We started this morning from Little Rock with infamous Petit Jean on our minds. Today was rumored to have one of our toughest climbs this summer, a mountain in the Ozarks called Petit Jean. The ride itself was formidable, a 92 miler with two mountain climbs. Our legs were fresh from our day off but we were all unsure how they would perform under such pressure.
We exited Little Rock on the "Big Dam Bridge," the largest pedestrian/bike bridge in the U.S (pictured above.) the bike path we followed for much of the morning was beautiful. We crossed rivers and rode through forests and pedaled through rolling countryside. The weather was warm but overcast heavy with humidity. It was perfect for riding although we all worked up a good sweat.
Our first mountain was named "Y." It was a short steep climb with a few switchbacks but it wasn't extremely challenging. First lunch was at the top so that was motivation to get us up there. I rode with Kat and we panted all the way up the mountain together.
Brian wins the award for most creative lunch concoction today with his peanut butter, jelly, bananas, roasted red pepper, tortilla chips, and apple cider vinegrette spinach wrap.
"Is that chicken on there??" Brian was asked.
"Nope," he replied. "That's a cookie."
After lunch, it started to pour down rain. At times, the rain was coming down so hard it hurt. I sat on Kat's back wheel and tried to see the road through my peripheral vision because water kept flinging off her wheel into my eyes. Riding in the rain might sound terrible, but it actually beats riding in 100 degree sunny weather.
Eventually, we pass Dan and Marcus who are pulled off at the side of the road. They signal us to pull over so we stop ad chat. Turns out that we missed a turn and we need to reroute to get back on track. That means tacking more miles into our 92 mile day. It took us a big hill and a gravel road to get back on track but it was kind of fun "getting lost."
After getting back on track, we were faced with Petit Jean rising up, getting closer with every pedal stroke. "Let's tango, Jean," said Brian as we began to climb. The grade was very steep and the road was winding. Car after car passed us wondering who these crazy people were biking up a mountain. Eventually, I got into a rhythm and was able to keep pushing as my breathing evened out. Finally I got to the top and this was the view I saw:
It was breathtaking. We could see the road we came from and followed it back for miles. It really hit us, on top of that mountain, what we're doing and how far we've already come. The landscape stretched out in front of us for hundreds of miles, but we've biked over a thousand already. And we're going to bike 3,000 more.
The descent on the other side of the mountains was awesome. I love cornering on descents. When you get the balance just right, it feels like a roller coaster.
The rest of the ride was fast. We had a very fast pace line going the last 13 miles averaging 20 mph or more. It was a great ride, my favorite of the trip so far. But there will be more great rides to come!