June 26th - Watonga to Arnett

Watonga at dawn with stunning clouds.

One of my images from yesterday noted that these South-central towns have three features: churches, silos, and water towers. Today, I'd like to submit a similar description for the plains between the cities (towns, communities, whatever they are): oil wells and wind turbines. It's an odd mix. 

June 25th - First Flat

Bikes illuminated by indoor lights
All our bikes stacked outside before sunrise. The first order of business every day is airing up the tires, checking the brakes, and cleaning the chain.

At just a smidge over 2000 miles of wear, my back tire blew up today. It wan't too bad, really. I was only two blocks from the Babtist church and going slowly. Really strange, though. One second you're riding. Then a loud bang, like a nailgun. Then the road is suddenly harder and the bike starts sliding around. 

Today's ride took us from Oklahoma City to Watonga, OK in 74 miles. Outdoor of the minor afternoon explosion, the ride was really nice. We left OKC a bit past dawn, as usual. After leaving downtown, the route took us on trails for a while. Then we all got lost. We found our way, then settled in on the historical path of Route 66. 

Increasingly, we barely hit civilization on these routes, so even a lone gas station is an event. 

June 24th - Raise the Roof!

Huddling under a wall for shade
The van had a flat on the way over, so the 15 of us that rode the Habitat van got to hang out in the shade for a while. Don't leave Allen wrenches in the road, kids.

We kept building on the same house today. As I wrote before, the sheeting needed a ton of nails, so lots of today was spent nailing those down more securely. We also hoisted a pile of prefab roof trusses, and a few people scrambled around on the roof nailing then down. 

June 23rd - Fun with Framing

Household framing from above.
All the walls framed up at the end of the day. I sat on a wall!

Our two build days in Oklahoma City were spent on the same build site, so we had the chance to make really substantial progress. Our group arrived to an empty concrete slab and managed to complete the framing and sheeting in one day and the roof trusses the next. 

The Habitat site was super organized,too. They'd previously laid out the to and bottom plates for every wall. Stud locations were penciled and doors and windows were marked in color-coded spray paint. The doors and window frames themselves were all preframed. 

The house itself had a 2-car garage, two bedrooms, a kitchen, den, and lots of closets. 

June 22nd - Headwinds.

Wooded road in the morning.
In the morning, dense trees kept winds fairly low.

Today's ride took us 92 miles into the first real city we've seen in a while - Oklahoma City. High headwinds made the ride a little slower than usual. There are reliable winds out of the southwest across most of the plains, and they were rough today. 

The ride was great, though. I was with Erin and Lauren, and they both did a great job of pushing forward despite the winds. We only z stopped every 15 - 20 miles, which works out to two hours or so between breaks at headwind speeds. 

June 21st - Into Oklahoma

Dawn in Van Buren.
I post a lot of dawn photos because everything looks so different before sunrise. Here's the van illuminated by the glowing sky.

We crossed another state line today as we rode from Van Buren, AR to Henrietta, OK. At 109 miles, this was the longest ride so far. 

A few miles before lunch, Dustin, Helen, and I decided to stop at a donut shop for a snack. On a whim, we also grabbed a dozen to share at lunch. (Did you know that a box of a dozen donuts will fit on the back of a camelback?) Everyone loved the treat - even though we career carry all manner of leftover goodies, fresh-baked donuts were a winner. 

Helen's knees weren't feeling so great today, so she decided to call the van a few miles before lunch. After taking a day off to recover, she got back to biking. 

June 20th - Van Buren

Church at dawn.
The usual church at dawn. I love how the lighting works, and how even dim sources spill light everywhere.

We continued our long stretch of rides today, biking 88 miles to Van Buren. This stretch totaled 380 miles in 4 days, and somewhere over 500 miles in the complete week. 

Everything about this trip is absurd and a little larger than life. 

June 19th - Tropical Storm Bill

Tropical storm Bill moved out today. After some overcast rain yesterday and some overnight thunderstorms, not much was left in the morning and the squall line we were forecast to bike through never materialized. 

Not that I'm complaining. 

The day started off rainy but cleared around 7:30. I'd expected more rain, so the camera sat the day out. 

The route took us along a quiet highway for a few miles then ducked down onto a riverside trail. As with everything else around here, the river was flooded a little above its banks and the trail was wet. 

Later in the day, we climbed to the overlook at Petit Jean, part of a national park. (I'll try to get pictures from my phone up here). The van met us at the top with lunch, and we hung out, admitting the view over farmland and flooded fields. 

A few miles after lunch Helen and I stopped at a small Amish country store for ice cream and chatted for a while with the locals about geology, poverty, and woodworking. The descent from Petit Jean was long, winding, and gorgeous. 


June 18th - Day Off!

Breakfast at a diner
A bunch of us went out to a local diner for breakfast. It was charming, even if the locals thought we were a soccer team. (There was some southwest championship going on in the area.)

Little Rock hosted our first day off. As I mentioned, it was asks the first non-church host, so we were in a real house. Our hosts were a couple who had both ridden SC2SC in different years. 

I caught up on my photo journaling, Helen played with watercolor and writing in her journal. It was a really pleasant break from the physical exertion of Bike & Build. 

Other notes, in no particular order:

  • We slept in until 6:45!
  • I replaced by camelback's mouthpiece with one that didn't leak. 
  • Helen and I boarder visited the Purple Cow, a small dinner chain that presumably sent the C&D letter to Easton's Purple Cow (now the Bank St. Creamery)!
  • A tropical storm blew through, so we had one extra excuse not to go to far. 

June 17th - Visiting a Cropduster

Leaving Stuttgart.
Leaving the Episcopal Church in Stuttgart. The folks there were all really inspired by our trip, which touched me. They also took lots of photos of us.

The route today was very pretty. We wandered through an assortment of cropland, leaving behind Stuttgart's rice paddies for soy, corn, and other crops. (Riceland, a major rice processing company, is based in Stuttgart, but I didn't get any pictures of their facilities. It's a shame.)

Along the way, we ran into a small cropduster airstrip. As we approached, one of their planes landed, all of 50' off the road. We pulled over for a bike to chat with the employees. A few facts: each of the planes cost around a million dollars (an older style with radial engines are more like $60k but lack the payload capacity.) They can carry three to five thousand pounds of dry fertilizer, but need nice weather to safely approach the higher end. The airship only served a five mile radius: flying that far takes 10 minutes, and the fertilizer tanks are only good for 15 minutes of dumping, so the further away the field, the less airtime is actually spent dusting. They have a relatively short season (May-September) of long days, and around four months annually with next to no business.

Our evening host was a bike and build alumni who invited us to stay in his house. He and his wife have both ridden the SC2SC route in different years and were very interested in comparing our experiences to theirs. Especially since the 18th is a day off, it was nice to stay in a real house with a non-industrial kitchen.