I don't know abut John, but I missed the "degrees" and thought "%" automatically. Degrees seems like an odd way to express the steepness only because "%" is pretty much universally used.When I see someone give a road pitch in "degrees," I always assume they misspoke and mean "percent." Nobody, nobody, cites road pitch in degrees. So yes, I responded as if it said 8%.
With the exception of Kansas and eastern Colorado, the entire TransAm is hilly. There is no escape. Some of the hills in eastern Kentucky seemed insanely steep, perhaps only for 50 to 100 yards, but definitely made your legs work to maximum effort.
I don't place much stock in numbers to describe hills. On many 8% hills, there is at least one five-foot section that is 25%. Some people like to call that a 25% hill. The difficultly of a hill cannot be expressed by one number. In Colorado, you might climb at 6% for 30 straight miles. That's one kind of difficult. In eastern Kentucky, you might climb much, much steeper hills, each of which is fairly short, but there might be a hundred of them in a row. That kind of wears on you. That's another kind of difficult.
Clinch Mountain, near Hayters Gap Virginia, is regarded by many as the hardest west-bound climb of the TransAm. It's not that it's all that steep, but it the combination of steepness and length. Since I went east-to-west, I got to descend to Vesuvius, the hill where most west-bounders complain of having to stop frequently and let their brakes cool down. The psychological problem with both these hills is that they are very twisty and hemmed in with heavy trees, making it impossible to guess how far away the top is.
And yes, I remember well those Missouri river valleys, especially the valley formed by the Current River between Ellington and Houston. The Ellington park manager told me, "You got some hellacious mountains ahead of you!" Well, being from Colorado, I don't call them "mountains" but they were certainly difficult.