Rowing the Ozarks

Missouri, we learn today, is only pronounced miss-soo-REE by tourist outsiders like me. Any resident with some pride in their state will say miss-soo-RAH, marking perhaps the first time in the English language that an "I" takes on the properties of an "A". Beyond that, Missouri is caught in a cultural crossroads. It isn't exactly the south nor does it really belong to the Yankee states. It's too far west to be regarded as belonging to the east but yet still too far east to be considered a western or even midwest state. The accents vary between the southern drawl to the neutral midwestern tones - or somewhere in between. Church sightings are becoming less frequent. Blacks have also largely disappeared now from the rural radar and everyone looks more or less the same. Older women have all apparently agreed to get the same poofy hairdo sometimes tinted an unconvincing color but more often left to resemble a cotton candy bloom. The men, it seems to be some kind of uniform code around here, all are obligated to wear trucker hats. Whatever the issues with their heads they're all so far very friendly and are quick to give directions or just a friendly wave from their pickups (a pickup also being a mandatory possession around here).

Missouri is also spoiling me with generous shoulders that will probably disappear in Kansas and break my heart. The route I'm following, highway 63, is taking me through the highest and hilliest portions of the state yet care was evidently taken to smooth them out so as to provide palatable grades. In fact, I'm camping out at 1,640 feet just off the highway and realize I've gained about 900 feet from where I started this morning which is the highest single-day gain so far. The ride was undoubtedly hilly and has worn this soldier out nice and good but it could have been much worse.

The scenery is all rolling hills with splotchy forested areas. There's hardly any farmland because the ground is too rugged. Instead, this is mostly pasture lands for horses, cows and the occasional goat. Sometimes when I ride alongside cattle grounds I see some very severe looking bulls and wonder if they were determined whether those little strands of barbed wire could contain one hellbent on charging me. I imagine they'd break through it like so much dental floss and then I'd have a most major bitching problem on my hands. Are there any good tips regarding an onslaught of bulls?? I've seen their anger in video clips of the Pamplona runs and I'm not sure if smiling meekly when they look at me so seriously, well, whether that's helping any or not.

If I have time to consider pissed-off bulls rushing their fences it's only because the road shoulders have eliminated much of the stress of having to ride on the lane with traffic. I can think, I can take in the scenery, I can even whistle a tune every now and then. Today I even had time to make up an alliterative phrase:

Fallow fields from fallen foes fertile forests form

I can see that that sort of thing is a bit goofy. Consider though for a moment what you would do if you were in my shoes and had a few hours to kill? How would you entertain the ol' gray matter?

Day 29