Friday, June 29, 2012

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Missouri any more

Speaking of Toto, this song has been playing in my head for several days-

Today, I rode out of Missouri and into the great state of Kansas.  Right now I am in Pittsburgh, KS while Tailwind Cyclists takes a look at my bottom bracket and does some other maintenance on the bike.  The bottom bracket started making a knocking sound a couple of days ago so I thought it best to get it checked out before heading on further.  Considering that I have put about 7,000 miles on the bike so far, it's money well spent.  That brings up another thing: crossing into Kansas brings me to the 2k mark for this trip.  I guess I am roughly 2/5ths the way to the Seattle area?  I dunno.  I just take it a day or two at a time.  Any more than that and you can get overwhelmed.

Missouri lacks the wickedly long and steep climbs of eastern Kentucky, but it makes up for it with lots and lots of shorter hills.  Lots.  While I could at least settle into a solid rhythm in western Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri offered no such respite.  One minute you're cranking uphill in your smallest gear and the next you're flying down in your largest.  Over and over.  I also realized that 5 miles west of Eminence, MO is where eastbound cyclists on the TransAmerica get the first taste of "eastern" hills.  I ran into a couple travelling east and they mentioned that there was a climb they had just come up that was steeper than anything they had encountered in the past 3,000 miles (that includes the Rockies).  This meant that a) they were in for more steep climbing and b) I was in for apparently a lot less.

The other thing about Missouri is that it has been hot.  That's an understatement.  IT HAS BEEN HOT.  Yeah, that's better.  It's been getting over 100 degrees for the past couple of days.  It's going to get hotter I think.  Yesterday I drank two gallons of water.  At least.  A bottle of ice water is warm soup within about 10 minutes.  When you ride over tarred roads, the hot tar cracks and pops like a bowl of Rice Krispies.  You know the little heat wave images they like to use in the movies?  Yeah, those are real.  Everyone that you encounter thinks you're a complete idiot.  I started listening to a small FM radio to supplement the extremely straight and flat roads that I am travelling.  Every ten minutes the announcers remind us that there is an EXTREME HEAT ADVISORY!

All in all, the heat hasn't been that bad actually (knock on wood).  Other than my water tasting like hot tea, I've been getting along alright.  The one thing that is bumming me out a little bit are the headwinds that I have already been encountering as the land flattens out.  But you'll have that.  Just turn up the volume on the country music, devoid your mind of negativity and keep the pedals spinning for a few more hours.  It's just another day in paradise!

Perfect.  Ellington, MO
The uniformed see a pile of old napkins.  The cognoscenti sees toilet paper.  Always keeps some handy when you're travelling.  You can also save the billion napkins that they force on you when you get takeout food and use them at home.  Environmentally friendly and thrifty.
I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be watching for wild horses or horses with riders.  Either way, I kept a lookout.
Laurel and Jameson saw my bike parked outside of a diner and came in to join me for lunch.  They are headed east on the TransAmerica.  Jameson was really, really bummed because the diner stopped serving breakfast 10 minutes prior and he had his heart set on pancakes.  Eminence, MO
Did I miss a turn somewhere?  I actually ended up in Houston, MO (the birthplace of Sam Houston of Texas fame) that night.  Yukon, MO
No, I didn't wander into an abstract art gallery.  These are the sweat /salt patterns on my bike shorts.  Eww. .. gross.
Finally up on the Ozark plateau.  Only a few more hills to encounter before the Plains.
The rolling roads can look cool, but sometimes they just get frustrating.  These were okay.
Ozark high country.  I kept expecting Clint Eastwood to appear over the horizon to offer me a cigarillo.
I am now persona non grata in Marshfield, MO.  Their county fairgrounds were pretty nice accommodations though.
The words "Breakfast served all day" have to be the best in the English language.  Marshfield, MO
I easily could have eaten double this.  I still got pie.  And ice cream.
I may need to double check my arithmetic but... yep, no water.  I did not see a single cloud in Missouri.  I am in no way exaggerating that fact.  None.
I was fairly sure that this was the last climb of any significance left in Missouri.  It was.  Flat roads to the Rockies!
I biked about 85 miles in 104 degree heat to Golden City, MO.  Golden City is one of the absolute nicest towns in the US that I have come across.  At the suggestion of a pedestrian, I went into Cooky's Cafe.  It was packed.  I mean every seat at every table packed.  I kept walking to the back corner until I found a 6 top with only an older couple sitting there.  I asked if I could join them and they readily agreed.  Charlie and Lila of Carthage, MO had actually seen me toiling out on the highway and were pleased to get to talk to me about my trip.  At the end, they not only bought my entire dinner, but also gave me $20.  Apparently I looked worse than I thought.  The strawberry rhubarb pie was to die for.  The next day I ran into an Aussie headed toward Golden City and I told him he had to go to Cooky's for pie.  It didn't take much convincing.
My first self portrait of the trip as I entered Kansas.  You can decide how successful it was.  It also looks like I need to eat more pie.  Those trees/shrubs in the background are probably the last for about 500 miles.


  1. Remember George at Sam's wedding? He had an excellent description of the saline solution that get's hyper-concentrated in the helmet's headband, before it decides to cut loose and burn a river of tears through your eyes: toxic sweat. Just hope it doesn't increase in toxicity the further south it flows!

    A great recovery drink is an ice-cold chocolate milk shake. It even goes great in the middle of the ride!

    Happy Freewheeling!

  2. Welcome back to Kansas barracho de vida. Screw the sheep (figuratively speaking), more Tom pics!

  3. Please make sure that you take your FM radio next time you travel into the Wind River Range. There is something about hearing a boom box when you're 10 miles from the nearest road that brings back fond memories.