Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day One-Hundred-Twenty-Five, Blow

I managed twenty-five miles today, maybe more or not too much less. It was a good solid day in either case, and goes to show you never can tell. My feet were as sore as yesterday, my legs as rubbery. I took I think as many breaks but somehow I burned up the miles. It is I guess one of Life's Mysteries. It is not for me to ask why.

I was camped not far from a windmill, maybe one-hundred yards off. And as I went to sleep it wasn't so noisy. Because it was barely moving at all. But as I slept the wind picked up and the thing really started to roar. It wasn't too bad but it sounded very much like a passenger jet flying by.

And by and by and by and by. That was disconcerting. It gave me that sense of dissatisfaction you get from a stifled sneeze. Or when you hear the angry screech of tires and not the inevitable crash. It did get me thinking, about airplanes of course. They're much quieter than they used to be. But I wondered if the sound I've been blaming on engines is at least as much made by the wings.

There's a metaphor in there; I'm certain of it. It's yours if you find it first.

My little computer promised blue skies. It soon after started to rain. I'm never sure who to believe in these cases, the weatherman or my own eyes. I used to, on sunny days, ride my motorcycle to work. It was not unusual for me to show up sopping wet. Just out my window it would be raining, but the weatherman said it was not. He knows better than I do, I'd think, and off I'd go into the storm.

There's a Life's Lesson there; I'm certain of it. It's yours if you find it first.

It never did rain hard but I was concerned. I've got to keep an eye on these things. I do have a raincoat, and a cover for my pack, but I hate to dig them out. But if I wait too long they do little good. Too soon and I get myself sweaty. I've got a minute or so to make that decision. I like to debate these things. But the rain had just about stopped when I got to Maple River Junction.

There was an odd little farm on the edge of town, rather an untidy place. But interesting. There were chickens and geese of every shape and color. And tiny little horses with matted manes and a number of pot-bellied pigs. And some dogs and a goat or two. The fences were not very good. They could have escaped whenever they wanted. They stayed because it was home.

I bellied up at Little Gus's, the only shop in town. It is a bar but at ten a.m. everyone was drinking coffee. The nice lady treated me to a cup or two and a couple of cans of Coke. It was too a museum of taxidermy. It was nonetheless cozy in there. The people were friendly; I could have stayed forever. Instead I climbed back on the trail.

And hike another five miles to Carroll, a town of more than ten thousand. Which I never would have guessed, the way I came in, I guess through the back door. I asked a grumpy man at a tractor shop where I could get myself fed. "There's a Denny's three blocks up." I was hoping for something better.

Denny's, for our international friends, is a nationwide chain of restaurants. They have them too in Japan. They're clean and cheap, the food is good but unforgivably bland. I wanted something more soulful, more grease on my fried potatoes. And was pleased to find it was not "a" Denny's, but merely Denny's, no relation. Unless this one humble little cafe is the one that spawned the chain.

I had the special, roast beef and mashed potatoes and a few overcooked green peas. And a piece of pumpkin pie. The mashed potatoes were good. "They're instant," I later heard someone complain. Just like Mom used to make.

I quite like mashed potatoes, instant and otherwise. In the future when I'm really rich, I'm not going to eat anything but mashed potatoes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, mashed potatoes. I'll have mashed potatoes for snacks. I'll have grand banquets for the finest folk and serve nothing but mashed potatoes.

[I am surrounded by someone or other, possibly raccoons. Now they are brawling amongst themselves. I'd just as soon not get involved. Raccoons, as a rule, do not attack, but they ain't scared of you either.]

I overheard some people at a neighboring table reminiscing about the various homeless people they have seen over the years. The were not directing this talk at me, but it was clear that something about my presence had introduced the topic. I made my way to a barber.

It was my intention to keep my long beard, to just trim it up a little. But the lady with the scissors would not hear of it. She was buxom and flattering. Any one of those things could have swung the debate. She pruned it down to almost nothing. And told me I was handsome. I gave her a tip.

I have some regrets; I liked my beard. But it had become a burden. I'd had to spend twenty minutes every morning combing the knots out of it. And it can get ugly, as on nights like tonight when my nose is running just like a faucet. Or when I sip soda, or when I eat soup or try to make a good first impression. I'm better of without it, I guess. I should have gathered up the bits. They could have had a place in the James Museum, right next to my baby teeth.

The wind by now was picking up, and up to forty miles an hour. Which is not enough to knock me off my feet, but enough to make me stumble and fall. It is harvest time; many fields are bare. There's a lot of dust in the air. And bits of corn and tumble weeds. I don't know where they come from.

I was soon headed down a more minor road, southbound once again. It took me to Willey, Iowa. I could see it from miles away. Across the cornfields, over steep rolling hills and through the thick dust in the air. Visible first was the tall steeple of their Catholic church. In the haze it looked like a castle. I felt nothing like a knight. Maybe a jester of sorts who tells jokes, until they lop off his head.

Beyond the church there was nothing in Willey. A feed lot and some kind of factory. And a dozen small houses and two enormous ones, maybe six-thousand square feet each. Right across the street from each other, the two richest men in town. I couldn't guess who they are trying to impress. Each other, one supposes.

There was nothing for me there. I was hungry again. I continued on to Deadham. Up and down hills in the howling wind, I was just a little bit tired. But not as worn out as I was yesterday, and I had come a lot more miles. Still I was happy to get to town. I needed me a snack.

No joy. The restaurant had closed, some three weeks before. I made my way to the one saloon and ordered a frozen pizza.

And fourteen Cokes. The pizza was good. They've really improved the technology. And they had Tabasco on hand. I think that makes all the difference. I sat down and ate the whole blasted thing. I could have stopped halfway. But there were three or four pieces still taunting me. I could not shrink from their challenge.

I got to talking to the fellows there. A few had seen me out on the road. It was good to be off my feet and I liked the mood of the place. Six-thirty is a good time in a small town bar. No one was really drunk. But they'd all had enough to make them friendly. I enjoyed talking to them.

Too much, it turned out. I overstayed. I was there until well after seven. Which left me very little daylight to turn down 141 and find a place for my tent. It got dark and I gave up. I will sleep right next to the highway. They'll be able to see me when the sun comes up. I hope nobody complains.

It is cold tonight but not too. I'm warm in my new furry pants. Tomorrow is meant to be nasty but I've got layers to add. But south is the watchword, south, south, to where the sun always shines. This cold does not wholly appeal to me. I'm running out of snot.

Excuse me.
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