Marshfield to Houston MO
Another day without Matty and Johnny. Which means another day without ridiculous English phrases such as, "Ice lollies" and "Wooly jumpers". (One means popsicles and the other I am still puzzling out. Something to do with hairy-chested men.) Another night without Matt's martial law enforcement of 7:30 pm light's out. This is not to say we have been partying down.
Another late start. Still riding these roller coaster hills like giddy school children. Made our usual thirty mile pit stop. Today it happened to coincide with a diner that had a strawberry waffles for $2.99. God bless the midwest. We haven't seen food this cheap since we left Ohio.
Met an awesome dude named Jason who is touring America solo to raise money for cancer research. Chris and I had found his stickers in the basement of the church we slept in and had already adorned our top tubes with the banner of his cause. Slightly embarrasing but hopefully encouraging to Jason. He is a Navy man with a wife and child who was granted the military volunteer of the year award. A really mellow dude, total zen master with a fully-cultivated Road Beard. I read his blog today and it seems we reached our wall on the same day of our trip. We comiserated about sore butts and heat. You can read about him and his cause at www.4000milesofhope.com.
Sat at a combination feed store and gas station. A slightly handsome but squishy around the edges fellow in his late thirties with a John Deere hat and a smirk sat behind the counter looking like he had nothing to do until harvest time. He asked us where we were going. I told him, "East". He snorted. "You won't make it far with those hills". The blood starts to bubble. The kind of blood bubbling that occurs when opposing team's supporters hassle me in the parking lot before a soccer match. I tried to explain, avoiding a cocky tone, that I had just come through three mountain ranges and I was not afraid of his Ozarks. Double snort.
He went on and on. "Probably shouldn't do much more than twenty or thirty miles." I stared at him with loathing. I was hot. Don't fox with me when I'm hot. Don't fox with me when I've been sitting on that cowboy saddle for five hours. Don't fox with me when I have not been properly hydrated. Honestly, JoeJohn, just don't fox with me.
I stared at the shevling units to my left, various sundires, mostly farming related. "You ever been hit with a cow prodder?"
"What? Never. What?" He looked mad. It made me feel better. I clarified, to ensure that I was not threatening him, "Late night, drunk with some buddies... things get out of hand?"
"Never." Akward silence blanketed the room and I revelled in it. We took a final pull from our respective Gatorades and sauntered out like a pair of a confident cowboys.
Three miles from our destination, we found Dog's Bluff, a swimmin' hole and popular spot for locals during this record breaking heat wave. We hopped in, cooled down and let the fish bite our feet. A family reclined in busted chairs on a shale-gravel island down the river about 200 yards. Full figured ladies in bikinis with spikey blonde hair chatted loudly and sang made-up family songs to their kids. Darrell, sunburned and tattooed, munched on jerkey and watched the kids try to drown one another in the water. We asked them where we could find a good place to stay around town. "Ohhh, oh. We know a good place. The Lazy somethin'...The Lazy Owl? I have no idea. DARRELL. WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THAT PLACE WE STAYED AT FOR PAPAW'S FUNERAL?" Darrell grunted, shook his head and returned to his beef stick. "I don't know. But it's clean."
In our experience in the last 45 days, when a person instructs you to go to a particular hotel and says anything along these lines, you are in for a real shit hole. Excuse my language, but you wouldn't call it anything else if you saw it. Despite this, we took their direction, headed east about three miles. The route was, unfortunately, just up the road and passed the dog from Sandlot. Here he comes, front paws smacking the blacktop, every move forward folding his body in half, drooling everywhere. My sweaty paw gripped the mailman spray. I had no chance against him. He scared me so badly I could barely standing climb. My knees were knocking against the top tube at every turn of the crank. After much traffic headed his way, he conceded the loss and turned around. Beasts like this, met along our path only serve to deepen the sensation of true Odyssey. As we near the Applacian Mountains, I have to wonder when our Sirens will call, and what form they will take. I hope it's a bluegrass festival. I could really use a festival.