Springhill LA to Ashdown AR 82 miles of pretty easy riding
Last night I decided that the 130 miles from Springhill to Idabel OK was just too much to ask given the triple digit effective temperatures. I started exploring alternatives, looking for places to stay and to eat along the way. None of the alternatives in Texas looked good - once you leave Texarkana heading west it is a long way to anything! - but Ashdown AR, just 20 miles north of Texarkana had all services and would make for a comfortable days ride. By going to Ashdown, rather that Idabel, I moved my arrival date in Oklahoma City back one day. In order to have made it by the 28th, my original ETA, I would have had to have ridden several days of > 120 miles each. Now I have three days left at about100, 100, and 75 miles respectively. I plan on stopping in Hugo OK tomorrow and in Ada OK the following day and meeting Jim Foreman in Moore on the 29th.
I rode north from Springhill about 9:15 this morning on US 371. It was a pretty speedy riding with a tail wind, but the relative humidity was 100% and I was soaked by the time I got to Taylor AR, 6 miles away. I stopped for today's only bottle of Gatorade and some routing advice at a grocery store in Taylor - nice folks - and then continued on AR 160 which curves west from Taylor before T-ing into AR 53. Good riding with gentle hills and pleasant scenery, but hot and humid. As I was riding this rather rural section of the world I was thinking about how confident I was that someone would help me if I got lost or had another problem.
I stopped at the intersection of 160 and 53 to lube my pedals since my cleats were squeaking and the headed north on 53. Another nice, quite rural, road. About ten miles later I turned west on AR 313 at Mars Hill AR. 313 runs to Lewisville. Note that there were no services and very little traffic between Taylor and Lewisville AR, about 25 miles. I did stop alongside the road for a rest and a snack between Mars Hill and Lewisville I had my snack and acquired a few new mosquito bites before riding on. Bugs in general have not been a problem on this tour, but I do get a few new bites every day. Compared to UP Michigan, this area is bug free!
Speaking of bites, yesterday was a particularly bad day for dogs, although there were a few today as well. No bites, but I did have dogs chase me several times. The silliest one today was two dachshund like dogs who started after me from 100 feet from the road as I rode by. I yelled out "you'll never catch me!", but they didn't listen. I was at least 100 feet further down the road when I heard a big truck braking hard and looked back to see one of those silly dogs in the road with a semi braking to avoid hitting it. The dog was lucky not to be run over. For folks (hi Gene!) who are paranoid about dogs, this wouldn't be good riding. I have only had one seriously threatening dog on this tour and that was in rural Alabama, but yesterday I had three dogs 'chasing' me up a hill - one in front, and one on each side of the bike. Those were dumb dogs since the chase occurred on a highway and a truck had to wait patiently for the dogs to give up the chase before he could go around me. Most dogs living along reasonably traveled highways won't run out into the road to chase bikes. The ones that did are dead.
After stopping in Lewisville for lunch, I cranked on down US 82 towards Texarkana. Easy riding if wasn't so hot and humid. Actually, the first half of that ride wasn't as hot as the ride to Lewisville, since I was now riding across the wind rather than away from it. It was however, flat and rather boring and the crosswind made riding slower and, with a fair amount of truck traffic, I got buffeted a lot by the wind from passing trucks. I stopped once to rest near a ditch with trees along it. I had to stay away from the trees to avoid being bitten by too many mosquitos. When I got back on the road I realized that I had knocked my cadence sensor out of position, so I stopped to adjust it. A big truck came by as I was leaning over my bike and I had to grab the bike to keep it from heading down the road without me! There was a good shoulder all the way till Texarkana.
About 10 miles from Texarkana, 82 goes through a series of northerly "steps" - it is odd to repeatedly see the traffic ahead going off a at right angle - which improved the riding by adding some variety, and then, at about 15 miles, it goes around the end of a big ridge. From then on into Texarkana, the south wind was blocked by the hills and trees. That part of the road was pretty hilly. I felt hills were an improvement over the cross wind.
In Texarkana the shoulder goes away and riding is a bit urban for several miles. I stopped at the first convenience store coming into town for a big coke, having emptied my three water bottles in the 28 miles from Lewisville. Then I rode into and through town before turning back to ride north on US 71 to Ashdown. My brief ride into the Texas side of Texarkana and most of US 71 between Texarkana and the Red River is the only touring I'll have done in Texas. I would rather it have been a bit more extensive (but not too much more!), but it will have to do. 71 north was even worse riding than 82, so I stopped for an early supper at a Mexican - American restaurant. It was more of the latter than the former, but my meal was OK, if a little overpriced, and the service was excellent.
Riding north on 71, once I got past I-30 at the north end of town, was great. I had 15 mph or so tail wind and was cruising at 18 to 20 mph on a wide, smooth shoulder. There was a bit too much traffic though, and, by the time I got to Ashdown, my left ear was hurting and I had a headache from traffic noise. I should have put in an ear plug before riding that section of road! Cars, and especially SUVs, just aren't aware of how much noise they make. I gather that tire companies are doing research into making quieter tires, but, without regulation, I don't think people would buy them. With the windows rolled up, they don't hear the noise...