Day 24

Sat 2013/08/03

Daily mileage: 9.34 Segment 206.8 Total 709.0

Route: Ride the bike from the hotel to the Memphis bus station, Greyhound bus back to the car.

My free ride didn’t work out, so my ‘back to the car’ option is Greyhound bus from Memphis to Fordyce, AR.  It turns out that the bus from Memphis to Fordyce leaves at 03:05 a.m.  Hotel checkout is 11:00 a.m.  I probably should have just travelled from the I-55 bridge crossing to the bus station and not checked into the hotel.  I was told that the bus station was on Main Street in the Northern part of downtown Memphis.  Research on the web gave me departure times and the updated address, near the airport.  I got my bike and gear together, checked out of the hotel, and rode to the Greyhound station on Airways Blvd. Right when I rolled out of the hotel property, it started to rain.  I didn’t need to be in any hurry, but I went straight from the hotel to the bus station.  I bought a ticket, and was told that my bike needed to be in a box; the shipping department around the corner would help me.  I had all the time in the world, so I took my time and packaged the bike as well as I could with the resources available from the shipping department – a box for $10 and all the packing tape I could handle.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about the driver rejecting me or my bike after waiting all day for the dang bus.

I then waited in the bus station for 14.5 hours until my bus arrived at 03:05 a.m.  I was a bit taken aback at the slice of society that I observed in the bus station.  The station was never empty but yet never really all that crowded, as buses arrived and departed from various destinations.  I figured that I might be able to catch an earlier bus to Little Rock, where I had to change buses anyway, and do some of my wait time there instead of Memphis, but the few buses going there were all full or nearly full.  I ended up waiting the full time in Memphis.  My bus arrived about 30 minutes late, departed almost full about 60 minutes late, and I was concerned that after waiting the majority of the hours in a day, I might miss one of my connections in Little Rock and/or Malvern.  But connections were there and the SCAT bus in Malvern was waiting for us.  It was a 12 passenger bus with 7 of us on board.  I was tired, and hadn’t slept, but I somewhat enjoyed the trip back to Fordyce on the roller coaster road.  The bus driver dropped me about a half mile from where the car was and I had all gear loaded in the car about 10:30 after some creative cargo movement.  I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and I was on my way.  The trip was done.

More later…

Day 23

Fri 2013/08/02

Daily mileage: 8.78 Segment 197.4 Total 699.5

Route: West Memphis to Memphis TN (Super 8 at Crump Park).  Today’s mileage is a lot lower than average; I was unsuccessful in stopping earlier yesterday, but I wanted to allocate a lot of time for today since I had to find the route across the Mississippi River.  It is not straightforward.

I left West Memphis about 11:20, and headed to the river crossing route I scoped out the week earlier.  I was here in my car about a week earlier, and spent about 8 hours finding the bicycle route to the I-55 bridge.  I only have the bike today; hopefully it will be a lot simpler today.

I am hurting from the saddle sores, but I pushed through it all and survived.  The previously locked red gate was unlocked and open.  I stopped for a break after the gravel road/paved road change, stopped at the BASF factory, told them about the mislabelled MRT sign.  They were friendly and happy to get the info this time.

The time I spent last week was quite worthwhile.  I was quite relieved that I was able to find my way to the I-55 bridge without any trouble. Crossing the bridge was no problem.  I pushed the bike through the grass, up the embankment and for about 50 feet after the concrete bridge walkway started, and was able to ride all the way across the bridge, arriving in E.H. Crump Park on the Memphis, Tennessee side.  When I visited by car the previous week, the bridge railing did not look that high and I thought that I might have to walk the bike across the bridge, but I was able to ride the bike all  the way without any confidence problems or vertigo.  The side clearance changed every 15 feet or so due to the bridge structure, and I did not hit anything in passing.  On the other side, I rolled down the grass embankment, across the park’s parking lot into the hotel parking lot without getting off my bike.  This was much easier than I had thought it would be.  I was quite amazed at the amount of shaking and vibration on the bridge.  I somewhat expected a little seismic activity from all of the heavy trucks, but even passenger cars made it shake.  The bridge is quite old and I don’t see how it stays together like that.  I suppose that it is appropriate that the bridge to Memphis has a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on”.  Sorry Elvis.

Well, I made it to Memphis.

Day 22

Thu 2013/08/01

Daily mileage 41.05 Trip 188.7 Total 690.75

Route: Forrest City to West Memphis AR (Quality Inn).

I was fighting a fairly strong cross wind all day (8 to 10 o’clock).  I was well rested but got exhausted early for some reason.  I went about 8+ miles before my first break.  After a cloudy start, the sun came out, and I struggled the rest of the day.  I had numerous
breaks.

I missed out on breakfast, couldn’t find a restaurant or otherwise reasonable place to eat until about 13:00, when I stopped at a gas station in Shell Lake.  There were friendly people at every stop I made.  Before the gas station lunch, I stopped at a house under construction, and owners/builders gave me an iced bottle of water topped off with some nice conversation.

The lunch (I suppose it was really breakfast) rejuvenated me and I was able to make it to West Memphis without any issues.  I thought I would run into a hotel (any hotel!) before making it to town, but the nearest one was more than half way through the city at an I-55 exit.  I spent a little time trying to figure out how to get to it without interacting with freeway speed vehicles, and I made it to the Quality Inn by crossing an old overgrown parking lot.  The nearest restaurant was a Cracker Barrel that I had to get to by walking along freeway access road about a half mile.  Challenging route, good meal after a tough day.  I had some serious saddle sores in Djibouti, soothed a bit in the hotel pool.

Day 21

Wed 2013/07/31

Daily mileage 42.47 Segment 147.6 Total 649.7

Route: Clarendon to Forrest City AR (Save Inn).

Weather forecast: 40% chance of rain (“scattered showers”).  It seems to have rained overnight (I slept through it).  It was cloudy in the morning but no rain following departure.  More importantly, I had a tail wind almost all day!!  After about 10:30, the clouds cleared, and it got very hot and humid.  I started having breaks every ~5 miles after the heat/humidity showed up (Brinkley & East).

I didn’t have breakfast at the gas station or diner next to the motel, and just started riding, anticipating that there would be somewhere to eat before I got through town.  There wasn’t, and I ended up not eating anything until I arrived in Brinkley about 10:45, and had an early lunch.

I was pretty tired when I rolled into the Save Inn in Forrest City.  The hotel was under some renovation, and my room was not stellar, but the price was reasonable.  Again, I soak my saddle sores in the shower.  After recovering from the ride, I walk about 2 miles (round trip) and have dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby.  This is not a good part of town but the restaurant is a bright spot in the neighborhood.

Day 20

Tue 2013/07/30

Daily mileage 22.41 Segment 105.1 Total 607.2

Route: Stuttgart to Clarendon AR (A&J Motel).

There is possible rain in the forecast, but I saw nothing but a slight sprinkle in the early afternoon.  The temperature was a little more bearable, so I suppose that means that I had no weather issues today.

The major challenge for today is the bridge just before Clarendon over the White River.  I drove this by car the week before, and my recollection was that it was a 2 mile bridge with no shoulder, no breaks.

I left Stuttgart at 09:00, and found myself pedalling steadily for a mostly uneventful ride.  With cycling, teenagers and explosives, boring is good.

When I approached the dreaded bridge, I discovered that there is a new bridge under construction just before old bridge.  I pedalled about a half mile into the construction zone, and determined that there was no way to cross with my bike.  I talked to a construction worker, who said that it will take another 2 years for the new bridge to be completed.  I ride back to the dreaded 2 mile bridge, and discover that it is actually about a 0.5 mile bridge, separated by berm with narrow shoulder for 0.5 miles, then another 1+ mile bridge.  This is not outstanding, but at least I was able to have a break to recover a bit and let traffic clear before the sprint across each bridge.  Four cars passed on the first segment, 4 trucks (1 18 wheeler) on the second segment going up the main slope to river crossing.  I survived!

I stayed at the A&J Motel in Clarendon, taking the last room and paying for a double bed.  I would have been in a little trouble if the room was not available.  The hotel was fairly old but in reasonably good shape, run by a friendly lady.

I had a late lunch at a nice diner around the corner from the hotel, and a fried chicken dinner later on from Valero gas station next door.

My saddle sores have gotten worse, and I know will cause problems tomorrow.

Day 19

Mon 2013/07/29

Daily mileage 34.95 Segment 82.66 Total 584.8

Route: Pine Bluff to Stuttgart AR (Best Western).

The forecast called for 92 deg temperatures, with a South wind.  It was very hot, with the wind from 2 to 4 O’clock all trip – the same as yesterday.

Again, I had a nap at about the half way point (Wabbaseka), in a city park.

There were more friendly people in a gas station where I had lunch and filled up with water in Humphrey.

The saddle sores are starting again.  I had a well worn seat pad, which I replaced just before this trip segment.  I’m not sure if that has changed anything, but I’m getting quite sore a lot sooner than I think I should be.  A long shower in the hotel helped a little, but unfortunately not enough.

Stuttgart is a nice little town, but there are no dinner places open in the evening.  Everything seems to close at 17:00 or so, and I walked probably 5 miles to figure that out.  I had 6 wings from a nearby Valero gas station.

Day 18

Sun 2013/07/28

Daily mileage 47.71 Segment 47.71 Total 549.8

Route: Fordyce to Pine Bluff AR (Best Western).  I left the car at the “A OK” Motel, while I am cycling.  I’m not sure when I depart if I will return via Greyhound bus or catch a ride with someone.

Today’s ride is mostly uneventful.  The roads are really nice, with wide shoulders, and relatively flat.  I know that all of Arkansas is not flat like this, but this route is a winner.  I make good headway.

The weather forecast predicted the wind to be from the South.  An airport windsock shows the wind to be from my 2 O’Clock, and it seems to stay a crosswind between 2 O’clock and 4 O’clock most of the day.

At about the halfway point, I stop at a highway rest stop, and fall asleep for over an hour.  Whew, where did that come from?

I met up with several friendly people on today’s trip.  I took my usual breaks in several places.  The property owner at a pole yard checked on me and had a friendly chat.  Several locals chatted me up at a gas station.

Despite being next to a mall (which closed early on Sunday), the hotel in Pine Bluff was a bit of distance from any eating establishments.  I didn’t see where I wanted to go and ended up walking about 2 miles for dinner at McDonald’s.  Yum.