I cheated. I cheated myself. I had to rent a car to get across Missouri. There was a beautiful girl expected to land the Friday before the Fourth of July. I would have to cover 325+ miles in two days. Not likely for myself given the previous two days of head winds and need for a rest day. The route advice previously provided traversed safer roads, but in a round about route.
June 26: Ozora to Farmington – June 26 (31 miles)
Slept well on the pavement of the pavilion. In the middle of the night the air cooled considerably and I had to zipper my sleeping back for the first time. The sun warmed my tent and woke me up. I stretch as much as possible within the confined space of my tent. I slowly get my things packed and watch a handy man fix the priest’s satellite dish.
I say my thank yous to the priest and two nuns who came by. The one sister told me that there were vineyards that would make for a good spot to grab lunch. Setting out on the road I immediately come to hills that quickly remind my legs how hard they had worked over the past week. I find myself out of breath as well. This was a new sensation to me, as I was almost gasping for air. As the day began to warm and the first hour passed, I got back into my stride.
As I will come to find Missouri is constant up and downs and back and forth roads. Not much of shoulders, but the aggressive drivers are quick to slow and provide adequate room to pass. I soon arrive to the area of two local vineyards. The signs mention the distances, but the closest one, less than a mile away is not in my sights. Not wanting to climb addition miles, I hesitate.
Eventually I decide that a long lunch and call to my brother on his birthday at a comfortable spot would be worth a climb. I head to the closer Coffman Winery. It’s closed, only open over the weekends. The entrance gate is closed, the exit is not. I decide to ride in and take in some views. I find an outdoor courtyard, snap a few photos and find a bathroom and some water. I cool off, snack and talk to my big bro, while a man trims the many rows of grape vines.
The second half of the day doesn’t seem much easier. I arrive in Farmington at the hottest point of the day. I find a cafe to eat, cool down and charge my devices. I then head to Al’s Hostel, a place that the cyclists who gave me the map the previous day recommended. Calling the police department to get the code, I find an unbelievablly comfortable space with air conditioning and laundry. Just what I need. This place is great too as it is an early 19th century jail that is now converted into a space for cyclists. I met Will, a Brit who is headed east. I lay down for a nap.
A few hours later I stand on sore legs and decide Chinese food would be a nice break from the typical gas station or dive bar fare I am used to. I walk over there to stretch the legs and see some of town. The food is pretty bad. I stop after a third of the meal which rarely happens in life and never while touring. After a brief discussion with the host I get another dish on the house. Having lost my appetite, the shrimp and broccoli would wait till later. I saunter over to a local bar and decide that a beer and a chat with the locals will get me in a better place.
I find Vince and Daryl sitting at the bar. Life long Missourians, they have great knowledge of the area and many recommendations for things to see as I drive west. Did I fail to mention that I aligned a rental car at lunch? Having riden only 30 miles on this Monday, a rest day was needed after the past week. A rest day on Tuesday meant that I only had Wednesday and Thursday to drive to get me to Kansas City by Friday morning. I wish I was in shape to be able to do the mileage. Not wanting to kill myself trying and the desire to see some things I get a car.
Back to Vince and Daryl. These guys are as friendly as can be and have great stories about family and traveling the country. I get a beer paid for and some great suggestions for places to stay, which will follow. I walk home, brush my teeth and sleep peacefully in the hotel by June lonesome.
June 27 – I finish laundry and clean my bike chain. I grab a huge breakfast at a diner before grabbing my car. I grab food supplies for camping over the next few days. I drive towards Elephant Rocks to check out some rock formations. A few miles from the park, I am cut off by a SUV. Both the driver and passenger immediately give me the finger when I honk. A rear passenger proceeds to convincingly throw gang symbols out the window. The car pull into the same park. To make sure I remain calm, I park far from the suv. Turns out the car is full of teenagers who weigh a collective 100 lbs. I walk towards what I assume is the rocks and am invited to picnic with this couple and their nephews. These folks are awesome and ply me with hot dogs and sodas.
I check out the rocks in the heat and soon figure that swimming is the next best option. Back in the car I drive to Johnson’s Shut-Ins, s river system with some swimming areas. Once parked I am approached by a man in jeans, mullet, mutton chops and handle bar mustache. He is soaking wet and proceeds on about how a woman knew his dirty thought he was having about staring at girls swimming. I sped up the application of sun screen to shorten this exchange a much as possible.
The water was clear and cool, perfect for breaking the days heat. Still with another 2 hours in the car I decide to head back. I find the wonderful couple again with their nephews and niece. I am staying at Meramac Springs and need to get their by 8 before the camp site closes. The roads are not straight causing me to drive caustiously. After leaving the Mark Twain Forest, find the drive rather boring. Vince would probably have had more fun as he has a Cadillac CTS and intimate knowledge of the roads.
I make it with some daylight left, set up camp and eat some tuna fish for dinner. I shower and listen to music in the car for a bit before bed. I walk to the restroom one last time and notice how beautiful the sky is. Far from any considerable light pollution, the stars are magnificent. I walk into a large field and gaze at the moon and stars for nearly and hour. As my neck tires and bugs find me, I get into the tent.
I wake up in the middle of the night to some anmials in my camp. I can’t tell if it’s deer or racoons. Once up, I discover the work of racoon having found my small trash bag. I clean up the mess and pack camp. Driving to the actual park portion of Meramac Springs, the 5th largest natural spring in the US, I take in the scene. I find a beautiful fish hatchery and scenic drive. I end up doing yoga on a bluff over looking people fishing in their pond.
I head towards the Ozarks as this is my next camping location. It is quite a drive and even more boring than the previous day. A stop at a grocery store to close my eyes for a few minutes is necessary. I then get some caffeine and sugar in me. I make camp at the lake then go swim. The water is refreshing, but not clean, just as Vince and Daryl had warned me. I shower then eat then listen to music in the car again to avoid bugs. I then wonder back go through beach area to see my new late night friends, the moon and stars.
I pack, swim and take off towards Kansas. Id say Kansas City, but I get to sleep in a house with a friends parents. I drive directly there and am treated to the wonderful hospitality I have been accustomed to. I am greeted by Peter, his awesome dog, a lama and alpaca. We also have a brief rainstorm and small rainbow. We saw the end of it in the front yard but find no gold. Peter takes me out for BBQ and conversation. When we come back we see another natural spectacle, fireflies in the tens of thousands. I have never personally experienced something so vivid with lightening bugs. In any direction for what seems like 50 yards, there are limitless flashes in your field of sight. It lasted as long as we could stand the mosquitos or about 20 minutes. I introduce Peter to a Netflix show until his wife comes home. We chat for a bit before bed. I watch a huge electrical store as I drift to sleep.
Wake up, have coffee and pack my freshly laundered clothes. I say goodbye and take off for the Kansas City airport to pick up Adair!! We go to our B&B and ate able to get our bags in the room early. We grab brunch and drop off the car. KC is not a huge city so we walk back to the b&b after a few beers. We nap then take an Uber to a rouyals game. It’s a beautiful stadium and the home team wins. It takes forever to get back by car and we grab a night cap at the green lady lounge.
Have a delicious breakfast with homemade peach jalepeño jam. John, the son of my father’s friend, and long time resident of KC picks Adair and I up. John has kindly offered his time to take us sightseeing, and most importantly to get bbq. Our first stop is Kansas City Joe’s, the original. The line wrapped around the corner allows us plenty of time to gain report. John is an incredibly kind, motivated and inspiring individual. He is involved in multiple non-profits and always looking to expand the reach of the various organizations.
We then get a brief tour by car over to the art museum where Adair puts on an art clinic as she is so very well capable of doing for us layman. This woman constantly impresses me with her talents. John then takes us to the Plaza for some beers and people watching. It was a fantastic day and Adair and I are lucky to have met John and have such a great tour guide.
Slow to get up we make it to breakfast and head to the world war I museum. It is hot as the Dickens but the underground museum is perfect for the day. We check out Union Station on the way. On the way back we try more bbq and local beer. The cornbread and bbq/butter shrimp are to die for at Fiorello’s Jack Stack. The rest of the food is pretty great as well. We walk back to the B&B to rest up then wander to crossrosdsKC for a concert. The dirty heads and opening bands kill it. Adair has a blast. We attempt to get a night cap around the corner but all places are closed. We head to trusty green lady lounge for a beer then walk home.
We breakfast then lay around. We attempt to go to check out the Missouri River waterfront. The trolly took us far, but walking down to the river proved difficult. We eat lunch and chat at a local bar. Then head home to shower and go to a steak dinner. After we eat another meat meal we hear back to the CrossroadsKC to catch the end of the 322 show. We attempt to go to other bars for a night cap. They all are closed. We go to the Green Lady Lounge. The trend continues.
Wake up late and grab breakfast at a cafe. We then get cab to Nelson Atkins Msueum. It is closed and end up walking around the Plaza district. With plenty of time we walk to Q39, another must try BBQ place in KC. The wings are amazing, everything else is solid. I had a sandwich with sausage, pulled pork and burnt ends. We then grab a trolley back to the b&b and get our act together for fireworks along the river. It was the last night with Adair and a beautiful night with a wonderful person.