Day 27: Butterfly Suicide

The Katy Trail is an amazing ride so far but there have been some tough parts. The gravelly terrain and headwinds can really slow me down at times. It isn’t too bad but I definitely feel the strain when i go through any open areas. On a good note, my tan is starting to even out and now I have a redneck style tan from wearing a tank top all the time.

It has been incredibly cool following the Missouri river with all the markers of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. I like to think that I would have pursued a similar path if I would have been born in that time. Unfortunately it seems much more difficult to just venture out into the wild these days. Maybe it isn’t and I’m just making excuses. Regardless, it is an inspiring ride and I’m really enjoying it so far.

The butterflies around here behave kind of oddly though. They lay on the path in the sun and I do my best to avoid them but when I approach they fly into my spokes and often get killed. I don’t know how to stop them from killing themselves on my bike. It is so weird, if they would just move away from the giant, heavy metal object they would be okay.

For lunch today I grabbed a burger at this crazy dive bar in the middle of the trail. It is kind of cool to pay $3 for a burger the size of your face. The crowd was all locals and they just kind of ignored me, I guess they are used to random trail riders coming into their city for food. They were also smoking in the bar, which I haven’t seen in a while. I actually hope it is illegal to do that here because I would love an entire community that just says, “fuck it, that laws dumb” and smokes inside anyway.

The day ended in a tiny town called Harsburg, Missouri. There is a little park near the trail that allows tent camping for free so I set up there. While setting up I heard music coming from a restaurant across the street so I wandered over there to grab a cold beer on this hot day of riding. The crowd was, umm, interesting. There were lots of redneck stereotypes including a guy wearing a “6th Annual Redneck Bash” t-shirt that he cut the sleeves off of and a really drunk (it was 7pm), possibly pregnant woman yelling “Play Johnny Cash!!!” every few minutes at the band. The music was good though and I could hear it from my camp site so I got to listen to it while I thought about the day and prepared for the next leg. I’ve been doing a lot of mental preparing for the Kansas City to Denver leg and I think it is going to be the most mentally difficult for me.
Starting to mentally prepare myself for Kansas and Colorado.

At burgers at a dive bar. It’s cool paying like $3 for a burger the size of your face, and the crowd is always local and kind of interesting. I haven’t been around when there are big crowds but maybe in the next day or two. They also smoke in the bar, which is awesome. I’m curious what Missouri law is in regards to this, I kind of hope it’s illegal. S

Thank you!

Thank you so much Maria for sending some financial support my way. I really am blessed to have such great friends… especially someone like Maria who I am pretty sure I still owe money to for buying dinner the first time we met.

Day 26: Ohai Show-Me state!!!!

I left the hotel a little later than I planned, it took me a while to get in gear but I felt refreshed and ready to go. After a quick ride I crossed over the mighty Mississippi River and entered Missouri. I got to spend some time on the Alton trail which was actually a lot of fun. It was very overgrown and unused, if I had a mountain bike or no gear on Ashley it would be fun to ride full speed on that trail.
After 10 miles or so I got on the Katy Trail, my cross-Missouri friend for the next few days. The trail is beautiful but pretty sparse. There aren’t a lot of people on it, I’m guessing because of the record breaking heat. It hasn’t been bothering me too much but others are definitely talking about it. I did meet three people today on the trail and we got chatting, they were impressed with what I was doing (one woman called me “inspiring”) and they took a picture with me. I guess I’m a celebrity or something… it’s cool but weird.
After putting some miles down I stumbled upon a little restaurant/deli at one of the trailheads. It had a sign that said “Welcome Katy Trail Riders” so I figured I would see what they were about. I went in to a small trailer and was met with a very pleasant AC breeze. I quickly realized I was the only customer but a cute waitress walked up to me and told me to sit anywhere. I was hoping to chat with her a bit so I sat at the bar.
I ordered my food and started to relax, unfortunately I never really got a chance to talk to the girl. She was busy slicing deli meat on a huge machine and I’m pretty awful at initiating conversations anyway. Oh well, it wasn’t the best interaction but these little hole-in-the-wall places are exactly what I was hoping to encounter.
When the day was coming to an end I was able to find a place to set up my tent in a town called Marthasville. Apparently this town was considered the last town before “the frontier” when Lewis and Clark rolled through in the early 19th Century.

Quick Update

Hey everyone, I’m in east Missouri and doing well. For some reason the Word Press app on my iPad keeps crashing so it has been difficult to update theblog. Hopefully it will beresolved and I can get things ¬†updated. I love and miss you all.¬†

Day 25: Sometimes you just want one freaking tree…

After I posted last night and was getting ready for bed one of my camping neighbors came over and invited me to their fire for a beer and conversation. That sounded good to me so I joined him (Warren) and his wife Karma. They were a lovely couple in their 60’s and we chatted about everything from family, the wars, kids, and adventures. It was a great talk and in the end Karma gave me their contact info and offered to help if they could.

As I hit the road in the morning I could tell I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I had plotted my ride to Columbia, Missouri and today involved a 109 mile ride. Doable but not pleasant. I see great value in focusing on goals, the vision of me jumping into the Pacific has helped me get through rough patches numerous times, but to focus on an arbitrary daily number instead of the journey as a whole is counter productive. At my 25-mile rest point I found a great little produce stand, bought some fresh orgasmic strawberries, a couple apples, a mango, and got my head right. The owner even gave me a free piece of cantaloupe while I was resting.

I was able to do some trail riding today while still in Illinois. The first half of the trail was uncovered, no trees, and under the hit sun. I’m already going through a bottle of sunscreen a day and may need to alter my travel plans. I had planned on doing mostly early morning and evening riding when I get to the desert but I may implement that soon. Corn and beans don’t provide much shade from the 100 degree heat that is blasting the Midwest.

The second half of the trail was quite different. It plunged through the forest along a gravel trail and was an extraordinary ride. I don’t k ow if it was the change I temperature, the mellow music that I’ve been listening to (thanks Leah!), or what but entering the woods was extremely euphoric. I took off my helmet, slowed my ride down, and enjoyed it. It felt very similar to the early buildup of the first roll after taking ecstasy. It was marvelous. As soon as I found a place I sat down in the shade and busted out a mango and relaxed.

As tends to happen on my rides the best day is also the worst. I had a fantastic day today riding but the heat really started to get to me. I got a hotel, which I hate doing, to play it safe. I was feeling some symptoms of heat exhaustion and the nearest campground was about 30 miles away. I think I’m going to have to more closely monitor my breaks and take more indoors at regular intervals in buildings. It’s better to buy a few gatorades a day and hang out in air conditioning than deal with this heat and face a near collapse… It’s also cheaper too.

The more I think about it the more I wish I would have had a handful of business cards printed. People ask me for my email or website pretty regularly and it would be nice to have something to hand out. Maybe I can find a place to print something up in Columbia or Kansas City. Oh well, time to get some rest, I need to take greater advantage of the morning cool temperatures.

Thank You

I want to thank my dear friend Scot for his generous donation to my ride. It really helps a lot to ha v some emergency funds available if I get in a tough spot. I also want to thank Leah for the epic relaxation mix on Spotify, that music was perfect for my ride today.

If only I was younger….

I’ve met a lot of people so far on the road. Some young, some old, but they generally have something in common, they make some remark similar to “I’d love to do something like your doing if only…”. To quote Jan from The Office, “There’s always a reason not to do something”. This makes me wonder how many people are serious about their bucket lists and how many actually pursue them.

It seems life moves so quickly and if you aren’t proactively preparing and doing the things you want in life it will quickly pass you by. I’ve met so many people who appear to have a hint of regret in their eyes when talking about the things they would do if they were younger, more fit, more financially stable, etc. With the exception of age (which isn’t as big of a deal in my opinion) all the other excuses can be overcome by the individual. There were many days I had to ask myself “Do I want a case of beer or funding for my bike ride?” or “Do I want to eat this pizza or be in shape for Burning Man?”.

Truly living your life sometimes means sacrificing the small pleasures for the big thrills. It means taking chances and embracing the unknown. I realize that I am less risk-adverse than many, I don’t mind a life of instability and the unknown, but that doesn’t mean only people like me can knock things off their bucket lists. Life isn’t going to set-up a trip to Australia, learning to scuba dive, running a marathon, or any of the potential journeys for us. It takes a proactive person to live without regrets and it takes a heart and mind that knows what it really wants. There are few barriers a that a dedicated heart and mind can’t overcome.

Day 24: US-50

I’ve been riding on US-50 for pretty much my entire time in Illinois and it looks like I’m taking it all the way to St. Louis. I’ve found that riding the same road for a few days has some pros and cons to switching roads and trails several times throughout the day. For one, it is kind of boring at times. With no need to look at a map or directions the mind needs something else to focus on, it is almost like a forced focused meditation. I find myself intentionally looking around at different things and changing my focus to really observe what is around me. I’m taking this opportunity to take more pictures and look for some diversity in shots. One friend has asked me to take some train pics of the opportunity presents itself so I’ve been trying to do that, if there is anything in particular you would like me to photograph please let me know. I’ve already noticed patterns in “likes” among some friends.

My route today is relatively short, about 50 miles, so I’m taking my time. The road is flat and I’ve tried taking breaks at cool spots to think and put my thoughts into written form. For lunch I stopped in a small town called Salem, Illinois with a population of about 8000. I’ve found that anything over about 6000 is good news for me, it means a bank, gas station with air pumps, and several food options are likely. Anything below that is usually just something to blow through or just refill water.

While at lunch a man asked me about my ride. The bike is a conversation starter and I’ve found older men are quick to ask me about it and people eavesdropping will often chime in. The man and I started talking about a variety of things including his grandson’s deployment to Iraq and the general state of the world. It turns out he has been in Salem for close to 70 years and has worked in the oil business as a laborer for most of that. Unfortunately he may not have a job much longer because a new law requires a degree and certification for his position (which has something to do with monitoring pressure and repairing valves). He doesn’t even have a high school diploma so the chances of him getting the degree and stuff is slim. He’s frustrated but optimistic about his future anyway. He is definitely a resilient man.

As I get ready to turn in for the night I’m optimistic about the path ahead. I enter Missouri tomorrow, where Dustin and Megan are from. I know there are hills, mountains, bad days, and troubles ahead but I’m smiling and looking forward to what the future brings.

1,000 Miles

It’s been a long ride so far. There have been lots of characters, adventures, long days, amazing nights, beautiful sites, and mind-blowing experiences. I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes in the last 1,000 miles. While I have tried to give people a taste on my blog the truth is that much more has happened than I’ve been able to type up in quick paragraphs at night. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided to write a book about my experiences.

This book is mostly for me. It is so I can read my own words and remember this adventure in the future. I’m sure it will be available for others if they wish to read it but it is mostly for me. It has taken me 1,000 miles of riding and reflection to make this decision. I’m excited about this prospect and I want to start writing now but I’m not going to, I don’t want to get lost in a project with so much still ahead of me. For now I will keep taking pictures, notes, and short blog posts, and just keep on riding.

PS Before I left I overheard a “friend” say that he didn’t think I would make it 1,000 miles without quitting, this feels kind of good in a shallow way.