May 14, 2001

5/14/01 Johnson's Shut-In's

39.2 miles

It didn't surprise me to find Ron already packed and gone by the time we woke up. He was one of those early to bed, early to rise kind of folks. Mike and I finally left Farmington about 7:30. We had decided to sleep in because we had a short day (HA, HA, HA!).

One nice thing about an earlier start is that you miss rush hour traffic. Boy, did we sure run into it. And it didn't let up until we got to Pilot Knob. After that we took a side trip to Elephant Rocks State Park. The place seemed more exciting when I was a kid. We were going to re-create a guidebook picture at "Fat Man Squeeze" but they don't allow bikes on the path.

Jim moving those 'Elephant Rocks' [smile]

After that, we had a pretty easy ride except for a slight headwind. I was able to save two more turtles today. The poverty down here seems a lot like Eastern Kentucky, only not as populated. But it's funny that this part of the state seemed more familiar to me. I began to recognize the trees like the Pin Oak.

I was very much looking forward to our final destination of the day -- Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. I can't believe it, but I have vivid memories of a visit I had here over 30 years ago as a kid. And even though the river is down, it's all that I remembered. The only major difference is that they don't allow diving off the cliffs anymore downstream. My brother, Tom, and I leaped off them like idiots. My only excuse is that we were young - very young.

A bunch of kids playing among the shutes

I talked a bit with our campground hosts, Virgil and Juan Bledsoe. "We're booked up from Memorial Day to the end of August," Juan said. "This is the busiest park in Missouri!" Virgil said they volunteer here from Spring to September; then move the RV to another state park for October; then spoil the grandkids in Memphis for a month. After spending a few months where it's warm, they're back here in the Spring. "We love it," he said.

As the evening wears on, I have mixed emotions. The exciting part is that today I've finished my first full month on the road. But it's also the last day I'll be riding with Mike. Tomorrow, after a few miles, he heads west while I'll head north. I couldn't have asked for a better cycling partner. We got along like brothers and I learned so much from him. The rest of my tour will be a little smoother because of his extensive bike touring experience. I hope someday we can get together again. I'll miss him a lot.