Jonesboro, AR to Hardy, AR
Total Miles: 2870
Yesterday’s apocalyptic thunderstorm left my tent pretty wet, nothing on the inside but I was forced to roll it away wet which I do not particularly like to do. I was bestowed a small blessing today from the One True Turtle, may his Shell ever harden, the weather was beautifully sunny, cool and free of the cloying humidity I’d come to expect. I got packed up and out of camp around 7 and pedaled out in search of some food. I’m pretty sure my misery the other day was because I didn’t eat near enough food to sustain my poor little legs, so I made a pact with my belly to always keep him full (such a heavy burden, I know). I stopped in at the first gas station I passed and got an energy drink and a couple of bananas, scarfed them down and proceeded directly to the nearest McDonalds where I crushed a few breakfast sandwiches. Off to a good start on keeping the gas tank full 🙂
The first leg of the day was relatively easy, I was riding through some kind of flood plains or something and the terrain was really flat. There was a mild but persistent headwind but the road was lined with trees and kind of broke it up a bit so it wasn’t so miserable. I stopped in at a little country store at the 22 miles mark to get a snack and mountain dew. I got to talking to the owner and his wife while I was eating my peach, his name was also James so of course he was a badass. After I told him about my trip he asked me if I wanted some free breakfast, he said his wife makes her famous biscuits and gravy every Saturday for their friends and family when they stop in. I’d already had my breakfast a few hours ago, so, naturally, I couldn’t say no. THAT GRAVY WAS SO FUCKING GOOOOOD!!! I drank the rest out of the bowl after I’d finished my biscuits. No regrets. I stayed there and chatted with them for another 30 minutes or so then professed my undying gratitude for their generosity and hit the road again.
After I got about a mile down the road from the country store I realized that I had forgotten to fill my water bottles up. Grrrr. I stopped in at the next gas station I saw and was rewarded with another new friend in the form of the lovely store clerk! I asked her if I could fill my bottles up in the bathroom but she directed me to the ice cold water from the machine instead. I can’t stress enough how fucking big of a difference it makes in my day when I have cold water, it just invigorates your body and lifts your spirits and, yeah, it’s the best. Right before I hit the road she came out and asked to take my photo. Ummm, yes, this beautiful beard needs to be documented (I swear I’m not really this vain). She even took a photo of me with my phone which is awesome as I don’t get that chance very often traveling solo. Thanks, friend!!!
I was feeling so good at this point, like I could take on the whole word. Such excitement for me today and i’m not even halfway! Yeah, well that fucking parade got rained on real quick… I knew it was coming. I was expecting it. I had steeled myself for the pain. Still it was rough. After filling my bottles with that ice cold water I crossed a bridge and was thrown straight into the Ozarks. I won’t call them mountains, not exactly, more like nature’s rollercoaster ride of death, destruction and pain. Up and down and up and down and UP and down. It’s really demoralizing to crest the top of a steep climb only to see the next one looming ahead, staring right into your soul with nothing but malice and hate. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. It was hard, no doubt about it, but totally doable given enough snacks 🙂 And I’ve got at least a week left of them so, yeah, no pain no gain. I stopped in at the next town to get some water and take a break. No new friends here but, meh, can’t win everyone over with my good looks and snappy wit. 21 miles to go!
About 15 miles from my last stop I was climbing this neverending hill, sweating like crazy and questioning every stupid decision I’d made that had led me up to this point in my life. I was like 5 seconds from just stopping in the middle of it and taking a break right there, but no, not yet, I need to save that bitch shit for a bigger hill. Once I reached the top I was rewarded with the most beautiful sight I’d ever laid eyes on: a huge, glowing pickle factory! Haha, no, not really but that’d be beyond awesome. It was an American Legion with a big sign that said, “VETERANS WELCOME. BIKERS WELCOME” As we all now know I can’t possibly miss a chance to get an ice cold beer and make a fool of myself in the process. I waltzed, my most disarming smile on my face, brandished my helmet about and said, “I’m a veteran but do you accept the pedal powered sort of bikers?” The bartender and the few patrons all busted out laughing. Works every time. Until it doesn’t and I get the shit kicked out of me by a bar full of bikers. The guy sitting next to me asked where I was heading today and when I told him he got all excited. He pointed me in the direction of a campsite in town (which was good as it wasn’t listed on google. I was just gonna wing it), told me which bar I should grab a beer at and told me where to get the biggest, baddest cheeseburger in town. He said, and I can’t possibly make this shit up, “You be careful with that burger. I mean it. You gotta be hungry enough to eat the asshole off a menstruating skunk to finish that thing!” I died. Right there. Just dead. This guy is the best. Then, to top it all off, the bartended busted out a map of the state and they proceeded to help me plan out the next few days, complete with where to find some choice camping. We’ll see how accurate that information is I guess.
The last 5 miles or so was mostly downhill, it almost, ALMOST, made all that climbing today worth it. I pulled into the campground my old veteran buddies told me about and secured a sweet spot right next to the river for 10 bucks. Not bad at all. Now it’s time to find a beer and try out this famous cheeseburger. Stay tuned for the next edition of James and his Bike!