We had a GREAT time!! It was hot as can be, oh my gosh it was miserably hot. I don't know that I've ever slept so little in my life...in bed after 10 (and the last few nights I had a terrible time falling asleep and didn't get to sleep til after midnight) and up around 4 or 4:30 a.m., and I'm sure that I've never pushed myself so hard. And it was wonderful. I met so many new people AND got to hang out with my aunt Nancy. It was a blast. Here's a loooonnnngg rundown on the week.
SUNDAY: We arrive in Clinton. Jeff and Jacob drove me there, which stuck them with about a 9-hour round trip on Father's Day. I have the best husband in the world! After they dropped me off, I checked in and dragged all of my stuff (I took waaaayyyy too much stuff. Next year I'll take about a third of what I took this year.) to where Nancy was camping and set my stuff up. We went to enjoy the a/c and wait for the rider's meeting. After the meeting, I met three other people from my hometown whom I'd never met before. Eventually, we headed back to the tents, to shower, and to bed.
MONDAY: Clinton to Pilot Grove (61 miles)
Everybody got packed up before I did, so I was back in the breakfast line. I made some new friends (who happened to live in the St. Louis area) and then headed out on the trail. The weather wasn't too bad until noon. We had good cloud cover. I caught up with Nancy in Sedalia while she waited for the vendors to set up for lunch and we stuck together more or less for the rest of the day. Monday was a 61 mile day, and I was REALLY dragging by the end of it. The day ended with a couple of long inclines which were pure misery. Possibly the hardest part of the day came towards the end. We stopped at a SAG (kind of like a cyclist's rest stop with water, Gatorade, fruit, bathrooms, and moral support) that was only about 4 miles from the end.
And then the girl there said that we actually had 6 miles left. My odometer was off. I wanted to cry. I know it's "only" two miles, but it was a long darn day.I have never been so glad to pull into a place as I was to see Pilot Grove. My rear was sooo sore, and I was wondering a little what the heck I got myself into. Even so, I was having fun. We got the tents all set up, and then I headed over to the shower truck for the first of many cold showers. I'm sure it had hot water, but after riding all that way in the heat, all I wanted was to cool off!!We had a nice dinner, then I read for a while in one of the shaded pavilions while my phone charged and then went to bed.
TUESDAY: Pilot Grove to Jefferson City (64 miles...or 67 miles if you're insane)
I was ready this morning. I didn't want to be one of the last ones packed up. The second I heard a tent unzip, I jumped up, scrambled to the end of my bed, and let the air out of my air mattress. I hustle back to the front of the tent to start getting stuff packed, and for some reason I looked at my cell phone. It was 3 AM!!!!! So...back to sleep til about 4:15 or so. Then we got packed up and had our first encounter with The Pancake Man.
The Pancake Man has a griddle that's maybe 10 feet long. Maybe it's more. He has a machine that shoots out batter for 4 perfectly-sized pancakes at a time. Maybe it was just riding 61 miles the day before, but I have NEVER had a better pancake (sorry, Mom). We also had fresh fruit and sausage. Then, we headed off. Honestly, I was kind of dreading this day. I was really sore from Monday, the heat was supposed to be as bad, and the ride was even longer.
Somehow, though, Tuesday was much easier. Nancy and I rode together for a lot of the day. The trail was really pretty and had a lot of shade. Maybe Nancy remembers more anecdotes from the day...I just remember it being a nice day.After 64 miles of riding, we had a decision to make. We could either ride a shuttle into Jefferson City or ride an extra 3 miles into town to the park where we were camping. I felt pretty good, so I asked the volunteer at the SAG about the ride in. He said there were a few hills, none bigger than the first bridge on-ramp (there were three bridge/overpasses to cross, including the big bridge over the Missouri River). Well, surely I could handle that, so off I went. Nancy and our friend Randy, being somewhat smarter than I was, opted to take the shuttle.
Well, those hills were miserable!! The bridges weren't too bad, but it seemed like all I did was climb hills after that, too, and the last hill up to the park was a killer. I was about half dead by the time I got there. All I could do was lie on the ground for 45 minutes or so until I could both breathe and stand at the same time. After the recovery time, I was OK. We set up our tents and hung out for awhile in the shelter before dinner. After dinner, we got to hear from both the director of the Missouri parks dept and Jay Nixon's wife. The parks guy was dressed in a suit and tie...in the 90+ degree weather. Probably kept his speech shorter!Tuesday night we got a welcome respite from the heat. Storms off in a distance sent in some nice, cool breezes. We were a little nervous about the storms forecast and the trees blowing around over our heads, but the rain stayed away and we had a nice, comfortable night of sleep.
WEDNESDAY: Jefferson City to Herman (50 miles)
We left Jeff City nice and early. We were on the road by 5:30 a.m. because the ride had a police escort to help us get across the big bridge before rush hour traffic got started. Once we got back to the trail area, the Pancake Man served us french toast (also very good)...and off we went again.Wednesday was a challenging day for me. Instead of pedaling along at my own rate, I chased the back wheels of some of the faster guys. I managed to hang in there for most of the day, only dropping way off once, and they were kind enough to wait for me a the next SAG. We pulled into Herman by 10:40 and got the tents set up.
Once all of our group made it in and got showered, we walked (uphill...I swear, everywhere we had to go was uphill. I hate hills) to lunch at a local restaurant. Not my favorite meal of the trip, but one of the more entertaining ones. I was talking away (no surprise there) when one of the guys with us made a signal that he was tired of listening to me babble. So I offered to not speak for the rest of the meal, AND HE TOOK ME UP ON IT. (Don't get any ideas!!!) I am proud to say that I remained silent for the rest of the meal until he gave in and asked me to please start talking again. Unfortunatly for the rest of the table, the vacuum left by my silence was quickly filled by someone else. I, meanwhile, managed to get my point across here and there with expressions and gestures. I did feel a little sorry for the guy from Texas who joined us after the beginning of the silence sentence. No one bothered to explain to him what was up with the mute girl at the table.
We had dinner that evening at Mt. Pleasant Winery. Beautiful building...uphill, naturally. Up a pretty long, steep hill. And that was supposed to be our storm shelter!! No way would I be dragging myself back up there in a storm, and luckily we didn't have to. After dinner, some of us headed for some ice cream, and I learned that I can, indeed, ride my bike in a sundress. If I'm careful.
THURSDAY: Herman to Augusta (38 miles)
I was pretty beat this day from pushing myself the day before. That 38 miles felt like a long way. It was probably my hardest day since Monday. I don't remember anything too noteworthy from the ride, but at the end we were faced with yet ANOTHER hill. This thing was a monster. Since I was dragging halfway into the 38 miles, I had decided early on that no way was I climbing that hill on my bike...but even walking my bike up I had to stop and take a break. Nancy, on the other hand, rode the whole way up. That woman is something!! I was both proud and amazed. I never could have done it.
We got a fantastic camping spot that night. Great shade, right next to the bathrooms (flush toilets...ahhhhh!) and the air conditioned dining room and just down the street from the shower truck. The only problem was that we had (you guessed it) another hill to go up to get there. I walked my bike up and then went back for my bags. My thousand pound bags. As I was hoisting them onto my shoulders and looking despairingly at the hill, a guy across the street offered to carry them up for me. Oh, my gosh! It was like the sun came out and angels started singing. I definitely took him up on the offer...though I took a lot of grief from my camping family for my "Sherpa". And let me tell you, it was worth every verbal jab!!
The shower truck had some major problems getting parked where the ride staff wanted him, so we all went to lunch just as nasty and stinky as we got off our bikes. We ate at a neat little restaurant, Bella's Cafe, uphill from the restaurant. The food was great, and the waitress, who was seriously harried by the influx, was wonderful as well.Back to camp for a nap and some talk and relaxing before dinner. After dinner, we took a shuttle up to the legion hall for our last rider meeting. Then, we walked back. I had planned to go hit the wineries, but they were closed. We hung around outside talking for a while and then went into the a/c to play some cards.
FRIDAY: Augusta to St. Charles (27 miles)
After the rest of the days' rides, this day was a piece of cake. Right up until my flat tire. Luckily, my riding partner knew just what to do (since I only had the vaguest idea...something that I should maybe do something about) and fixed it for me. As he worked, tons of people passed us by. Once it was finished, though, we were back in business and made up quite a bit of time. Pulling into St. Charles was a little bittersweet. Boy, is my body tired, and I missed my family (except Nancy, of course)...but I had a lot of fun and met some neat people. And now I'll miss Aunt Nancy. :) I can't wait til next year!!