The highlights of tonight’s ride included myriad roadside patches of wild bleach-white daisies, several idyllic fields of grazing horses, next to no traffic on the Frisco Trail or the highways, and a route of (surprisingly) moderate steeped hills. (Concerning cycling in the Ozark hills, “moderate” is not a word I employ frequently.) It was a beautiful trip. I elevated my heart rate in the first ten minutes of the ride and kept it up fairly consistently throughout the two hour remainder. My muscles felt good today–tired–but not strained as they do at the end of a long week of riding. Overall, the trip was blissful, with the exception of two events. First, at about twenty miles per hour, I hit a large bumble bee. Unfortunately, he was flying quickly in the opposite direction; fortunately, I managed to brush it away with one hand before he stung. It was big furry blob of black and yellow, and I almost lost control. About an hour after the bee incident, I happened upon something strange that I smelled a way off before discovering the stench’s source: far back in labyrinth of farm roads, I encountered a large mass of rotted animal flesh. Other than the basic quadruped shape, the hairy mound was unidentifiable. If this had been roadkill, it wouldn’t have been worth noting. It wasn’t on the road, however; it was nailed high on a telephone pole. As unnatural as the situation was, I went from cyclist’s high, neuron’s firing, heart pounding steadily, appreciating the pristine countryside to sheer adrenaline rush, fight or flight response, images of deranged backwoods Ozarkers in the back of my mind. Suffice it to say, I left the crucified animal more quickly than I approached it. I’m reminded of the fragility of our human condition, how in seconds our subjective perceptions can change so quickly. I’m reminded of the beauty of the country, as well as its shadows.