Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On the road to Tulsa

Yep! On the road again, this time to Tulsa to attend the IBA meeting. I'm getting there the long, round-about way as I collect more points for the AMA Grand Tours (Italy in America Tour and World's Biggest Tour).

I got on the road late, around 10:00 AM. I wanted to get a bicycle ride in first, and then noticed that the hollies along the front of the house were looking a little ragged. So I got a 10 mile ride in (50 minutes) and then, while still hot and sweaty, got the electric hedge trimmer out and whipped those hollies into shape. So...on the road, headed up I-45 a little late, but I have a 475 mile day ahead, with no deadline to reach Paris TX for the night.

My first stop was a tiny dot on the map named Venetia, north of Normangee and west of Buffalo. I let the GPS lead me to the approximate location of where there will (hopefully) be a sign marking the town line. On Google Earth there doesn't appear to be much of anything except a few farms, so I can only hope. FM 977 was a terrific road, as was FM 3. Lots of curves! I must remember these roads for future rides. And there it was!! The characteristic green sign along the side of the road. Perfect! Thankfully! I was pretty far afield of the main route, and this one point bonus cost me 45 minutes to get.

I love riding on US 79 out of Buffalo. This road is just beautiful, and surprisingly hilly and winding. At one point, the view ahead looks like somewhere else, not Texas, with its woods and hilly terrain. In Palestine I turned onto FM 155, another really beautiful road. It passes through Frankston and Coffee City, where it crosses Lake Palestine in two places. The temperatures were noticeably cooler as I rode across the lake and into nice heavy wooded stretches of road as it brought me into Tyler. My next stop would be in front of the Pilgrim headquarters, where I bagged a photo of my bike and the AMA flag in front of the giant head of a pilgrim. Corny, but kinda cool, too!

I skirted Tyler on the west and north side to pick up US 271 toward Mount Pleasant. This is a 4-lane road most of the way and I was able to make up time along this stretch. My next stops will be back in Italy in America. Naples is about 20 miles east of Mount Pleasant, and I remembered scouting this town for an MTF rally in January 2006. The town has a nice engraved marble marker in the center of town, which would make a great photo.

Backtracking to Mount Pleasant, I had a chance to ride through the center of this really neat old town. It has a nice courthouse square and a real downtown, looking like it must have looked for the last 50 years. I got onto I-30 west for about 30 miles to exit onto FM-69 south to Como. I was in search of the post office, but came upon a volunteer fire department first, so stopped and got a photo.

But just a half mile further on, I came upon an absolutely perfect little post office and photo opportunity. It was a tiny town, as were many of these that I've ridden through today. Nearly all had two things in common: cattle farms and rail lines running through the town. I crossed and re-crossed many railroad tracks today.

Back onto I-30 for a couple of miles to exit onto SR 19 north to Sulphur Springs and then on to Paris TX. The SW Dairy Museum is in Sulphur Springs and I learned that there are two very large cows in front of the museum, so I headed that way to snag some photos of very large bovine.

Then it was on to Paris, TX to get a photo of the Eiffel Tower replica. There's a large red cowboy hat on top, an entrant in my World's Largest Grand Tour. I decided to go ahead and ride on to Reno, just 5 or 6 miles east of Paris, to bag that Italian town namesake, before turning around and heading to the hotel. Stopped on the side of the road to get the Reno town sign photo, I was just getting ready to pull back onto the road and do a U-turn when I saw a biker pull up behind me. But I'd already taken off and was in the middle of that U-turn when I noticed him. I waved and gave him the thumbs-up sign and he returned it.

Tomorrow: Mostly World's Largest things on the route, which will take me into OK, AR, and MO before turning west to Tulsa.

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