I grumbled my way back up the road. I really wanted a shower. You sweat like a chimp when you're bundled up. You smell decidedly worse. But I've done used up this month's motel funds. And there are no truck stops on these roads. So imagine my surprise and delight to find one in Cuba, Missouri.
My backroad crossed I-44 there. It was a gimungous place. With dozens and dozens of diesel pumps, a restaurant and a half-dozen showers. And a barber shop and a laundromat and a smoking lounge/Bible chapel. I cannot tell you how good it feels to get clean once in a while.
I had too an enormous breakfast and loitered for long hours. In a plush chair, watching football on the widescreen TV. Two teams were playing. They did this and that. It was I'm sure very exciting. I am not really much of a fan. I'd look up from time to time. Mostly I read Wikipedia. If Americans spent more time reading Wikipedia and less time watching football, we'd all be better off.
And better at Jeopardy. Except the football questions. Of which there are few.
I was there a lot longer than I needed to be. I was in love with that chair. A chair and a shower, it was almost as good as staying in a motel. Walking on these dangerous roads is really wearing me out. I've got to keep my eyes open. I can't get my rhythm down. Just when I get some forward momentum I've got to jump into the ditch.
It is my own fault, I know. I could have planned my route better. Or you could have. I couldn't. Planning's not what I do best.
[A critter was wandering by my tent. I never know what they are. Skunks, I figure. This one's a possum. I got my spotlight on him. Didn't seem to bother him in the least. I wonder if possums is mean. If he tries to chew his way into my tent I am going to whomp him with my boot.]
And I probably should have doubled back into, what was it, Columbia for proper boots. Walking flat footed is tiring. I've still got ten days in these things. They are wearing quickly but evenly. Clomp, clomp, clomp.
At one or two I squeezed out the door and down the road to a Walmart. I've got a forty-mile stretch coming up and I wanted to stock up on food. And water. And Gatorade. It added twenty pounds to my pack. And just like it was in Montana, I'm feeling it in my toes.
I bought bread and cheese. And donuts. Guess how long they lasted. Not very. And I think they gave me the poops.
Cuba didn't seem like such an awful town. I kept forgetting what it was called. I'd see signs cheering on Cuba's teams and raising money for Cuba's orphans. That's big-hearted, I'd think. But though they may think globally, their actions are strictly local.
It was out of town on the same narrow road. I longed to be back in my chair. But three miles in the road opened up. It turned pink and there was a shoulder. The right of way was wide as well. I could see the glorious sky. If I had not been so far hammered down I am sure it would have cheered me up.
But it didn't. Not overmuch. My legs were just too sore. And I could see ahead the very steep hills between me and Steelville, Missouri. My pack weighed a ton but I kept walking. But only because I'm a hero.
Steelville is home to 1500 people and sort of buried in the trees. It bills itself as the Float Capital of Missouri, which no doubt refers to their booming, if seasonal, river rafting industry, but which rather put me in the mind of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New Yawk.
Still paranoid about my upcoming foodless days, I added to my stock at a Subway. Yes, a Subway. Sandwiches are cheap this month. I hate to be a demanding customer but I talked the young woman through every step of the process. She was maybe sixteen, petite, and either a serious beer drinker or twenty months pregnant. She had a herpes sore on her lip.
I then loitered outside a convenience store, trying to get information on my road ahead. No one was very helpful but I was surprised at how friendly they all were. It was only later I realised they were drunk.
I am now in the Mark Twain National Forest which is sort of splattered in sections across the map of southern Missouri. I thought it would be a grand place to camp. But it is as thoroughly populated as any other part of the state and when it got dark I found myself camping in a wisp of trees between no less than three houses. If I can get out of here without being yelled at or shot, it will be a miracle.
Tomorrow I'll do what I can to wake early and resume my hungry road. It has narrowed again but there is a small shoulder, maybe eighteen inches wide. And who knows, it may be a federal crime to murder me in a National Forest. I wonder who I can ask. If only I had an intimate relationship with some kind of forest ranger.
I SANG in the shower. Beautifully. My voice sounded great off the tiles. A sort of booming baritone that might bring tears to your eyes. I sang Christmas songs. I only know Christmas songs.
WHERE THE ROADS are narrow and blind, people drive like maniacs. Where they are wide and safe, they creep along under the speed limit. This is not a trick of perception. It is a fact.
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