Archive for August, 2009

last night goes

August 21, 2009

The clouds are ajostling

thisdyingevening,

running down the sun,

to bleed their violet

and their orange.

My feet

pivotagainst their center

and repeat, and repeat, and repeat,

as,we,all are wheeling

to the crickets

of Summer.


It’s my hundredth,

for all I know, thousandth

time racing the sundown

in this-particular plain, but


these geese overhead

complain nonetheless,

as if they

didn’t know

me

from Adam

another approach

August 16, 2009

Whitey’s Sports Bar & Grill (Hamilton, IL: 5/20/09)

There’s a pool star portrait, signed, reminiscent

of a porn star glamour shot,

cue in hand and cleavage to the fore,

at the divide, where this juke joint roadhouse makes a stab at

local billiards legitimacy.  “She’s almost undefeated

and this guy beat her.  What was it, Charley?  Three games out of five?”

Charley demurs, swigs his Budweiser, “We tied.”

White plastic letters pegged in a slotted brown board

advertise tenderloin, steak fries, and the odd burrito.

Sign on register, names two, Banned For Life,

both women, and another owes the bar

$45, says another sign.  The barmaid, in cutoff jeans,

a severe face, disappears for 10 minutes or more,

to make my tenderloin and steak fries.  Says nothing

as she places it in front of me.  I talk to Charlie the pool shark

and Mike the welder, as they put back Budweiser bottles,

racing the end of Mike’s lunch break.

Charlie’s got nowhere to be, but he’s improving

upon the opportunity to be social.  The relative

merits of cycling and motorcycling are discussed,

and Mike wishes he had the time to travel

and to really do it right

but he’s locked ‘til retirement.  When I go

the barmaid follows and I think she must be smoking

but she asks me if I need any water.

D Rex: the Lost Chronicles, Vol. 2: Discontinuation

August 14, 2009

-5/18/09: Cuivre River State Park to Louisiana, MO

Not another camper was stirring when I pulled out of the Cuivre River State Park campground.  Not that I was eager for more travel, not after the previous day’s low-hum labors.  But I was up, so it was wallow or get moving.  The road out of camp was merciless and I had to hop off to shove the bike up its steepest hill.  In all my loaded touring experience, I’ve only had to give up the climb one other time: in deepest, steepest Appalachia.   Stopping to breathe and rest your legs is acceptable, but to have your legs refuse to go again is akin to heartbreak.  I was off to a very bad start.

By a dirt road just outside of the Park, nearly obscured by weeds, I saw a well-weathered sign for Nota Lota Acres, and stopped to take its picture.  The lack of guile in that name and its presentation was an antidote to the bad taste left by the prior day’s sprawl.  But my body needed more than better vibes.  I made it another mile, then collapsed in the grass before a spec-metal rural fire station after leaning my bike against the flagpole.  Some dogs were barking at me from a little further down the road.  A few cars passed; their passengers gawked.  I drained my Gatorade bottle and blankly chewed down another 400 calories of Pop-tart: my second package in less than an hour.  I started to wonder who I could call, and how long I would have to sit there before they arrived to pick me up, and whether anyone would take offense to my bike leaning against their flagpole.

Then the Gatorade pushed whatever liquids my stomach had been holding onto into my bladder, and that was encouragement enough to push on toward the barking dogs behind a fence, behind a house that was also a gas station, just another 100 yards down the road.  They didn’t allow the public in their bathroom though, so they volunteered the bathroom of the Laundromat at the trailer park, a hundred yards back down the road, across from where I’d been sitting.  By the time I got relief, I was finding that particular locale disagreeable, so I got back on the bike and left it.

Then Route W swung out into glowing, gently blowing, rolling hills of grass and cows and horses.  Blue skies, fluffy clouds, the whole bit.  Scenery is nourishment; and I was filching from the Mississippi River’s ample garden.

But by the time I met the river proper in Clarksville, I wanted something I could sink my teeth into.  Searching my way down SR 79, someone called out to me.  I stopped and they asked if I had a moment.  So, hoping they could point me in the direction of food, I turned around.  He was leaning against a white Chevy Cavalier, wiping his hands on a rag, and he asked where I was heading.

I told him and a big smile spread across his face.

“No kidding?” he said, and he sort of guffawed.  “How long’s that gonna take you?”

I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I had a lot of time and wasn’t really worried about it.

“Now that’s what we like to hear, people living their dreams!” he said, and he introduced himself and his partner.  Partner in glassblowing and kayaking, it turned out.  The shop behind the Cavalier was theirs, and they had another along the Missouri River in New Haven, MO.

I asked how one comes to be a glassblowing kayaker along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  And he told me, but honestly, I spaced out.  I needed to eat again.  So, at the next pause in the conversation, I asked where I could get food in Clarksville on a Monday afternoon.  They directed me to the Clarksville Station Restaurant and said it was either that or stale fried goods from the warming box at the gas station.

“But before you go, I wanna give you something,” he said and ran into the shop.  He was back a moment later with a small glass figurine, small glass head tucked between arms raised triumphantly, legless trunk marbled orange and blue.

“We call them ‘dudes’,” he said.  “Maybe you can hold him up to celebrate when you get up to Maine.”

“Hey, that’s great!” I said, examining the dude.  “Really, thanks a bunch.”  Then I looked over my gear, puzzling over how to safely carry the dude all that way.  “I’m not really sure…”

“Oh, you need something to cushion it?  Hold on.”  And he ran back in and came back with a little blue bubble wrap bag.

I stowed the dude in his sack and tucked him into my handlebar bag.  “Thanks again, guys, really.  The dude’ll be a talisman.  It’s perfect.  Good kayaking to ya!”  And I rode back the way I’d come, to find the Clarksville Station.

And then I ate and talked to a waitress who lost interest as soon as she had moneyed customers to cultivate.  And rode back by and didn’t find the glassblowing kayakers, and passed a rusting scenic chair lift perched on the bluff side.  Watched the shabby industrial buildings pass as I cycled parallel the river on into Louisiana, MO.  Found the bluff-top John Brooks Henderson Park that I was to camp in, and took pleasure in Wikipediaing that name on my iPhone on a park bench overlooking the river.  Made the first of three phone calls to the city police, trying to get permission to camp in the park.  Wandered back down from the bluff to eat a sub-Sysco slice of cake a la mode, in a tiny, dirty diner with a TV blaring Dr. Phil, and an uncomfortable tension between the young black proprietress with extensive burn scarring and an older white man who came in for coffee as I ate: excessively polite and attentive to one another, to a point bordering on absurdity.  Went to the river and exchanged smiles and hellos with a few little girls out for a walk.  Met the previously mentioned Chinese waitress.  Made the second phone call to the police.  Loafed.  Made the third phone call to the police, finally receiving permission to camp.  Got dinner—pizza—from a restaurant that was like a big, empty Elk’s Hall.  Listened to the prater at a table of eight or nine, glowing Greek Week-shirted, hometown-visiting co-eds, who not-so-secretly seemed to hate each other.  Went back up to the bluff, ate the rest of my pizza and blogged.

… And that’s what happened that day, and this is what I’ve been working on for entirely too long.  Not very satisfactory.  Sticking too close to a chronology: I’m telling, not showing.  Back to the drawing board.

What’s time got to do with experience anyway?

any button to continue

August 7, 2009

I think I’m going to have to try a different tact.  I’ve spent a lot of time these last two days going over notes and maps and blog entries, reenacting the trip in my head, trying to decide when—exactly—my notes/blog become so lacking as to warrant a retelling.   Only the maps give a truly linear retelling of my progress.  The blog and the journal bounce back and forth, catching details as I caught the opportunity to record them.  And I’m able to recreate the story, reading back and forth, but neither medium catches all of the details.  Taken as separate documents, they are woefully inadequate records of the experience.  Combined and reconstructed in my head, they’re pretty good.  But there are still details missing from both that bring a smile to my face.

So, now what?  Create another patchy and inadequate supplement?  Or, set forth on a synthesis: a complete retelling?

D Rex: the Lost Chronicles, Vol. 1

August 1, 2009

In addition to this blog, I have a little red, hardbound journal.  I took it along with me on last year’s trip to DC, but there’s not a single entry in it from that journey.  Sure, there’s some scribblings that probably found their way out of my pen somewhere along the roads out that way, but nothing concrete: no dates, place names, or even events really.  At the time it all seemed so fresh and new and magnificent that I thought it would all remain, forever vivid in my memory.  It didn’t.  Events, names, places, mix and mingle, get muddled, and probably even slip through the cracks

This go around, I barely let a day go without an entry—for the first three weeks.  Flipping through it now, in the 5/24 entry, I see an enthusiastic, big-lettered, exclamation-marked detail nearly missed, added in the top margin: did laundry.  Then, about halfway through New York, the cracks began to form.  A couple of days between entries, then a few.  They widened as the trip went on.

So, while I’ve got the time, the inclination, and the powers of recall still at hand, I’m going back through my little journal, my blog, and my maps, to see if I can’t plug the holes—at least temporarily.  Time shakes all things loose, but the opportunity to play warden to whatever we hold dear is one of the blessings of being human.

And I’ve decided to share these recollections here on the blog as some further incentive to myself to keep at it and to keep it fun.  The adventures are still possible, even when the journey’s done.

D Rex, Coffee Zone, 8/1/2009

5/17/09 – Hermann, MO to Cuivre River State Park

Woke early with the air still cool and the sunlight visibly falling soft and wispy, across the slowly rising campers as they began to disassemble their big box retail camps.  It surprised me that so many were already stirring given the revelry I had witnessed and blocked from consciousness, passing into sleep the night before.  But then a lanky, middle-aged motorcyclist approached me, holding out a limp, grey, dismal-looking sleeping pad and asking about my own.  He’d ordered his off of eBay and it wasn’t worth a damn.   I could see that, plainly, but I didn’t tell him so; and then I remembered the miserable sleep I got while camping before I’d learned the tricks and grown accustomed to it—and especially, the misery of waking on the cold, hard ground after a night of heavy drinking—and the mystery of their waking was dispelled.  Then a couple—cyclists but not tourists—from Springfield, MO came by to say hello.  He worked in a bike shop and wanted to talk gear,  but I have to count the chain rings on my bike to  tell you how many gears I’m riding on, so I steered the conversation away from that as quickly as possible.  They had both attended college in Columbia some years ago and they were surprised at the thriving bike culture there as I described it to them .

Got breakfast at Lyndee’s Restaurant.  Had the feel of a real, genuine small town diner, but overlain with a patchy veneer of Cracker Barrel idolatry.  But the food was alright if maybe a little overpriced.  I guess they’re still paying off their antique Americana conceits.

Then it was 23 miles to Marthasville on the Katy.  As reported in ‘where I am: 5/17’ (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/), Marthasville is where I left the Katy and headed north.  In Wright City, I crossed I-70 and got lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Ruiz Castillo after finding everything south of I-70 closed (and verifying in a gas station that this was, in fact, the case: it was Sunday).  It wasn’t that I didn’t want Mexican, it was that I had to cross the Interstate hungry:  Ruiz Castillo was the only restaurant in town on the north side of I-70, and the only restaurant open on a Sunday.  But I endured the noisy Interstate over my growling stomach, and it was a good, filling, cheap meal, and the restaurant, right next to the Interstate, was a place I’d driven by many times with some small curiosity over its unnecessarily grand size.  Up close, it’s still oversized, and the four occupied tables had to cope with their existential significance in the sea of open tables and empty space.

Leaving Wright City, I entered an overgrowth of residential plats and underdeveloped roadways that left me feeling depressed: sprawl 50 miles from St. Louis, an exurbs grown out of nobody’s money or good intentions.  Turning east on SR 47 in Troy, I saw that I’d be crossing Highway 61 on my way to Cuivre River, so I stopped, struck up Highway 61 Revisited on the iPhone, and the opening strains of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ gave aural courage against that busy roadway.  I stopped it sometime before ‘Desolation Row’ though, ‘cause I was wondering hopelessly around Cuivre River State Park, looking for the campground, and finally I called the park office for directions.

The Adventure Cycling maps had described the campground as being only half a mile from their route and advised walking your bike around the barrier when you came to it.  I’d picked it as my stop for the night because I didn’t like to veer too far off of the route (a prejudice I was to overcome in the course of this trip) and because those directions led me to believe that this was a low key, un-rangered campground where I could get away with not putting my money in the collection box.  I did find the campground Adventure Cycling had described, but it was overrun with a cultish crew of children and their middle-aged wards who looked at me cockeyed and shy as I cycled through their religious rites.  Probably this campground is usually unoccupied, but it’s set aside for group reservations, so it’s luck of the draw for a cyclist.  My luck had not proved good, so I had to go an extra, very hilly mile and lay my $11 down with the rest of the schmucks.

It had been a day of subtle trials and I lay in my tent weighing my options at the end of it.  But I got up the next day and got on the bike and kept going and the going got better.  I won’t recount any of 5/18 as I already addressed it extensively in that day’s blog (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/), my journal, and again in ‘still moving (in Virginia)’ (https://bikeset.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/) .