Twenty-Three: Lone Star (Ellington to Houston)
Blueberry Pop-Tart toaster pastry filling contains 10 percent fruit — a melange of blueberry, apple and pear. The balance is made of corn syrup, palm oil and a lot of other things so delicious you need a food science degree to fully comprehend. Yet, they were breakfast. I paired with a pint of actual blueberries from last night’s Town and Country run. Hopefully it nets one for the good guys. The blueberries were $3.50-something, a 12-pack of on-sale Pop-Tarts, $2.68. God bless America. Produce’s become easy to find west of the Mississippi.
I shared foggy CR 106 with dump trucks this morning. Turns out we’re headed to the same place. Road crews are repaving west of the Current River. A crewman told me they’re adding shoulders — at some point. We talked for a few minutes while I waited for a pilot truck. He lives just outside Johnson’s Shut-In, and is used to cyclists passing by. I had an escort for about a mile up hill from the river — hot asphalt has a way of waking you up in the morning.
I saw my first live raccoon of trip today, along with perhaps my twentieth dead armadillo. Greg and Jamie said folks call ’em possums on the half shell. At any rate, they’re a Missouri phenomenon.
Eminence (pop. 590) has a pair of diners. One includes a drive-thru liquor lane, so I settled on teetotaling Ruby T&Ts. Second breakfast was a stack of pancakes and a couple eggs. A real treat, but filling just before another big climb. Eminence is close to Jacks Fork River, a popular tourist/boating/tubing attraction. Lots of RVs and vans lugging trailers of kayaks.
Five miles down the road is Alley Spring and a mill dating from 1894. Built at a cost of $10,000 (a pretty penny 120 years ago), it ground corn and wheat, using the spring as water power. Alley Spring puts out 84 million gallons a day. That’s 972 gallons a second. It’s a huge number. The spring’s underwater, but when the wind is down, you can see the surface ripple right above the outflow. It’s a really pretty blue color. The ranger I spoke with said that’s because of dissolved calcium carbonate. The Ozarks are one of the oldest mountain chains, and home to a ton of springs and caverns. The mill’s closed for renovation, but should be open limited hours in July. Nuts.
I also paid a visit to a fabulous pavilion in the park, where I found a picnic table to sleep on for a little more than an hour. Hey, my pancakes needed to digest.
Climbing out of the river valley, I came across a fire tower. Nothing said keep out, so I worked my way up, only to find the observation trapdoor padlocked. Still, a great view of the Ozarks. And a different kind of ascent for a change.
Near Summerville I ran into three eastbounders. Eileen, Anthony and Hannah started in Astoria and are headed for Ellington tonight. I told them about the hostel, and they told me to have fun in Kansas. And to stop in Newton to visit the bike shop, which also provides lodging.
I’m quitting tonight in Houston’s West Side Park (you better believe Houston city’s in Texas county) . I have the pavilion all to myself, and there’s a stiff breeze to keep the bugs away, so I’m sleeping on top of a picnic table. I arrived just in time for a hot shower and cold dip before the pool closed at 6 p.m.