Tuesday Evening 26 September
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.