September 14, Day 74 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
Today, we faced the toughest road we have faced for weeks. Route 185 from Sullivan to Potosi, on the edge of the Ozark region, lived up to its billing. A local named Carl at Dairy Queen in Sullivan had briefed us on its dangerous elements the prior day and spared us from a headlamp ride on a perilously unshouldered road with poor sight lines and absolutely no services. This ride also came with a backwoods feel to it, heavily forested for miles. We’ve found that most locals don’t translate from auto travel to bicycle travel very well. However, Carl certainly knew what he was talking about and translated flawlessly. Yet, until we cycled the road ourselves, we couldn’t fully appreciate his cautions.
After 35 miles on it today, we were happy to say we’d made it through unscathed. Not only were there no shoulders on this road, but there were also certain stretches where there was no room to get off the road without crashing the bike into a gully or the woods. Motorists were thoughtful and cautious when they spotted our wide loads and slow progress up the steep hills. Most were gracious, giving us plenty of space and time to make our way up the hills before they swerved into the other lane to avoid any oncoming traffic while passing us.
We had also climbed most of the 4,000 feet of elevation gain achieved for the entire day. One killer hill was so steep that I was wondering whether I would need to dismount the bike and walk it. I must admit, we rather enjoyed some of the descents. This stretch had some rollers that we were able to climb without too much effort due to the pitch of the preceding hill’s descent. Many others, of course, did not! Although we had to be on our guard due to the narrow road, we also had fun. Once we had cleared the more deeply forested stretch, we were also treated to some beautiful views of the neighboring countryside from atop the hills.
Did you see what I saw?
We thought we had broken free from serious encounters with canines after we departed from Potosi and the incredibly curvy, hilly, and heavily forested topography that preceded it. However, with Debbie leading the charge on flat Route 8 at a respectable speed of 16 mph, all of a sudden, out darted an animal on a mission. It raced across the road in no time flat, just in front of her, seemingly in pursuit of lunch at full speed. Thankfully, we weren’t on his menu.
“Did you see that?” Debbie asked.
“Yes,” I said, “it must have been one of those wild dogs.”
We’d heard wild dogs frequent the Ozarks and eastern Kentucky and harass unsuspecting cyclists who find themselves led into the dogs’ habitat as their Adventure Cycling maps lead them through their adventure. Yet, the more I thought about it, the behavior of this animal seemed suspicious. First, it wasn’t traveling in a pack as we’ve been told wild dogs tend to do. Second, it was totally unfazed by its surroundings and seemed completely focused on something well ahead of it. The chase was on, and it wasn’t to be interrupted by 55 mph vehicles or much slower, manually powered contraptions. We couldn’t figure out what it was, but we felt confident it came with sharp teeth and a vicious growl.
Our sighting led me to the Internet. Does Missouri have wolves? For that matter, do they have bears or cats? I was surprised to learn that wolves have been sighted in this state, as have mountain lions and black bears. Regarding wolves, there is debate as to how they got here. The so-called experts think they wandered down from “nearby states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan.” I have news for the experts. Those states aren’t really nearby. There are some pretty big states in between, full of corn fields and little forest cover.
Regardless of how they got here, wolves are here. Did we see a wolf on the hunt? Who knows! Unfortunately, the helmet cam wasn’t running. Otherwise, we’d really have had a story.
Three Thousand Miles
Amid all of the climbing and caution regarding the trailing traffic and our wildlife sighting, we almost lost sight of an important milestone. Today, we climbed over the 3,000-mile threshold. What can you get from cycling 3,000 miles? You can get some tired and sore body parts. You can also see some things you never knew existed. You’ll have had plenty of opportunity to share an important mission with some strangers. And you can discover for yourself that you can do more than you had ever thought or imagined, with God’s help, of course. And you’ll also carry with you some memories of a lifetime.
Reaching a milestone like this is satisfying, but there is still much work to be done. We estimate that we’re two-thirds of the way through our travel journey, yet only 15% of the way to our fundraising destination. Many teens and young adults will benefit from your financial support of TheHopeLine. Isn’t the 3,000-mile mark a good time to make your pledge, if you have not already done so? You can pledge by clicking this link. Or, you can click here to find out why we think TheHopeLine is worthy of your support.