The Calm Before the Storm. Days 129-131

Trotting out of the sanctuary of the lovely KOA onto roads that I'd been assured weren't the greatest and to expect roadworks that could hinder stopping places wasn't ideal, but it was a lovely morning and I soon received a message that Hope had had a good night, was very clean and had eaten well in the morning. That's always going to put a smile on your face. I curtailed my first run as I ran past a nice picnic area that was perfect for Nads to enjoy a bit more peace and quiet that we have on the road usually. I left her taking photos of bees on the flowers, which was pretty perfect for her until a dude with a lawnmower came along and spoilt the party. Charlie had also arrived, but after I'd left. He was off to see Phantom of the Opera in Little Rock – he said he'd look out for me on the road, but I think he went past when I was answering the call of nature at another rest area, so we'll have to wait till I return to Hot Springs for another hello! As I came out of the facilities, I saw a car speed away with a Labrador gain, surely – at least this one had a collar. Had they forgotten their dog? There was a work truck at the end of the car park so I went down to see if it was their dog. The dog was “Beef” he lives over the highway and comes down to the picnic area all the time to try his luck. Classic Lab!

Soon after this I got into the thick of the roadworks, which quite often is fine for me as it will mean a lane of road with no traffic. I got to watch the dismantling of an old girder bridge as I went past and had a number of chats with the road crew who were asking what I was up to. The second “beef” of the day came about as there was nowhere for Nads to stop – our pre-determined meeting point was now occupied by a huge crane and the road was coned off for another 6 miles, meaning a stint just shy of 15 miles, with not that much water and a hungry belly coming up to lunch. Such is life. Again. It worked out ok, though further tests awaited in the shape of interstate running, (though there was no sign saying I couldn't!) and some real cold rain at the end of the day, with a dark finish and requirement for the Iron Man lights. I got some pretty sweet news too. What could that be? My little secret.

Start: KOA Hot Springs. Finish: Highway 70, near Pinedale Walmart. 41.3 miles. Day 129 Tune of the Day: The Dropkick Murphys – Shipping Up To Boston. Nothing like a good bit of punk to get the job done.

I didn't realise just how close we'd got to Little Rock, Arkansas' capital city. The monster Wednesday probably helped! As such it was a bit of a frenzy to try and get some media organised, but Nads has been hiding another talent of hers – she'd be a great press secretary. I got a message to be at the Statehouse Convention Centre for 10:20. I was in a reception black spot but luckily got the message when I was 2 minutes away, to meet Mitch, a cameraman for both Fox and NBC. Interview done, it was over the Arkansas River, that I'd been informed by a chap called Adam had a great trail for running. He's hoped to meet me to do some miles, but couldn't make it that early, which was a shame, but he looked right about the river. Little Rock seemed like a cool city, but there's no time to dwell these days. I was looking after myself this morning to avoid the RV/inner city combo and by the time I caught up with Nads again, incidentally by the L'Oreal Maybelline plant (She's worth it), we were by a mangrove lake, which was really beautiful though still not immune by the blight of litter and large scale dumping at the side of the road. I wonder what's wrong with people sometimes, I really do. Soon we were back in farm country and trying to get back some of the time I'd inexplicably lost during the day. One of those days. I was in . a great mood and found myself singing “Somebody to Love” by Queen when it came on and I thought of my little mate Hope again and thought it was pretty appropriate in part! In the distance I saw a figure moving towards me and soon it dawned that it was someone out for a run. I wondered if I could persuade them to join for a bit? Turned out no persuasion was needed – it was Adam – Biology (Pre-med) student from the University of Central Arkansas and my advocate for the river trail! He'd not been able to get hold of me so had chanced his arm based on my route and he caught me just 1.5 miles before I took a back route! Perfect timing. He was a good runner so we ran a bit quicker than I've been used to, but it was doable and I enjoyed the chance for a bit of in-depth chat, focussing on the actual running part of! He was also a former member of the Spa Pacers and a Hot Springs local! We reached Jenny for a quick break where we fell slightly foul of a local farmer who informed us we were parked on his land. He did at least let us stay there for a few minutes to take a break… Adam came a good six or so miles with me before he had to turn round and head back to his car. I did feel a bit sorry for him as he headed back as it was getting cold, but hey, I was probably holding him back – he could do some speed work! Really glad of the chance to run with you man!

A lack of suitable stopping places and us having no wish for another disgruntled landowner encounter led to us heading to Nick's BBQ, where it looked like there could be some overnight parking. I popped in to ask about the parking to see it was super busy. What's more, the news article had just been on the TV. Hands were shook, photos were taken, questions asked and in a couple of cases, a donation and someone, anonymously took care of our tab, which was pretty incredible. We were so full we couldn't have fitted in a pudding, but the y looked so good, we joked that seeing as it had been taken care of… Dignity and stomach capacity prevented us in equal measure! If you're in the area, I recommend it!

Start: Highway 70, near Pinedale Walmart. Finish: Highway 70, 3 miles shy of Carlisle. 39.9 miles. Day 130 Tune of the Day: Queen – Somebody to Love. Come on...someone give Hope some love!

I've only been to Carlisle in the UK once. It seemed a nice enough town, but it was freezing cold, wet and windy. How lovely of Carlisle, AR to ensure I felt right at home as I passed through the town! Well fed from the night before and wrapped up warm I strangely enjoyed it. Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing! The cedar trees in the mangroves were enjoying the water. There is a lot of water in Arkansas. Some pretty big water course too – after passing through Hazen and De Valls Bluff, a very important town in the civil war, I crossed the White River, which was more chocolate brown if truth be told with a huge amount of debris racing down the river. The recent rains had obviously swollen the river and I was quite glad to be high on a concrete bridge, snapping photos of the old girder bridge, rather than the other way round. It's been a pleasure in the last few days to see the return of the herons that were such a feature of the first half of leg 1 and large numbers had retreated further up the bank than you'd usually see them. Bit rough for fishing, I guess. Most of the day consisted of dodging puddles and trucks, with there being no shoulder to run on for a good part. My sight seeing was curtailed by the front edge of my hood, which spent a good part of the day pulled pretty snug, against the elements. To be fair the day was pretty uneventful (so I thought, though something I thought nothing of at the time was going to rear its head later) until we got to our RV Park, which tonight was linked to the Super 8 hotel in Brinkley. As I was dealing with check in, with a few other people hanging around in reception, I had a fame moment! A Texan family who had been aware of my story for a while had been misdirected by their SatNav and ended up on the road I was running. They were excited then, but not half as much as when they realised we were staying in the same place. They asked very politely if they could have a photo after checking with Nads outside that “it was really Rob!”. Cue everyone in reception thinking “Who is this guy?”. Don't worry – nothing to see here people! Maybe it was that intervention that got us a free room to shower in after there was an issue with the key card to the RV shower block! I'd like to think so.

Start: Highway 70, 3 miles shy of Carlisle. Finish: Highway 70, 2.5 miles east of Brinkley. 41.4 miles. Day 131 Tune of the Day: Weather With You – Crowded House. Carlisle certainly had taken this literally. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, some of my good friends were enjoying lovely sunshine and the writer of said song, Neil Finn, performing at Golden Plains Festival. They win the day.

Total 4350.14 miles