Day 10 Ozark AR to Sallisaw OK
I'd been getting too much into a getting on down the road mentality with my focus being getting to the Oklahoma City area. Arkansas law and Mother Nature, helped me back off from that today. I had a nice day of riding, but only covered about 65 miles despite riding 85 miles. I 'wasted' about five miles riding up to I-40 from Mulberry AR only to discover a 'no bicycles' sign. It was just well - I was better off staying on US 64. I 'wasted' another 16 miles riding west from Sallisaw OK only to discover a big storm front coming east and having to 'ride the storm front winds' back. Both of these wasted miles situations were enjoyable riding. Moreover, as a result of the bad weather I met and have had a nice time visiting with a couple from Michigan touring on motorcycles. Really a pretty good day!
I started the day riding US 64 west from Ozark. Ozark indeed! there was at least 1000 feet of climbing, mostly in two big hills, between Ozark and Mulberry. I cranked up those hills at five mph and coasted down the other sides at near 40 mph! By the time I got to Mulberry
I'd ridden some 15 miles at an average speed of about 12 mph. This would not do if I was to get to my planned destination still over 100 miles away. Ok I'll get on up to I-40 (about 3 miles away) and get on down the road at 15 mph! Opps. I can't legally ride on I-40 in this part of the state? Darn, now I have to crank back down to 64 again! There goes the schedule!
Riding west from Mulberry on US 64 turned out to be a much flatter experience than riding from Ozark to Mulberry. In fact it was much more pleasant than riding on I-40 would have been and just as fast! I stopped for an early lunch in Alma and continued on 64 through Van Buren and Fort Smith. Not great riding, but not bad either. I saw a lot of the industrial part of Fort Smith as well as downtown. Traffic was a bit much in a few places, but otherwise OK.
From downtown Fort Smith 64 crosses the Arkansas river into Oklahoma. Road conditions deteriorate in that the bridges no longer have shoulders. Moderate high speed traffic makes 64 feel like an interstate and I get yelled at by some red-neck in a pickup truck for (? -I can never really tell what they are saying when they yell from a passing vehicle) not getting out of his way on a bridge. I wasn't yelled at at all in Arkansas, but it was a fairly regular event in Tennessee. Maybe Arkansas has a better class of rednecks? Anyway 64 isn't much fun till after it crosses I-40. I stopped for a milkshake just before that intersection. Then there was six miles of construction, but much lighter traffic.
After Mudrow 64 goes back to a two lane road with wide shoulders. It was bit hilly, not Ozark hilly, but long, relatively gentle hills. There were lots of signs say 'elect so-and-so Chief' - Chief of what? Oh yeah, this is the other end of 'The Trail of Tears'! The Cherokee were driven from the mountains west and south of Asheville out to Oklahoma as part of one of the more disgusting land grabs carried out by the the US. Several of the roads I rode on in Tennessee and Arkansas were part of the route. Lots of folks died on that 'people drive.' The descendants of the ones that survived live out here and elect their chief.
I stopped again near Gans to buy some gatorade and use a bathroom. Actually I tried pulling off on a dirt road a mile or two earlier in order to pee, but I sure picked the wrong road. As I struggled up this steep dirt and large gravel road looking for privacy, several pickup trucks passed me from both directions. I headed back down to 64! While I was resting at the service station - store, I had a nice visit with another redneck. It is funny, but the same stereotypical type that yells at me, stops to visit with me. Must be something wrong with my stereotyping!
At Gans I heard thunder and, sure enough, I was rained on in the next mile or two. It wasn't quite hard enough to justify rain gear and it ended quite abruptly in both space and time. In less than fifty feet, the pavement went from wet to bone dry!
I stopped in Sallisaw, first to ask about motels farther down the road (next available motels at the Weber Falls exit on I-40 - roughly twenty miles down the road) and then to eat a second lunch. I guess I should have passed on that second lunch since, when I came out of the cafe, the weather was getting threatening. I rode on through town, but it started to rain as I neared the west end.
I pulled under a Day's Inn Entrance cover and stayed there as the storm quickly intensified. Even back against the wall in the middle of this fairly large covered area, I was getting wet. The welcome mat at the door of the motel, also in the sheltered area, was flipped over. I was holding on to my hat and my bike to keep them from blowing away. After about 30 minutes, the storm died down to a light rain. About that time, a couple on motorcycles rode in from the west. They said it had not rained on them, but they could see how ominous it looked to the east, so they were stopping for the night.
I hung out for another fifteen minute and, when things looked like they were clearing up, headed west again on the wet road in very light rain. A few miles west I came to another one of those 'now it is wet / now it is dry' places in the road. About five miles west of town, the shoulder went away, but traffic was light enough that this wasn't a problem. About eight miles west of town I decided that the road was heading directly into another storm line. I was getting strong head winds by this time and the sky was black ahead of me.
I turned around and high tailed it back to the Day's Inn, helped by the winds from the storm front. I was rained on lightly during this part of my ride, but the heavy rain didn't begin until half a hour after I got back to the motel. Then it rained heavily for several hours and a lightning strike - the kind that goes flash-crack with no delay in between, took out power to the motel.
I visited with the motorcycling couple for quite a while - really the best visit so far on this trip - and then cleaned up for supper. I visited with them some more and, as a result, missed my chance for supper at the restaurant next door. I had a very flattened honey bun, which I had been carrying since Wheatville AR, and some tea instead. Since I'd had a big meal at 3 PM, I really didn't need that supper.