The Ozarks

BY:  PETER CONWAY
A song I learned as a child made puns about various states. For example, one line went: “What did Delaware, boys, what did Delaware? She wore a brand New Jersey, that’s what Dela wore.”

I have been meditating on a different stanza this week: “How did Flora die, boys, how did Flora die? She died in Missouri, she died in Missouri.”

Well, I sympathize with old Flora. There were several hills in Missouri I thought I might die on this week. These hills are known as the Ozarks.


We have left Route 66 and are now on the TransAmerica Bike trail, created in 1976 for the Bi-Centennial. This is the mother road for cyclists. One store owner we spoke to said that over 2500 cyclists travel this route every year. No surprise then that we have found the people of Missouri to be friendly, helpful, appreciative of cyclists and quite interested in our mission..

Our Adventure Cycling maps provide graphs of the elevation changes from town to town. Here is a picture of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri.


A picture is worth a thousand words. This picture is also worth several hundred thousand rotations of a bicycle wheel.


The consensus of the peloton is that Missouri has been tougher to ride over than the San Bernardino range we crossed to get out of the LA area. Tougher too than the mountains we had to cross to get through Arizona. Why? There are several reasons. In the west, roads were built later and the grades are rarely more than six or seven percent. Switchbacks are used to get over mountains. In Missouri, the roads tend to go straight over hills. Grades of fifteen percent or more are common. In Missouri, the towns tend to be along rivers, which run through deep gorges. So, the daily grind consists of laboring up one steep ascent, enjoying a brief plummet down to the next riverside town and then climbing out of the gorge and over the next set of hills. It is exhausting and endless.

Yet the state is pretty. Hillside farms, with freshly cut hayfields and healthy-looking corn dot the landscape. Forest glades shade the road from the summer sun. Curious beef cows with their calves look up with interest as we ride by. If we moo at them they flee in terror. Dogs protecting their turf chase us, but we have yet to run into one which actually means us harm. At the top of the hills we have vistas stretching to the horizon. One could live here. As long as one does not commute by bicycle.


We are spending the weekend in Farmington Missouri, about 1 ½ hours south of St. Louis. A trip to The American Girl Store in St. Louis is planned for the girls; Lily turns 10 next week and this is her birthday treat.

Our now thoroughly Americanized Aussie Paul Dudley has returned to the Land Down Under, where he intends to detox by consuming vast quantities of Vegemite. His place in the peloton has been taken by Dave Jones, who rode with us for the first weeks.


Tomorrow we leave the Ozarks and cross the mighty Mississippi into Illinois. Stay tuned!

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