Days 35, 36, & 37: So many different kinds of fun
I have usually been making blog posts every other day. The last three days have been so busy and so much fun, I just haven’t had time to write posts. Even this post was whipped off in the middle of the night in a fit of insomnia. I sometimes fall asleep very early, get up for a while and then try to get back to sleep. I am sending this off and trying to go back to sleep. No time for proofing. Apologies in advance for any errors.
Day 35 (I think it was a Friday), I decided to have fun by doing some crazy, long 118 mile ride. I was on the bike 12 hours and after eating a whole large pizza and drinking a couple of beers, I was out! Day 36 I rolled into the Rusty Gate Inn in Summersville shortly after Felix. I soon joined him, and his friend Jacqueline, and spent the late afternoon and evening chatting, shopping, and eating. More on them below. Finally, Day 37 was a bit of everything—steep climbs and descents, beautiful Ozark scenery, a thunderstorm, and aggressive drivers. After all that, I went out for a burger and a couple of beers and fell asleep early.
Fun comes in so many flavors—and most often when you don‘t plan for it. These last few days featured hard rides, hanging out with new friends, eating good food, and facing big challenges. The 118 mile ride was a late decision; when the weather looked favorable, I decided to follow the TransAm Trail and go straight to Marshfield (requiring a longer ride) as opposed to going off trail to a hotel in Springfield and breaking the day into two. You never know who you will meet at a hotel. And this little dive hotel in Summersville was the kind of place cyclists go to. I met Felix and Jacqueline and enjoyed time with them.
Day 37, the forecast called for rain the night before, but that changed the morning of the ride—so I did not expect rain. Then, a thunderstorm while I was on the road. I don’t mind rain, but lightning is not fun. Google Maps showed a campground about two miles away, so I rode to it. When I rode in, I found a semi-safe place and two young (~25?) cyclists—Bob (from Minnesota) and Ali or Ollie (from Philadephia). We commiserated for about 45 minutes while the rain went on. Fortunately, the thunder and lightning abated and we went on our separate ways—Bob and Ali heading west and me going east.
Day 35: 118 miles, 5610 elevation (4 whees)
The return of the whee (with fewer e’s on the end, because they were shorter but still fun and worth yelling “Whee!” on the descent. More eee’s mean longer descents.
This was a brutal day. When I saw only a modest headwind, I decided to give this connection a shot. If I stayed on the Trail, the next hotel was 118 miles away. The other option was going off the TransAm trail and into Springfield, Missouri but that would make for a longer ride. So I went for it. My “moving time” was almost 9 and a half hours and my total time from start to finish was just over 12 hours. And it was HOT. The last half of the ride was in the mid-90s.
I am glad I did it. Part of this trip is proving to myself what I can accomplish. And this was a pretty good accomplishment. Not that I want to do it again soon.
Day 36: 88 miles, 4459 elevation (4-6 wheees)
I am writing this two days after the ride and I don’t remember many details. It was just a good, hard ride. As you can see from the elevation gain, there was some climbing. Most of the climbs were shorter, but they were frequent. We call them rollers. They challenge (and help improve) your fitness. It was a hot day. I was ready to leave at 5:30, but decided to stay for the hotel breakfast. Just like the others, it wasn’t worth the wait. So I was on the road at 6:30 and that meant another hour later in the day when it was hot. Today was also really humid.
Day 37: 90 miles, 4003 elevation (6-8 wheeeeees, all early on)
Today’s ride was good, bad and ugly. I woke up early and as I was leaving, I saw Jacqueline and Felix eating breakfast at the little table out front. We chatted for a few minutes and then I was on the road. Today was going to be cooler and after the night before forecast some later mornint rain, the morning forecast made rain look unlikely. It was wrong! Here is the bad part. A storm rolled in. Thunder, lightning, not sounds you want to hear when you are on a bike and in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, Google Maps pointed out a nearby campground and I found some shelter. I still got soaked and so did all my stuff. I should have wrapped some of my gear in plastic bags. Duh!
From there the ride opened up. It was muggy but cooler, with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. So not too bad compared to previous days.
Then the ride got ugly. The last third of the ride was not fun as cars (many pulling trailers) got aggressive. With winding roads and rolling hills, you cannot see too far ahead on the road. So most drivers will wait behind the slow cyclist (there was no shoulder for me to ride in) until they are sure they can safely pass. Today, many more drivers just blew on by. I was honked at five times today (not the “I am behind you honk” it was the as a I pass you “Why are you riding a bike on this road? Honk). Twice cars on the other side of the road had to slow down and pull partway off the road because someone passing me was in their lane. I am on a designated Bicycle Route! And we cyclists have the right to use the road. It was really the first time on this ride that I felt drivers were acting too aggressively and I was worried for my safety. I hope it was just a Sunday afternoon coming home from the Ozarks thing (so I don’t see it again).
Stories and pictures
Here are some photos and stories of people I met over these last few days.
I have previously described meeting other TransAm Bike Race riders. On Day 35 I met Boris Pupic. I had read about Boris on the website and knew he was from Slovenia. I wanted to meet him because I have taught in Slovenia. Unfortunately, his English was not much better than my Slovenian and though we met twice (see photo below) our communication was limited. When I was riding out of Pittsburg, I came upon him at this location. I thought maybe he was a cyclist needing help. It turned out that he was just waking up and this is exactly where he slept the night before. These racers just ride, eat, and sleep. I saw him down the road at a gas station where we were both refueling.
Cooky’s Cafe got well-deserved good reviews for its breakfast. Their specialty is pie, but I don’t like to eat that much sweet stuff early in the morning.
Cooky’s lets you know its politics, too.
I met Michael and Gary taking a break on that long, hot ride. These two guys are from San Francisco and were on day 88 of their adventure. By bike, they have already gone from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They connected to the Route 66 trail, then cut up to the Grand Canyon and connected to the Western Express Trail in Utah. They are heading to Maine and then back to Chicago. I thought I was on an adventure.
Early on Day 35 I saw about 10 cyclists in groups of 2-4 who were carrying no gear. We waved but didn’t chat. Then Franz, the last of them, flagged me down. I learned that all of them are on the Bike the US for MS ride, which raises money and awareness for multiple sclerosis. Frank is from Germany and told me he is the only international participant, at least among his group. A very friendly man.
Rolling into my Summersville hotel, I was greeted by Felix. Felix is a former KLM pilot who has retired early. He loves to cycle. He is from Amsterdam. He came here to ride solo and met Jacqueline early in the ride (see her photo below). Jacqueline is also from Amsterdam and while they don’t usually ride together, they often stay at the same hotels and keep a similar schedule. We hung out for several hours, drinking a beer, eating dinner, going shopping. They are riding east-to-west, so they could tell me a lot about what I will see in the next few weeks of the ride. More on that later.
Jacqueline is quite the adventurer. She has ridden bikes in about a dozen Asian and African countries as well as many in Europe. This is her first time in the United States.