The long way home

Bikepacking from Arkansas to Texas

June 9, 2022

Four days of stage racing in Arkansas yielded a stage win, the GC win, and winning the team competition. So what to do for an encore? Emma Langley, Emily Newsom, and Lauren Stephens decided to ride home from the Joe Martin Stage Race.

The catch? Home was 400 miles away in Dallas, Texas.

“I was looking at the map and thinking about driving home after the race and I thought what if we just ride back!” Emily says. “I texted Lauren about it and she said, ‘Oh that’s so funny. Emma just asked me about the same thing.’"

For additional company, the three teammates invited Lauren’s husband, Mat, and John, a friend from Dallas, to join them on their three day ride.

“Day one was a surprise,” Emma laughs. “It was a surprise what I’d gotten myself into. Day two was a bit more comfortable and because we were pace lining. You could just get in the rhythm, we’re each going to do a pull and then day three was just like absolutely hanging on for dear life and quite miserable because that’s the longest I’d ever ridden. I say ‘miserable’ but I was still ecstatic to be there, it was still fun.”

Despite the inevitable aching muscles, the group had a blast on the road, meeting new people, exploring on backroads, and dodging rainstorms.

Emma recalls one woman they met on their first day on the road while riding through Oklahoma.

“She passed us as we were coming into this little town where we were planning to stop and she was like, ‘Oh, you’re so fast!’ And we said, ‘Thank you.’ She drove off and then came back to the gas station we had ridden to with water bottles for us. It was really nice and she was really excited just about the fact that we were out there. We told her about our trip and she took our picture and said she was going to send it to the newspaper and then she prayed with us. It was so nice that she was just so excited about what we were doing. That was pretty cool and then we kind of giggled after, like remember when we prayed at a gas station with that lady. That’s what definitely sticks out to me as one of the more memorable moments.”

For Emily, the only one of the crew who had never been bikepacking before, the second day was the most memorable, including her decision to take a roadside nap.

“I didn’t feel very well on day two. Day one I felt awesome. Day two I don’t know what happened. I guess I was just tired. My legs were not quite as perky. So day two I was definitely struggling. I was suffering. Mat was changing his tire and I thought, the ground looks so good, I’m just going to lay here for a while,” Emily says.

Little did Emily know, she would have another unexpected chance to rest later that day.

“Oh my goodness, it was a crazy Texas storm,” says Emily. “You literally feel the air change from warm and you all of a sudden get this blast of cold air. The wind picks up really fast. All of a sudden it just starts dumping but it’s also really windy. You can’t see. My head was down. Mat just pulls off the road and rides across this patch of grass to this barn that he had spotted.”

Making themselves comfortable on the various tractors in the barn, the quintet took shelter for around 45 minutes before the storm let up enough for them to safely hit the road again.

The third and final day of their trip saw the group arrive in Dallas. When they rolled into Lauren and Mat’s house, Emily called her husband who drove in from Fort Worth with their daughter to pick her up. Already daydreaming about her next bike packing adventure, Emily says she can’t wait to do it again.

Meanwhile Emma, Lauren, and Mat got cleaned up and did what seemed natural.

“Then we got on our bikes again to ride just one mile to dinner,” Emma says. “We were laughing. We’d just ridden however many hours and miles and here we are back on our bikes again. Just down the road, just to go to dinner. But that’s way better than taking the car. Never get enough of the bikes.”

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