Don’t get me wrong. I like Bentonville, Arkansas just fine. I just don’t need to spend more time here. Kéa and I walked into town to find some food, because…you know…we didn’t have our own transportation. It was only a little more than a mile. The sky was overcast and the temperature nice, but sweat broke quickly from the humidity…saturated ground from recent thunderstorms. We had some daylight left and I knew a place that served great pizza. I spent the better part of dinner explaining that we needed to keep an open mind about our trip. I kept watching my phone, waiting for Bryce to deliver some kind of an update. The salad came before I finished my fingernails as an appetizer.
The sun set, my phone didn’t ring, and Kéa and I walked home through a dark thick air. This part of the world is fairly new to me, and completely foreign to Kéa. We saw deer on our way into town, and strange phosphorous flashes lit a field and the surrounding treetops on our return. Fireflies. Hundreds of them. It was amazing to see them dancing above the grass and flicker above the trees. I had never seen so many lights buzz on and off in a black field. We stopped to watch them for long while. “No matter what, this is ok,” I said to myself.
Back at the AirBnB, we got ourselves organized. We had a plan with Michelle who was dropping a bike off for Kéa in the morning and then joining us for a late afternoon lap in a local bike park. At 10 pm the phone rang. “I got it figured out. I’m swinging the Jeep back up to you.” Bryce and his chief mechanic spent a few hours swapping the old new drive shaft with another new one from a different manufacturer that he had ordered and didn’t return. I asked why the problem occurred in the first place with a brand-new part. The answer had to do with the build and a weld being out of balance and throwing the rotation of the shaft out of whack. It seemed good after the installation but clearly wasn’t right. The new one, currently installed in the Jeep, was better quality and rotated in balance.
I was highly skeptical and asked a lot of questions. It was late and I didn’t fully understand the what’s and why’s, but a test drive seemed to corroborate his story. The Jeep felt good, I just hoped it would last. I still have 1400 miles of sweating this thing out, and my safety nets are shredded to pieces. Bryce said to give it another test run tomorrow and to call him if anything seemed out of sorts. I had the extra day and needed to take it in for an oil change anyway. I returned to the in-law apartment, told Kéa we were “game-on,” and finally put myself to bed. It had been an extremely long day.
The next morning, Kéa and I awoke without alarms. We had provisioned the night before and had a breakfast of yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. It was early and we decided to take the Jeep for a spin, put it through the paces and get the oil changed. The Jeep ran well, the guys changing the oil were only a little high on meth, and I felt confident planning a departure the next morning. Time to head back to the apartment and drink some coffee.
Michelle swung by at 9:45 am with a bike for Kea, and we set out for a father-daughter tour of the Slaughter Pen single track. It was good to be back on the bikes and we finished the morning lap with a bagel in town. The early afternoon was spent repacking the Jeep and making plans to soldier east into Kentucky. Michelle finished up work by four and met us for an afternoon lap in the Color trail system across town. All in all – a banner day. Tomorrow, we’ll attempt to make the 7 hour run to Paducah.