Whoa, catch-up here we come. Let me rack my memory...

Ok. We left our wonderful hosts and long-time family friends the Westfalls in Little Rock early in the morning (3/6) to make an 8am assembly at Boone Park Elementary school. Many thanks again to Bernadette Rhodes for all her help with arranging our time in North Little Rock. The kiddos there were so excited! And the school had the best walk/bike to school percentage of the schools we've spoken at so far. They especially liked our bike-lights demo and asking/answering questions about our trip. The most memorable question this go-around was: "Do you ever want to give up and turn around?" Yes, we have lows every day. But the good, great, and amazing times far outweigh the down times. And why, now that we've gone over 2,000 miles, would I go back east when its almost equally as long to keep going west and continue seeing new sights, meeting new people, and being awed every moment by the next new thing around the corner?

Excited students at Boone Park!
After wishing the kids at Boone Park a good day, we went to downtown Little Rock for a KATV (local TV news station) interview, arranged by the University of Arkansas Jones Eye Institute. We were all impressed by the multiple bicycle/pedestrian bridges that Little Rock is so proud of - including the longest pedestrian bridge in the world (crossing the Arkansas River over a major dam)! From there, we had a long day to Russelville, about 90 miles northeast. Luckily, we were on mostly flat roads and generally had a tailwind, so the team rolled into the Lake Dardanelle State Park to camp while the sun was setting over the opposite side of the lake. Another beautiful place to stay. It's a rough life, but I guess someone has to do it.
President Clinton Library.

RASR was here (North Little Rock).
Jane on TV.
I like rocks.
Packing up camp the next morning (3/7), we prepared ourselves for another long day. Jeanie mapped it to be just under 100 miles to Fayetteville. And we were going through the Ozarks, the western-most extension of what was once part of the Appalachian Mountains. Two major mountain climbs, and a beautiful central valley segment along the Mulberry River. (Side-note: Pretty cool geology, if I do say so myself. I truly relished the opportunity to stare at some rocks, something I've been missing a bit on this trip so far.) Again, we were blessed by a tailwind once we dipped out of the foothills and back on the Flats. Overcast clouds kept the hot sun off our backs, but we would still sweat heavily as we worked hard going up the mountains. At the top, when we got to race down the other side, we had to layer back up so that we wouldn't get chilled as we coasted for miles. Luckily our brakes still worked!

Lake Dardanelle campsite. Not too shabby! We almost had the park to ourselves.
Hello, hard work.
Oh yeah? Do you really think RASR can't handle this? Please. Get real.
Mulberry River - maybe the best stretch of road yet.
Will definitely be included in a "best of" tour. (see above picture)
Ozarks scenic overlook. Yeah, that's right, we made it.
As we arrived in Fayetteville, we went straight to the Tanglewood Branch Brewery - a great new bar in an old gas station, offering half off the first drink if you're a cyclist! At Tanglewood, we met some of the key movers and shakers of the Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks. After a great home-made veggie burger dinner and a few different beer samples, we went right around the corner to Stacy Wood's home, who not only offered us all a comfortable bed for the night, but also gave us each leg massages! Many thanks to Stacy and Hannah, her daughter, and their dog, cat, turtle, and guinea pig for letting us and our bikes take over their house. 

Stinky chicken farms.
And we're back to today (3/8). We woke up to home-made banana bread by Stacy and delicious cashew milk, with added grapefruits and shiitake mushrooms for later on the road. Laura Kelley and Dan met us early for a rapid van re-working (our shelves pulled off the wall, and we needed Dan's drill) and then Laura led us to Holcomb Elementary School, where we spoke to the third graders at gym class. They were part-way through a multi-week bike education course funded by Safe Routes to School, where they learn bike safety, rules of the road, and bike maintenance from Laura. After we told them about our travels, they told us about their great biking adventures, too. Fayetteville is currently working to extend a bike path through the city, and many of the kids enjoy riding on the section that is already available. To get in some riding time on such a rainy day, the kids had indoor "slow races" on the bikes provided for the rest of the gym hour. I don't think I could have gone as slow as a few of them were able to!

Ready, Set, SLOW!
Fayetteville SRTS and Holcomb Elementary - we're super impressed.
Good work kids. Keep riding!
With more warm layers, (mostly) dried shoes, and a renewed sense of purpose from the bright young cyclists of Holcomb Elementary, we once again set off into the coldest and rainiest weather of our trip so far. The first half of the riding was rather rough, but not due to difficult terrain this time. We've all decided that although rain and cold are bearable elements individually, together they create a nasty combination. We pulled into a delicious Mexican restaurant for a late lunch so that we could fill our bellies and warm our bodies for the rest of the day. Finally leaving the rain back to the east, we were rewarded for our tough early miles with an afternoon and evening of heavenly skies. In the dark, and only a few miles from our destination in rural Oklahoma (STATE 8!!!!) at a warmshowers host, I got a flat. Even though we hadn't had one for awhile, it was a day-ender. Luckily, we ended up at a beautiful cabin to hot water ready for drinks and two extremely gracious hosts: Chris and Denise (and their four friendly dogs).

The "sombrero" dessert. Enough for 4!
There was no official "Welcome to Oklahoma" on our road, so we improvised with the next town's welcome sign
We're one more riding day from a day off in Tulsa and with many good, hard days of riding this week, we're spent. There's nothing like a yummy quiche, fresh (local!) spinach salad, home-made chocolate chip cookies, and a warm wood stove to put the RASR team to sleep with a full moon and a country sky filled with twinkling stars above us. Ahhh.

Thoughts from the road brought to you by Chelsea.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos and fascinating commentary. Geologically speaking, that is. Where did you find those Maori warriors? What a long, strange trip it's been.