Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Today may have been my least fun on a bike.  It started with the frustration of trying to get across the river into Arkansas and continued with trying to find the bike route once across.

The beginning was innocent enough.  There is a nice bike trail along the river with views of some of the Memphis homes.

From here, I was supposed to be able to a 'bike friendly' bridge across the river.  The trouble is, that bridge is under construction and will not be open until October 22.

Here is what my route looked like trying to find, first the entrance to that bridge, and then proceeding the wrong way on the freeway before realizing my only option was the Interstate bridge.

My first look at the Interstate said "no way".  It was two lanes with zero shoulder and a lot of traffic including large trucks.  As I continued to approach the entrance, I realized there was a little used pedestrian walkway on the side.  This was my way across the bridge.
Not knowing what kind of debris might be in my way, I proceeded quite slowly.  When I completed the river crossing, I ran into another snag.  I took the first exit to Bridgeport road.  According to the route instructions, I was supposed to be able to take a dirt road under the freeway to get to the bike route.  Instead, I found myself in the middle of a muddy construction project.  The only advice one of the workers had for me was to return to the freeway.  This is what this section of my day looked like.
Note that the section of Bridgeport Rd above and to the righty of the number 9 below (that is nine miles of riding where it should have been less than six) did not appear to exist. 
 I did return to the freeway, noting the sign that said "Pedestrians, bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles prohibited".  I was on for only a short distance.  As you can see below, I was heading for a weigh station where I am sure a member of the Arkansas State Patrol would be less than pleased to see me on the freeway.
As I looked to my right, I saw a Bike Route sign on the road.  Consequently, ala Lance Armstrong in the 2003 Tour de France, I headed off road across a grassy field to get to the road.  This turned out to be the actual bike route which connected to a trail that took me the rest of the way to West Memphis, AR.
From here the day just got hard.  The wind was blowing a steady 12-15 mph from the SE and I had long stretches of riding due south with occasional jogs to the west.  In addition, the temperature reached 90 early and stayed there.  Most of the roads looked like

and occasionally
With the wind like
 When I saw a line of trees ahead, I was grateful, not just for the change of scenery, but for the likely respite from the wind.
This turned out to be a stretch of about a mile along the NW of Horseshoe Lake.  There were some beautiful homes here of which I photographed only one.

After not seeing the Mississippi all day, I was delighted to cross over the St Francis river.
and I was intrigued a short distance later when I crossed "Cow Bayou".

 After passing through the town of Mariana about mile 70, I ran into road construction.  This turned out to be one of the better things that happened to me today.  I noted that traffic was being narrowed to two lanes while they widened the road and this gave me two lanes of fresh, silky smooth asphalt to ride on while being protected from cars.  It did not totally make up for the heat and headwind, but it helped.
Unfortunately, when my private lane ran out, it also got dustier.  Both passing and oncoming traffic stirred up enough dust I realized I was getting a fine layer of sand all over me.
Finally, a few miles outside of West Helena, the days destination, a line of trees offered some relief from the wind.
The last few miles I was able to pick up speed a little but I was really glad to see Cathy.  We are staying about 16 miles off the route because a local Blues Festival has every hotel/motel booked for miles around.  Instead we used our AirB&B app for the first time.
After a beer and pizza, we found our way to our lodging for the night.  If this is typical of AirB&B, I'm sold.  Our host Armando greeted us warmly, showed us around the 3 bedroom house we have all to ourselves and then ran home to get us a hose and bucket when we said we wanted to do some cleanup on the car.  The refrigerator was stocked with water, soda and condiments and there was a box of cookies on the table.  I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep.

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