We awoke to a glorious morning in sky, sun, and temp. Knowing we had a solid day in front, we packed up efficiently and left without coffee or breakfast. Savage, if you ask me, but we had a planned stop some 5 or so miles from camp in Mountain Pine.
Yes, I did have to drag myself out of my hammock for this, but it was well worth it.
After our 1-mile uphill grind out of LOSP we bombed down the other side only to find a snag in our route, with our right turn going nowhere but into a large earthen berm. The road, indeed, seemed lost. We made the easy decision to follow more traveled roads downhill into town. To our overwhelming dismay, the planned cafe was closed. I'm sure Pondero had similar thoughts to my own, "we're making some dang coffee!", but Doolittles in the same parking lot was open and inviting. Inside this little, well-worn country store we found coffee and several biscuit options. The sausage, egg, cheese hit the SPOT! The nice lady even poured our refills. Seems the cafe and store have an understanding; Doolittles does breakfast, the cafe lunch. Perfect. We even had a nice talk with the Mountain Pine mayor about the town's potential renewal. Good luck to them. After breakfast we moved on in sunshine, bellies full, prepared for a steady roll and our longest day of the tour.
Dam holding back a big Lake Ouachita.
I took this just for myself.
After a bit of very pleasant pavement along Owl Creek Rd. we hit the gravel again west of Bear. Like two days prior, we ran into another turkey caller looking for action along an empty rural road. We eventually emptied out onto the local highway, 270, where we stopped in Crystal Springs at the Mercantile Store for a snack. We were making good time and bypassed the local barbecue and suffered our longest stretch of pavement along 270, helped by occasional shoulders. Much appreciated.
Yes, this is a nice nature moment, the waterfall in the woods. What you don't know is that this is mid-climb, the nature shot giving me a reason to stop and suck wind.
The first two days were a nice mix of singletrack and gravel, the third a transition stage helpful to save the legs. Day 4 was built around the long run of the Womble Silver Rd. It changed names a bit, but we tackled a 15-mile run of rural gravel. While the rising heat began to announce itself a bit, this section was very pleasant, with lots of shade and no traffic to speak of. Our first climb on the flanks of McGraw Mt. was a 4-mile leg stretcher stairstep climb, never digging in. I liked it. Things got a little lumpier thereafter, but we made steady time and wiled the miles away.
If I'm ahead of Pondero, it means that there was a recent downhill, and certainly not an uphill.
We stopped for a breather and a snack and recharged our stores for the final push. Very enjoyable.
As we got deeper into the forest we ran across signs such as this, an "autotour". We were not on the "autotour"
We (actually probably I) suffered up our final big climb of the trip, a 1.5-miler during which my rhythm was walk-ride-walk-ride. I think Pondero cleaned it, but the EnergizerBunny often cleans climbs, crafty devil. From there we started looking for our right turn towards the highway and our return to Mt.Ida. Surprisingly our trip along Moon Dance Rd. (which was def named differently on the sign) as a trippy, fun-filled exclamation point to the trip. We received important intel from a local on a bike, he with his various dogs running to and fro. The "10 miles to town, maybe 7" was a circumspect estimate, but we did find some nutty terrain in short order, first a spikey climb which I did indeed clear, and then a bomber downhill that had me braking hard. The obvious 4x4 road was made of big slabs of sandstone with very little engineered surface. I would have been at home on a dual-cush bike. #Chunky. It did make for an exciting conclusion.
My second favorite shot of the week, Pondero bombing at the bottom of MoonDanceRd. Such fun!
We faced a bit more gravel and then turned left onto 270, where our "10 or maybe 7" was a 2.5-mile trip into town. Admittedly I sort of broke down. Hurting feet, hurting hands, tired legs. It wasn't much of a time trial. Our afternoon involved rest, getting into our rooms, and deconstructing our dusty, dirty laden mounts. After a clean-up we finished our trip at the Mt. Ida Cafe with barbecue, burgers, okra and eventually ice cream at the Dairyette. Pondero climbs better than I because I eat way more than he. And that's alright. Great trip.