“What goes up must come down” my main man Isaac once said. Well it’s safe to say the ‘down’ is great fun and, if timed correctly and judged well, the uphill isn’t that bad either on the rolling hills which Missouri has laid down for us. Unfortunately I am shocking at judging these uphill rollers and prefer to keep in my highest gear, pedal only when I start losing speed on the uphill and look down at my revolving feet in the effort to control/ignore the burning pain in my legs. This usually results in finding myself in an interesting position, a few meters short of the top of the hill, in an incredibly high gear with two choices: either stand, grit my teeth and slowly crawl up the remainder of the hill or quickly shift to granny gear and spin up the rest. Of course I could stop and walk the rest but I signed up to cycle across America, not walk it, so option one it is and as my ‘fixed gear’ friends would say: ‘gears are for pansies’. Or maybe I should just learn to use them? Safe to say the Oliver family will not be winning the polka dot jersey any time soon. The hills are just too clever and deceptive for me.
Saying that, the hills really are beautiful – Missouri has been likened to Devon, interestingly by an American guy from New York. I thought those guys didn’t leave the magical New York, New York? So picture Devon and then picture where we’re riding. Got it? Perfect. If you’re struggling then the attached photo might give you more of a clue. The roller-coaster hills are certainly more fun that long drawn out climbs we’ve had up till this point and of course free wheeling is the best! Tucking in and not touching the brakes can get you up to around 40 miles per hour. The highest I’ve reached is 51mph so far which quickly drops to 2.8mph on the tops of those climbs. Ouch.
Tractors and lawn-mowers are a big feature in Missouri. I wave at every single one and always get a wave or nod back. The cows also like to be waved at and do respond if you whistle or shout daily greetings at them. Basically everyone is friendly round these parts. I’ve decided that I quite like the Harley’s Angels which growl by at speed. we had at least 50 pass us today. They like to wave too as they pass – me sweating, crawling up a hill, them chilled out in their massive leather seats blasting out their beats. When I told some people that I was biking across America, many were like: “cool, that’ll be fun, motorbiking right?” No no, cycling. Followed by “WHAT? Are you crazy? Your bum will be so sore!” Yes I am crazy and yes my bum is sore and I have learned my lesson. Next time I will be on a Harley Davidson waving at poor, sweaty cyclists as I zoom by eating Twizzlers being serenaded by Queen. Just joking, I’m not trading in Gulliver (my bike) for anything. My bike runs on fat and my resting heart rate is undoubtably lower than the bikers. (It makes me feel better if I think this way. Those bikes look too comfortable).
Another great thing about cycling (if I haven’t already mentioned it many, many times) is the food! We had a delightful SAG stop at this small town yesterday – Maysville. The locals had gathered around their local volunteer museum, cheered us into town and then fed us!! They were so adorable!!! This amazing man had been up since 5am baking the most amazing cinnamon buns I have ever tasted (I’ve not had many mind, but trust me these were great!) They had also made us peanut butter and homemade jam sandwiches and strawberry lemonade. They loved finding out that we had come all the way from Scotland, whereby many then proceed to tell you that they are in fact from Scotland, you ask them where and they have no idea. I was blown away by their hospitality.
So, we reach the 2,000 mile mark tomorrow and our 8th state as well as crossing the Mississippi River! It’s a very exciting day. Shame my legs are absolutely shot. Oh well, onwards and upwards (and then hopefully down again!)