Rolling Through Missouri

18 07 2010

The rolling hills of Missouri

Mileage: 61.00
Average: 15.3

We awoke groggy on this morning due to trains that frequently passed by the city park all throughout the night.  There were probably about 5-10 trains that went through and sounded like they were going to run over our tents.  Although, Alex is such a heavy sleeper that he didn’t wake once.  We couldn’t believe how busy the track was in such a small town.  While biking out of Cassoday we saw a sign that said that it was the prairie chicken capital of the world.  Who would have thought that there was such a thing?  Through the duration of the ride out of town, a short two minutes, we did not see a single prairie chicken to our disappointment.  Throughout the day it got increasingly warmer reaching somewhere between 95 and 100 degrees.  We were pretty happy that we did so much mileage yesterday so that today would be shorter in the heat.  That night we had planned to use a contact through warm showers in Eureka, Kansas.  However, we were feeling pretty good and biked past Eureka to the next town, Toronto.  Here we had to pay a small fee for camping but there were free showers and a beautiful lake to swim in.  How could we pass that up?

The water felt so good in the lake.  We all got a kick out of trying to get bandit to learn how to swim.  He tries so hard to keep his head above water that he doesn’t concentrate on actually swimming.  His front paws smack the water and make big splashes in front of his face.  What is a dog to do but try and bite the water?  However, while doing this, he kind of forgets he can’t touch bottom.  To say the least, Bandit may have attention deficit disorder.  Colin and Brittany tried holding him so he could work on his technique, but he was more confused than anything else.  We all enjoyed a nice laugh on bandit’s behalf.  We ended up staying in the water while watching the sunset before preparing for the next day. 

Since we enjoyed the heat so much we decided that it would be appropriate to do an early morning ride under the stars.  Our plan was to get up at 3 and hopefully start at 4 with the stars allowing us to see the way.  Before heading to bed, we observed a beautiful lightning storm in the distance.

Mileage:  91.68
Average:  15.7

Well we actually did the morning ride like we wanted to do.  Alex’s alarm went off around 3:00 but we didn’t get out of the tents until 3:30.  Upon getting up we remembered an interesting event that happened in the middle of the night.  Around 1:00 in the morning, there was a conversation between Colin, Brittany and Joe.

Joe Screams: COLIN… COLIN…
Brittany:  Yea?
Colin:  Joe, what do you want?
Joe:  ZZZZZZZ…..

Surprisingly Joe does not remember a thing and Alex is the world’s heaviest sleeper so Brittany and Colin were the only lucky ones to laugh at Joe.

At 4:30, we were off with only a couple stars visible through the clouds.  We had Joe and his flashlight leading the way while Alex and Colin both had flashers bringing up the rear.  It was nice to have it not be so hot but we were all quite tired.  As soon as the sun came up around 6:00 it felt like the temperature jumped up about 10 degrees.  It was still nice because the rest of the ride was really cloudy and foggy making it a lot cooler than it was yesterday.  We took one wrong turn which added on about 5 more miles to the ride, however, was no big deal.  Then at around 1 we got to the city park at Girard, Kansas.  The clouds and fog decided to leave and the sun was back out in full force.  Sitting in the park we were all sweating so we got the great idea of going over to the public library for a little AC.  There we ran into our friend John again who also had the great idea of getting out of the heat by being in the public library. 

There we started to talk to a lovely librarian, Terri, who within in 5 minutes of meeting us offered all of us a place to stay since it had started to rain and then storm.  She said that just last week they had seven other cyclists stay at their house.  From time to time, She and her husband, Maurice, will drive down to the city park when it’s raining to offer bikers a dry place to sleep.  They both are truly amazing people.  Terri said she had a meeting until 6:30 but we could head over around 6 because her husband would be there.  When we made it over to her house, Maurice was waiting at the three car garage port offering us a shelter for the van.  We talked with him for awhile and during our conversation he indicated multiple times that anything in the house was considered ours, snacks, beds, showers, laundry, etc.  They were both such caring individuals who have so much trust in people. 

We found out later in the night that they had lost there daughter 7 years earlier and were still struggling with their grief.  It was just heartbreaking when Terry told us because similar to the Zagordas, they are a great family who was faced with such terrible loss.  Again it made us all think how lucky we are to be healthy, happy, and able to take on such a journey.  Sometimes we need to realize how important it is to cherish life and everyone around us.  We were extremely lucky to have met Terry and Maurice and if you are reading this, thank you!  We are so grateful for you willingly opening your house to us and filling our bellies.  There really are wonderful people in this world.

Mileage: 87
Average: 15.8

After a good night sleep in the cool AC of Terri & Maurice’s beautiful home in Girard, KS we woke up early to make sure we got on the road while we could still take advantage of the cool morning air. The first 20 miles from Girard to Pittsburg we had very pleasant and relaxing warm up while we chatted with John Harris. John stopped in Pittsburg to grab a hearty breakfast and check out the bike shop in town while we continued our to make our way to the Missouri border. After crossing into our 6th state, the terrain gradually began to transition from the plains of Kansas to the beautiful green rolling hills of the Ozarks.  Our first major stop of the day was in Golden City where we cooled off in the shade and ate our lunch.  The heat continued to increase and by the time we reached the city park of Ash Grove we were very pleased to find out that bikers were allowed to swim for free in city pool. In a matter of minutes our night was looking even better. The pool manager informed us that the city also offers the key to its community building to bikers passing through. So in addition to the free dip in the pool we scored a roof over our heads, a full kitchen, bathrooms, and some more AC. John also made it in to Ash Grove for the night so we were able to share the house with him. Before the pool closed for the night, Alex was coerced into refereeing a swim race between John and Joe. With the guys vying for a free meal from the loser, tensions ran high. Maybe it was the competitive juices, but neither would give up and Alex was forced to call it a tie. After all the excitement, it was time to settle down and rest up for the next day of riding.

Mileage: 114
Average: 15.8

The night in the Ash Grove community building gave us the opportunity to get some extra rest before the long day of riding ahead of us. The goal was to make it from Ash Grove to Houston, a grand total of 115 miles during one of the hottest days so far this summer. The morning started out warmer than the rest, but we were still able to enjoy the early morning light and the lush green hills of southern Missouri as we made our way through Walnut Grove to Fair Grove. After leaving Fair Grove the temperatures climbed to their midday peak as we continued on to Marshfield. In Marshfield we decided to wait to eat our lunch until making it to the next town, Hartfield. We tried to avoid the hottest part of the day by resting for over an hour in Hartfield, but it seems to be impossible as nearly the whole afternoon is ruled by heat and humidity. In Hartville we ran into another TransAm rider who recommended stopping a few miles short of Houston for a good swimming spot to cool off and rinse off after the long day of biking. With that in mind and after getting some Subway to boost our spirits we continued on to the last leg of the day into Houston. However, about 15 miles short of Houston we ran into some trouble as Colin and Joe found their water bottles running dry. With no public facilities in sight they started to knock on doors asking for water. Much to Colin’s delight, the first door he knocked on was answered by a sweet old lady, whom Joe named Mrs. Johannsen, that was more than willing to help out. In addition to filling their water bottles she sent them packing with a whole cucumber each. Colin was very sad to leave Mrs. Johannsen as she seemed very lonely and very appreciative of the company. If Colin had his way, we would still be camping in her yard eating fresh cucumbers. With a full supply of water we pushed on to the last few miles before the swimming hole. Luckily we made it in time to have some daylight while we swam. While we cooled off in the stream at Dog’s Bluff, we watched as people were cliff jumping into a deep part of the stream. We decided it looked pretty fun and that we’d give it a try. After jumping from the 25 foot cliff we had a few aches from hitting the surface and a little water in our ears, but otherwise were no worse for wear. While we swam the sun had set and so we biked the remaining 4 miles in twilight to Emmit Kelly city park in Houston where we would spend the night. 

Mileage: 84.5
Average: 13.5

We woke up fairly early from Emmit Kelly park in Houston, Missouri.  Unfortunately, as soon as we started Colin noticed that his left knee was popping.  We therefore took the first 20 miles fairly slow.  While his knee did not hurt we felt that we should be careful as we have been going up and down a never ending supply of hills.  We rode through Missouri and enjoyed the scenery and shade that the trees provided.  It was not as hot today as it was yesterday but with the humidity there was not much difference.  We were also lucky enough to be able to bike through Ozark National Scenic Riverways park.  We stopped and enjoyed some of the views and were able to enjoy the shade this park offered.  Now, while Missouri does not have the same elevation challenges that we have already experienced, some of the rolling hills are no joke.  While these hills are not very long, the challenge comes from how steep they are.  Looking back on it, every state seems to have a certain challenge that makes it unique. 

We were able to make it 15 miles from our ending destination, Centerville, when it began to rain, thunder and lighting.  We took a break with the van to see if the storm would pass.  When it seemed as if the weather was improving we continued our ride, but approximately 10 miles from the end the weather worsened and we continued to bike towards our goal.  It took more time than we expected and we had to turn on our blinkers to help cars see us, but we made it.  We arrived to the town with a population of about 170 people in the pouring rain.  What makes it even more interesting was that we ran into 3 more groups of bikers.  The cherry on this, is the fact that in this small town, one of those 3 groups was two people who knew our dear friend, David Jones.  We had run into his college friends Tyler and Annie as they were heading west towards San Francisco.  Small world. 

We enjoyed our dinner at the diner, set up our tents in a pavilion in the back of an elementary school, and called it a day.  We were all excited as tomorrow we would be arriving in St. Louis and spending Saturday with more of Alex’s family. 

Mileage: 44.5

Today was one of those days that you just couldn’t win, except in this case the “you” was Colin.  Right from the start we noticed that his back tire was flat.  Apparently at some point it had rubbed against something damaging the tire and puncturing the tube.  We had hoped that changing the tube alone would solve the problem.  Unfortunately, 10 miles into the ride Colin noticed that his tire would not hold pressure.  He wanted to try and continue as today was a short day, but after time it became apparent that it was not going to make it.  We wanted to try and put the CO2 cartridges to use but due to user error, it was cross threaded and we said goodbye to the CO2 as it leaked out.  It was even better when we found out we didn’t have cell phone service.  As we were not sure where Brittany was, Alex and Joe continued to bike forward until they reached a gas station.  They were able to reach Brittany and she was soon on her way.  It’s funny because in the time that it took Brittany to drive to the gas station, Colin was able to proudly walk his bike to the very same gas station.  Both tire and tube were exchanged and we then were back on the road.  Now, it didn’t take long for Colin and his bike to decide that something else needed to go wrong before we finished.  Within 2 miles Colin noticed that his tire was not properly rotating.  Apparently the tire was bulging out causing the tire to unevenly spin.  According to Colin, it felt as if he was consistently biking over a rumble strip.  We knew that the truth was that Colin did not want to bike today and was doing all he could to not do so.  He’s good.  He decided though that he could finish the ride as we had maybe 15 more miles until we reached Farmington.  We were able to finish biking, but just so you have an idea of how much Colin didn’t want to bike:  We rode for 2 hours 45 minutes and the entire ride took us a little over 5 hours.  Everyone is bound the have a bad day we figured…

We piled into the car and then drove up to St. Louis to once again stay with more of Alex’s family.  We were warmly welcomed upon arrival.  The very first thing we did though was open all the doors to the van, and remove the majority of our belongings.  Humidity plus dirty clothes plus dirty boys equals a very bad smell.  (We may want to apologize to the Trowbridges in advance if that smell never comes out…)  We organized the van, did laundry, showered and talked with Bonnie and Alan for the next couple of hours.  We were all excited because for dinner we agreed to go to π Pizzeria to enjoy some of the best pizza we may have ever had.  We were very grateful for not only have Alan and Bonnie allowed us to stay and use their house, but they treated us to dinner as well.  It’s amazing how nice Alex’s relatives are, we are beginning to wonder why he isn’t the same way…(just kidding)

Rest Day

This morning, in Saint Charles, Missouri, we took our time waking up in a nice bed with the comfort of air conditioning.  Alan prepared a beautiful breakfast of eggs cooked with onions, garlic, and mushrooms followed by an avocado smoothie, cantaloupe, and homemade bread courtesy of Barb and Elaine!  Needless to say we polished it all off in no time.  After breakfast we took care of a few remaining tasks (laundry, writing a post, figuring out the route for the next couple weeks, etc) before getting ready for the day.  While in Boulder with Paul and Lisa, they told us about this awesome museum in Saint Louis that we should go to.  After hearing about it we were sold! The four of us and Alan drove into the city while Bandit stayed home with a dog sitter; a neighborhood girl going into 4th grade. 

It is called the City Museum and is located in, what used to be, a10 story shoe factory.  Now it houses a fun house for children of all ages and adults who refuse to grow up… appropriate, right?  The museum is created almost entirely from materials that once held a purpose in Saint Louis.  Materials include lug nuts, rail road ties, tires, road signs, trees, air planes, a school bus, etc.  You name it, our bet is that you could find it within the museum.  The structural aspect of this museum is unlike anything we have ever seen which makes it really hard to describe, however, we will give it our best shot.  Upon entering the museum there is a three story slide that descends into the lobby which whets your appetite right away.  After purchasing a ticket and following the mass of people, there were various ways to get up to the next floor including: a giant slinky spiraling around a mosaic, crawling through a cave, or through a hollow inside of a fallen tree.  We were absolutely blown away and overwhelmed with all there was to see and explore.  Some of the highlights of the museum include a 10 story slide, caves that lead you through dark tunnels, an outdoor area where you climb through air planes (among other things) suspended 8 floors high.  I am sure we could write a whole blog about the awesome time we had, but it still wouldn’t do the museum justice.  One thing we did realize is that we had a difficult time trying to fit through locations that only small children could enter.  Oh to be a kid again…

Today may very have been the saddest day of our journey, as fun as the afternoon was.  While we know we must press forward, we may very well not want to.  Unfortunately our favorite team member has left us to head back home.  Joe headed back home today to spend time with his family and prepare for his upcoming year.  In mid August he will be traveling to Quito, Ecuador where he will be volunteering for a year at The Working Boys Center.  Since poverty is very high in Quito, the center was established to help combat this problem.  The center, for free, takes families in and gives them an education, while teaching them a trade to help them obtain a job to better improve their life.  As this organization functions strictly on donations Joe will be volunteering there to help teach and improve the community in which he will reside.  It had been decided though that he will continue the ride from Burnt Hills to Boston as we travel.  This trip will not be the same without him, because he is so awesome, but we hope he enjoys his time with his family and wish him luck.  (Can anyone guess who wrote this paragraph?)

Next weekend we will be in Ohio at Colin’s aunt and uncle’s house.  In order to make this happen, Alex and Colin will need to average around 90 miles a day for the next 8 days.  Now we know the real reason Joe left (just kidding).  Let’s hope everything goes as planned!

In humidity,
Alex, Colin, Joe, and Brittany

The beautiful sunset over Lake Toronto

The boys about to leave on their 4am ride.

John, Maurice, Terry, and the four of us after a great dinner.

The guys about to go cliff jumping into Dogs Bluff

Tyler and Annie - Friends of Dave Jones that we happened to meet in a town of ~160

The outdoor area of The City Museum

Joe about to fly home to spend time with his family




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