And I believed them, though I couldn't say why. They've been treacherous all along. Rarely do they miss a chance to sabotage my fun. In all fairness I did come twenty-one miles. Possibly twenty-two. But I could have added three or four more. My feet are stinky fiends.
My weary old muscles have resigned themselves to walking in these Walmart shoes. I still get awfully tired but I am not now nearly as sore. Which means I can cover a little more distance. Which means my feet suffer more. On a bright note, my shoes are falling apart. They need to last four more days. To Cape Girardeau or Cairo, Illinois, whichever one is bigger.
I woke up early, before the sun. Gosh, I was comfortable. I taken time to find a smooth patch of ground. It had some give to it too. I could have happily stayed in bed all day. I did not have a whole lot of strength. You may not know what a pain in the ass it is to pack up my gear every day.
It's a pain in the ass. Stand informed.
But I managed, even at my leisure. I was back on the road before eight. And was determined today to enjoy myself. It is going to be cold tomorrow. Today it was in the low eighties, a little breezy but still. The sky was blue with wisps of clouds and I'm learning to love these orange trees. All along the side of the road were little purple flowers. And I was not in such horrible pain. I didn't even take my pills.
About a mile up the road I found a store. Just where I expected to find it. And everyone there was nice to me. I really like how they talk. And how much they talk. It's a Scots-Irish thing. We're a chatty race. I don't try to ape their pronunciation. Our vocabularies differ some. But I find myself falling into the cadences and am very comfortable there.
I had a modest heat-lamp breakfast and got to talking with some fellows there. About life and love and wild animals and dumb things we've done when we were drunk. I really didn't want to leave the place. I was having such a nice time. It is every man's right to drink coffee and bullshit with other men.
It was a sort of grocery with pumps out front. I should mention it by name. Because they gave me some lovely parting gifts. GAS, I think it was called. At least that's what the sign said. In beautiful Shirley, Missouri.
Shirley doesn't appear on every map. I think GAS is the whole town. But it has it's place in history. That is where Belle Starr was from. Who was of course known as the Bandit Queen, that beautiful lady outlaw. But was in fact just about the ugliest woman to ever blot the West.
Don't think I am being unkind to ugly people. I was ugly myself once. But I worked my way up to average. Ugly comes from within. I'll be damned if I know where Beauty comes from. Angel kisses, one supposes.
The wind had picked up when I got back on the road, to twenty or twenty-five miles per. It roared through the trees on either side of the road and sounded like something worse. You could see the dry leaves swirling around hundreds of feet in the air. Every now and then I'd get hit with a monster gust which would all but knock me down.
But like I said, I was determined to enjoy the day. Pleasant company at breakfast helped. And I had a good road with a fair shoulder. I could wave at truckers again. For a few days there I didn't dare. I needed to maintain my balance. And I didn't mind if the truck drivers kept both their hands on the wheel.
Ten miles took me into Potosi, Missouri. It is a very old town. By American standards, my international friends. It was founded in the 1780s. By Moses Austin, who went on to father Stephen Austin, who went on to father Texas. He got a land grant from the Spaniards and went to work digging for lead.
Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith and all them other mountain men they was always bragging on in Montana set out from Potosi in the very early 1800s. It was at the time about as far west as any right-thinking Christian dared go. There are a lot of old buildings which I would have been glad to look at if I weren't racing winter south.
I dined in Potosi at a place called Peppers. I mention it because I promised I would. And because my waitress was pretty and kind. And because the french fries were good. They were the big flat square-edged kind, crispy on the outside. That, my friends, is how you fry a potato. Crinkle-cut fries be damned.
The secret to a successful Walk Across America is to put in ten miles before noon so you can mess around the rest of the day and still make your quota. I almost never manage it. I'm slow to warm up. I'm cautious in my friendships. I am still waiting to bloom. But I did get a good strong start today. I ain't always useless.
From Potosi I headed out east. Highway 8 has improved some. With good wide shoulders the width of a car. Except on one evil bridge. Over the imaginatively named Big River. I had to run across it. With a backpack. That's probably why my poor weary toes went on strike.
I failed to make it to Leadwood, Missouri. I did not want to get that far. I don't know how big a town it is, but towns make camping difficult. I am now comfortably placed, high on a cliff, overlooking the highway. It is meant to be fairly warm tonight. I'd better enjoy it while it lasts.
INDEED, I am told, there are bears in Missouri. And really grumpy wildcats. And I thought I had my hands full with possums and copperheads.
CHEERS to Patti and Larry, proprietors of GAS. They bought me lunch, and breakfast, and gave me an orange safety vest. No joke. It is deer season. Some of these boys is trigger happy. Next time you're in Shirley, Missouri, buy your gas at GAS. Their heat-lamp breakfast sandwiches ain't bad either. Have two. They're kinda small.
"YOU MUST HAVE had all kinds of exciting adventures," almost everyone says to me. Not really. I wish I had. It's more of a cumulative thing.
"ARE YOU a patriot?" one man demanded to know. I assured him I was. I am not, after all, a seditionist. I love America.
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