Monday, February 11, 2008

The vultures and I: A Travelogue

Sunday -

Okay, so yesterday was perhaps not my finest moment. But that was then, and today is a bright, shiny new day, resplendent with promise. And I must say, even as I was facing death in the form of a steep Missouri roadway, it sure was pretty up in them thar hills.

Besides, those kinds of experiences give way to some truly brilliant haiku:

Oh I hate you now
Bike how you defeat my soul
Kick! Kick! Go away!

Bike how I hate you
Throw you down the riverbank
No more worries now

I don’t need you bike
I will use my Kick-N-Go
5-day IMMOO fun

Hmm, there seems to be a theme here.

Rather than tackling the Highroad again today, I’ve decided to try another route given to me by that somewhat nice Craig fellow. It’s called the Gobbler’s Knob – a meandering ride on country roads with no shoulder, but little traffic. How tough could that be?
. . . . . . .

Existential questions I ponder while riding: Are all children in Missouri BORN evil, under the “bad seed” theory, or is it an environmental thing, where (for example) the constant caterwauling from the 64 million radio stations that play only country music are what make them turn against their fellow man? Is there any stretch of road in MO that is actually flat? Where does the “turkey” in turkey vulture come from? Just a few idle thoughts as I grapple with today’s Suckfest-O-Rama.

Turkey vultures come to mind because as FPOS and I slog our way up and down more hills, I smell the roadkill before I see it. And I see the 5 turkey vultures fly up from the side of the road in the distance before I get to the deer carcass staring up at me with vacant eyes. Seeing the vultures circling up above is good motivation to keep moving, so that I don’t have to ponder this existential question: How long does one have to be down before the carrion birds swoop in?

While this road is certainly less onerous than yesterday’s, I again get to a point where I’m so slow that I might as well be standing still. And I decide, enough. I turn around, and as I’m zooming back at an average 28 mph, I realize that either I’ve actually died and am biking on celestial clouds, or, more likely, the other way was one big false flat, into a headwind. Oh. Didn’t realize that, thought it was just me. Well, that’s a little comforting. Then I approach the spot where my friends the vultures were feasting, and as I ride up, they look at me, I look at them, and at the last minute they decide to take flight. Right into my path.

Me: “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!”

I duck, they flap on by, disaster averted for another day. Of course, I still had my run to do. I decided that since I had only biked for a lame hour, that I needed to do a longish run (this is Tasha Workout Math), so off I went to the woods.

I go to Table Rock Dam/Park, where that Craig person told me there was a path going along the river. Oops, I mean “lake.” To most people, a stretch of water with a swift current that meanders along is called a river, but not here in MO. Anyway, I went where all the trout fishermen were, located the path……which was closed for “maintenance.” Of course. I contemplate climbing over the barriers, over the piles of dirt, then over the yellow tape to get to what looks like a functional path beyond this construction point, but decide against it. I then go deeper into the forest preserve and find another path, one that purports to go in a 2.6 mile loop. Ha.

Note to MO Dept. of Conservation: a “loop” is defined as a continuous oval or circle pattern. This is compared to, say, an “out and back,” where you go a distance, turn around, and come back along the same path. Just wanted to clarify that, because there seems to be some confusion about that on your trails.

I get to a point with divergent paths, but when I take one of them, I shortly arrive at...a road, and a golf course. Okay. I go back and try the other path, which leads to...a backyard in a crappy new subdivision. Hmm. A third path, which does not follow the map’s so-called loop, meets up with the original path and goes back to the starting point. Figuring I must have done something wrong, I decide to try the whole thing again, trying to pay attention to the little Hiawatha-like symbols tacked up on trees here and there. Nope, same thing. To avoid having a Groundhog Day-eque experience, I decide to find another trail. As I’m running, I come across the first person I’ve seen yet on these paths – a swarthy-looking man carrying a big stick. Figuring him to be an ax/stick-murderer, I give him a chipper yet firm hello, the one that says “I may be nice, but you don’t want to cross me, bub.”

After my run I head back to the parking lot, and as I’m standing by my car, along comes StickMurdererGuy, so I offer him a water. We start chatting, and he mentions that he was practicing Tai Chi, and then proceeds to tell me about the trail that goes through the woods for 7-8 miles, where to find it, and how at one point one has to go through the subdivision complex which now bisects the path. Aha, this explains the “loop” issue! One might think the Forest Department would want to update those signs a bit, no?

Anyway, this is excellent news, and tomorrow I’ll try out TaiChiGuy’s trail suggestion, after perhaps another biking attempt. It’s either that or run around a cul-de-sac 6 or 700 times so that I don’t get lost again; I’ll give the woods thing another shot first.

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