Day 17 McAlester OK to Talimena Lodge, AR

Return to Arkansas

Today we rode from the low lands of McAlester, Oklahoma up to Talimena Lodge, AR. Doesn’t look too bad, right?

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Well, have a look at the profile. This puppy has 7500′ of climbing, the second most of any day on the tour, and most of it comes on the Talimena Parkway.

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The rollers started a few miles out of town. I tucked in behind a couple on a tandem as they crested a hill. They pulled at first, then the road flattened out so I sprinted to catch back up with them. We lasted until the next climb, and I didn’t see them for the rest of the day. The first water stop had some of these fruits under the bushes – does anyone recognize it?

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After the second water stop at 60 miles, things started getting vertical. Marcy was ahead of me going into the park. The boring flat stuff was over, now the challenge started.

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The sign says 10-13% grade, however several people reported seeing 14% on their GPS.

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We climbed up and up and I struggled to keep 5mph, then we plunged down and hit 46. The Talimena Parkway goes along the ridge of the mountains, so you often see the next leg going up the following ridge.

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I was riding solo today as I climb at my own pace. Jim S, Jim M and Lynn came into lunch as a well-oiled team.

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Here is the view at lunch.

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The up and down climbs went on for a dozen miles or two. Just when I was about to rate the road an 8, it switched to a rough chip seal, and then went up for 3.5 miles at 13%. Ouch! On the downhills you could ride on the top of the rocks, but the grind up was painful.

Close to 15 years ago my sister left Arkansas to become a professor in Boise, so I thought I would never set foot in the state again, Wrong! Best of all, once you cross the border, the chip seal ends and the road goes back to smooth asphalt.

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Now today’s ride is coming to an end.The penultimate cue on the route sheet said to look for the steam locomotive.

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We are staying at the Queen Wilhemina Lodge, which was funded by Dutch railroad investors. Now you know the rest of the story.

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The view  up here is tremendous, take my word for it. A photo from the balcony does not do justice.

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Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim Salvie’s blog