June 29, 2006
I was on the bike and rolling at 5:30am this morning. The weather was cool and it was still pretty dark, so I caught a nice sunrise. After a fairly quick fifteen miles, I stopped at a gas station in Fairgrove for some coffee and cinnamon rolls. The typical sort of local guys were hanging out – it’s always fun and interesting to eavesdrop on the local breakfast/coffee guys.
Then this morning I saw a whole slew of eastbound cyclists – two more riders from Tasmania, Australia, and two young guys from New York. Then two more riders passed and didn’t stop because they were up to a high speed on a good downhill. They were apparently a young couple from The Netherlands. The rest of the morning consisted of uneventful riding on rolling hills, with a short break outside of another general store. I hung out with a lazy dog there, lounging around on the porch.
Oh I almost forgot – a big mean looking dog charged at me today. When I stopped and yelled at him he halted, but then ventured a little closer, and a little closer. I had the feeling that he’d give chase when I’d turn to ride away, and at the moment didn’t have much patience for this sort of thing, so I gave him a shot of pepper spray. He left me alone after that! As soon as I sprayed him, the barking ceased and he retreated back to his yard. As I rode away, he was rubbing his face in the grass. That stuff sure works – it turned an aggressive tough guy into a quiet little baby in a second.
I picked up a mail drop in Ash Grove, and had lunch at a small burger joint. It was pretty good.
Later now in the afternoon, the rolling hills came to an end… I think for the last time. I’ve never seen an open landscape like this before in my life – it’s a unique thing for me.
But now the wind was in my face, and I was becoming weary from the early start this morning. The mostly cloudy skies of the early day departed, sending the temperature up into the nineties. I stopped at a farming supply store for some water, and as I’m walking toward the back, a man called out “Where you ridin’ from?”
He’s behind a desk in his office, and apparently the owner of the store. Before I knew it, he was telling me all about how his great grandfather was the commander of King Wilhelm’s cavalry in Germany, how his ancestors settled this land in the 1800s, and how the original homestead had 1,800 apple trees! That’s a lot of apples! He told me his name is Schnelly, how it means “fast” in German, and how once when he was in Europe, his friend found it funny that his name was on all the ATM machines that said fast cash.
I probably would have learned the history of all of western Missouri, but an eastbound cyclist walked in and sort of broke up the lesson. He goes to college in Westchester PA, about 60 miles south of my hometown.
As I rode on into the evening, a water tower amid a clump of trees took shape on the horizon, like an island floating in the fields. So I knew I was near my destination – Golden City, Missouri. Golden City was the first town in this area on the railroad grid, and it still sees a lot of train traffic to this day – 48 trains a day, or one every half hour. Most are loaded with coal.
In town I’m staying tonight at a hostel for cyclists, operated by a man who’s also the local funeral home director. He publishes a funeral industry magazine called “The Dead Beat.” The building that houses the hostel is pretty cool – an old one-story stone structure. I did proper laundry tonight, for the first time since Virginia! You know your gloves are dirty when they stick to the handlebars – when I’d change hand positions, they’d make a sound like peeling masking tape. The palms were colored black. Now they’re a light grey. Life is good.