Day 31 – Farmington to Ellington MO

I had a nice night out with a young British couple (Richard and Tash) that I was sharing the hostel with. I have a feeling I might see them again because they’ll pass me while I rest in Bolivar. We went out for Mexican food and traded notes about how our tours were going. Their experience has been like mine – overall very positive with lots of “random acts of kindness” towards them along the way. Once they even had their lunch picked up by someone anonymously. That hadn’t even spoken with them directly but someone had overheard their conversation, picked up the bill, and left. Tales like this are common on the TransAm and it’s a humbling reminder to me to be more generous.

I was out the door pretty early, had an amazing breakfast and hit the road by 7:30. I hit the road very conscious of having kind of a crummy day yesterday and I spent some time working on that while I pedaled. Part of the trouble was I just tried to do too much but it was more than that. I was aware yesterday of rushing to get to Bolivar, breaking my early commitment that this ride is about the journey, not the destination (thanks for the reminder, Bill). So I skipped stopping to take time to take good photos (a solar farm in MO and I skipped it? What was I thinking?) and generally getting caught up in getting there instead of enjoying where I am. Mile 1, right? How quickly we forget.

It’s all yours Jonah for only $10,995.

The other part of it though is that I have very mixed thoughts about getting to Missouri. I love catching up with family, and I look forward to spending time with them, especially my Mom, who I don’t get to see very often. Also, Missouri is a beautiful state, especially the part I’m traveling through now. It has beautiful forests, rivers, caves, springs – its really a wealth of natural beauty. Can you hear the “but” coming? Here it is. But, coming back to Missouri, each time forces me to recapitulate leaving again. Each visit here puts me on edge because I know that I will leave again and its hard to escape my longstanding guilt about that. I can rationalize that of course, I have a family, a business, a home in California. But coming back to Mo is always this bittersweet mixture of joy and pain. And I’m pretty sure that’s at the core of what had me in a bind yesterday. That realization helped me center again.

I attempted a tortoise rescue this morning. Don’t know if it took though, he was pretty sure he wanted to cross the highway. Lately an absurd number of roadkill that I’ve seen are turtles and tortoises. Almost as many possums, then raccoons, two armadillo, and a fox.
This guy was just sunning on the road. I forgot how many snakes there are in Missouri. See, wildlife photography! I specialize in animals that don’t move.
Maters older brother, Tater.

With that in mind I renewed my vow to myself to slow down and enjoy the trip. I soon came across two of the TransAm race group. I’ve heard that the race was on- actually its already been won by a guy who went coast to coast, Oregon to Virginia in 17 days! So these two guys, Mike and ?, are doing about 120 miles a day which puts them middle or past the main pack. Their approach is all about getting finished and I wasn’t jealous. Well, maybe a little. They are pushing themselves in a way that is tempting (don’t worry Megan – not gonna happen) but talking to Mike he was pretty done with the idea and honestly I think it’s soured him on cycling all together. How unfortunate because those of us who are going slower mostly have a great time.

Mike from Las Vegas is racing coast to coast with about 130 other riders.Look at how little he’s carrying. Those bibs and jersey are probably his only set. He’s got a bivvy sack to sleep in, a horn and pepper spray for dogs, some food, water, maybe one set of clothes for off the bike when he’s washing his kit and that’s about it. He was wondering about the logic of the whole TransAm race since it rewards people who take ridiculous risks. The winner, he said, gets 1 or 2 hours of sleep per night. It’s just a sleep deprivation game and it’s only a matter of time until someone is killed doing it. He also described one rider who’s neck was so tired she duct taped a pringles can on her handlebars to keep her head up. Ridiculous.

By 11:30 I had reached Johnson Shut-ins, a local river spot that I remember visiting at least twice as a kid. I started to just look and take pictures and leave and then I remembered; “Hey slow down, enjoy the journey” So I fished my swimsuit out of my bags and headed for the river for a swim. It’s a pretty cool spot. A “shut-in” in this context is like a narrow spot in the river, a gorge, or something like that. Here it’s got these big rocks where the water flows between them and makes like a natural water slide. What a great way to beat the heat for awhile.

This part is the most fun for swimming. It’s better if there’s more flow in the spring.
The big pool at the end. Still very blue.
Pano of the whole river.

After the shut-ins I still had 30 miles or so to go which was just tough hot pedaling. I’m staying tonight in Ellington where they have a very bare-bones hostel but it’s kind of full so I’m porch camping again in the pavilion next door. Probably better really than a small room full of snoring cyclists. Not that I’ve had any trouble sleeping lately.

Had my 900th burger this trip in Centerville, home to this former beauty.
Important only in that this sign represents the decision to stay on the TransAm instead of detouring back to where I grew up in Rolla. But I was there a couple years ago for a reunion and it’s hard to bike to.
Still so many wildflowers…
These two crosses on the same hill + one more that the picture didn’t turn out. Must be something wrong with this road, this hill, or ?…

I met a strange guy this afternoon and biked along with him for awhile because we were headed the same direction. Most of the folks you see on these roads are on the TransAm and are pretty economical with what they bring along. But Will had this enormous chain holding a bat on his handlebars, a guitar on his back, panniers on the back with tools, and he was wearing long pants. I pulled along side him and he announced he was “living free” which is an interesting way to introduce yourself. I think I asked him if we was from around here and he kind of launched into a diatribe on life, ethics, capitalism, god, success, etc. “I’ve got ideas in my head that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars” – always a warning sign. He was kind of interesting to listen to though because some of what he said has validity. For instance he believes that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make a positive contribution with their life. But there was a familiar adolescence to his approach, sort of “I’m the greatest altruist of all time” tone to it, mixed with a grab bag of theology that reminded me of friends who lost their way. So I grew weary of his rant but it got me thinking for awhile. Partly it reminded me that I must have been an insufferable 20 year old. Secondly, it was a good reminder that it’s not enough to just complain about how things are and withdraw from society. If you really care you need to get engaged and rally others to make an impact.

 

5 thoughts on “Day 31 – Farmington to Ellington MO”

  1. Catching up from yesterday, sure glad you’re past the coal trucks! Lots of new discoveries, love Jonah’s car. A bit envious re. the Tesla. Great you’ve found some nice hostels, & enjoying your home state. Biking cross country in 17 days sounds like madness. Have a good time with your Mom, I know she’ll love seeing you & vice/versa. Enjoy your visit, no doubt she’ll try to fatten you up!

  2. …..and I too am catching up from yesterday. Your comment about the mass of closed factories and towns, and your renewed empathy for them definitely touched a nerve. I believe this is the primary reason that Trump won. He talked about these realities in a very direct way, when all the other candidates only glancingly touched upon this reality of our country. Too bad that his rhetorical concern for these parts of the country….and these people….is not coupled with viable ideas or actual policy to help them. It was obvious to many that Trump was a con man during the campaign……I expect that many in this part of our nation will figure this out in time…..to their detriment. All of that said, I do hope somebody in national government will recognize and DEAL with the reality of what’s happening out there, because they are our fellow Americans, and worthy of our concern. OK, rant over. Hope you’re having a great ride today.

  3. Beautiful photos Jim. I’m really enjoying your blog. I can hear your voice as I read!

  4. Visiting home and coming back never been easy for me. I think you touched the nerve with Will. Your impacting now with your ride and you will continue the impact when you are back in CA with your family and your work. When I feel I will impact better back where I came from and kids are off to college I might look into becoming high school teacher in my home town and mentoring their robotics team.

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