Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hiatus II

Although my ride through Arkansas is more pleasant than Louisiana, the bus experience left much to be desired. There is much more to the story than I am revealing here, but Greyhound and SCAT have really dropped the ball with this “service”.

[later] On the equipment front, I have a flashing tail light, which I always use, and a headlight, which I don’t usually use (except at night).  I see from an Arkansas bicycle publication that some places in Arkansas require a bell, which I don’t have.  Another item for the gear list.

I hope to make it back here soon so that I can continue my journey to Memphis and say that I made the trip. I have the strength, resources and initiative to do the trip now but my saddle sores are quite bad and I need the break.

Day 17

Sun 2013/06/09

Daily mileage 6.62 Segment 190.3 Total 502.2

Route: Ride the bike from the hotel to the Fordyce bus station, bus ride back to Marshall, bike ride back to the hotel where the car is, stay over night, head back home.

I was unable to get ahold of anybody at Greyhound last night, and the web page took me through a frustrating maze of options before telling me I had to buy the ticket by phone. I rode to the bus station (here), and arrived almost 2 hours before the bus’ scheduled departure. I was hoping for either the bus station to have a person present who could help me (they didn’t) or arrival of another bus to help me with ticket purchase options (no other bus). The bus station (sic) was an Arkansas government office, which was closed (okay, it was Sunday) but nothing posted anywhere relevant to ticketing or operation of the buses. I am able to get through the Greyhound ticket office by phone this morning, and purchase a ticket by phone from an agent. Everything seems okay.

The 12 passenger bus arrives about 10 minutes late, right when some fairly heavy rain starts, and after loading my bike, the driver will not accept the Greyhound ticketing information. I have to come up with another $29.50 cash, exact change (with my bike on the bus) or I don’t get a ride. I happen to have $30.45; he gets $30. Ripped off by bus driver! After an interesting but hilly ride through Southern Arkansas, the SCAT bus drops me off at their office in Malvern AR (which is closed). The driver says I can take up the $30 issue with them when they are open Monday through Friday. Thanks for nothing. I am picked up a little later by a “real” Greyhound bus, where the ticket confirmation information I got on the phone is accepted. We do a milk run to the Texarkana bus station, where we stop for a while and I change buses. When asking about a refund (or at least a credit) for my SCAT ticket in Texarkana, the Greyhound ticket agent is polite and sympathetic but not helpful. I will later make numerous phone calls to numerous people at Greyhound and the cheapo SCAT commuter bus company in an attempt to get my $30 back. That’s another story for another day. The driver from Malvern to Texarkana had no problem with my bike, but the new driver in Texarkana wants the bike in a box. The station agent smooths some feathers, and I am able to load the bike on the bus myself “at my risk”.

Instead of going from Texarkana to Marshall, the bus goes South to Shreveport, then West to Marshall, TX. I have my maps with me, and look at some of the alternate route I missed by going over that nasty bridge East of Vivian.  I probably took the better route.  I get to Marshall after dark, and after spending 20 minutes setting the bike up again, ride 4 miles in the dark back to the hotel. I am a little uneasy about night riding, but it works out and I get there safely without incident.

Ha ha: riding up one of the hills on the shoulder, there is a traffic light with a warning sign connected to radar. “Intersection ahead, watch your speed: 7 MPH”.

Day 16

Sat 2013/06/08

Start mile 5965.5 end 5997.9 Daily 32.56 Segment 183.6 Total 495.5

Route: Camden to Fordyce AR. Good breakfast at the hotel (in Camden).  Just after I started, I realized that I rode about 1.25 miles with yesterday’s numbers on the bike computer (adjusted accordingly).

I had a major problem with the rear tire near today’s half way point, and had to replace both the rear tire and tube with spares.  This time, I was at least able to do it in some shade.  Lots of poison ivy, but it was in the shade.  In paring things down for this trip, I wondered if I really needed a spare tire.  I now have the answer.

This is the third time I have had a major tire problem on a trip, and the second problem with this brand of tire.  I purchased the original tire, and after about 200 miles on it, had trouble with bulging on the sidewall during the 2012 MS150 (which I replaced with a gator skin at the halfway point/Saturday night stop).  The tire that I had trouble with today was an exchange/replacement, and I had put less than 100 miles on it.

Several friendly people stopped at 2 of my breaks.  Arkansas people are much different from those in Louisiana.  I had no lunch (well ok, granola bars), stayed at the Days Inn Fordyce, dinner at “Four Dice” buffet across the street.  I was starved, and ate more than I needed to.

Saddle sores are causing significant trouble.  I’m pretty much done because of that, but my poor planning with my airplane connection overrules that.  Well, I suppose it is a better excuse.  I figured out that the blister on my right thumb yesterday is from the shifter.  I didn’t realize I was shifting gears that much…

I will try to catch the bus back to Marshall tomorrow.  Greyhound sells tickets from here with no hint that it is a third party bus, but the hotel clerk says that the bus at the bus stop is a small commuter bus (not full size Greyhound) that merely takes you to the Malvern bus station.  Either way, tomorrow I hope to catch a ride back to Marshall TX.  The forecast also calls for more big storms tomorrow, which I hope to avoid.

Day 15

Fri 2013/06/07

Start mile 5927.7 end 5965.5 Daily 37.75 Segment 151.2 Total 463.1

Route: Magnolia to Camden, AR.

Lousy breakfast at the lousy hotel before departure, about 09:10.  There is a strong headwind from start until early afternoon… strong enough that I rolled to a stop going downhill.  Flags flying towards me, flapping with nothing touching the flagpole. 15+ mph?

I stopped for lunch at a gas station in Stephens, AR, and had some brief discussion with some friendly but crazy locals.

The destination is Holiday Inn Express… the first nice hotel of the trip.  I had a swim at the hotel that felt very nice (first hotel with a pool on this trip). KFC dinner next door.  My saddle sores are a little less than yesterday but definitely not gone.

Day 14

Thu 2013/06/06

Start mile 5900.0 end 5927.7 Daily 27.73 Segment 113.4 Trip 425.3

Route: Springhill to Magnolia, AR.

No breakfast at the hotel, so I had a quick McDonald’s breakfast before departure.  There were several hills at the start but a good start nonetheless. Most of the route was flat and I was able to make good progress until ~10:40, when an expected major storm arrived.  I waited out heavy rain under some shelter in a church yard until 12:50.

I only go 28- miles today, but the saddle sores have gotten the best of me.  I planned for arrival at a Best Western hotel in Magnolia, which was apparently sold to private owners.  Not quite the quality I had hoped for.  I have to return home to catch a flight in a few days; the problem is, I don’t have my itinerary with me and don’t have anything that even suggests my flight date, so I will plan to return at least a day before my first gross estimate. I researched bus station locations but there are none until tomorrow’s city (Camden).  No sweat.

Magnolia is a nice little town.  I like it here.

Day 12

Tue 2013/06/04

Start mileage 5856.1 end 5900.0 Daily 43.88 Segment 85.7 Total 397.6

Route: Vivian to Springhill LA (Holiday motel).

I started a little late. The hotel did not have breakfast, so after getting loaded and a quarter mile ride, had breakfast at a nearby Sonic ~09:50 until 10:15.

The major worry for today’s ride is a rather intimidating bridge over the Red River. The road narrows down to 2 lanes with no shoulder, no sidewalk and no visibility to the other side of the bridge. If traffic from behind arrives at the same time as traffic from ahead, there is no escape route. I crossed this bridge by car on Sunday on the way down from Hot Springs, and I didn’t like it in the car. After waiting on immediate traffic from behind to clear, I pedaled up the steep bridge approach and I hope nothing arrives while I cross the bridge. At the edge of the bridge span, I also discover that there are some nasty expansion joints as well, and I get a flat tire (front) crossing the second one. The tire blows out immediately and I pedal as hard as I can to get to the other side, travelling ~25 mph with a flat tire on the front. Not an easy feeling but I survived the big concern of the day. On the other side of the bridge, there are open fields and no trees or shade. I change the tire in an open area at the end of the guard rail, with the hot 92 degree sun beating down on me.

When I get to Plain Dealing, LA, I hoped to travel highway 157, and start up that route and stop for a break about a half mile in.  A city police officer rolled up several minutes after my stop.  It turns out that the property owner next to where I stopped didn’t like me there and “called the law” on me.  The office was very nice and we had a good conversation for a few minutes.  He convinced me that highway 157 was very hilly from there to Springhill, and a better route would be highway 2 through Sarepta rather than highway 157.  The route is about 4 miles longer but much flatter.  I think he is right, and U-turn.  I make good progress for the first few miles on highway 2.

I don’t know why, but today is very hard on me.  The temperature is in mid-90s, and there is a at least a light headwind for the eastern portion of the trip. It is very hard riding and I have many breaks.  I hate to admit to this but it took almost all day (~09:45 until after dark) to get 43.9 miles.  I also had to baby some saddle sores which I was alarmed to see developing on day 2 of the ride.

Somehow, I managed to reset my bike computer during the ride, and have to back-calculate my mileage and the riding stats are only for the last part of the day’s ride.  Also, the battery on my GPS ran out and did a hard reset on the device (I don’t know yet if it lost any data from the day’s ride).

In my younger days, I used to live in South Louisiana, and noticed several unique things about the state.  The roads near where I lived were all very narrow, with no shoulders, meandering between all the little towns and country subdivisions.  I figured this was related to the history of the roads, perhaps originating in the days of horses, with the roads meandering between the large plantation properties of the area.  The quality of these roads left something to be desired, with many patches and pot holes, even on the busy roadways.  There is a distinct contrast between Texas and Louisiana country roads.  Later I will discover that Arkansas roads are also superior as well.  The people in Louisiana are also not as warm or forthcoming as people elsewhere either.  I noticed in my earlier days in Lafayette, LA that there was a lot of xenophobia and “us versus them” thinking in the locals.  A lot of distrust of outsiders or somebody who did something differently from you or even somebody from the next town had to go a long way to earn trust.  The civil war was still going on, at least in spirit.  People didn’t interact; if they saw something they didn’t like, they called the authorities to deal with any perceived problem.  Today’s ride took me back.