16th May 2016 Russellville, Ar to Cabot, Ar 127.0 kms - 78.9 miles Up = 588m - Down = 599m
16th May 2016 - Russellville, Arkansas to Cabot, Arkansas.
It was a bit concerning on wakening to see that although our camp was beautiful – it was a dull, cloudy day – and from what info I could get on my phone, it seemed that we would be incredibly lucky to get through the day without encountering rain!!
This was one day that I was looking forward to and one I had 2 plans for. One was for staying on the northern side of the Arkansas River, but the one I really wanted to do meant crossing to the southern side, through a hillier but shorter section through probably beautiful countryside before reaching another State Camp site on that side of the river at Maumelle - just north of the State capital, Little Rock.
But with the threat of rain – and therefore potentially not a good night to put up a tent we headed off in 2 minds about what to do.
We had a bit of time on our side – we had 21 miles to go – through Pottsville and Atkins to Morrilton – where we would need to make a decision. We were on the “64” for this part of the journey – a well surfaced road – maybe because it appears on local “Escape Route” maps in case of a disaster at the Nuclear Plant!!
It was “spitting” by the time we reached Morrilton when we tried to look for somewhere to have a morning cup of coffee. Although a "biggish" small town - we couldn't find somewhere to sit down and eat. I suspect all the normal suspects of fast food outfits were out by the I-40 junction that was about 5 miles away. The best we could do was buy a takeaway coffee and some muffins from a small supermarket place and sit outside in the cold on milk crates (I think where the staff used for "smoko"). As we sat there, the spitting became more drizzle and then became a shower – the skies looked dark and threatening and I thought there would definitely be no tent camping going on tonight.
So I made the call to abandon the southern river journey, and abandon going to the State Park that night. I had various options in my head, and was being mindful that the plan for the next day was for a ride of almost 150 kms. So we continued on the northern side of the river towards Conway - a pretty big town with a population of around 60,000. It would be lunch time by the time we got there and I would do some map research and make a decision of where to stop when we were there.
After coffee - off we went on the “64” heading towards Conway in drizzle most of the way, but with a few showers thrown in as well. By the time we reached the outskirts of Conway we had covered 75 kms. An early lunch break at a DQ and out came my little laptop to hatch a new plan. After some mucking around and trying various options to ensure the next day would work as well, I put forward to the others a couple of "plans".
It was actually our 9th day in a row riding and we had averaged abot 120 kms a day for the previous 8 days, so there was good reason to feel a bit jaded - who planned this ride???
We could call it quite for the day now and have a really big day tomorrow (about 180 kms) or we could aim for the town of Cabot - sure another 50 kms away, (and with a steepish climb near the end), but it would also shorten the distance for the following day by about 15 kms. There were also a few small towns along that route that possibly had accommodation so if we felt to tired we could stop there. We had been battling a head wind all morning so were all feeling a bit weary and with the showers of rain, it wasn't exactly a day you enjoy being out on the bike!1 In fact - if I was at home, it's a day I would flag going for a ride at all. We opted to press on - we had no guarantees that the weather would be any better tomorrow!!
It always scares me a little getting through cities of this size and bigger!! However – in this case, we had stopped for lunch early enough that it didn’t prove too difficult at all to go through a few sets of traffic lights, a couple of big roundabouts, and through about 6 kms of urban sprawl!! Once back on the A64 East it was a super 4 lane road with a wonderful shoulder for the 28 kms we were on it.
We then turned right onto the 107 South and a sign indicated "2 miles" to the town of Otto. As one of my favourite Boston Terriers was named “Otto” I decided to press on to there to have a “van stop” – oranges etc!! While the A64 had been great surface – with the head-wind we felt like it had all been uphill, so a break was definitely needed. “Otto” turned out to be – well – nothing but a bend in the road!! If there was something here it must have been down a little side road that went off, but it didn't really look like it went anywhere. We found a spot where we could get the van almost off the road which was now a narrow 2 lane road with no shoulder.
After oranges we continued on – and began climbing – up and up. For a narrow little road there was a lot of traffic – and the “spitting” had become rain. The temperature had also dropped – so it was pretty miserable conditions!!
Now I have commented in the last couple of days about the large number of churches in this area – yet again – this is the case!! In fact one “town” had 3 churches and 2 houses!!! But today, there was one church that I loved seeing, I must admit – it was called – the “Hilltop Church” – I felt relieved that we must have climbed as high as we were going to today!!!!!
The descent had to be made with care as the road was very wet, twisty, no shoulder – and the traffic pretty busy for such a small road. Before too long we came to the final turn we had to make on to State Rd 89, and more pleasingly a sign saying "8 miles" to go to Cabot. Hooray!!! By now my shoes and feet were soaked through and we were all pretty cold, wet and miserable. I joked to Annie that our New Zealand ride prepared us for this – but she rightly said we didn’t have the volume of traffic on such a narrow road with no shoulder when in NZ!
The drivers were much as in the southern hemisphere – some would wait back and pass when safe, others would squeeze through giving us very little room. I have to say – that in similar situations on my UK ride – there was NEVER a time a driver would have pushed through – they all waited.
We sent Pat on ahead to find some accommodation so that we could just arrive and go straight into hot showers to warm up as opposed to hang around through the booking in process which seems to take forever in this country for some odd reason. Maybe it is just my impatience to get to a shower after a ride! It wasn't too long before she rang back to say she had us booked in at the Days Inn. That was a relief as by now it was definitely raining, so very miserable, and, dangerous out on the roads.
There other "town" I had seen on the map proved to be double the size of Otto - there was a service station there - so just as well we hadn't been any more desperate wanting to stop earlier than Cabot.
Cabot was in fact quite busy and accommodation a bit scarce! The very busy "67" highway goes through here in a north/south direction and has a population of around 24,000 which is quite a nice size. The area around here seems to be very productive cropping land, and with rainfall like we had today - no wonder!!
As soon as we crossed the busy highway we headed off the road to shelter from the rain while I rang Pat to get exact directions as to where to head. Even though there are huge signs for places everywhere, trying to spot the one we wanted and at the same time negotiate the wet roads and very busy traffic, I hadn't seen the Days Inn sign. In conversation with Pat I said I could see the Super 8 sign - so could she, and the Taco Bell sign - so could she - but I couldn't for the life of me see one for where we wanted to be! She told us to head for the Super 8 and keep going another 100 metres and we would be there. We decided to walk the bikes across the busy wet road, and sure enough, once by the Super 8 we could see our place.
We arrived at the hotel looking like drowned rats, and our bikes were dripping wet and muddy. The girl at reception was lovely and let us take them into a room behind the counter where they would be locked away until morning. We were about to get our bike rags from the car to wipe the bikes down when she said not to worry that she would get some cloths. She brought us out WHITE cloths for the job - I thought OMG - so patted Finn down gently with it, dreading to think what colour the cloth would be!!!!
It was one of those days that the hot shower was more than welcome and I think we all (well I know I did) hopped into the shower clothes and all and washed the lot - they were soaking wet anyway!! Our room looked a mess with the clothes hung everywhere and shoes drying out on the heater - but by morning I had clean dry clothes and shoes to put on!!
So this was the 2nd day of the trip that the weather had ruined what I thought would be a great stop. The first was at Red Rock, Gallup, and now missing out on the State Camp at Maumelle. Shame - but them's the breaks!! It was much better to be warm, dry and cosy tonight than out in the rain that continued to fall pretty heavily.