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Final Day: Almost Arkansas

I don’t know what the Internet thinks of my travels, but the pond butterflies at Fort Crowder shooting range found my bicycle (and me) quite interesting:

A few of these scaly-wingers tagged along for a few meters, but they all headed back to the water well before I reached the exit. Too bad—I could have used their help lifting my gear over the gate.

Yesterday was Day 5, the final planned day of my ride from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Bentonville, Arkansas. My dear wife is coming to retrieve me today—we’ll spend this evening and all Friday enjoying the local trails and shops, then head back en auto Saturday. Knowing Wednesday was my last hard day in the saddle, I could give it my all.

Hay hay! It’s America’s birthday! (The photo is from July 3, but the Founders voted for independence July 2 and dated the Declaration July 4, so we should always celebrate Independence for at least three days, right?)

Morning in Pittsburg was humid, and the radar showed rain west. But the sun wasn’t pounding yet, and the wind was down from yesterday, now just light and southwesterly. I think I can, I think I can…

Bike at rest, on good gravel south of Pittsburg, Missouri.

Done with Kansas, now putting Missouri miles on my bike!
Atomic veterans—those are our own guys we nuked.
Crunch crunch crunch…
The Dogwood Trail, by Carl Junction. Nice little gravel alternative, right next to Highway 171, away from traffic, into the fun! Supposed to go right across Center Creek, says Google Maps. There is no bridge on Dogwood Trail crossing Center Creek. The burrs fixed to my leg hairs from hauling my bike up the embankment back to 171 can testify.
Bridge? What bridge?
The abandoned Joplin Union Depot…
…is right next to a gravel bike trail running through Joplin. I like a mix of prairie, forest, and urban post-apocalypse on my bike trails.
Wide clearing around that Joplin trail, easier to see the zombies lurching forth.
South of Joplin, the countryside turns really pretty.
These are exactly the kind of wooded roads I was hoping to find. I could ride country like this all day.

But boy, all those woods and fields and curvy roads do make a guy hungry:

Peking Garden in Neosho, Missouri, re-opened just a month ago.
I don’t Instagram my food much. I just took this photo of plate 1 of 3 and got down to business: lunch buffet and ice-cold lemonade refills.
Fort Crowder shooting range: the sign said Don’t enter during small-arms fire. I didn’t hear any small arms, so in I went. Luckily, south is the downhill direction through the range. Whee!
The pond with the butterflies.

The trail out, back to more woodsy, curvy country roads.
View from a church camp where I filled my bottles from a blue hydrant and took a final long rest before pushing to Bentonville.
Feet in an unfamiliar position, for a few minutes.
Rocks along US 71. Not as scenic, not as shady, but I was ready to give my keester a rest with smooth pavement.

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies…

But then, just past Jane, Missouri, the one real disaster of the trip:

Plam! went my back tire! Grind grind grind went my less protected rim. I braked fast, looked under me, and saw a flat. The instantaneous deflation told me this was no simple thorn prick that my tire slime would fill, no nail or branch jab that I could plug. This was a one-inch tear in my rear tire. I don’t know if I hit some sharp metal or if the tire just gave out from some defect or the heat or the strain, but I didn’t spend a lot of time scanning for the cause. I was done riding. After 460 miles, just ten miles from terminus, not quite to the Arkansas border, I was done.

So, alas, the bicycling portion of my trip was only three states—Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. I don’t get to put any Arkansas miles on the Trek 1120, an otherwise mighty and comfy bike that experienced just one catastrophic failure. And boy, if the bike had to give up, it picked about the best place to quit that it could have, just a short hitch to my intended lodging rather than out in the rain Monday morning in Admire, Kansas, or any place else much farther from where I hoped to be.