Houston we have a Problem – Houston to Marshville

Lots of wild flowers at the side of the road today

My dear old mum always says that if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything … and so in that vein, I won’t mention the Houston motel, the motel breakfast or the Yorkshireman who ran it. Suffice to say that he came over years ago looking for the American dream and seems to have ended up at the wrong end of that particular spectrum.

Due to a monumental lapse of map reading ability by yours truly, our ‘short day’ turned out to be much longer and we were regretting our leisurely late start already… and we hadn’t even left yet! The problem was compounded by the geology … it hadn’t changed overnight as we had planned … we were still in the Ozarks. Blast! Thankfully it was Sunday and most folk were already at any one of the numerous prayer outlets so the traffic was light as we hit those darn hills yet again.

Roller coaster

When riding a roller coaster landscape like this getting the timing on the gear changes right is crucial.

Getting over the switchbacks goes something like this; you crest the hill in bottom gear, doing 4 mph. Hit the drops, change up, power down. Bottom out in top at 40, power up the other side. Legs hurt, click down 3 at back … 20 metres. C!ick down at front … another 20 metres. 3 more at back … 10 metres. Last one at front. Last 3 at back. Struggle to the top in bottom doing 4.
Repeat this sequence until either your legs, lungs or head gives up … the Ozark switchbacks sure as hell don’t!  For miles I can’t remember what the scenery looked like, but I guess it was green and pretty.

Arrived at our planned lunch stop, Hartville, early afternoon … just as it shut up shop for the day. ‘It’ in reality being Rose’s cafe, the only place still functioning in the now empty main street. All the other shops and businesses had long given up the ghost. Our maps don’t go much off route but if they did, I reckon they would show an interstate junction or a Walmart within 20 miles (that seems to be the distance people will and do travel for more choice).


Jeffrey from Germany travelling solo from West to East with a full-size iPad on his handlebars!

Whilst checking out our food options (the hot, squashed, semi-liquid Snickers bar before or after a slurp of warm bike-bottle water), Jeffrey, a young German on an overladen bike, cycled up. He was on his way to Yorktown from San Francisco and his main concern for the route ahead was the hounds and not the hills. Sensible lad. Photos and blog cards exchanged, he went on his merry way. Both Paul and have said that we could not do this solo … too lonely for too long.
They do say that if you stand still long enough in Hartville your whole life will pass you by. As it was, it was Keenan who shot past. He left us for dead last week but bike problems forced him to have a couple of days out and he was doing 100 mile days through the Ozarks to make up time. He’s young. He’s strong. And he’s carrying several real, paper books to boot. He’s foolish.


This is the sign every cyclist dreams of seeing!

The next 30 miles or so into Marshfield was almost a re-run of the morning ride … hilly, hot and into a headwind. It was made even harder, both physically and mentally, by the fact that we were now doing those extra miles that I’d messed up on. Another afternoon of leisure and pampering scuppered. It was almost rescued when Paul told me the RV site we had booked had a pool … but what we didn’t realise was that everybody on the interstate junction could flick their cigarette butts into it. It was that close. And it was that noisy. And it was late … the only place open was KFC … the day just kept on giving!


After cycling 66 miles paradise awaits – an RV site just a stones throw from the Interstate.

Paul had told me before that he gets a bit cranky if he’s tired and hungry and the poor waitress got both barrels when he ordered tea. All Paul wanted was a cup of hot tea. Not too demanding really, but way beyond KFC’s capability. Not only do they not have milk, they don’t even have hot water. They don’t actually do tea. So after a hard day’s ride and then camping next to a six lane motorway in the dark, he ended up with a polystyrene cup of iced tea. Not a happy bunny. He did apologise to the young lady on the way out though.

Miles today: 66

Miles since First Landing: 1515

Written by Terry Wooller

1 Comment

  1. Look forward to the Trip Advisor review of the Southern Inn!

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