Author: Mike

Day 52 7/8 – I find heaven in a hostel

Day 52 7/8 – I find heaven in a hostel

Day 52 7\8

Ellington MO to Farmington MO

61 Miles

There’s a feeling you have when you’ve slept so deeply and awake feeling more fulfilled. It’s like topping off the gas tank on your car. It’s just a little extra. I had that feeling. I woke up after 10 hours of sleep. It was still early and I was ready to beat the heat. I was prepared. I had girded myself for battle with hills and steep grades.

There weren’t any. Not like yesterday. It was… almost a disappointment. I had come ready for battle and instead I had…. Nothing to fight. Not really.

I made good time, beating my predictions to town. By almost an hour and a half. I even had time to stop for lunch at a McDonald’s and steal wifi. I felt strong and the day wasn’t as hot.

I made my way into Farmington and headed for the bike shop. The broken spoke was at the top of my priority list. I got in and they took care of it no problem, and even trued the front wheel in the process. Truing means that you make the wheel even on all sides, so that there’s no wobble in it. Wobble is bad, especially going down hills. Afterwards I made my way to the town hostel.

Which was a palace. Wifi. Beds. Kitchen. Leather couches! It was amazing. There was even laundry! All the clean clothes! I had went to the store and had a big salad with buffalo chicken and luxuriated in air con and Tv. Oh it was heaven. Seriously. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more. I could see myself getting stuck in a place like this.

Tomorrow though. Tomorrow I make my way into Illinois. I cross the mighty Mississippi and truly come back closer to home and leave the Midwest. I’m excited!

 

7/7 day 51 – the Ozarks: or, Top 5 worst day

7/7 day 51 – the Ozarks: or, Top 5 worst day

7/7 day 51

Houston MO to Ellington MO

69 miles

I should have realized. As soon as I felt the sun I knew it was gonna be hot. Combined with the steep, sharp climbs of the ozarks I should have known this was going to be a bad day.

They say hindsight is 20/20.

I had hoped to get moving quickly but that got back burnered in favor of packing up a dry tent. Since crossing back into Missouri the morning condensation had made a return. Along with humidity – which means nothing ever dries overnight anymore. In Kansas you could wash your Jersey out in the sink and hang it up overnight and by morning it’d be bone dry. Not so much anymore. But that meant I didn’t get out of town until 830/9.

The first half of the day wasn’t bad, besides heating up quickly. By the time I got to my lunch stop though it was already 1230. Not optimal. For the first time since Wyoming I had a climb that required me to put bike into its lowest gear. It was absurd – these were hills (not even mountains!) that weren’t even 2000 ft high! And I was in lowest gear and struggling!! It blew my mind a little.

I dallied in the shade and dreaded going back out. I could try and wait out the heat, but there were no clouds, which meant that there wouldn’t be any evening cool off until the sun was a lot lower. No library in town, no public areas with A/C – and it was a Friday in a tourist town, so no sympathy from restaurant owners and with no fast food place in town I was boned. So I filled up with extra water and headed out.

Promptly I hated this decision. The Ozarks are kinda terrible. No shoulder. Blind rises and curves. Just no fun. The heat was relentless. It was easily 95 in the air, but on the baking pavement it felt well over 100. I was wilting. I could have been a fried egg. I. Felt. Miserable.

And then the kid shows up. It’s always a little disheartening when you get passed from behind. The kid (Scotty) pulled passed and tried to chat. I was working hard and carrying gear, he nothing. And he was cruising up the hills and i struggling. I had moments of murder in my brain. Luckily we crested the hill and the support van was there. As the rest of the group straggled in (there are between 2-6 other riders at any one time with this group) the mom offered me ice water.

I almost cried.

I recovered a bit in the shade. The hill I had just tackled was the hardest of the day and i had done it in the high heat. A huge mistake. There was one more set of climbs before town. I put an ice cube under my helmet and started off. The ice lasted maybe 60 seconds.

Luckily the last section wasn’t too bad. If it had been anything like the previous one i wouldn’t have made it. The downhill into town was brainless and as the supported team peeled off for their hotel I tried to find the town hostel. I couldn’t find the street they were on so I went to the grocery store and had a cold coke. I called the town police and got actual directions and found the place. Two rooms with a window AC unit has never looked so good. I sat down on the cot and realized I was tired.

So tired I couldn’t get up. I was incredibly hungry, the gnawing in my belly the only thing stopping me from sleeping right then and there. But I was exhausted. My limbs felt like lead and my mind crawling. This was the first time in the trip I had been both physically and mentally exhausted at the same time. So tired I literally could not move.

I sat on the cot for an hour before I mustered up the energy to go back to the store to get dinner. I came back and stood in a cold shower, letting the water sluice over me, drawing out the heat. I cooked and ate, eating a whole package of Oreos as well for desert. I was asleep by 8pm.

So far this trip I’ve had a few bad days, ones where I was cold and wet during a ride or the terrain took forever or I just got up in my head. Today beat all of them. Of my top 5 worst days this so far has taken the #1 spot.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Hopefully not the Ozarks again.

7/6 day 50 – in which I had wikipedia access on the road

7/6 day 50 – in which I had wikipedia access on the road

7/6

Marshfield Mo to Houston Mo

64 miles

I couldn’t remember the name of the movie. I remembered parts of the plot and I could see the faces but couldn’t remember the names. Normally not a big issue right? Sure if you’ve got internet or cell phone service. I had neither.

It was a romantic movie less on the comedy and more on the serious side. It was important in my mind somewhere around mile 30 today because I’d been thinking about relationships and cataloging mine in the way you’d shelve library books – “my screw up” “her screwup” “we both screwed it” “disaster”. John Cusack in High Fidelity would have been proud of me.

But I started then thinking not just of the relationships I’d been in, but the one’s I’d  missed. For a variety of reasons ranging from “bad timing” to “I’m a thick idiot who can’t recognize something in front of my face.”. Which is what this movie was about. Timing. The movie by the way is “One Day” and while not the greatest thing out there it was important to me today. Both because I couldn’t remember it but also because it was in my head.

It’s odd to think about the things you missed out on because you were so focused on other things. In high school many years ago there was a girl who interested in me in a major way. Never knew it until way later. I was so wrapped up in other things I didn’t notice that she was coming out of her way to hang out a little. She made a few moves and I couldn’t understand what such a girl would see in me. Whoops right? I’d like to believe I’ve gotten smarter, more observant over the years but I think the reality is I haven’t gotten much better.

Like I said. A weird day to be thinking of these things. Especially considering how little oxygen was probably getting to me brain. This was the first day in a long time I feel like where I had actual climbs to do. Climbs that required me to actually go down to low gears. Sharp climbs that while not long, were noticeable.

Welcome to the Ozarks. Tomorrow there is more of them.

About midway through the day I met a support van for an eastbound cyclist group. A 9 year old (I think?) pedaling for clean water. I applaud the idea…. But what 9 year old truly understands that sorta thing? I dunno. Nice kid though. And everyone was super friendly. I just… I dunno. Supported cyclists. Not my cup of tea I guess.

Made it into town and found a Dutch couple at the McD’s. Turns out the lady just finished up med school residency and is a cool doctor. The guy runs an IT company and is working while biking. Impressive all around. We split a watermelon at dinner and found yet another supported cyclists. The whole family again. At least this guy is 18. He understands what he’s doing. And he’s cruising, 100+ days.

All in all not a bad day. I even got to climb up a fire tower and view the world. Wasn’t much to see with the rolling hills and trees but the breeze was nice. It’s funny to me because I still get a little shaky with heights. They’ve never been my favorite thing. But as with everything else, I’d rather face that fear than let it control me. So to the top I went. But I was happy to come back down.

7/5 day 49 – saving turtles, broken spoke and a fair!

7/5 day 49 – saving turtles, broken spoke and a fair!

7/5 Day 49

Ash Grove to Marshfield Mo

47 miles

Ever since I realized I didn’t have that far to go, I’ve been saying to myself “I can slow down a little and enjoy every last little thing.”. So I tried that today. Slowed down, didn’t go as far and rested more. My knee has been bothering me a little, just achey but it’s the knee I hurt in 2013 thru-hiking. So I called this a short day. Which was a good thing I think.

It was a pretty cool morning which was a nice change from the last few days. I know it’s gonna get hotter, and for those who have been following this for a bit yes, I know the irony of complaining about the heat when just a few weeks ago I was freezing my ass off, but hey I’ll whine a little if I want to. Anyways, met up with two Eastbound cyclists on a schedule. They’d come via the western Express route, from San Francisco through Utah to Colorado and joined the TransAm. It’s slightly shorter by a thousand miles or so. They have been on a two man mission to save every turtle they find. And they are good at it. In the three hours I rode with them they saved 5 turtles. Turtle power!

Making it into town I said goodbye to the pair and settled in at the library for an hour. The two librarians were super concerned with where I was staying and made a point to tell me that if I didn’t like the park to come back and they’d find me a place. Which is super nice. The Midwest has been full of some of the kindest people ever.

The park was fine, though I couldn’t get a shower because the showers were at the fairgrounds. Which were currently in use for the county Fair! Awesome! I was just about to head over when I noticed something – one of the spokes on my front wheel was broken. Whoops. I pulled out my tool kit and got to work.

I’ve been carrying a Kevlar thread repair kit for this eventuality. It’s literally just a thread, with a locking mechanism. You thread it into the eyelet and then crank it down. It helps hold the wheel in tension. Worked pretty well too and was easy to set up. Took me about 20 minutes all told and I got on my way to the fair.

The big event for the Wednesday night was the bucking bronco competition. There were a dozen or so riders attempting to stay on the horse, including a 9 year old. None of them did very well – longest was 5 seconds. To be fair, that’s gotta be the longest 5 seconds of your life. I wandered around the 4-H barns and saw all of the animals and headed back home at closing. Just as I settled into bed a cop rolled by and shines his light on me. Ouch. Those were my eyes. He came by and wanted to chat. Fella I’m trying to sleep eh?

About 15 minutes after he left the heavens opened up and poured down rain. Made me very glad I’d set my tent up underneath the pavilion roof.

At least it cooled everything down.

7/3-7/4 Days 47/48 – Double zero, Bones and Springfield

7/3-7/4 Days 47/48 – Double zero, Bones and Springfield

7/3 and 7/4 day 47/48

Bones had worked a 12 hour shift so I wasn’t expecting him until mid-morning at the earliest. That meant i had some time to kill – which meant I got to sit and read.

How you spend your down time is important. You spend so much of your day on the bike and pedaling or doing bike related things that any time you have not devoted the mechanics of life (eating, sleeping etc) is sacred. Sometimes you use it to talk to other cyclists, catch up on the blog or steal wifi to see what’s going on at home ( thanks Facebook). But whatever your downtime is utilized for it’s a special thing. Today I used some of it to read. I’ve carried a couple of different paperbacks this trip, ranging from detective novels to sci-fi and romance. It’s always nice to have another story going on beyond the one you’re living.

Bones showed up in his Jeep (Jeep fam!) with his girlfriend Jocelyn. There were big hugs and smiles and a couple of moments of “what do we can each other in the real world?” It really was so good to see another hiker. We’re all spread out so far that it really can be hard. Even when we’re close life can get nutty and you miss things as people.

Bones drove us into town where we stashed my bike at his place and went to get lunch at a local hole in the wall. One delicious double cheeseburger later with fries and a pickle we made the rounds in town and I got to see a little of what Springfield is about. It’s a nice midsized Midwestern town that’s got a nice large university and a thriving arts scene. They have these corner installations that apparently change every month, letting lots of different artists get a chance. It’s nice.

I got to take an afternoon nap (joyous) and then dinner was a delicious medley of cooked veggies done by Jocelyn! I really do enjoy things like this because I rarely have time to cook veggies. When I do get them they are raw or from a can. So it was a treat. We got to eat out on the roof and watch the sun set and the fireworks from local folk. This got followed by a run to a delicious ice cream place!

The question became what to do for the night – we had talked about going out but the energy just wasn’t all there. We settled on watching a movie so bad that you had to laugh at it – “The Room.”. I’ve you’ve never seen this it’s just so bad/good. You’ll be laughing and confused by the end of it. I’ve seen it before and only fell asleep a few times tonight but it’s hilarious

7/4

Slept in. Which is glorious. Ended up going to brunch at Jocelyn’s parents house, who were kind enough to open their house to me. Chocolate chip pancakes, fruit, doughnuts, bacon. Oh delicious. Marcus and Jocelyne spent the whole time being so cute it was a little disgusting – in the best way though. It was nice to be part of something so…. Normal. No thoughts of miles or bike issues or hills. Just conversation and love and safety. I kinda miss that. Seeing Marcus and Jocelyne in this happy, functioning relationship was wonderful, and I’m thrilled they’re happy. But at some level it pulls at you because you don’t have it, and while you’re not jealous, you want something that good as well. Amusingly her Mom even started asking me about my love life or lack thereof and in that way only mom’s can, gave me advice. She also let me know there are plenty of single ladies in Springfield if I should decide to move there. I was amused.

Afterwards it was back to Ash Grove. Marcus and Jocelyne dropped me off and we said our goodbyes. It’s always sad to say goodbye. But I was so happy that i got a chance to see him.

There were 4 other Westbound cyclists at the house and we talked and shot the shit all night. I got myself some cheap steak and made a taco feast to celebrate my 4th of July. The British couple gave me their can of Halt dog repellant which I’ll be keeping handy for the dogs in KY.

Overall this has been a wonderful break from cycling. Im thrilled I got to have it happen. Tomorrow is onward!