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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Riding Through the Ozarks

Tuesday March 26,2013  Room 105 Comfort Inn and Suites Sikeston, Missouri 5:38 pm

Cold again this morning, only 30 degrees but sunny and the wind had died down, so didn't seem as awful as yesterday. After breakfast we headed South to Ozark, Mo, where our friend Jason was once a policeman. Not a bad little town--typical of Missouri but really small considering its proximity to Springfield. After getting gas we headed East on Rte 14---quite a curvy two lane road but a good road and never terribly high and when it was the drop was gradual into folded valleys so actually quite pretty and not at all terrifying. Lots of horses and cows and churches and stone houses. The ground is very rocky--not good soil for growing much of anything.

Missouri is the State that I call the alphabet state--all of its secondary roads are one or two letters, without any pattern that I can discern. Lots of water here,too. All of the creeks are doing quite well and there are many ponds and puddles and small lakes throughout the mountains. Initially, the elevation was great enough and the temperature low enough that there was still snow from Virgil and the melting water formed icicles on the rocks. As the day progressed, however, we were on the eastern slopes and the temperature had risen so that the snow disappeared and the water was  ice free though I bet those cows and horses had some nice cold water to drink!

It is not necessary to build roundabouts out here--just direct the road around the common as was done in Ava. It is actually nice to slow down--these guys drive like maniacs around the curves in these roads!  And there are VERY few straightaways in them--not even through towns. The drivers here make Mass. drivers look sedate and cautious in comparison. Naturally, when one navigates these curves one does not have to remain on one's own side of the road. Made the ride interesting in many ways.

The views were lovely and the unexpected old bridges and other sights were great fun. Loved coming into a little valley on the other side of one of the bridges and finding a small church, an amphitheatre and picnic area, an old building with a sign offering gas and diesel. Nothing else around but this was
Chapel Grove RV and Music Park. We could imagine it filled with people come summer singing and playing mountain music--I bet it is wonderful even if most of the music is probably Southern Baptist in origin.

At a rise farther down the road we saw a huge pasture with a gigantic herd of Angus spread over the hills covered with odd markings that we could not understand. Eventually, we came to the conclusion, after seeing other cows and calves lying on rows of straw and eating it, that in winter the farmer just takes the hay out and spreads it all over in no particular pattern so that the herd has feed. It sure looks funny when the grass greens up and the underlying snow is gone.

Another time we came upon the Mark Twain National Forest which actually is in about six areas of varying side throughout this part of Missouri. Our area was not particularly forested though it was quite large. As we drove along we started to see mileage signs and one place that did not show up on the map kept appearing on the signs--25mi, 20 mi, 15 mi--Bill said I wonder what this place is like that they rank it so high. Well, its name is Twin Bridges and there are two bridges and between them is one huge building that rents kayaks, canoes, rafts etc. That's it!  If ever there was " Deliverance " in the Ozarks, this would be the place. Isolated, out nowhere and nothing passing by. LOL

Eventually we did reach civilization once more, if for only a short time--West Plains. Huge plant of some sort on one side with very military looking vehicles and on the other side piles of oak--possibly flooring. High piles for several miles. Guess these are the two big employers in this town. We passed through and since rte 14 ended here we embarked on 160 East. According to the map, we were in for 99 miles with no real towns. I wanted to stop in Aldi's but since I only said, oh, there's Aldi's  ( a half hour after I'd said I wished we'd replaced our trisquits etc ) Bill drove right by. When I asked why--well, I didn't specifically say I wanted to stop. But he isn't passive aggressive at all--right!  I had some stuff to eat that he doesn't like--dates etc so I knew I wasn't going to starve. So, I didn't even react.

160 is not as curving as 14--nope--160 is like a roller coaster. Like the Saw Mill River Parkway--ups and downs so close that your stomach rises and tickles at each one. Wasn't sure I was going to make it! If you look at the two pix after the oak flooring piles you will notice that there is no oncoming car visible in the first but in the second it is coming over the rise. Look behind the car in both pix and you'll see they were taken very quickly in sequence. That's what we had for about 20 miles--one time we came over the rise and there before us was a slow moving tractor and no way to pass him. Another time we came over the rise and the road was making a sharp turn to the left--hair-raising. I don't know how these people drive along so fast. And I'm certain sure they don't drink and drive around here--no shrines to show a missed curve or anything.

Despite the indication on the map that the towns were, for the most part, a church and a house or a crossroads, Alton actually was pretty large as these things go. We found Chelsea Dale's Cafe and Bakery ( after passing by Grandmother's Cupboard,also open) and so in we went for some home cooking. Bill got the buffet special--lima beans, green beans and smothered steak ( hamburg with gravy--isn't that Salisbury Steak?) and a salad. I opted for a cheeseburger and slaw with sweet tea. It all smelled good and was delicious--for less than $20 with tip!! I got a brownie covered in chocolate icing for TV tonight, too! Sated and rested we crossed the road and continued on our way.

The warning signs for a hidden bridge had us wondering what to expect--it was just a run of the mill metal bridge just like those on our back roads. Did not let ourselves think about its fragility as we crossed it. The river that it spanned is called the Eleven Points River and it is quite long--it even flows into Arkansas and is designated a National Scenic River. Didn't go down to get a better look but it was very blue-green as we crossed and I wondered if there were limestone dissolved in it.



Soon we reached Poplar Bluff and the end of back roads--67 around the town, 60 east of it, were much like Interstates. Since they are not, they are called turnpikes. All character and flavor are erased but then one gets to see that a semi, which is swerving in front of you, ominously, is actually being TOWED! cab, trailer and all. I think I like curves and hills better.

Approaching Sikeston, our stop for the night, a sign for New Madrid reminded us both of the severe earthquakes that hit this area in 1811. We both taught our students about them in Earth Science classes. Though there were some deaths and certainly damage in the two towns in the area, they were relatively mild--primarily because of the lack of population and settlement of the area at the time. It would be a different story today, I'm afraid.



Within minutes we were checked into the Comfort Inn and Suites and another suite but this one less roomy than last night's. Wish there were two tv's tonight--since it is a good night for me but Bill won't be able to watch sports. Oh, well, he has tomorrow. LOL

He went out for Mexican but I'm still full from lunch plus I have my chocolate brownie and milk--that is a good enough dinner--protein, fat, carbs--it's all there. So, off I go to eat my homemade baked good--see you tomorrow. KandB

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