By picking up some extra miles yesterday, we were able to focus on our one task today: crossing the hills of the Ozark Mountains between Ellington and Eminence. We had been hearing warnings about this ride for weeks, so we decided to have a good breakfast at a cafe in town. I was able to have an espresso for the first time in a month; it's the little things like that that make you feel like a human (A few weeks ago, we were in a Dollar General. It was our first store in a while that had aisles and wasn't attached to a gas station. Chris walked around grinning and said several times how something so simple like a Dollar General made him feel like a real person). There were a few Eastbound cyclists in the cafe that had just finished up the ride that we were about to embark on. They had set out at 4:45am; we hadn't even hit snooze on the alarm for over another hour at that point. They said several times that the ride was the toughest stretch they've had so far, but the fact that they had made the trip in such good time gave us hope. As we were pushing our plates away and grabbing our helmets to leave, a few of the group's slower members showed up. They were very emphatic that we had a rough morning ahead of us. Chris and I still shrugged it off; how bad could they be?
It turns out that the reports were greatly exaggerated. I'm not going to say that the stretch was easy, but I don't think I'd even put it in our top 5 toughest days. I actually had some fun doing it. It was kind of like riding a manual roller coaster. The hills were steep, but they weren't too tall. We went up and we went down over and over until the ride was done. I'm fairly sure I hit my top speed today on a downhill. Overall, I'd say the Ozarks were overrated. The heat was the hardest part of today. I'm not sure if it's because Eastbound cyclists have just come out of the flats that we are looking forward to, but the Ozarks have nothing on the Appalachians.
After accomplishing our goal, we rested. Today was apparently one of the hottest days of the year that Missouri is expected to have, so we didn't feel the need to push on to the next town. We are staying at a campsite that is situated next to a river, but the water is only about 6 inches deep. It was relaxing to sit in the glorified puddle and skip rocks, but I just want a river to actually swim in.
The general store that we are hiding out in is closing, so it's time to go back to our campsite. Tomorrow's ride is to Houston, MO. Relatively short mileage and only one big climb (or so they say), so it should be a good day.