Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Day 27: Saving the world one tortoise at a time

Day 27
Farmington to Ellington 62miles

Managed to escape from prison by about 7.30. Could tell it was going to be a hot day today.
Decided to take a slight detour today. I'd read that some people have found it difficult to identify an unmarked bike route outside of Farmington, so I stuck to the main road. In terms of distance it only saved me about 2miles, but it was simple to follow.

Today was another decent riding day. Into the Ozarks now, but none of the climbs have been too bad. I think one important difference to the Appalachians is that the roads are much straighter so you can often see the summit of the uphill. It's much easier to push on a bit to the top when you can actually see that you are making progress. The twisty-turny climbs of Virginia never really allowed you to see how close to the top you might have been.

Soon after breakfast I carried out what seems to be almost a TransAm rite of passage – saving a tortoise! Sadly you do see a lot of crushed tortoise shells on the side of the roads out here. Obviously they dont have the turn of pace of some other animals to try and make a dash for it if a car approaches.

So when I found this little guy inching his was across the asphalt, I stopped and carried him over to the other side.

So one less bit of roakill. And you do see a lot of it here. And with much more variety than in the UK. Back home you get rabbits, squirrels, birds, foxes and maybe the odd badger or deer. So far (from what I can recall), I've seen racoons, skunks, possums, snakes, tortoises, huge birds, deer, rabbits and probably some others. And god do they stink! Lying around baking in the sun makes them produce a particularly foul stench. You can always tell when you approaching the next one!

Progress was going well, and after about 35miles I came across Johnson's Shut-Ins state park. Initially I was just going to pop in to fill up my water bottles. Had to cycle about a quarter of a mile into the park to get to the shop. And then I saw lots of people dressed for swimming. Checked with the woman in the shop, and there was a river nearby to swim in. So I gave her my panniers to look after, changed into my swimming gear and went for a paddle. The “Shut-Ins” are a geological feature caused by rivers being shut in by a specific type of rock. The end result is lots of little channels carved into the rock by the water. As you can see here.

It actually looked really cool – the effect was to create lots of little rapids that you could ride between the rocks. But in reality you needed something decent on your feet. Had I known, I would have worn my walking shoes and then just dried them out on the back of my bike. But I was more than happy to paddle in the calm waters and cool off a bit.

Was actually really nice to be able to take some time out from riding and relax a bit. The advantage of my comparatively low daily mileage requirement is that I dont have to be in the saddle all day.

The last part of the ride was a series of sweeping up and downs, but pretty enjoyable.

Arrived in Ellington, hoping to stay with a guy called Herman. Herman regularly hosts cross country cyclists, although sadly when I spoke to him today he wasnt feeling well so not up for hosting. So a motel it is!

Another solid day on the road. Its good that a 60+ mile day doesnt really seem to tire me out now – means I should be able to reach Astoria for my planned finishing date even if I were to encounter a few unforeseen delays along the way.

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