Today was a milestone in several respects: we crossed into Arkansas and it was the last really big climbing day. We’re done with the plains and have now entered the Ozarks, and boy did my legs notice! There wasn’t too much climbing during the first half of the day, but the second was spent riding in the Ouachita [Wa-cheet-a] National Forest on the Talimena Scenic Byway. The Talimena has some steep climbs ranging from 10 to 13 percent for several miles. The climbing is similar to what I’ve done at home on Wachusett Mountain, but there’s more of it, and I never rode Wachusett after 16 straight centuries! It turned out to be not too bad, and the scenery was beautiful! We’re spending the night at the very nice Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, which is in a state park. There’s a Keurig machine in the room! Makes up for some of the fleabags we’ve been in the past couple of nights.
A few random observations. Most of the day was spent in Oklahoma and we’ve all noticed how forested that state is, contrary to our expectations. Today we passed through pine forest, I think yesterday was more hardwoods. And most banks are local: no Bank of America or Chase Manhattan, not even big Midwest banks like PNC or Fifth Third. All regional banks like the “Bank of Eastern Oklahoma” or my favorite, the Happy Bank (based in Happy, Texas). And lots of Payday stores. Some of this could be due to the fact that we are passing through rural areas, not major cities, though I got a glimpse of Oklahoma City in the distance the other day.
Today’s ride was 99 miles with 7,500 ft of climbing.