I just now realized I left everyone hanging. I did make it to Little Rock, or more accurately, Benton. Benton is a suburb of Little Rock. But not many people this side of Marshall have ever heard of Benton.
As I continued down 67 from Arkadelphia to Benton, I saw that the clouds were very gray to dark gray and the humidity caused me to drench with sweat. At least as much as lycra allows. I attributed this and the high mileage that I hit the last couple of days as reason for my slow speed. It took me 2 hours to cover the 20 miles between Arkadelphia and Malvern! The highway was lined with more pine trees than I could count. I couldn't look away from the greenery that continued to open up in front of me, very beautiful.
A few miles outside of Malvern I felt my back rim hitting bottom. Did I have a flat tire? I stopped to pump it up and it held. Had this been the reason for my sluggish pace? Was I running on a low tire this whole time?
Once I got into Malvern I stopped to ask directions to the nearest eating place. This was about 2PM. The good news was that I was only a block away. The bad news-I had a bonafide flat in the back tire.
Being that I was in downtown Malvern on an overcast Sunday afternoon it was not a problem to find an unused parking lot so that I would have plenty of room to change the tube. I also received many offers of assistance from helpful passing motorists and pedestrians. A loaded touring bike creates enough attention on its own-one upside down in a parking lot steps that up a bit. One lady came by and offered help and we had a short discussion about my adventure. Then she added that she actually didn't have a bike pump or bicycle tube and she doubted the Wal Mart would have what I would need anyway. We shared a good laugh about that. Being prepared smooths out such minor bumps.
On inspection, I found a pinch flat in the back tube, so I probably did let the tube get too low. There is not much that is ever a threat to the tubes since I inserted a kevlar tire liner between the tube and the tire before I left.
The first replacement tube developed a tear at the bottom of the nozzle. That was probably due to pumping the air too vigorously. The second attempt resulted in another pinch flat. In other words-an improperly mounted tube. The 3rd time was a charm, and with that I was on my way to McDonald's.
Most every town I stopped in either had a McDonald's or a Subway. Although the golden arches are infamously known for their blatant lack of good food, a grilled chicken sandwich(ask for light mayo)and orange juice is more than sufficient fuel. Their oatmeal is also good. On the day of my collapse at the trailer park in Henderson, I had 2 of these sandwiches, fries and an oatmeal. Normally I avoid fries, but they provide a good source of salt, especially when I am perspiring more liquid than I can possibly take in. It's not Whole Foods, but it kept me going.
I didn't feel my speed increase substantially, and the closer I got to Benton, the steeper and taller the hills became. I would get to the top of a hill and then look over at the next hill. It was like riding the beginning a roller coaster descent and looking at the upcoming riser. I was more than prepared for this test. It was tempting to ask my parents to come get me, but whether they picked up on my hints or not, they let me ride it all the way in which I was really grateful for.
There were many ankle biter dogs unleashed along this stretch that enjoyed giving chase to my rolling thunder. One dog that was on the opposite side of the highway was smart enough not to cross the highway to attempt any attack on me.
This reminds me-a few days earlier in the trip there was a dog of more substantial size that was very interested in expressing his extreme dislike of me crossing his homeland. I used my whole can of pepper spray on him. He was able to recover and came at me yet again snarling, fighting terror with terror. Now that I was out of pepper spray, he must have decided he was straying too far from home and gave up the chase.
There was some difficulty in finding a way into my parent's neighborhood. Even after entering the city of Benton, there was no access road to the freeway. My parents were able to determine that 67 ended up turning into 288 which crossed I30, and eventually circled back to crossing 30 again. At that point I still had to ride into town and circle the square on one way streets to find a road that lead back to where the I30 access road started.
When I first crossed I30 on 288, I rode by an eagle preservation site. There were no eagles, but there was an army of no parking signs on either side of the road. The city had to do this because they were afraid that the crowd of people that would assemble there to observe the majesty would drive the birds away. The signs themselves, spaced out about every car lenght would have made a great picture, but it was getting to be very late afternoon/early evening, and so my priority was to get to my parent's house.
Shortly after that was a bridge which headed back in the direction of I30. The late afternoon sun was shining through the trees and cast a beautiful light on the last few minutes of my journey. My concern throughout planning and undertaking this adventure-was this crazy? Was I being reckless without abandon? Possibly. But this moment seemed to communicate somehow that the universe was smiling on my accomplishment and that my Higher Power was issuing a beautiful stamp of approval on what I had done.
I had further difficulty navigating my parent's neighborhood. They had me come into their neighborhood the opposite way that I generally drive into it because there would be much less congestion this way. With a few phone calls I made the final approach to my parent's house at the end of the cul de sac. I wish that I had used my camera to capture the moment I saw my family-mom, dad, sister and 2 nieces jumping up and down at the end of the block cheering the successful completion of my trip. This will be forever etched in my memory. It was at that moment when my dad took the following picture....