Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 30 to 36 blowing through Missouri and into Kansas

Day 29 Finished in a Patrone and Whisky blur. After going to the Popeye museum I went into the Eagles bar for lunch and a pint of Amber Bock. I ended up talking to Valentino, a local horse rider/hostage negotiator. After he left, ex eagles president Mack came and helped us do lots of shots. In bed by 8.30 (I think) with a few drunken bruises. New rule - no more drinking on rest days (and possibly for rest of trip?)

Day 30, Chester to Farmington was hot and hungover. Breakfast at the country store in a daze then waited a short while whilst a car crash further down the route was cleaned up. Around 12 we crossed the mighty Mississippi (on a narrow busy bridge) and entered Missouri! Slammed straight into cross and head winds and our first taste of the rolling hills that would become the trademark of the Ozarks. A slow day grinding out the miles in 90 degree heat finished in Farmington. A cool town with a great vibe - a local showed us the way to the swish cycle accommodation by letting us follow her from the city limits. 'Al's Place' was like a nice apartment and allowed us to watch game 1 of the Stanley Cup and do laundry.

Day 31 Farmington to Ellington started with top coffee and breakfast burrito at the Baukus Kaffee, the first real good coffee shop we've been in since Christiansburg. First half of the day was pretty easy and then the steep grades started. I also had my first puncture just outside the town of Pilot Knob - a kind couple from Oregon kept me company whilst I swapped out the tube. There was also a cool civil war museum in the town that I had a quick browse around. We kept going after a petrol station lunch into Centerville where I got another sandwich. We headed on after a local (meth addict?) on a bench near the diner started shouting at the trees. We stayed in Ellington at the Brawley city park with three guys heading East. The park had a group of bored teenagers talking and revving their 4x4s till late! Bastards.

Day 32 Ellington to Alley Spring = Ozarks proper! Had what seems to be the delicacy here, biscuits, sausage and gravy for breakfast at Halls Deli. Must be 1000 calories in that concoction and def feels like a stone in your gut. Either way I needed the energy. Took it very slow and steady up the hills. Almost all of them in my lowest gear. They aren't as bad as the Appalachians in terms of difficulty, rather there are many of them so you get worn out. The flip side is that this area is very beautiful especially on the scenic river ways where the rivers are fed by clear spring water. Also we really feel the change in culture now - definitely a mid western vibe. Also the roads have no shoulders and the drivers are impatient - we had one scary moment with a logging truck overtaking on a blind corner at speed. We stopped in the town of Eminence for long lunch and tried to get going around 3 after chatting to 2 other riders, Dana-and Christian. Another big hill and brutal heat meant we gave up after 5 miles. Alley Springs campsite was beautiful though and allowed for me to have a good swim in the Jacks Fork river.

Day 33 Alley Spring to Hartville started with the realization that at this point I would have to average at least 55 miles a day with no rest days to be able to catch my flight. So we got on the road at 7.15. First hill was brutal! The next 30 were fine except for the trucks hauling horse trailers overtaking again at bad points. We stopped in Houston for lunch were I was asked if I had been on tv talking about riding (which I hadn't) and then I ate a massive plate of pasta. We kicked on with dark clouds that stayed on the horizon the whole afternoon. We got into Hartville after an 80 mile day and I demolished a double cheeseburger and milkshake (which took revenge the next morning) and then we went to pitch tents. We first looked at the city park but it was near a sewage plant so it smelled and didn't have running water. We tried to find a church but ended up at the court house. We hoped to sleep inside but no luck. In the end we had some teenagers messing around near the tents and lots of traffic through the night - not the best nights rest.

Day 34 Hartville to Ash Grove was another 6.30 start on the road after coffee at the gas station (attendant loves Dr Who) and then riding into light rain which turned into a mega full on thunderstorm 20 miles in. We stopped in Marshfield to warm up and eat breakfast (a 'country bowl' which was all ingredients in a bowl with gravy all over). A great cafe where everyone wanted to make sure we were ok, needed towels and wanted more hot coffee. A good spot to consider the options. We elected to go on to the town of Fair Grove where there is a pavilion and showers for cyclists. As we got there the sun shined and it was up to 85 degrees and super humid. We spent 5 hours there resting and doing hand washing. We decided to get back on the road to Ash Grove as another cyclist (Eric from Michigan) had told us there was better accommodation there. We rode into the twilight over very hilly terrain and arrived at 9.30. The last hour or two we kept an eye on the huge storm clouds and frequent lightning flashes. The storm hit whilst we were deep in sleep. Ben also pepper sprayed the first dog today. The bull terrier wouldn't stop even after I had squirted it with my water bottle.

Day 35 Ash Grove to Pittsburg (Kansas) started around 8. It hadn't started raining yet as per the forecast so we got on the road. Ben stayed back so Norah and I pushed on. We heard part of route 126 was flooded so we decided to go through Jasper. More rollers but not too bad. Constant rain though so we did get wet through. I've started to wear plastic bags on my feet to keep the rain out - hobo style! We took a long lunch in jasper where there were a bunch of Midwestern farmers eating. We took our time to dry and eat (and for me to write the majority of this post). We waited for Ben and a local guy offered to drive back 10 miles to look for him (but didn't see) so we decided to push to Pittsburg and wait for him there. Ended up that he had heard from an east blunder that the road wasn't flooded and so had beaten us to the town and got a motel room. I ended up camping in the city park, very humid and hot, but free! The scenery has definitely started to change already, large fields of wheat or grass land stretching to the horizon.

Day 36 is a rest day. Mainly so I can get the trek fully serviced and also new brake blocks, bar tape and chain. I spent the day sweltering in 96 degree heat as I walked to the cinema to watch Star Trek. The afternoon doing laundry and investigating Australian work visas. Relaxing back at the city park before tomorrow - hopefully a big riding day.