ILLINOIS AND MISSOURI

Photos are here.

JUNE 28: “TRASH BOY” IS CHRISTENED!

 
No one slept well last night due to the noise from cars and trucks tearing up and down the road adjacent to the park and trains coming and going. Stayed hot and humid all night.

It was barely dawn when we got up and after putting away all my gear I started to open up a can of fruit cocktail. I asked if anyone wanted some as I was not able to eat it all when Eric looks at me with that expectant air of tremendous teenage hunger. When I asked him what he had to put it in he looked around and dove into the trash barrel and came up with one of Dennis’ Michael Jordan plates we’d used last night. I was slack jawed! Told him, “No way!” It’s probably been crawled on by who-knows-what during the night. He did not seem disturbed by the possibility. I suggested he use his water bottle and then rinse it when he was done. He agreed and we also had a new name to pass out-Trashboy!!

We pedaled into Dixon under threatening weather conditions and had breakfast at Gardener’s Café. Stuffed ourselves silly and then Matt orders OJ. He gets a HUGE glass of it for a seeming pittance. Then Hugh gets it. The Eric. Then me. But never all at the same time. Weird how it worked out but as soon as the waitress brought a glass out it seemed as if someone else wanted a glass. She thought we were pretty weird. She was patient with us—and cute, too!

It started to rain as we sat there so we hunkered down for a while and bullshitted with the locals. We talked of harvests and one of the men said it would be bad this year due to all the rain that had fallen. He had 200 acres to plow in corn and wheat and was not expecting good yields. He’s also a coal miner and one of those like Mike Young (Grundy, VA) who goes down quite a way, in this case 1800 feet and then 12 miles laterally under the surface. Takes an hour each trip.

So far everyone we’ve chatted with has been very friendly and nice. I am beginning to enjoy this part of the trip where we get to know the locals.

Dodged the rain pretty much all day and eventually rode our way completely out of it. It would rain and then the sun would come out then it would rain and the sun would come out. It ended up fun trying to dodge the puddles in the road. Especially since they are so devoid of traffic. Something to do to pass the boredom. Along the way Dick, Hugh, and I were waiting along side the road and this guy in a pick up truck comes by and asks what we did for a living. I said, retired, Dick said retired, and the guy blurts out, “then I’m retarded!” and leaves laughing. WHOA! That was different!

Merle is having a hard time adjusting from his pre-retirement days of being a truck driver. He’ll be up at 430 in the morning, hustles around, leaves, and we hardly see him until the end of the day. It’s like he’s delivering a load of cargo. Gotta get it there as quickly as possible. So off he blasts to his destination for the day. It must be frustrating for him. Hugh and I take our time and I make it a point to keep looking around at virtually everything I pass by. Not much gets by me on the road.

Stopped at Druther’s Restaurant in Marion and had a very good salad buffet. Pigged out on green beans, potatoes, 3 bean salad, cottage cheese, potato salad, beets, etc. etc. etc.

Finally made it to the Ohio River, crossed on the ferry, and got the hell out of Kentucky and its nasty hills and coal trucks and dogs. HOORAY!!

Arrived in Cave-in Rock, IL, headed to the campground just across the street from the ferry, and got separated from the group. Just like that! Weird! It was a bitch of a hill to climb into the park itself and the tent area. Found out it would cost us $2 per person for a site with no showers and pit toilets. Met up with Eric and Matt so we went to a restaurant and had ice cream when all of a sudden the rest of the gas house gang shows up. We decided to splurge and get a motel room with A/C, showers, and a good bed. It was just too hot to put up with that “no shower” shit.

Went back into town because they were having a festival. We caught Americana at its best: The Cave-In-Rock Frontier Days Parade. It was fun. They’d go by in fire trucks, floats, old cars, etc. and toss out candy that everyone scooped up off the streets.

Earlier in the day during breakfast we held a lottery to determine when Kurt would show up. Dennis picked 4 PM, Hugh 5, Dick 530, and I picked 6. Merle thought we’d only see him in Chester. Dennis and I went to get ice cream before the parade when, lo and behold! There was Kurt. At 6 PM sharp! He’d ridden 100 miles today. It must have been brutal.

After the parade we went to see Cave-in-Rock where Jimmy Stewart acted in the film, “How the West Was Won.”

Just for shits and giggles, the motel we stayed in was run by a fairly eccentric old man who claimed to be subsiding strictly on Social Security disability and that the motel was kept open as a hobby to pass the time. The place was better than the one Kurt and I had in Booneville—but not much better. At least the room Hugh and I stayed in was better. Kurt said his sucked worse.

Crashed at 820 PM.

JUNE 29: EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE WE’RE NOT!

 
Lady Luck was with us again last night. It rained but we didn’t care. We were safely snuggled indoors. The A/C in the room ice over as the compressor never shut off. I think the melting ice would not have left a pretty picture on the floor but there was no way to chip it off the cooling fins.

Got 50 yards down the road and Hugh blew a tire (or at least his bike did. J )

Having slept like a rock, we left at 6 and rode into Elizabethtown for breakfast. What a cool little town! Right on the river, quiet, peaceful, rustic. Ate at Lee and Louise’s Town and Country Restaurant. Nice place. Worth eating at.

Fortunately there was plenty of cloud cover all morning and it made riding so much more a pleasure. We were warned there was a steep hill 9 miles out of town but when we got to it, it proved to be no big deal and we cruised right up it. The problems, though, began when we got on Eddyville Road towards Eddyville. Had to climb six or seven miles of grades some of which were in the 8% grade range.

Suicidal frogs littered the roadway with one even offering his body to Dennis’ spokes. Tried to jump through. Didn’t make it. PING! Bye Bye Froggie!

When in Eddyville we oinked on turkey sandwiches and gatorades at a convenience store with a sandwich bar. Then we went to a local town fair and had a pork BBQ sandwich. YUMMY!

In case the maps still are not changed by the time you read this, note that Simpson Lane is now called Gilead Church Rd.

Zipping along from one top of hill to the bottom I got up to 41 MPH but within seconds was back down to 3 MPH trying to climb the other side. The Lord Giveth and He Taketh Away. Eventually made it to Goreville and had some cherry pie.

We discussed the merits of going to Fern Clyffe since it was three miles back the way we came and unanimously decided we were not for that. We expected Dick to spend the night there, which he did. Kurt was nowhere to be found. I think he tried taking a shortcut to Eddyville and may have been surprised by the climb involved. So we pressed on to a campground 15 miles away. Fern Clyffe is supposed to be very pretty what with tens of thousands of different ferns growing there but I was in no mood to camp among ferns. Once we made it to the area with Devil’s Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake with their campgrounds the decision to go to Carbondale was an easy one. We were not tired and the roads looked good. Sure went through some beautiful countryside and even had tail winds. We ended the day around 530 PM quite fatigued.

Met Mark Robinson and his wife, Rachel. He’s the Bike Surgeon. Bike shop in front, limo service in back. All of us showered and then BS’d for quite a bit. Then one of us asked Mark where we could find a trough to tie the bag on (maybe I’m not supposed to advertise this or maybe Mark was in an expansive mood but….we’d heard from another cyclist who had stayed at Mark’s place that Mark took him to dinner in one of his limos. We were fully prepared to ride to a restaurant but going to dinner in a limo, now THAT’S the way to do it.)

So Mark offered to take us to the Ponderosa Steak House. In the limo! YESSS! It was so cool to be chauffeured around. Merle, Hugh, Dennis, Matt, Eric, and myself went in the back. Rachel and Mark in front. Tooling along, this other car pulls up next to Mark and the passenger, a Black lady, asks if she can get a ride. Mark tells her he’s got folks in the car now and can’t. They chit chat for a few seconds (she keeps looking at our windows to see if, in fact, anyone is back there) when Mark tells her that he could not take her around right now even if she paid because he had “Earth, Wind, and Fire” in the back. You should have seen her eyes light up! “Earth, Wind, and Fire?” she yells. “Yes”, said Mark. And we took off. In the back Dennis, Matt, Eric, and I are cracking up. Hugh never heard of them and I do not think Merle had either. What a hoot!

We tied on the feed bag at Ponderosa. With gusto! Also picked up the tab for Mark and Rachel’s dinners. It was, after all, the least we could do.

Mark’s quite an entrepreneurial spirit. He’s got quite the limo service going. As the only one in southern Illinois he is often tapped to take all sorts of big shots around. He also bought a building right around the corner from the shop and is converting it into security storage with a live in guard. He calls it his Area 51. It used to be a crack house and the cops are happy he’s doing something constructive with it. Of course, I am sure the neighbors are, too. He also owns what he calls a party bus for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Keg in the back, toilet, sound system, etc. He also wants to buy several busses and begin a service to Chicago for $40 to $50.

He’s been the “Bike Surgeon” for 15 years and is now located on 800 Sycamore. He lives in the same building as the shop and it is outfitted with antiques. Many of the purchasers are made from estate sales and distress sales. The ceiling in the living room was an old tin ceiling that came from a flooded Masonic Lodge. He and Rachel restored it and boy!, is it ever beautiful!

When we returned from dinner he drove us by a $300,000 federally funded piece of “art” in front of the City Hall originally called “A Flotilla Of Kayaks In A Storm.” That name must have offended some bozo in the town because now it has no name. It is merely a ziggurat. What a waste of money!

Back at the OK Corral, Rachel put in a video for us called “The Dancing Outlaw”, a biography set in West Virginia (Boone County) about the last mountain dancer. The biographer, a student at a university, wanted to find this mysterious person and ended up locating the son, Jesco White. From there the movie got Tres Bizarre! What a weird person. This guy used to huff gasoline and lighter fluid, drink beer, etc. Anything and everything just to get high. The film did a good portrayal of Appalachian trailer living at its worst. From the satellite dish in the front yard (which I guess is now the equivalent of what I remember as a kid how my Father would comment on people who lived in miserable looking conditions yet had a Cadillac parked in front of their shack) to the trash, and the broken down cars everywhere. The local excitement was to get drunk and drive cars in circles on muddy roads at very high speeds until the engines blew up.

Jesco had three personalities: Jesco, the Devil; Jessie, the nice guy; and Elvis. He even had a “recording studio” in his bedroom (a can on a string hung from the roof and a boom box.) His father was the original mountain dancer but was shot to death in a fight. OOOH, now there’s a novelty! A very strange film featuring his wife (who he threatened to kill on a regular basis), his mother, brothers, friends, etc.

Before getting to the movie, though, Mark told us about some of the people who came through his place. One was a 17 year old girl, the daughter of a professor at Rutgers, I believe, who had never watched TV, never tasted a Pepsi or Coke, and considered herself an “unschooler” a term to describe someone taught at home. She wanted to join an “intentional community”—commune for us 60s/70s types, where the women ate after the men did (she called herself a feminist, too!) and where folks that worked outside the community gave all their earnings to the community which then dispensed back to them a “stipend.” Too weird for me. I guess maybe that’s OK for a 17 year old but you have to wonder where her parents are in this whole thing. Much later in the journey she comes up again.

Got little sleep as it was very hot indoors and even the ceiling fan did not help much.

As for the riding conditions today, for the most part all was well. Came across some roller coaster roads where the object was to power down the hill and try to make it up over the top without losing much momentum. A bit of a challenge but was fun to try.

What truly amazed me about today was the fact that Hugh made it as far as he did. I was bushed and when I think of how he’s 67 years old, partially paralyzed on one side due to an injury caused by a fall several years ago and still made it 85 miles, I can only admire the man.

JUNE 30: EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE WE’RE NOT!

 
Lady Luck was with us again last night. It rained but we didn’t care. We were safely snuggled indoors. The A/C in the room ice over as the compressor never shut off. I think the melting ice would not have left a pretty picture on the floor but there was no way to chip it off the cooling fins.

Got 50 yards down the road and Hugh blew a tire (or at least his bike did. J )

Having slept like a rock, we left at 6 and rode into Elizabethtown for breakfast. What a cool little town! Right on the river, quiet, peaceful, rustic. Ate at Lee and Louise’s Town and Country Restaurant. Nice place. Worth eating at.

Fortunately there was plenty of cloud cover all morning and it made riding so much more a pleasure. We were warned there was a steep hill 9 miles out of town but when we got to it, it proved to be no big deal and we cruised right up it. The problems, though, began when we got on Eddyville Road towards Eddyville. Had to climb six or seven miles of grades some of which were in the 8% grade range.

Suicidal frogs littered the roadway with one even offering his body to Dennis’ spokes. Tried to jump through. Didn’t make it. PING! Bye Bye Froggie!

When in Eddyville we oinked on turkey sandwiches and gatorades at a convenience store with a sandwich bar. Then we went to a local town fair and had a pork BBQ sandwich. YUMMY!

In case the maps still are not changed by the time you read this, note that Simpson Lane is now called Gilead Church Rd.

Zipping along from one top of hill to the bottom I got up to 41 MPH but within seconds was back down to 3 MPH trying to climb the other side. The Lord Giveth and He Taketh Away. Eventually made it to Goreville and had some cherry pie.

We discussed the merits of going to Fern Clyffe since it was three miles back the way we came and unanimously decided we were not for that. We expected Dick to spend the night there, which he did. Kurt was nowhere to be found. I think he tried taking a shortcut to Eddyville and may have been surprised by the climb involved. So we pressed on to a campground 15 miles away. Fern Clyffe is supposed to be very pretty what with tens of thousands of different ferns growing there but I was in no mood to camp among ferns. Once we made it to the area with Devil’s Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake with their campgrounds the decision to go to Carbondale was an easy one. We were not tired and the roads looked good. Sure went through some beautiful countryside and even had tail winds. We ended the day around 530 PM quite fatigued.

Met Mark Robinson and his wife, Rachel. He’s the Bike Surgeon. Bike shop in front, limo service in back. All of us showered and then BS’d for quite a bit. Then one of us asked Mark where we could find a trough to tie the bag on (maybe I’m not supposed to advertise this or maybe Mark was in an expansive mood but….we’d heard from another cyclist who had stayed at Mark’s place that Mark took him to dinner in one of his limos. We were fully prepared to ride to a restaurant but going to dinner in a limo, now THAT’S the way to do it.)

So Mark offered to take us to the Ponderosa Steak House. In the limo! YESSS! It was so cool to be chauffeured around. Merle, Hugh, Dennis, Matt, Eric, and myself went in the back. Rachel and Mark in front. Tooling along, this other car pulls up next to Mark and the passenger, a Black lady, asks if she can get a ride. Mark tells her he’s got folks in the car now and can’t. They chit chat for a few seconds (she keeps looking at our windows to see if, in fact, anyone is back there) when Mark tells her that he could not take her around right now even if she paid because he had “Earth, Wind, and Fire” in the back. You should have seen her eyes light up! “Earth, Wind, and Fire?” she yells. “Yes”, said Mark. And we took off. In the back Dennis, Matt, Eric, and I are cracking up. Hugh never heard of them and I do not think Merle had either. What a hoot!

We tied on the feed bag at Ponderosa. With gusto! Also picked up the tab for Mark and Rachel’s dinners. It was, after all, the least we could do.

Mark’s quite an entrepreneurial spirit. He’s got quite the limo service going. As the only one in southern Illinois he is often tapped to take all sorts of big shots around. He also bought a building right around the corner from the shop and is converting it into security storage with a live in guard. He calls it his Area 51. It used to be a crack house and the cops are happy he’s doing something constructive with it. Of course, I am sure the neighbors are, too. He also owns what he calls a party bus for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Keg in the back, toilet, sound system, etc. He also wants to buy several busses and begin a service to Chicago for $40 to $50.

He’s been the “Bike Surgeon” for 15 years and is now located on 800 Sycamore. He lives in the same building as the shop and it is outfitted with antiques. Many of the purchasers are made from estate sales and distress sales. The ceiling in the living room was an old tin ceiling that came from a flooded Masonic Lodge. He and Rachel restored it and boy!, is it ever beautiful!

When we returned from dinner he drove us by a $300,000 federally funded piece of “art” in front of the City Hall originally called “A Flotilla Of Kayaks In A Storm.” That name must have offended some bozo in the town because now it has no name. It is merely a ziggurat. What a waste of money!

Back at the OK Corral, Rachel put in a video for us called “The Dancing Outlaw”, a biography set in West Virginia (Boone County) about the last mountain dancer. The biographer, a student at a university, wanted to find this mysterious person and ended up locating the son, Jesco White. From there the movie got Tres Bizarre! What a weird person. This guy used to huff gasoline and lighter fluid, drink beer, etc. Anything and everything just to get high. The film did a good portrayal of Appalachian trailer living at its worst. From the satellite dish in the front yard (which I guess is now the equivalent of what I remember as a kid how my Father would comment on people who lived in miserable looking conditions yet had a Cadillac parked in front of their shack) to the trash, and the broken down cars everywhere. The local excitement was to get drunk and drive cars in circles on muddy roads at very high speeds until the engines blew up.

Jesco had three personalities: Jesco, the Devil; Jessie, the nice guy; and Elvis. He even had a “recording studio” in his bedroom (a can on a string hung from the roof and a boom box.) His father was the original mountain dancer but was shot to death in a fight. OOOH, now there’s a novelty! A very strange film featuring his wife (who he threatened to kill on a regular basis), his mother, brothers, friends, etc.

Before getting to the movie, though, Mark told us about some of the people who came through his place. One was a 17 year old girl, the daughter of a professor at Rutgers, I believe, who had never watched TV, never tasted a Pepsi or Coke, and considered herself an “unschooler” a term to describe someone taught at home. She wanted to join an “intentional community”—commune for us 60s/70s types, where the women ate after the men did (she called herself a feminist, too!) and where folks that worked outside the community gave all their earnings to the community which then dispensed back to them a “stipend.” Too weird for me. I guess maybe that’s OK for a 17 year old but you have to wonder where her parents are in this whole thing. Much later in the journey she comes up again.

Got little sleep as it was very hot indoors and even the ceiling fan did not help much.

As for the riding conditions today, for the most part all was well. Came across some roller coaster roads where the object was to power down the hill and try to make it up over the top without losing much momentum. A bit of a challenge but was fun to try.

What truly amazed me about today was the fact that Hugh made it as far as he did. I was bushed and when I think of how he’s 67 years old, partially paralyzed on one side due to an injury caused by a fall several years ago and still made it 85 miles, I can only admire the man.

JULY 1: REST DAY

 
It’s a new month! Got up at 6 and made coffee for the gang. At 730 we headed into town to do laundry, shop, go to the post Office; and have breakfast-at McD’s for their cheap pancakes, eggs, sausage, home fries, and coffee. After dropping clothes off in the laundry I went shopping, Also got a chance to visit the Popeye Museum where I bought some postcards to send to folks. Found out the town honors the creator of Popeye because many of the characters that went into the original cartoons were based on people that lived in the town.

After checking out the chickees at the pool we had a wine and cheese party. Dick brought back beer and bread but not before he blew a tire and had to walk his bike 2.5 miles back to the park. No one offered to give him a ride, either. We drank the beer, then had the wine and cheese. Also, Dennis, Dick and I drank the contents of the small bottle of Crown Royal that Sergio gave me.

Did some bike maintenance in preparation for tomorrow’s hills. Legs still hurt a bit and I continue to use sports cream on the major muscles. Seems to help a little. I suspect it’s from lactic acid build up and old age. HA!

Also close enough to listen to KSHE in St. Louis, an old station from when I was stationed in Missouri from 75 to 80. It’s 30 years old this year and still kicks ass with rock and roll music.

JULY 2: DOG SLAYER IS CHRISTENED and A NEAR TRAGEDY and WE LOSE OUR WAY

 

A VERY EVENTFUL DAY

No rest for the weary this morning. It was hot at 515 when I got up. I don’t think anybody slept well. Bustling to get out of the park in the hopes of getting to the river where it might be cooler only resulted in disappointment. It was hotter yet.

Got our pictures taken in front of the Popeye statue just before the bridge crossing into Missouri, our 4th state. Witnessed Hugh take a bad fall off his bike soon after crossing into the state. We were on a shoulder and he tried to get on the road surface, misjudged and then tried to sidecrawl up a 3 inch curb. Big mistake! Went over hard! I was watching and thinking to myself, “he’s not going to try and ride up that curb, is he?” just as he did so. It was like a slow motion movie: he topples over, I’m right behind him, see what happened, and know that I am about to ride right over his back wheel and fall myself if I don’t take evasive action. All of this in 2 seconds or less. I barely graze his wheel and avoid catastrophe, slam to a stop, throw down my bike, and run over to see if he is OK. His helmet cracked when his head hit the pavement and his hip was grazed but otherwise he was all right. Thank God no cars were coming or he’d have been run over and killed. It shook us up badly.

All of us got to tooling down the road so oblivious of everything that we just shot by our turn-off. And a good thing we did, too! Dennis and gang were ahead so when Hugh and I got there we asked what happened. Turns out this lady who’d made the trip before saw our cohorts and stopped them to say that the way we were headed (to Perryville) was not the Trans-America trail. She then gave us directions that had us pick up County Road T and then turn onto County Road OO which would take us into Farmington. Anyone contemplating this trip should make the mistake we did. We found out later the route Adventure Cycling laid out was full of hills. We avoided most of them and had a great ride.

Unfortunately, Dick and Merle had gone ahead of us when we stopped for coffee right after getting into Missouri and so they made the correct turns. Dick said he climbed over 2600 feet today! UGLY!

For entertainment I took a picture of a dead deer along the side of the road.

I was going down the road about 12 MPH minding my own business when these three dogs came barreling out of nowhere to chase me. I was in front of Hugh by a few dozen yards and he witnessed what happened next. Here I have two dogs snarling and snapping on my left side and another doing the same on my right side. I sprayed one but either I missed or it had no effect on the beast. Just before I tried spraying him again I noticed there was a car coming the other way and thought to myself, “you son of a bitch. Hang with me for a few more seconds and I’ll have your number.” No sooner said than done. He stayed with me, I nailed him again and this time he went down in the middle of the road totally unaware that a car was about to run over his ass. And it did. The driver never even stopped. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw it laying in the road. Deader than dead. Good! One less dog to chase bike riders. His companions were pretty pissed by now so I nailed another one and got away.

It was then that I earned my trail name of “Dog Slayer.”

Felt like getting a little dog emblem and putting it on my handlebar bag. Like the pilots do when they shoot down an enemy plane.

Since posting this little story I received some serious criticism for my “cruelty” in being joyous at the death of the dog. Maybe I should have provided more details: 1.) the three dogs were big; 2.) one was a pit bull mix, one was a rottweiler, another was just “big”; 3.) I tried yelling “no” at them all.

Now, if anyone still thinks I should have tried to dismount and continue to yell and intimidate these dogs, may I respectfully recommend you do so and if you live through it, let me know how it went? Snarling dogs are not interested in being reasoned with.

Outrun them? Be real!! Dogs can run at over 20 MPH for long periods of time. Try doing 20MPH in the hills of Missouri on a bike!!

Throw doggie treats to them? Sure! Good idea, Brighteyes! What happens to the next rider that comes along and these dogs are expecting a treat, run out in the road to chase you down for one and cause a crash between either you and the dog, the dog and a car, or you and a car?

My bottom line: dogs belong behind fences or on leashes. Loose dogs chasing cars, kids, or bicyclists should be shot on sight.

Along the way met back up with Merle and then he popped a drive side spoke. It happened 12 miles from town so as soon as we pulled in he made arrangements to get to Crystal City on a greyhound to have it taken care of. The bus driver (really a van contracted to Greyhound) gave him assurances he could drop him off in front of the bike shop and also pick him back up later in the afternoon for a ride back. So Merle took his wheel off, left the bike in the station and we didn’t see him until 830 that evening.

Had lunch at a restaurant at the corner of OO and W67. Not a bad place to chow down. Didn’t get the name, though.

Two other notes: Farmington is the home of Huffy Bikes. How ironic that Merle pops a spoke and with as many bikes as they make they couldn’t fix his.

We also stayed at the Wilson Rozier City Park where I tried to rest and get over some nasty crotch rash that hurts like hell. The humor of the day was found in the rest room where graffiti indicated, “Amber is a dick slurping slut wannabe.” We had good laughs about that for several days.

Matt bought a six pack of beer and we proceeded to corrupt Eric’s morals by allowing him to drink with us. If he’s old enough to do this ride, he should be old enough to drink a beer at the end of a hot day. Not like he was going to get drunk on one beer!

JULY 3: CRETINS IN OUR MIDST and A BIG BLOW UP

 
Got woke up at 230 AM by the cops looking for Kurt. His mother was looking for him and we suspect he never called home after they left. So after we got up (the weather was nice and cool for a change) we went to the Day’s Inn to get him. He’d told us he wanted to ride early. Turns out he was not even up yet. Needless to say we were annoyed as we’d just lost a half hour of riding time. We felt it was very inconsiderate of him.

The weather this morning put smiles on our faces and my crotch rot seems a bit better. To be sure I made good use of the talc I bought.

Breakfast was a real treat. We rode into Doe Run and ate at the Plantation House Restaurant. (Notice the outstretched pinkies. It was the least we could do to acknowledge the fine-ness of the place!) Our waitress was named Kelly and a lot of fun to joke around with. We were kidding around about stealing the jelly packets and how tacky it would be to do so in such a nice restaurant when she came around. So we explained to her what we, as hungry bikers, are forced to do sometimes. Told her we wouldn’t here at her restaurant. She comes back with a bunch of jelly packets and also talked to the cook about our appetites. In minutes we had the largest pancakes I’ve seen at any restaurant. They were monsters! Large, fat, and filling. I could not finish mine. The coffee was also excellent and the whole meal was topped off with the knowledge we were in a classy place with a very classy interior, real tablecloths, good dishes, cups, etc. The nicest place we’ve been in so far.

We had excellent riding conditions today. The roads were quite good, the skies perfectly clear and blue, and the temperature not too hot.

So far my impressions of Missouri are those of a state with many wildflowers along the sides of the road, beautiful farms, clean roads, and inconsiderate, rude drivers. Contrast the drivers to those in Kentucky that would never blow their horn at you no matter how slow you were going. Here they blow the horn just to blow the horn.

Just before Pilot Knob, as I was making a turn getting out of a convenience store, I had the wrong foot in the stirrup for the turn I was making and promptly fell over. How embarrassing! No damage except to my pride.

As Dennis was making a left turn onto the road the Post Office parking lot was located, this guy in a Tracker was wanting to turn left into our road. He felt Dennis cut into his lane (which he didn’t) and proceeded to make rude comments. I, following right behind, heard his comments and said to him that we have just as much right to the roads as he did. He got all belligerent, jumped out of his car and started getting in my face. Fuckwit couldn’t see there were 4 of us surrounding him and kept ranting and raving. Wanted to know if we wanted to fight him and why we weren’t on this other trail in the Northern part of the state and that we were city slickers who needed to watch out because now we were in his part of the country. All I could think of was the theme song from Deliverance and how this asshole was most probably a product of inbreeding. He also swore vulgarly at us. One thing I DO know, is you do not use the word “Motherfucker” when yelling at someone. In some states those kinds of words can be considered either slander or assault. So we all kept our cool and I surreptitiously palmed my pepper spray. Bozo Boy was about to get nailed with it if he so much as laid a finger on me. Hugh got into the picture and tried to calm him down. I was just watching his eyes and it pissed him off that I stared at him. Adrenaline was high and it was at moments like this I was glad I was not packing.

Soon as he left (he had a woman passenger that said not a peep during the whole thing) I went into the Post Office and called the police to file a complaint. They already knew the asshole and said they’d talk to him. I doubt it would do any good but there was not much more I could do.

Cruised by the Elephant Rocks Park where they have huge roundish boulders scattered all over. We climbed around them and toured the park at leisure. Saw this one huge boulder 20 feet high that weighed 680 tons. 6-8-0 tons! That’s heavy.

The rest of the ride to Johnson’s Shut Ins park was pleasant and believe it or not, the road was wide and empty of traffic when I hear a car behind me blowing the horn!! I ignore him because the road ahead is clear and this moron could pull around. I stayed where I was and he pulled by, got in the center lane and turned into the park. It was the Park Ranger’s car! The gall of these people. What planet were they raised on? This is one messed up state when it comes to drivers. (As a post script to these incidents, I wrote a letter to the Governor of Missouri spelling out these issues. Have not yet received a response.)

When we pulled into the park the sign said it was full. Not unexpected as we were approaching the 4th of July weekend. As I rode around the park, Hugh talked to one of the workers who phoned his superintendent who, in turn, let him know that hikers and bikers pay $1 to stay in the scout area. When I got back I told Hugh what I found and he told me what he found. Same thing. Great minds think alike…….and fools seldom differ! Hugh and I went to the site and awaited Dennis and the rest of the gang who were where we knew not. Eventually they showed up, too. The park, by the way, was packed! Had to do laundry as I suspect the soap I used in the other load contributed to my crotch rot. Then Eric, Matt, Dennis and I went to the Black River to do some swimming. To get to the river we had to ride this timbered boardwalk/bridge construction. It made for interesting riding because if we so much as slipped a little bit we’d be in hurt city very quickly.

The river reminded me a lot of Barton Springs in Austin, Texas. Lots of waterfalls, rushing waters, rocks to scramble over, and tons of people laid out everywhere like rag dolls. Having had all the fun I could stand, I went to shower.

It’s days like this that cause a total reversal of my attitude about this ride. I feel really good, my leg muscles do not hurt, my knees don’t bother me, the hills are not insurmountable, and the weather is beautiful. I have to admit that there seem to be more and more better days interspersed in this trip. Either that or I am getting used to the conditions. It doesn’t matter. I’d do it anyway.

I nicknamed Dennis the “Spinner” in reference to his gearing and how he spins quite a bit when he rides. Makes the hills not seem so bad, too. He’s got good gearing on his bike. We’ll see if it sticks.

As the afternoon wore on the sky clouded up and then it got dark very quickly. We scrambled into our tents in anticipation of thunderstorms but nothing happened.

Kurt and Hugh blew up at one another today. Harsh words were exchanged but we’d been expecting this starting day 2 or 3. We’d asked him to talk to Hugh and let him know things were not well but Kurt never did. I felt like I was watching a marital spat. It had all the tell tale signals: pent-up emotions, anger, misinterpretation, venting, and ignorance of situational awareness. I think I can safely say we’ve entered the “storming” phase of group dynamics and that this, too, will pass and all will be well again.

JULY 4: A MOST MISERABLE DAY

 
What a way to celebrate the Fourth of July! First, it stormed most of the night. Lightning, thunder, rain. Fortunately I did not get wet inside the tent. Then we had to climb as if we were back in the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachians by climbing 4000 feet.

The day ended up being one of the most miserable of the trip. What a contrast from yesterday’s euphoria! These Ozarks are nothing to sneeze at. And don’t let anyone tell you that if you’ve done the Appalachians, then the Ozarks will be a piece of cake. Far from it! The grades are steeper (although shorter) and some of the climbs rival the Appalachians in length. Up, down, Up, down, Up, down, Up, down. All day long.

If I had seven more days of this shit I’d quit. There! I’ve said it! It just is not fun anymore. I’m a realist and know that everyday does not have to be fun. But it does not have to be miserable, either. I am sure the memories of the experience will live long after the isolated miseries and agonies of hills from hell. The only salvation is knowing that in two or three days this will be over and we’ll be in Kansas. Maybe there I’ll bitch about the wind. But not the hills. I still think Divine Intervention has a lot to do with my enduring this as long as I have. Normally the weather is much hotter and muggier. So because it is cooler, my tolerance increases.

Got a good workout making it to Centerville for breakfast. Although the hills suck, the scenery is beautiful and rolling. We ate at the 21 Café which has a 50’s theme inside. Had a good repast.

For lunch, I’d heard about Trimmer’s Restaurant in Ellington so Hugh, Dennis, Dick and I went there. The others pressed on.

What an absolutely miserable, fucking ride today. And a very shitty way to celebrate the 4th of July. Along the way I tried to find some flags to put on my bike but had no luck.

When Hugh and I pulled into Emminence, they were having a rodeo and other celebrations. Unfortunately, we were too tired to participate. Especially after we made our way to the campground, Harvey’s Circle B Camp. I’d called yesterday to make sure we’d have a spot and the lady I spoke with said they do not turn away bicyclists. What she failed to say was that her campground was at the bottom of a hill which required a miserable climb to get to the top of. Oh, well, that’s been our luck. It really is not a bad place for the money. It has a store, showers, and rest rooms. Being the 4th, it was quite busy but I expected that. The C-G also does canoe rentals so we saw a procession of busses pulling trailers full of canoes and their paddlers. We also got to see drivers pull into the park totally tanked on beer and God knows what else.

JULY 5: THE DRAGON LADY

 
Much, much cooler this morning. I had 55 degrees on my thermometer! Downright cold spell, comparatively speaking. A beautiful day for riding and, again, a complete opposite from yesterday. Low humidity, pleasant temps, fewer hills. Only went up and down 2400 feet today.

With the exception of Hugh and myself, everyone else went to breakfast in Emminence. They claim to have been served even larger pancakes that at the Plantation House Restaurant. Amazing.

The morning started foggy and was a photographer’s dream with foggy mist invading the wooded areas we biked through. Minutes later the sun’s rays struggled to break through the mist to make the scene even more ethereal.

The bad part is we had 7 miles of hills with 5 actual hills to climb. Number three was a son of a bitch and number five was his father, even longer and steeper. Got through it but not without some moaning and groaning.

If you look for Alley Spring Restaurant you’ll find it closed for business so Hugh and I went to Harvey’s Circle B Canoe Rental in Alley Spring and had coffee with a candy bar.

While I was standing around waiting for my coffee to cool I listened in on some local’s conversation of events that transpired on the road leading to our campground last night. This guy was driving a pick up with three kids in the bed when he lost control of the vehicle. The kids got thrown out and two are in the hospital. The driver is in jail. Most likely he was drunk. I didn’t find that out but wouldn’t be surprised considering all the dumbshit things people do on holiday weekends.

Found another place I want to return to: Jack’s Fork River for canoeing.

One thing quite noticeable in these rural areas is the proud and open display of the flag. It is everywhere you go. Houses, yards, posts. Pretty patriotic folks, these.

Stopped at a café in Summersville (on the left right after the intersection in town) and had breakfast. Dennis joined us as did Merle. The one thing about riding along and getting separated from the group is that as soon as you pull into a town you just begin scanning the area for a touring bike and you’ll be reunited again. That’s happened to us on many occasions and I expect it will happen many more.

As we were moving down the road this straw stuffed figure waving its hand at us. We almost blew by when I realized it was the Dragon Lady’s house because there’s a prominent figure of a dragon, cut out of plywood, painted red, alongside the road pulling the figure on a bike. Got invited into the yard by the Mr. Dragon Lady and found out a few minutes later this woman that beeped to us along the road was Ms Dragon lady. He gave us lemonade (fresh made) and chatted with us for a while.

Their names are Peter and Phyllis Lowe.

Found out if you know you’ll be in the area and want to camp in their yard, call them before 12 and they’ll have supper for you, too. Well over 28 years ago, Peter lived in England and an American couple came to stay at his place. Then, 28 years ago, they invited him to come to the states to visit. He’s been here ever since. He’s lived in California where he met his Berkeley educated wife. After she arrived, we listened to her rant against the US government yet she retired from service with them. Odd. Biting the hand that feeds you.

They toured the US for five years in a motorhome before deciding to live in Missouri and have been here for a while. As we chatted, they allayed the fears we had about staying at the City Park in Houston. We’d heard the kids there harassed the bikers by disturbing their tents and rolling things into them. As it was, those were isolated incidents during only one year and there have been no problems since.

Well, Merle popped another spoke. Luckily it was not the drive side but we suspect he has problems with that wheel and will continue to pop them until he rebuilds the wheel. We’ll see. Fortunately Hugh had a spare spoke of the same length so he gave it to Merle. We were back on the road in little time.

Pulling into a Chinese Restaurant in Houston to get lunch I ran into another “Dick” who was going west to east and said he enjoyed hills. Masochistic, I think. Also bought more film at the Wal-Mart and weighed myself by taking down a scale, popping up on it and putting it back up on the shelf. Still weigh the same.

I stayed at the Emmett Kelly Park, named after the famous clown with the sad face, who used to live here. Also found out that tomorrow night’s park in Marshfield is named after the famous astronomer, Hubble, for which the space telescope is named. He also discovered what we now call the “big bang.”

Kurt is now the third person to fall off his bike. He did a smooth move like mine—from a virtual dead stop.

JULY 6: THE CHRISTENING

 
Ate breakfast at Mom’s Kitchen, conveniently located across the street from the park. Some of the guys complained about the road noise and the snoring. Thank God I sleep soundly. Didn’t hear a bit of it.

Rode along the crest of a hill line outside Houston and it was a real treat. Farms and fields falling off both sides of the road all the way until the next ridge line in the distance. Quite a sight. Quiet, peaceful, with very little traffic and birds chirping everywhere.

Encountered a hill out of Graff from the first intersection with CR E until the second intersection with same road and it was a pain. I hate hills. Especially since we climbed 3000 feet today. Love, hate, love, hate. Seems to be the story of my relationship with every day.

Ate at LJD’s Café in Hartfield. Nice folks, good food.

After a climb out of Hartfield the rest of the day involved rollers, some of which were severe. Arrived in Marshfield and treated myself to an ice cream cone at the 4-in-1 Café.

Hugh mentioned he wants to quit the ride. Says he is too tired every morning. We may go to a 5 on 1 off schedule to finish.

The city park was nice. We had showers across the street and stayed under a pavilion. Once again, it looks like a “sleep on the picnic table” night. I’m beginning to like this business of not setting up a tent.

Rode into town, did laundry, and went grocery shopping. Now I have lots of food for several days. May even be able to save some money.

Decided since we all had trail names that my bike needed a name, too. So now she is Betty Boop! Boop Boop Dee Doop, Ooop!

JULY 7: THE GROUP SPLITS

 
Woke up in the middle of the night and the stars were out in all their glory. Just beautiful.

Stopped at McD’s to grab a quick breakfast. Dick decided to stay in town and treat his crotch rot. Seems Dennis and Merle have not been afflicted with this malady and the rest of us all have in one way or another.

Dennis and Eric are headed west from Walnut Grove while the rest of us will follow the route south to Ash Grove. The first 17 miles were a breeze and then we hit nasty rollers on the way to Walnut Grove.

Stopped at Rohlman’s Market for lunch. What I remember best about the place was the biggest double dip of blackberry and cherry ice cream I’ve seen in a long, long, time. Hugh and I sat around for a while letting our food settle. Especially that huge ice cream cone.

Merle busted his third spoke. This is not good. Pulled into someone’s yard to fix it when a couple of girls pulled into the driveway and told Merle there was a bike shop in Willard so we patched him up as best we could and sent him on his way.

I wrote a good portion of today’s journal from the shade of a beautiful rocking swing bench in Ash Grove’s City Park. It’s sunny, there’s a breeze blowing cool waves of freshness, and the trip is fun again. Love, hate, love, hate.

Sure does not take much to make me happy! The pool was closed (boo!) so I thought I’d have to resort to my solar powered water bottle shower system but later on in the evening swimming lessons were being given. I went to the folks and asked if we could use the showers. Felt like a semi-human afterwards. Feels great to take a shower.

I found a small flag along the road and with one of Merle’s broken spokes I fashioned me a little pole to tie it to and stick it in Betty Boop’s back pannier.

The hills today were interesting in that although our average speed is increasing we were really tired from slamming down them at 30 MPH, making sure the bikes were in high gear as we powered down the hill and then pedaling for all we were worth to try an make it to the summit of the next. If we didn’t succeed, we’d slow down as if a big hand were pulling us backwards and we’d end up crawling along at 2-3 MPH. This is the kind of speed where we can not outrun annoying flies and even butterflies were faster than us. On the downhills though, it was not unusual to have grasshoppers and locusts slapping up in suicidal waves against my windbreaker.

The find of the day was a roller coaster road about 11.6 miles out of Marshfield. It went for 1.5 miles and was fun and easy. Felt just like I was on a roller coaster but with my legs providing the energy to make the tops.

Along the route, Hugh and I ran into a local biker a Walnut Grove named Mike who befriended us. He didn’t ride well but what he lacked in skill he made up for in determination. He says his local bike shop is on the web so I plan to check it out. It’s called Spring Bike or something like that.

Sure is a lot of fun talking with the locals and getting a bit of the color of the area. For the most part we are made very welcome but so far no one’s invited us to stay at their place for the night. Maybe it’s because we are too large a group.

The three of us (Hugh, Merle, and I) went to eat at Pennington’s Restaurant right across the street from the park. There is also a grocery store co-located with the restaurant. Chatted up the waitress who’s working two jobs to get money to continue school at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. Ate very well and the service was good. I left like a stuffed turkey.

As we were walking back Merle spotted some kids near our gear so we hightailed it over there and I caught two kids screwing around. One had taken my flag so I dressed him down and sent the both of them on their way. Then I noticed they had taken one of my apples. This was the last thing I expected in small town but no town is immune from stuff like this. And, on the whole, it really was not done maliciously. The kids could have taken virtually anything else but did not.

Heard the weather should dry up some which will provide some relief from humidity but I can already imagine the heat we’ll get in Kansas.

Photos are here.

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