Louisiana, Missouri

The sky’s a velvety, Rothko blue above the bluff’s edge horizon line as I gaze out my tent’s screen door this evening. I’d still be sitting on a park bench, in the open air, if it weren’t for the relentless hoards of some awful mutant species of gnat common to this part of Missouri (I first encountered them at Cuivre River park; assuming they were mosquitos, I quickly coated myself with a thick layer of repellent, which did not deter them in the least). I’m eating pizza leftover from my dinner this evening. I had planned to cook something myself tonight, but I had some difficulty convincing the Louisiana authorities that it would be okay for me to stay in their Henderson Riverfront park this evening. They ultimately consented, so long as no one complains about me; and I thought it best to avoid the open flame on that stipulation. It’s a beautiful spot to camp though–right on the bluff edge with the whole Mississippi stretched out beneath me–and it does my soul good to be staying here tonight.

I took a short day. It was only a little over 40 miles into Louisiana, and I got here by 2pm. But starting out this morning I wasn’t sure I was going to make it even that far. I got five miles outside of Cuivre River and I had to stop to eat a second package of pop tarts and drain my Gatorade bottle. That means that by 9:30 this morning, I had had 840 calories of pop tart.

But it did the trick. Those pop tarts got me to Lincoln County’s Route W, a soul-saving road. And after yesterday’s encounter with big climbs and suburban sprawl (I crossed I-70 approx. 50 miles from St. Louis; did you know there was sprawl reaching that far from St. Louis?), my bike-riding soul was in need of saving. Route W is gorgeous, playful, gently hilly, with very little traffic, and lots of cows. It took me all the way to Clarksville. And as I rode into town looking for a place to eat, a couple of guys working on a car in front of a shop called me over to ask about my trip. They were kayakers, and glass blowers. One of them ran into the shop and brought out a gift: a little glass figure, arms raised triumphantly. They call them dudes. I thanked them wholeheartedly, and asked where I could eat in Clarksville mid-Monday. I later wished that I’d stayed and talked longer with them, and I rode back by after finishing my lunch, but they were gone.

Hunger has been pretty severe and distracting for me the past couple of days. I’m not fighting it. My body is a little weak and coping with the new stresses, so I’m eating at every opportunity. Incidentally, if you’re ever in Clarksville at the Station House–which is a very weird mix of affluent, arty, smooth jazz bistro & Cracker Barrel (they have signs that say ‘Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion’ AND the Complete Book of New Yorker Cartoons for sale in their gift shop)–I recommend the Walnut Torte.

Oh, and the picture of the mailbox is from Route W. I’m becoming acutely aware of the mail box as a last bastion of publicly displayed personal aesthetics. I’ve passed several already that I wish I’d stopped to snap a picture of. I like the austere form and attention to materials of this one. It was in front of a peculiarly tall, but beautiful house (which my camera would do no justice to) and I firmly believe that they took the weathering of the materials into consideration. Reminds me of a Richard Serra sculpture.


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