I have fallen in love with Missouri — the big, green trees; the crystal-clear rivers; and the many, many rolling hills. Maybe it’s because Missouri has everything that Kansas does not. It’s been a wonderful week of riding, and of ending each day with a swim in a cool river or spring. Does life get any better?
I thought for a moment, though, that we’d never get out of Kansas! We were parked nicely in the city RV park, when the van decided it did not want to go any further. Dead! I had to call AAA for a boost, and then an emergency alternatorectomy and transplant. Our man Alex at Kansasland dropped everything to help get us running again — even put in a bigger “amp-thingy” so we could run more stuff off the battery. Good as new and blowing cold air through the air conditioner once again, the support crew was happy as was the US economy for the large injection of cash from my account.
The numbers of cyclists heading west is getting less now, but still there’s a friendly wave, a thumbs-up and a “way to go” from each one I meet on the road.
Just a few miles into Missouri, I met Michael, a young architect from Portland on his third trip across the country. Every time he comes to a crossroads in his life or career, he does the ride to reflect, think, and plan the next phase of his life’s journey. On Michael’s recommendation, I stop in at Cooky’s in Golden City (pop. 780) and order a piece of pie. I crammed that piece of pie into my little handlebar bag and thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with Myrna at our next rest stop. Mmmm. Great pie! There’s Michael on the left and Cooky’s on the right.
I thought things were going really well at that point and Myrna and I agreed to meet in Ash Grove, the next town about 10 miles up the road, to see if we wanted to stay at the city park or keep moving.
Well, there was no sign of Myrna when I got there and the city park was gorgeous, so I stayed and waited. And waited. And waited. So, a guy drives up on his motorbike and says he officially welcomes every cyclist into town. He asked if I needed anything. I told him, not at the moment, but that my support van might be lost. Dave fetched his wife, Wendy and drove all the way up (and I mean UP!) to Walnut Grove to flag Myrna down and led her back to Ash Grove! And that’s not the end of the hospitality! Not only was the camping (with showers) free, but Dave hooked us up to electricity AND cyclists got to swim free in the pool! I thought I might just move to Ash Grove.
Dave and Wendy, the unofficial welcoming committee of Ash Grove, MO.
Hills, thrills and excitement
Every day the drill is the same. Uphill, uphill, more uphill, round the corner, a little downhill. Then up and up and up again. Whew! The countryside is beautiful, though and I don’t mind the workout nearly as much as the Kansas wind!
In Hartville, we stay at the city park next to the Gasconnade River and are treated to a first-class lightning and thunderstorm. This town was the scene of a major Civil War Battle. Missouri has an interesting Civil War history. Half the population was in favor of slavery, and sympathies for Union and Confederates were about split. What made it different was the number of “guerrilla” fighters, looting, shooting and destroying property without official sanction from the Confederates, but welcomed anyway. In Hartville, the ragtag army took over the courthouse from where they served as snipers, shooting any Union soldier they saw. In the end, the Union army retreated. Pilot Knob was another town where a major Civil War battle was fought. I enjoyed learning the history of these battles and the people who fought in them.
Hartville today is a sad, forlorn little place. Most of the businesses are shuttered, many houses left vacant. In fact this is what we have seen in many of the small towns along the TransAm Trail — and likely why many people in America view Donald Trump as the man who can “make America great again.”
At the top of one of many hills, I met John, an engineer from Upstate New York, who had lived in Ottawa for a few years. In fact, almost everywhere we went in Missouri, there was a Canadian connection. One guy said he loves to go fishing in the lakes near Thunder Bay. Another guy told us he goes up to Manning, Alberta every other year to hunt birds. “I love Canada,” he said. Even Donna, whom you’ll see further down this post, said her daughter married a Canadian and lived in Paris, Ontario until he decided he liked her best friend better than her!
The Wonderful Rivers of Missouri
Our route took us through the Ozarks National Waterways — places like Jack’s Fork and Alley Springs were gorgeous! Blue Springs was a couple of miles off-route.
The springs are 310-feet deep, and the dissolved minerals make the water a very cool, cloudy shade of blue. I took a picture of my reflection in the blue water of the spring.
Back on the road and back up and down the hills of the Ozarks. I wasn’t making great mileage, but I sure felt I deserved a cold beer at the end of each day.
Last night we stayed at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. No, it’s not a rest home for old people in wheelchairs. The Ozark term, “shut-ins” refers to steep limestone rock walls, through which runs a narrow gorge. It’s quite unique to this area. The Black River has lots of scoured swimming holes, and the water is clear enough to drink. As I sat there, cooling my body, I could watch the tiny fish near the top, the medium ones a foot down, and the big ones hovering around my feet. Cool!
Cycling Luxury in Farmington, MO
Today we rolled into Farmington, our last stop in Missouri. Al’s Place is a cycling hostel with all the comforts of home — plus air conditioning! It’s in the old city jail, has been completely refurbished and is now run by volunteers. For $20 a night, you get a bed (with linens), a fully stocked kitchen; a living room with TV and a great selection of videos; showers; and a computer.We had the house all to ourselves today, and it was great to relax here for a day. Myrna and Basil may not want to go tomorrow morning!
This is our last stop in Missouri. Tomorrow we cross the state border into Illinois and the last third of our journey. I’m looking forward to an exciting July 4th celebration somewhere in Illinois or Kentucky — even bought a stars and stripes T-shirt so I wouldn’t stand out in the crowd. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Til next week, all the best!