If you live anywhere within 2 hours of Pryor, OK, then you have to try this ride. This was the second year for me to do it, and it’s hard not to count it amongst the top tour rides in the region.
By early September, the oppressive summer heat usually breaks, giving way to cool morning starts and warm to slightly-hot afternoons. This year was the same, starting just on the edge of chilly when you first clip in. Ride lengths range from the 1/4 Dam (31.62 miles) to the Whole Dam J.A.M. (109.4 miles). Like long, flat roads? Like gently winding, tree-lined streets? Enjoy hilly rollers? Gotta take it up a notch with some massive climbing? There’s something for everyone on this ride.
This year – like last – I rolled the 3/4 Dam J.A.M. You start out on long, flat roads, heading east into the rising sun. Not exactly the safest way to start a ride, but with 16 miles of easy riding, it makes for a great warm-up. Then the fun begins. You hit the first hill – Dry Gulch. Deceptively short because it curves away through trees, the grade averages 5.4%, with portions as steep as 16.6%! After 16 miles of flat terrain, it’s definitely an eye opener and a good warning for what’s to come.
After you cross over your first dam, you roll through more lush countryside before turning away from Lake Hudson on the ascent up Indian Springs Rd. This climb isn’t steep, but it’s pretty relentless. It’s almost 3 miles of climbing at an average 2.4% grade. One of the things I really like about this ride are the rest stop locations. The second rest stop is located only a few miles after the Dry Gulch climb. Far enough to spin out the climb from your legs, but not so far that you’re going to fall over if you need the rest. The same goes for the Indian Sprints Ascent, and the notorious Pump Back hill with it’s regionally famous MASH rest stop. And each rest stop is filled with happy, helpful volunteers and great food (though the MASH rest stop takes the cake).
Wait, what’s that you ask? What’s “Pump Back Hill?” Oh, well, this is one of those climbs that make you both love and hate cycling. At about 3/4 of a mile, it’s definitely on the long-end for us novices, and with an average grade of 6.5% (topping out around 11.4%) your legs and lungs will feel this one, since you don’t get to it until about mile 50. Thing of it is, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a pretty hard climb, it’d be one of the most beautiful spots of the entire ride! The road is smooth, and entirely covered by trees. You can hear water flowing down the sides of the hill, as sunlight peeks through the leaves above. But the road is getting steeper. And steeper. And you can’t see the end of the climb. It’s deceptively hard, and makes for a great way to arrive at one of the best rest stops of any tour ride I’ve done: the MASH rest stop!
Here they server MREs in the form of peanut butter & honey sandwiches in tiny zip-lock bags. They cheer people on as they do pickle juice shots (bleh!). They’ve got cots and chairs, tents and shade, food, drink and fun for all the wayward road warriors just cresting Pump Back hill. You can be almost anywhere in this verdant country of ours, until you hear someone shout “Trash goes over there, but put yer rinds and peels here so I can feed ’em ta my chickens!” And suddenly, you’re back in good ol’ Oklahoma. 🙂
Other than a rather nasty headwind coming out of the north that made us work pretty hard for the last 15 miles, it was an amazing ride, with great weather in one of the greenest areas of Green Country. It makes a great warm-up ride for the MS Mother Road Ride (usually the next week) and should definitely be on your tour ride list for next year. I know it’s on mine.