Wednesday, June 21, 2017: Sharing a hotel room definitely fast tracks the old up, up and away routine. It’s a combination of, “I don’t want to inconvenience the other guy” and an ever so subtle “I don’t want to let the other guy get a head start on me”. We were mates riding our bikes across the country but we were also in a bike race. The only racing going on at 6:30 am that morning, however, was the one to get to the hotel breakfast buffet.
Suitably fed, caffeinated and armed with handfuls of breakfast pastries for the bike, we were on the road by 7:10 am. I spent the first little while ducking into supermarkets and gas stations on the main street of Pittsburg looking for postcards. I had sent a postcard to my boys from every state that I had ridden through thus far; Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Pittsburg would afford the last opportunity to get one from Kansas.
I was out of luck, however. Pittsburg was a college town but not quite on the Kansan tourist circuit. Come to think of it, from what I saw and experienced over the 3 and a bit days it took me to ride across the state, Kansas ain’t about the tourism, unless of course, you’re into flat open grass desert and agriculture. Kansas for me was about the people. I will remember them fondly.
The Missouri state line is only about 10 kilometres from Pittsburg and of course calls for the compulsory state sign photo. Mike thought it best to water mark the one he took of me with his index finger. A nice touch.
Missouri was the 6th state of the Trans Am. Like every state thus far, with the possible exception of Colorado (as I had been there before), I had no idea what to expect in Missouri. I had read about and seen pictures of the wave-like ups and downs of the roads that the route followed and some had described their time in Missouri as “Misery” accordingly, but you really never knew what it was all about until you saw it with your own eyes and peddled it with your own legs.
Such is Adventure and Goddamn, I was loving it!
I was in very high spirits that morning. I was happy.
Happiness is an impossible to define thing/concept/mental state/idea but that morning it was quite simple. I was happy because I was riding my bike on the adventure of a lifetime. The smooth roads and the peacefully still, beautiful clear skies ably assisted.
I found Cooky’s Cafe, a Trans Am favourite by mistake.
I had been going for 2.5 hours and needed water and even though the route essentially bypassed the main street of Golden City, the first town in Missouri, I headed slightly off route into town to track down a convenience store or similar. As I did so I saw Mike’s bike leaning up outside a cafe and so I rolled over to join him.
The first sensation was the exquisite air conditioning. The second, the visual of the most incredible display of homemade pies. Wow! I’d been munching away on the pastries I’d taken from the hotel buffet earlier that morning and a leftover Taco Bell Burrito from the night before so alas, I was far hungry. It was definitely the kind of place that you wanted to bring your appetite. There was, however, absolutely no chance of me exiting that building without a slice of pie. I got a large slice of the Dutch Strawberry Rhubarb to go and smashed a couple of large refills of Cokes while perusing the Trans Am log book and making my entry.
A really nice little snapshot of us mid-pack muckers…..
JJ Simon, who I hadn’t seen for 5 days in Breckenridge, Colorado then came in and we had a brief chat whilst I was settling my bill and getting my water bottles refilled by one of the lovely staff there with iced water. I was torn. I would have loved to have sat down with him and chatted some more. There was a lot to catch up on, but I also wanted to try and catch up with Mike who had just left.
I chose the latter and hit the road, making sure that my slice of pie had the most comfortable and well protected position on my bike.
We’re Certainly Not in Kansas Anymore
The road had been gently rolling for the first part of the days riding but about 20 kilometres past Golden City there was a dramatic change in terrain. I had seen lots of photos but seeing it in person was quite a thing to witness. Those early Missourian road builders were very much of the same mindset as their Kansan counterparts. Long and straight wins the day. Not such an issue when the topography is flat as a tack as that of Kansas but when you hit the foothills of the Ozarks in Missouri the result is a bizarre roller coaster-like effect. I couldn’t help but think of the Big Dipper, an old-school rollercoaster that I used to ride as a kid at Luna Park, a Sydney harbourside fun park.
A little more effort required riding a bike on these roads than riding a rollercoaster. Physical effort obviously as well as mental effort to ensure I got the many gear changes just right. My fingers and wrists were a blur of frenzied activity like that of a classical guitarist.
To keep it simple and to ensure my wearing chain didn’t slip off and snap I just kept the gearing in the large chainring and powered over the top of each bump. In a perverse kind of way I actually enjoyed this kind of riding. The rapid bursts of effort and concentration really helped pass the time, as did the anticipation of what was over the crest of the next hill.
Lunch in Ash Grove, Missouri
The next 55 kilometres from Golden City to Ash Grove was an up and down affair that took me 2.5 hours. It was 12:45 pm and I was ready for lunch. I didn’t see much as I rolled into town apart from a small gas station that was disappointingly closed. Nevertheless, I rolled over and sat on a bench out the front of it to munch on the remains of the leftover burrito and the pie I had bought a Cookys Cafe. After the many hours it had spent sweating away in the hot confined space of one of my bike bags it resembled the road kill that had begun to frequent the Missouri road side.
I threw the burrito away in disgust. Bugger this, surely Ashgrove can provide better! I had to eat the pie though. Even in its degraded state, it was still bloody delicious. The perfect combo of sweet and tart. Mmmmmm.
I got back on my bike and rode around town in a big circle before noticing a Grill, that was actually right next door to the gas station but I just hadn’t seen it earlier. Mikes bike was leaning up outside.
It was great to see Mike who was sitting up at the bar tucking into a blue cheese burger. He highly recommended it so I ordered the same and told the really friendly waitress to keep the icy Cokes coming.
Russell Jones then came in, closely followed by JJ Simon and the blue cheese burger recommendation made its way from rider to rider. At one point there was the 4 of us all sitting up at the bar and I couldn’t help but think it would be nice just to hang out and chat with these lads all afternoon over a few beers. The race was calling however and our staggered departure matched our staggered arrival, as it did on a couple of rest stops that afternoon.
Another day perhaps!
US Bicycle Route 76
The Trans Am route through Missouri is extremely well signposted. The end result of 10 years of successful lobbying apparently, by the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation (MoBikeFed) and the Adventure Cycling Association, which resulted in the signs being put up in 2013.
Thanks for your hard work guys! The signs really do help particularly as there are a lot more turns to navigate in Missouri.
The afternoon’s riding was pretty uneventful, a lot of short and steep ups and downs and a ridiculous amount of road kill by the side of the road. I look forward with anticipation to seeing my first alive armadillo. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out next time I’m at Philly zoo with the boys.
It was good, hard, honest riding in hot but not unbearably hot conditions. I was enjoying it and could really feel the fitness and power that I had built up over the last 18 days of racing.
I stopped at the Kum-and-Go gas station in Walnut Grove trying to stifle a giggle emanating from my rather immature brain. I bought a dizzying array of sugary and caffeinated drinks and ice creams and sat in one of the booths to consume.
JJ and then Russell Jones rocked up and we chatted briefly but I was ready to rumble so hit the road.
I’d come and I’d gone 🙂 .
I spent the next 2.5 hours really having a crack. I reckon I had discovered the perfect terrain for my rather imperfect body shape…..imperfect for cycling that is. My efficiency is affected by gravity in the mountains and wind resistance on the open flats. I could really attack these short n’ steep Missourian rollers.
Anyway, I caught up and passed Mike somewhere near Marshfield, he caught me on a break a further 20 kilometres down the road and then we cruised the next 5 kilometres to the sleepy town of Hartville together.
It was 8 pm. The Subway was open so we went there.
Missouri Nightime Sketchiness
Over Subs Mike and I discussed our plans for the evening. He was pretty tired and wanted to call it for the day but I was still feeling strong and wanted to push on to Houston despite it being 6o very hilly kilometres away.
For the second time that day I was torn. On the one hand, I had been riding with or near Mike for over 2.5 days and we had got each other through a pretty tough time. I really wanted to keep riding with him, but on the other hand, I wanted to stay true to the only real plan that I had entered the Trans Am with. Not that it was really a plan as such, more of an idea. The idea was to ride when I felt good. I would obviously have to ride when I felt crap and had spent many hours and days thus far in such a state. BUT, when I felt good, regardless of the time I had to ride. Such good days don’t come around that often.
And so, with a back slap and the traditional Trans Am racer farewell, “See ya down the road”, I took my leave of Mike and headed off on into the night. I would see him down the road but it wouldn’t be for another 9 days after the finish, in Yorktown, Virginia.
I knew it would be hard riding into the hills but it wasn’t the climbing that provided the hardships.
Firstly, the midges, clouds of the little buggers that were attracted to the lights on my bike. I had to turn my helmet light off as they were flying directly into my face. No doubt I was protein deprived but I’d rather source it from alternate means.
As soon as the road started climbing up, the midges disappeared, but they were soon replaced by aggressive dogs. I wasn’t expecting to be chased by dogs until Kentucky and treated the occasional dog bark with casual deference believing that they were safely locked away, either inside their homes or behind a fence. Alas, I was wrong. I was in the Ozarks, Hillbilly country apparently where the locals really didn’t give a crap where their dogs roam.
The first scared the living shit out of me. There was no sound until it was almost upon me although I never saw it because it was pitch dark. I heard it skid in the gravel of a driveway, its claws scratching on the road as it sprinted after me and its guttural growl. It meant business and I only just got away thanks to a good old dose of adrenaline which aided my escape in a frenzy of pedal strokes.
There were a few more attempts but I was ready every time and just erred on the side of sprinting past any house or structure where a dog may be lurking.
The only other concern was the occasional car that would follow along very close behind me. It was a very quiet back road with very few cars travelling in either direction and therefore no discernible reason to linger. The fact that I was a bit wired and probably a tad paranoid from the dogs didn’t bloody well help.
So yeah, all in all a really enjoyable, almost 3 hour little section to Houston. I was extremely relieved to finally roll into town at around 11:30 pm. I grabbed some gas station food and a hotel right next door and fell asleep pretty much as I was eating it on the hotel bed.
Day 19 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 294 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 12 hours and 35 minutes
- Stopped Time = 3 hour and 50 minutes
- Elevation = 2,494 m
- Money Spent = $109 ($45 on food/drink, $64 on accommodation, $0 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 20.