Day 53 to 65 of Mitch's Trans America
Ash Grove, MO
Day 57 off
Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Rough River Dam State Resort Park, KY
Day 53: Today was a big 70 mile day crossing into Missouri.
It's the first time last night I could sleep with my tent rain flap open in 53 days. Rather than always freezing, I was actually sweating in my tent first time last night! Temp is finally going up! Finally I can go barefoot at campsite in grass starting three days ago. This is significant for me after 51 days of temps "not" like this.
Rolling hills just like reported. Lots of shifting thru every gear - high to low, low to high. Hot. Feels like Philippines here. Emptied all my bottles plus many cans and bottles of other stuff. I met black guy at my breakfast gas station. He majors in nutrician. He was impressed with my ride. I passed 25 other bikers today (on opposite side), and met five more biker girls at Cafe. They all going to Oregon, opposite way as me. They have driver and truck to carry everything. It was nice to "chat" with group of "girls" finally, and not always male bikers! Haha
I got a haircut today for $10. 82 yr old barber. He cut it too short. Not so even also. He needs to retire. I met guy named Shaun biking opposite also. He said it nearly rained everyday on him from Virginia. He built his entire bike himself.
I had three drink refills at lunch. At dinner three drink refills also. I won't tell you what I drank but a sports coach would not like what I eat or drink sometimes and still out perform the above average. ?? Haha!
I saw many dead armadillos, skunks, raccoons, and tortoises. I never see any live ones except tortoises.
Missouri has official U.S. Bike "Hwy 76" signs all the way so far. Other States have not approved or joined yet. The Trans Am is trying to advocate for "Hwy 76" signs all across the 10 State trail. The Trans Am was first started in 1976. That's why.
Great drivers in Missouri so far and I'm giving Missouri the 1st Place Award for nicest yards, front lawn grasses over the other States I've passed: OR, ID, MT, WY, CO, KS. I'm also giving them award for most "round hay bails" in the fields! More than Montana and Kansas!
At the end of day the waitress knew that I was going to be put where all the others bikers go: a special house at the city park just for overnight bikers! I went to police station and Officer Noah gave me a personal tour of the "biker house." Amazing! He gave me key, showed me garage for bikes, shower, bath, kitchen, rooms. I am only resident tonight. Donation only. When I leave, I return the key to drop box at City Hall! Talk about biker friendly city!! Ash Grove, Missouri.
Also surprise: someone sent me $71 towards my next day off motel! I will save it for soon. I'm thinking about all those bikers going opposite direction as me. They have SO MUCH ahead of them still. I finished A LOT already. I still have Ozark and Appalachian mountains ahead if me too!
Day 54 was the hottest day of my journey in 54 days. 97F feels like 105. Massive fluids, stopped at every town for air conditioner break. Took two naps on side of highway. Almost 50 miles. Listened to Rush Limbaugh for three hours. Put bible in library lending box at store. Unrelenting rolling hills.
Shifting gears all day, up and down the cassette. Very hard on drive system today. Aerobic day. Should of counted the hills. Maybe 20 plus. No shoulder. Narrow space but cars seem to be very used to bikes on this route. They slow and pass properly. No problem. More humid than Philippines. Great front lawns and yards. Many people out cutting grass with riding mowers. Many have massive lawns. Big job to cut every week. Many dead road kill animals: armadillos, possums, raccoons, tortoises. Couple live tortoises. Stopped early today in Marshfield, MO. Got tired from heat increase. Looking for housing option after this. My cool, and cold days might be over. Maybe I will consider shipping box of cold weather gear ahead to Virginia...? We'll see.
On Day 55, I still felt the effects from yesterday's boiling ride. Again, the rolling hills continued into today. This is the beginning of Ozark mountains but it's more like "hills" to me.
I met older couple from the Netherlands going opposite direction. They said they had rain rain rain since Virginia but no more.
I took a 10 min nap by a river today.
I counted so many road kill today, maybe record for raccoons, possums, armadillos, and domestic cats - maybe 6-9 each except cats. They come out at night and get hit by cars.
I stopped in Bendavis, MO, population: 5. One store had everything: hardware, gas, snacks, drinks. No bathroom, and no shower but bikers can sign their guestbook and camp in the back. They had outlets for charging. I stayed here and showered with their hose. The water had massive iron in it. High sulfur smell but I survived...
I left early to pass through Fairview, MO. I heard there is a Pentecostal church there but I got there too early I decided to continue on. I had a care package waiting for me in Bucyrus, MO post office but I was too early so I left a note for the post master to send it ahead to Virginia.
On Day 56, I decided not mock the Ozark Mountains anymore. Ha Ha They look like hills, yes, their elevation is not high, but they have a shorter, steeper incline over and over again. The mountains of the West are long, steady, sometimes hours going up and up to thousands of feet but here, you go down fast and directly up again! No switchbacks. Just straight up for 10 hard, intense, slow, minutes. Highly aerobic. Can the heart explode??? Whew!
Saw so many dead road kill like yesterday - armadillos, raccoons, skunk, few rabbits. Also, I found a vulture freshly hit by car still barely alive. Him, and his buddies, were tearing apart a dead armadillo when a speeding car scattered them - all except one of them.
Nearly no shoulder to ride on but cars are fairly patient and polite. I met a Trans-Am racer named Adam, 21 yr old, from Philly. He is 2nd to last place of 70 racers. He is on his 29th day. I think I know why he is so far behind but I won't mention it here.
I met two bikers going opposite direction. They were both mute. That's a challenge They can not hear or talk traveling the whole country.
I had a big 68 mile day despite 90F+ heat. A farm lady gave me cold bottle of water today. I got some good video today also. I met 69 yr old man at gas station. He was so curious. He wanted to show me on the map all the nice places to see but...off course for me, I can't do it. I gave him my card. He was simple, nice, interested, old, angel-like personality. Very interesting.
Soon, I think I will mail a box of "extra items" to Virginia to lighten my load ie. winter clothes, gloves, etc. I think it might be sad/happy/mixed at finish line in 25-30 days. It's been awesome experience. 1/2 of you does not want to end.
I found an ice cream place in Eminence, MO. I had super large peanut butter malt/shake. Awesome! No flat tires still, but my rear tire is getting bald like back in Missoula. My front is still okay after 4,000 miles. 1,000 of that is from Philippines still. My bike has nearly 5,000 miles on it already since December (6 months)!
I saw one, shiny coated, deer today, many churches also. Missouri gets award for most churches, so far, in six states. Also, many hay bails, and nice lawns/yards.
Oh, the chasing dogs is starting now. I had three today but they were half hearted. I had three yesterday but they quit early too. I still have my bear spray for the dogs but I don't know if I can "draw and spray" fast enough and focus on road at same time. It's very tricky, to balance, steer, focus, defend, in same motion. If the dogs rush on an uphill, it's nearly impossible. We'll watch and wait...
I slept last night in nearly 1/2 tent mosquito net only. Nearly under the stars. Tonight, the temp on the bank's sign says 93F at 6:15pm. Is that possible? That hot, that late? Might take tomorrow off. I need to do some "math" first concerning distance remaining and days. I believe I have lots of "credit miles" by now. Amen!
I took Day 57 off in Eminence, MO. One of the activities on my day off was to fix my broken spoke. It is the second time I broke a spoke on this trip.
On Day 58, departing Eminence, the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountain range are unrelenting and never ending. I am officially making "this Missouri section" harder than Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Colorado Rockies, in it's own special way.
The elevation is never above 1,500 feet but it goes up and down dropping and climbing over and over again. They are "short climbs" but intense and steep. I have not walked bike yet but I have taken many breaks to recover breathing and heart rate. It's highly aerobic.
I ran into Will, the Fireman, again today, and two other bikers going opposite direction. A store owner wanted to interview me for her facebook page.
At one point, I stopped at camper sales business to fill my bottles. I drank "umteen" liters today. The body is amazing when hydrated and cool. It's really hot and humid here. Just a little worse (higher) than Philippines. I started at 0430 and quit at noon today because of the heat.
Normally, I start around 0830 and bike till 1800. I don't stop in the heat of day. After 1500, the heat gets better, more tolerable.
I am in State campsite tonight for $13.
Just finished talking to other camper families. They are amazed at my trip. There is terrible phone signal here with no internet for few days. We are in "no signal Ozark territory." I am typing from camp main house cause my "campsite" has no more wifi for sure. I think I will reach the Mississippi River in few days and cross over to Illinois. Wait for that update.
Day 59: today was a short day of under 40 miles to get to Farmington, MO. I wanted to go to a bike shop but it is closed today and tomorrow. I want to change my rear tire, and "true" my rear wheel. I decided to stay at very cool Bikers Hostel above the old County prison. It's a historical landmark. Showers, laundry, kitchen, computer.
Will, the fireman, is here too, again. We always have nearly the same pace/stopping points. I will push on tomorrow to Mississippi River and cross over to State of Illinois.
The hills were not so bad today but still high temperatures. I enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh on radio. The drivers in this area seem to be a "little bit" more wild. It's a big "Trump" part of the country. Lots of patriotism around here and love for military, veterans, etc.
I talked to a guy this morning at campsite. He worked in bike shop before. It night was perfectly quiet at campsite at 0130. You could not hear anything. It was so quiet, you could hear "anything" that "might" make a noise - like an ant walking by!
Met a guy at gas station offering his grass space for biker tents at $10 per night. Excited to cross to Illinois tomorrow. States completed soon: OR, ID, MT, WY, CO, KS, MO. Three more to go: Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia.
Day 60 was not so hard in distance but the heat had me stopping and looking for shade on three occasions. The last four miles were finally flat as I approached the famous Mississippi River. Over 30 States have rivers that lead to the Mississippi. The most narrow point of the river is here in Chester, Illinois. The river travels 900 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans.
The author of cartoon Popeye is from here: Chester, IL
I'm staying in Chester, IL tonight after just 49 miles. There is free building for bikers called Shady Inn at the parking lot of Eagles Lodge. Showers and bathrooms are on other side of parking lot.
I had long talk with owner of gas station back in St Mary, MO. So many hundreds of bikers come through his stop and takes breaks, and sign his guest book.
My next city, tomorrow, will be more promising for bike shop to replace my rear tire and "true" my wheel better. I am staying here in Shady Inn, in Chester, IL, with two other bikers going from Wash DC to San Francisco, CA - opposite way of me. Free hotdogs are served in the Lodge tonight. No kitchen open cause of July 4th holiday. I plan to watch Trump's Wash DC celebration on my phone/internet later. America is a great country. Amazing! It's amazing how there is so much "trust" in the way people do business here. "Here's the key, help yourself. Return key when you are done." etc etc.
On Day 61, I woke earlier than normal at 0400, the same as the other two bikers, and got an early start. I had 30 miles in by 10:00 AM. Met a guy from England going opposite way. He had dog bite from Illinois so was doing shorter days from sore calf.
I had good day. Long 70 mile day to Goreville, IL. Took various stops, talked to Mennonite couple interested and Mennonite Frito Lay chips truck driver interested also. Staying at Methodist Church tonight.
Arrived minutes before rain hit. Raining now. One of the church ladies came and opened the door and gave me a tour. This church has Filipino pastor since December. The church had a bathroom but no shower. I had the whole place to myself. I ordered pizza and did some internet
Prior to reaching Gorville for the night, I stopped in Carbondale to visit Phoenix Bike Shop to replace my rear tire and true my rear wheel. All spokes were tweeked to perfection. Very happy about doing that. These tires will last even back to the Philippines now too. My front tire has nearly 5,000 miles on it. Looks great still.
My rear tire gets changed every 2-3,000 miles since I have this weight. I hope to finish Illinois soon so I can start on Kentucky. I have 24 days to reach Yorktown, VA. I listened to Rush Limbaugh radio today. The Dems are all upset how he ran the program on July 4th at Lincoln Memorial. Unbelievable! TRUMP 2020 ALL THE WAY! I see so many red, white, and blue flags and Patriots across this land. The Dems are minority big time but complain loudest.
I spent Day 62 pointing towards Cave-In-Rock, IL for my final daily goal, to discover the ferry was broken when I arrived. People with cars and motorcycles can easily re-route to a bridge 33 miles away but for me, well, not as easy.
I got an early start in Goreville, IL this morning. I noticed some of the drivers are getting a little more rowdy. Some kids shouting out their windows. Note: At the conclusion of my Trans Am trip, I decided to give southern Illinois 1st place for dangerous drivers. I had good pace today and over 25 hills to cross.
I need to change my "fraying" shifter cable tomorrow. I have an extra one. A few more shifts and I think it will snap! The cable got so warn out from Missouri because all the massive shifting up and down continually. I'm not surprised. I had some great rest times today.
During one break, it was pouring rain. I was nicely inside gas station when it happened. After I started riding, 30 mins later, it came down full force again.
First time I have had to put on full rain gear in a few weeks I think. My waitress in Cave-In-Rock, IL, looked like Victoria Metzger. I took her photo.
After arriving in Cave-In-Rock, IL, and finishing dinner, I talked to a city host to camp in city park for $10 and use hot shower. Tomorrow I will forge new route to get across the river. There is a bridge 33 miles away. The whole day, tomorrow, will be used for "re-routing" myself around this "downed ferry" crossing.
Cave-In-Rock, IL (on the river) is a cute, biker friendly, and many churches, town. The city park needs much maintenance on it's electrical outlets though.
I have 23 more days to cross both Kentucky, and Virginia. The hills are intense, like a saw tooth. Up and down all day. Kentucky tomorrow via bridge at Shawneetown, IL to Morganfield, KY back to my route connection at Sullivan and Clay. Once I hit Clay, KY, I'm 100% back on track! Glory!
Day 63, was a long day of getting detoured at the river crossing and having to go around to the bridge crossing. The new route was extra 15 miles after doing the math. I will be on track again in Sebree, KY.
I stayed in the Cyclists Only Lodging at First Baptist Church tonight in Sebree. Hot day, some hills but not extreme like Missouri and Illinois.
I took breaks at nearly every gas station at the intersections. The air conditioners are a real refreshing. I drank so many fluids today. I replaced my shifter cable this morning but my adjustment is a little off. I need to take a look at that later.
I met a store owner that sells guns and sells great "butt" sandwiches (????) and "mutten meat" sandwiches. Both were really good with extra onions. Must be a Kentucky food. He said lots of "moonshiner" distilleries in the area. Kentucky is an "open carry" State. Good!
My first impression is green, green, green everywhere. It's a deep, rich, thick green. Not just trees like in Oregon but thick greenery.
Corn in abundance and beans, soy beans? The corn fields are really close to the highway, tall, and on both sides. Nice pavement on highways. Massive lawns. The front lawn/yards might be nicer than Missouri, certainly bigger. Lawn mowing has to be a big part of life/time/priorities here.
I met a lady from South Dakota today and many enjoyed helping me with directions. Glad today is over and that "detour" done. I expect to be hitting higher elevations in about 100 miles from now. Saw oil wells pumping again today, like Kansas.
Lots of horses. I saw five deer and many huge poultry barns. Men like driving trucks here. Illinois was similar and Kansas was record breaker for 4 X 4 trucks. Lots of churches. Note: the southern tip of Illinois seems to be a bit "outlawish" and "renegade-ish" to me compared to "regular" Illinois. Am I statistically correct?
After completing Day 64, a big 75 mile day, from Sebree to Axel Campsite, I can honestly say, I was tired of the hills. At one point I was thinking, "Do I really have to go up another? Can't I have at least one down hill where it actually STAYS down without having to go up again?" Amazing.
Corn fields on both sides of the highway and county roads. The 1976 trans am route designers really picked some "back roads" big time. What a fascinating way to cross a country: roads, and highways you would never choose to take if you had a car. I stopped in nearly every "gas station type" stop for drinks. I drink, and drink and drink.
Now I know where chickens come from: Kentucky. Many poultry barns in large scale. Not chicken farms but massive long buildings filled with thousands of chickens.
I found a Gov't state campsite at the 75 mile mark called Axel Rough River Dam State Resort Park, KY. I had to go online to reserve and pay while actually entering. First time. $24 for one night. Nice hot water shower and my neighbor campers invited me for dinner. They had left over brats, hot-dogs, potato salad, beans, coke.
One of them was an 18 yr Army veteran. He was forced to honorable discharge from too many medical injuries from Iraq.
I had a waitress earlier that wants to be policewoman but she said she can't even complete one push-up yet! Haha.
If Kentucky and Virginia do not ease up on the hills, this last part of my trip will turn out to be the hardest more than Oregon, Wyoming, and Colorado. I can handle the heat. It's like Philippines. I start at 0800 and finish by 1700. I bike right through noon. It does not matter to me. As long as I take breaks and find shade from time to time. I would rather be sweating than freezing.
I love to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio as much as I can - three hours a day. I LOVE his program! I get so much inspiration and "ranting fuel" from his program. This part of the country is so much "red, white, and blue."Churches all over the place also. TRUMP will certainly win again in 2020 unless there is massive cheating, corruption, or something illegal happen on mass scale.
The dogs are starting to come out and chase, as predicted and reported. I met another biker going opposite way who had nine dog encounters in one day. He says some dogs are 1. Curious only 2. Chase for fun but not violent and 3. Chase to attack. I had only versions of 1 and 2 today. I have not encountered a 3 type yet. Kentucky dogs are not a myth.
On Day 65, I started counting all the hills I had to climb but I lost count after 30 hills in only 26 miles. For sure I had 50 hills today! I detoured off course a little to get to housing in the city of Abraham Lincoln called Hodgenville, KY. I'm staying in big gymnasium with shower, and . I only had to call police and they send guy to open up the building. Nice.
This morning, I had coffee with my neighbor at campsite. During my break at gas station, I totaled up my remaining miles: 771. I have 21 days remaining I can take up to 5 days off if necessary. I'm okay.
The dogs are real. They really chase you. They jump off the porches and start coming. No violent ones yet, just chasing kind. They find it entertaining to chase bikers. Had my steepest downhill today. Had to apply brakes the whole way. Only two minutes long but intense degree.
I passed numerous Mennonites on horse and wagon today. I asked directions a few times. The farmers enjoy helping.
A lady asked me, "How do you guys prevent passing out from the heat?" 93 degrees + today. I told her, "Using moderation. Taking breaks. Looking for shade and air conditioned gas stations." I told her how I prefer hot weather over cold. I said it's easier to cool down in hot weather than to warm up in cold weather.
I changed time zones today. Moved watch ahead one hour. I have seen multiple dead skunks on road, everyday, for a few weeks, but never see them alive. Seems like they only come out at night.
Next is Day 66...