After the torrential rains last night, we skipped setting up our own breakfast and instead cycled into town for breakfast at Paula's Cafe - the only place in Lesterville.
Paula (pictured left by the tree) decorates her business with country music albums covers, and old kitchen utensils hanging from the ceiling throughout the dining room, and a large Christmas Tree which, Paula explains, changes theme from Christmas, to Valentines Day, to St. Patricks Day, etc. Today it is Stars and Stripes.
There is one turquoise faux-leather backed chair with the following written in permanent black marker: "Leave this chair here please. Vernnie's Chair."
Finally attached to one large appliance, there is this sign: "DO NOT SHAKE, KICK, BUMP, OR LIFT This Machine. This means employers, employees + CORA"
A short bike ride but now we are in Ellington and need to stock up because there are now other stops with services until Eminence.
On the way there I spied the typical cow shots but these really seemed cute and they didn't run away when I approached to take the photo.
Turtle on the highway. Not sure what provokes these suicides in slow motion. Our policy is to move them to the side of the road they face.
Crossing the Current River bridge. Lovely view but very disquieting whenever large trucks rumble past. The bridge shakes and bounces. Still we had a little snack and water break here.
We are now in the middle of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Two major rivers, the Jacks Fork and the Current river intersect this land in addition to innumerable underground rivers and springs. Alley Springs puts out 81 million gallons of water, a day. Big Springs' daily flow averages 286 million gallons a day.
The Ozarks were settled by American-born settlers of Scottish/Irish heritage. Their families practiced subsistence farming. In the late 1800s the railroads arrived to bring out the wood for their ties and trestles. Even still, Ozark regional culture remained distinct emphasizing loyalty to clan and kin, personal independence, and practical recreation like hunting, fishing, trapping and storytelling.
In 1964 Congress established the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park. The first of its kind. Neither the Jacks Fork nor the Current River will ever be dammed. It is possible to canoe or kayak on either river for 90 to 105 miles.
Biking the Ozarks means hills and lots of them. By car, hills are just scenery, but on a bicycle they represent the ultimate trade off. Every grueling foot of ascent and climb is ultimately rewarded by a foot of blissful rapid coasting descent. The Ozarks are at least fair, at least on this day, because every draining, hot, humid, slow, grueling bike up a large hill, and then up again was rewarded. I would be dripping rivulets of sweat, draining my water bottles almost as quickly.
Eventually the crest would be reached and the road would arch down and it became a greater thrill ride rivaling any amusement park ride. I would hit speeds in the 43 to 48 miles an hours. My body, wet, damp, pulsating with heat would suddenly be refreshed beyond expectation as the window would wick away all the sweat and cool me off. The more extended the descent, the longer the relief and I would find myself arching my back or neck, weird yoga moves on a bike, to expose different parts of my body to the wind.
Eventually, as all things do, the road levels off, starts to ascend and the trade off repeats. What the Ozarks give, they make you pay for.
Camping tonight in Eminence along the banks of the Jacks Fork River which wraps around the camp ground protectively. We can leave our site, turn left and walk five minutes to the river. We wade in and let the current take us and fifteen minutes later we are back to our campsite. The water is cold, but not too chilly to someone who Bike 53 miles to get here, and I try as best I can to recall dropping my core temperature so that tomorrow when I'm climbing another hill, I can shut out my overheated body from my consciousness.
It's a lovely evening. No rain. Earlier we had all our gear out in the sun or hanging up to dry. Seems to have worked. Nice sunset.