The Gang is East of the Mississippi!

Early Wednesday morning, the day shift woke up in Fort Scott, Kansas to learn the night shift had ridden all the way out of Kansas! The flat dry plains had been replaced with the green rolling hills and humidity of the Ozarks of SW Missouri.  The challenge of the day, beyond the 240 miles they’d eventually finish was the rollers they seemed to ride over the whole day. Nonetheless, they managed to cross the 2,000 mile mark of the race just before the Mississippi River and maintain a 20.8 mph pace overall.

On the way to St. Louis the team rode through MO’s capital, Jefferson City. The route circled around the domed capital  (in a very confusing set of turns for the rider and driver to coordinate) and the first of the 3 crossings of the Missouri River. They then rode many miles in the river bottomland, passing thousands of acres of corn and soybean fields (where the omnivores on board were faced with a dilemma).

While the first half of MO is one of the team’s favorite sections of the race, the 2nd half of MO leading to St. Louis is one of their least favorite. It seems they always encounter more people here who aren’t happy with bike riders on the road and they let the team know it. The team recognized most of the curses, but some were perhaps in German and the team is still trying to translate those…

Libby continues to amaze the team with her strength and determination. You may have read in her bio that she has only been riding for about 4 years and, though she’s completed many century rides, RAAM is her first race. Talk about debuting on a big stage! And of course our team hero, Andrew, just kicks butt every day. He warms up at 25 mph before he cranks it up to 30 mph for the rest of his shift. We are going to be leaning on all these riders on the last and hardest day of the race.

Meanwhile, the night shift had a rare treat after day 4 with a nice-ish hotel in Eldon, MO they scored with a great deal! They hit Perkins for breakfast after 4 hours sleep, took a team picture, and met some interesting locals. The team always tries to be friendly as they pass through each town! They met a sweet older farmer in Kansas who told Jeannie he’d “lived here all maa laaf and couldn’t imagine doing sump’n laak RAAM”. He was very impressed and offered up the bathroom in the always unlocked school house, “but fer some reason they always keep the church locked? Ah cain’t understand it”. At Perkins they met fellow fundraising athletes when the founder of Right to Life Running Foundation came up and chatted with them, and another woman who was physically challenged asked Max about our event. It’s the most anyone’s heard Max speak all week! At a rider exchange in southern Illinois, a few from the gray van unit met local John and his daughter, Emily, and her two boys from Edwardsville, IL. They drive the 20 miles over to the route each day to watch riders go by and cheer them on! The team truly appreciates the support.

The shift change was smooth with Jeannie and Jerome executing an ever improving rolling exchange. Two white cranes were spotted popping up from the low swampy and lush Missouri landscape during our first few miles. Dave Gluck took over with the anticipation of the Mississippi River ahead. The team was poised to rush ahead and get Facebook/Newsletter worthy photos only to be foiled by the very long and slow line of bridge construction traffic as they approached at 5:00 pm local time. RAAM allows the rider to go ahead and ride in the construction lane, so they didn’t see Dave for quite a while. Fortunately he took a cue sheet to help get him through all the turns in West Alton, MO.

The riding shifts continued plowing through Illinois. East of the Mississippi the terrain is very flat again, but this time the crosswind was nominal. It was a truly gorgeous evening and all four riders seemed to have a second wind! And so it went: Ben then Jeannie then Dave Payne then Dave Gluck and repeat and again…. No real wildlife excitement other than the flying object that hit Jeannie in the neck. It came at her looking like an extremely large moth in a sea of summer midwestern bugs, but the thud against her neck indicated a larger creature – a bat perhaps?

The night crew finished up their shift just past Bloomington, Indiana after a very fast and fun shift and are looking forward to the mountains during the next shift telling them they’re nearly home!

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