Day 6 West Memphis to Brinkley AR
I got up this morning and ate breakfast at Pedro's Iron Skillet - trucker heaven for those who aren't familiar with Pedro's. A good breakfast - two large pancakes, two scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, and a pot of coffee. Then I tried to get on the net and failed, so I was packed and underway by 8:30. My motel was in the triangle between I-55, I-40 and the river and there were literally a thousand semi's around, several dozen of which were leaving as I rode out. It was almost surreal to be in the midst of that many trucks while riding a bicycle <grin>. I know some truckers don't like bicyclists, and I've occasionally been on the receiving end of that dislike, but most of my experience with truckers is very positive.
I headed down to 70 and rode southwest. And rode southwest. And rode southwest. Well sometimes just west. And sometimes just south. But mostly just southwest. All day, mostly into a south-southwest wind of 8-10 mph or so. In temperatures that were in the mid 90s with matching humidity. Well maybe the humidity was not quite that bad, but it was very HOT - effective temps around 100F. It was also very flat, except around Forest City, and there wasn't much to get in the way of the wind. A summer day on the plains...
With the wind and the heat and maybe with still being worn out from a long day yesterday, I had a hard time keeping my speed above 10 mph. I stopped at a service station grouping (four service stations - I picked the one on the west end) where AR 147 crosses 70. It turned out that the fellow I met yesterday had also stopped there. The lady that runs the place was very friendly and very helpful. We went over my route for the day and she told me where services were available and what they were. I bought an AR map and a Pocket Edition Road Atlas. At that time I was hoping to get to Hazan, about thirty miles farther than I actually managed.
I stopped for a snack at a general store in Shearerville and in Madison for a 32 oz Gatorade and another snack. I had drained four water bottles in 40 miles and it wasn't enough water. I was drained by grinding into the wind. The toes on my right foot were numb from the constant pressure of pedaling. I wasn't having much fun, but I did see a lot of interesting agricultural stuff; combine crews harvesting
wheat, huge rice fields with incredible quantities of water being pumped onto them, crop dusters and specialized tractors spraying fields (fortunately down wind from me), a LOT of birds, some ducks and a beaver.
Just past Madison, which is a poor, and apparently black, town a hill (!) leads to Forrest City, which appeared to be a white and quite wealthy town. Quite a contrast. I stopped a restaurant in Forrest City for a late lunch. It took me, including breaks, over five hours to ride 50 miles to that lunch. After lunch I discovered that the 'other side of the tracks' in Forrest City is also flat, black, and poor. I haven't seen the racial mixing in Arkansas that I saw in eastern Tennessee.
When I left Forrest City I realized that I was verging on heat exhaustion. I rode slowly and took several breaks covering the 25 miles or so to Brinkley. My first break was about ten miles from Forrest City at a bridge which had nice shade and a guard rail to support my bike. I stopped because I was exhausted, but, after I recovered a bit, I really enjoyed just being in that place. It was quite beautiful and I sat there watching birds and just enjoying being. The shade was nice also. Before I left a combine came down the road and across the narrow bridge.
The sun is intense. My upper back below my neck is sunburned, despite my use of sunblock and a neck cover cloth. The wind kept the cloth blowing up and the neck of my shirt (a Railriders Adventure shirt - long sleeved and designed for heat - it works) blown open. I brought along the neck covering for riding on the plains, and it helps, but I didn't allow for the shirt (as opposed to a jersey) leaving part of my back exposed. The top of my head, which is bald, is getting strongly suntanned through the hat which I wear under my helmet. My head isn't sunburned, but it does have those interesting tanned stripes.
The second place I stopped was in Wheatville, an aptly named town about five miles from Brinkley. It is a charming town and the general store sells Pepsi product 12 oz cans for 25 cents. I had to stop! First I consumed a can of 25 cent root beer. It was good! While I was doing this a group of little kids in an expensive SUV spoke to me as if I was spanish speaking (I have the right skin color now). They weren't hispanic kids and the tone they used was racist, although I'm sure they didn't realize it. Bigotry learned young. I ignored them. Then I went in the store and had a great visit with Hanna, who is three months old, and her mother who was running the store and is very proud of Hanna! A nice place.
Brinkley is also a nice town with a lot of services, all located near the interstate. I'm at a very nice Days Inn just north of I-40 where the clerk let me try out my modem in a room before checking in. I need to clean up now and hike down to a place to eat. One big advantage of the Railriders shirt is that, unlike a coolmax jersey, I don't feel a need to get it off me ASAP after I finish riding. A related benefit, and one of the reasons I'm using it this summer, is that I don't smell as badly after riding in it.
Road conditions, if not wind and heat conditions, were pretty good all day. The section between Palestine and Wheatly had the least rideable shoulder - a foot wide?, but a good smooth shoulder returned after Wheatly. Most of the rest of today's ride had a relatively wide (three feet or more), but somewhat rough shoulder.