June 28, 2006
I woke up and went on over to the McDonalds for breakfast. I eat there way too much… I would only eat McDonalds like once a month at home, but out here it’s guaranteed cheap hot food, and easy calories. You’d think I’d collapse and die from eating all this junk and biking all day. I keep thinking of that guy who ate nothing but McDonalds for a month – he gained weight, his cholesterol went through the roof, got depressed, and basically his whole body went haywire. Hopefully I’m burning the junk off too fast for it to matter.
Then I spent the better part of the morning at the library uploading all of the latest pictures. It felt like a million pictures, and this took over two hours, but I’m really glad to have them up there now. Fortunately it wasn’t crowded there this morning, and the librarians were friendly and accommodating.
So around eleven I finally hit the road out of Houston. Early in the ride I met an eastbound couple – Dot and Cliff, from New Jersey. We shared the typical cyclist information. For example, they warned me about a bridge closed for construction that I’ll come to in a day or two, and handed me a paper with handwritten directions around it that somebody had given to them. I’ll pass it on the next eastbounder I meet west of the bridge, and so on. Moments later I met another rider going east – Ken, from Tasmania, Australia. He was a polite older gentleman.
There isn’t a whole lot to write about the riding this afternoon, and frankly I’m a little tired and don’t feel like trying to make it sound interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it was just uneventful… no lost dogs or anything! Now I’m across the Mississippi and over the Ozarks, and on the outskirts of the Great Plains. Things are beginning to open up into a big wide nothing. It’s at the point now where there’s up to 30 miles of farms between towns, and when I do hit a town, the population is usually only about 500 people.
I’d been expecting this, being from the east coast, and expect it to only get emptier as I progress to the great wide west. There’s nothing but some long open space now between me and the Rockies. I’ll be in Kansas in a few days, before July. Dot and Cliff told me they were getting up at 4:30am every day through that state to beat the wind and heat. Yikes.
In the afternoon I met a guy named Tom, walking along the road near his crops. He called out to me and asked where I’m from or something. We talked for about 5 or 10 minutes. It turns out he’s been to Allentown once – my hometown. “I travel and work with the union strikes for half the year, and then I take six months and do what I want here at the farm,” he tells me, “It’s good, cheap livin’ around here.”
So my destination tonight was a town called Marshfield. About seven miles before I got there this evening, I passed a small church where there was a barbecue grill fired up, and a bunch of kids running around and playing. As I coasted by, a woman called to me, “Hey, do you want some burgers and hot dogs?!” Her name is Carol, and she’s the pastor’s wife. They were having an annual Fourth of July picnic.
“But the Fourth of July is a week away!” I said.
“Oh, we celebrate all week long here in Missouri!”
I had a fine time there for about an hour, eating some food, talking with the church members, and watching the kids play. Everybody was curious about me and what I’m doing. The pastor was a missionary in the Caribbean for ten years! They were having some fireworks later, but I had to get going because the sun was setting. I probably could have stayed and camped there if I had the audacity to ask, but I couldn’t slyly work it into conversation with the pastor, and didn’t want to ask outright.
I’m happy here tonight at the town park in Marshfield. Oh yeah… it will now be five consecutive nights on a picnic table! I’m becoming quite the picnic table connoisseur… here we have some aged wood – no fresh paint, no splinters, an above average quantity of bird crap. Sturdy. Wide. Not bad, but I’ve seen better.
There’s some local kids shooting off fireworks nearby. Maybe that’s why this entry is a little on the longer side, even though I stated before that I was tired… guess it’s a second wind. I’d have had a frustrating time going to sleep with the whizzing cracks and pops of the fireworks.
Carol wasn’t kidding when she said they celebrate all week! That reminds me – I’ve seen an awful lot of fireworks for sale lately ’round here in Missouri. Back when I first crossed over the bridge from Illinois, there were at least three, maybe four firework tents in the first mile of the state! I suppose they must have laws against fireworks in Illinois. I heard the song “Badge” by Cream on the radio tonight. Life is good.