Farmington, Missouri to Lesterville, Missouri

Pilot Knob, Missouri.  Surprisingly we all stopped here at the Rustler on the cool cloudy day here in Pilots Knob most famous for the Civil War Battle during the night of Sept. 26-27, 1864.


Planning to take control of St. Louis, Confederate Gen. Sterling Price led his army of  12,000 soldiers in an ill advised attack and against the advice of his officers of the well supplied Fort Davidson at the terminus of the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroads.

Despite being outnumbered 10 to 1, the Federals were well protected within the steep walls of the fort, and held off the attack until slipping away under cover of darkness.  The attack was so costly to the Confederates that Price lost his ability to attack St. Louis.

Breakfast at the Rustler, the pack Sunday breakfast spot here in Pilot Knob, population 700.  As what seems to always happen, we are met by the friendliest of people.


Of course Barry can't say we are in Pilots Knob, or biking past Knobs without giggling since a knob or nob in the United Kingdom is a slang name for a tiff, or indelicately, a penis head.

Here in Missouri and Kentucky Knobs are higher than hills, but not quite mountains.

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park.

This park came with a high recommend as a good swimming spot.  The name struck me as a little improbable, that we would be swimming among the elderly, sick, hermits and other shut-ins.

When we came to the park, John and Barry decided to keep going, so I went in by myself.  I was happy to see Norm's, Christine's, and Bill's bikes locked up so I walked down the quarter mile path to the river which eventually gets channeled into these rock fissures creating spill pools, mild whirl pools, chutes, and wonderful little pockets of cooling water.  That geologic combination with water is called a shut-in.

I didn't find Christine and Norm but did find Bill so we went clambering around the rocks and into the pools.  The water was delicious, cool, and perfect.  The day had been a little hot and humid, so it wasn't lost on me how much I enjoyed the cool down.

A real treat.

At the lockers and shop we met back up with Christine and Norm.  Bought some water and chatting with Pamela Mae who graciously offers to let me rinsenout my water bottle.  inevitably the whole biking across America conversation comes up.  It is, I am starting to say, the one unique way that middle aged and older men in spandex can be so welcomed in the heartland.  Yet it's true that I have had more people approach me as cyclist than ever as a driving tourist.

Maybe its because we are seeing spots and places we never would see traveling by car.  This lovely park, for example, would never have made my list, and yet here I am because I am traveling slow, and keeping to small light traffic roads.  It's one of the big reasons we are all doing this - to experience this country in a different way that is almost out of reach any other way.

I've also learned that some cycling jerseys are better than others.  My Navy Jersey opens the most conversations, particularly with fellow veterans.

After the park we were going up a particularly steep hill so I decided to walk the latter steep half.  A car came up behind me and this woman rolled down the passenger window and said, "You're just putting the Navy to shame," laughing and quickly adding, "I'm Air Force and I just had to give you a hard time."  That was funny.

My Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon gets the most comments from younger folks.  The TransAmerica jersey gets a lot of conversation too.

We're camping tonight in Lesterville, Missouri which, after the comforts of the famous former County Jail turned Cyclist Hostel, Al's Place in Farmington is a bit of a change.  Fortunately there were a number of tree candidates for my hammock.

This campground straddles the fast flowing Middle and West forks of the Black River so after setting up camp I went down to the river with Lew, Christine, and Norm.  The water was a little chilly at first but you got used to it right away.

Back to the campsite. Barry and Christine are cooking. I was writing and a thunderstorm erupts and descended upon us.  I jumped in the hammock.  Some into their tents.  Cracking thunder.  I suppose being strung between two trees isn't the ideal location.  There is now an enormous pool of muddy water around me.

Other self evident truths that biking reminds you of.

It is nearly impossible to bike with a closed mouth.  Going up hill you're exhausted and gasping or sucking in air as much as possible.  Going down hill your either thrilled, or your body is diverting energy to your legs and hands. Too often I'm cycling slack jawed and of course bugs whip into your mouth. Some are surly and it's everything you can do to spit the ANGRY buggers out before they attack your mouth more. Some just go in so fast and quick your better off swallowing and thinking protein.  I try to remember to keep my mouth closed, but catch it open every time.

Dinner tonight cooked by Barry and Christine while huddled under the tent while a second deluge of rain hits us.  It isn't cold but it's wet.  Once done, I move my hammock to another spot.

Tomorrow fifty-five Miles to Eminence, Missouri but we are told it is a lot more challenging because of the ups me downs of the Ozarks.