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Wichita to Memphis


This page documents a week long bicycle trip I took from Wichita, Kansas to Memphis, Tennessee starting Labor Day Weekend in 2003. Highlights of the trip included a lot of scenic Arkansas roads through the Ozarks. This was also a trip with four days of rain, sometimes heavy. Unfortunately, the rain waterlogged my camera so much that I was unable to get photos of this trip.

The idea behind this ride was to continue riding where a set of previous rides left off:

This way I am piecing together a third trip across the USA. I am also slowly bicycling adding to the US states I've cycled. During this trip, I added three more: Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas bringing the total to 47.

Listed below is my journal for the ride.

August 30th, Sedan

It rained. A steady rain as I started in the dark from the airport hotel. I flew back to Wichita last night for a week of cycling. Occasional dry periods today but mostly rain. This trip starts where the last one finished. That trip had temperatures reaching 100 degrees, so even with the rain, this is a welcome relief.

I am grateful to have received a ride to the airport from Paul. Uneventful boxing of the bike and flight brought me to Wichita by 10pm where I assembled things and rode 0.2 miles to the airport hotel.

I wasn't certain of time of sunrise so left at 5:30am for a long ride in the dark and rain. Fortunately very light traffic the first 18 miles to Derby where it finally started getting light. I squished into McDonalds stop before continuing on 15. This road generally had good shoulder with occasional rumble strips. Just as I was reaching 30 miles of rain and started thinking of shorter destinations, the rain stopped and was only overcast. I was still going surprisingly slow and couldn't quite figure if this was rain, light NE winds, being tired or what. Some gentle rolling hills coming through Mulvane and then stop at Udall for a candy bar.

Road became busier as I neared Winfield at 50 miles. Nice downtown and then early lunch stop. From here headed east with a bit more energy over gently rolling hills. Not much in way of either shoulder or traffic. At mile 63 US 160 split off and at 66, turned south for last miles to Dexter.

I felt very tired until got some candy bars and rest. Tried to find out if the motel in Sedan was still open, but no listing in the yellow pages. Uh oh, I didn't look forward to camping in the rain.

Five miles past Dexter, joined US 166 with busier and faster traffic. Shoulder still stayed about 12 inches, so an occasional horn from impatient driver. Several rolling hills and light headwinds from the east. Still made reasonable time and came into Sedan a little before 6 pm.

Sedan has nice downtown, but mostly closed now. Some rolling hills and the Ranch Motel on south side with a restaurant across the street. Nice to dry out a bit, particularly given weather forecasts are for more rain tomorrow.

This has been a long, slow and wet day. My camera failed to work today, so will see about drying it out. The pocketmail also had strange key problems but has been getting better as it dries. If you don't get a next message, probably due to a wet pocketmail.

104 miles today.

August 31st, Miami

Oklahoma! Today I added another state to the list of ones I cycled. Both the winds and rain were more favorable today, so it was an easier ride.

Storms came through overnight. Woke up about 2:30am to hear pouring rain outside. TV stations kept up little maps with "flood watch". Fortunately, just a light rain when I started out at 6:15am. Dark but rapidly getting light. Three miles of rolling hills and I was back to US 166.

This road had gentle grades and smooth surfaces. Winds from south, so it was quicker than yesterday. Not clear what they grow here, though did see some cattle grazing. All today a lot of roadkill: most frequent were armadillos and frogs, but also turtles, giant spiders and opposums.

After 17 miles, turned briefly into the wind for three miles and then eastward again past Caney. Rain let up here and was more intermittent through rest of the day. Tyro had no real commercial establishment save some churches and antique shops. A few more hills and then down into the sprawl of Coffeyville.

It took a few miles of town before I reached the center and stop at the slowest and most dirty McDonalds. Light rain as I stopped at ATM on way out of town and then across the river. A few miles downstream is the lowest spot in Kansas so now some gentle climbs over the Ozark Plateau.

Still good road with SW light tailwinds as I stopped briefly at Edna before coming into Chetopa at mile 67. Here I turned south and into the wind on US59. After three miles the border to Oklahoma and shoulders disappeared. Open lands and slow going in the wind, but at mile 79 reached Welch and turned east.

Quieter country road on OK10 with occasional shoulders. Reached Miami a little after 4pm. Several motels to choose from, but it took me a 1.5 mile walk to find open restaurant. Nice to reach Oklahoma, the 45th state I've cycled.

92 miles today.

September 1st, Bentonville

Missouri and Arkansas, two more states added to my cycling list. Today was the third day of rain with some of the heaviest downpours so far.

Overnight were heavy downpours, but light rain starting out. One mile to the turnpike and then it started pouring heavy rain. A slow climb up east side on OK 10, thoroughly drenched but fortunately not cold rain. Slow going through gentle hills.

At 13 miles was the OK/MO border. From the "stateline" businesses it seems that gasoline much be cheaper in Oklahoma and liquor in Missouri. A south turn after this and then down through Seneca. My wet brakes needed several pumps before they grabbed. Small town of Seneca at 17 miles and then slow climb up to US 60.

US 60 had nice eight foot shoulder and gentle grades. Mostly forests along the way and gentle NE wind. It turned more to light rain as I crossed under US71 and reached Neosho junction for breakfast at 31 miles.

Over breakfast it started pouring rain again. While I had originally thought of going to Cassville, MO I decided with the rain to head south (downwind) to Bentonville. Up to mile 45 this was on MO 59, a nice backroad with good shoulder. Came through small town of Anderson and then up the hill to join US 71.

Southbound US 71 was a poor condition road. Within a mile I suddenly heard sound to discover that I'd ridden over a wire that had popped up and twisted and broken my fender. A stop here and some electrical tape to fix the fender. While US 71 supposedly had a 6 foot shoulder it was covered with debris and also frequently broken up. The shoulder went away across bridges. Traffic was heavy with many trucks and lots of rain splatter.

Fortunately at mile 60 I reached the Arkansas border and the road dramatically improved. It became a four lane divided highway with nice broad shoulder. Yeah! A slow cycle here to the visitor center and then into 71B in Bentonville. Found a good motel on south side of town and out of the rain.

72 miles today.

September 2nd, Harrison

Reached the Ozark mountains today. Lots of short sharp hills and winding roads.

Left early for quick breakfast stop starting out. Light drizzle to start and as I left, someone yelled "you are going to get wet!" I thought yes, this is 4th day so far. The road through Rogers was busy on a two lane road. Particularly as I passed town there were many commuters driving to the Rogers/Bentonville area. Otherwise mostly flat riding for first eight miles.

After 5 miles, US 62 veered northeast. A few miles along the railroad tracks before starting on gentle rolling hills. Lots of winding road and forests. Stopped briefly at Garfield at 17 miles.

At 21 miles was Gateway and the road shoulder went away. A few miles of rolling hills before it became even steeper. Misty low drizzle meant I didn't see many views, but signs indicated Beaver Lake was nearby.

Crossed the White River at 30 miles and then eight miles to Eureka Springs. A surprising amount of motels in this area. Apparently this is old resort area where families from Chicago visited spas and still an Ozark resort region. A small trolley bus with many stops through town.

After stopping in Eureka Springs the road had fewer hills. Descending one at 45 miles I noticed a bobble on rear tire. Apparently the rear tire was starting to rip out. Decided to take care of this and stopped to swap out the tire.

More winding road via Berryville at mile 49 and Green Forest at mile 59. Shoulders were intermittent. Came over one last hill and into Alpena at 68 miles.

Clerk at Alpena told me mostly downhills to Harrison. This wasn't the case as I kept climbing. Stopped briefly at Arkansas visitor center and then found a motel on near side of Harrison. Some good hills today and more expected tomorrow.

78 miles today.

September 3rd, Clinton

Today was an easier ride than expected. Also good cycle weather with overcast skies and cool temperatures. Yesterday I had been told to expect steeper hills today than in segment from Bentonville. While there were a few longer hills, overall it was easier.

Coasted down the hill into Harrison while it was still dark. Had breakfast and then rode out as it was getting light. Initially on 65B which had one large hill. The merged 62/65 was three lanes with a lot of traffic. Narrowed to two lanes without a shoulder, but fortunately cars and trucks were giving me room.

At 9 miles the road split and I stopped at the truck stop. Some gentle rolling hills as I passed Valley Springs and Western Grove. At 23 miles was small town of Pindall. There was small antique shop that I stopped in. The proprietor walked up and we talked for a bit. He gave me an excellent description of hills ahead. The first of the hills was on way to St Joe, the next town. Shoulders were intermittent in next stage with occasional rough spots.

At 30 miles was steep downhill and across the Buffalo River. Many canoes here and then slow climb to Silver Hill. I came into my morning stop at Marshall at 45 miles. A small grocery store with friendly dog here.

After Marshall, a long two mile uphill and then almost ten miles of downhill past Leslie. Another steep uphill with runaway truck rames to Dennard and then more downhill again. Shortly past 2pm when I came into Clinton at 72 miles.

Rode two miles further to the motel and stopped for the day. Large Walmart supercenter here. Doing laundry realized most of my clothes are at least damp.

74 miles today.

September 4th, Wynne

A ride out of the Ozarks and into the flat bottomlands. A somewhat longer ride than initially expected.

Left Clinton in early morning cool. Mostly clear skies, but also fog in the low valleys. Down the hill from Clinton across the valley and up a long hill by Choctaw. From here it was mostly downhill to turnoff at mile 14.

I left US 65 and turned onto 124. No shoulders here, but also lighter traffic. Still rolling hills, but the hills were longer and shallower. At mile 24 stopped at Quitman for a snack. This area had mixture of forest and fields. Another long hill and down to Rose Bud at mile 34.

At mile 42 was town of Joy and steep descent off the Ozark Plateau. A few gentle hills after that. Moderate traffic and into Searcy, population 18,000. Stopped for lunch at mile 54 and then through main street through town.

Crossed the limited access highway 67 and then on smaller 367 heading northbound through Bald Knob and stopped at junction with highway 64 at mile 69.

I asked the clerk if there were motels past Augusta. She said yes at Patterson and McCrory. Great! The next 12 miles were perfectly flat to Augusta. Shoulders varied between 18 inches and 6 feet, particularly narrowing across numerous bridges. Reasonable amount of truck traffic.

The Augusta Motor Lodge looked pretty sad as did Matts Motel, so I decided to continue to McCrory since I expected a motel in another ten miles.

More flat riding with 15 mile cross wind. At miles 90 stopped at convenience store in McCrory and asked about the motel. Nothing in this town and next motel was 23 miles later in Wynne. Oops, looks like a bit further riding.

Good riding, though I was getting a bit tired. Shoulders still varied, sometimes rather bumpy and generally narrow at the bridges. I was happy to ride into Wynne at see motel at far end of town. 113 miles today. My GPS now says 48 miles straight line distance to the Memphis Airport. Of course, I'll be riding this more indirectly.

113 miles today

September 5th, Lula

Made it across the Mississippi River today. A relatively easy ride, with mostly flat and mostly downhill.

A breakfast stop in Wynne before starting out. Headed southbound on Arkansas 1 through about six miles of road construction. The shoulder was closed but traffic was well behaved. Past Colt the construction stopped and passed many open fields. At one point a crop duster airplane going back and forth.

It became busier as I passed I-40 at 17 miles. Came through town of Forrest City and then out in countryside again. Reached town of Felton at 37 miles by 10 am, so was making good time.

My map showed a "National Scenic Byway". The first seven miles along 44 on hilly road. At mile 44 reached Bear Creek Lake picnic area and a sign indicating the road turned to gravel.

The gravel road was scenic. Large gravel stones meant the riding was slow. Walked up one or two steep hills. Forested area with giant kudzoo vines over everything. After eleven miles of gravel, reached Storm Creek Lake.

Hooray, pavement again. The paved road meandered past the dump and then down the hill to 242. 242 went south and reached West Helena for lunch. Followed 49B around and took a quick reconnisance of the bridge over the Mississippi.

After viewing the bridge, rode back on 49 and the Arkansas visitor center. I was told the motels were five miles further back, but there was also nice casino hotel just across the Mississippi River bridge.

Back to the high bridge. The bridge had a 12 inch shoulder but I rode on right side of travel lane. Light traffic over the bridge.

Just on other side was Isle of Capri Casino. Wow, lots of money made here. Fancy waterfall and rooms full of slot machines. My GPS says it is 52 miles now from the Memphis airport.

72 miles today.

September 6th, Memphis

A day of riding through Mississippi. Not very wide shoulders on the highways in this state.

People were busy at slot machines at 6am as I left the casino hotel. A sharp contrast between the fancy casino and the nearby town of Lula 8 miles away. It was nice to be across the bridge. US 49 didn't have shoulders as I cycled in early morning. At seven miles I turned on side road through Lula. Some run down shops, but not much open yet. On other side I reached US 61 at 9 miles.

Light headwinds from the north. Perfectly flat terrain past cotton fields. The shoulder was about twelve inches wide. I cycled up to mile 24 where the shoulder disappeared. Decided rather than riding a two lane freeway with no shoulder, instead turned east on county roads. Zigged and zagged a few roads and ended up on route 3, which surprisingly had a twelve inch shoulder.

Continued north to 304 and then west across some low hills to intersection with 301 at mile 50. Road 301 was closed due to construction, so went east for few miles further.

My Mississippi map had a city map for Southhaven, so followed local roads (Fogg, Church, Horn Lake, Stateline and Airways). Gentle hills with light traffic. On the last of these roads crossed the border to Memphis and then to the airport. Cycled into the terminal for end of the trip. 75 miles today

Overall a good week of cycling, even though the first half started out wet. Much of the time was spent in Arkansas where I found the roads to have adequate shoulders, reasonable amounts of traffic and rolling hills. Both Oklahoma and Mississippi did worse in the shoulders department. A short ride through Missouri in the heaviest rain. Added another three states to the cycle list and am now up to 47. Most likely be 2004 before I return to Memphis and cycle the next segment.