14th May 2016 Sallisaw, Ok to Ozark, Ar 106.5 kms - 66.2 miles Up = 656m - Down = 653m
14th May 2016 - Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Ozark, Arkansas.
Crispy morning with north-easterly winds – not really what we wanted – but what we had!! And I really shouldn't moan about the wind as it has certainly been more kind to us with tail winds far out-weighing head winds. But, as cyclists, we have the right to moan about the wind when it opposes us!! We headed off around 7:30 for and lobbed on to the I-40 to start the 100 plus kms for the day.
We crossed the boundary into Arkansas after about 25 kms – and a sign – so we stopped for photographs!! Three more miles along the road and the official Welcome to Arkansas building – set amongst beautiful grounds and gardens – most attractive - so timeout for more pictures here. Again that exciting feeling of progress as we moved into another State on our eastward journey.
As we headed back out to the I-40, I noticed a sign saying no pedestrians or cyclists – oooops – but as we were due for a food stop and had already seen signs saying Exit 5 had several – I knew we would be going off very shortly at which stage I would seek an alternative route. I decided if we hadn't pulled into the Arkansas Information Building I wouldn't have seen the sign - so kept going.
We went off Exit 5 as planned, and pulled into the Waffle Shop – a busy busy place on a Saturday morning. I can understand why – my pecan waffle was delicious – and they just kept filling the coffee cup up – perfect stop for this cyclist!! I spent the time here poring over my phone establishing an alternative route to take to Ozark.
As luck would have it, we had a bit of zig-zagging to do from the Waffle Shop in Van Buren to get onto Route 64 – the old highway – and like Route 66 – the new Interstate freeway and its service stops have stolen all the business from what were probably once thriving little towns. The road however was fine for cycling, although it gradually changed from a 2 lane each way with shoulder highway to a one-lane each way with no shoulder road. That was in keeping with a reduction in traffic too - so fair enough!!
We passed through Alma and Dyer, and stopped in Mulberry to get something to eat. The service at the domer where we stopped for a milkshake was non-existent so we went down the road a bit and got food from a local garage/store.
We only had 14 miles to go to Ozark – and google maps gave us 2 options. One was a fair bit longer, but flatter. The 14 mile one had 2 very big climbs (and 2 very steep descents). We opted to stay on the "64" and tackle the hills - so progress slowed a little for those last few miles.
The area since Van Buren had been a bit “different”. Still lush pasture, and still lots of lovely trees – what we couldn’t believe was how many churches there were – they were everywhere!! There also seemed to be a hive of activity getting lawns mowed. Many of the semi-rural homes were on large blocks and people were out on their “ride-ons” mowing furiously. I can only imagine that maybe everyone is off to church tomorrow, Sunday – and it is still observed here as a “day of rest”!!
Tonight's camp was our first stop in a State Park – Aux Ark Army Corp Park. It is right on the banks of the Arkansas River, just west of the Ozark Hydro Dam. Pre “9/11” you could cross the dam – but that has all stopped now. Shame as it would be a short cut out in the morning!
The camp is beautiful, lovely trees, squirrels racing up and down the trees and geese with their goslings at a variety of different ages. The river is part of a greater navigational channel system and there is a loch on the other side of the river where boats can go up, or down the river.
We had the tent set up, were about to get showered and changed after a hot day on the bike – and who should I see walking from a car parked in front of our van – but my brother from New Zealand!!!! I had no idea he was in USA – so it made me shake my head and look twice!! Great to see him and have a chat for a couple of hours before he headed on his way and we went back into the town of Ozark for dinner.
Peter suggested Don should gain membership to the "Apache Indians" now as he had fixed so many punctures. He had been tracking us via facebook and was ever so close the night before at Sallisaw and only just missed seeing us on the road today.
Not a lot of choices for dinner in Ozark – so it was “Sonic” that got the nod. I had noted that this business was founded in 1953 in a town we had been through a few days earlier – Shawnee – YET – when Annie asked if they had any vegetarian dishes available it was like asking if she could be sent to the moon!! I am sure she must have been the first ever person to ask for this at Ozark!! After explaining what she wanted, a beautiful salad was delivered - but no charge was made - we are sure because there was no pre-programmed button on the cash register for this item!!
This was another stop that it would have been nice to spend more time at as several nice walks were on offer.