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Owl's Bend River
Pilot Knob

Owl's Bend River
Pilot Knob
Murphysboro, IL
Fast forward
Misery hills
Alley Mill
Current River

Thursday July 21-24, 2006 282 miles - Total so far: 2,582 miles

After another long night's sleep I accepted Roxie's offer to "fast forward" me to Marshfield, Missouri rather than backtracking to Girard, where she had picked me up last Wednesday. This meant skipping about 100 miles of my route, but avoiding another 100 degree day in Kansas...and also allowed me to stay on schedule to reach my sister, Melanie's home in Louisville by the end of the month. As it turned out, the thermometer still climbed into the mid 90's on Friday, but at least I had shade whenever I needed it!

I may be mistaken, but I believe these rolling hills of Missouri have more cumulative elevation gain than the Rocky Mountains. If anyone out there feels like doing the math, let me know if I'm right. The grades certainly are steeper! Typically, I would climb for several minutes at 3 to 5 miles an hour in "granny gear", then get a 30 second downhill rush at 30 miles per hour, followed by another tough climb, etc, etc...for several days!

On the bright side, the Ozark Mountains are very appealing...densly wooded and full of little streams, rivers, and natural springs. I stopped at an amazing place called Alley Spring, where 81 million gallons of water per day flows from underground channels! There is evidence that it has attracted humans for over 12,000 years. In the 1800s the water flow was harnessed to mill corn and wheat. The Alley Mill is now a historic attraction to tourists (see photo).

The Current River nearby was so clean and appealing, with a pebbly stone bottom, that I decided to stop, swim, and camp for the night at Owl's Bend. This is also a popular floating river, and there were lots of people canoeing and inner tubing on the river.

On Saturday I met another cyclist from England who had started in Washington, DC and was travelling to Oregon. Susan had won this trip through an essay contest for the "Guardian" Newspaper in London. She calls herself an "eco-adventurer" and you can read about her trip at http://travel.guardian.co.uk/netjetters/susan

On Monday I finally got out of the Missouri (prounounced "misery") hills and have never been happier to see the flatlands of the Mississippi floodplain! Southern Illinois is not flat like central Illinois, where I was raised, but at least the hills are not as daunting as those I had just passed through. I crossed the Mississippi at Chester and was so pleased to be on "level" ground that I pushed on to Murphysboro...and ended up cycling 102 miles that day.

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