Day 30: The Canoe Day

September 3, 2010

Date: August 25, 2010
From: Ellington, MO
To: Summersville, MO
Distance: 46.88 miles
Time: 5:37:23
View Garmin Data >

Legs dotted with pink cream and the rest of me slathered with sunscreen for a sun that’s not awake, off into the early morning half-light I go. It’s not quite that time when light starts running down the dark to give it a wet willy, so my headlight is washing the road in front of my wheel to guide me. Roll on through, roll on.

Oncoming headlights catch my eyes and my pupils shrink to a more petite size. So much traffic for this time of the morning. Does everyone have a 6am start? It’s certainly waking up my brain.

I comfort myself with the thought that I’m probably more easily seen at this time, what with my three flashing red rear lights, a reflective triangle on Zimmerman, and my awesome headlight of supreme showiness. It’s a theory. I’m sticking to it.

As the light rises, things come into focus. Mostly hills. I kind of wish they would go out of focus again, but I have no time to think about that. I’m too busy climbing them.

It’s not so much that they’re hard. It just always seems to be that just when you get near the top of a hard-won climb, a car will come and hover behind you and get impatient. Or worse still, a truck. Or worse still than that, they’ll come from both directions at the same time and danger will cuddle us all close to its bosom and whisper things in our ears. Take a chance. Who’s game?

Carry on. Carry on.

You know what else, this road surface is a little rough for my liking, so if you could just see your way to fixing that. That and the hill thing. And the truck thing, while you’re at it. Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind, it would be just lovely if the heat turned down a bit.

Who the hell are you talking to?

That’s happening a lot actually. I realize I’m talking to myself with alarming frequency. And Precious gets an earful too, though for some reason that seems legitimate to me. Like he is a valid conversationalist.

These one-way thought streams are not riveting conversations either. More like:

“Don’t forget to write the [way you were feeling] about the [thing that happened] down. You won’t forget that will you?”

I will repeat this to myself for a mile or so, figuring the repetition will brand it on my brain, but then I’ll forget it somehow. I’ll start talking to myself about something else. Or I’ll round a bend and see a hill downward-facing-dogging itself before me and say out loud “Oh, you are kidding”, or something equally whiny.

I’m not cut out for this. This solitary existence where the only person I talk to with any frequency is myself. And my bike. But I can’t dwell on this for now. I have a day to get through and this day holds some Ozarks proper. What that means exactly, I don’t know, but apparently, I’m to be stabbed repeatedly in the legs around Alley Spring. So. There’s always that.

But that’s still hours away and right now all I have is this rolling canvas toasting with the mid-morning sun. Hammer, hammer down, then hammer gear shift, hammer, gear shift, stand and the don’t-make-it-every-time-but-nearly-every-time routine.

Winding roads and sudden fast downhills. Then up again. Through forest and flats, up hills and over dales.

A few of these blighters are just too steep to roll all the way over even with a great run up, so I stand on the gear until the last possible second when I realize the truth and quickly clip out. So close to the top at times that it literally takes 3 or 5 steps to get there as I push. Frustration gives way to elation as I’m immediately rewarded with a downhill.

Fast, fast down I go. Trucks fly up and I am very wary at their approach as I get wings, knowing their gusty temperaments tend to make mine wobble a little.

I stop at a bridge and gaze into a wide expanse of green river. Linger. Drink slowly from a bottle and imagine myself in a canoe and breaking the skate-able surface with my paddle. But my canoe is getting restless here, it’s obvious I’m delaying, so I pull my bravado right up next to me and get it to tell me to move on.

A slow climb up a hill. The first stab on the map and it’s not so bad. Surprisingly good actually. I take a break at the side of the road and eat a little tin of peaches with the spoon I now keep in my back pocket for such occasions. Well, if that’s what they’re all like, I think, that’s not so bad. Somewhere in the back of my pea brain, I know that this is the thought of an ego in denial.

We are, after all, in Ozarks National Scenic Riverways. Or as they are now known, Ozarks National Janeen Slaughterways.

The giant sky, decorated here and there with lace-like white, crushes down on me. It’s trying to prepare me by making me feel small. It need not bother. I’m tiny as a cricket on a highway.

I grizzle up a hill into Eminence. Don’t even pause. I think it’s best to get this day over and done with as soon as possible, and the more stops I make, the less likely that is. It’s a sad decision because things start to progressively get worse for me. My legs are being little girls and my brain just isn’t in the mood for positivity today.

Could have something to do with the sudden increase in canoe-laden traffic. Cars with awkward fiberglass or plastic passengers strapped to their roofs buzz by. I stop again, at the top of a hill just outside Eminence, and stuff handfuls of trail mix into my mouth. Mix up a bottle of Nuun. Delay. Avoid.

Press on.

Alley Springs is exactly where it happens. Alley Springs is where I became truly discouraged and am forced to battle with my brain in an old-fashioned bare-knuckled brawl. I can tell this is the hub of it all. The canoe rentals, the shady rest area with fancy toilet (foot pedal flush!) and inviting picnic area.

Just after this area, it goes up. A hill.

I don’t climb this hill. This hill climbs me. An attempt is made to stick at it. To stay in my granny and just persevere. But I can’t do this for long and I just give up. Decide it’s just not worth killing myself for in this heat. Too long at too high a grade and I will give up before it does. So, I walk. Take my licks and just walk. Stop. Walk. Stop.

It takes me a long time to get to the top, but like all hills, it’s behind me now. As long as it stays there and they all stay there, I’m fine.

It takes a little while for my enthusiasm to come back, but it’s given a big jolt when I round a bend and there is a magical view of the Ozark riverways. Panoramic even. It says to me “I know you’re tired, but I bet even you will stop and take a photograph.”

True. I will. And what’s more, this seems like an Everest moment. Views mean triumph and so victory poses must be captured. Precious gets a few, then I take some of us together. It’s too bright to see if they’re any good in the tiny LCD screen, the sun robs me of this confirmation, but I have a sense that they’re keepers.

With one last glance at the view, I turn my gaze toward the next climb. It is immediate, but over quickly and things settle down a bit after that. I can just ride and roll and make it through.

It’s not long after lunch when I roll into Summerville and make the decision that I’m done for the day. Short day. Why not? I turn towards the shops and a soda machine beckons me from in front of the grocery store. As I stand there drinking it, I watch the sheriff chatting with a local further down the street. Cars amble by. It is quiet.

A woman comes out of the grocery store and goes to get in her pickup.

“Where you going with that thing?” she asks.

I tell her.

“You crazy.”

You toothless, I think. But I don’t say it. I laugh a quiet laugh and say some dumb thing and she laughs and is gone. Crazy. Pft. I’m not crazy. Although there is that talking to myself thing. And I think Precious is a real live person. But I don’t think that’s what she was referring to.

There’s a sign pointing in the direction of an inn. It’s not the name of the inn that I’m looking for, but when I find it, it’s not called the name I have either. Both the sign and my maps are talking about the same place.

Rose’s Green Roof Inn. I can tell it is going to be special.

As I pull into the dirt driveway, a woman walking across it and to the office door says hello.

Jauntily and with a little too much joy at having stopped for the day, I enquire as to a room. We enter the office to negotiate.

“It’s $30,” she says, before adding “Cash only”

Cheapest. Hotel. Ever. I’ve got a good feeling about the decor already.

It does not let me down. Sparse and simple. The bedspread is to die for, green and fake felt and adorned with black bears. The mattress on the bed is like one you get at camp. Ready for accidents in the night and slippery even with sheets on it. One pillow looks weird and I pick it up. Compression foam. Methinks it hath been compressed one-too-many times.

But I don’t care. The shower works, it cost $30 and I have a fantastic view of a truck stop.

After my economy shower, I grab my notebook and pen and mosey on to the Trails End restaurant. As I burst through the saloon doors, the piano player stops, and everyone turns and stares. Actually no, that doesn’t happen. No piano. And there are only two other customers in here anyway.

A waitress pops by my booth with a girl in tow. It’s the girl’s first day on the job and she’s learning the ropes, asking a lot of questions and being treated to the wisdom of the old hand.

Sandwich ordered and a giant Dr. Pepper on the way, I gaze out the open window next to my booth and let the breeze tickle my freshly showered face.

“Do you always bring ‘em a straw?” I hear the girl ask behind me as they bring the drink over together.

The food is passable, and I hang out writing well after the other two customers have left. The afternoon starts to die. I should really go and type some stuff up, but I’ll be back. Around 5.30. That’s the time I heard the lady tell the new girl that it ‘gets real busy’. I’ve noticed a lot of restaurants close at 8 in these small towns, so I’m learning to eat early.

Back at the inn, I sit out in front of my room on a plastic chair with my laptop and tippety type. There’s a little chill to the air but it feels fresh and good. Every now and then I look up to watch a car pass lazily by and think, this is a really small town.

When I go back to the Trails End for dinner, the restaurant is packed with four customers. The pool table looks longingly over at them. A bored fan whirls.

“Sit anywhere?” I ask, without irony. I go for the same booth I had earlier and order the special from the girl who’s flying solo now. Thrown in the deep end on her first night. She’s polite, energetic and excited.

She even brings me a straw.

Read the next day > Day 31: The WTHN Day


  1. Reply

    Robert Sisson

    September 3, 2010

    Janeen, Your living the experience many of us dream about. Of course the descriptions are o vivid that you may cause some to have second thoughts : – )

  2. Reply

    Josh in Upstate

    September 3, 2010

    I have to say that you inspired me yesterday…I was feeling all “it’s too hot outside” (mid-90s, which is hot for upstate). But then I thought, If Janeen’s out there suffering those hills in the heat then I can put two hours in the saddle…and it was wonderful, the heat started to break around 6pm and it was a great ride. I’ll second what Robert said, your descriptions can cause second thoughts but they are so enjoyable to read and quite comical at times. You’re strong enough to make it through this. Just ask yourself…is it better or worse than your 100 miles on the rollers?
    Ride on!

  3. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    Awesome Noodle!

    Keep the cranks turning 🙂

  4. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    I was at Ogilvy yesterday and met a few people following you- you’ve become my teaching point for why you should you always fill out that little identification sticker in your helmet- in case you’re ever unconscious in a ditch. Silver lining to your story- you’re going to help other people be safe!

    Push on, push on!!

  5. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    Don’t they have any vegetables in the Ozarks? That dinner/lunch plate is missing some GREENS.

    Love the story about the new girl.

    Carry on!

  6. Reply

    Bob W

    September 3, 2010

    This is the first time I’ve posted a reply, but I have been enjoying your blog for several days now.

    Janeen, you truly have an amazing gift of writing. Your posts are always deliciously descriptive and you always draw me in as if I’m experiencing the journey right along side you.

    Your wit, and your willingness to be real… honest… humble, makes it so easy to connect with the ups and downs of your daily trek.

    You have guts Girl… real “cojones” one might say… courage beyond measure. Hang in there! Your spirit and will to succeed will conquer your fears and challenges. We are rooting you on. Go Janeen! Go Janeen! I’m so thankful for you and your willingness to openly share your journey.

    Your cause is a great one… one that affects countless people. My older brother passed at the age of 27 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, so I know the sting of cancer.

    God bless you. I’ll say a little prayer for you.

    Thanks again! — bw

  7. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    I found you and Precious 9/1. I look forward to your posts and the progress on Your courage encourages me!

  8. Reply


    September 3, 2010


  9. Reply

    Eric L

    September 3, 2010

    Janeen, love Several times daily I see where Precious and You are, then Google-Earth the spot to see what you’re riding past.

    You write about the slow slogs up the hills, but I’ve never seen Precious doing anything less than 10 mph.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure. The photos, your prose and Precious’ Tweets and data feed are EPIC FTW!

  10. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    Your blog is incredible, as are you. I haven’t yet made it to this post — I made it up to the Big Suck day and am saving the more recent posts for when I return to work next week! I am cheering you on from Arlington, VA, and my three golden retrievers (Maeve, Fiona & Margot) send you big hugs. Your blog has cheered me up during some blah times at work and reminded me of the kindness that exists inside most humans. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  11. Reply

    Linda Klein

    September 3, 2010

    Janeen, I wrote on your last post that if you need a place to shower, eat and sleep in the Denver Metro area you could call me. Well now I’m throwing in a massage! I have a friend I’m pretty sure could set you up (my treat). Let me know if you come thru here. You are doing an awesome job, keep yer chin up!

  12. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    Your descriptions are classic – especially the bedspread. Wow.

    Glad you’re making it through these hilly parts and taking time to eat lots of fuel!

  13. Reply

    Rev Johannes Myors

    September 3, 2010

    Janeen ,

    “Alice” my recumbent wants you to tell Precious “Hello” for her. She is kind of envious since she doesn’t have all of the electronic bells and whistles as Precious does. We are still slogging away on the C&O Towpath and we’ve got about 40 miles to travel to Washington, DC.

    Sorry to read through the comments that you don’t carry any emergency ID. Somebody should have told you about the special interactive ID wristbands that Road Id has. You can read about them at On each wristband there is metal plate your name and town of origin engraved on the front and on the back of the plate there is a serial number and pin code. If in case of an emergency and you can’t speak for yourself, first responders (ambulance, fire, police) or medical personnel at a hospital can learn about your emergency contact info and any medical information you want to provide like allergies, insurance info, prior illnesses or injuries either by phone via a 1-800 number or computer through the Road ID website..

    • Reply


      September 3, 2010

      Hi Rev, I wear a RoadID and have for quite a while. Interestingly enough, it flew off in my accident and was found only when I asked if they’d used it to identify me (I had full ID on me anyway). It was the Elite version, and was on the wrist I broke. Not sure how it came unclasped. I still wear it tho.

  14. Reply


    September 3, 2010

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone. It really makes my day to come read them. I’m just sorry I can’t seem to catch up on entries!

  15. Reply


    September 4, 2010

    YippidyYay! The Precious map has you halfway there!
    Shout if you need a place to stay near the GranFondo…or a place to safely store Mr. P in the bay area. I’m probably riding the Medio again…

  16. Reply

    Kathy R.

    September 4, 2010

    What an adventure….you said in the beginning, I’m a rider, and a writer, you decide which I do best….your riding inspires me, your writing entertains me, don’t stop either. However, I do hope writing is your profession, because you are a very talented writer…Love this blog and following you on this journey for a great cause!!!!!

  17. Reply


    September 4, 2010

    Hi Janeen. You writing is hauntingly beautiful and very inspiring. I can barely surpress the urge to jump on a plane and start cycling across America. You should try mainland Europe though, we are much better equipped for cycling and have proper designated bikepaths, especially here in the Netherlands.

  18. Reply

    Ron Kresack

    September 4, 2010

    Hi. I’ve done a couple 2 day cancer rides (Conquer Cancer-Toronto) but this year my motivation went low. Now in September I find you thru Fatty and am totally inspired to get my 53 year old butt back out and do some good with Jill, my bike named after another inspiration you know, Jill Homer. I love your writing, videos, pix and Precious is awesome. I’ve been spreading the word at the bike shop I hang/work at so hopefully some more Canadian $$$ are heading your way. Only one problem with being inspired in Canada in September, it’s bloody cold out!

  19. Reply


    September 4, 2010

    thanks to precious’s site, i see that you’re in colorado, my fabulous home state! if you’re still here on monday (and within a few hours’ drive of denver (so equivalent of salida/glenwood/etc.), e-mail me through here and let me know! i’m actually off work on monday and can drive to meet you to provide you with food or something. 🙂

  20. Reply


    September 5, 2010

    Sitting here at 5am thinking about what it must be like to be you, it feels good.
    I’m a little concerned about the colder weather that looms in the future, thank you accident for the late start.
    Keep throwing down the 100 milers and we’ll all get there with you.

  21. Reply

    bird dog

    September 13, 2010

    Love reading your journal.
    The Ozarks are beautiful but hills are about 3 times higher than in Louisville – where I live. Did you ever ride across Australia, or does anyone ever ride across Australia?
    My wife and I got to visit New Zealand for 2 weeks and we saw lots of bikers there.


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