Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Best and Worst of Missouri

Monday August 3

We almost got off to a good start. If it wasn’t for Moose Café we would have been leaving Houston by 8:00. But with a first free drink policy for bicyclists, we couldn’t turn that down. We all had a hot beverage and then a brownie or scone or cookie. I sent off an e-mail to a potential warm showers host and caught up on some of the e-mail that was piling up. This dragging a computer along on a bicycling adventure is turning the adventure into work! So a 9:00 start instead.
It was a cloudy muggy day in early August in Missouri. The hills were waiting for us. Immediately we began the up and down grind that has become the Ozarks. And then we had the worst experience of the trip since the bicycle was stolen in Eugene. As a big black pickup was passing us from behind, out of the passenger window flew a big gulp plastic cup that contained plenty of ice and a bit of soda. The projectile traveling at 35 miles per hour narrowly missed hitting Lewis but did hit me in the hip. It was more shocking than painful, but it would have been devastating had that hit Lewis in the face. Missouri hasn’t been one of our favorite states to ride in primarily due to the predominance of roads with no shoulders. Now it has been knocked down a bit further due to the ignorance factor of one individual. I suppose it’s possible that motorist was thinking of the heat and humidity that we would be cycling in for the remainder of the day and was just helping us to cool off. Nope. Just plain ignorance.

We didn’t miss a beat and pedaled on. The sun burned off the clouds within the first hour of riding and the mercury rose. We stopped in every little community including Yukon, Summersville, and Alley Springs to purchase either a cold beverage or an ice cream snack. Pedaling into the small town of Eminence around 2:00, we stopped for a late lunch and also to call and see if we had a place to stay tonight in Ellington (another 27 miles distant). I was able to contact Betsy in Ellington and she assured me that we were welcome whenever we made it. If I hadn’t been able to contact her we would have opted to stop at a campground only 13 miles from Eminence. But with the promise of a warm shower , we were determined to make Ellington. The ensuing 27 miles were probably the hardest that we’ve done on this entire trip. We were pedaling in temperatures above 90 with humidity that was better than 70%. When I say pedaling, that also includes the pushing of the bikes. We did quite a bit of pushing this day as the hills are easily the steepest we’ve encountered on the trip. While not as big as mountains, these Ozarks are feisty. Everyone was feeling the fatigue but we managed to ride (and push) our bikes into Ellington just a little before 7:00. The final 27 miles took us over 4 hours to complete.

Dinner was consumed at a local restaurant but not before our host dropped in after spotting our bicycles outside. Betsy was going to send her husband Wayne back in an hour with his truck to give us a lift ‘up’ to their house. We had ridden enough hills and weren’t prepared to ride (or walk) one more. I easily drank 4 large glasses of ice water with my patty melt. Lewis filled up on one glass of chocolate milk and had to be coerced into eating his grilled cheese and fries. He’s not working hard enough! He’s not even sweating!

Wayne arrived as planned and with a little effort we managed to get both of the bikes into the back of his short bed pickup. He’s never handled a tandem before and was amazed at the weight of the bicycle with packs that I was riding; and that was without Lewis’ 60 pounds on it! Wayne is an occasional triathlete and is in training for an ironman that he plans on doing later this fall in Minnesota. His bicylce weighs all of a dozen pounds or so, pretty much like Rogers carbon fiber thing. What I wouldn’t give to be riding something like that across the country! Instead it’s like I’m pedaling a cement truck. But who’s complaining? ME!!!!

Wayne and Betsy welcomed us into their house and actually had a bedroom for our use. We took turns showering and then relaxing around the television. I had one cold beer but refused a second as I was afraid I would fall asleep if I had any more. This was the most draining day my body has endured and it was evidenced by muscle spasms and leg cramps that I’ve not experienced until now. Most of this was caused by the extreme amount of fluids that were perspired during the 7 hours of pedaling and pushing in the 90 plus temperatures. We relied more on water this day than gatorade and it had an effect at the end of the day. But the end of the day was so much better than the early part of the day that we can move on from here and look at it as just another 70 miles closer to our final destination.

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