We had expected to cover more than 42 miles in Oklahoma, but thanks to good advice from our Warm Showers host we altered our route to take a more bike friendly road north through Arkansas. It was excellent advice as we enjoyed good pavement, wide shoulders and moderate traffic on the revised route. Between that, the constant sunshine and beautiful scenery, we couldn't help but take an immediate liking to the state.
With a clear 2-day forecast, we took the opportunity to camp out for the night. With hot weather, storm predictions and lack of tenting sites throughout our Texas travels, we hadn't yet pitched our tent. Rich found an obscure little campground in Big Coon Creek Park, run by the Army Corps of Engineers on Gillham Lake. It was about seven miles off the main road, and for that distance the small local roads twisted and turned with steep hills. It was mostly downhill, as we wended our way down to the reservoir. I knew it didn't bode well for the next morning's ride, but quickly shoved the thought aside as the moment was too beautiful to spoil. The breeze from our descent under the shade of the trees sure felt good on a hot, sunny afternoon.
It was pure pleasure being able to spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening outdoors in the balmy temperatures and catch the last remaining rays of sun at our campsite. The lake was overflowing from the area's abundant spring rains, leaving picnic tables submerged and trees surrounded by water. Dinner wasn't elaborate – sub sandwiches and fruit purchased earlier at Walmart – but it sure tasted good out there.
I can't say we slept well. It was camping after all. But we were up in time for the sunrise, which was was a treat.
Our departure started off with steep uphills, but the cool morning air under a clear blue sky counterbalanced the effort. It was good training, however, for what is to come. Although the main road dipped and rolled all day long, the real mountains began to appear in the distance. They both beckoned and threatened us with their cycling challenges. We know that tomorrow the climbing begins in earnest. Hello, Arkansas!