Middle of the Ozarks: Ellington, MO

Thursday June 11, 2009, 70 miles (113 km) – Total so far: 1,414 miles (2,276 km)

The severe thunderstorms came through last night, waking me from a sound sleep. This morning it looked a bit threatening, again, but we started early anyhow. The first major turn was a wierd one: look for a telephone pole with such and such a number on it, and turn right.  There was only one right turn in sight, so we took it, and it turned out to be the correct turn.  Uphill, and muggy. Beautiful riding through St. Joe State Park, and the hills weren’t bad; maybe 5%. Once we reached the crest of the ridge, there were some fun rollers. It had cleared off, and there was not a cloud in the sky. It seems this is a savanna, mingled with alleged tall grass prairie. It looked pretty short to me. From my Appalachian background, I’d say these were young woods, but with little undergrowth.

Prairie and savanna

We descended to near Park Hills and joined SR 32; no fun.  They were starting to work on the railroad crossing, but they let us through, saving us a five mile detour.  Not too big, but 5 miles easier to skip.  Massive truck traffic past the detour, expecting us to move over onto the shoulders, which were sometimes sound, and sometimes pocked with potholes, gravel, and downright dangerous for bikes.  Endured that through Bismark, then to a lesser extend to Iron Mountain and Graniteville.  On the way, I pointed out what looked like a cloud-rise; into this beautiful, clear, blue sky, there was a cloud coming up over the ridge to the west.

Outside Graniteville, we were looking for lunch.  One of our two options was a log cabin imitation, with signs saying, “No skateboards, bicycles, or roller blades.”  We parked near the door (the better to keep an eye on our mode of transportation, and out of the way of anybody else who might drive in), and the proprietor slid open a window and yelled, “No bicycles on the porch!”  We went to the other gas/grocery/deli, and had lunch.  Then dessert.  The old grump’s loss, I guess.

They had a fair bit of pink granite around Graniteville.  A few miles down the road we ran into a stretch where they had paved the road with the stuff.  I remember green pavement a few decades back near Rockwood, TN, but I don’t remember seeing pink pavement before!

Pink road in the hills

Met a couple of other guys doing parts of Trans-Am east to west as we cooled off under a tree.  They left Yorktown on Memorial Day, but the dad has to go back to work this weekend.  They’ll get another shot in a few weeks, starting this time from Oregon and aiming to get back to Missouri.

From there we headed over through Johnson’s Shut-in State Park.  Unfortunately, everything was closed as they were rebuilding the whole park, from what we could see.  We hit the two hardest grades of the Ozarks so far; I’d guess they were 8-10%.  The first one, Virginia missed a shift and had to walk it. The second one, she hopped off in front of me and said, “I could ride this one, but…” and I finished, “but it’s easier to walk it.”  It was only 100 yards long, and it was hot, and the sun was beating down on us.  Down the other side was much better, enough to cool off, if not to dry off.  There was one section where there were a bunch of trees blown down.  It creeped me out;  I’d rather not be there if something like that ever comes through again!

Virginia climbing past blow-downs


We made it into Centerville about 2:00, and cooled off a bit with more drinks.  We’d had a good 50-mile ride at that point, but it was still close to mid-day, and there isn’t much to do in the county seat (population 171).  There were some thunderclouds building up, but it wasn’t actually raining, and if it took until late afternoon, we had a shot at getting in dry.  I figured I could do another 15 miles or so, so we started off again.

Made it into Ellington, MO, with only two raindrops hitting me.  They allow camping at the town’s park, which is a bit out of town.  The other two riders had stopped for lunch in Centerville, so they rolled up as we were asking directions.  We stopped at a restaurant for an early supper, and they came on up to the park.  I figure we’ll need a fair bit of food, water, and salt to ride tomorrow, and it’s easier to get all that at a restaurant or diner.  While salt tastes good, I’m looking forward to looking at a meal as food, and not as a salt delivery mechanism.

Ellington's Brawley City Park

and their guest accomodations

Ellington has decided to use Disney’s approach to speed limit signs.  29 mph speed limit outside of downtown, where the limit is 23 mph.  Wonder if the residents notice any more.

Odd speed limit

No internet access tonight, so I’ll post this in another day or two.  Looks like either of our next two projected stops has a library, and those are usually good for ‘net access.  1400 miles in a month; that puts us on schedule, and includes the Appalachians and a solid chunk of Ozarks!

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