Monday, June 1, 2009

St. Mary, MO to Garnett, KS: Acting Like a Total Asshole and Other Stories

Miles Per Day: Day 27=43.36; Day 28=REST; Day 29=REST; Day 30=69.84; Day 31=60.94; Day 32=64.06; Day 33=47.38; Day 34=58.35; Day 35=46.30

Total So Far: 1,555.76

Inspiration: the humming and silent grunts of Glenn Gould in the Goldberg Variations recording; Dairy Queen ice cream; Johnny Cash's guitar in the Folsom Prison live album; Wilco; the instrumental in Dire Straits' On Every Street.

Spirits: calculating; inspired; fired up; strong; understanding.

Things Seen On the Road: more and more snakes crossing the road; a perfect rainbow; a replica of the General Lee car from the Dukes of Hazard; more Amish caravans.

Favorite Quotes: (1) female resident of a small town in MO to me at 6:15 am while drinking a beer: “Turn around...I want to see your ass!” (2) Gloria who was doing her laundry next to me somewhere in Festus, Mo: [paraphrasing] “I've had a hard time recently, but I'm going to keep on going. No matter what.”

I've had my first bad moment on this trip. All things considered, it wasn't such a big deal. If anything, it showed me that I can still act like a total asshole on a moment's notice.

It was at a cafe/bar somewhere near St. Mary, MO. I entered as I always do, wearing my bike helmet, biking shorts and a tight biking t-shirt. I was disheveled, sweaty and totally out of place. Usually, if I even get a reaction from locals it's because they are merely curious. Almost always someone comes by and asks where I am going, where I have been, if I have a place to stay, etc...It's these conversations that have made this trip so amazing and memorable.

Things didn't go quite as smoothly this time. The place was pretty empty, save for the waitress and some guys sitting at the end of the bar. As soon as I walked in, the waitress looked up and stared at me with some derision. I sat down on the bar and in a courteous, cheery manner asked for a menu. She seemed annoyed but slowly walked over with a menu before going back to talk to the locals at the other end of the bar. She never asked me if I wanted something to drink and since I was totally dehydrated I walked over and asked if I could get a glass of water. She rolled her eyes and said she would get me one in a minute. Twenty minutes later I walked over and asked for a glass of water again. With a pained look in her eyes she grabbed a glass and filled it with sink water. I took the opportunity to order food right there and then.

After I was served (about 45 minutes later), I looked around and realized I didn't have any utensils. Once again, I walked over and asked for utensils. The pained look on her face returned as she gathered a knife and fork and put them down on the bar. After I was done eating I asked politely for the check. “Huh?” she asked. “I was just wondering if you could give me the check?” She looked deliberately confused and very annoyed. “What?!” “Could I please get the check so that I can pay,” I said very slowly. “Check? Oh, you mean the bill.” She had a slight grin on her face as she wrote up the check and gave it to me.

By this point, I was pretty pissed. I got out just the right amount of cash for the bill, walked over to where she was standing and talking to the other locals. She looked up at me with a slight grin on her face. I put the check down on the bar with my cash and said: “Thank you very much. The food was fantastic.” I then took out a $20 bill out of my pocket and put it down forcefully on the bar so that everyone could see it. “And this is just a little something for you.” The grin on her face disappeared instantly as she looked down on the $20 bill. She looked completely shocked. I felt everyone else at the bar stare at the bill as well.

Without missing a beat I turned around and walked to the door. As I was walking out, a sheepish voice behind me yell, “thank you sir! Have a great trip!” I said nothing as I slammed the door behind me.

Being an asshole aside, I am still collecting some pretty amazing stories:

*Being Sexually Harassed: It was about 6:00 am when I walked into a diner looking for some breakfast. Two women were sitting by the bar nursing a beer and laughing uncontrollably. I sat nearby and we started talking. Turns out that one of them is battling breast cancer and has 5 kids that she hasn't seen in years. We talked about family, death, travel and everything in between. As I was leaving, she asked me how old I was. When I told her my age she said that I was only one year older than one of her sons. She then demanded that I turn around so that she could touch my ass. Somewhat nervously, I complied. After a good amount of sexual harassment I asked for a photo:

*Perfect Rainbow: It had been raining off and on for most of the day. I was heading down to a public park near Jefferson City, MO to camp when I spotted the most perfect rainbow I had seen in years. It ended over a lake right next to the park. What an amazing moment.

*Turtle Rescue: Turtles seem to cross the road on a pretty regular basis and more often than not become roadkill before they get to the other side. The sad truth is that I see at least a dozen turtle shells on the road each and every day. On my way to Sedalia I actually spotted a turtle slowly coming out of the brush. I hit my breaks, picked up the critter and deposited him on the other side of the road. I hope you guys would have done the same.

*Dehydration Danger: Somewhere near Sedalia, MO I lost the cap on one of my three water bottles. Heading to the Kansas border I found myself in a pretty scary situation. The terrain was surprisingly hilly, the dreaded Western winds started picking up, and the heat was unbearable. Within two hours I had run out of water and still had to bike 15 miles in order to reach Drexel, MO. It was tough, but I eventually reached Drexel where I had about a gallon of Gatorade at a gas station. I swore to be better prepared the next time around.


Crossing the Ohio River into Illinois [this was a video I wanted to include in my last trip post but didn't have the bandwidth to upload when I finalized that post]:

Biking on an Interstate. Don't try this at home:

Marshlands in Western Missouri:


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