For those of you that are not aware (I was one of you a couple weeks ago), there are some pretty serious mountains in Missouri. When my mom asked me a week or two ago whether or not I was going through the Ozarks, I just nonchalantly said I wasn’t sure and thought nothing of the subject. I had asked Ale about the mountains and her response was something along the lines of “well, we did just go over the Rockies, so I think we will be fine.” I agreed and we forgot about the issue. About 50 miles after crossing the state line between Kansas and Missouri, I began to notice a lot of hills. They started out manageable, and I was happy to be surrounded by green again, so I didn’t really mind.
A couple days later and the friendly hills have turned into nearly impossibly steep monster hills. I must admit, it is a wonderful sense of accomplishment to climb these beasts. The shaky body / light head syndrome at the top of each hill is concrete feedback that I am indeed getting a good workout in, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to chose when the heart rate spike will occur.
Yesterday Ale and I road along a road called 160. I can safely say that I will never ever encourage any other touring cyclist to ride on that road. It had insanely steep grades and absolutely no shoulder. There were also insects everywhere, and because it is impossible to go over 4 mph, they can easily follow you along. I definitely got a little frustrated and up until that point I had not made any comments about the Ale decision to go back to Gerard instead of the Katy Trail. But these extreme conditions put me over the top. As we stood breathless in between hills, I looked at Ale and said, “the Katy Trail is looking pretty good right about now…” haha cheap shot, but I just couldn’t resist. I had to let out some steam. Ale was obviously furious, but before things got out of control, I put my headphones in and blasted “Cupid Shuffle” and powered up those hills. After the rush of endorphins and knowing that we had surpassed some of the awful climbs, we laughed about it over ice cream.
The riding in Missouri has gotten much better, but this is still probably my least favorite state so far. I think some parts are beautiful, but overall the people (on the transam route = rural Missouri) have been much less friendly. Today we passed a town full of confederate flags, which made me really want to get out of the south.
Also, random story, my chain broke today, and Ale came to my rescue with her chain breaker tools and extra link. I had thought about flagging down a car to get a ride, but after the confederate flag thing, I decided I might be better off walking up hills and coasting down hills. Fortunately, Ale fixed my chain and it worked well enough to get me another 40 miles to the next bike shop in Farmington.
Other things that have surprised me in Missouri include the following:
-people smoke in restaurants here
-there are smashed turtles and armadillos about every 20 meters on the roads we are taking
-people are not as supportive about our bike trip as the people in other areas
-drunk guys wave us down at 9 in the morning as we pass to ask “what in the hell are we doing?” and “WHY?” and then, “well do you want a beer for the road?”