Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 21 Route 36 Hamilton – Clarence, MO 111 miles

I have been on Route 36 for almost a week. The changes to the landscape are subtle but steady. The land has become less arid. The trees have returned. Last night I pitched my tent in a grove of shagbark hickory and poplar, two species found in the east that would have been missing from the sage-covered hills in dry Kansas and Colorado. All night I heard great horned and barred owls. If I am not mistaken, the barred owl needs some serious woodland as part of its home range. Two of them seemed to call back and forth to each other at varying distances from the tent. Later, coyotes chimed in; they would start and stop howling pretty spontaneously. All those noises didn’t seem to bother a raccoon, who got into my pack but missed the granola bars before he was shooed off by the biker.

There was some serious headwind on Route 36 today. The shoulder improved greatly for biking over Sunday’s conditions. Late in the day, however, the four lane road got reduced to two lanes and zero shoulder. I was not thrilled about that, and actually got up and used the closed two lanes under construction (photo). For a while I was feeling great about it; the road was completed enough that I could bike on it but it was closed to motor traffic. It was the last 12 miles of the day and I was glad to zone out. Then, with about six miles to go, the construction became so recent that the concrete was still wet! I had to hop on the shoulder-less other section again. Dogs chased me and I had to ride opposing traffic to find any shoulder at all. Alternate routes eastward through Missouri are very hard to find right now, so I will have to tread carefully tomorrow. There is a difference between biking and holding on, which is what I did for a bit. This is supposed to be pedal4wildlife, not pedalformylife!

Obviously the eastern U.S. is much mire heavily settled than out west, with the bulk of the unsettled land, at least here in Missouri, under intense cultivation. I have been seeing very little wildlife during the day. This is the section of the country I thought I’d have to put my head down and plow through, and this has been the case. When we were running the beautiful carriage paths of Acadia National Park, my Maine buddy Tim Sheehan once told me that when he got tired, it helped him to picture his muscles at work. Today that is what I did. I looked down at my quads and visualized the repeating firing of muscle fibers, and that energy transferred to the tiny pedals below. I thought if my transformed legs acting as two smooth pistons that slowly but surely turned feet into yards, and yards into miles, on a ribbon of concrete cutting through a sea of soy and corn.

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