“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”
A few of the eastbound riders that I had met earlier in the trip told me that the Ozarks were the toughest section of the Trans Am. I didn’t really get it. Nothing could be steeper and more torturous than the climbs of the Appalachians. Worse than Hyatt’s Gap? Rockfish Gap? I don’t think so. Well I was wrong and they were right. What the Ozarks lack in elevation, they make up for in viciousness. In the Appalachians, you cruise through a flat approach, pedal up a steep incline for an hour or two and then enjoy a fast descent down to another flat cruiser. In the Ozarks, you go up a steep ascent onto a “plateau” and then get the crap kicked out of you by steep, seemingly never-ending hills for days. My descents have been spent trying to build up enough speed to take a chunk out of the next hill.
Hills aside, the Ozarks are a pretty special place. They are home to thick forests of White Oak, Black Walnut and Hickory among others. The waterways are incredible. The scenic streams and rivers that slice through these forests are a sight to be seen. Now that summer is over, I have spent much of my time over the past couple of days in complete solitude. Riding past grass driveways with discreet tire tracks winding up to mountainside cabins.
I am sad to report that, besides the entire town of Farmington and a nice shop owner in Bendavis , the kindness that I have found elsewhere in America has escaped me in Missouri. The drivers are lethal and most people in the towns won’t even look at me (what’s wrong with a grown man walking around in spandex?). Today I rode in the rain all day, headed to Marshfield for the night. I had 10 miles to go when a man in a pickup truck rode by within inches of me. He threw a cup filled with his tobacco spit out the window, just missing me, and then threw his middle finger up in the air. I took a mental picture of his plates and the antler stickers on his rear windshield. I had enough. I was pissed. I was a couple of miles from town when I saw the pickup in a driveway to my right. I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. A middle-aged guy with a Bud Diesel in his right hand opened the door, a concerned wife peeking over his shoulder.
“Are you the guy who threw his spittle out the window and flicked me off back there?”
“Hell yes I am, you were hogging the road!”
“Sir, I’m sorry for taking up the road, but there wasn’t much of a shoulder back there. I have ridden that bike nearly 1,800 miles to raise money for MS. Also, there is a bike trail that runs straight through your town and I know for a fact that bike tourism brings tens of thousands of dollars to your local economy yearly. You should think before pulling a jackass move like that next time.”
“Just use your head next time sir. Have a good night mam.”
His wife looked mortified. I left to the sound of her using some pretty choice words in his direction.