No Name Tour: Day 11 – Church, Pie, Tornados, and Flooding

I miss central Montana where nothing happened for days and days. Biking in Missouri is surreal by comparison.

Corey and Mark left the Ash Grove bike house early in the hopes of beating bad weather to our west. Maybe if the storm tracked to the north we’d be okay.

Such fools we are.

I left about a half hour later with a tummy full of peanut butter tortillas and whole wheat bread and butter. Nutrition is my middle name.

The terrain seemed gentler for a few miles before the road crossed a series of creaks. Down to the creek then right back up.

At one point I went by a farm with some cattle. With very little urging I had them running beside me on their die of a wire fence. Stampede!

The weather seemed to be off in the distance until it wasn’t. Thunder. Lightning. Rain, growing heavier by the minute. I was grinding up a long hill when I stopped to put on my rain jacket. Minutes after the clouds opened. A car pulled up along side me. The passenger window rolled down and the woman told me “There’s a church at the next cross roads. You’re welcome to come in…if you make it.”

I said “Thanks. I will.”

Then I thought “if I make it?”

I made it. Mark and Corey were hanging out under the covered entry to the little white church. Soon the congregation arrived and we all went in for services.

Religion and I don’t get along so I watched the service with bemused and confused detachment.

The service starts with three pledges of allegiance: to the US flag, to the Christian flag (I never knew there was such a thing), and to the Bible. I resisted the urge to start humming “Imagine”.

While the service was going on the storm was raging. The windows of the church were frosted so all you could see were flashes of lightning. I went outside for a moment and it was raining about as hard as physics would allow.

After over an hour and a let up to the rain, the three guests on six wheels headed west.

Lest I sound ungrateful, thanks to the good folks at the Pennsboro church for taking us in.

The terrain leveled and we made good time to Golden City. Actually Mark and Corey did; I lagged behind. We learned during church that three people died in Golden City last week when a tornado touched down. I didn’t see any evidence of it as I went into town to eat lunch with the two amigos.

The restaurant was crowded so it took a long time for lunch. Corey was certain that they gave bike tourists a free piece of pie but they turned out to no longer be the case. The pie was good anyway.

We headed due west with los dos dudes way in front of me. I noticed a pile of corrugated steel in a farmer’s field to my right. Then I saw Mark and Corey stopped up ahead and looking to the left side.

There was a house with a couple of outbuildings utterly devastated. Nearby trees were torn up. You could see exactly where the tornado touched down. It was stupefying. With all these wide open spaces, how unlucky these people were.

The other two headed west again well above The Mule’s top speed. We knew the road were taking was closed up ahead because of flooding.

A driver stopped me and advised me about detours. As I researched possibilities on my phone, Corey texted me. They took off their shoes and walked through the flooded section of road without a problem. So I did too.

After a brief chat with a couple in a VW bug who decided not to test the waters, I continued west. The wind was now in my face and the road began to roll again.

It took a frustratingly long time to get to the Kansas state line.

After that I pushed on another five miles to Pittsburg. With all the flooding I saw today, I didn’t even bother to ask about camping in the city park. The first hotel I checked had flood damage on the below grade first floor. I went up the street to a Comfort Inn. A nice bed, laundry, and pizza. Soon I’ll be saving logs. My apologies to the other guests.

Miles today:72

Miles total: 703.5

No Name Tour: Day 10 – Put Away Wet

I came back to the town park after dinner only to learn that much of it had flooded. And a big picnic was going on right next to my tent.

So I moved everything to higher ground next to a gazebo and nearly fell asleep sitting in a park bench. By ten I was in my tent too tired to change out of my street clothes.

I was too tired to sleep well but I was kept comfortable by a cool breeze. Around 10, I checked the radar on my phone. A storm was coming so I got up and put the rain fly in my tent.

Around 2 am I woke up feeling wet. It was raining inside my tent, much harder than last summer in Winnett, Montana. After that episode I sealed the seams of the rainfly, or so I thought.

I moved everything under the gazebo and negotiated a couple of hours of sleep from the sandman.

Using the google I learned that there were stores that carried tents in Springfield. After breakfast I rejoined Route 66 and headed for Ozark Adventures, a store catering to outdoorsy types.

Driving in Missouri is scary. I was passed or cut off dozens of times. The ride to Springfield wasn’t particularly hard, much easier than the previous three days. In Springfield itself, the drivers went from obnoxious to scary. I was stressed out by the time I arrived at the store.

As I was leaning my bike against the store front, my back wheel started coming off. Apparently I had caught the quick release lever with the hardware on my pannier. Scary!

Inside I was nearly talked into buying a one-person Big Agnes tent when a customer who was about my size told me how he hiked the Grand Canyon with a two-person Big Agnes tent. He said the very slight increase in weight was well worth the trade off in comfort.

The new two-person tent weighs less than half of my old one. I’m gonna be a happy camper.

After spending an appalling amount of money, I turned on the google for directions and headed to Ash Grove where there was supposed to be camping at the town park. I tried calling the police to get permission but no one answered.

I escaped Springfield using bike paths. After some time on a busy highway I picked up the 8-mile Frisco Highline rail trail to Willard. Bliss. And I had a tailwind.

Unfortunately, my phone was running out of juice. If something went amiss how would I find a campground?

I stopped at a cafe and plugged in my phone while eating some ice cream. The place was about to close but it was in the same building as the town library.

I went inside an catnapped while my phone charged during this hottest part of the day.

After two more miles on the rail trail, I turned west for eight miles of rollers. Something was different. I was going much, much faster than anytime during the trip. I hill hopped several of the rollers, speeding down one hill and flying up the next.

As I pulled into Ash Grove, I saw a man in a sedan parked on a side street. He was waving me off the main road. I pulled over. He then proceeded to lead me to bike touring paradise. The town park has a house with a kitchen, shower, bathroom, and indoor bike parking. Outside was a swimming pool.

I took off my shoes and socks and waded into cool, wet awesomeness. I had 15 minutes to cool down before the pool closed for the day. It was more than enough time.

Later I met Corey and Mark who were staying at the house while taking a rest day on their east to west ride on the TransAmerica Trail.

Tomorrow I (actually all three of us) hope to escape the Ozarks. I celebrated with a dinner of an apple and three peanut butter flour tortillas. And one of Mark’s IPAs.

Miles today: 62

Total so far: 631.5

No Name Tour: Day 9 – Ozark Roadkill

The hotel had nearly real food for breakfast. Eggs. Biscuits and gravy. Coffee. OJ. Yoghurt.

Stuffed, I hit the road and screamed down the hill I had to climb back up yesterday.

And so began a day of climbing and descending and climbing and descending. On net, I climbed 350 feet, but it felt like 3,500.

Before the Ozarks, roadkill was mostly opossums. Beginning yesterday armadillos started outnumbering opossums. There was also a disturbing number of squashed turtles. I stopped and helped three get off the road.

Riding the frontage road of the interstate I came upon this strange sign combination.

It turned out to be two businesses but for about a mile I was puzzled.

An old bridge on 66 is closed but you can get through on a bike by lifting it over the barrier. This requires unloading/loading/unloading/loading as there were two barriers. One on either end.

As I was about to get underway two local cyclists, Roy Phillips and Al Trumbo, pulled up and we had a long talk. They were great and funny, full of stories. I knew I’d pay for the conversation later though. The time spent talking to them meant more time riding in the afternoon heat.

I stopped at every opportunity to guzzle water and sorts drinks. My belly was sloshing but still I was suffering. A headwind slowed me but felt great in the heat of the afternoon.

I called the town of Marshfield to secure permission to camp in the city park. Of course the access road into the park required one last climb.

I had to ride 1.5 more miles to get to a diner. The green beans that came with dinner were exactly what my body wanted. So was the cherry pie I had for dessert.

This was a really hard day. Hopefully it will pay off down the road. I need to get acclimated to hot weather.

Today was my last day on Route 66. No more refrigerated motels like this.

Tomorrow I switch to the TransAmerica Trail. Hopefully it will be my last hilly day for a while.

Miles today: 68

Mikes total: 569.5

No Name Tour: Day 8 – One of Those Days in the Ozarks

Last night a tornado touched down in Jefferson City, 55 miles away. All we had was a thunderstorm.

The storm extended from Oklahoma to DC. Locally it was tracking right along Route 66.

Oh joy.

The weatherman said the storm was as dying out so I left the hotel around 9 a.m. I wasn’t on the road more than two minutes before it started raining hard.

It only lasted a few miles. Then it calmed and I could enjoy more Route 66 roadside nonsense like this enormous rocker.

The road was running right next to the interstate. About ten miles in I could see a big electric sign on the highway: Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Effect.

I began scanning for shelters. Just outside St. James in spotted a pole barn next to a VFW post. I checked the weather radar and decided to make a run for St. James about 3 miles away. As I pulled into town a lightning bolt flashed. I counted for the thunder. 5. It looked much closer than 5 miles away so I looked for a place to eat second breakfast.

Not one restaurant in town. The storm intensified so I put The Mule under the large wave of the Town Hall and went inside to wait it out.

The radar looked nasty.

After an hour my tummy started rumbling. The storm cooperated enough for me to ride 1/2 mile to a Burger King. They were having trouble with their cooking gear so it was a Burgerless King.

I ate lunch with a local man named Bill Clark. He told me about mountain biking with his kids near Branson, Missouri. He said he’d ride a bike across country but only if it had a 900cc engine. He was an entertaining guy. I’m glad I didn’t sit alone with my cellphone.

The clouds cleared and I was back on the road. As I progressed, the temperature and humidity increased. The hilly terrain made for some sweaty climbs but my bike and my body were up to the task.

I couldn’t complain after seeing this road sign for the Trail of Tears.

And whenever I started feeling worn out something silly would appear and improve my mood, like this sign:

Then there was this not so little guy along the shoulder:

The route moved away from the interstate for some hilly but very pretty riding. I especially liked the rocky cliffs along this creek.

Note how swollen the creek is.

Every so often I get off route, but this intersection has my name all over it:

About four miles shy of my destination, I took a break at the top of a long hill. I drank 28 ounces of Gatorade and ate an ice cream bar.

Two miles later was an intersection with several hotels but I really wanted to camp two miles further in the town park of Waynesville.

Waynesville is at the bottom of a long hill. I had a blast flying down it.

Then I saw the park. Next to a creek. The park was closed

The nearest hotels were back up the hill so I turned The Mule around and rode right back up.

I ordered a large pizza after checking into my hotel. It was cheaper than a medium.

It was that kind of day.

Miles ridden today: 61.5

Tour total: 501.5

Tomorrow should be my last day on Route 66.

No Name Tour: Day 7 – Roadside Attractions

Last night sirens rang out. A tornado was spotted nearby.

Eek.

It was all over by 8 pm so I walked across the parking lot for second dinner. I was HUNGRY.

I brought the fast food back to my room and hoovered it.

I slept in and left the motel after the usual motel breakfast hit the road.

After a few miles I came across something I’d missed this spring back home. Goslings! These were oddly all different ages but cute nonetheless. They wouldn’t pose for me do you’ll have to enjoy them from behind.

My legs were weary but the first few miles were on level ground. Once the road left the side of the interstate (Route 66 is mostly a frontage road these days) I saw a figure walking toward me.

It was a Tibetan monk in a straw cowboy hat. I kid you not. Warren Zevon could not have thought this up. He beamed a big smile at me as I waved and said “Haveva nice day.” (I considered “namaste” but the moment was already beyond surreal.)

Temperatures were pleasant and the wind was calm for a couple of hours. My legs were not having a good time. The last two monster hills yesterday took a lot out of them.

I couldn’t find any real food so made do with gas station junk for 40 miles.

Then I ran into the Dubois, Fay and Rob, who were coming east from Santa Monica. We talked a bit and they offered to put me up if I decide to go through Sacramento. Nice!

Their blog is fayrobepicjourney4.home.blog. I can’t wait to check it out.

They both wore wide yellow brims on their helmets, just as my friend Marie does. They said they were indispensable in the Mojave desert.

We traded info. I told them about the mud along the river, the scary neighborhoods in St. Louis, and the nasty hills ahead. They later told me by text that a bridge outage I’m going to encounter soon is passable by bike. Yay, no hilly 11 mile detour.

By this time temperatures had risen into the 80s and I had a 10 mph headwind.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it was hilly. Dozens of hills that were just a bit too steep or too long for me to avoid using my granny gear.

I arrived in Bourbon. It’s a town. I went by Bourbon high school. I’ll bet there are some stories there.

It was 4 pm. I’d ridden 47 miles and hadn’t had lunch. So I ate a massive sub sandwich and drank a gallon of Diet Coke.

The meal revived me so I continued o. To Cuba to shave a few miles off tomorrow when rain is expected.

Cubs is the Mural City. Having missed photos of the monk and the Dubois, I give you the mural from the offices of the local newspaper.

The Mule is holding up. It’s making a ticking noise that I can’t find. I broke a toe clip strap today. And my front brake cable is stretched. (It’s new.) so I have some bike business to attend to this evening. There’s a bike shop in a town dorm the road too.

So my first week on the road is done.

59.5 miles. Total mileage: 440

No Name Tour: Day 6 – Near Death Experiences

The day began at 3:30 a.m. I woke up stressing about the fierce weather approaching from the west. The day’s sole objective was to not get caught in the maelstrom.

After inhaling the hotel complementary breakfast (they had Cheerios!!!), I hit the road at 6:50 wearing 2 shirts, my jacket, and my long pants. It was only 48 degrees outside and the wind was blowing. Fortunately for me the wind was either at my back or to my side all day.

I hopped on a rail trail and rode it southwest out of Staunton. I passed a couple of horses munching near the trail side. One was a palomino, my favorite. It brought to mind the dearth of livestock I’ve seen in this trip. There have been no herds of cattle or horses to stampede like last summer in the northern plains.

I flew by into Edwardsville in about 2 hours. There I pondered whether to take a google maps short cut to St. Louis or continue following Route 66 on a circuitous track to the north. After briefly attempting the google route I decided to stick with my Route 66 maps. Google has too many turns and, for all I know, goes through sketchy areas.

Before crossing the Mississippi into Missouri, I stopped at a market to buy snacks. It’s been painfully obvious that I haven’t been eating enough on this trip so I bought apples and candy bars and cheese.

The river and a connected canal looked bloated as I rode across the old Route 66 bridge which is now closed to motor vehicles.

Route 66 bridge over the Chain of Rocks Canal
Route 66 Bridge Bike Trail
The Mississippi River

Turning south, I followed the riverside trail and passed a Missouri DOT truck parked at a trailhead. The truck’s flashing lights were on. The driver was asleep. I continued for another 100 yards and found my wheels encumbered with thick, slimy river mud. I worked my way up to an adjacent highway and started scraping away at the gunk in the narrow paved shoulder.

An African American man of about 40 pulled up and stopped in the north bound lane.

“Are you okay? Do you have a flat?”

“Nope, just clearing off mud.”

“You should get up in the grass out if the road.”

So I did. He pulled his white SUV onto the grass next to me.

The people who drive on this road are crazy. You gotta be careful.

Seconds later: BANG

Two sedans collided on the road. One went one way. The other ended up right where I was standing.

As the SUV driver, whose name was Jerry, said, “That would have fucked you up.”

All I could do was think of my friend Dave.

One of the two cars took off up a side road. The driver of the other car walked up to us to see if we got the car’s license. Unfortunately I was too dumbfounded to notice. For someone who just went through a hit and run this drivers remarkably composed, as if it happened every day.

Off she drove shaking her head.

Back at my mud chore, I notice that my right index finger was bleeding. Jerry pulled out a first aid kit and gave me alcohol swabs, disinfectant patches, and band aids.

He then gave me his phone number to call him if I got stuck in the storm later in the day. Finally, he gave me directions to get back to the trail where it runs atop the levee, away from the mud.

“Whatever you do don’t stay in this road. It goes through the most violent neighborhoods in the area. Two or three people get shot every day.”

I thanked him profusely and followed his guidance. Unfortunately the trail diverted from the levee back toward the river. The mud in this area was several inches thick and super slick. I had to backtrack about a mile and ride in the road again.

This road has heavy truck traffic. Big trucks too. It’s a good thing that truck drivers are patient because every one of them passed me with plenty of room.

At Broadway and Grand Boulevard I had a choice: go two more miles along the river risking crazy drivers and gawdawful mud or ride up a steep hill toward the center of town. I chose to ride up the hill thereby bypassing the Gateway Arch and the interesting buildings along the riverfront. Having already seen them I didn’t think it was worth the risk. Plus, the hill cut some distance and time from my route, a good thing since I had lost at least an hour of time to the mud.

The neighborhood I rode through made the gnarliest DC neighborhoods look like paradise. It was hard to decide what was sadder, the depressing poor people at the bus stops or the shattered big round stained glass window in a beautiful old church. This was obviously a neighborhood bereft of hope.

Then suddenly I was in Grand Center, a few city blocks of lovingly maintained old theaters and businesses. Next came St. Lois University with gorgeous gothic revival buildings.

Turning west on Lindell Boulevard I passed the majestic Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. On past Forest Park I pulled up to the main entrance to Washington University. The main building stood on a hill facing the city with an unobstructed view. Sadly the University has cluttered the place with modern buildings, with another being added.

Washington University

Soon I was heading west out of town through posh suburbs with hectic traffic and traffic lights that always seemed to be red.

This was taking too long but I had no choice. My original plan was to stay at a motel in Ellisville but the google picture made it look like a dump.

I forged ahead 12 more very hilly miles to Eureka. Along the way I rode on Woods Avenue. It was about a 3-mile, 400-foot windy, wooded descent, the stuff of bicyclists’ dreams.

Unfortunately this was followed by a 1-mile, 400 foot climb that taxed my body to the max. It felt just like the two mountains I climbed near Pittsburgh on last summer’s tour.

As if to pat me on the back for surviving the climb. The road descended 400 feet over the next mile, after which another 200-foot climb was a non event.

I pulled into a Burger King. After I dismounted I was shaking from the effort of those nasty hills. I ate an Impossible burger, a veggie burger that is supposed to taste like beef. It did. Well played BK.

The last two miles were uneventful. I checked in to my hotel, showered, inhaled some snacks then checked the weather.

We were under a tornado warning. Soon sirens blared. This was not a drill.

The hotel’s guests were gathered in the lobby looking at the radar on a big screen. Scary stuff.

It took a ton of effort, sone luck, a trail Angel, and way too much mud but I pulled it off. A day for the ages.

85 miles today. 380.5 so far.

And this happened on one of those nasty climbs.

The Mule Turns 52