Fair Grove, Missouri
Wesley's Restaurant and Bakery which makes their own massive blueberry turnovers and sells Louisiana oysters on the half-shell.
Inside each room is decorated for a different branch of the armed services. There's the Navy hallway, an Air Force themed entryway. One room has a set table and empty chair with the POW/MIA flag on it.
We only found Wesley's because a local had recommended it. It is behind a convenience store without any signs from the main road telling passing motorists that there is a cafe just off the road. It's one of the small town quirks we have seen every now and then where businesses seem to flower up in places and then make no effort to advertise.
Wayne Fortner has lived in the Willard area his entire life. His great Grandfather came out here in the mid 1800s by foot, traveling the thousand miles from Georgia by foot in thirty days. We can only imagine how he crossed the Mississippi then.
His Grandfather fought for the Confederates, and his grand Uncle for the Union. His Grandfather was ordered to burn down houses in a village (the Civil War here in Missouri was a mostly rabble and guerrilla affair) of a small town. He saw in one house there was a small child, so he moved the child out of the house before burning it. His commanding officers tried to get him punished for not strictly obeying the orders, so he fled to Texas, served there, and got an honorable discharge.
Mr. Fortner has worked cattle and dairy his entire life and while we ate our lunch on the bench in front of this country store he regaled us with tales of his family, and the coming and goings of the area. Everyone who came in or pout seemed to know him.
He no longer farms, but he wears the boots, yet no one would say he's all boots and no cattle. The man is genuine.
Ash Grove, Missouri
Tonight we are staying in Ash Grove, Missouri. It's our last night in Missouri, since tomorrow we'll be crossing the state line into Kansas.
Ash Grove, like so many little towns and cities on the route has made itself bewilderingly hospitable to cyclists. At the city park, next to the ubiquitous Midwest town swimming pool, filled with kids and teenagers, the town has made available the Barnham House with cots and a great shower (including towels) and volunteer hosts.
We are promised only twenty three miles more of hills and then the Ozarks will recede behind us giving way to the windy plains of Kansas and eastern Colorado.
Ashland, at one time, had a huge thriving downtown and nearby former bordello with seven bedrooms,
I decided I would look about the downtown area. John asked if I found a place to get nail clippers - to buy them. unfortunately the downtown was fairly closed or closed up except for Mama Locas.
On Thursdays through Saturday there is an incredibly bustling Mexican Restaurant called Mama Locas - complete with a perpetually parked former police car out front. Mama Locas serves four different margaritas in addition to the typical fare - including strawberry, peach, mango, and raspberry.
We have decided to do dinner here tonight so I introduced myself to the chef and owner, Delores to see about doing spinach enchiladas for Barry, our obligatory vegetarian. Delores and I started chatting and somehow the conversation turned to flan, and she didn't know how to make it from scratch, and before you know it she was sending one of the staff to the market and I was cooking.
I got to meet her husband Mark, a nineteen year police officer veteran who has served in Aurora, Colorado (great place), Wichita, Kansas (Rough Place) and nearby Springfield, Missouri. He and Delores have poured their savings and hearts into this bustling little restaurant where most of their customers travel more than 15 miles to reach.
The flan, happily turned out well, and Mama Locas will likely have a new addition to the menu. I can't think of another trip or mode of transportation other than crossing the continent by bicycle that would have had me preparing and cooking Flan in a Mexican restaurant in a small town in western Missouri.
John commented, What is about this trip that you couldn't find nail clippers, but found a place to make flan?