Return to Home Page
I have been working on the 2017 BRAA, which will start in mid April this year. It is almost complete and I believe will be a good one. The plan has us starting in Dardanelle, pedaling to Paris for lunch and then up Mount Magazine for the night. Might as well get the climb over the first day.
The second day is from Mt. Magazine to Waldron, AR. We start with several miles of downhill, so that is a good start.
The third day is from Waldron to a camping area in Oklahoma. I will drive to it in advance to see if there are any problems.
The fourth day is back into Arkansas to a RV site just North of "Y" City.
The Fifth day is to Lake Nimrod. I have not decided on which park we will pick for the night.
Now comes an option. The Sixth day can be back to Dardanelle, which will probably be the main pick. But the Sixth day can be to Petit Jean for the night and finish on he Seventh day.
This is just a quick look at the plan. Further posts will be made as we get closer to the date.
Not so much to report here. This was a short day of about 25 miles and the wind was way down and not much of a factor as i recall now. We had breakfast at the Waffle Shack across the street from the drive-in in England. I didn't know it was there either and it was good. We came straight up the hwy. through Keo to NLR and over the Clinton Bridge to Heifer. I did take our out-of-state friends on a slight detour to see the Plantation Settlement in Scott. The volunteer talked to the guys for a bit and we took some pictures. One of our experienced tour leaders took the lane coming into NLR where the road is narrow and there was more oncoming traffic than usual, being a work day. I wondered about this at first, but it was actually safer, to prevent cars behind us from trying to pass when there wasn't enough room. We came in to Heifer together. Several of us had lunch there before disbanding. We agreed that the next BRAA should be in April of next year. Robert rode from home and rode back to home from the Heifer parking lot.
Oh, I did learn while taking to some people at Bike Florida, that I think the most accurate term for our ride is self contained with my following definitions that are in line with Adventure Cycling.
Self-contained -- carry camping and cooking gear and no sag support
Self-supported -- may stay in motels; no vehicle, not expected to cook
Van-supported -- a vehicle moves your gear forward; you just ride and may have to cook in camp or go out for meals
Fully-supported -- vehicle for gear, rest stops usually, and catered meals
Boutique/credit card ride (may be other terms) -- stay at motels or B & B's and sag support
It rained overnight while we were all snug in the motel. I think we decided to start at 10:00 am when the rain was over. We could have gone a little earlier, but by the time we had breakfast at Bendi's and arranged for the police escort over the bridge, it was about 10:00 am. The Clarendon Mayor, Jim, came by Bendi's to say hello. It turned out he paid our bills. Thanks, Mayor Jim, for the meal and the escort. We pushed off with the police escort over the Big White River Bridge. It is much too narrow to go alone. The escort got us out 1.5 or 2 miles to where the road widened and then we set out on our own. We knew it would be windy, and it was very windy. We weren't sure that we would make it past Stuttgart but we'd see what we could do. We pulled over at Ulm (a little town) and got behind a church building for a few minutes and it was such a relief, like in the eye of the storm.
We made it to Stuttgart and went into town for lunch at a run down little lunch room with a hot buffet. We had great food and probably doubled their business for the day. A good thought. The wind was either head on or slightly to our right again as we got back on the hwy. to England. Kenny had to leave the ride for a dr. appointment, but John called him and made arrangements to stay in a hunting friend's mother's backyard in England, Joanne. We fought our way to Humnoke in the wind, I think about 25 mph. Maybe gusting more. While resting there, John came up with the idea of a double pace-line. It is hard to explain so I messed up a few times, but in the formation, the last 2 people had quite a bit of relief from the wind, until it was their turn to pull for 1/2 mile. I normally, don't like a pace line for long, but we kept in formation all the way to England, but only at 9-10 mph and kept us both together and from being completely exhausted.
England: Joanne's house was on the north end of town, our way out the next day. We had dinner at the drive up place that I didn't know was still open on the hwy coming in to town from the north.They had good burgers, ice cream, etc. Joanne made us 2 pecan pies that we of course ate and ate some again for breakfast. Her own son told Kenny that she doesn't make them any more! The road did provide, again. We had a nice night with our tents pitched on the grass in the backyard.
The wind was up all night at MS River S.P. , if I didn't mention it before. As we rode out the next morning, some ate at Subway and a few of us went to the Do-nut Palace. (We had originally planned to go further south and through the lower White River refuge at St. Charles, but the wind was too strong). I had eyed the Palace the day before when we came in! As the sign said, "they treated us like a king." A couple of us got ahead of the last group leaving town so we stopped in at the Marianna Airport, which was a couple hangers with crop dusters, at least in the one we stopped at. They had invited us to spend the night there and the hanger would have been great, out of the wind. The yellow planes were grounded for the day so we could see them up close and how they got them out of the hanger with the support poles or stanchions in the way. The wind today was strong but not quite a head wind and more bearable than the previous day when we only did about 45 miles but that was our hardest day. We mostly regrouped over about 10 miles as we rode back toward Clarendon and got together at the store in Monroe, AR. Brad was driving ahead and coming back to tell us what was ahead from time to time, but we usually could find food. This little store had burgers and sandwiches and a long table to seat quite a few people. I think I'll go back on a cold winter day to see all the local farmers and old timers who likely spend a lot of time there. Kenny and Rob had gone ahead and got to the motel in Clarendon way before the rest of us. This motel does most of their business during duck season. The several times I've been by, I've never seen a car, so I was glad to give them some business. It was very inexpensive and a very nice, clean, motel with a nice new TV. I would recommend it. We wanted the motel because rain was coming that night, and the porta potty was no longer at the city campground. We ate a Bendi's diner in town. It gets our ABC seal of approval for quality, selection, and friendliness. I had a cone at the drive-in in town too. One of the local town fathers, Burton Moore, whom we had met before, gave us a tour of his aunt's or great aunt's house that is now preserved as a museum. It is the oldest house in town and had some nice old artifacts and piano and music boxes. He had brought in some old bells. Robert rang the large bell. He told him to be sure to get at the end of the rope before he pulled it because it was very loud, and it was. Clarendon is a very nice river town. It would be worth a drive over to see the Big White River Bridge and eat at Bendi's and even spend the night.
Jim is writing a blog about the events of the 2016 BRAA ride. I decided to write my first person account a few days after each of his accounts.
This BRAA ride was originally designed for the lower few counties of the state and was to include a trip out of the state into Louisiana for one night. Well, that did not happen due to flooding. Kenny Gober and I drove the entire route after I spent many hours scouring the maps for a route. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but the BRAA would still go on. And it did go on quite well.
When I arrived at our starting area at Heifer International in downtown Little Rock on Sunday, March 20, 2016 I found we had a total of 7 riders. At first I was again disappointed but soon got over that when I started assessing the riders. We had 7 guys that had good equipment, good bikes and were ready for an adventure. We had four men from Arkansas and three men from Illinois. Note I said men as ALL the women cancelled for a variety of reasons. My guess is that the weather and the 70 plus mile first day playEed a major part of the cancellations.
Of note: The three Illinois men included Rob Grinder who has ridden with us several times for which I am grateful. Then there was Rich Scott. Rich rode a few years ago and returned this year. Ken Exum round out the Illinois group. Ken is a very experienced tour rider. He and Rich have led several Adventure Cycling tour rides the past few years. So, in this group we have two professional tour leaders being led by myself and Jim Britt. We are a couple of rank amateurs and we are leading pros. How was this going to work out?
You get the setting, so it is time to actually ride and ride we did for over 70 miles and this day we rode with the wind at our backs for most of the day. However, as I said, this is a first person account, and I need to say I was not sure I would make it all the way. At about half the distance we stopped in Humnoke for lunch where I quickly devoured some pizza and tried to rest a little. I knew I was not doing well but did not know how bad it would be later.
As we rolled to the junction with Hwy 79 in Stuttgart I was really tired. My total miles of riding before this trip was the lowest in several years due to many reasons. This lack of training was telling. I remember falling back with one other rider. We were well behind the rest of the group. I would work up the energy for a few pedal stroke and then coast. I was struggling.
Somehow, and I am not sure how, I managed to join the group just before entering Clarendon. We were at the junction where either we cross the White River on the old bridge or go under or around a barrier and take the new bridge. As the traffic continued to flow past us I voted strongly to take the new bridge because the old bridge is very narrow. We did take the new bridge and was thankful we did.
We rolled through Clarendon and then out to the city RV park where we would camp for the night. Kenny and I had spent a couple nights in this RV park with out RVs during the summer. There were a couple portable toilets which would work for us.
Robert Carrol, Jim Britt, Kenny Gober, the three Illinois guys and I then rode the short distance into town to eat at a dairy bar. It was cold and we had to eat outside, but everyone was tired, so we ate out burgers and headed back to the park to settle into our tents for the night...............
The wind continued all night but we were down in a hole in the state park and somewhat sheltered. Once we got back to the highway to Marianna, it was somwhat windy and hilly in Crowley's Ridge but very scenic. Once we got back to the flat lands before Forrest City, the wind was very strong, going into a straight headwind of about 25 mph. The group split into 2 parts. A few went straight through from Forrest City to Marianna. The rest of us stopped to eat at a nice buffet place in F.C. I'm glad I did because there wasn't much in Marianna. Our group got back together and went into Mississippi River S.P. on the Mississippi River Road. We were able to get a developed group campsite in the main park, without going all the way around the lake to the primitive area. I think it was said the wind gusts were up to 40 mph. My tent blew nearly flat down to the ground and bent a pole. It seemed to be more stable once I got the weight of my gear in it. It was too windy and somewhat cold to cook in camp. Brad shuttled us back to town for a Mexican dinner. We were glad to have him along in the car but none of us ever needed to sag forward. A man at the restaurant said we could have camped at the Marianna airport and another man on the highway stopped to thank us for bicycling in Arkansas. That was very nice, having 3 out-of-staters with us. Actually, the traffic was overall very respectful of us and probably feeling sorry for us on this day, and the next 2.
We broke camp and regrouped at Bendi's for breakfast before leaving town. We headed to Brinkley. The police chief found us at the south end of town and gave us an escort through town. He told us there was a store in Hunter to the north, so we headed there for lunch. We had the best white bread sandwiches ever. I knew they would be good because they had a toothpick in the wrapping! They were glad we stopped, as were all the small stores we stopped at. From there, we went east to Village Creek S.P. with the entire route for the day being part of the Trail of Tears. The S.P. gave us 4 nice campsites. We weren't on the lake, but there was one,, and cabins but they were all reserved. This is the only night we cooked and ate in camp. Also the only night that we had a campfire. This day was about 62 miles with again mostly a nice tail wind but it was somewhat windy all night and still the next morning. Brad met us late that night in his car and took pictures along the way for the next several days.
Our group thinned out to 7 for the ride. We had to change the route at the last minute due to flooding in southern Ark. Thanks to Kenny and John for planning that route that we'll use another year. Our first day was our longest at 72 miles. I was probably our easiest due to mostly a tail wind all the way. The restaurant in Humnoke was closed but we knew that and had snacks and a rest at the store. The restaurant in Clarendon also closed for the day, being Sunday, before we arrived but the Lion's Den drive-in had burgers and such and ice cream. We camped at the city campground on the White RIver. A porta-potty was still there for the Trails Symposium that weekend.
Day 3: As we say, "the road will provide." A restaurant had opened back at the Hwy. so we met there for coffee and breakfast. Thanks to Kenny. This breakfast was great since there is no other place along the way. We took the usual 3 miles of well bladed dirt road to the Bear community and on to the dam and Mt. Pine. The Hot Springs Bike/Ped coordinator met us in town and took our picture and got the news published, which helps there advocacy efforts there. We were not hungry so we didn't have lunch and just disbanded and wet to our cars.
Day 2: Again, the weather was great. We climbed back to Hwy 298 and continued west to Story. It wasn't time for either breakfast or lunch so we went on the Mt. Ida after a break. Our normal restaurant in Mt. Ida was was in business since about 1950 something was closed so we ate at a drive-in diner. We broke into 2 groups for the ride to Crystal Springs but that was fine. The camp host let us camp on one site this time. I was the only one to ride back to Burl's BBQ at the Hwy. for dinner. It's nice to be inside for a while. The rib plate was great. We didn't bother with a campfire that night. It wasn't cold enough or enough wood right at camp.
Address: P.O. Box 250817, Little Rock, AR 72225-0817
Phone: (501 912-1449