Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 29 - Waverley, TN to Brentwood (Nashville) TN

70.26 miles in 6:35...1895.48 miles for the trip... Ascent.... 3376 ft (38,519 ft for the trip)
I wasn't long out of Waverley, before I realized the topography was about to change. Western Tennessee was a little flatter than I had imagined, but things were about to get serious. All told for the day, my ascent was the third biggest of the trip, exceeded only by the climb out of Tuscon on the third day, and the mega climbing day into the Guadeloupe mountains. The first 23 miles were on US 70, and it was the same old thing. Pretty heavy traffic, rumble strips for shoulders, no guard rails ( with some really steep landing spots if I went off the road), and tons of armadillo shell shrapnel. The shells obviously don't decompose as fast as the meat, and they were everywhere, as a monument to how stupid those animals must be. The forecasted rain looked like it was going to hold off, so I has no sense if urgency to complete my days trip. My final destination was to be the home of my best man(twice), John Hamm and his family, near Nashville. He had commitments to work, so I didn't want to roll in too early, and that was just fine for my legs. I kept a casual pace on the climbs and just did what I had to do. That really didn't keep my quads from getting tenderized as the day went on, however.
Once I got to Dickson, the most sizable town on my trip, it was time to leave the familiar shoulder less confines of US 70, and I was at the mercy of GPS girl. I was taking some pretty back roads, with quite a few dogs that didn't know what to do with me, just like the people. Some looked, some ran away, some gave me a half hearted southern token bark, but many joined me running down the road. I only pulled my defense out of the case once, and I was really torn as to whether to use it or not. The devil in my right shoulder was saying "go ahead, blast him," and the angel on my other shoulder was saying " you know u can outrun this guy, just pedal a little harder." I came this close to letting him have it, but I just accelerated, and left him barking at air.
The recurring roadway that I kept coming back to after every GPS foray down a hollow, was TN 96. I paralleled I 40 for a short while, but it kept me in the climbing business in the middle portion of my trip. GPS girl took me down two major hollers, and the climbs back out if them were as brutal as...no.....more brutal, than any climbs of the trip. But that's what u expect in Tennessee. I just don't know if they were necessary if I had stayed on TN96.
With about 20-25 miles to go I made a major descent, and I passed a sign that said Nashville metro area. I was going so fast that I didn't even try to stop and get a picture. But everything changed. A bike lane appeared, and things flattened out. There were still some real good climbs to go, but they were long and manageable. I passed under what I believe was the northern terminus of the Natchez trace freeway, which is a limited access Highway for tourists and bikers to Natchez, Mississippi. I think I read that it was 444 miles long, and it is an adventure cycling assn tour that is advertised. Finally, signs of a biking culture if some sort. As I came into Franklin, a bedroom suburb of Nashville, then Brentwood, where John lives, Friday afternoon traffic was picking up, and there was one really bad road with a steep climb on tenderized legs, no shoulder, and a significant line of traffic behind me as I muscled my way over the top. Everyone was courteous, however. The only thing screaming was my quads as I busted it over that final hill. McEwen Street, I believe. After that, for the last 3-4 miles I had a nice multi use path to ease me into John's neighborhood. He was there waiting. We figured we hadn't seen each other in 23 years. I spent the evening getting to know two of his three boys, Alex, the lacrosse player, and Erik, the golfer, as well as his wife, Katie (who I knew before)  It was a great evening of catching up and reminiscing.

Ribbons of rollers on US 70.  The photo doesn't do justice to their steepness.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28 - Bells, Tennessee to Waverley, TN

April 28...91.06 miles in 7:23....1825.22 miles in 23 days for an average of 79.357 miles per day.....ascent 2870 ft .....35,143 for the trip.
My morning started off with the lady at the motel 6 saying...." I passed you on the way to work. You were on the wrong side of the road!" Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!! Really? She thought I should be riding facing traffic!! I mentioned before that sometimes I feel like a Martian on this trip. Am I breaking new ground here???! Drivers and pedestrians treat my bike like a flying saucer. They slow down, check me out real hard, but don't wanna get real close, because of the unknown. I hope I get through here without causing a head on collision because people move over so far. They follow me for so long, because they don't know how to safely get by me. The truckers are the only ones who can get by me normally. Don't people know that if there is enough room for an eighteen wheeler that there's enough effing room for their car!!!!!???? I'm not saying that I regret coming this way, but I wish some other people from my planet would come this way!!!!
Now about the trip.... US 70, which I was on all day again today has the record for official designations. It is the purple heart Highway, it is the gold star family memorial Highway, it is Tennessee's first state highway ( from Memphis to Bristol), it is the Tennessee scenic byway, and it is the Broadway Street of America. I really had noticed that it was called Broadway Ave in every small town I've gone through. It's just not as famous as US 66, the mother Highway, or even US 40, the national road, but it did go coast to coast, I guess.
Tennessee is one of those states that's real big on rumble strips. Unless I was in a town, I had rumble strips since I've been in this state. The white line is even cut into rumblers in places. That means I spent most of the day in the driving lane today. And US 70 was pretty busy end to end today, and yesterday. I did have some time to look around, and I saw farmland, even though not much, logging areas, nice lakes, lots of forested areas, and lots of rollers, but not huge ones. I climbed almost 3000 ft today, but averaged a good speed, because I could use downhill momentum to pop over the top of some of the hills without downshifting. That's the way the hills are in western PA, u can just power over some of them without grinding to a slow, climbing speed.
I went through three pretty big towns, Jackson, which is the ' birthplace of rockabilly' because Carl Perkins was born there, Huntingdon, and Camden. There were so many unincorporated towns, however, that it seemed like I was always near civilization. I was never " in the middle of nowhere ". The most impressive landmark that I passed today was the Tennessee River. It was huge, but I think it was damned up because I saw alot of power lines from the TVA, and I saw a sign about Kentucky Lake.
Once again I dodged rain, and had a beautiful day.

Jackson, Tennessee's claim to fame




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27....Olive Branch, Mississippi to Bells, Tennessee

77.51 miles in about 6:30....1734.16 miles for the trip in 22 days for an average of 78.82 a day.....ascent....1886 ft....32273 ft for the trip.
It felt good to lay around this morning, and wait for rain that never materialized. They've been talking about today being a big storm day for a week, but once I rolled, about 10:30, I never saw a drop. Not to say there wasn't any rain around, but it rained in the places I was going, before I got there, and it rained in the places I was, after I was gone!  Talk about being lucky! I packed for the rain  and I fully expected to get wet, but I'll take what I got. Mostly tailwind, which was really blowing, especially in the morning, and mostly overcast.
My plan was as to go 47 miles, to Mason, TN, and see what the weather was doing. The first 20 or so miles were on suburban roads, through nice neighborhoods, and on two nice trails, the Wolf Creek Trail, and the Chickasaw Trail, both paved. I rode past the Fed Ex world headquarters, and the South Winds TPC golf club, in Germantown, a suburb of Memphis. I actually went inside the city limits of Memphis, when I thought I was East of it.
Once I got North of I 40, it wasn't long before I popped out on US 70, and I was headed Northeast, out into the country. This is the same US 70 that I have been on and off of since Mesa. The rollers began, the shoulder was usually nonexistent, but traffic was cooperative. There wasn't as much farmland as I thought there would be, there was more bayou type water than I expected, but I spent most of my time watching that white line, on the right side of the road,  trying to squeeze in with the traffic.
When I got to Mason, weather was good, and I decided to move on, but not before I noticed my back tire was totally down to the steel belts, all the way through the rubber. I was in the middle of nowhere, and now I was going to blow out a tire. It was 21 miles to the next town, so I decided to go for it. The rollers leveled out a little between Mason and Brownsville, which was very helpful, considering that every time my back tire went around, I expected it to blow. Well, my luck held out, and I made it to Brownsville, and by the grace of God, they had a Walmart. The Walmart had my size of tire, and my incredible luck continued. I continued to push my luck, and rode nine more miles to a motel 6. When I walked out, after checking in, my tire was flat.. Amazing. I tore my bike apart, and pulled alot of steel belt shrapnel out of my Kevlar tire strip. The bad portion in my tire, wasn't even the place where my tube was leaking. Amazing again. When I changed my tire out, there was a guy at the truck stop next door, with a compressor, a tire gauge, and hand cleaner. It cost me a three dollar tip to have my tire filled properly. Tomorrow will tell if there are any pinches in it! .I am now at the mercy of a Walmart tire, with no Slime in it. Glad I'm close to Nashville.

I was never officially greeted to Tennessee with a sign, but here is their flag.  I also add another state that I've never ridden in!

I thought I had missed all of Memphis, but I could see a few tall buildings over the hills.

They don't have many bike lanes here, but the trails are nice

The Chickasaw Trail

Some scenes on US 70



I think I got my money's worth out of this tire!  All the weight makes them wear out pretty fast.

April 26...Forrest City AR to Olive Branch, Mississippi

113.62 miles in about 9 hrs...averaged 12.6 mph for the day...1656.65 miles for the trip over 21 days for an average of 78.8 a day. Ascent 1230 ft....30,387 for the trip....
Not knowing how difficult it was gonna be to get across the Mississippi River, ended up costing me about an extra 25 miles, the way I figure it. I could have used Highway 49 out of Brinkley yesterday instead of going on to Forrest City. This morning I had to head due south on AR 1, into a head wind to get to the nearest bridge that bikes are allowed to cross. If I was in a big hurry, or really wanted to visit Graceland, I would have snuck into I 40 and made a run for it. Who knows how that would have turned out!AR 1 wasn't a bad road, mostly four lane with a nice shoulder, for 40 miles to Logan's Corner, into a 10 mph headwind. That took about 3.5 hrs, but as soon as I turned onto Highway 49 to go to Helena/West Helena, the wind became my friend. When I got to that point I was ready to say goodbye to the state that gave us Walmart and Bill Clinton. The roads were very nice, however, and I would travel Arkansas again. Not so much for Mississippi. I've spent the last 1500 miles of the Mississippi River in only four states. The 60-70 miles I've spent in Mississippi so far, have all been harrowing, death defying, and just downright unsafe. I can't believe they make a biker ride what I rode today. I 40 would have to be safer. The roads in Mississippi have zero shoulders, and the ones that do,like US 61, have deep gravel shoulders. The drivers were overly cautious, because they probably thought I was a Martian. When I got across the bridge, GPS girl had me take some dirt roads, which deteriorated before I finally found some pavement. These back roads ran through farmers fields, and Delta waters before I came to 'old' US61. That road wasn't bad because it had a smooth surface and no traffic, and by then the tailwind was rocking, since I turned to come back north after getting across the bridge. I got to the town of Tunica, which I had never heard of, but after a nice downtown area, there were miles if casinos. All the big names, on 'new' US61. There was a 25 mile stretch I had to travel on, and it was four lane, like an interstate, with gravel shoulders!!!! That didn't do me any good at all. Fortunately, the wind was wailing, and I averaged 16-18 mph to get off of that road before I got killed. That's when I turned onto Church Road, a 20 mile death trap that took me to my motel in Olive Branch. This road was two lane for ten miles, then turned to four lane, but there was zero shoulder, heavy traffic, because it was near five o'clock by then. The road began to climb out of the Delta, and I got 90% of my ascent on this road, after 90 miles of going down, then up the Mississippi Delta. I got to a motel pretty late for me, and got the last room....a smoking room of course. It only choked me when I walked in from outside. When I was in the  room, I was nose blind. I ate at a BBQ fast food place that filled me up, and it even tasted good, because I was starved!!

This is the town where my ONLY way across the Mississippi River was located

The de Soto bridge, I believe

The Mississippi River is a BIG RIVER!

My fifth state of the trip

.....which deteriorated to this

I guess the snake didn't mind the dust!

I finally got pavement!

The scenery in the Delta was beautiful.....

Really it was!

This is what passed for a shoulder in a four lane highway!

This was the best shoulder I found in Mississippi!

The new Mississippi flag

The safest road in Mississippi!  Loose dust and packed gravel.....

Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25, 2016../.North Little Rock, AR to Forrest City, AR

96.61 miles in about 7:48 (about 12.4 mph) total trip miles 1543.03 in 20 days for an average of 77.15 miles per day.....ascent 428 ft .....trip total 29,157 ft.
I had a lot of time to think today, so here are some numbers I thought about. I'm really into statistics and numbers. If I hadn't spent that day in El Paso playing around( I only went across town and rode 22.51 miles), I'd be averaging over 80 miles a day.
I decided to compare my numbers to the trip from Phoenix last year after 20 days, and the numbers are very similar. Last year after 20 days, I had ridden 1496 miles, only 47 less miles than this year. I had climbed 32002 ft (29157 ft this year). I thought it was a flatter course. And last year I was averaging 74.8 miles a day, about 2.5 miles a day less than this year. Pretty similar numbers, and interesting to me. ( I'm glad I'm doing a little more this year, because I'm competitive with myself like that).
Even though I hate to admit it, I'm feeling a little beat up. I don't like to show weakness, but damn. ...the bottom of my feet have spots from my clips, my knee injury from softball is firing up, even though I know how to massage it to loosen it up, I'm getting tingles in my left shoulder blade, and my wrists are sore.....but damn..  I'm 60 freaking years old, and even if I was 30, some little things would be starting to show up, so.....I'm good. Maybe it'll rain soon and I'll get an easy day!
I counted my rollers again today.....zero....it was flat as could be .. The wind was helpful for the most part, and it was overcast all day. I started in North Little Rock, with about 8 miles of industrial area, then I was into a bayou ( where Luscious Clay hid his money). How well do you know your Charlie Daniels?? Anyhow, I was accompanied by delta  and bayou water for most if the day . The bayou reminded me of the Everglades a little, then it was gone in eight miles or so. Farm land was the predominant feature, with large amounts of unflooded, and maybe unplanted rice patties. Cotton, corn, and soy bean crops were also in various stages of preparation. There were many fish hatcheries and minnow farms along the way also, most run by Arkansas fish and game. There were once again several small farming towns, and I crossed the White River and the Cache River. I stopped and had a catfish sandwich for lunch in a little town. I was on US 70 (the same one that used to go through Mesa, Az),all  of the way today, but we were never far from I 40. After the first 37 miles my BEEhind was really beat up with frost heaves, as US 70 was not in the greatest of shape, and the wind wasn't totally cooperating. At that 37 mile mark, the road changed to nice smooth pavement, and all was well again. The nice surface made a difference of at least a mile an hour. The wind, which was supposed to get stronger as the day went on, either faded, or was on my tail.
This was definitely an area that I needed to get through on a nice day, because it was wide open, and the wind could have been brutal in another day. Storms are brewing, and I'm glad I'm through that wide open stretch. As I got near my destination, there was another bayou, which went about 8 miles, with no shoulder, but the trees protected me from the wind. I ate Chinese in Forrest City, and discovered that there is no way for a biker to cross the Mississippi between West Memphis, AR, and Memphis, Tennessee, so I've gotta go 40 miles south, into Mississippi tomorrow, so a potentially easier day tomorrow becomes, another century. Oh well.

The bayou just outside of North Little Rock

Shoulder less roads were common in US 70

When was the last time you saw an Esso sign?

Grain mills were a common sight.  This was the biggest


An old train bridge on the White River

The White River

A selfie while riding with farm equipment bearing down on me!

An appropriate name in Arkansas Razorback country!

I don't know what this white field was, but it was impressive!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 24 - Arkadelphia, Arkansas, to North Little Rock, Arkansas


82.0 miles in about 7:17....(1446.42 total miles over 19 days.....averaging 76.127 a day)
Ascent....2589 ft....28729 ft for the trip...
When I rolled out if town at 8:30, I realized that Arkadelphia, as well as the town I was in before that, are pretty much built on a hill. Most of the time towns are built in a valley, by a river, or water source, and the first thing I do in the morning is climb out of the valley. Here, in the Arkansas Delta country, the town's are built on a hill, and the first thing I did was go down in elevation. Actually, there were a few rollers past two universities that I hadn't heard of ...Henderson State U, and Ouachita Baptist U. I guess I was riding today in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, which are in northwest Arkansas and Oklahoma. I always talk about the 'rollers', but u never really know how many hills I climbed in a day. Today I decided to count them.
It turns out that I'm glad I did. Today was my third highest elevation climb of the trip, over 2500 ft, and I counted 40 hills that I had to gear down to my easiest gear. This particular course that I have taken from Phoenix, is no doubt, the flattest way that a person could get to the Mississippi River. Other rides have climbed 4,5,6000 ft in one day. I only have had one day over 4000. You won't get that by going north out of Phoenix!!
My first 40 miles were once again on US 67, but in Benton, 67 went off to Hot Springs, and
I was left at the mercy of the GPS.
Somewhere out there, I had a crazy incident that I want to mention. There have been lots of dogs in Arkansas, but most of them chase me for a while, then let me alone. I haven't had to pull my weapon but once, and I didn't need to that time either. Well, today a dog was running along side me, and I was focused on it, of course, when the dog spooked a squirrel out of the high grass along the road. The squirrel shot out in front of me, and I swear my front tire just missed it by inches. I almost ran over a damn squirrel!!! I wonder how that would have turned out if I hit it and wrecked with the dog hot on my heels!!
Surprisingly, once I got to Benton, I was only half way into my trip, but I think I was in some one's city limits all the way for the next 40 miles to the Motel. I think I may have been in the city of Bryant also. There were absolutely no shoulders on roads, and very few bike lanes for that last leg of the journey. I rode through lots of residential areas, but I was also on some skinny roads that had twists and turns, and peaks and valleys, that I should not have been on. People around here are NOT used to bicyclist, but many erred on the side of caution, and did not know how to pass me. That is just as annoying as the guys who blaze by me recklessly. It was a little crazy in spots.
I was cruising along in one of the neighborhoods, when suddenly I came upon the campus of the Arkansas Children's Hospital. Just as quickly I rode right past the state capital building, then right through downtown, which has some pretty tall buildings, then across the surprisingly big Arkansas River on a bridge with no bike lane. It was very fortuitous that I was there at five o'clock on a Sunday, not on a weekday with all the traffic.
Once I got to the Motel 6, which was pretty beat up, I could not find a restaurant that was open, so I ended buying some hamburger buns and some turkey Bologna at the save a lot.

A beautiful mural in downtown Benton.  First the whole thing, then the close-ups.





The Arkansas state flag

What if people can't read???  Uh oh!

No shoulder, sharp turns, nasty roads going into Little Rock

I came to this sign a full 20 miles before I found my motel in North Little Rock

I wonder why Mickey and Minnie are black???

The Arkansas state capital building

I was right in downtown, on a Sunday with no traffic, fortunately

The bridge over the Arkansas River, with no traffic!

The Arkansas River is huge, even when it's not high, like all the rivers I've seen for a week.

I stumbled across a minor league baseball game, the Arkansas Travelers.