Friday, July 17, 2009
An incredible thunder storm woke me up a little after 4 in the morning. I could hear the distant thunder and I kept watching the semi-constant flickering of distant lightening. Minutes later, the wind began to shake my tent... so much so that it felt I was going to fly away with it. Luckily, I kept my tent grounded and then the torrential downpour and close lightening strikes had me curled into the fetal position inside my sleeping bag. Thankfully, the storm began to pass when my wristwatch alarm clock began beeping. All four of us instinctively grabbed our stuff and tents and brought them under the store awning. As we finished our groggy morning activities, another storm cell came rolling through.
Arnold came around at 6:00am to open up the shop and to cook some delicious morning biscuits. We hung out with the locals for about an hour and took off together. It was nice to ride with Chris & Chris, considering we've spent almost a week hanging out in the evenings/mornings. We were aware that today's trip was going to be a long one, so we kept a nice steady pace throughout the morning. We stopped in at a breakfast diner in close proximity to a large dam and gobbled down some eggs, hash browns, biscuits, etc., and got back on the road promptly.
Earlier in the day, we met a retired couple riding eastbound and they explained that they first hiked the Appalachians when they first retired and this was the next logical step. Good on them, I say! So, as we were finishing out the early morning climbs east of Utica, my chain kicked out as I was switching into my smaller ring. I stopped to put the chain back on and next thing I knew, there was a tongue frantically licking my nose and forehead. I looked up to find an adorable lab/mutt-mix, which had to be only 8 or 9 months old, staring at me with a crooked smile. I hung out with the pup for a few seconds and gave it a good petting. After I started to bike away, I looked back to find the dog jogging behind me up the hill. As I came upon the crest and descended the next hill, I looked back to find the dog running in full sprint behind me. This persistent pup kept with me for at least 3 miles until I found Chris, Chris, and Jonathan waiting for me. I fed the dog some granola and attempted to tell him to go home (if he had one, that is.)
After realizing he wasn't going to give up his friendly pursuit, we had to bike fast in the attempt to lose the dog. After sprinting for a half mile, I looked back and saw this little brown dot about 500 yards running at full sprint... until finally, I couldn't see him anymore... it was quite the sad moment. I could tell by the way it approached my cycling friends, that it had to be mistreated by its owners. I keep thinking about this dog and my precious little time with it. It's been on my mind all day. I hope it made it home or, better yet, found a new loving family on the road...
Anyways, we stopped into Whitesville and took full advantage of an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. With full stomachs, we were excited to finish out the day on the (relatively) flat landscape leading into Sebree. However, a strong headwind of 15mph, with gusts up to 20mph, slowed us down considerably. Every time we attempted to create momentum on short downhills, the wind would stop us in our tracks. What could have been an easy 2 hour ride into Sebree, turned into a grueling 3 hours of fighting the wind. I'm hopeful that Kansas won't have these kind of winds, but the realist in me knows that it's highly probable. In addition, we met another rider heading east by the name of Bob Stoner (that's his real name). He warned us of bugs in the Ozarks and some steep, crawling climbs. For some odd reason, I thought the majority of climbs was behind me until I arrive at the glorious Rocky Mountains. Oh well, each tolling ascent has it's exciting descent.
To make things more challenging, I developed a painful cramp on my upper left leg. Pushing with mostly my right leg, I began to trail behind the rest of the group. I told them to take off ahead and I kept up my steady/painful pace. After a long and windy straight crawl into town, I pulled into the Baptist Church parking lot to find the pastor talking with my friends. We found an amazing place to stay for the night and all we had to pay for was by listening to the pastor's evangelical spiel and read some tracts. I've realized that Southern Baptists try to evangelize a lot more than others I've stayed with (Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.). Anyways, it was well worth it because we were given shelter, mattresses to throw our sleeping bags on, and the biggest meal of the trip! The pastor's wife cooked the biggest spread I've seen, even compared to most Thanksgiving dinners. After stuffing our faces and getting to know the family, we finished drying out our damp tents, washes some clothes and called it a night. Jonathan is leaving tomorrow morning to head towards Indiana to catch a greyhound bus home. I'm going to miss my drafting/singing buddy.
Posted by Blake Marshall at Friday, July 17, 2009
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