June 26, 2006
I had a leisurely morning in Farmington, hanging around town until the library opened. They have a designated “skate park” there for skateboarders, with all sorts of concrete ramps and stuff. I sat and watched the skaters for a little while. The library opened at nine, so I went in right away, posted my latest entries, and surfed the web a little bit. Then I got some breakfast and was on the road at eleven.
The weather today was cool and perfect, with highs at only about 80. It was breezy, and often cloudy to provide intermittent shade. I passed Fort Davidson, an old Civil War site. It was the first post of Ulysses Grant after his promotion to General in 1861. Later in 1864, 1,000 Federal soldiers held the fort and fought off some 12,000 Confederates.
The terrain was flat to begin, but later through the rest of the day I found myself in the Ozark Mountains. Yes, Missouri has mountains. They’re supposed to be some of the oldest in the world, eroded to a low elevation with rounded crests. This means a series of rolling, steady hills for me, the cyclist. I actually found the area to be enjoyable riding – it’s all wooded forestland, reminding me of a remote Appalachian environment. It looks like I’ll have a break from the typical farm landscapes for a few days.
The name Ozarks is thought to have come from the French “aux arcs.” There’s apparently a lot of underground rivers and caves in the region too. Bill Grief told me yesterday of an emptied lead mine nearby, with wide caverns as large as a high school gymnasium.
This afternoon I stopped in a town called Centerville – population 171. This town actually holds the seat for Reynolds County, just going to show how much woodland there is through here. Just out of town I met Ryan, a westbound rider who’s from Oregon – he started his bicycle tour from there as well. We had a good talk, basically filling each other in on what to expect up ahead.
“Look out for Vesuvius, the climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway,” I told him, “It’s a straight up rocket to God!” borrowing a saying from my hiking buddy Hollywood.
I asked Ryan if the “exhausting hills” of the Ozarks were coming up for me soon, and he said “That’s funny, I was going to ask you the same thing!” He thinks the Ozarks have been tame so far too, so we decided that all the hype about the weariness-inducing Ozarks among cyclists is pure myth. I’ll find out for sure tomorrow.
Tonight I’m staying at the city park in Ellington, and will be sleeping on a picnic table for the third night in a row! So here I was tonight under the pavilion cooking my usual pasta and tuna, when a man pulled up in a beat up old pickup truck. He stepped out, cigarette and can of beer in hand, and introduced himself as Ronny… The Mayor! He’s lived here all his life, working at an auto body shop. You’d think that this was just some random guy pulling my leg – telling me he’s the mayor and all – but I got the impression that this was the real deal. “Now I sell cars,” he says. “It’s a lot easier makin’ money that way!”
Soon he left the park, so now we turn our attention to a group of teenage boys at a nearby gazebo, stage left. Two of them have plugged in electric guitars and amplifiers, and they were wailing away at them. They actually sounded good! I walked over there with my dinner, and enjoyed a steady stream of live hard rock and metal – Zeppelin, Van Halen, Skynyrd, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, GnR, etc. The one kid could nail all the metal solos, note for note at a blazing tempo. He was a real virtuoso! Then another kid pulled up with an acoustic guitar, and dove into “Can’t you see, ooohhh can’t you see, what that woman lord, she been doin’ to me,” then everybody’s singing “Gonna take a freight train, alllll the way to Georgia!” So this is how the local teens in Ellington spend their summer evenings. Great times.
The one kid said, “I’m gonna ask my dad if we can stay over there tonight,” and I remember how great it must be to be a teenager, spending your summer evenings jamming away outside at the town park, smoking cigarettes and hanging out. They’re all deeply tanned, and it’s not even July yet.
So that’s about all for today. They all left me alone here when darkness fell at around 9pm. I think the cops kick ’em out anyway if they stick around. They confirmed that Ronny is indeed the mayor, and not some wandering local guy pulling my chain. Now I’m here writing this, watching lightning bugs and playing the radio. I heard a whippoorwill in the woods at dusk, so it looks like I may have an early wake up call tomorrow. Life is good.