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!

Scottys Ride: Kansas and MissouriSub-Title: How to Americanize a dinky-di Aussie in one week

BLOG BY: PETER CONWAY


Well! We have ridden 2,011 miles. Nearly 2/3 of our 3,300-mile total. All that with probably less than 10 extra miles due to wrong turns. Having GPS on our bikes makes it easier to stay on course, but we still pull out the old-fashioned paper maps at regular intervals to get a bigger picture than a 4-inch screen provides.

This week has contained a sliver of Kansas and a belly full of Missouri. For reasons I am sure made political sense in 1926, Kansas has a mere 12 miles of Route 66. But those 12 miles are so packed with Route 66 signs, museums, monuments and National Register buildings you begin to believe that you are on some sort of yellow brick road. You imagine that in 12 miles you’ll reach the Emerald City rather than Joplin Missouri. Of course, as soon as I crossed the state line from Kansas to Missouri I stopped, looked around in wonder and said; “Scotty, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

 

A real treat this week arrived in the form of an Australian guest rider – Paul Dudley. Paul is a good mate who is the School Chaplain at Shore, my beloved High School in Sydney. In addition to his priestly calling, Paul is an avid cyclist, an Iron Man competitor and as fair dinkum an example of Aussie manhood as you’d ever hope to meet. For that reason, we have made it our goal this week to Americanize him. He has put up a good fight, but our peloton has him outnumbered nine to one.

Our first task was to indoctrinate Paul into the cult of Route 66. He admitted that Australia has no road which even comes close to embodying the spirit of Australia in the same way Route 66 embodies America’s love affair with the car, neon, diners, kitschy filling stations and the joy of the open road. It only took a couple of days before he admitted that he too was “getting his kicks on Route 66.”


We took him to the filling station where the actual Tow Truck which was the inspiration for “Tow Mater” in the movie CARS was parked. We took him to a section of Route 66 roadbed which is one of the few remaining sections of the concrete that was poured by hand in 1926. That concrete once covered the entirety of the route. We rode him over abandoned bridges that once were on the route. We awarded him Route 66 socks and a jersey.

Next came the Fourth of July. We bicycled 76 miles that day (note the number), so we did not have a lot of energy for festivities. Nonetheless, we dragged Paul out in the rain to a fireworks show in Springfield Missouri. As we drove, we reminded him that Australia became necessary to the British solely because when they lost their American Colonies, they needed somewhere else to transport their undesirables. In America, they had used Georgia for that purpose. Which explains a lot about Georgians.

As has often been the case, the local police were on the lookout for us riding through their towns. Unfortunately, Paul, unaccustomed to riding on the right (i.e. correct) side of the road, ran a stop sign and met the local Sherriff up close and personal.

He received a citation and a suspended sentence. However, once the Sherriff found out Paul was an Aussie, he became very concerned for his safety. He loaned Paul some “safety gear” to use until he was well out of the rough part of town and in the clear.

 

As you can see from the pic, Paul is all about second amendment rights.

Paul’s food indoctrination has included St. Louis Ribs, pulled pork, smoked brisket, Tex/Mex Fajitas and fried Walleye. We tried to get him to smear peanut butter on everything at lunch time, as we do, but he refused. He swears allegiance to Vegemite. If only we had more than a week…

Today we surrounded Paul with American flags in a memorial park to fallen veterans. An attempt to get him to sing the Star Spangled Banner was rebuffed. But he admits he has begun to forget the tune to Advance Australia Fair…..

For his part, Paul has tried to indoctrinate us into the cult of Frank Green reusable coffee cups. He is on a campaign to use his cup for everything and save landfill saturation with disposable coffee cups. A noble cause, but to do the job properly he needs an AMERICAN made cup. So, I introduced him to YETI cups. 

Now THERE’S a cup, mate!


 

 

 

 

Oklahoma, Kansas and into Missouri

BLOG BY: Pam Parker


Wow!! This last week has flown by. The days are getting longer but everyone is staying strong and holding tight to their resolve to pedal hard for Clean Water and Hope. The whole team is so inspiring; each in their own way. Last Saturday when we pulled into Miami, Oklahoma we were officially half way home. Unbelievable!!! I knew we would all be excited but I wasn’t prepared for Scotty’s emotion. He pulled into the hotel with tears in his eyes as a few rolled down his face he said “I can’t believe it. We are half way done.” “I sure miss home.” He was full of hugs and fist bumps and just got a little quiet as he processed the last 4 weeks.

It was an awesome week. Wednesday they had 3 guest riders from the cycling team Staplegun. As they finished their day they were greeted by a police and fire escort at a beautiful old scenic bridge. Scotty was so excited to get to share with 4 news stations that day, a radio station and appeared on Living Oklahoma the next day. What an amazing opportunity to get to share the why behind the ride…every 21 seconds a child dies from water related disease and that has to stop as Scotty says.

To add a little excitement to the week Emmylou ended up with a virus. A little challenging with a 5 year old not feeling well in the car but she would get sick and rally staying right in the middle of all the excitement and sites this 8 week trip has to offer. Lily has been a trooper helping her sister when needed. She has a weak stomach so we were worried in one of Emmylou’s sick moments Lily was about to bail out the back window of the car:) Since Lily has been here we have all been well fed. She gets everyone’s sandwich orders, and fixes lunch everyday!!

Sunday we visited a church in Miami, Oklahoma – Grace Church. It was an awesome sermon about the greatest commandment – to love God.  He shared to love God results in loving others well! Psalm 71:14 – Love God with your whole heart. This church has had a hard couple of years. After a big storm they had a leak in the church and it didn’t get repaired fully. Now they have a black mold issue. With all that they have going on and the needs of the church it was so moving to see the joy, excitement and love that filled their hearts. Their Pastor Phil called Scotty up and let him share about the ride and not knowing Scotty’s favorite verse is Philippians 4:13 he quoted that scripture in reference to the ride and they gave a $500 donation to help get people clean and living water!! INCREDIBLE!!

We continue to be blown away by the people that cross our paths everyday. As we were pulling into Tulsa a lady on a motorcycle saw the trailer and stopped. She wanted to meet the riders so came back by and gave Scotty a donation. As she was pulling off another lady pulled up and said awesome cause and donated too. The generosity of others has been mind blowing! So thankful!

Sunday afternoon we drove into Joplin, Missouri for a surprise Peter and Kyle had put together.  It was to see John Crist!!! We were all so excited!!! What a blast was had by all.  We all laughed so hard. Then after the show we were able to meet him in person and he did a video with Scotty about the ride and posed for pictures with all. AWESOME SURPRISE!

Peter’s friend Paul from Australia has been here this week and added a ton of fun to the week. He brought along his own cup to conserve waste and has provided much entertainment getting pictures with everything and his Frank Greene cup:) We rode into Kansas on Monday. We were only in Kansas for 12 miles, but we passed through a beautiful small town, Galena. The original truck that inspired Tow Mater for Disney when they came through Route 66 is there.  Very neat and scenic little town.  We met a very sweet lady who came to welcome us and write a piece for their local paper about the ride.  

Later that same day we rode into Missouri.  We all commented on how beautiful and lush it is.  Gorgeous farms, corn fields and beautiful rolling hills. Jess and Scotty sprint up all the hills.  We quickly realized why it is so lush.  After riding through such dry states we can definitely see Missouri gets plenty of rain.  We have dodged big storms but have definitely gotten wet.  When riding into Springfield in the rain Steve’s whole derailer fell off and then towards the end of the day Scotty’s brake quit working and his gear shifter stop shifting. He jumped on his spare bike and Steve and I rode into town.  Thankfully  there was a bike shop open the 4th of July and they were able to get both bikes up and running by the end of the day.  What a blessing!! While we were finishing up at the bike shop the other riders finished the ride and Scotty was able to do a quick news interview. That evening we drove to the local fair grounds and parked and watched their firework show! 

Awesome week serving an awesome God for an awesome cause…Clean Water and Hope!

Scotty’s Ride: OKLAHOMA

BY: PETER CONWAY


 

“OOOOklahoma, where the WIND comes sweepin down the plain, And the wavin wheat can sure smell sweet, When the WIND comes right behind the RAIN…..” 

Oscar Hammerstein must have visited Oklahoma to distill into a couple of phrases what OK is all about. After the desert climates of the Mojave, Arizona and New Mexico, it is wonderful to be back in the land of trees, waving grasses and greenery. Yet we know we are also traversing a landscape of wide open plains where indeed the wind has the chance to gather speed.

According to local cyclists who rode with us into Oklahoma City, the prevailing winds in Oklahoma are from the south. Why? “Because Texas is full of hot air.” I bow to local knowledge. We are traveling west, so these southerlies are not friendly. Nor are these breezes mere zephyrs. They are the kind which knock you sideways, beat you about the head for good measure, and regroup for a fresh onslaught.

We have been blessed to have no rain to speak of for almost a month. Forget the farmers and ranchers who desperately need some moisture, this ride is all about US keeping dry. (Just kidding). Well Oklahoma is going to make up for the deficit in a few intense hours. As I write, we are hunkered down in Bristow, Oklahoma in the midst of strong thunderstorms. We are hoping for a window of opportunity late morning to get in our shortish 52-mile ride in to Tulsa. If we must, we will shuttle. Not worth it to ride in lightning.

Did I mention that Oklahoma is flat? No? Well that is because it is hilly. Picture rolling hills stretched out as far as the eye can see. Yesterday, which was billed as flat, contained over 3000’ of climbing. We are unimpressed that flat is defined as a small difference between total ascent and descent. We may have descended 3000’ as well, but Ii you have ever ridden a bike, you will know that climbing is climbing. Climbing is not a net sum game.

The citizens of Oklahoma are the best. We have been approached by interested folks everywhere we stop. The Scotty Tracker on the website has generated a lot of followers. Apparently, it has been advertised by local cycle clubs. That is how we were accompanied into Oklahoma City by three members of a local club called Staplegun.

Another follower of the Scotty Tracker showed up at our hotel with bananas and water for the group. In Elk City, OK the local volunteer firefighters and the police tracked us down at our rest stop. The police then escorted us out of town.

In Oklahoma City itself, the reception was overwhelming., Four news crews were waiting as we rode across a famous Route 66 bridge to a riverside park. Police and fire escort were also on hand. After giving four interviews and posing for pictures with police and fire, we received a motorcycle escort from the park to our hotel.

I am now a bemused believer in the Scotty Tracker. Yesterday, navigating through Oklahoma City (Pop. 3 million) at rush hour, we came to a bridge that was no longer there. It was being rebuilt. While pondering our next move, Bob, one of the Staplegun riders, noticed on the Scotty Tracker that we were stopped and figured out why. He hopped in his car, drove to meet us, and shepherded us out of town. Ah, the modern world we live in! 

In closing, we have been reading historical markers which dot Route 66 in Oklahoma. One of them explained the nickname “Sooners”. In April 1889, much of the Oklahoma Territory – supposedly a land reserved for Indian Tribes- was opened to settlers who rushed across a boundary line to stake claim to their 160 acres. Those who snuck over the line prematurely were called Sooners. Not sure why that derogatory term has been adopted as the state nickname, but there it is.

Success is rarely Final, Failure is rarely fatal

BLOG BY:  PETER CONWAY
When I first rode across the USA in 2010 we ran into another group of TRANSAM cyclists. Five of them, supported by a beat-up Subaru. They had an interesting plan. Every fifth day was your turn to drive. Each night all five of them shared one hotel room. All were grizzled veterans of long distance cycling.

We rode with them for about four days, staying in the same motels. Three rooms for the six of us, one room for the “Five Guys” as we called them. While riding with one of the guys, he suddenly turned to me and said, “You’re not one of those EFI types, are you?”

“What’s EFI?”

“Every frickin inch, guys who must ride every frikin inch.”

He eyed me warily, to gauge if I was one of them.

“Of course not!”, I scoffed. “Why, I even had to ride in the van 12 miles DOWNHILL because the wind was threatening to blow me off a mountain.”

He appeared satisfied, but I had lied. It had just about killed me to climb into the van, howling whirlwind or not. Seven years later, I still second guess the decision which might have saved my life but which ended my EFI dream.

I had shared this story with our current group of cyclists, and we had all laughed. But believe me, we are all secretly EFI. We have had several opportunities as a group to cut out some miles due to time constraints. In each case, nobody has been willing to consider it.

That is why last week hurt me so badly. It was the third brutal week of what has been well, a brutal schedule. Keeping a seventy-five mile daily pace is by no means extreme in the world of long distance cycling, but it is no romp in the park either. Temps, however, have been extreme. Scotty was interviewed on the Weather Channel when we were crossing the Mojave Desert, and every question was how we were managing in these extreme conditions, even for the desert.

On Wednesday, we had to ride 72 miles of Interstate 40 to finish our trek from Albuquerque to Santa Rosa, NM. Mid-morning, I began to feel sick to my stomach. I completed the ride, but could not face lunch and eventually threw up everything I had ingested that day in four easy sessions. We then went swimming at the famous Blue Hole. When the going gets tough….

The next day I awoke with a sore stomach, nausea, and the runs. But I toughed out a gritty 62 miles and then went straight to bed. I skipped dinner that night, afraid it would revisit me at one end or another. But was I going to take a day off? No frikin way. EFI, baby!

My Waterloo came on Friday, a 78-mile ride into fierce headwinds. In fact, after being devoured for 22 miles by the gale, our peloton decided to take advantage of our support vehicles. We shuttled to the END of our ride and rode the route in reverse, with a tailwind. Cheating, you say? Heck no, after all we rode EFI, baby!

Except I did not. At mile 41 we had a rest stop, fueling up for a 22 mile stretch on I-40. I couldn’t go on. I had been on the pot every stop, and sometimes en route. (I will spare you further details.) I was deathly afraid that I would have some incident on the Interstate, in full view of every traveler in both directions. Or, I would collapse, putting myself and my comrades in danger. I loaded my bike into the van, collapsed onto Vanna’s bed, and lay there in defeat and misery. The riders took off, I was no longer with them.

I know what you’re thinking: “Good decision. What took you so long?” It was a good decision, and it took me too long to make it. But if you have ever had a dream die, it is the heartbreak, not the logic which overwhelms you. As I writhed on the bed, I was as low as low. “I didn’t train for two years to ride in the van…. THE REST can do it, but I can’t. I couldn’t do it last time, now I have failed again.” I shed tears.

The next day, still as sick as a dog, I gutted out 81 miles into crosswinds and made it. Why? Because I had to try. You should get back on the horse which threw you yesterday.

If there is a lesson for me in this, it is the subtitle above. I failed in one of my goals for this trip. I will not ride EFI. But that does not make the journey a failure; in fact, it can still be an unqualified success. To try and fail is better than to have never tried at all.

 

Texas – Getting Blown Away in More Ways than One ❤️

Blog by: Pam Parker


We were all looking forward to making it into Texas. One state closer to home and most of us had never been to Texas and were excited to see all the sites.  Little did we know Texas is beautiful but very windy.  Scotty absolutely loved all the cows and taking in all the sights. He also loved the steak at The Big Texan:)

Saturday we had an 84 mile ride from Vega, TX to Groom, TX. We rode through Amarillo and shuttled back at the end of the day to stay in Amarillo for two nights.  It was an exciting day for Scotty because a 16 year old from a local cycling team named Ayden joined us for the first part of the day. Scotty loved talking to him and learning some tricks  from him.  He was such a kind hearted boy who loved cycling.  We stopped at Cadillac Ranch and joined in on the spray painting fun…Kyle was our awesome artist and nailed the Scotty’s Ride logo.

Side note about what a blessing Ayden and his family were. After riding with him Saturday morning we asked his Dad Colin a good church to go to the next day.  They invited us to their church.  The sermon ending up being about spreading love, as they were showing pictures of kids and families in need of clean water and food.   It was so timely and a beautiful reminder that tugged at our hearts on the why, the need, the love this ride is about.  They were raising money for another organization but the pastor gave Scottys Ride a shout out as an example of God using him to make a difference. Our plan after church was after Scotty finished two interviews, he had with local news stations, we were going to find a place to get our hair cut.  No kidding as we were standing  outside the church Aydens Mom, Teresa says does anyone need a haircut? We all laughed and said serious? She met us that afternoon and cut 7 of our team member’s hair…the girls included. She shared with us how her family was seeking opportunities to serve this summer and help people with the talents they had been given. What a huge blessing they were to all of us!!

After the Cadillac Ranch we hit some pretty good head winds.  The roads were long.  We had 84 miles to do. It was my worst day physically on the bike.  I had never ridden more than 70 miles and by mile 68 I was toast.  My head was down and I was trying to just pedal it out.  We were ending the day at a huge cross in Groom. Steve and the girls drove up beside me and started playing music and encouraging me not to quit.  The tears were flowing by this point.  I never asked to get in the car but Steve knew that is all I could think about. I couldn’t let my girls see me quit. There was one last turn in the road before you head in the direction of the cross and the sign pointed to the right and said cemetery and to the left and said cross. Steve jokingly said your choice –  cemetery or cross:) As I turned for the last 2 miles it was all uphill, of course. I had nothing left. I started to grumble and Steve said “Pam imagine what Jesus felt caring the cross for you and your sins.”  Well if you put it that way. So true, life isn’t always about the easy road. Let all that we do be done in Love is all I could think….that included pedaling.  How could I complain about a ride to a beautiful cross symbolizing grace, love and forgiveness.  I could hear Scotty in my head reminding me to also think about those Mommas carrying water back to their families in the heat often through unsafe conditions.    It was sweet victory to finish and hear Scotty yelling.  Around the cross they had all these beautiful statues.  Emmylou was in awe of them and bent down and put her arm around the one of Jesus lying on the ground where he had fallen carrying his cross.  She asked why he was on the ground. I told her he was carrying his cross up the hill where he would die for all of our sins and had fallen and I bet he was sad.  She bent down and looked real close at Him and said proudly “I don’t thinks so Momma he was singing then.”


Maybe he was I said.  Still emotional from pure exhaustion I had a tear roll down my face as I thought, some days of this ride are hard but there should always be a song in our heart for all that He has done and continues to do.  There have been so many precious moments of strength and grace and opportunities to share the love of why we are here doing this ride.  A boys sincere love and desire to allow God to use Him to get people clean water and Hope.  A team of incredible people  sacrificing their time and determined to make a difference in the lives of others. We may have only been crossing the top chimney of Texas for 3 days but that HUGE state made a HUGE impact on us. 

 

SCOTTYS RIDE: NEW MEXICO.SUB TITLE: FLATS, FAHRENHEIT, AND FOLKS

Blog by: Peter Conway
 


New Mexico has been a beast. The Interstate 40 designers apparently liked the Route 66 roadway, so they plowed it under, leaving only remnants of it as service roads and strips around forgotten towns. As a result, our “Route 66” tour this week will have contained about 200 miles of Interstate riding.

Riding interstate is not all bad; the shoulder is usually wide and in good condition, while the maximum uphill grade is about 5%. Back country roads are much steeper in grade and much rougher in texture. HOWEVER, any good is wiped out by steel belted radials. To be precise: the shards thereof, which disintegrate into fine bits of steel wire which work their way into even the toughest bicycle tires. The resulting plethora of flats has made our interstate riding tortuous.

When one gets a flat on the interstate, it is not uncommon to find three or more pieces of steel wire intruding through the outer tire. These must be removed with tweezers, needle nosed pliers or even our teeth. All the while braving the wind blasts of semi-trailers going by at the legal speed limit of 75 mph.

Here is the Flat Count:

Kyle:12​ Jess: 6​ Steve: 4​ Pam: 4​ Scotty: 3​Peter:3

Conservatively speaking, repairing flats has added at least an hour to our daily time on the road. This morning, before we even left Santa Rosa, NM we repaired three slow leaks that had manifested overnight.

The heat wave has also burdened our weary legs. All week, afternoon temperatures have been well over 100 degrees. Our bike computers have temperature gauges. When the heat reflects off the asphalt, it gets as hot as 116 in the saddle. We have responded to this by shortening our distance between stops from 15 miles to 10 miles once the day heats up. This too adds to time on the road.

Lest this litany of hardship implies that we are hot and miserable all the time, rest assured. We have been blessed with strong tailwinds for most of this week, enabling us for several stretches to average over 20 mph. We have also had several nice places to visit: The Hyatt Regency Pool in Albuquerque (more on that in a moment), and a Natural Aquifer bubbling out of the ground in Santa Rosa NM named the Blue Hole.

We also had time in Albuquerque to ride our bikes take a cable car to the top of Sandia Peak, over 10,000 feet. The city at night was breathtaking. So was being at 10,000 feet. 

Lifting our spirits all week long have been the Folks along the way who have turned out to greet Scotty and his entourage. In Albuquerque, the fire department led us through town – and there are 1 million people in ABQ! Lights and sirens blaring, they led us to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, by far the nicest spot we have stayed. We then found out that the Fire Department had comped us our rooms from a fund for citizens who do extraordinary things. In tiny Ticumcari NM, Brandon, the local bike shop owner, arranged for a police escort to our lodging, the iconic Blue Swallow Motor Inn. Everywhere we go, folks ask what we are doing and often reach in their wallets to donate.