Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Part 5 Lon's Cross Country

Part 5
Missouri was probably one of my favorite cycling states. The thick forests and rolling hills made for interesting and beautiful riding. As I neared the town of Mexico, Missouri on Rt. 54 I was met by some friends from my midwest cycling events. I was surprised to see them and it was the first time I had met any riders on the road. We had known each other from riding the Litchfield Double Century since 1977 and riding the 540 mile Bicycle Across Missouri event the previous September. It was great to see them and chat a while as we rode about 20 miles until sundown.

We said goodbye that night and I continued riding into the night. This was the first night I rode in the dark. The traffic was light and the humid midwest air was cool and refreshing for a change. I pedaled until midnight and slept in the motor home parked in a desolate supermarket near Kingdom City. We were refining our daily schedule and I was learning how to stay on the bike longer during the day.

The next morning I started at sunrise riding on the divided section of 4-lane heading toward the Lake of the Ozarks. This section is similar to an interstate with a divided median filled with trees and untouched cliffs of native limestone rocks. The wide shoulder was made of natural Missouri red granite chip seal pebbles. I was making good time this morning coasting down the mile long grades and standing and pedaling on the long 6% climbs back up the other side. My support car had stopped for gas and I was enjoyed the solitude of riding by myself in the early morning.

It was on this section I noticed a cyclist coming toward me on the opposite shoulder of the divided road. Through the gaps in the trees and rocks I could see the cyclist and a motorcycle traveling together on the shoulder. As they came past me I waved across the median. Neither the motorcycle or rider responded to me. They just though I was local hick cyclist out for a morning ride. A few minutes later I saw a large motor home come toward me with a Lotis Bicycle banner on the side. The rider and motorcycle I had seen was Jim Black from New York. He had started in California about a week earlier and was attempting to break John Marino's one-way Transcontinental Cycling Record of 12 days, 3 hours. I had heard about Jim’s record attempt from some friends in California. They said he had a 60 tooth chainring for the tailwinds in the desert. I was interested because I was also going to try and break Marino’s one-way West to East Record on my return trip to New York.

When my support car joined me a few miles later I told them I had seen Jim riding eastward on Rt. 54. My support car made a U-turn at the next crossover and went to say hello. I continued on alone for the next 10 miles toward the over commercialized area of the Lake of the Ozarks. I was calculating Jim Black’s Record Attempt pace. Would he break Marino’s Record? Would I need to to go faster on my return trip? This was turning into more of a race than a tour across the United Sates for me. As I rode the hills of Missouri the competition was helping me stay focused. I needed to ration my enthusiasm.
I tried not to think about riding back from California. I still had 1,800 miles to go before I would see Santa Monica. For now it was best for me to ride for the moment and enjoy Missouri. I read all the bill boards that were displayed every half mile for the final 50 miles before the Lake of the Ozarks. Hillbilly font signs with the words “Walnut Bowls...Factory Seconds” dominated the landscape. Signs promoting wax museums, Elvis look-a-like entertainers and Fireworks made rural Missouri seem like Las Vegas. I was enjoying my cycling today. My legs were feeling better and I was looking forward to Kansas.



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