Winnfield to Springhill LA - 110 miles with some nice hills
A long day today, but a pretty good one. It was quite hot and humid all day today, but the riding was more interesting than yesterdays pretty ride, and there was a nice shoulder present most of the day. I did have to 'bail out' twice while riding on sections with no shoulder and heavy log truck traffic, but even these situations were not nearly as stressful as Mississippi 27. If it wasn't for the ten miles or less of riding with no shoulder and log trucks, this would have been an almost stress free riding day. Note also that I did get 'toots' of support from a number of log trucks.
The day started at 8:20 or so and ended at sundown about twelve hours later. Actual riding time was nine hours with three hours or so of eating/resting/cooling down time. It is hard to ride in this kind of heat and humidity (70 - 90% relative humidity with 90+F temps mid afternoon) and I spent too much time riding uphill with a tailwind that pretty closely matched my speed. Hot! I made several extra stops just to sit in the shade and cool down. I also drank three quarts of Gatorade as well as a similar amounts of coke and maybe twice that much water. I was sweating a lot and it wasn't evaporating, so I spend a lot of time with sweat running down my face, into my eyes, and dripping off of my chin. An observation relative to a recent touring list discussion: my sweat was not very salty. In addition to not tasting salty, it didn't irritate my eyes or leave salt crusts on my clothing. It seems that, when having to put out copious quantities of sweat for long periods of time, the body cuts back on the salt concentration. Maybe that is why I don't need extra salt - or any other extra nutrients - while touring.
The first 12 miles north from Winnfield were really nice - US 167 is a smooth road with a great shoulder in this section. Sure, there were a lot of trucks on the road, but who cares when the shoulder is good. Then the shoulder went away. It came back again maybe five miles later, and that pattern was repeated several times as the road went from Parish (Louisiana has Parishes instead of counties) to Parish or, sometimes, for no discernable reason. Most of the time it was very nice riding. My route went thought the center of Louisiana's timber industry; I saw half mile square timber mills and wood processing plants, so there were lots of logging trucks. With a shoulder they were no big deal. Without a shoulder they weren't much of a problem for me, but they could be for folk who are less comfortable with figuring out when it is necessary to get out of their way.
My breakfast this morning was small, although quite good, so I stopped for snacks and gatorade ($1 a quart at Dollar General versus $1.69 in the service station/stores) in Jonesboro and for lunch just before noon at the "Catfish Inn" just west of Hodge on LA 147. I had ridden about 30 miles and had another 25 miles to go before the next services, so I figured I better stop. Besides, it looked like, and was, a very good place to eat. Shortly after I started stuffing myself with catfish and hushpuppies, a lot of workers from the nearby wood products plants came in for lunch. Several of then asked about my bike and my ride. One was a bicycle commuter himself. Nice folks.
After lunch I rode to Arcadia. Some folk, including the tandem riders I spent time with in Natchez, feel that you can't eat a lot and then ride, especially in hot weather. Well, when touring, the only time I feel like I have enough energy is for a few hours starting half an hour or so after a big meal. Hot, cold, whatever - eating a lot makes touring easier. The ride to Arcadia would have been much less enjoyable without that large meal at the Catfish Inn!
At Arcadia, I stopped at an ATM, another Dollar General - this time for more Gatorade and some applesauce for a snack - and a service station/store for a LARGE drink. Both the clerk at the Dollar General store and the manager of the service station/store were very friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. Suitably encouraged and fortified. I rode out on LA 9, heading for Homer. LA 9 is a "LA Scenic Byway" and a quite nice, if hilly in parts, ride. While riding on LA 9, a motorcyclist (Honda, not Harley) rode up and visited with me for about ten minutes as I rode. The good LA shoulder was wide enough for us to ride side by side and talk. Then he turned around and headed back home. Apparently he saw me ride by and got on his bike so we could visit!
The top of the big hill on LA 2
At Homer I stopped a McDs for a second meal - including lots of salty french frys and a huge coke. Then it was time to tackle the remaining 30 miles or so to Springhill. Since it was getting cooler and there wasn't much traffic on LA 2 or LA 159 or LA 157, this was the nicest part of the day. LA 2 going west out of Homer starts with a several mile long hill - I think you could avaid most of this hill by taking LA 3062 which heads west about a mile earlier. This was the biggest hill I've seen in Louisiana. It is another one of those "Scenic Byways" and quite pretty, except where the lumber companies have clearcut right next to the road. I stopped near Leton for a final shot of caffeine, sugar, and fat - a coke and a honeybun - which I needed to make those last 20 miles. After Shongaloo (correctly spelled) it is two, very hilly, miles north to LA 157, which goes east over two ridges and two rivers to Springhill. LA 'rivers' always seem to need several bridges to get across. Maybe it is because they are really long skinny swamps? Speaking of swamps, this evening was so humid that all of my clothing, even my liner socks (in sandals) became water logged. I took off first my neck covering and then my hat, which I wear under my helmet, in a an effort to cool down enough for my clothing to dry out, but to no avail.
Coming into Springhill at sundown wasn't fun. I had the bad luck to hit a surge of teenaged drivers in expensive cars who couldn't drive very well. Prior to that I had had no problems with LA drivers. I stopped a service station store to ask about motels - I knew there were two of them - and the clerk not only wrote out directions - I must have looked exhausted - she also called the motel to tell them I was coming. Nice, and typical of the nice people I have met in this state.
Sunset near Springhill