Monday, April 29, 2013

A Petite Climb to Petit Jean

Monday morning...time for a bike ride! Hmmm...I hear there's a mountain nearby.

Kim and Gary suggested riding to Petit Jean State Park. It just so happens that Petit Jean State Park is at the top of Petit Jean Mountain. I mapped the route and it (and Gary) said it was 29 miles one way. Gary said the steep part was a mile.

I took off at 9:30. The ride to the base of the mountain was very pleasant. It was gentle rollers on quiet roads. My average speed up until the beginning of the climb was 15 mph! Apparently, I had a tailwind.

The climb up Petit Jean was definitely a climb. It was probably the longest hill I've climbed this entire tour (not the steepest, however). I managed to make it half-way before I gave in to super granny gear.

At the top, was a sign to Petit Jean's gravesite and the Overlook. I rode up to the overlook, but never found the gravesite. The view from the overlook was spectacular! The Arkansas River curved below and I could see for miles. The hawks were catching the up drafts. I wondered about the origin of the name Petit Jean. Of course, my questions were answered shortly ( and now so will your's). Petit Jean (Little John) was a French girl who disguised herself as a boy to work on a ship as a cabin boy so she could come to the New World with her fiancé (who didn't recognize her). The crew spent the summer with the Native Americans near the Arkansas River and the mountain. At the time they were getting ready to return to France, Jean became ill. Her true identity was discovered. She knew she would not survive the trip to France, so she asked to stay with the Indians. They carried her on a litter up to the top of the mountain where she died shortly after and was buried. Years later a grave was discovered at the the top of the mountain with perfectly placed stones. It was thought to be the grave of Petit Jean.

From the overlook, I continued on to the State Park. It was lunchtime when I got to the Registration Building. I was going to eat my lunch at a picnic table behind the building, but I saw another cyclist, so I went to talk to him. He was out for a day ride on his recumbent. He had come up the other side from Dardenelle (not as steep). We chatted for awhile about touring (he would like to come to Washington and do the Olympic Penninsula). I ate my lunch while we were talking. He was heading to Mather Lodge for his lunch.

After finishing my PB&J, I went into the office/store. The clerk asked if I had been to the Cedar Falls Overlook. She told me there was a bike path ("Hike and Bike" as they are called here) that would take me to the Overlook. Well, she was sort of right. I rode the bike trail to the end, but it came out at Mather Lodge. That was okay because the view from the lodge over the canyon was nice too. I saw signs for the Falls Overlook, but I couldn't seem to find it. Finally, I followed the bike path back and turned onto a gravel path that said "Access to Cedar Falls Overlook. The gravel path ended with stairs, so I just carried Betsy down the few stairs. The road to the Overlook was across the street.

I parked Betsy and walked the boardwalk to the Falls Overlook. The falls were not that big, but the rock formation was pretty cool. There were other trails to other viewpoints, but I didn't take them.

When I had ridden into the park, I had passed The Outpost--a grocery/cafe. I saw a sign for hand-dipped ice cream. When I was headed back, I stopped and had some ice cream. They also had Petit Jean Mountain Fudge, but I resisted buying any of that (it was in the upper 80s today--I'm not sure the fudge would have survived long).

My ice cream fix satisfied, I headed back down the mountain. Coming down was quite fun. Unfortunately, at the bottom I was met with a headwind. I rode against it until Houston (Arkansas, not Texas--population 726). From there on Bethel Rd to Hwy 60 it was a crosswind. I had a tailwind for the last 5 miles.

Overall, I rode 63 miles. That was a long distance considering the hills.

Tonight, my nieces, Haley (with husband, Dallas) and Brittany (without husband, Drew), and Kim's mom, Betty, came to dinner. I was happy I got to see the girls. After dinner, all us gals hopped into Haley's car and Kim's car and went to Haley's house (just down the road) to see all the stuff Haley has for baby "Trip" (officially, Dallas Wayne Payne III), due in June. That baby has enough stuff for a whole herd of babies! That's not counting the stuff Kim has for him at her house!

Anyway, it was fun to get to see everything and see both Haley and Brittany's houses yesterday and today. Both girls have grown up to be wonderful women!

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