Sleeping in my bivy behind the Toronto United Methodist Church, I was awoken by something on the ground near me, rooting around. Coming out of sleep, I first thought it was someone, then realized it was someTHING and my brain was thinking a dog. I sat up, turned my light on and looked around to find an armadillo scavenging around. Knowing they are harmless and that I had spooked it anyway, I laid back down and tried to fall back asleep. A short time later it was back. I shooed it on and slept again until my alarm went off at 5:30AM. I ended up with about 4.5 hours off the bike , which was about 4 hours of sleep with the interruptions.
As I got up and riding, it was still dark out. I was glad to be rolling out of town before anyone noticed me camped out in the church yard. I felt kind of like a thief in the night. I hadn’t taken anything, but I came in after the townsfolk were in bed and was up and gone before they got up. Not a soul had known I was there.
As the sun came up I warmed up and the legs were feeling good as I rolled along. The terrain was becoming more rolling hills, which felt like home and gave me encouragement. I was really looking forward to getting to my home state and I would make it there that day!
Just before 7:00AM, as I rode into the bright, early-morning sun, I noticed two riders approaching from the opposite direction. It was none other than Neil & Adi Coventry-Brown! They are from New Zealand and Adi was a fellow TABR15 veteran. It was great to see them just because I wanted to see them, but also nice to see fellow racers. Although there were 50-something others racing West-East, due to us all being strewn about on the route, it was rare to see anyone other than the few folks who were riding near. The three of us stopped to chat a few minutes, exchanged pictures and then carried on. It was a treat to see them!
I got to Chanute about 8:15 and stopped at a gas station for supplies and some breakfast. I loaded up the best I could and got back to riding quickly.
As I rode on through the morning, it was really starting to heat up. The respite from the heat and humidity we had the day before had been short. Things were setting up for another scorcher. I made the title town of Walnut about 10:30 and found a convenience store where I went inside to take a break in the air conditioning. I ate an ice cream and drank some cold drinks while listening to some locals chat. After about 30 minutes I hit the road again.
I stayed moving for the next couple hours despite my desire to stop in the heat. I knew I needed to stay moving in order to make a good day. When I got to Pittsburg, I decided to take another good break to cool off and eat. I found a mom & pop style diner on the main drag and went in for lunch. The owner was there, a old man of almost 80 years. He made conversation with me while I ate. It is always nice for me when I get to chat with folks. After a little over an hour, I gathered myself and headed back out in the heat. I stopped at a gas station for drinks and snacks as I left town and set my sights on the MO-KS border, just a few miles away.
In no time I saw the welcoming sign for the Missouri border. It felt so good to be “home”! I snapped a pic and called my wife to let her know I had made it to the line. Each little delineation was another goal marked off in my head and this one was a little more special to me than most folks, I would imagine.
The extreme Western part of Missouri is pretty flat, filled with nothing but farm land, which means one thing- no shade. The sun was baking the road and me. Only having made about 10 miles into my home state, I was feeling cooked. I came up on a farm house with a nicely cut yard and a pretty little shade tree near the road. I did what I had done several times along my journey when wanting to rest out in the open- I laid my bike down in the shaded grass, then laid myself down in the grass with my legs draped over my bike. If for whatever reason someone decided to come along and try to take my bike while I slept, they would have to roll me off of it to get it! I laid in the shade for about a half hour, cooling off a bit and trying to nap. Almost the entire time there were biting flies that wouldn’t leave me alone. I don’t think I ever really slept much, but eventually got tired of shooing flies and hit the road again.
Once up and moving, I was looking ahead to Golden City and the iconic Cooky’s Cafe. I wasn’t sure when they closed, but I thought I might be cutting it close. I got to town about 5:45PM and found them open. It made me happy to see! Cooky’s is a tradition for touring cyclists on the Trans Am. Despite the fact that I was racing and needed to stay moving, I still needed to eat and I planned to do it there. That would also give me the chance to eat some of their world famous pie. I leaned my bike up outside and went in to feast on a burger, fries, Coke and pie.
When I finished my meal, I came outside and started to take off, only to find that I had a flat. Upon further inspection, I saw that the valve stem had been ripped where it meets the tube. That really disappointed me as I felt like it didn’t just accidentally happen that way while my bike sat leaning against the building. I figure someone did it, but I didn’t see anyone around. I changed the tube out and pumped it back up. Then it was across town to a gas station to get supplies for the road. Night was coming and I would be going through some unpopulated areas. Likely any stores I would come across would be closed and I would need to have things to make it through the night.
Between Cooky’s, my flat and the station stop, I had spent way too much time in little Golden City. By the time I left town it was 7:15. I had spent an hour and a half there. Add that to my other stops for the day and I just wasn’t making great headway.
I rolled on into the evening and away from the sunset. I quickly got out of the flat areas and started hitting the hills. The hills weren’t really a problem and actually were welcome after all of the plains. What wasn’t welcome were the bugs! The amount of bugs that came out after dark was amazing. All sorts of flying things. So many that I had to make sure to keep my mouth closed while riding. That can be an issue when you are climbing punchy little steep hills and get out of breath!
As I rode on through the evening, I was contemplating what I would do for the night. My day hadn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, but I was in Missouri. One part of me wanted to ride on late into the night and another wanted to stop, sleep and hit it hard the next day. As I rode through the spot in the road that isEverton, there were some young kids out in their pickups driving crazy. I hoped to make it through unnoticed, but that wasn’t the case. They drove by closely and smoked me out with their diesel smoke. If only I could get my hands on one of them….just once!!! I carried on out of town and a couple miles down the road, they came back around for round two. I was frustrated and tired. I made the decision to stop and bivy at the next place I could.
Remote Missouri highways don’t have very many places to bivy. The sides of the roads are grown up high with weeds, which means ticks and chiggers if you crawl off into it.I didn’t want any part of that. Most every spot where you can find cut grass is actually someone’s yard, so that doesn’t work well. The best idea I had was to find a park in a town or something like that. I rode on and was coming close to Ash Grove. I figured I would find something there.
Right before I got to town, there was a guy on a bike that came out to meet me. Greg Hoffman had driven from Ozark, MO up to Ash Grove to come out and ride with me for awhile. Unfortunately he had no idea that I planned to stop just a mile down the road for the evening. I felt terrible that I wasn’t able to oblige him for longer, but it was what it would be. We rode into town and found a local couple who had come out as well. They were the keepers of the local hostel in the park in town and were a pleasure to meet. They gave me directions to the hostel and Greg rode with me up to the park.
The hostel was simple, but everything I would need and then some. I arrived about 10:30 and Enrico was there sleeping. I went out back to the shower house, got cleaned up, then went back in and spread my bedding out on the floor in the common room where Enrico was and went to sleep. It hadn’t been my best day by far at 169 miles, but I was back “home” with big plans for the days ahead.