Some drivers here seem to believe that if they honk loud enough the road will get wider. Overuse of the horn somehow gives them permission, especially if they drive a log truck, to pass impossibly closely on the narrow, hilly roads.
Although they offer more topography than Kansas, the Ozarks aren't much as hills go. The highest peaks are under 3000 ft. But the roads were built before dynamite and D10 Cats were invented by farmers who were more concerned about saving farmland than making the route easier for their oxen. There are some sharp climbs.
Now I don't want to give the impression that everybody is rude around here. Some drivers are very polite and patient, while the majority give a cyclist plenty of room, even if it means an unsafe venture on the wrong side of the road. Face-to-face, everybody seems quite polite, although few seem to understand why anybody wants to bicycle through the area. Since the Trans-Am runs through here, they've seen enough cyclists to accept them as part of the scene.
I'd like to review the Missouri Driver's Manual with a few of these drivers. I'll bet the section on slow moving vehicles isn't much different than any other state. "An over-taking vehicle is responsible to remain a safe distance behind the slower vehicle until it is possible to pass safely on the left."
While we're reviewing that, we may want to look over the section on who is allowed to use the roads. We know the courts have ruled that human- and animal-powered vehicles have a right to use public roadways, while motor vehicles use it by licensed privilege. The small towns around here are crawling with unlicensed quads, from bladeless supercharged riding mowers to off-road destroyers. I'm not sure why local law enforcement looks the other way. They don't seem to enforce seat belt laws either.
Today we decided the motel room wasn't too expensive after cruising by the home where bicyclists can stay for a free-will donation. The big "Jesus is Lord" sign over the Ten Commandments in the front yard reinforced another cyclist's assessment of the host as a "whack job." We just didn't feel like spending the evening explaining our lifestyles in his little house.
Back on the other side of Missouri, we had a wonderful host who is a Code Pink transsexual who has run for national office three times and been arrested for speaking truth to power. Then we spent a night camped on the lawn of a courthouse listening to the same five cars drive in circles late into the night.
Riding lots of relatively short up and down hills requires a different style than the slow pulls of the Rockies or the flats of Kansas. Broad gearing and smooth shifting habits give opportunities to maintain maximum forward momentum of the bike by maintaining full spinning momentum of the cranks, with the occasional exception of an out-of-the-saddle maneuver to pull over the top of a short rise without downshifting.
I want to pay homage to Aaron (or is it Erin?) McCrotchety, the fabled Scottish bike tourist who developed the out of saddle descent. With head and arms in a full tuck, tail elevated, and knees and elbows bent to absorb shocks, this posture allows one to move downhill quickly. Between this and powering over the hills, we avoid TB (tired butt).
A Missouri monsoon nearly turned us into Sag4Peace, as we wimped our way into a safe motel. Today in spite of ominous forecasts, we rode without rain. The humidity was high enough that one was challenged to know that it wasn't raining, but no drops fell, save the sweat dripping from my helmet straps. Through the hills and hollows of the Ozarks, Bike4Peace 2010 continues.
Written by Vernon Huffman.