Today wasn't a particularly tough riding day, but it felt extraordinarily long. We set out with bellies full of chocolate chip muffins from a Farmington cafe later than we should have, but at least we didn't have too much competition with Monday morning commuters. The heat was hitting down on us as soon as we opened the door and left the air conditioning. We weren't sure where we'd end up at night, but we knew our first destination was Johnson's Shut-ins State Park.
We had heard that the park had some sort of swimming section, so that was the only goal in mind when we set out this morning. Although I was there and sitting in it, I'll let Wikipedia explain what a shut-in (or at least this kind of shut-in) is: "The term 'shut-in' refers to a place where the river's breadth is limited by hard rock that is resistant to erosion. In these shut-ins, the river cascades in many rivulets over and around igneous rocks worn smooth over many eons. It is used by park visitors as a natural water park when the water is not so high as to be dangerous." It essentially looked like a fairly wide and relatively shallow natural bath tub with rocks everywhere. The water looked almost still, but there was one section where there was a current cutting through a row of rocks into a lower part of the river, so we decided to make our way towards that area. The rocks were extremely slippery, so we couldn't just walk. The water was too shallow to swim, so we were forced to walk awkwardly on all fours. We did bear crawls for anyone that recognizes that term from sports practices. I'm glad that no one was around, because we looked pretty absurd. I'm happy to report that sitting down in the water on a surprisingly comfortable formation of rocks as the current ripped past was worth the struggle of slipping and sliding there. After about a half hour, a family showed up. I think that they must have expected a bigger swimming section (just like us) because they triumphantly walked in with swim toys, floaties, and other swimming gear that required more than 6 inches of water. I climbed back towards the land before I could see their disappointed faces.
After leaving the park, we continued on to Centerville. Chris had been dealing all day with a tire that preferred to be flat, so we were hoping that Centerville would have a gas station with an air pump that would be more helpful than the hand pump he had been using. About 12 miles after leaving the park, we found ourselves in Centerville. There was an auto body shop at the city limits, so Chris was able to fill his tire and we hoped that the issue was resolved. We moved on the length of a few city blocks and were in the heart of downtown Centerville. I feel like if you're going to call yourself Centerville, you should offer more than a diner, a courthouse, and an auto body shop. I was expecting some kind of bustling town, but I was fooled. We looked it up on the map to see if they were the center of something geographically, but nope. Centerville duped us. The "campgrounds" turned out to be a lawn in front of a courthouse. There were no bathrooms, showers, or cell service, so we didn't feel too inclined to stay. We decided to bike to the next town of Ellington, which was about 15 miles away.
About 5 miles in, Chris' tire gave up again. We moved off the road and he began to fix the flat for the third time today. Shortly after, a family pulled over and asked if everything was ok. The parents were cyclists and knew how frustrating a flat could be. They offered to give us a lift, so we loaded up the car with Chris' bike and all of our bags. There was only room for one bike, but I was excited to be able to ride without all of my gear weighing me down. I was going to do that full 15 to Ellington if Chris hadn't gotten a flat, so there was no need for me to hitch a ride anyway. The family pulled away with Chris in the car and left me with the open road.
That last 10 mile stretch was incredible. The heat had started to break, my playlist didn't play any songs that I keep forgetting to delete because I'm so sick of them, and I felt (and actually was) about 45 lbs lighter without my bags. I pulled into the hostel in Ellington far before I expected. I'm hoping that the momentum carries forward into tomorrow. We are at the starting line of the dreaded Ozark Mountains. We've been hearing warnings about these since like day 5, but honestly who cares? There hasn't been an easy riding day yet. It may not be fun, but we'll get through them just like the 27 previous days.