Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Monday, August 18, 2008
Back to the convenience store for breakfast - this week has not been great for culinary experiences! At least, their breakfast sandwiches were made fresh so they weren't that bad. Then it was back to the hills on the twisty, winding county roads that we've gotten so fond of in this state. One hill after another, some excruciatingly steep, others just steep. I could just imagine the road engineers giggling as they found the most convulted paths over every hill they could put a road on - those evil sadists! It was a miracle we didn't get lost. We had the worst climbs in the first 10 miles into Lawson. We decided to stop in town and get a soda and rest a bit. We expected the usual gas station/convenience store, given it was a small town, but it turned out to have a very nice Main Street with a nice little cafe on it, so that was a nice treat. After Lawson, we headed out on more county roads, but we had already decided last night that we would not continue to drive ourselves crazy with all the zigging amd zagging, so when we got to SR 10, we took it to Richmond instead of going the long way around that Adventure Cycling suggested.
Richmond turned out to be a strange town. It seemed to style itself on the southern plantation suggested by its name. There were grand houses and flowers on the corners and a historic cemetery, but the roads were some of the worst we'd ever seen. We decided to stop for lunch there since it was about half-way, and went into a family-style restaurant. It was another disappointing dining experience, though - noisy children and not-so-good food. Unfortunately, it was repeated at dinner tonight. We went to what looked like a nice cafe but it had lousy food and crying children. Kids don't seem to be as well-behaved in public here in Missouri as they were in Iowa. But I digress. After Richmond, we countinued to cheat and took SR 13 the rest of the way to Higginsville, our day's destination. 13 was fairly recently improved or re-routed, apparently - we had 3 different maps that all seemed slightly different opinions about where the road went exactly or how it got there. So we were a little concerned about getting this part right, but it was well-marked along the road itself and we made out fine. Both 10 and 13 were also a lot less hilly than the county roads; even though there was still a lot of up and down, it was a lot more easy going than this morning. None of the roads today, except for the newer parts of 13, had a good shoulder; 13 had a shoulder at least, but it was almost completely filled with a rumble strip for the most part. The new sections of 13, towards the end of the day, were the only places that we had a smooth shoulder.
Most of the scenery we saw was the same as yesterday - lots of fields that looked fairly wild, some crops and pasture, and many incongruously fancy houses that seemed out in the middle of nowhere. There were several fancy houses and a big golf course outside Lawson, for example, a town of about 2000 people. Richmond was the county seat for Ray County so it had a fancy court house. It also had a cemetery dating back to 1875, the final resting place of a former governor and of the guy who killed Jesse James. Jesse James was from this area and was apparently planning a bank heist in Platte City, which we went through yesterday, when he was killed by a new gang member for the $10,000 reward money. Jesse's career was linked with the railroad which in those days ended in St. Joseph, MO and the Pony Express that originated in that town. Mail that arrived by train from the east was then dispatched by Pony Express from St. Joe to points west. We saw more crop fields today, particularly where the hills were less steep. We saw very few cattle but saw a number of horses, including some horse breeding stables. Finally, near the end of the day, we went across the Missouri River again. Near the river, the land was very flat and covered with crops except where it was marshy. We ended at 3:50 today, having started at 7:45 and gone almost 57-1/2 miles in less than 6 hours of bike time. It was a sunny day with very little wind.
We've been remiss about reporting on the wildlife we see. Admittedly, it hasn't been much, but we have seen at least one or more deer each day, on average, from South Dakota on down. The deer like to graze around the corn fields and then dash into the corn rows if they feel threatened. Once we saw a pronghorn but nothing else exotic for some time. We had a spell where we saw hundreds of grasshoppers hopping like crazy in the grasses by the road. There are fewer of them now, but we're seeing lots of butterflies lately, which is nice, and a number of frogs or toads. And there are always lots of birds. At least once a day we see a billowing cloud of little birds that look like swallows - not sure that's what they are.