Just after I took this picture, my gloves got blown off the seat of my bike and down onto the floodplain. I'd forgotten to snap them under the cords on my luggage, like I usually do. Then I ate some chocolate! Mmmm.
Only a mile into Missouri, I had to stop and take photos of a mass-migration:
Quite remarkable! Then, I ate some more chocolate. Well, okay, I gobbled several fistfuls of salad greens. But when I got back on the bike I had chocolate. Hey, I'm touring, I can eat whatever I want! Don't judge meeeeee!!
When I set out this morning I was in full rain regalia. Pants, cap, and jacket. The weather report called for rain in the afternoon, ascending to a "100% chance" of rain later in the day. As I turned north into the wind, from highway 273 onto highway 59, raindrops began pattering onto my clothes. Three hours later I had only managed to go 15 miles. The road curved to the northeast, and the wind and rain were buffeting me sideways towards the shoulder. I turned on my headlamp and forged ahead. Neal Stephenson was doing an excellent job entertaining me with his audiobook.
But then I got hungry, so I turned off the road to reconnoiter a bakery. Their selection was limited, and I was hungry for both protein and calories, so I bought a big chunk of sharp cheddar cheese. I meandered through the other sections of the store to see if I missed anything, ... and that's where I met Miss Kitty!
Miss Kitty was abandoned while pregnant with seven kittens, but the owners of the bakery took her in, and found homes for all her children. When I met her, she was industriously devouring a bird that she'd caught a few minutes before. She took a break from eating to get lots of pets.
I stuck around inside the bakery to remove several layers of clothing and install my sweater, and as I was reapplying the layers, Miss Kitty went trotting over to a rug underneath a table and settled down. I think it was her Very Own Spot.
It had been weeks since I petted a kittycat, and I suddenly missed Mira desperately. But I scritched Miss Kitty behind the ears and praised her hunting skills, and the feeling cooled to nostalgia. Nevertheless it will be good to see Mira again when I return to Oakland!
I nommed on my cheese, listened intently to the book, and pushed the bike forward, into the rain. I entered the city of St Joseph, which I did not need to stop in but merely pass through, and the terrain became compressed with hills just as the traffic got dense and sketchy. I fought my way to the eastern edge of the grid, and paused in a fast-food joint to warm up my feet and dry off my hands (my gloves had soaked through), and took stock of the situation. Should I keep going?
The weather report said rain for the rest of the week, so I wouldn't be waiting out the storm if I stopped. Also, if I stopped in St Joseph I would have to contend with riding out in the morning commute traffic the next day. Better to start from a smaller city that can put me directly on a state highway, which is guaranteed to have a shoulder at least. Also, I'd only managed 25 miles, and that was not enough to remain on schedule.
So I pushed on, to the east, and highway 36. The sun set, the sky turned black, and the rain became a downpour. The shoulder of the road sprouted potholes and gravel. Occasionally I would lurch to a stop and stomp my feet down, to avoid slipping in the drifts of mud oozing out onto the pavement. The wind hit me so hard from the north that I had to lean the bike precariously. A few times I tilted so far over that I thought I might lose traction and crash. ... But I never crashed. And of course, throughout this headwind and torrent and nasty terrain, I had to climb hills.
Water pooled on my chest in the wrinkles of my raincoat and soaked through the zipper, making an expanding patch of damp in my sweater below. Luckily, the raincoat was a barrier to the wind, so I didn't lose a lot of body heat despite being wet. That was very helpful. The pants worked perfectly. Same with the gore-tex hat beneath my helmet. I cycled along, obstinately, for six hours out of St Joseph, into this maelstrom, pushing myself, and enjoying the challenge ... just as I was also questioning why I put myself into these insane situations!
Around midnight I hauled my bike into the lobby of the Days Inn, and booked two nights, since I knew I would need to recuperate from this. Then: WHACK! I hit the bed.