I Believe

Jesus Loves me.

Jesus saved me from drowning in sin.

Jesus Lives.

God Loves me.

God created the heavens and the earth and me.

God gave us the Bible.

Jesus finds each of us where we are.

I cannot see God, but I can know God through his wondrous creations and through Jesus.

God knows what lies within my heart; I cannot deceive him with words or quiet prayer.

God gave me Martha.  She and I are soulmates, meant to Live and build a family together.

God has blessed our family.

I have not earned God’s blessing; we have all received through grace.

God gave me Today.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Sunday Morning 8 October

officialPicturePacTourSouthern2017Three more days of riding hills and headwinds, then a flat dash across the coastal plain brought us to the Atlantic Ocean.  I stopped writing posts a few days ago because they were becoming repetitive.  All we did was get up, eat breakfast, ride, eat, sleep, repeat.  That’s the magic of Pactour.

reachingTheAtlanticMartha and I spent yesterday relaxing on Tybee Island.  Most riders have departed by now, probably most are home with their families.  I miss them.

Lon and Susan have been running Pactours for 35 years.  At three rides each year, that makes this the 105th Pactour.  I’ve done eight of them. Now I’m John Darling.  Martha is Wendy.  Lon and Susan are Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Pactour is Never Never Land.

Eufaula, Alabama

Tuesday Evening 3 October
Day 24

A tribute to our cherished cast of characters

Angry Birds
Angry Birds

 

Greenville, Alabama

Monday Evening 2 October
Day 23

Headwinds and hills for 128 miles, just get it done.  No stops for pictures, just ride the bike.  Tiger Tom and Doc Don escorted me out of Livingston. Then I traded a few pulls with Eastside Ernie and Jukebox Jerry, until we caught another group ahead of us.  Ernie and Jerry dropped back, and I rode up to the first sag in an ad hoc pace line – three of the Tacoma-Steilacoom boys, Big John, Winchester John and Seattle Gary.  They stopped at the sag, I kept going; I also blew past the second sag, and finally they caught me right before lunch.  Rather than stopping to eat, I poured some tomato soup in my water bottle, grabbed half a grilled cheese to eat while riding and headed down the road, not fast, but at a steady pace.  About 20 miles outside of Greenville, the same pace line caught me again and I let them go.  Eventually QB Ken caught me, and we rolled into Greenville together, both happy to have some company.

Platform Pedals

For a final test of my platform pedal hypothesis, I switched back to Speedplay pedals with Specialized shoes for the ride to Greenville.  After happily riding platforms for over two weeks, I wanted to see if the Speedplay pedals offered any advantages.  Much as I would like to say there was no significant difference, I cannot do that.  I liked having my foot locked in to the pedal, especially at two points on the stroke – about 1 o’clock and about 7 o’clock. Also, I was able to sustain standing on a climb longer and more easily with the Speedplays. Overall, my perception was they provide a small increase in power – maybe 5 – 10 percent. That’s not much, but for a long day it is significant.

Final analysis – platform pedals have all the advantages I mentioned in my earlier post.  Riding with sandals is incredibly comfortable.  For a self-contained ride, you  don’t have to carry extra shoes.  For tour rides shorter than 100 miles, unless you have your mind set on beating your friends to a motel or campsite, I suggest giving platforms a try.

 

Livingston, Alabama

Sunday Evening 1 October
Day 22
Karen Ann and Brent
Karen Ann and Brent

Outskirts of Livingston, not much here. McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Taste of India.  Martha and I didn’t want to risk Indian Food in ‘bama, so we went for the King.  My whopper had too much ketchup.  Big John and Debbie went for McD’s.  They were out of ketchup.  Doc Jon went for Taste of India, said it was good.  I forgot to ask if they had ketchup. Karen Ann and Brent chose subway, which they ate in the motel lobby. I told Karen Ann, “look like you’re happy, even if you’re not.” She laughed.

Brent and Karen Ann inspire me.  They ride this tour together most of of the time, with smiles on their faces, seeming to savor every moment.

Brent’s rear derailleur broke today.  He’s riding the rest of the way to Savannah with only his front triple.  Tomorrow will be a good test – 128 miles, and hills.

Outskirts of Livingston, Alabama
Outskirts of Livingston, Alabama

Kosciusko, Mississippi

Saturday Evening 30 September
Day 21
Nutter Gang Double Echelon
Nutter Gang Double Echelon

Just for grins, riding out of Indianola, I decided to stalk the Nutter gang and maybe discover some of their secrets for having so much fun together on this trip.  Riding south on 49E, Seattle Gary came flying by me about five miles out of town.  Ten minutes later, along comes the rest of the gang, Waukegan John, motoring them up to Sea Gary’s wheel.  He got down on his aero bars and pulled the whole gang for maybe ten miles, while Ma Karen sat on Stigman’s wheel at the back.  The winds kicked up a notch and the gang started trading pulls, eventually forming a perfect double echelon when the wind was blasting from the left.  I hung back a couple hundred feet, smiling and admiring until they reached the first sag stop and I rolled slowly by.

Leaving the Flood Plain
Mississippi Flood Plain
Mississippi Flood Plain

After riding fifty odd miles, we began climbing a sequence of stair steps, leaving the cotton and rice fields behind us.  The landscape changed dramatically to rolling hills, forests, pastures, picturesque houses and occasional dogs.  At supper tonight, Charlie admitted to priming the dog pump, being the first to ride by them all.  By the time I reached dog alley, they had me dialed in.  My Strava power graph spikes for each of my dog intervals.  On one particular occasion, two dogs teamed up: first a yellow lab came at me from the right.  Just as I had managed to outrace him, his black lab buddy comes charging from the left.

Dogs were my only motivation to ride fast today.  Otherwise I enjoyed a slow meander over the rolling hills of eastern Mississippi.

 

Indianola, Mississippi

Saturday Morning 30 September
Day 21

Mississippi.  Deep South, Dixie’s Heartland.  We arrived yesterday.  I don’t live here.  I can observe, ask questions, take pictures, even write a blog, but no way I can claim to understand what lies deep within Dixie’s Heart.

Yesterday at breakfast, I chatted with MI Broh, who grew up in Texas.  In the late 1950’s, before the Civil Rights Act was passed, he traveled by car with his family passing through Mississippi.  The age of segregation.  Restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains he visited were for whites only.

Church Lunch Spot
Church Lunch Spot

Yesterday we set up and served lunch beside a small church.  One of the deacons arrived and he invited Martha and me inside to see the sanctuary.  Simple wooden pews had pockets holding well worn versions of old King James Bibles.  No hymnals.  The deacon said everyone just sang along with the choir.  The deacon was black and I asked him if the congregation was all black.

Yes, he replied, but people bring white visitors.  Anyone is welcome to attend.

After supper, several of us attended the nearby high school football game.  Two private schools were playing – Indianola Academy and Greenville. The game was much larger in scale than last week’s game at Shamrock. Larger crowds, more players on the roster, bigger linemen, louder music.  People in the crowd cheered enthusiastically and I saw Tiger Tom chatting amiably with several of them.

Indianola Academy Class of 2018
Indianola Academy Class of 2018

Most of the football players were white.  Over 90 percent of the crowd was white.  Indianola is 80 percent black.  Was there was another football game in town?

Wondering what barriers prevented others from attending Indianola Academy, I looked up the schools website.  Annual tuition is $5485, plus an expected donation of one or two thousand to the annual fund.  About 7K total.  That’s about what it costs to do a Pactour transcontinental.  We don’t have any black people in our group either.

The Ride

While I was driving the lunch truck, most riders rode in pace lines, battling headwinds across the Mississippi delta.  Flat roads crossed acres of cotton fields and rice fields. As the road approached the Mississippi, it circled the perimeter of an Oxbow Lake, formed many years ago when the Mississippi decided to cut itself a new channel.

Shortly after lunch, Tucson Bill took a spill, hitting a log in the road.  We picked him up, took him to the ER, and I understand he is back at the motel this morning.  At this time I don’t know the extent of his injury.

 

 

Monticello, Arkansas

Friday Morning 29 September
Day 20

Last night because Martha and I were busy prepping Pop’s Macaroni Slop, aka PacTour Goulosh, to server for lunch today, I didn’t have time to post anything. Here’s what I remember from yesterday.

The ride
Another Country Road
Another Country Road

I think we all rode easy – only 98 miles, little climbing, winds light and variable.  Quiet country roads through eastern Arkansas, small towns, pine tree farms, deciduous forests cornucopia of tree species. Spent the day being lazy, just being nature’s friend.

I was the last rider to leave Arkadelphia and allowed James and Daniel to pace me for 15 miles until we caught up to Brent and Karen Ann, then Young Ian and Captain Jack. After listening and digesting more words of wisdom from the Captain, I blew off the first sag, then rode slowly allowing other riders to catch me.

House in Glade
House in Glade

A fifteen second stop at the second sag allowed me to continue riding slowly and also hang briefly with groups of riders as they later passed me.  Any one of these groups would have happily allowed me to glom onto their wheels, or ride in with them, but this day I preferred to noodle along slowly, enjoying the scenery, lost in my own world of thoughts.

Tiger Tom and Dr Don At supper the night before, These dudes had me ROFL.
Tiger Tom and Dr Don
At supper the night before, These dudes had me ROFL.

I thought about the riders, this group, what an extraordinary privilege it is to ride and hang out with them for nearly a month.  Each individual speaks kindly, acts graciously, rides straight, steady and strong. Bicycle angels in cycling heaven.

Tidbits

After reading my blog post from several days before, Captain Jack gently corrected some of my statements about musical acoustics.  If you want to learn about music, don’t rely on my blog.  Talk to the Captain.

As a crew member, I spend some time shopping and waiting in lines at places like Walmart.  Back home, everyone waiting in line is doing something on a cellphone.  Here in the South, people are talking with each other.

A few weeks ago, I whined about lousy layouts in WordPress.  Turns out I didn’t know how to use the gallery feature.

Friday Night Bikes
Friday Night Bikes

QB Ken showed us a link from the Shamrock, TX newspaper. Tonight in Indianola, he says there’s another game, and both teams are undefeated.

 

 

 

 

 

Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Wednesday Evening 27 September
Day 18
Yellow Pine Creek
Yellow Pine Creek

A 1500 descent along the Talamena Parkway hurled us into the heart of Arkansas.  Narrow roads wound through acres of yellow pine, which Bill said is harvested for pulp.  We crossed and re-crossed the same creek, which apparently fed a large lake near Arkadelphia.

 

Sad Beer StoryWe’ve arrived in the old south, though not quite the heart of Dixie.  The first town we entered was in a dry county, so no beer or hard liquor for sale there.  However, they did sell daiquiri sour mix.  Arkadelphia does sell beer, just not good beer and not on Sundays.

 

 

Wilma Buck
Wilma Buck

We ate lunch in a vacant lot next to a small country Store in the small village of Alpine. I chatted with the proprietor, Wilma Buck.  She and her husband Troy have owned the store forty one years.  Several years ago, she said they tried to close it down, but the community raised a ruckus and they decided to keep it open.

 

Can't seem to stay away from here
Keep comin’ back

Tonight we’re staying in a Days Inn Motel.  The room smells of antiseptic.  Two copies of the same picture hang on the recently painted walls.  Across the street sits Fat Boys Fine Food, where I remember eating eight years ago and eleven years ago.  The first time I ate there it was called the Pig Pit.  I bought my daughter a T-Shirt there.  I tried to buy a tank top for myself today, but the only sizes are X-Large and XX-Large.

 

 

Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, Arkansas

Tuesday Evening 26 September
Day 17
Entrance to the Talamena Parkway
Entrance to the Talamena Parkway

Four hundred million years ago, the South American Plate slammed into the North American Plate to create an east-west fold called the Ouachita Mountains. Today we rode along the ridge of these mountains on the Talamena National Scenic Parkway, leaving Oklahoma behind and saying hello to Arkansas. Total distance for the day was only 99 miles, but the 7500 feet of climbing with grades of 11 – 13 percent tested everyone’s legs.

One of many Talamena Vistas
One of many Talamena Vistas

Blue sky with puffy clouds, temps in the 80’s, no headwind, mostly smooth road surface, birds chirping, acorns falling from oak trees, wide open vistas to the north and south, what more could a rider want?

Speaking for myself, a little less body fat and stronger legs would have served well. My goal was to “ride into” this tour in time to ride strong on the Talamena, but there’s only so much you can do with only two weeks of training.  The guys who did their homework motored by me.

Indeed, the steep hills fractured most of the groups who had been riding together. I started the day riding in with the Nutter gang for a few miles, and saw how gaps were forming as they climbed the rolling hills before the Talamena. On an early climb, TC Tom and Larry came motoring by me.  Their buddies Phil and Paul were way ahead.  Eastside Matt also came flying by.  “Where’s Rich”, I asked.

“Back there somewhere.”

Wild Wes
Wild Wes

I’m amazed at how well old guys can climb.  Eastside Ernie (70), Fast Phil (67), Tiger Tom (65), Dr Don (65), Tucson Bill (68), NY Richard (61), MI Jerry (69), MI Mose (64) all rode by me, attacking the hills with Gusto. Wild Wes (60) the youngster may or may not have passed me; my eyes were glazed over much of the day.

 

Road Stripe
Road Stripe

Road surface gradually became rougher as we reached the eastern extremes of Oklahoma. I tried riding a smooth stripe that ran through the road, but it wavered too much to be useful.  Perhaps other riders tried the same.

 

When we reached the Arkansas border, the surface changed to glass.

Gary crosses the state line
Gary crosses the state line

I stopped to snap a picture of the sign at the border when Seattle Gary came flying by. He slowed down and we enjoyed riding the final few miles to Wilhelmina Lodge together.

Like many cyclists, I confess to being self-absorbed on rides like today, absolutely focused on the climb, what my body is doing. Talamena provided a pristine setting for riding.  The magnificent vistas, diversity of plants, trees, wildlife I hardly took Time to notice. Thanks to Winchester John for reminding me to listen to the bird calls and the sound of acorns falling through oak leaves and striking the forest floor.

Martha Foraging Hickory Nuts
Martha Foraging Hickory Nuts

One hilight of the day was strolling with Martha after supper along the path outside the lodge.  She showed me a fat walking stick carrying a baby on its back. Then she noticed the nuts on the ground.  She dropped a rock on one to crack it open and get the meat. It was hickory. We shared a few bits of dessert together.