Day 21 - Saturday, June 29, 2002
Total to date: 1343.23 miles
Moving time: 7 hr 10 min.
Average Speed: 12.9 mph
Total ascent: 4899 ft.
Minimum elevation: 469 ft.
Maximum elevation: 1416 ft.
Ending elevation: 750 ft.
Wind: calm all morning; 5-10 mph south wind in the afternoon (quarter to head wind)
Weather: 72°F in the morning with a high dew point; got up to 92°F by 3:00 at end of ride. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. The humidity actually dropped as the day progressed and as I gained altitude.
I did a lot of miles today in the Ozark Mountains. This was the second highest mileage day for me but I actually traveled the greatest straight line distance of the trip so far (68.3 miles). Unfortuately the route headed south-southwest so I didn't make a terrific amount of westward progress.
I rode the world's longest roller coaster today. It runs between Ozora and Pilot Knob, Missouri - about 40 miles of up and down. It nearly made me sick to my stomach! Most hills were those 50 foot drop, 50 foot climb type. I can nearly make it to the top without too much trouble if I get a good run down the front side of the hill. All told I did about 3000 feet of roller coaster hills and the other 2000 feet in long, gradual climbs and descents.
The Ozarks are overrated like the Poconos of Pennsylvania. They don't really have any mountians here - just a plateau with bumps on it. I haven't found riding in the Ozarks to be as difficult as some bicyclists and the locals would have you believe. They are much easier than the Appalchians and go pretty quickly. There were some steep sections but they were usually quite short. The longer climbs were usually not so steep. Here's a picture I took of one of those gradual climbs between Centerville and Ellington.
The highlight of the day was Elephant Rocks State Park. It is a very neat place that features a really cool geologic formation unique to the area. It was about a mile off route but well worth the side trip. Giant boulders of 1.5 billion-year-old granite stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants, hence the name of the park. There are dozens of these large, red granite boulders strewn througout a seven acre area, many of which are on top of a knob overlooking the valley below. Other rocks at the park are remnant granite blocks that were chiseled away from the hillside by mining companies. Granite quarrying and memorial companies are a common site in the surrounding region.
The nearby town of Graniteville was largely built by quarry companies that have operated here since the late 1800s. The hotel, post office, store, railroad depot, and numerous homes are built from this long wearing, red granite. An interpretive trail with braile trail markers loops around the perimeter of the "elephants." Just as I was about to leave a group of visually impaired youngsters were heading up onto the trail. I got talking to some of their escorts and they asked me to tell the group about my journey. I did so and they all checked out my bike - with their hands, of course. I've never seen so many people handle a bicycle at once before. They told me that they went on some bicycle trips recently - as the stoker on tandem bikes. It was a unique learning experience. The following pictures were all taken at Elephant Rocks.
The drivers here in Missouri are absolutely terrible. They don't give a rat's behind that there's a bicyclist on the side of the road. Most of them just go screaming by at 60 miles per hour and give very little right of way. It's almost like I'm not even there! The other three states' drivers were overly cautious when it came to passing me. People also yell out their car windows, "Get off the road!" or "Get a car!" The lack of paved shoulders adds to the problem. Often the edge of the pavement drops off into grass or loose gravel which is even more dangerous than taking on the drivers. A hotel owner I talked to in Ellington, who is not a native, confirmed my suspicion that people think they own the road. He says that same attitude carries over into their personalities. The few people I've talked to here in Missouri seem nice - but I haven't talked to many since they are not quite as outgoing and friendly as those in Kentucky and Virginia. Oh, well. Cyclists say that Kansans are the nicest people on the trip and they are only three days from here!
One driver who actually gave me some room was a dude named Matt. He was driving an early 90s Toyota Corolla and worked at a camp by Johnson's Shut-Inns State Park. How do I know this? Because his car was blowing blue smoke behind it when he passed me and it broke down about a minute later. I stopped to help out (like I could do much for him) and looked at the engine. He had it inspected and had the oil changed yesterday. He shredded a belt today. The oil pump seized up and was spewing oil onto the engine block and there was no belt on the accessories. That probably explains the oil light, the battery light, the "check engine light," the brake light, and the loss of power steering. I offered to make a call for him when I got to the next town which I gladly did. I would have usually given him a ride but didn't feel bad not being able to take him with me.
The day was scheduled to end in Centerville, Missouri but the camp sites there were overrun with ATV riders who just got back from a beer run. I didn't think they would call it a night any time before midnight so I went down to a cafe to have some food. The owner told me that I could stay in front of the courthouse and take a bath in the river. I wasn't so sure about that - the locals seemed a little too crazy and I didn't want to be messed with. Besides, the rivers here are absolutely clear - I wouldn't want to foul them up with my awful stench. This is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways area and the streams and rivers here are protected waterways and are beautiful. The owner also asked to see Donna Ikenberry's book that I had sitting on the table. She was happy to see Centerville in print and told me that the other cafe is now closed.
The city park is pretty decent here in Ellington. There are no pool or shower facilities so I'm just going to have to put up with my own stink until tomorrow night. The bathrooms are horribly disgusting - at least there is running water. I hope to get a hotel tomorrow but things are pretty busy around here since it's a weekend near the 4th of July and people are flocking to the Ozarks like the New Jersey "lemmings" who flock to the Poconos every weekend. I'm not sure why they do it.
I saw some armidillo and anteaters as road kill today - at least that's what they looked like to me. I'm not a biologist and can't vouche that this is part of their habitat. There was also lots of racoon and turtle road kill too.
I didn't change the time zone in my GPS until after today's ride so all the times in the data that I downloaded and will put into a spreadsheet later will not be correct for the past few days. I'll have to make the adjustment later.
Towns are getting to be scarce around here. Most towns have a greater elevation than their population. There are only three towns with more than 1000 people between here and the Kansas border (230 miles or so).
Some other ladies stopped by too. They say that they've seen bicyclist come through town but never knew where we were coming from or going to. They almost couldn't belive that their little town was part of such a route across the country. What a novelty is was for them to see their town name on the route map. It suddenly made them feel like their town was important!