(continued from Part 2)
I eluded in my last post that talking about Eldon would probably require a post all to itself. I think I left off as I was travelling out of St. Louis and enjoying the Ozark mountain area. I really liked it as it reminded me of one of my favorite parts of Michigan – just north of the Mackinac bridge. A mix of rolling foothills with limestone outcroppings and lots of cedar trees.
I was trying to find a town where someone I knew from online lived, but I hadn’t let them know I was passing through – it was just somewhere else I could pass along the way. As a result I was not on a major highway anymore, but on what amounted to county and state roads. A beautiful road to ride on – apparently one of the best in all of Missouri as I found out shortly thereafter.
As I was riding out of the town I was looking for, unable to get ahold of my friend, another guy on a bike ended up coming up behind me. He flashed his lights at me and I let him pull up along side. He looked over at my bike and pointed down to his. I looked, and sure enough, he was also riding a Virago 750. Although his was a different year and had some customizations including some modern, anodized alloy wheels to match the purple-blue color of the faring and side effects.
He eventually pulled up a little ahead of me and we continued along that way for a few miles when suddenly I saw him swerve a little, and start waving one of his hands around his face. I suddenly became aware of a shower of small gold flecks going by me and could see him wiping at his face and spitting. I wasn’t quite sure what happened but he pointed to the right and turned on his turn signal just before a small party store.
I pulled in – as I already mentioned, enjoying conversing with other people and especially other bikers on the trip. Turns out that while he was riding, some small yellow bird had flown right in front of him. He tried to swerve but it only ended up flying down and went right through his alloy front tire. The tire acted like a Cuisinart, covering him in bird parts and feathers and leading to the shower of gold specs I saw.
I ended up talking with him for a bit while we both got something to drink from the store. He was just out for a ride after work and was the one that told me the road I was on was considered one of the best cycle cruising roads for scenery and curves. I told him where I was going and he suggested staying on that road until it hit some crossroad rather than turning where I had planned as the scenery and riding continued on for a few more miles and I could still turn back down to get back on my road. He showed me on the map and it did only take me about 5 miles north of the highway.
So off we went and it was a great, scenic ride – as much as the way up to that point had been. When we finally got to the north-south road that would take me back toward my intended route, he pulled to the side of the road to say his farewells. I mentioned that I would probably be looking for somewhere to stay for the night soon and asked if he had any suggestions. He said he lived up in “Eldon” and that it wasn’t that far. Yeah right!
But he told me he knew some folks that owned a motel and that they’d give me a good clean room for the night and it wouldn’t cost me much so I figured what the hell. (had I bothered to check the map I would have seen that Eldon was in fact about 40 miles out of my way straight north from where we were and probably thought otherwise)
One nice thing about the diversion was that it brought me right through Lake of the Ozarks. One bad thing about going through Lake of the Ozarks that time of year was the smell. Apparently they do some kind of vegetation kill each fall after the tourist season lets up, and it brings large quantities of weeds as well as some of the fish to the surface. Peeeew!!!!!
As we pulled into Eldon, the other guy again pulled over to tell me how to find the motel and I asked him if there was anywhere good in town to go grab a drink. He gave me instructions to some place he hung out at and we parted ways.
The motel did in fact turn out to be clean and cheap, and the people he knew were also very friendly. I’ll give him that much. But the 40 mile diversion to Eldon was something I could have done without.
After settling into the motel room and getting my gear off the bike for the night, cleaning up a bit and stretching out the stiffness in my leg I decided to find this watering hole he had recommended. Imagine if you will a redneck’s screened in porch, but about 3 times the size. There was a large thing in the back corner that looked like someone’s workbench minus a vice (although I thought I might have seen screw holes where one used to be). Behind the bar, rather than refrigerators , there were actual Coleman coolers filled with ice and beer. They had all kinds, you could choose from Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice or Bud draft. (actually they did have some Miller and a few other products, but everyone in the place was drinking Budweiser except me)
I looked for somewhere to sit down and the only seating was around 2 very large, plywood topped folding tables like you might see dropped out of a large truck marked ‘party rental’ and covered with a white table cloth – only these weren’t covered. Just the plywood. I half expected to see the folding chairs that would have come next out of the rental truck, but instead found a hodge-podge of mixed chairs and stools and had to imagine someone must have cleaned out the local goodwill when decorating this place.
As a result of the small size of the place and only having two huge tables, it was apparent I would have to share the table with some of the ‘locals’. And oh what locals they were. I’d have to imagine that if you had all the guys write down their IQ, added it up – then went around and counted all their teeth and added that up, it would be a very close call as to which number was higher. I found a picture on the net for an example:
One of the guys actually looked like that. He, of course, was the one that sat down right next to me and insisted on telling me his life story. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Among the various things he talked about were his pit bulls, the girls in town that got knocked up by various people in town, fighting his pit bulls, the cars he had wrecked, how one of his pit bulls bit his dad, his dad killed the pit bulls that bit him, how he had to get another pit bull so he could still have one to get in the fights, beer and more pit bulls.
After I finished my beer, quickly, I suddenly felt very tired (or at least that’s what I told pit bull boy) and said I wanted to get an early start the next day. I managed to get out of there in one piece and without becoming someone’s girlfriend. (disclaimer: I’m sure there are probably some decent, upstanding people in Eldon but none of them were in that bar that night)
I ultimately got a good night’s sleep and woke up nice and early only to notice that there was a message on my cell phone. I called it up and it said it was my bank’s debit card processing center and that they wanted to confirm suspicious purchases on my card or they were going to automatically suspend the card. Mind you, this is how I was paying for gas and where all my money was tied up short of about $50 as I didn’t want to carry a lot of cash on me.
So I called the number and got some sort of message. I was in a hurry to going so I just pressed through the numbers. The message that they had left had actually suggested to me that the alert was triggered by my gas purchases heading out of Michigan so I didn’t think anything of it. I got to one prompt that asked me to punch in my social security number and I was in a hurry to get going and didn’t really think about it. It bounces me through a few more voice mail options then I get a message that says no one is available to take the call, please call back and the name of the bank is something I’ve never heard of.
I try calling the number again and pressing 0 for an operator but it is still so early in the morning, I keep getting the same message. So I call my bank and bounce between voicemail after voicemail and operators and customer service representatives that have to keep forwarding me off to other people. After about 45 minutes on the phone, I was thankfully able to confirm that, in fact, the bank processing center handles cards from multiple banks and my alert was just simply sent to the wrong one. My bank confirmed that the other bank was a legitimate institution covered by the same clearing house so it wasn’t just some scammer phishing for identities. Phew! (I was thinking I was going to have to pull all my money out of the bank immediately and convert it to travellers checks or something.)
Finally all that was cleared up to a reasonable level of non-panic so I was again on my way. I had an additional 30 minutes of driving back down the same road – and through the Ozark fish stink – to get back on my intended road, but that road did manage to take me through the Truman reservoir which was most interesting indeed. (made more interesting by a small batch of rain clouds that popped up can kept chasing me. The Truman Reservoir is a huge damned up section of river that folds back on itself over and over. As a result, all the roads and road turns are at almost right angles either going straight east and west or straight north and south. It made for some most interesting maneuvering when trying to skirt rain clouds coming in from the northwest!)
continued in part 4