As I started getting around the morning was off to a good start because the wet riding clothes that were hanging all around the cabin were now dry. Great news to start the day. I do not have numerous sets of riding clothes for the winter. Summer clothes abound, but the very expensive winter riding clothe are sparse. Getting them dry and warm was key to having a good second day.
The restaurant did not open until 8:00 for breakfast, which was later than most of us wanted, but it's their rules and we decided to stay there. With temperatures just above 30 degrees and fog I am not sure why we wanted to get around any sooner. However, all eight of us were standing at the entrance when the clock stuck 8.
Sitting at the table with my short stack and beacon I looked around to see six riders and two sag drivers, all over 60 and at least half over 70 years of age. This is a tough old group to be up and ready to ride another 36 miles in the cold damp weather. Some if not all has had bike crashes that caused some type of major injury and here they sat having breakfast in anticipation of another adventure on the bike. I was happy to get to participate.
The decision was made to depart at 10:00. The temps were up in the mid 30 range and there was no rain, just clouds. My job had been delayed, so I was free to join the group riding back to the Conway airport. The unfortunate situation was that I had worked so hard to move my vehicle to Mather Lodge and now I had to move it back.
Susan saved the day for me again. She volunteered to meet me at Conway and drive me back to Petit Jean if I really wanted to ride with the group. She saved the day, and my ride.
We normally do not stay together while riding. Each person can travel at the speed they desire. Sometimes there are single riders and often two or more stay together, To each his own. There are gathering points so that we know if everyone is doing OK. This event was especially good with two sag vehicles.
Climbing Petit Jean is an event in itself. Descending Petit Jean in the cold and wet is another event in itself. With cold hands to handle the brakes and very slippery pavement, caution was the key to the 1 1/2 miles of steep downhill. My trike makes descents easier than on a bike, but it should since it is so much harder to climb. Sort of evens itself out.
One rider decided to sag down the hill, which was not a bad decision at all. If you do not feel like you could enjoy it and do not feel safe at all, then do not do it. At the bottom we were all together again and relieved everyone was vertical on their bikes. We had 28 miles of rolling terrain left to enjoy.
In Houston there is a house where a man sells pecans. Most of the group stopped to make a purchase. I chose not to stop but i did stop at a nearby intersection. A man pulled up to me in his vehicle to ask how I was doing. He then told me he saw us at the airport the day before and wondered how we had progressed. I told him the ride was great and our overnight at Mather Lodge was also good. He was our age and indicated how amazed he was that our group made this ride, and up Petit Jean. He said he was proud of us and to carry on.
Lunch was at a convenience store and deli at the West end of the bridge over Toad Suck lock and dam. The sandwiches really hit the spot, along with the coffee. I now felt warm and strong for the final six miles to the airport.
I rode with Janice to finish the last half dozen miles. Actually, I enjoyed this segment as I was pedaling well and would not have minded if there were some more miles. However, the warm terminal building was nice.
We said our "good-byes" and wished each other well until the next event. There are some very good relationships developed on these treks around Arkansas and quite often it is with people that you would not normally meet in your daily living. That makes these events more special.
Susan soon arrived to take me back to Petit Jean for my vehicle. She also brought Marley, our Welsh Terrier puppy. By 6:00 I was home. As I walked into the house I thought about a statement Janice made as we were riding the final miles together. She said she travels all over the world on vacations, but our adventure rides are some of the most special days she has. So TRUE.
Note: I must add that Jim Britt, the club president, did design and promote this ride. At only 3 years old, this event is quickly becoming one of my favorites with its great balance of total miles, difficulty and amenities. Thanks Jim.