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.

Epilogue:

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?
   

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