Saturday, 1 November 2008

Burlington – Kansas City (October 31)

Day 47

(Here's a photo sent to me by Lesli in Emporia + a better version of the game I played in Fort Collins, Colorado. Please email me more photos.)

Another biggie. Warm, negligible wind and a few small hills to break up the monotony. Had my first taste of beef jerky, which both Becky and Janice in Emporia had provided. It's salted beef, extremely chewy and cleans your teeth at the same time. The Indians made a version with buffalo and as it lasts for a long time, this was their staple diet through the winter. Another Indian tale, told to me by Joel, concerned a white buffalo that some believe will be born one day, occupied by the spirit of the White Buffalo Woman, and when this happens it will spell the end for the white man's tenure in America. There has been a plague of ladybirds for the last few days and today I saw my first turtle, which like most of the wildlife I've witnessed, was smashed up, in a pool of blood.

Until late afternoon the day was going well, that is until I entered the sprawling, heaving hubbub of Kansas City. It went on forever, maybe 50 miles, and of course I had to get right to the other side of it, in the rush hour. I was mad with myself for not going to Lawrence, halfway between Emporia and tonight's destination, although then I would have missed out on the lovely time I had in Burlington. The road was up and down, there was often no shoulder, cars honked at me and I had a terrible time with the huge, unwieldy map I'd picked up at a gas station. It was a good thing I had the zip code because once again there was more than one Skyview Drive. Downtown, now in Missouri, all the party goers were hard at it, this being Hallowe'en, and as is usually the case, the boys and men were dressed in ghoulish costumes, while the girls were all princesses and fairies, and the young women bared a lot of flesh. It seemed a pretty vibrant and exciting place to be, at least tonight, and the skyscrapers didn't disappoint either. Across the vast Missouri River I raced and on up a scary section of highway, where one car whizzed by an inch away, presumably 'to teach me a lesson', as I don't think I should have been there and nearly knocking me down in cold blood is the best way to pass on this information. There were also these thin metal barred sections on the numerous bridges, like cattle grids – except these bars lay parallel to the edge of the road. These sections were only a few inches deep, but the grooves between the bars were the width of my tyres and I had to try and cross them at an angle, in the dark, with no streetlights and my hopeless front light. Anyway I made it - and not only did I make it - I smashed my previous 117 mile record by 20 miles and my average speed was just shy of 16 mph.

I arrived at Sheri's house at 9.30 pm, which was a bit embarrassing, as it was a few hours later than I said I would be there. I had come across Sheri via the National Scrabble Association website, on which she was the named contact for the Kansas City club, except it has since disbanded. Her husband, Dan, made me a sandwich and their two bear-sized dogs barked a lot. Dan taught engineering in a community college and Sheri looked after a baby niece and home-schooled her son Colin. A house of Democrats, in this swing state, and Sheri's daughter worked at the local campaign office for the Obama camp. The candidate for the Governorship is called Nixon, which is an unfortunate name to be lumbered with. Then we played two games, both of which Sheri won, as she was a competent player, although I was only a few points adrift each time. We both played a few bingos, including my WHORTLE (a gamble) and Sheri's CURARIS (a new one to me). In both games In both games I had bingos that didn't fit on the board and I was left with a blanks at the end. Frustrating for me, but good, tense games.

Colin was up at 6 to take the dogs for a walk, then later he would tutoring Colin and other teenage boys in the art of robotics (making and programming Lego devices to perform various tasks) for competitions. Scrambled egg, sausage, orange muffins, and I was on the road once more.

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