I was told, I forget now by whom, that Missouri is warm south of I-70. This has since been contradicted by many dozens of people, but I hold it to be true. Believe the lies that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy and free.
It was awfully warm when I woke up, like a late spring afternoon. It was yet some minutes before seven o'clock. The sun was barely up. But I was caressed by balmy breezes. It was upwards of sixty degrees. And with me more than twenty miles north of that magic I-70.
It was a spectacularly beautiful day for walking. I set out in just a T-shirt. My legs were strong and my feet weren't unhappy. I've been having some nice luck there. In order to be on one end or the other of Columbia, Missouri, this would have to be either an eighteen or a twenty-seven mile day. I ate a cheese sandwich and then ate another and decided on twenty-seven.
As far as I knew there would be no civilisation between me and the city. I found a restaurant ten miles in. On the side of the road sort of up on a bluff. I wasn't so terribly hungry. But I knew I could do with something to drink. Cheese do make a boy thirsty. And my little computer needed a boost. I waded my way through the crowd.
For this was a wildly popular cafe. I had trouble finding a seat. I don't recall just what it was called. I know it began with an H. Heur's or Huerer's or something like that. Hooters, possibly. I ordered a cheeseburger out of habit and drank seventeen Cokes.
It was rather an ugly cheeseburger but it tasted plenty good. Toasted buns, I swear that's the secret. It came with crinkle-cut fries. Crinkle-cut fries are an abomination. I cannot be clearer than that. But it was nutty popular. People just love the place. I don't even think it was near a town. They did not have much of a sign. The decor did not in any way inspire and the waitresses were overworked. But they must be doing something right. I should have asked more questions.
That's why I so like eating in saloons. In a bar people talk to each other. But at a cafe I just sit at a table, all by my lonesome self. I did meet some nice people as I was leaving and was pleased to talk to them some. But talking to people at their tables seems to me bad form. Even if they talk to me first. I climbed back on the road.
With a burst of strength. I was surprised. I was worried I'd eaten too much. But the few kind words I got on my way out the door really put a spring in my step. As did the Cokes, I rather suspect. There's power in sugar and caffeine. The sun was still out. I took off like a rocket and walked another ten miles.
The land is prettier here, as well. I don't want to hurt any feelings but it has been sort of ugly these past few days. The fields have all been harvested. The trees are a rusty brown. The grass is dead and the landscape itself is nothing but flat and plain. But here there are hills and the road winds a bit. Here and there it is cut through rock. I like a little variety. I don't move so very fast.
Greater Columbia is home to some 160,000 people. It is by all accounts a pretty nice town. People are friendly and educated. They tend to vote on the Left. But I was afraid I'd get stuck in there and have to stay in a motel. Which would cut sharply into my food budget and delay my next day's start. Cable TV can mesmerize me. I don't sleep well in soft beds.
But I needn't have worried. Highway-63 goes politely around the edge of town. It's a shame, really. Columbia is the first city I might have actually liked. Bozeman was OK, I guess, but Spokane was a hole. A Scoutmaster was rude to me, a fat guy in tasselled socks. I try to laugh off that sort of thing. I was not rude back. But a not so very small part of me wishes I had kicked his ass.
Billings was snotty. Sioux City was awfully hard to walk through. But here inside the city limits I was still in the trees. Highway-63 is crazy big here. It has expanded to six lanes wide. I feel a little foolish walking here, but I guess it's my legal right. Nobody yelled at me, at any rate, but they looked at me like I was nuts. And there were lots of on and off ramps to negotiate. I did have to pay attention.
I was met on the side of the road by the Gallup family, Darren and Ada and Madison. I had met them at the cafe. I did not know them at first. They brought me all manner of treats. Coconut M&M's, which I've never had, but which sound very good indeed. And healthful fruit and vegetables and seventeen pounds of beef.
I was sorry about the beef; it must have cost a fortune. But I am since informed that Ada has powerful connections in the Missouri beef industry. I can more or less speak Japanese. Maybe she can get me a job. That was the big thing twenty years ago, selling beef to the Japanese. I guess they sell it to the Chinese now. I've been to China. Didn't like it.
I am chewing on a hunk of beef now. Thank you, kind Gallups!
My only regret regarding their kindness is that they did not catch me in a sour mood. Nothing better cheers me than encouragement along the road. But I'd been fairly sunny all day long. That is my misfortune.
I was well on pace for a thirty-mile day. I quit after twenty-five. Or twenty-four, I cannot be sure. It was a silly mistake. I've been nervous about the sun going dowj before I find a place to camp. Today I quit almost two hours early. I guess I misjudged the time.
I guess I am still in Columbia, some two miles south of I-70. In another hobo spot, tucked in on the side of the road. With traffic zipping by. It really is awfully loud. But I'll sleep well. I always do. I'll dream about the ocean.
MY TOOTHPASTE has exploded inside my pack. I can tell by the smell. I'll inspect the damage tomorrow. It is more than I can cope with right now.
MY LITTLE COMPUTER was threatening thirty degrees for next Wednesday. Then it went up to thirty-six. Now they are saying thirty-four, but Tuesday is supposed to drop to thirty-two. Why do they toy with me so?
I SAW TWO coyotes today, one live and one dead. I hear them almost every night but these are the first I've seen. Handsome fellows, both of them. One a little more so.
THIS IS WHERE you would have me qualify my earlier remarks by stating that I have nothing but the greatest respect for the Boy Scouts of America. Well, I don't. One hopes the FBI is keeping an eye on them, like it would any paramilitary organisation.
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