I’m continuing my long-overdue project of writing up my road logs from the first leg of my Journey.
The last entry described my week in St. Louis, making friends and breaking hearts! (Okay, only my own heart.) After much hospitality and many fond memories, I set off again on bicycle, this time aiming for Memphis—which was many days away.
The landscape and culture changed as I entered the South. This eventually brought new challenges. But it starts off happy…
Day 80 (September 24, 2012)
Set off for Perryville, with a place to stay all arranged! Not sure on exactly the family connection, but the sister of someone’s wife or friend lives in Perryville and Laurie arranged for me to stay with her tonight!
Got a little bit of a late start, easy to do from Laurie’s house. Tough headwind. Heavy traffic on the main highways, then had a flat tire once I was finally more in the sticks. Walked the bike to next gas station (still have air pump troubles) and took forever to fix it.
Mostly shadowed Interstate 55 on parallel Highway 61. Eventually the two split up, and I had a choice of two routes: winding 61 forming the “scenic” route near the river (through the town of St. Genevieve, which I think is a great name) and 55 running a straight line. with less mileage.
Based the hilly terrain and how late I was running, I took the freeway. That made the late afternoon easier with about 20 miles on a (mostly paved, mostly good) shoulder.
However it stinks! Armadillos have reached this region (one of my Missouri friends was shocked and said I mis-identified rats, but no, it’s true!) and apparently they are nature’s fodder for roadkill. Sometimes I couldn’t go an eighth of a mile without seeing one, squashed and crunchy. They must not be used to dodging things, what with the armored shells. They have the worst smell of any roadkill so far.
Pretty frayed by the time I got in, just at dusk, but Tina and her friend Jean seem like a blast. Tina had some homemade gumbo for me and then got right to the beers and margaritas! Talk about a warm welcome.
Learning that I love the Missouri accent. 70.7 miles.
Day 81 – Library Day!
Tina generously offered that I can stay for a rest day if I like, and I decided to use at least part of that day working. There’s no wi-fi in Tina’s house, but Perryville has a public library that’s part of an impressive new community center. It also has a full gym. I was able to bike over there, set up my laptop and write for several hours.
In the evening I tried to help Tina with some computer problems. She said she’s been wanting wi-fi for a while, and when I explained how it worked she drove us to Wal-Mart where I helped her pick out a wireless router.
I learned a lot from Jeanie and Tina. They’ve had hard lives in part because the men they most recently loved did not marry them. Older men tend not to want to marry (often they have already been married) but for an older woman it seems marriage is still a crucial safeguard even today.
I also found out that Tina is a dedicated book lover. When I asked her what some of her favorite books are, she topped the list with Les Miserables. When she heard I’ve never read it she handed me the copy. She offered that I take it with me but only if I would read it. I balked. The thing is over 1,500 pages which is more than I like to read and definitely way more than I want to carry. But I started it that same night, and in the first 20 pages or so I was convinced. This book is amazing!
(André’s note: that book would later end up really being a source of strength during the hard financial times in November/December.)
Day 82 (September 26) — Green Sky
Headed toward Sikeston, MO. Fierce storms on the radar. Tina suggested I stay another day, but want to get moving toward New Orleans. Hoping to make it by 10/17 to meet Saumya and Urban!
Didn’t get farther than the main street of town before the clouds arrived and opened up. Took shelter at a gas station. Friendly owner was supportive of my trip & gave me access to his business wi-fi network. Watched radar and thought a lot about risk management. Made a plan to dash to the next town, on the belief I could bike fast enough to pass between thunderheads.
Got a little wet, but once I outran the storm it was kind of nice. Followed a rural route through Longtown, Uniontown, and Old Appletown. The Missouri country views are beautiful after a rain shower: everything bright and glistening.
Eventually turned back onto Interstate 55 for straight shot to Sikeston, Missouri. Started to make fantastic time, really got into zone. Late in afternoon, very nasty clouds on the horizon and the sky spooky green like tornado weather. Started to see lightning off in the west.
Made a decision to continue as far as I could before the storm hit. I was only 10, 11 miles out from Sikeston—hoping to make town. I had a loose idea of going to (regionally) famous Lambert’s Cafe once I arrived, maybe storm would subside by the time I was done eating.
Didn’t make it! Just two, three miles from Sikeston, I had to seek shelter. I was on the interstate and had to bail, heading across a field and fence to a frontage road with a few houses.
Hoisted Giant over the fence and pushed him, with difficulty, through tall grass as rain and fierce wind hit. Approached a well-maintained house with a front porch, reasoning I could wait out the storm on the porch even if no one was home.
Knocked on the door, and a man answered! Older guy, maybe 60, white, friendly enough. Gave me a towel and offered me a drink, but I just took water.
We sat on his porch awhile watching the storm. Originally my request was: may I wait it out and then push on. When the rain slowed though, it was getting dark. I straight out asked him if I could stay there for the night.
(This may have been first time I made such a bold request.)
He was open to it but worried because there was no spare bed for me. I told him I would be happy on a couch or the floor. He seemed a little abashed that he hadn’t offered earlier. “Of course you can stay,” he said. So I did.
I liked this guy. He’s my opposite in many ways, a conservative and has some old fashioned racial views. But he was also lifelong Navy, retired now, and understood the travel and adventure bug. He was open minded on religious matters, disliking formal religion but believing in a spiritual path.
We had some good talks, particularly about his recently passed wife (they’d been together since high school and she had passed about a year ago). They had planned a beautiful retirement together and now it was just him. He told me a lot about the value of marriage, not just of love but of marriage itself, as an institution.
His couch was comfortable and I slept well. 65.4 miles.
Total traveled this leg: 136.1
Total traveled since Day 1: 1203.1
In the next sections, racial tension starts to become a serious presence in the towns I visit, and bike problems become severe. I hope to post it soon. Until then you can check out all the road logs up to date.