Distance: 108 miles
Climbing: 5,200 feet
Well, that was a doozie.
We got an early start this morning, with bags loaded at 7:30 and everyone on the road not much later. It wasn’t raining when we left, but it was pretty obvious that rain was in the cards. This was Day 3 of the “three-day rain event,” and it did not disappoint.
My legs actually felt pretty good once they got warmed up on the hill leaving our motel. The first twenty miles of short up and down hills went pretty quickly. I rode by myself today more than any other of this trip – I just wanted to concentrate on getting to the other end of the route card as quickly as possible.
The first rain shower came less than an hour into the ride. I stopped and put on all my rain stuff – and the rain quit. So, I took of my rain jacket but left the pants on.
Most of the day, we were riding frontage roads to I-44, with some really lovely scenery.
At around 45 miles, I stopped at another rest stop and decided to take off my rain pants but left my booties on. As I left, the rain started up again, but it wasn’t heavy enough to get me to put the rain pants back on. By mile 73, I was riding in just shorts, knee warmers, and a long-sleeved jersey. I stopped for a quick lunch at Hardee’s in Pacific, where I had two $1.19 cheeseburgers. “You mean the little bitty ones?” asked the counter lady.
As I left Hardee’s the rain started up again, but it still wasn’t enough to make me put on my rain stuff. I knew, though, that as the cold front moved in the temps could drop.
Since I was riding by myself, I paid very close attention to the directions on the route card. The two things I really didn’t need today were to get lost or to get a flat tire.
At around 90 miles, Lon’s route took us through what the card described as “steep rural roads next 6 miles.” This was where all hell broke loose.
When Lon says something’s steep, you’d better believe it. These were the steepest hills I’d seen since La Cienega Blvd. on the first day. And all of a sudden, I was riding in a real storm. Trees were bending in the wind and water was gushing down the street in sheets. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in heavier rain. Lon later told me that he, Susan, and some others waited out that part of the storm in a Steak and Shake.
I quickly put all my raingear back on: jacket, pants, booties. It seemed like the strongest wind was actually pushing me up some of the hills. I kept thinking what a pretty ride it would have been under different circumstances. It was dramatic, though.
Once through this section, I got on Route 30 for most of the rest of the way – lots of traffic, which normally wouldn’t bother me too much, but visibility wasn’t great and I was trying very, very hard not to miss any turns.
Somehow, I made it in just a little after 4:00, with an average speed (including stops) of exactly 12 mph.
For dinner, we went to Phil’s Barbecue with a bunch of Susan’s relatives and then to Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard for dessert.
The weather tomorrow still looks bad, but at least it’s only a little over 70 miles.
Distance: 106 miles
Climbing: 4,000 feet
I’m going to try to make this short, because I have got to start getting to bed earlier.
Pavement was dry when I looked out the window this morning, but the NWS radar showed a big orange and red blotch headed our way. Sure enough, it was raining by the time we loaded our bags at 7:30, and for the next few hours, I was riding in an out-and-out thunderstorm.
You know that Jackson Browne song that goes “You love the thunder… you love the rain”?
That’s a stupid song.
Lon, Susan and some other folks left just a bit ahead of me, and when I got to the first rest stop in Conway at mile 26, they were just leaving. I set a personal record on this trip for being in and out of a rest stop – just grabbed some bars and went. It was still raining, but I imagined that it might be letting up just a little bit.
By the time I got to the rest stop in Lebanon, it had stopped raining, although the road was still quite wet. I tried riding with Lon and Franz from this point, but I couldn’t really stick with them on the endless corrugated Missouri rollers and, even if I could, the spray from their rear wheels made it seem like it was still raining. I think they slowed down for me, though, because I did follow them more or less all the way to the third rest stop, where Susan re-joined the group, having gone off in the van between stops two and three to mail off Lon’s defunct Macintosh to a repair center.
Vicki and Tim Arnold were riding with us off and on from this point, as well, and it was this group that had lunch at a nice German deli in Waynesville. By now, the sun was shining brightly, and I had stripped off my rain jacket, rain pants, wool gloves, booties, wool long-sleeved t-shirt, and knee warmers.
Lon, Susan and I all agreed that nice days are that much nicer when they follow a few hours of really horrific weather such as we had this morning. This part of Missouri is really beautiful, too.
After lunch, we got to ride some vintage concrete pavement to and through the “Devil’s Elbow” bridge (the term refers to a bend in the river that loggers hated, apparently) and through the “Big Notch.” I remembered this section from the 2001 Central Pac Tour because I had left my camera in the van on that day for fear of getting it wet. (Ever wonder why Missouri is so green?) This time I got some pictures.
Our next stop was at around 100 miles, in a little town called Newberg. Sodas and ice creams. Then a final big climb before getting to Rolla (with a brief stop at the Wolfman’s Trading Post, which is some kind of weird cross between folk art, a giant yard sale, and an adult video store).
Tomorrow: rain, maybe; climbing, definitely.
Distance: 87 miles
Climbing: 3,100 feet
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.
Distance: 106 miles
Climbing: 2,200 feet
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.
Climbing: 2,800 feet
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.
Bad Chinese food.
Distance: 91 miles
Climbing: 4,000 feet
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.