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The Lake News Online
  • My view: Foggy morning life

  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    The lake area hosted OGRE Saturday, the Ozark Gravel Road Expedition. It was billed as a bicycle ride along some of Missouri’s most demanding gravel roads featuring winding turns, low-water crossings, switchbacks and several infamous Ozarks hills.
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  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    The lake area hosted OGRE Saturday, the Ozark Gravel Road Expedition. It was billed as a bicycle ride along some of Missouri’s most demanding gravel roads featuring winding turns, low-water crossings, switchbacks and several infamous Ozarks hills.
    It was 150 miles long starting at Big Surf Water Park.
    No, I didn’t participate. I’ve ridden a bicycle a handful of times in the last 35 years. Every spring, I promise myself this is the year, this is the time to starting riding a bicycle. Great terrain, great scenery, great exercise.
    Well, promises are made to be broken, somebody famous once said.
    My assignment Saturday was to either arrive at Big Surf at 6 a.m. for pictures as the riders took off into the countryside, or be at the first official checkpoint at the Garden Nursery on Tunnel Dam Road at 9 a.m. That, my friends, is what we call a “no brainer.”
    I’ve been past the Garden Nursery on road trips a couple of times, and been to the little concrete bridge that spans the Niangua River both times. That part of the Ozarks is can be a challenge in a four-wheel-drive truck, let alone on a bicycle. Anybody who truly enjoys the lake are has taken those fun adventures, those “where do you suppose this road goes?” trips.
    And so it was as I left Osage Beach about 7:20 Saturday morning with a 32-ounce cup of Diet Coke and two Casey’s donuts — the breakfast of champions. I’d given MapQuest my destination and the pleasant but invisible voice inside my iPhone guided me off Nichols Road onto Highway 54 West, aka The Expressway.
    I had no specific recollection of how to get to Tunnel Dam Road, so I trusted my friend to get me there and back. Go 17.6 miles on Highway 54, she urged me. Then turn left on State Road U, she said, then turn here in 240 yards, turn there a quarter mile, etc., etc., etc.
    The deeper into the forest I went, and the farther along the riverbeds I went, the foggier it got. Gee, I thought, it sure is wet along here. The makeshift ditches were full of water, there were huge puddles scattered along the gravel road. There was a trickle of water across the first low-water crossing, and the second time it was a little deeper.
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    The landscape was becoming vaguely familiar, but the fog was not my friend. My short-term girlfriend was vigilant as she told me to do this and do that. To my right suddenly appeared a swollen and somewhat angry Niangua River, just barely below the level of the roadbed. Oh, yeah, we did get a lot of rain last week, I thought to myself.
    Page 2 of 2 - Just as quickly, through the fog, I spotted the bridge that I remembered would take me eventually to the Tunnel Dam Garden Nursery. The bridge was covered in debris from even higher water a day or two before. The river was lapping at the sides of the bridge, but I was not to be deterred as I glanced at the clock on my dashboard. It was 8:20 by then, and I had not clue how much longer until the smiling faces would greet me at the first OGRE checkpoint.
    I picked my way through some hefty logs and back onto the two-lane gravel road, which was now mostly consumed, by the flooding river. The fog was so thick it was impossible to distinguish its blue-grey mystique from that of the river.
    And then I remembered the rule: Turn around, down drown.
    That, in itself, was difficult. The ditch to one side was hidden by floodwater, and the river on the other side was rushing by.
    Turn the wheel sharp, then forward, back. Turn it back the other way, then forward, back. Forward, back. Forward back.
    By then, the pleasant voice inside my phone was as confused as I.
    Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating.
    Now challenged by the clock more than raging water, I backtracked to Highway 54 and decided to attack the problem through Ha Ha Tonka State Park, the only other option I could figure out.
    That idea worked, and shortly before the appointed hour of 9 a.m., I turned up a long, steep hill to the Garden Nursery where signs of civilization were a welcome sight.
    Excited to share my adventure with someone, I told my near-death (at least in my mind) experience to Riley and Oliver Thompson, children of the founders of Bonk Hard Racing and organizers of the race. They were aptly manning the check-in table, also waiting for the first bike riders to arrive.
    As I recounted my story, their response was uh, yeah, we knew that. That’s why the course was changed.
    Soon, the first two riders struggled to make it to the top. They stopped, smiled, checked in, grabbed some water and energy food, and back down the hill they went, oblivious to anything other than surviving the next 100 miles of their trip.
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
     

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