“That’s not tea”.
“Yes it it”
“Is it hot?”
“Do you have milk?”
“No, we don’t keep perishables”.
“Then it’s not tea then is it?”
We are standing in KFC looking at a fizzy pop machine and for the first time on this trip I’m really grumpy. I face-timed Ellie and Kate this morning and Ellie was holding a cuppa. I found myself dreaming of an App to transfer drinks electronically. 66 miles later I’m now desperate for a decent brew – and the abomination in front of me is nothing of the sort.
I begin to detail the process by which tea is made, the pot, the brewing, the use of a tea-cosy, china cups and saucers, the differences between Assam and Darjeeling, the importance of cold milk. Terry, sensing I’m beginning to lose it, leads me quietly away. I sip something cold and chemical and despair. If they don’t sell ‘perishables’ why are they selling chicken I wonder, but maybe it’s best we don’t know.
The following morning, after sleeping next to an interstate under a 70 foot tall ‘Holiday Inn’ sign, I’m eating a Taco Bell ‘breakfast’ and considering calling in the lawyers. It’s some kind of crispy flatbread filled with a bacon and egg slurry and so insubstantial I find myself ordering another. At least they sold coffee, but Terry and I have decided that we are going to try to do the rest of America without resorting to fast ‘food’. In fact we’d rather fast.
But an empty stomach is no way to start tackling the last of the Ozarks. Just like the Appalachians when you think you are finally through with them, they pop up again and laugh as you grimace. It’s at this stage that meeting other bikers and sharing experiences really gives you the encouragement to keep going. This morning, as we were packing down our tents at the RV park, Bill came to see us. He’d been breakfasting in the luxury of the Holiday Inn and was cycling solo from Augustine in Florida on route to Vancouver. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest distance I’ve heard someone attempt so far.
A few long climbs take us out of Marshfield and then a little later down the road we bump into Tor and Victor on their way East. We talk about the things that go through our minds while cycling for hour after hour and the occasional boredom that inevitably creeps in with a landscape that hasn’t changed much in days. For Tor the way to go is to look at the clouds.
“Look up there for instance,” he says, pointing skywards. “Can you see the Seahorse”? We gaze upwards and there it is, lying on it’s back. It’s all getting a bit weird when whizz-kid Keenan rolls up. He’s on a mission to make Pittsburg by nightfall and after a quick catch up he’s off like a whippet.
We can only dream of the distances he achieves. Like Tor we are always looking for distractions. For me it’s wrecks of classic cars, buried in the bushes, for Terry the nuances of American architecture (look out for future posts!) – and we are both enjoying the multitude of wildlife we come across on the trail. Today it’s butterflies and squashed Armadillo. We’ve yet to see a live one, but the butterflies are making up for it. Beautiful and numerous they seem to have no fear of us and often hop a ride on our saddlebags, or sip sweat from our arms and hands before fluttering off to top off the salt with a slam of nectar.
On route to our destination at Everton we stop off at the beautifully named ‘Walnut Grove’. Sadly it didn’t live up to its name with most of the shops (barring the bank) not only closed down but derelict. A sad sight all too common in rural America.
We had planned to spend the night at a nearby hunting lodge, but on discovering it would cost us 25 dollars each, as long as we slept in our sleeping bags on top of the beds, we decided to look elsewhere. And just down the road was what is fast becoming a favourite des res – the local garage, or gas station in US speak.
A quick recee out back revealed plentiful flat grass for camping. A sortie into the restroom revealed a toilet and sink with hot and cold water. They were open until 10pm, had wi-fi, hot coffee and best of all served Pizza, made fresh on the premises. They reopened at 7am the following morning for breakfast.
Ideal! And after a quick call to the owner we made camp, drank coffee, chatted to the staff and ate like kings before retiring out back to be lulled into sleep by the chirping of cicadas and the croaking of frogs.
Today’s mileage: 53
Miles since First Landing: 1568