by John de Figueiredo
Hartville, MO to Eminence, MO
A 6am departure from Hartville allowed us to witness a beautiful sunrise over the Ozarks. As we rode across the serene hills at about 15-16 mph in the early morning, the blurry form of a large brown animal seemed to fall from the sky. Actually, the hidden animal leaped unexpectedly from the high left embankment toward the pace line. As it soared through the air it looked likely to pounce on its quarry--the rider on the middle left side of the pace line--Mr. Billings. At the final moment, Mr. Billings swerved almost imperceptibly to the right, causing the animal to just miss his back tire. I, riding somewhat behind Mr. Billings, saw the landing, and recognized the white dots on the beige coat as those of a young deer. The deer, clearly realizing that the bikes and riders were much larger than it had bargained for, immediately, upon landing, attempted to halt the momentum of its jump that had transitioned into a slide across the pavement into my bike. As it did, I too swerved right to miss the deer and the animal leaped back into the woods. So our day in the Twilight Zone had begun.
Our objective was Eminence, MO, 85 miles from Hartville. Given the steep grades of the Ozarks, this was a lofty goal, with a total climb for the day predicted at 5,000 feet. However, the Lonegan family of our own Troop 845, had very kindly offered their family's beautiful summer home in the resort town of Eminence as a way station for the Crew. This provided incentive for us to push through the heat index of 102 degrees to get there.
By now the Crew had become accustomed to riding the Ozarks, with low gear ratios on the steep uphill and higher gear ratios on the speedy downhills, allowing us to keep a respectable average of 13-14 mph while riding. By 12:30p we had we stopped in Summerfield, 62 miles into our ride and within striking distance of Eminence.
As we rolled on the beautiful Ozark Scenic Byway managed by the National Park Service, we took in the magnificent scenery the Show Me State had to offer. The only thing sitting between us and Eminence was Alley Hill. An extraordinarily steep grade of, according to topographical maps, of 300+ vertical feet. We attacked with vigor, the Crew commenting that this was the steepest climb of the entire trip as they made the ascent with effort but little drama, but watched as I exerted my all of my reserve energy to crest Alley Hill.
As we came down into Eminence, the valley welcomed us with food, friendliness, and the respite of the the Lonegan's house and the extended family's kind hospitality--they even delivered to us nine large pizzas to requite our hunger after a 85 mile day.