I set out at exactly 11:00am and went cruising for breakfast. Both of the "downtown" cafes were closed. Two other restaurants were shuttered and up for sale. I couldn't actually find a grocery store, so I decided to cycle down the strip by the highway and get another gross fast-food convenience-store breakfast.
While gathering snacks I fell into conversation with the owner of the shop and his one other patron. They were Best Buds from Way Back™, apparently, and we had an amusing chat about highway systems and weather. That set a good tone for the day.
I sailed out of town with a bunch of cheap protein stuffed into me, and only a few miles down the road, my intestines began percolating and suddenly I had to deal with a "call of nature". I turned off the highway and went speeding north on a paved state road, with the wind at my back for a change. It wasn't on my calculated route, but I needed a more private environment if I was going to take care of this.
A few miles later I found a quiet stand of trees lined up along a dry riverbed. An ideal spot. For the first time on this trip, I broke out my "call of nature" supplies and tromped into the woods to make like the proverbial bear. It went well, and I was back on the road in only a few minutes. I could have pulled a U-turn and gone back to the highway, but since I was already on this paved road, and running parallel to a later segment in my course, I decided there was no harm in continuing in the same direction to see where it led me.
Some pretty nature appeared:
The road plunged down into some forest and then up again, and I began to see houses around me, set far back into large chunks of property. A couple of dogs ambled into the street to bark at me as I rode by. Then, a half mile later, another one. Then I passed by a long driveway and was spotted by two more, and these two began to chase alongside me, yapping at each other and pausing to sniff at the foliage in neighbors' yards and urinate on things. I wasn't afraid of them, but I did get worried that I would lead them too far down the road and get them lost.
In the meantime it was very amusing, so I took some video:
I came to a narrow valley and plunged down into it, rising to a top speed of 40mph, and I was certain that the dogs would fall behind and give up, but as I began to laboriously ascend the opposite bank they trotted up to me and then pulled ahead to bark at another dog standing in a driveway. The hill got steep so I had to dismount and push. I noticed that the dogs were waiting for me at the crest of the hill, as though I was their escort, or their best friend, or perhaps their new owner.
I rounded a corner and a third dog came gamboling across the front lawn of a large house, towards "my" dogs. They all barked at each other and then sniffed butts for a while. A couple of families were gathered in front of the house, gearing up for a ride back down the road on their ATVs, and one of the women set down her cooler and strode over the grass, calling for her dog to disentangle itself - orders that the dog totally ignored. I coasted to a stop and explained my situation to the woman, and she called one of her daughters over, and each of them grabbed a dog and held it down while I attempted to ride away.
One of the dogs broke loose and galloped over to me, all slobber and smiles, so I turned around and came back. The daughter got ahold of the dog again. I was also surprised to see a small, round kitty-cat marching over the lawn towards this brouhaha, as if it wanted to participate. I got off my bike and we all walked over to the rest of the family and their ATVs, trailed by the extra dog and the cat, and we decided that the whole family would take off in their ATVs and try to get the dogs to follow them instead of me, so I could make a clean getaway. "Let's go, let's go! Come on, dogs!" we all shouted, and I jogged behind them and made shoving motions with my hands, and all three dogs got the idea and ran along. I stopped and stood still until they were around the corner and out of sight. Then the stripey cat meandered up to me, as if to say, "Adopt me instead! I'm smaller!"
It was totally adorable:
... But of course I couldn't adopt any kitties. Besides, I would be taking it away from its family. As I gazed around the now silent property, I could count at least five other cats in my line of sight. The place was a zoo.
"That's kind of awesome," I thought. "I bet I would enjoy living here."
I rode on, alone, and the forest thinned away and the land got flatter, and I cruised in a straight line for a half hour or so. Then I drifted to a stop in front of this house:
Who could pass up a photo op like that?
As if the house wasn't enough, I was also treated to some amazing cloudscapes:
And some marvelous views from bridges and fields:
Eventually it got dark, and I reached the intersection of highway A and highway 6. A little frog was hopping across the intersection when I got there, and I scooped him up and placed him on my backpack for a photo:
Hooray for random nature!
Highway 6 was very busy - a disorienting change from the quiet space I'd been biking through all day. It was now obvious to me that the back-roads of Missouri were twice as enjoyable as the highway. Too bad my planned route was taking me out of the state tonight.
I weathered many nervous ups and downs on the narrow shoulder of 6 until it merged with 24, and from there I pedaled onto a long bridge that took me over the Mississippi River and into Illinois.
... Where I found some mostly-authentic Thai food! Huzzah!!! A good end to the day.
After stuffing myself I packed up the leftovers and rode across town to a motel on the east side, reasoning that a journey through the street grid at night would be much more pleasant than the same journey during the day.
Then I booked two days. Time to give my legs some rest, and figure out where I'm going next.