May 6 - 10: Missouri

5/6 - Pilot Knob (66 miles 1167 total)
we left chester with quite a lot of fanfare this morning. we biked downtown & gathered at the sheriff's office. the 2 police cars were ready to go, so we checked to make sure that all of us bikers were there. we looked to the back of the group & lo & behold....there was a yellow-shirted rider about 20 feet back headed with determination in the opposite direction. hey juuuuuudith....we're going thiiiiiiissss way. as soon as judith turned around & rejoined the group, we headed en masse down the steep hill to the little park near the bridge's edge.
in the photo you'll see the whole group standing under the watchful eye of popeye. we don't normally look so color-coordinated, but gloria wanted us to wear our womantours jerseys if we had them.
(thank you to the press photographer who had come to take his own pictures but agreed to take one with my camera for this web report.)
once traffic had cleared a bit off the bridge, a police car with lights blinking got in front of us & a 2nd one behind, then we all rode between them in the right lane across the bridge. the sky was cloudy & threatened rain, but none fell. it was coolish, tho'....& of course quite windy on the bridge. but the crossing was lots less harrowing than many of us had feared it would be. THANK YOU CHESTER POLICE for providing us a safe & exciting departure from your city & state.
we stopped at a gas station across the bridge so we could space ourselves out better. it's much harder for vehicles to get around us if we bunch. especially in stretches where sight distance is limited, we try to stay about 100 yards apart so that vehicles can pass one biker at a time, lessening the chance that a whole line of vehicles will pile up behind a bunch o' bikers. sometimes we just get off the road for a minute or 2 if things really get tight. it's to our benefit to reduce, if we can, the stress that our presence on these narrow roads causes the cars & trucks.
here we are, entering our 4th state. it was a big day; patty the chef joined us on the ride across the bridge.
from left, it's joan, patty, & judith.
usually patty has to drive the van & luggage trailer to the next overnight stop, often stopping to shop for groceries along the way, then if she's lucky she can squeeze in a bike ride going backwards on the day's route before she has to fix supper. or sometimes she goes forward to scout the beginning of the next day's route. at any rate, it was nice today to have her biking with the group for at least the first few miles.
you'll notice in the background of the photo that the terrain was flat. unfortunately that nice flat ride lasted for only 10 miles. most of us were hoping it would last for more like 10 days!
then the rollers began. for the rest of the day it was up & down & down & up....tho' nothing as steep as virginia & kentucky or the start of hillinois. marcia says our climb today was 3200 feet. a few times we got some winds & sometimes they were headwinds, but never for long. it stayed mostly cloudy & coolish all day, with a few sprinkles thrown in here & there.
one of my own personal missions on this trip has become to save the transamerica turtle. those are the hapless turtles who sidle up to the edge of the roads on this mighty bike route with their necks hanging hopefully forward, thinking (if turtles do indeed think), evidently, that they have a prayer of making it to the other side. a couple of weeks ago in virginia i rescued one, & today i picked up 2 more & carried them way back away from the road, then set them down to head in the other direction.
sari took a picture of me holding one of the rescued turtles. usually they pull in their head & legs when i pick them up, but not this one; he's ready for prime time.
unfortunately i've pedalled by too late for many of these hard-shelled creatures, as we can tell by the residue on the roads.
speaking of residue on the roads, we saw quite a few one-dimensional snakes today, too. that reminds me of a story i meant to relate last week: lee was riding by herself along a desserted road out in the countryside when she happened to look up & saw a hawk flying above her with a 3-foot snake dangling from its beak. she thot to herself, how neat that i happen to be looking up, since i hardly ever do when i'm biking, & am able to catch sight of this 'survival of the fittest' drama. just about then she noticed some small birds harrassing the hawk, probably hoping for some snake snack. suddenly the snake started falling from the hawk's beak down toward lee. lee was then on a downhill stretch so really wasn't able to change her speed or direction much. it seemed they were on a collision course....sorta like one of those math story problems of our youth: if a biker is going downhill at 27 mph & a 3-foot snake is falling from a hawk's beak directly overhead, at what point will the snake hit the biker?? as it turned out, the snake plopped onto the pavement about 10 feet in front of lee & a bit to the left near the center line. lee just missed being the first in our group with a serpentine boa.
lee reported that she didn't look very hard at the snake; it was pretty badly injured from being picked up & carried around by the hawk's talons. she glanced back as she rode on past & saw the hawk hovering above the snake again. later she asked riders who passed that spot just after her if they saw the snake & they said no. she surmises that the hawk returned to pick up his supper.
now that i've covered fauna, i must report that the florae lately have been lovely. blooming honeysuckle, locust trees, mock orange bushes, & catalpa trees have filled the highways & byways with the most wonderful fragrances. & today, showy irises were everywhere.....sometimes spread like weeds along the roadside ditches, but most often in colorful farmyard flower gardens.
less lovely today have been the drivers. 'til now on this trip we've felt that most drivers have been very considerate, despite situations that often made it very difficult for both bikers & drivers alike. today many of us had cars or pickups speed by at very close range--even when there was no oncoming vehicle & they would have had room to pass us with plenty of leeway. other vehicles honked their horns just as they got alongside us or occupants yelled at us as they passed. when you're trying to concentrate on riding a bike along the edge of a busy highway, those loud horns & jeers can be alarming. that stretch was stressful!
three riders who started with us at yorktown did only the first segment & left us at chester: sue hart, joan laxson, & sue rowley (a staff person & rider some days). in the photo you'll see the 3 who joined our group at chester, all getting the lowdown from lee during supper tonight.
from left there's barbara ramsey from mississippi, lee, linda cochran from colorado (the new staff person--she'll drive the subaru 2 days then bike the 3rd), & patty fainer from california.
speaking of supper, it was another stunner: tacos with terrific fillings--seasoned pork or chicken; chopped tomatoes, green onions, lettuce, & cilantro; cheese; sliced black olives; & refried beans. & a huge salad of chunked fresh oranges, grapefruit, & cantaloupe. for dessert we had some delectable fresh cookies from 'cookies & more' that my friends from iowa city, dennis & judy moss, had brot us for a surprise. YUM!
tomorrow we'll ride about 68 miles into the ozarks. my roommate phyllis tells me that isolated rains are predicted, but that her transamerica book tells her the route will be quiet, rolling, & scenic along a river for much of the way. sounds like a pleasant sunday spin.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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