Monday, February 20, 2012

Route 66 & Cooky's Pie 205k Permanent

"If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, that's the highway that's the best,
Get your kicks on Route 66."

Upon waking at 5am I tuned in The Weather Channel on the motel room television.  A variety of cycling clothing was laid on the bed awaiting my final decision.  The local report for Springfield, Missouri called for a high temperarture of 43F with 10 to 20 mph winds and a 50% chance of showers.  This was not the news I was hoping for,  With a slightly soured mood I selected the days attire and readied myself for the 06:30 start.

The designated convenience store, which serves as the start, was locked up tight despite the posted hours indicating it should be open.  I rode to a second location just a few blocks away to obtain my documentation.  I was the lone rider signed up for the out and back permanent known as Route 66 and Cooky's Pie.  A portion of the route is on the Historic Route 66.  Despite the less than perfect weather I was excited about the ride.  With my store receipt safely tucked in the pack I started out through the city streets, which were wet from an early rain shower. My Jamis fixed gear rolled smoothly through the quiet of the morning.  At that moment no precipitation was falling and the temperature was a comfortable 42 degrees.  A cloudy daybreak occurred just fifteen minutes into the ride.  The route passed by the Springfield-Branson Airport on the outskirts of the city which appeared quite still at the early hour.  Soon thereafter the surroundings became more rural and considerably more hilly.  The roads began to dry with the increasing wind.  Mostly blowing across my right side as I traveled west.  At mile 17 I reached the Historic Highway.  Now designated as the MO 266 since the decommissioning of US 66.  There were occasional historical markers indicating one was traveling on the famous road.  Just to the south was the I-44, which accommodated all the serious traffic.  The 266 was strictly for locals, and, for those folks seeking a less rushed, more nostalgic travel experience.  The historical theme prompted some businesses to sport a vintage look.  I passed an old store (mercantile) in Halltown that played to the Route 66 theme. Also, a couple of filling stations authentically depicting a time long past.  The advertised 15 cents per gallon gas price at the Sinclair made me smile.
"It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than 2,000 miles all the way,
Get your kicks on Route 66."
I worked my way up a number of good sized rolling hills on the first section.  The roads were pleasantly traffic-free.  The only creatures up and about were cows, horses, and dogs.  Some of the latter were free to roam and took the opportunity to join me for exercise as I passed by.  After leaving the Route 66 portion a series of local farm roads designated by the "FR" prefix, followed by a number, lead me to the first control in Miller.  At the Casey's General Store I enjoyed half a peanut butter sandwich and a coffee before continuing.

The next section to Golden City featured more northerly travel, which was dead into an intensifying wind.  The route flattened out and became more open.  The rural roads in this area were marked with letter desingnations, ie; UU, N, A, NN.  Rain began falling lightly as I worked my way through this quiet region.  I could hear the raindrops hitting my jacket, and the wind in my ears.  There were no other sounds.  I thought of the Simon and Garfunkel song "The Sounds of Silence".  I even sang a couple of verses aloud, purely for my benefit.  There was no one else to hear it.  The lettered roads brought me to the MO 37, just four miles south of Golden City.  The push into the wind felt good.  I looked forward to arriving at the control.  The sign at the city limit indicated 865 people resided there.  A sleepy little downtown area included the control known as Cooky's Cafe.  From the outside the place was an old looking diner.  Upon entering I noticed about 15 fresh baked pies lined up on the counter. There was a quaint, authentic look about the establishment.  I estimated that half the town's population was seated at the booths and tables.  I seated myself at an empty table and was quickly approached by a waitress. I assumed the permanent owner put the words "Cooky's Pie" in the route name as a suggestion.  I took the hint.  In short order a generous slice of blueberry pie was placed in front of me.  After which the waitress brought me a quest book to sign.  This was exclusively for cyclists.  I read a few of the entries and added one of my own.  I lingered a few minutes with a coffee enjoying the atmosphere, then reluctantly departed for the return trip to Springfield.
"Now you go through St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri"
"And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You'll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino."
My exit from Golden City was expedited by a spiffy tailwind which blew me to the turn-off of the Missouri A.  The resulting cross wind was not nearly as pleasant, but was managed effectively with Cooky's pie fueling the way.  Another turn onto the "N" brought me more wind assisted travel which was abruptly interrupted by a flat tire on the rear.  Not a single vehicle passed by while I was working on the side of the road changing the tube and pressuring the tire.  Just as I was tightening the rear hub bolts a farmer in a pick-up pulled up next to me and asked if I needed any help.  The offer was much appreciated.

Back underway I began to fret about the time I'd lost.  The second cup of coffee at Cooky's, plus the flat repair, were jeopardizing my goal of finishing by dark (5:50pm). I would be driving over 100 miles back to Arkansas after the ride.  Finishing as soon as possible was desirable.  The remaining lettered roads were ridden smoothly and efficiently thanks to some occasional wind assist.  I arrived at the control in Miller just past 2:30pm.  I took a total of about ten minutes to get back underway.  With 38 miles to go I liked my chances of meeting the goal.  But, everything else had to go right.
"Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip,"
The opposite sides of the same hills I climbed in the morning presented themselves for the return.  I felt fine and climbed aggressively.  A few more raindrops fell, but same as before they never materialized into anything.  Despite riding the same roads earlier in the opposite direction I had a navigation problem.  My first of the day.  I passed by a familiar looking intersection that was incorrectly marked.  The road I was on turned to a dirt surface about a mile later.  I retraced and turned at the previous intersection which was soon confirmed as the correct direction.  I scored two bonus miles on that one.  Just two miles later I came to another intersection that was unmarked.  The cue sheet called for a right on the M Highway.  I wasn't sure this was it.  I took the time to confirm my location using the GPS in my cell phone.  The intersection was right and I resumed riding.  The hills persisted through the historic portion of the MO 266 and I kept pushing with a good energy level.  A few of the same dogs from the morning came out to greet me again.  I was focused on my goal and paid them little mind.  With sixteen miles to go I felt my energy fade a bit.  I stopped to fish out a Snickers bar from my pack and quickly continued.  The rural area yielded to the suburbs and soon I was passing by the airport on the outskirts of town.  Daylight was fading quickly with the overcast skies.  The final long stretch was almost four miles on Nicholas Street.  I could see the beam from my headlight on the road, although I didn't need it to see.  I arrived at the finish at 6:10 pm.  Beyond the official sunset time, but there was still some useable daylight.  I'm a little fuzzy as to whether I made the goal or not, but I did finish my 35th consecutive R-12 ride.  To quote Metallica; "Nothing Else Matters".


Living in an area with multiple brevet regions within a 100 mile proximity is something I've taken for granted.  In more sparsely populated areas of the country it can be a bit more challenging to get to an RUSA sanctioned permanent, or brevet.  The city of Springfiield, MO, located in the Southwest corner of the state, is not a region with an RBA.  Fortunately, for myself and other like minded folks the area does have Ralph Rognstad, Jr., the owner of eight RUSA permanent routes all starting in, or near, Springfield.  They are a collection of creative, interesting rides ranging from 100 to 200 kilometers.  Flat, hilly, and hillier variations are all on offer thanks to Ralph's tireless efforts.  He routinely e-mail blasts his regular riders with his choice of ride for the weekend.  Inviting any or all to join in.  While Springfield is over 100 miles from where I am staying in Arkansas it has been well worth the trip.  I've completed three of Ralph's permanents.  One of which was in the company of Ralph, along with Dan, one of his regular riders.  These guys travel over three hours to Kansas or Illinois to complete their brevet series each year.  It takes serious dedication to be a randonneur in this region.  I'm certain the local riders have appreciation for what Ralph has put in place.  I know I am grateful for the opportunity to keep my R-12 streak alive.  Thanks Ralph!

To learn more about Ralph click here:

"Get your kicks on Route 66."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mammoth Run 100k Permanent - Arkansas

 “Isolated thunder storms” was the theme of the morning weather forecast.  The word isolated means only small areas will be affected, everywhere else will be spared.  This is good news, unless you happen to be passing through one of the small isolated areas being hit at that moment.  I was on my fixed gear riding the first ever permanent in northern Arkansas.  Having been here for nearly a month I decided it was time to start earning some RUSA kilometers.  I designed and submitted a 100k route, which was quickly approved.  At 10am on a Tuesday morning I headed out to undertake the inaugural ride of the Mammoth Run 100k.  The route would head north from Mountain Home, Arkansas passing the Pigeon Creek Recreation Area then continuing into Missouri on the Highway J.  The clouds up ahead looked pretty ominous.  On a rather large climb I felt the first rain drops which quickly changed to steady light rain.  For the time being I gave no thought to the rain jacket in my pack as it wasn’t raining hard enough to matter.  The temperature of about 50 degrees was tolerable at the moment.  I reached the top of the climb at the instant the skies opened up and rain bucketed down.  Off in the distance I could make out a church with a covered portico.  I began making a bee line for it.  Before I could get there the rain managed an even higher level of intensity, which I couldn’t have imagined was possible.  Once under cover standing on a dry slab of cement I took inventory of the situation.  At only fourteen miles into the ride I was soaked through and quite chilled.  Donning the rain jacket helped a bit, as did a second pair of gloves.  I then waited for the downpour to lessen before heading back out. 

Crossing the state line, with light rain falling, I was feeling chilled and miserable.  The route then takes a turn to the west on the Missouri T.  The wind which was coming from the north was now blowing across from my right side, only a modest improvement to my comfort.  The road known as the “T” is a narrow two lane with very little traffic.  It features numerous large rollers as it traverses the farms and open lands of the Ozarks.  The thought came to me that this should be enjoyable, but given the circumstances it was just a slog.  The rain stopped by the time I reached the information control at Mammoth five miles in on the Missouri T.  The control is a Baptist Church, one of the few road side structures along the entire length of road.  It would be another hilly five miles to the next turn onto the Highway 5.  With my spirits still in the dumps I trudged along to the “5” and then on to the control, just before the state crossing back into Arkansas.  At that point I noticed the skies brightening and the temperature was perhaps a few degrees warmer.  Some cookies and Gatorade at the Outpost grocery picked up my mood a bit.  I continued on into Arkansas, more than half way done with the ride.   
A wet road on the hilly Missouri T
 On the Highway 5 south I saw another cyclist heading northbound.  In this part of the state it is an unusual site.  Sporting a full racing kit he was the first serious rider I’ve seen in a month of riding.  We waved at each other as we passed by.  Soon after, I stopped to take a photo of the panoramic view to my right.  As I resumed I was joined by the rider I had just seen going north.  We rode together for the next ten miles chatting about cycling in the region.  As it turned out he was originally from East Brunswick, New Jersey.  Employed by the postal service he transferred to the Mid-West.  Once we entered the town limits we went our separate ways.  At the town square I stopped at the control, a pizza shop, for a slice.  Nima’s Pizza would rank well among Jersey pizza shops.  In Arkansas it is considered top of the heap.  My slice was much enjoyed. 

The final ten miles featured some large rollers and one absolute knee breaking climb up from Lake Norfork.  Fortunately, what remained after the big climb was two miles of easy terrain to the finish.  I had taken five and a half hours to cover the 100 kilometer route.  While I didn’t exactly feel like Chuck Yeager I was happy to have completed a permanent in a region where one had never been done.  With only three RUSA members in the entire state, none within 100 miles, I don’t know how many folks will make use of the route.  But, it is here if the desire arises.  In the meantime, I’ll be out there making my way around it at the rate of once or twice per week.


Cycling here in the Mid-West is beautiful.  It’s a wonder that so few seem to partake in the activity.  Just recently a bike shop opened in the town where I’m staying.  To be more accurate, it’s a combination bike shop and gun store.  I stopped by there a few days back during normal business hours.  The bike shop side of the business was empty while the gun store was busy with a number of customers.  Three employees were busily speaking with prospective gun buyers.  I could not find any employee to talk to me about cycling needs.  While most drivers in Arkansas are courteous I made a mental note not to get verbal with anyone who is not.  The chances are good they are armed.       
Boo-Ya! Was that gunfire?