June 25, 2006
I woke before 7am this morning and rolled from the picnic table that served as my bed. Josh was already up, having some oatmeal for breakfast. He said a cockroach crawled on him last night and freaked him out. I try not to think about the countless spiders and bugs that must walk over my face when I’m asleep outdoors like this. I guess it’s all part of the fun and adventure.
I was packed and ready to roll fairly soon, but Josh’s rear tire had gone flat overnight. It took us a little extra time to fix it. I have some experience now with all the mechanical trouble I’ve had, and two extra hands are always useful when dealing with a loaded touring bike.
Soon he was all set. We parted ways here, as he wanted to go north toward St. Louis, and I was continuing west into Missouri on the TransAmerica Trail.
It was early on a Sunday morning, so downtown Chester was a like a ghost town. Apparently this is the home of the creator of the Popeye cartoons. They have a small park with a Popeye statue!
I had only went a mile or two this morning before I came to the bridge over the Mississippi River, and entered Missouri! For a long time I wondered what it’d be like to cross The Mississippi River on this bicycle tour, and this was it. The river was lazy, misty, and wide. I was shocked on the west side to see that the landscape was so flat. It was like a tabletop. I’d never seen land like that before in my life.
But the flatland was fleeting, only a sort of floodplain abreast of the great river. Soon I was climbing into rolling hills. This terrain lasted the rest of the day, and it was beautiful country. I passed numerous vineyards, which was fitting as the French were the first to settle this area, coming up the river from New Orleans. All the counties seem to be named after Saints – Saint Genevieve County, Saint Francoise County, etc.
One thing that I find to be unique in Missouri is that many of the state and county routes are named after single or double letters, rather than numbered. For example, today I rode on Route H, Route Z, Route N, P, B, F, and W. I passed side roads called CC and WW. Tomorrow I follow Route W out of town, until it meets Route V. I like this, because the lettered road signs somehow add a quality of serenity to the area… following directions sounds like less of a business affair.
So I’m riding along this afternoon, climbing a hill in fact, when suddenly my rear tire blows out. I had topped off the air pressure this morning, and I figure that maybe it aggravated a pinch in the tube or something. Ironic that I should have a flat today after Josh had one this morning.
Changing the tube was a minor annoyance, and I reached my destination for the day – Farmington, MO – without incident. As soon as I entered town, I saw something like a small fair going on, and stopped to take a picture of the antique cars on display. A man underneath one of the tents called out to me:
“How far are you riding? Really? Did you have lunch yet? How about I treat you, follow me!”
Just like that, I find myself vigorously shaking hands with this man. “I’m the deacon here of Saint Joseph Catholic Church, Bill Grief. ‘Good Grief! they call me! Charlie Brown! Good Grief!'”
Walking me into a crowded cafeteria, he explains that this weekend is the annual church picnic, and they’re holding an all-you-can-eat buffet today. My hands are all dirty from fixing my flat earlier, so he shows me a bathroom where I can wash up, and takes me back to the cafeteria. He knows everybody. “This here is Jamie, he’s my guest today! Make sure he gets enough to eat! Welcome to Farmington! Hey Mike, this guy’s riding his bike across the country! Came from Chester this morning! Popeye Town! Hey, out of the way! This man’s taking my picture!” And so on.
Bill Grief has lived in Farmington his whole life, so like I said, he knows everybody… gliding about, snapping witty jokes, and making everybody smile, like the host of a great huge party. He was away in a flash, leaving me to help myself to plates of fried chicken, beef, mash potatoes, corn, green beans, coffee, and dessert!
Apparently he told everybody about me, because a lot of people said, “You must be the guy riding across the country,” and so on. Soon Bill was back, introducing his wife, and sitting down for their own meal together with me. What a great experience… just yesterday morning I left the Finley’s where I stayed with Josh. They had taken me into their home like family, and now this!
Eventually Bill had things to manage, people to entertain, and his wife had to work the raffle tent. I wandered around for a little while – I unfortunately missed a fiddle players’ competition – and headed to the police station to check in for camping at the town park. The woman there was very friendly, giving me a map, and pointing out the park, bike shop, library, and Walmart. She even tried to draw a little bicycle on the map to mark the shop.
I made my way to the bike shop, and lo and behold – he was open today on a Sunday, but closed tomorrow – Monday. Good thing I checked. I went ahead and scrapped the back tire, got two brand new ones, and kept the old front tire as a spare. I got new brake pads too. Funny how I picked up my bike brand new on March 17 and it has 2500 miles on it already, little more than three months later.
So tonight I’ll be sleeping on a picnic bench for the second night in a row. Turning on my radio as I began to write this, I heard The Beatles “It Won’t Be Long – yeah YEAH, yeah YEAH!” Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.