suppose some of us appear to be "too skinny", an oft-discussed topic on BF, and need some sustenance.
Here we are under the pavilion at Brentwood on the way out for the day.
And yes, that afternoon on the way back to the barn, there was a gathering at the rest area, and I was offered food. With a few exceptions once in a while, the folks along 71 and cyclists get along fairly well. We like that.
A few miles south of Brentwood, we had another re-group in Greater Downtown Winslow, which we have documented with photos in previous posts. For something new and different, we thought it would be grand to get a shot, in front of the jail, of the three BF 50-Plussers, flanked by two guys named Justin, with the reflection of a photographer named Jeff, in the window. Voila... from left to right, Justin, doctor j, arkansasgal, BikeWNC, Justin, and the reflection of Jeff (a hammerhead with his new Cannondale Six) in the window.
After Winslow, the real climbing begins. It is at this point that those who have triples are overheard whispering sweet nothings to their granny rings and perhaps an occasional profanity to the grade.
From Winslow, it is about 7 or 8 miles, give or take some, to the top of Mt. Gaylor. By that time we reached the top, the fog was lifting, and we could see a few remaining clouds hugging the valleys along the way. Sorry, but I did not have presence of mind to shoot those scenes. I'm 50+, give me a break.
Most of us whizzed down the south side of the mountain, about 3 miles, to a place known as Artist Point. This place has really nice views, especially those to the east, and it's a good place to refuel as needed. It's a good place to shoot, so we did. Here are a few of us and our guest, who was shooting to the east.
We prevailed upon the good nature of a motorist, who agreed to shoot the group assembled on a little observation deck. Here we are. You are looking east.
From Artist Point, most of the group returned to Drake Field.
Three of us, yours truly, Jocelyn, and Wayne, wanted some extra miles and rode south down the mountain to Mountainburg. We executed a quick bio-break, refueled, and started back up. Here we are leaving Mountainburg and heading north toward the barn. We are continuing to experiment with "hands-free" photography, that is, hands on the camera, and the bike on auto-pilot. So far, so good. We cross the mountains in the background to get back to the vehicles. That's Wayne in the lead. He disappeared as Jocelyn and I crept back up the mountain, but he was waiting for us at the top and was nice enough to pull us the majority of the way back home.
The main group rode 50 miles for the day, and the Mountainburg trio had 65.
We enjoyed having BikeWNC as our guest. We quickly discovered that this was not his first time on a bike, nor was this his first mountain. He is an accomplished cyclist and "fit in" with our group rather nicely.
If you will be in our area, let us know. We will welcome you into our little peloton.