Jim Bradbury

Writer, Cycler, Strummer

Archive for May 2006

Movie: Missouri Bridge

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Written by Jim Bradbury

May 8, 2006 at 9:15 pm

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Day 23: Carthage, MO to Strafford, MO

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Distance: 87 miles
Climbing: 3,100 feet

Missouri Bridge

For more photos, be sure to check Flickr.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was not looking forward to today. This “three-day rain event” is really bad timing. And of course, there has been a drought here all spring, so I really can’t begrudge them the rain, but even the local forecasters seem to think it may be too much of a good thing.

Carthage seemed like an interesting place. Did you know that the first major land engagement of the Civil War happened there? There also is a large and imposing gothic county courthouse. Tim Arnold and I got a close-up look at it on our way back from Braum’s ice cream after dinner last night.

I had a big breakfast (two orders of French toast) on the theory that if it did rain it would be that much harder to eat on the bike. It wasn’t raining when I went to breakfast in town, nor when I came back. But by the time we were supposed to load our bags on the trailers, it was starting to shower. I actually was kind of glad, because it meant I didn’t have to wonder whether I should put on my rain pants or not at the start. I hate the rain pants, but I hate stopping to put them on in mid ride even more.

I rode all the way to the first rest stop with Franz and Gerd at a fairly easy pace. Lon had us riding on farm roads insstead of Route 66 because Rt. 96 (which used to be 66) has lots of truck traffic. This part of the ride was absolutely lovely and rural, with lots of farm fields and dogs who would half-heartedly come out to bark at us but not really be into giving serious chase. I chatted quite a bit with Gerd and even asked Franz whether he was experiencing any tiredness on the ride (no, he is not). He really is an excellent cyclist. At dinner tonight, I learned that he and his wife do track stands when they have to stop on their tandem.

I stopped just before the first rest stop to put the hood on my jacket up. The showers seemed to come and go all through these 30 miles, but they seemed to be coming harder. Gerd and Franz rode ahead around a corner. Then, through “operator error,” I rode right past the rest stop at a Baptist church, even though I saw the church and knew that the stop was at a church. I realized my mistake fairly quickly, though, when I got to a long straight stretch and saw no sign of Franz and Gerd.

I doubled back to the church, where Rosemary had parked her SUV under a driveway awning. Minutes after I pulled in, the rain started coming down harder. Lon and Susan’s group pulled in a few minutes later, and the heavens opened up. It was really raining now, and folks were happy to accept the hospitality of the Baptists, who let us use their restrooms and stand in their foyer trying to keep warm. More than one person was eyeing the church’s school bus fleet as well, wondering how many cyclists one of them could hold.

I was just resigning myself to leaving and heading back out into the thunderstorm, when I realized that Lon was showing no sign of wanting to decamp. I took this as a sign that it might be better to wait. Sure enough, when Lon finally did decide to leave, it was while it was still raining, but the worst was over and things gradually improved for the rest of the day. Franz and Gerd had left earlier and spent 20 minutes in what Franz described as “sheer hell.”

Alas, I was a little slow getting out of the church (last-minute bathroom stop), and Lon and Susan’s group had almost a minute head start on me. I half-heartedly started to chase them but quickly realized that it would be a poor use of energy that I might need later. So I rode the next stretch almost completely by myself. This was when the real Missouri “rollers” started: those series of straight, short, steep hills like the back of an asphalt sea monster. As I would start one set of rollers, I’d see the group ahead of me disappearing over the top of the last hill ahead of me.

My cyclometer got all messed up by the rain (waterproof, right…), so I was extra careful to make sure that I got each turn right, and sightings of the group ahead of me were reassuring. Eventually, I realized that I was coming up to another rest stop and assumed (correctly) that I’d be able to join the group ahead of me there if I was a little quicker when Lon put on his helmet.

From that stop we rode through more of the same kind of farmlands and hills, until we crossed over I-44 at mile 67, after which we were heading into Springfield. We rode right through downtown Springfield (this is the only PAC Tour where you actually go through cities like Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Tulsa, and Springfield; usually PAC Tours avoid all cities as much as possible). Before we got out of town, we stopped at a Steak and Shake that Lon believes is the original Steak and Shake from 1932. Lon and I did some malted milkshake research there.

Lots of Route 66 business and references in Springfield.

From lunch, it was only 13 miles to our motel, and the weather was actually nice at this point. I had taken all my rain gear off at mile 50.

Nice modern motel with high-speed wireless Internet access, so maybe I can get caught up with my photos tonight, too. I need to hurry, though, because tomorrow promises to be a challenging day – with more weather and more miles.

Written by Jim Bradbury

May 8, 2006 at 7:08 pm

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Day 22: Vinita, OK to Carthage, MO

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Distance: 106 miles
Climbing: 2,200 feet

Eisler Brother Store

I like this motel. It has a full-sized public laundromat right on the premises. Give me a clean, non-smoking room with a bathtub, and I’m a happy camper. The only thing it’s missing is wireless Internet, but I can at least dial in with the modem, which was impossible a couple of nights ago.

We road in three states today, but the scenery didn’t change much from yesterday that I could tell. Still lots of agriculture, green fields, horses, trees (including pecan trees), and lots of dogs. The last few days have been rife with dogs. Besides the little guy who joined the peloton for at least a mile in downtown Tulsa yesterday, my favorite was a beautiful border collie who jumped off his front porch as I went by and just ran alongside me in the grass for a few hundred yards. He must have thought I was some kind of exotic sheep. No barking – just a happy run.

We’ve also been seeing some wildlife – as well as a lot of roadkill. The unfortunates seem to be mostly armadillos, but some turtles and possums have also been spotted, including one mother possum whose babies were crawling all over her (I didn’t see that myself; maybe it’s an urban legend).

But I also rode a fair bit with Jim Hlavka and Reed Finfrock, and they’re both good at identifying all the birds that crossed our path (scissortail fly catchers, meadowlarks, killdeers, etc), and Jim and I both saw a woodchuck scampering into the undergrowth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woodchuck before. I thought it might be a beaver at first. I’m such a city boy.

The weather was overcast for the most part, but no one was complaining after yesterday’s deluge. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next couple of days is not good. Lots of rain. The big question is how much of it will happen while we’re riding. I think it’s a certainty that we’ll get pretty wet, but it’s not supposed to be cold, so that will help somewhat. And tomorrow is a relatively short day (followed by two long ones), and the wind is supposed to shift to the south, which is an improvement in the grand scheme of things.

So, I’m trying to think positively. This is a vacation after all, at least in theory. The truth is, though, that I’m ready to be home sleeping in my own bed. Riding through two to three inches of rain in Missouri is just something I have to get through before I can do that.

Written by Jim Bradbury

May 7, 2006 at 4:15 pm

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Day 21: Bristow, OK to Vinita, OK

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Miles: 104
Climbing: 2,800 feet


Pottery factory.
Tour de Tulsa.
Little black dog running after us for two miles with tongue hanging out.
Famous Blue Whale.
Claremore, OK. Dot’s diner. Custard pie.
Vinita, OK.
Bad Chinese food.

Famous Blue Whale

Written by Jim Bradbury

May 6, 2006 at 6:13 pm

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Day 20: Oklahoma City, OK to Bristow, OK

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Distance: 91 miles
Climbing: 4,000 feet

Abandoned 66

Not sure what to say about today. Weatherwise, it was a carbon copy of yesterday: cool bordering on cold in the morning and warm and muggy by late afternoon. If we’d had a tailwind, I probably would have been too warm in my long-sleeved jersey, but it was a light headwind all the way.

As we move eastward in Oklahoma, the terrain is getting a bit hillier, as the climbing numbers indicate. There aren’t any big hills, just lots of little ones.

Most of the time, I didn’t feel like I was riding on Route 66. Leaving Oklahoma City, we parted ways with our old friend I-40 and are now paralleling I-44 northeastward toward St. Louis. However, Route 66 doesn’t seem to be in use as a frontage road for the Interstate as much as it was in western Oklahoma. So we are riding on secondary roads that follow the same route that 66 did, with the old road occasionally visible in the weeds and trees on either side of us.

I started out riding with Lon, Susan Notorangelo, Franz, and Jim Hlavka; we took a different route than the one that Lon had on the route card because Jim Ross, who was our special guest at dinner last night, had suggested an alternate way to get out of Oklahoma City that would be less traffic and possibly include more of historic 66. Lon wanted to try this route out, so we did a bit of exploring of some of the nicer parts of Oklahoma City, including a 1930s historic neighborhood with many Arts and Crafts bungalows.

Eventually, we reconnected with the official route and shortly afterward stopped at the Round Barn, which is a large wooden barn (round, naturally) that was been meticulously restored by a crew of senior citizen volunteers who called themselves “The Over the Hill Gang.” The acoustics were extraordinary.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful: very rural with lots of trees, hills, horses, dogs, and a fair amount of traffic. I am still feeling a bit tired from yesterday and from the 1,000-plus miles I’ve already ridden, and Chicago seems like it’s still a long ways away. Missouri is just a couple of days away, and I know that the rolling hills there are going to hurt, but I’ve been through much of that part of the route before, so I reckon I can get through it again.

One nice thing is that Susan Notorangelo is riding with us from here to St. Louis, and having her on the trip is bound to make it more fun. Let’s see: about two more days of Oklahoma, four of Missouri, and about three of Illinois to go….

P.S. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get an Internet connection here in Bristow, so I won’t be posting this until tomorrow at the earliest.

Written by Jim Bradbury

May 6, 2006 at 6:02 pm

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Day 19: Clinton, OK to Oklahoma City, OK

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Distance: 94 miles
Climbing: 3,500 feet
This Ain't No Backroads Trip

I expected this to be a tough day, but it ended up being tough for entirely different reasons than the one I was worried about. The weather wasn’t exactly balmy, but that wasn’t what made the day hard at all.

Last night, a big thunderstorm moved through Clinton (and the rest of western Oklahoma, I expect) around midnight. So, we got lucky and missed the heavy rain completely.

At breakfast, I was happy to see Oklahoma resident and native Don Norvelle (and his wife Evelyn), who Lon had asked to scout out the Bridgeport option to see if the Canadian River might be fordable by bicycle. Don didn’t seem to think the option was a good idea, so Lon reluctantly canceled it.

Although there was no immediate sign of rain, people seemed to be in a hurry to get going this morning – even Lon, who usually is among the last to leave. Although I was a bit more optimistic about the rain forecast, there still was a headwind to contend with. I got with a medium-sized group that had Lon and Franz at the front breaking the wind, and then we quickly passed a couple of earlier groups that had left ahead of us.

I think we were the first riders to reach the first rest stop at an abandoned gas station at mile 24. I was impressed at the quick progress we were making despite the headwind, and cold, overcast skies.

As it was a windy day, it was appropriate that we passed a wind farm with gigantic windmills. They looked huge from the road, but when we passed a windmill arm on the ground in the town of Weatherford, I realized that a single arm was big enough for someone to live in. It was bigger than a whale, which is the only thing I can think of to compare it to.

Ten miles after that rest stop, we came to what was supposed to be the turnoff for the Bridgeport option.

I should explain just a little about Bridgeport. Back before Route 66, someone names Keyes built a big suspension bridge across the Canadian River and put a toll booth at one end. Because this was the only good crossing of the river for miles (maybe 50 miles?), his family made a pretty good living off of it. For complicated reasons that I’m too tired to go into now, it was acquired by the state shortly after it became Route 66, and it was bypassed in favor of a different route and new bridge shortly after it was acquired by the state (which meant the end of Bridgeport as a viable town). The road there, before, during and after its tenure as 66, was never paved. In the fifties, the bridge caught fire (it was a plank bridge), and it was ultimately torn down for scrap. All that remains are the pilings at either end – kind of as if the Golden Gate bridge were all gone except for the north and south towers.

Don now seemed to offer some hope that the road wasn’t too muddy for cycling, so Lon decided that he wanted to do the Bridgeport option after all. Who wanted to go with him? I think almost everyone in our little group opted to go. I wasn’t thrilled about the possibility of riding through mud with my road fenders on my bike, but how could I miss what might turn out to be a great adventure.

For the record, here are the proud, the few, and the foolhardy who did this option:

Tim and Vicky Arnold
Franz Neuer
Reed Finfrock
Leon Van Zweel
Lon Haldeman

Don led us down the first part of the road with his van so we wouldn’t get lost. He pulled up in front of a farmhouse where a gate led to a field. We stopped while Lon got more directions from Don. I felt something wet on my ankle and looked down: It was puppies. Several farm puppies were curious about where the heck we were going.

Can I Come?

We were going across the pasture. This was a bit different than our previous pasture excursion a couple of days ago because the sand was wet and somewhat hard-packed. It was ridable.

We got down to somewhere near the river and got confused. Lon and a couple of other guys headed north to see if the river looked fordable while the rest of us waited for Don to follow us on foot.

The river was not fordable. “You could float a hippo,” said Lon. I guess the thunderstorm had done its work. Don came by and showed us where the old pilings were. They were quite large. This was a substantial bridge – and now it is just these incongruous poles sticking up in the bottomland between the pasture and the river. The area was heavily wooded, and Tim Arnold was kind enough to point out that it was also rife with poison oak.

OK, said Lon, we’ll just go across on the railroad trestle. The trestle was just a couple of hundred yards downstream from the site of the toll bridge. According to Lon’s route sheet, “the railroad bridge is very seldom used.”

I wondered if the definition of “seldom used” was as open to interpretation as “riding well.” Did it mean one train a day? One a week? One a decade?

We got back up to the trestle bridge fairly easily by way of the pasture.

It looked long.

Reed said he’d already been across it and back again while were waiting for Don and examining the bridge pilings and “it held my weight, so it ought to hold yours.” Off we went. The bridge seemed even longer. There was just one set of tracks and not much in the way of options should a train happen by. I looked down between the ties I was stepping on to see how far down the river looked.

That was a mistake.

Some of the ties looked pretty rotten, but they mostly seemed well supported by ironwork below. I tried to pick less-rotten ones to step on.

OK, so far this was all interesting and somewhat exciting, but once I got across to the other side, the hard part started. The “road” here was just wet sand, basically, and it didn’t take long before it was clear that my fenders were going to be a handicap. The mud just completely clogged up between the tire and the fender so that it was like I was riding with the brakes on – especially on hills. And this part of Oklahoma has hills.

By the time we finally made it to pavement, I was exhausted from trying (unsuccessfully) to keep up. I was also hungrier and thirstier than I should have been. By my reckoning, we had added almost 10 miles to our 84 mile day.

I was glad to be back on the pavement, but the endless rollers (“Oklahoma is like Missouri without the trees,” said Lon, which I think is unfair – there just aren’t as many trees. It looks sylvan compared with the Caprock in Texas).

Fortunately, Lon decided that we should stop for lunch at a Cherokee Truck Stop, so I got a chance to rest a bit and eat some food, although I think I was still running an energy deficit. Once we were back on the road, I continued to struggle, feeling like I was holding the group back. Reed hadn’t stopped with us for lunch, so now we were down to six.

Somehow I made it through the next forty miles, the last ten of which were pretty flat thank goodness. The funny thing is that I had started the day feeling the best I have for a while – I just left all that energy behind in the Bridgeport mud.

Written by Jim Bradbury

May 4, 2006 at 7:27 pm

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Movie: “Kicks” at the Sand Hills Curiosity Shop

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Written by Jim Bradbury

May 4, 2006 at 3:14 am

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