(We were unable to cover the Tour de Rock this year but we are lucky to have an out-of-state rider show up during his quest to ride a century in all 50 states. Check out Ken C. on 50 Centuries by Bike.)
Little Rock, AR. I just finished the 2012 Tour de Rock, a 100-mile loop through the Arkansas bayous east of Little Rock. This ride supports the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute, or CARTI. CARTI helps cancer patients, and is, according to everyone I spoke with, one of the best places to work in town.
The course was flat, the second half of the ride had a great tailwind, and the temperature just brushed 90 degrees. Those are pretty good conditions. There were some beautiful sections, including the ride along the river at the start and the finish, as well as a nice segment through pecan groves on route 161 (pictured).
I followed my mantra, “Start First, Finish Last, Have the Best Time,” with precision. I jumped the gun at the starting point (to beat the heat), moving across the Big Dam Bridge about 20 minutes early. And I was, in fact, the last one to finish at just before 3PM. That was not my plan, but there were several people behind me who dropped off during the ride. I always feel a little guilty when I’m last, as if I’m holding people up from the rest of their day. But, it really did not seem to be a problem for folks, and they probably had to spend the time breaking down the rest stops anyway.
This was a superbly organized event. The rest stops were well stocked, especially with lots of pickles. (Pickles, I have discovered, may be important in suppressing leg cramps.) The rest stop spacing was about every ten miles after about mile 30, which was quite helpful. There was no chance of getting lost — the course was marked with large, red arrows that could be seen for half a mile. And, there were ever-present SAG and radio vehicles.In fact, as I was the tail end of the ride, I had a SAG escort for most of the last 50 miles.
Some riders find the presence of a trailing SAG vehicle bothersome. That’s because you sometimes want to enjoy the road to yourself — especially when it’s a quiet country lane. But, for me, it was nice to know that there were people looking out for me when I was so far from home. It was a nice change from some organized rides, in which a late rider arrives after riding for hours alone to find an empty parking lot. Besides, it was a motivator to keep up my pace and a witness to the fact that I finished the whole ride.
I have to call out the unique support of the police and sheriffs in this ride. Normally these large rides start with a police escort through town, and we had that. Roads were blocked and we were waved through intersections in downtown Little Rock early Saturday morning. But on this ride, the support was made available to the old stragglers like myself at key intersections well into the afternoon. Two police cars and a motorcycle cop stopped traffic on busy US-165 at 1:30PM, allowing me to blast through the intersection. I felt like a celebrity with all the escorts and flashing lights. I thought that would be all, but at one more busy intersection, a Little Rock officer held traffic so I could roll through at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was a nice touch that I had not seen anywhere else.
The volunteers set a new high-water mark in friendliness on this event. They all seemed to know what cyclists want at various points. On a warm, sunny afternoon, they had set up a garden hose as a ‘mister’ to cool us off at the 90-mile rest stop. As soon as we arrived at a rest stop, they ask to fill our water bottles. (Pushing water and hydration is just a good idea. Some people fail to realize how important hydration is in the last 20 miles or so, and skip drinking and even skip rest stops.) And, as feeding my ego is very important (to me), many folks were interested in my 50-century project. I think the rumor that I was on this quest made it to later rest stops before me, as several folks asked me, “Are you the person who’s doing a century in every state?”
Well, yes, I am that man, and this is, in fact, the blog I told you about. I hope any new readers enjoy the many entries, and take pleasure in following me to the end. It will not be long now: 41 states down, and nine states to go!
(Make sure to follow Ken’s journey to ride a century in all 50 states. He’s getting close to all of them and he has been on some very interesting rides.)