BABCOCK'S STORE Oct. 9, 1999

Oct. 13, 2001

   The True Grit Arkansas Ride may be held the week-end of October 15
and 16, 2004, but maybe not.  Bob and Lisa Matush have always been instrumental
in the planning and logistics of the ride.  This year, they're unable to
help because of some family matters that need their attention.  Galen is
recovering from medical difficulties, and Kathy and I are still dealing
with Chem Therapy, merging households into our home, and her Mother's
      For those who've always enjoyed the ride, we need someone to step up
and work (I know, that's a four letter word seldom uttered in mixed company
or in public).  Please volunteer to schedule and coordinate the ride.
Frances Singleton will work with you to advise you of the things to be
done.  Please call her to volunteer.
      We need volunteers in the lcub who are willing to help and work.  How
'bout you?

  We will be based at Queen Wilhemena State Park, near Mena, Arkansas.  You may stay at the Lodge, tent camp, or RV.  If you stay at the Lodge, or want your own RV space or tent camp, call and make reservations at 1 800 264 2477.

This is a road bike trip, primarily.  Our main ride is on Saturday, and although it is usually only 40 miles or so, it is a workout, with some dramatic changes in elevation.  There will also be mountain bike opportunities.


Tour de France Mountain stages
compared to Queen Wilhelmina climbs
courtesy of Bob Matush and Dave Williams

Grades for Arkansas True Grit Bicycle Tour:
          1. Rich Mt. to valley : -11.4%
          2. Up Winding Stair to lunch stop: +9.5%
          3. Kiamichi river to Three Sticks: +6.4%

Tour de France Mountain Stages:

Stage 7 : Strasbourg / Colmar

* Col du Kreuzweg : 15,6 km at 3,6%
* Col de Fouchy : 5 km at 5,7%
* Col d'Adelspach : 9,5 km at 5%
* Col du Bonhomme : 12,3 km at 4,4%
* Col du Calvaire : 2,4 km at 6,5%
* Collet du Linge : 5,8 km at 3,2%

Stage 10 : Aix-les-Bains / L'Alpe d'Huez

* Col du Frêne : 2,1 km at 8,6%
* Col de la Madeleine : 24,8 km at 6,2%
* Col du Glandon : 19,9 km at 7,3%
* L'Alpe d'Huez : 13,9 km at 8,1%

Stage 11 : Grenoble / Chamrousse

* Montée vers Chamrousse : 18,7 km at 7,1%

Stage 12 : Perpignan / Ax-les-Thermes

* Col de Jau : 22,8 km at 5,2%
* Col de Coudons : 10,9 km at 5,5%
* Col des Sept-Frères : 4,7 km at 4,4%
* Col du Chioula : 5,3 km at 3,2%
* Ax-les-Thermes (Plateau de Bonascre) : 9,4 km at 7%

Stage 13 : Foix / Saint-Lary

* Col de Port : 15,7 km at 4,6%
* Col de Portet-d'Aspet : 2,6 km at 8,6%
* Col de Menté : 11,1 km at 6,4%
* Col du Portillon : 8,3 km at 7,3%
* Col de Peyresourde : 13 km at 7%
* Col de Val-Louron-Azet : 7,4 km at 8,3%
* Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla d'Adet) : 10,3 km at 8,3%

Stage 14 : Tarbes / Luz-Ardiden

* Côte du "Haut de la Côte" : 1,5 km at 6,3%
* Côte de Mauvezin : 3 km at 6,7%
* Col d'Aspin : 12,1 km at 6,5%
* Col du Tourmalet : 16,8 km at 7,5%
* Montée vers Luz-Ardiden : 13,7 km at 7,5%


ARKANSAS TRUE GRIT BIKE TOUR 10/13/2001 by Jim Walker
     Thirteen riders braved the foggy, rainy, cloudy, steep, twisty 46 mile route on and around the second highest mountain in Arkansas and had a great time doing it.   it was a lot of fun plunging down into the unknown with a death grip on wet brakes for several steep miles at a time with about forty yards of visibility on hairpin turns hugging the edge of a mountain.  Definitely a test for "true grit."  The riders were:  Ali Azghani, Joe and Becky Canal, Bob Matush, Roger and Frances Singleton, Rick Uribe, Jim Walker, Dave Williams, Eric and Galén Williams, Sport and his friend from Dallas.  Jean Williams and Lisa Matush did an excellent job as sag support.


October 9, 1999
by Jim Walker

The first time I set foot on Rich Mountain was about 40 years ago when only a rocky trail led to the ruins of Queen Wilhelmina's Castle. Named after the queen of the Netherlands, the resort was built in 1898 by the Kansas City Southern Railroad on the second highest peak in Arkansas in an effort to attract more passengers. Only four stone walls and a fireplace remained. Little did I know that years later I would be camping out there with a bunch of bicycle enthusiasts from Tyler, Texas. And an enthusiastic bunch they were.

Riders for the event drifted in from Thursday to late Friday night. Everyone camped in a tent, van, camper, or trailer except for Gary and Amberly Skaggs, who stayed in the lodge.  Amberly had only been riding a bike for three months and did well on the tour. Friday night we gathered around the campfire at Bob and Charlotte Sanford's "Taj Mahal trailer", as Roger Singleton called it, for Charlotte's homemade spaghetti. Someone suggested that everyone take turns revealing the worst thing they had ever done, but that idea was short-lived when Dick Long told us about an incident he caused when he was a kid. No one could possibly top that one. If you want to know what Dick did, you will have to ask him because the authorities might still be wondering who was responsible. I'll just say that I have been meaning to look up the event on the internet. Later, we watched Andy Fay attempting to back his trailer into his camp site with his wife Barbara's guidance.  He must have either over- taxed his transmission or run out of gas for he finally parked his trailer perpendicular to his car. Everyone was tired by 10:30, and with impending rain, we decided to turn in.  At exactly 11:44 pm, there came a rap, rap, rapping on my camper door. With thoughts of last years bear incident, I didn't hurry to answer. It was Eric Williams, who just arrived with Galen and Joe Canal. Joe had forgotten his tent, and Galen remembered I was bringing an extra one. Ralph Obach also arrived that night with his wife Bella and their two children Michelle and Jeremy.

When we arose early Saturday morning to tackle 45 miles of the Talimena Scenic Drive the atmosphere was thick with a dense cloud layer. Sixteen riders, mostly in rain gear, posed for photos by the old steam locomotive before heading for the first rest stop. Charlotte led the way in Bob's truck, and Roger trailed as sag, while Bob and Frances biked. What at first looked to be a dreary, cold day of riding quickly turned out to be perfect as we rode below the clouds into the sunlight. The rain jackets came off, and what had seemed to be an unorganized bunch of unrelated people on bicycles, transformed into a close knit group of elite riders, as the bright yellow Tyler jerseys lit the countryside. We rode down hair raising descents, which twisted and turned sharply, at speeds close to 50 mph. It was a little too close to the edge for comfort if brakes were not applied soon enough.  Another foot over would have resulted in free falling down the side of a mountain. What if a tire blows? What about that gravel ahead? What about that pothole? What if I meet a car?  What if......? And I'm sure Frances was thinking, "What if I ride up the back of someone's rear tire?" There were two major climbs. One was a very steep two mile climb, and the other ascended relentlessly for 4.1 miles. We sat awhile, we stood awhile, we geared up, we geared down, and some weaved from side to side. All were determined to make it without getting off their bike. Galen suffered a bee sting, but Ali Azghani was quick with the first aid kit, and she was back on her bike feeling no pain. The last ten miles of the tour was an all out race to Babcock's store in Octavia, Oklahoma. Everyone lined up at the last rest stop not knowing how much effort they had left and awaited the signal to give it everything they could. Andy took the lead from the start and I followed. Someone blew by me on a downhill! It was Galen! That woman is strong! What was in that first aid kit? Gary was on her wheel. Working together the two had caught me. We battled back and forth for awhile, on what was mostly downhill, with speeds over 40 mph. Galen finally faded and Bill came from behind. Ali and Ralph passed Galen on the last hill. Coming out of nowhere Eric passed me with yards to go, but I went aero and edged by him at the finish.  Andy came in first, Gary second, Bill third, me fourth and Eric a close fifth. We recouped at Babcock's store while listening to Joan Babcock play the piano with her husband Bill accompanying her on the spoons. Bob shuttled us back to camp where we cleaned up, rested, and got ready to go to the lodge for an all-you-can-eat buffet, awards ceremony, and poker run results.

The next day several of us went to Bob and Lisa Matush's cabin for some serious mountain biking on very hilly terrain. Bill Cornelius, Robert Bergman, Bob Matush, Andy Kathan, and I raced over rocks of all sizes and through about twelve water crossings with Sport leading the way. Sport really comes alive on a mountain bike. I believe he was saving himself on the road ride just for this. We startled several people on four wheelers as we rocketed downhill and splashed through a deep water crossing at a high rate of speed. Twelve miles later we were soaked, and our bikes were gritty as we returned to Bob and Lisa's cabin for sandwiches with the rest of the group.

Much credit and a lot of thanks goes to Bob and Charlotte Sanford for making all of this possible, to Roger's sag support, and to Dick Long for taking photos and flagging us in at rest stops. We also appreciated the hospitality offered by Bob and Lisa at their cabin in the woods. If you haven't experienced the True Grit Bike Tour, you have definitely missed a lot. Make plans for next year. You will be glad you did. When you get back to East Texas, you will wonder who flattened out all the hills while you were away.

Related Link