Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 23 and 24: to Ash Grove, MO and Pittsburg, KS

After the tedious, annoying climbs up the Ozarks yesterday, I figured there couldn’t be much more to them.  Boy, was I wrong.  Today was A LOT more rolling hills in the June heat of the Midwest.

Day 23 and 24 003 We started out the day with second breakfast (first breakfast is oatmeal or whatever you cook at 6am, second breakfast you buy from a diner after 20 or 30 miles or riding) in a cute town in Missouri.  We pass through and stay in so many towns that I get embarrassed when I talk to locals and can’t remember where I am or where I’m headed.  This picture should be submitted to here based on how incredibly unhealthy it is for a breakfast food.  It’s two slices of french toast sort of hollowed out with cream cheese and strawberry preserves in the middle.  Then they are jammed together, rolled in corn flakes, and deep fried.  Add some whipped cream and syrup and BAM, you have yourself a breakfast only MAYBE people like us can justify eating.  I couldn’t bear to order one and I’m burning at the very minimum 5,00o calories a day.   However, I do plan on destroying a KFC double down sandwich as soon as I have the opportunity. 

Day 23 and 24 014

“What town are we in?”  “Do they have milkshakes here?” “Why does Missouri use letters instead of numbers to name their highways?”

Day 23 and 24 015

Approaching our final hills.  It’s so discouraging to see a looming landscape like this.  The camera definitely doesn’t do it justice.  By this point, I was discouraged.  My socks were halfway over my shoes because they had scraped up my ankles, my bike shorts were hiked up like a bathing suit because I was hot and dirty, and I was riding in just my sports bra with my shirt fashioned into a scarf.  I was not a happy camper, I just wanted to stop climbing up the Ozarks and go to bed. 

Of course the swimming pool that everyone was enjoying in Ash Grove was closed by the time I finally arrived at six.  I showered and then rode to the only restaurant in town, a Chinese place.  It might have been the worst Chinese I’ve ever had and I couldn’t have cared at all.  I was happy to avoid the hassle of cooking outdoors.  We slept in some weird old house that was only two rooms.  I found a small cot I slept in successfully until it folded up while I was on it and scratched the area where my butt meets my leg.  EXACTLY where I have been getting all these saddle sores and the most sensitive part of me right now.   Figures.   

Day 23 and 24 016 When I awoke the next morning and carefully got out of my cot to the smell of pancakes, I knew it was already going to be a better day than the previous one.  Thanks, favorite route leader Matt.

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WE MADE IT TO KANSAS!  We totally slammed it to Kansas, to be exact.  The ride from Ash Grove to the Kansas border was still sort of hilly and it was by far the fastest I’ve ever gone for that many miles.  I was trying just about as hard as humanly possible for the entire 70 miles.  I think the only way I could have gone faster was if a bear or murderer or something were chasing me.  That made seeing the ‘Welcome to Kansas’ sign even more exciting.  We finally made it to the flatlands AND we might finally be good at cycling.  Here’s Liza and Bridget lifting their bikes up in celebration.  True story: my bike weighs probably three times theirs and I was physically unable to lift it more than a foot off the ground.  I was exhausted.  So the picture of me looks pretty stupid. 

Day 23 and 24 041

Pittsburg, (no H) Kansas is an amazing place.  We rolled into town to find that the local MS chapter had arranged for us to have a free pizza buffet at a local joint, Wheat State Pizza.  All of the crusts are made from local, organic whole wheat.  So good.  I devoured an entire dessert pizza and it reminded me of the times Mike, Bart, and me would sit at CiCi’s pizza buffet for hours after high school.  The town itself was pretty big for us, maybe around 20,000 people.  The actual downtown was thriving for a change; although I thought it was odd that honestly 25% of the stores I passed were bridal shops.  Then we saw an actual bride walking down the street!  Pittsburg must be big into weddings?

Oh yeah… about earlier, when I said that I flew for 70 miles going as fast as I could without dying? The 4 hour sprint that left me completely exhausted?  The point of all that was to get to Wheat State before the USA vs. Ghana soccer game started at 1:3o central time.  And we all know how that turned out.  Talk about major bummer for Bike the US for MS.  We are all about the World Cup.  Now all we have to look forward to is the Tour. 

Day 23 and 24 038 As if free pizza wasn’t enough, we were also provided free frozen custard by some popular local place.  I had to include this picture of Roseanne and Liza because their faces crack me up.  Liza there on the right had just told Rose that we had to ride another 9 miles to our camp (a lie-it was only 9 blocks) and you can see the utter shock in Rose’s face.  We were totally full of food and done-zo with riding.

 Day 23 and 24 042

The city water park in Pittsburg, Kansas.  Yeah, we went.  Yeah, we were the only people there between the ages of 15-45.  We waited in line for the slides and played a HORRIBLE game of sand volleyball.  We are unequivocally bad at every sport we attempt to play.  It’s amazing that you can get a group of people together that are so spectacular at cycling and, at the same time, so bad other athletic pursuits.

Day 23 and 24 050

My bruises.  I had an ‘unplanned dismount’ from my bicycle the other day.  I wasn’t planning on getting off, but for some reason I rode into the grass on the shoulder of the road and fell over.  Oops. 

Day 23 and 24 049

We were very fortunate to stay in the Pittsburg Middle School band room.  I’m not being sarcastic by saying that chilling out in a middle school was awesome; we had a whole locker room, multiple showers and toilets, AC, a cafeteria, a gym, and a whole school to explore late at night.  The local MS society (which had already done it’s part with the free pizza, custard, and pool passes) made us dinner in the cafeteria.  They fed us until we were full.  Amazing.  The ladies were so nice and caring towards us, we couldn't have asked for more hospitality.  This woman, Robin, was diagnosed with MS when she was 21.  She told us about the amazing advances in drugs and technology in the last 35 years and how they have helped her cope with her disease.  She goes around giving speeches about MS all of the time and is a remarkable public speaker.  Robin made me cry.  She hand-stitched each of us a red, white, and blue “angel”, sort of like a Christmas ornament, to keep with us to remind us that we’re her angels.  Everyone was touched by her words.  As I’ve said before, it’s easy to forget that what we’re doing affects people like Robin.  It just seems like I’m riding my bike a lot.  I’m so thankful for her kind wishes and encouragement.  To everyone that came out to see us in Pittsburg- thanks so much.  We love Pittsburg!  Go Gorillas!


  1. Tara, thanks so much for your blog. You are a wonderful writer (and photographer) and really convey what this experience is like for you. I laugh out loud when I read some of your stories, and I had tears in my eyes when you described your angels from Robin.

    I wish you easy pedaling and strong tailwinds and above all a safe ride.

    Susan Pearlman (Alex's mom)

  2. this is the latest i've stayed up in quite some time by choice. (working doesn't count.) i need to get myself back in drinking order in time for the trip. seriously, i go out maybe once a week. i'm so lame.

    but i'm glad you updated and i'm especially glad you included a battle wound picture. did this "unplanned dismount" occur shortly after one of your "pit stops"? ha. way to bring in the oprah-crying-worthy story at the end there. i can't even imagine.

    woooo one more month! kiersten has informed me of some fun plans for seattle (something about "the float" weekend which includes 50 random people and thousands of beers in a river). so i hope you're as excited as i am! love you!

  3. RA, Really enjoy your blogs! I love the food pictures and your descriptions of the meals. SO amazing how far all of you have gone! Stay safe and wishes for fun days to you and the team! Love You, T and Wes

  4. Tara you are so great!(your Mom told me about the blog the other night) I love reading about the trip, the food, the people, but so sorry you have sores and some pain. Hey, how do you get back to VA? P.S. I've been to Alcatraz, it's worth it, so interesting. Lorraine

  5. Looking at the picture of your unplanned dismount I see the literal meaning of the term "cruising for a bruising". I enjoy all your observations. love. Mimi

  6. Hi Tara I've been keeping up with your blog and it's amazing. You are so funny. The pictures and your descriptions are wonderful. You might want to consider being a writer. I love what you are doing, how caring to capture the mission you and your team mates are on. I am looking forward to the new adventures. I feel like I'm reading a great American novel in real time. Good luck and I hope the butt sores are easing. Donna Herron