Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flower Power: Great bicycle event near Muskogee

(ABOVE: Quality cycling events have quality stuff at rest stops... donuts!)

Flower Power is an annual small town bicycle ride through the beautiful terrain of far eastern Oklahoma. Based out of Three Forks Harbor on the edge of Muskogee, Oklahoma, the ride takes place the last Saturday in April. And it's kinda awesome!

Many cyclists in the Tulsa area consider Flower Power as the first big cycling event of the season.

The internet site advertises that 300-500 usually ride each year. This year's ride seemed bigger, and experienced riders told me the crowd was among the largest-- credit the nice weather forecast maybe! ;)

On-line registration cost me $30 which included a nice long-sleeve "Dry Fit" souvenir shirt.

You can "late register" on site if needed.

The Flower Power registration area was located inside a modern office-like building at the Harbor, and it offered plenty of restrooms and air conditioning. (I was able to give myself a sink-bath and change clothes after the ride.)

The 9am start time is later that most, and it's welcomed as most riders drive in from out of town. (45 minute drive from Tulsa.)

Five different ride lengths ranging from 15 miles to 100 miles are offered. The 70 miler seemed to be the most popular. I chose the 50 mile course.

The elevation ranges from 500 feet to 900 feet on the 50 miler with 1200 total feet of climbing according to

Rest areas are located about every 10 miles. Several ladies from a bank in Fort Gibson offered smiles and the usual rest stop goodies at the mile 20 rest stop.

All rides begin at Three Forks Harbor and make a clockwise circle north then eastward through downtown Fort Gibson then toward Hulbert and Tahlequah.

Most of the roads were very smooth by Oklahoma standards. All riders will encounter short-lived gravel patches between Fort Gibson and Okay between miles 5 to 11. Otherwise the roads are mostly smooth asphalt with little traffic... really, really nice pavement!

The signature highlight of the ride begins near mile 15. Large sweeping curves plunge 200 feet to Fort Gibson Lake Dam. You will easily reach near 40mph without pedaling.

After riding across the dam, you climb up the east side for 300 feet alongside beautiful jagged rocks and under shaded trees. This climb grades near 10%. It's challenging, but doable.

The next section is also quite enjoyable. During the next 10 miles, expect more speed with more sweeping curves and downhills that take you across low water crossings. (Make sure you ride "straight up" across the low water crossings as slippery concrete at the bottom could surprise you. The scenery is ideal with occasional tree canopies, varying shades of green colors, valleys and occasional overlooks. Vehicular traffic isn't a problem.

Though I really enjoyed the 50 miler, I would recommend choosing a different distance. The problem occurs at mid-ride as the course steers you along heavy car traffic and barely shouldered Highway 51. Any other distance avoids this 5 mile stretch between Hulbert and Tahlequah. Try the 70 miler instead!
The steepest climb of the course occurs in the last 15 miles. Nicknamed "The Wormhole", the terrain sharply rises 200 feet in two chunks along a sharp curve. My bike computer registered an 18% grade for the second section of the climb-- I had to walk my bike up the hill! The rest of the course is mostly downhill.

The last rest stop is within 5 miles of the finish, and it's a fun one. Hula dancers provide you with a flowered lei to wear the last few miles!

The last rest area also provides a nice break too as the last few miles are otherwise rather blah. You finish the course riding along the wide shoulder of westbound Highway 62/64 toward Muskogee.

Flower Power ends unceremoniously as you ride back across he starting line.

The end of ride meal back is a winner. You can spread out, wash up, and cool down back inside the Three Forks Harbor office structure. Volunteers serve up a good lunch: homemade hot dogs, chili, pickles, potato salad along with plenty of water, soda and cans of beer if you choose.

You overlook the harbor in a shaded picnic-like setting.Overall I give this ride a four star recommendation.

If you live anywhere near Tulsa, Oklahoma City, NW Arkansas, or even Dallas, this one is worth the trip.

Beautiful scenery, curves, climbs, descents, smooth roads and friendly faces. I'll be back next year!

Thanks for reading. George