My route finally turns towards Dallas and the temperatures go up.
Before the Ride
I had 514 miles to go to get from my in-laws to the convention in Dallas (actually, Grapevine), Texas. That’s usually a single day’s ride for me, especially since it would be primarily on the slab. However, it is a Saturday and my reservation doesn’t start until Sunday evening. That makes it sound like I have two days to burn to get there, but I’m committed to help this year’s ORS team set up their layout starting Sunday afternoon. Check-in at the Gaylord Texan isn’t until 4pm, but as a Marriot Bonvoy member, I requested a 2pm check in.
Anyway… that means I want to get about 3-4 hours out from the resort today. To make matters more interesting, the warm-but-not-oppressive temperatures that I’ve enjoyed these past several days have come to an end. A full-on heat wave is due to descend upon the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth metromess today, with high temperatures ranging from 106º-110ºF over the next week. I have a feeling that my AGATT tendencies will be sorely tested.
Looking at possible routes, I really had two choices:
- A direct route with lots of four-lanes (only a little slab) and about 350 miles.
- A more circuitous route of twisty roads through the more hilly portions of Arkansas, but over 500 miles long.
Given the high temperatures expected today, I chose the more direct route. I hopped on my Wyndham app and booked a room in a Super 8 in Idabel, Oklahoma. That would put me right at about 200 miles from Grapevine; an easy day on Sunday.
I spent the morning catching up with my daughter and in-laws, along with reacquainting myself with the two dogs that my daughter kidnapped for her summer with her grandparents. The dogs seemed happy to see me.
After packing up and suiting up, I gave a few hugs and I was off.
The day started with a dodge through downtown Doniphan before heading south towards Pocahontas, Arkansas (how did that name get used here?). That part of the route was nearly all forest and small farms. The road itself was only slightly curvy, but it made up for that in verticality. It seemed like the road chose to cross river valleys instead of following them, so the road’s profile was a bit like a good roller coaster.
At Pocahontas, I picked up US67 south, a four-lane but with surface street intersections. The landscape had changed from wooded hills to flat flood plain filled with farms. There were still the odd tree lines at property borders or around homes, but not much more. With all that open space, the speed limits jumped up a bit and I took full advantage.
By the time I stopped for gas near Newport, Arkansas, the temperatures had already climbed up to 95ºF. I still had a half-full bag of water (Camelback hydration bladder) on the bike, so I didn’t go inside to grab additional fluids.
As I neared Little Rock, thee temperature jumped up to 102ºF and the traffic densities increased dramatically. At this temperature, opening the visor on the helmet was worse than keeping it closed. I was still trying to get some ram-air up the unzipped sleeves on my jacket, but it’s hard to do that when you’re engaged in the combat drive around a metromess. To make matters even worse, there was a long construction zone on the south side of the city that dropped down to two lanes each way. Here there was no maneuvering around traffic; you just got behind the guy in front of you and slogged your way through. Yuck.
By the time I left the I30 slab at Malvern, I was beginning to melt. My on-board water supply was starting to suck air and I hadn’t had much opportunity to vent some air into my leathers while doing the combat drive. There was a Circle K station just of the highway and I enthusiastically parked to avail myself of some air conditioning.
I purchased a bottle of Vitamin Water and a Payday bar to put some protein and salt back into my system. While I slowly consumed my snack, I struck up a conversation with a pair of other riders who were just finishing a similar break of their own. We briefly discussed the challenges of wearing protective gear but still being able to be comfortable on days like this. Their solution was perforated synthetic jackets. I mentioned that I would likely be going up into the mountains on my way home and they both rolled their eyes and the quandary of having to pack multiple jackets for such a ride. If you ride enough, you’ve faced this quandary yourself. Do you take one jacket that you can adapt to both the hot and cold? Or, do you pack multiple jackets that will do hot and cold extremes better, but at the expense of taking up a butt-load of space in your luggage.
It’s a non-trivial problem.
After my snack, I felt that I couldn’t absorb any more air conditioning than I already had. I asked for, and was granted, permission to fill my Camelback bladder with ice and cold water from their soda fountain. Back out into the furnace I went, pointing the bike west on US270.
Over the course of the day, I’d noticed that the Nightowl didn’t like to track straight. It seemed to like to aim a little left or right, but not directly straight. It’s a bit like the dead and problem you get at the center of a worn steering rack on a car, but a bike obviously doesn’t have that component. The last time this happened, I found a loose pinch bolt on the right side of the front axle was the culprit.
West of Hot Springs, Arkansas, the problem was getting bad enough that I felt that I needed to check it out. I hated to pull into a gas station having just worked my way around a bunch of slower vehicles on a two-lane road, but I felt it had to be done. The suspect pinch bolt was not loose like last time. I loosened it anyway and put the wrench on the axle. It turned a bit, but with considerable effort. I don’t have a torque wrench with me, so I don’t know if it had loosened out of spec, but I’d snugged it down a bit. I re-tightened the pinch bolt (and check the other side; it was fine), before venturing back out on the road. By my dead reckoning, it felt like the problem had been helped out a bit, but it’s not gone entirely. I’m wondering if I don’t have some cupping on the front tire. The syndrome shows up most prominently on brand new smooth pavement. On old rough-assed pavement, I barely notice it. <shrug> We’ll see.
I had to make one last gas stop in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, a mere 10 miles from my destination. Now the temperatures were up to 105ºF, but the water in my Camelback was still slightly cool. I drained another few mouthfuls of hydration and rode the last miles to my motel.
After the Ride
I checked in and found that my room’s air conditioner was not running. I cranked the temp down to 68ºF and unpacked. This Super 8 actually had a swimming pool, so I immediately changed into a swimsuit, picked up a couple of pool towels from the front desk, and walked over to the pool. The temperature of the pool was like bath water, but still cooler than the air and my body temp, so I jumped in and floated around for a while.
There was a Italian restaurant down the street about a quarter mile, but in this heat I had no intention of walking it. I made the short ride over in jacket and helmet, but no chaps(!). The shrimp and scallop Alfredo was pretty good but not great. It was sustenance, and that’s all it needed to be.
Here’s a view of today’s route. Click on the image to open an interactive route in a new window.
Ride the rest of the way to Dallas (Grapevine) and try not to melt. Get checked in and then help this year’s ORS team build their layout.