We did end up sleeping inside the thrift shop and I'm very thankful to Paula for her home cooking and kindness. I took off a little earlier than my mates and eventually caught up with them around lunch time. The Ozarks are difficult to ride due their steep grades and inconsistent nature. Unlike the Appalachians, the climb up to the ridge is not rewarding because there are steep "roller coaster" hills along the ridge. As I rode towards Summersville, I heard a primordial howl (much akin to what I think Buck sounds like in Jack London's "The Call of the Wild"). Fully expecting a wolf or coyote to appear, a skinny and tired stray dog ran out towards me. I gave it some love and began to ride off. It followed me for about two miles and I decided to stop to give it the rest of my beef jerky and some water.
The poor dog followed me again until the trio caught up with me. We stopped at a lookout tower and my new friend waited for me at the bottom. As we climbed to the top, the whole structure began to sway and shake with our movements. I figured the sign saying "Climb At Your Own Risk!" was put there for a reason. About a hundred feet above the tree line, I finally got a cellphone signal and made a few phone calls to inform my parents of my well-being. We then slowly climbed down (Dowds and Callum have a phobia of heights) and found the dog waiting for me again. Knowing this persistent dog would follow me like the previous dog in Kentucky, I had to really pedal to lose him. And much like the prior dog story, this one ended the same. The same brown dot, running slowly along the blistering pavement. And again, I was filled with a powerful sense of sorrow.
We then stopped in at Summersville to use their library and grocery store. I took off before the other guys and was almost hit by an 18-wheeler. The driver laid on his horn and didn't budge from the (almost non-existent) shoulder, in spite of having no traffic coming from the other lane. Seeing the first few wheels pass by violently only two feet away, I pulled over and fell over into a bush. It was a scary, albeit maddening, moment. Why do truckers hate us cyclists so much? We can't kill them. All we can do is slow down their day by 30 seconds or so. It should be the other way around, but... as I cycle through these places, I'm finding it harder to hate (even with dissimilar cultures/values).