June 9, 2015 Pilot's Knob, Missouri, Eastern Gateway to the Ozarks
Whether it's the world's largest ball of string or the Liberty Bell made of wheat in Gossert, Kansas, it's funny how people create a roadside attraction to make their town special. This morning, as I left Chester, Illinois to cross the Mississippi into Missouri, I rode by the pride of Chester, a bunch of Popeye statues in memoriam to his creator, Elzie Crisler Segar, who first created the comic strip in 1929. All over town, Popeye, Olive Oil, Sweet Pea, and Wimpy are captured in statues - kind of cute and sweet and weird. But maybe, when you live in the middle of nowhere and are known for nothing, you have to leverage what you have. Because it seems, that everyone has pride in where they live and they want to shout it out to the world. They all just want to matter, and belong to something bigger.
On a sidebar, about ten or so days ago, I met an old guy in a cafe in the poorest part of Kentucky (Eastern Appalachia) - he was my age, not in the best of shape, and sat having a huge lunch with a box of shotgun shells, a carton of cigs and a hunting knife on the cafe table as we talked. He was telling me that Elk Grove was the best place in the world to live... although he really has never been anywhere else. Once he went to a big city, Richmond, VA, and thought it it was horrible. I felt like he felt that he had to say that... that he had to defend his life to me... which I found very interesting. Again, I feel like a cultural anthropologist - no judgement, just data that I'm collecting for my next book. And if you read yesterday's post... this guy isn't so different than I am in a lot of ways... if I judge him, I have to judge myself, and neither has any value.
I rode 58 miles of roller coasters today, tackling the Ozark foothills to get to Pilot Knob, where the real climbing begins. I'm attempting a 65 miler tomorrow, followed by a 71 on Wed, if the heat and steep doesn't change my plans - which is fine if it does. I have to listen to my body - after all, I'm asking so much of it. I've become a believer that all of us can ask a lot more of our bodies if we can train our minds to take the reins.
Thanks for riding along!
1. A new state today!
2, 3, 4. Popeye Statues
5. Today's ride - foothills of the Ozarks
6. Where I am today: Dot inside circle
7. The elevation of the next few days...