Start: Ozark, MO
Finish: Mountain View, MO
Weather: 75 degrees, cloudy, rainy
Bike Time: 10 hours
Distance to date: 1,335
“Goes and flows of angel hair And ice cream castles in the air And feathered canyons everywhere I looked at clouds that way.” Joni Mitchell
Today was a magnificent collage of clouds and hills, the most challenging day of cycling by far, and also the most exciting.
I went to bed last night to one thunder storm, and woke to another, so I stayed in my motel in Ozark until about 7:30 am when the sky cleared. It was odd making such a late start, but
since the temperature was a pleasant 70 degrees, I had no rush to beat the heat.
I rolled out of Ozark against the Monday morning rush hour traffic of drivers who wished they were me. Just as the traffic eased along narrow Highway 14 an enormous bullet train of a cloud pressed low in the sky, moving the same direction as me but two or three times as fast. It fed on the atmosphere above the tree line and below the upper clouds, like one of those giant snakes from Dune, its black underbelly pulling a gusty wind in its wake. The highway signs rattled, the world grew dark. And just as quick it sped past and all was light again.
I did not get rained on by that incredible cloud, but I did several other times during the day, mostly nice sprinkles that kept me cool.
I followed thin black roads today, Highway 14 east and then Highway 76 east, which run parallel and south of US 60. As the crow flies, I saved about 10 miles. As the calories burn, I doubled my output. My route followed a northern section of the Ozarks, which are not really mountains, but a large, crenelated plateau, an accordion of peaks and valleys. For the first few hours I made very poor time and thought I was just sluggish, when In fact I was crawling up and up and up. Suddenly, I hit a 3 mile, very steep downhill, and for the next 60 miles it was up and down and up and down and up again. The road had no shoulder, but very little traffic. On the downslides I hugged the middle, head down, and gripped the Surly wide for balance. I hit 25, 30, even 35 miles per hour time and again. Then, on the up I choked into low gear and spun the pedals, barely maintaining five miles per hour. Some inclines were so steep the road shot up in front of my face like a giant wave cresting high above my head. Some series of dips were so twisty I felt I’d cycled into a David Hockney landscape, the earth so skewed I lost my bearing perspective. The ride was exhilarating and exhausting.
Along the way were many beautiful farms, lots of cows and horses, and a dense section through the Mark Twain National Forest. The hillbilly aspect of the Ozarks is prevalent, and I passed a fair number battered trailers with snarly dogs and discarded refrigerators that might have been set pieces in The Winter’s Bone, but most of the houses along the road were standard issue ranches and all of the drivers were courteous
and cautious in approaching and passing me.
By 4:30 I met up with boring US 60 again, but was glad that the last 16 miles were easy. I rolled into Mountain View and the sweetest little motel, tucked in a corner of a sleepy downtown that still has a few actual stores, and a pretty good, very cheap, Mexican restaurant. Thirty bucks for a period room right out of the 1950’s, less than ten for a hearty feast. The next time you are in Mountain View, MO, I highly recommend Malone’s Motel.
Cloud Formation over Sparta, MO
Malone’s Motel, Mountain View, MO