The smooth blacktop on Lolly Road was a welcomed surprise as I drove my pick-up toward our starting point for the annual overnight ride to Petit Jean State Park Mather Lodge. We begin each year at the new Conway Regional Airport. I did notice that Janice Peters was behind me when suddenly a sign appeared that the road was closed. Then I saw the construction cranes at the old bridge. After phone calls and direction changes, everyone arrived at about the same time. A bumpy start to the ride, but nothing to discourage us. We did have a long list of potential participants, but the nasty weather report and the prospects of making the climb up Petit Jean pared our riders to six.
The weather was trying to be the real deterrent to our event. A bit cool at 39 degrees along with overcast skies that occasionally spit our some misty rain. However the stubborn gang of six riders, including myself, started the process of dressing for wet and cold. After stepping out of the vehicles there were various layers of protective clothing added and assessed. There is a real art to preparing for this type venture.
We had a very gracious couple driving "sag" for the ride. Charlie and Judy Jacob were driving their vehicle along with Jim Britt's vehicle so that we had ample sag if we were rained out on the return trip. Also, due to a couple problems I had to have my vehicle. First, I had a job the next morning on Lake Greeson. Second, if a sag was needed, my trike would not fit either of the sag vehicles or bike carriers. To accomplish this I drove to Houston, AR, unloaded my trike and rode back toward the group.
The timing was great. I met them at the intersection of Bethel Road and Hwy 60. At this time there was a steady drizzle to light rain. This continued as we made it to Houston and then on to Oppelo where we had lunch in the convenience store. Charlie drove me back to get my pick-up which I moved to Oppelo. From there Linda decided to drive my vehicle instead of taking on the daunting climb up Petit Jean. Worked out great for both of us.
We now had five people pedaling this climb. As I said before, I am riding a trike and all the other riders were on various types of bikes. After a year on this contraption I have basically accepted it is very slow on climbs, so I set it on 3 MPH and kept pedaling. Both Jim and Janice were with me at the start, but they went ahead as I slugged it out. About 2/3 up I heard Mike Knabe greet me and then blow right by. It was evident the trip across the United States had developed his climbing skills. Jenny came up later. The story I heard was that she thought there was much further to go, so she sagged up when she only had less than 100 yards left to finish the climb. I will count that as a very good climb anyway.
The distance from the top of the climb to Mather Lodge is six miles. When competed that gave everyone 36 for the day, except me. Due to moving the vehicle I finished with 30 miles. I still felt those miles due to the climb and the wet cold conditions. It was time for a hot shower and warm clothes.
Dinner was early because of winter hours at the restaurant. We finished eating and were sitting in a large room with a great fireplace blazing by 6:30. Our group was joined by a some nice ladies that meet yearly at the lodge. I think we hung around until about 8:30. It was time to retire for the evening.
The alarm was sounding off the next morning...............
Finish this tomorrow.