I’ve been having a lot of fun on the bike lately – commuting during the week has kept me with a purpose while I rack up the miles, and good weather over the past few weekends has made my longer rides most pleasant. New threads, a clear mind, and my best fitness of the year have only added to the enjoyment. It’s the first time in three years that I’ve been able to experience the entire fall riding season, cut short the past two years by a broken rib and a separated shoulder. Still, variety is good, so I was looking forward to something different this past weekend when we traveled to Columbia, MO for my daughter’s swim meet. The meet ran from 7am-noon on Saturday and Sunday, and we’d be heading back home Sunday afternoon, so that left Saturday afternoon free for a road ride of my choice. I went to school at Mizzou (for a total of 6 years), but that was many years ago so I really had no idea where to ride or how to construct a route. Fortunately, craigh on StLBiking.com turned me onto the Mizzou Cycling website, recommending the 40+ mile Ashland route for its good mix of hills and flats.
All I can say was – it was perfect! Temps in the mid-40s were coldish, and strong S winds made the hills down to Ashland tough, but sunny skies gave the impression it was still a nice day. The first half of the route was gorgeous as it coursed through wooded, hilly terrain past Rock Bridge State Park and through Pierpont and Sapp before settling onto Hwy M into Ashland. No traffic at all, mostly good road surfaces – only fresh chip/seal on Nashville Church Rd to contend with, and only one dog along the way – a little terrier type mutt who tried to look ferocious but only left me wishing he would get closer so I could give him a swift kick in the muzzle. I stopped at the Shell Station, ate a Payday, and tried not to look surprised that the clerk actually seemed interested in the fact that I was riding a bike and from where to where. After starting up again I continued east, buffetted by strong cross winds until I got to Rangeline Road for the trip back up to the north. If I thought the ride was fun, but tough, to that point, it was nothing but fun afterwards. The terrain was milder and more open, and suddenly those S winds became my friend as I zoomed along at speeds well into the 20s. My average speed shot up from just over 16mph at the rest stop to 18.3 by the ride’s end. Even more pleasant were my encounters with motorists along Rangeline – most of them actually waved to me! Why did they do that? I’m sure they weren’t flipping me off – those were friendly waves! Combined with the friendliness of the Shell clerk, all I can figure is that Columbia cyclists know how to take care of their neighbors. A world where cyclist and motorist exist in harmony? I’d sure like to think so.