Sunday, 2 November 2008

Kansas City - Warrensburg (November 1)

Day 48

A new month and the third thousand. Still don't know how I managed it yesterday and today my body wasn't very happy about riding yet another 85 miles. I hadn't seen a 'welcome to Missouri' sign yesterday and what with all the glum expressions I saw in Kansas City this morning, I'm thinking of renaming this state Misery, at least until it makes a bit more effort to impress me. It was foggy until lunchtime and a lot of cars on the busy highways had no lights. In fact I very nearly witnessed a crash when a car moved across a lane and there was already a car there. Such activity provides a cautionary tale for us vulnerable cyclists, even with our own private lane much of the time. Skirted round the edge of the city and then spun off towards the south east. The sun burned through the fog to produce another warm day, which also had a new, humid feel to it. As I popped into Subway, served by a woman with Doonesbury eyes, I wondered what percentage of the population is employed in the fast food industry. When a toe clip came away and I couldn't fix it, this seemed an opportune time to try out one of the 'cleat' pedals, which Tom in Denver had given me, along with the special shoes. It felt fine and on I went. A few miles later, I came to a red light, put my foot down, only to discover it wouldn't move and down I went. I was embarrassed more than anything else, especially as a woman wound down her window to ask if I was OK. Then it happened a second time, when no one was around, but this time I cut my calf and grazed my arm. The third time I was at another stop light, there were cars waiting behind me in full view of my fall – no one said a word. This upset me a bit and I decided to give up on cleats for good. O)old dogs, new tricks... I put the old pedal back on, which, without the toe clip, my foot slid about on, but at least I wasn't endangering my life.

The countryside in Missouri is very pretty indeed, Mountains are all very well, but I prefer trees and rolling, green hills, the likes of which I saw today. It was like pastoral England with knobs on, with the treacle and toffee apple-coloured foliage in the hazy sunshine. There was a sign promoting a phone number for people interested in car pools. Methinks that particular phone does not ring very often. A good road led to Warrensburg, as dusk descended, a silver sickle appeared up above, and fog ebbed, oozed and unfolded across the meadows and a creek called Devil's Branch. Felt a bit silly asking for directions to Gay Street at a motel. The young girl on reception knew where it was, but couldn't explain how to get there and looked it up on Mapquest. Meanwhile I saw it on a map on the wall. Gay Street intersected with the road I was on. It was really simple and Warrensburg is a very small place. I was about to leave when she came out to look at the map. She couldn't work out where the motel was on the map and said she couldn't understand it because it was the wrong way up and had to take it off the wall. She couldn't tell me how far away the street was either. In short, she was entirely clueless.

Barbara and David, from Warm Showers, lived in another stylish home, which was quite English in its style to me. Both retired (he worked for the parks department and she as a woman of the cloth) they lived with her sister, Linda, she called him by his surname and he called her Barb. She was a livewire, while he was laid back and looked a bit like Elliot Gould. They were now avid hikers and cyclists, had travelled the length and breadth of the country several times – during which they camped. They have made a lot of friends through these endeavours and both have 'trail names' – he's Big Drum and she's I Want My Sherpa. They were amazed that I was still on schedule, as when they went on their long trips (one lasted over six months) they took their time and stopped wherever they liked. This travel philosophy sounded very appealing, as I never have time to smell the roses, or even see the roses. Barbara rustled up a steaming hot bowl of homemade broth, followed by two deserts (apple crisp + spice cake) and all were top notch. I beat them both at Scrabble, then I beat Barbara on her own, while David watched college football. Linda went to bed at 9.30. On a Saturday night. I had a choice of rooms : traditional with double bed or living room with art deco chairs + a bunk bed up a ladder. Obviously I had to go with the latter, although with my three falls today, I was slightly worried about adding to this number – and from a greater height.

We put the world to rights over breakfast. Staunch Democrats, Barbara & David told me there are four tiers of government in the US (County, City, State & Federal) compared to only two in the UK. Candidates at every level have to raise their own campaign funds and what bothers me most about the campaigning here is that almost 100% of it is negative, fueling fear and paranoia. In this county usually only about 20% of the electorate votes, but this election has caught even the attention of even the most apathetic individuals and it is predicted that there will be about a 95% turnout. Barbara said a lot of these people will be voting to either get behind a black man or trying to stop a black man.


imkeefegps said...

Hi Adrian
You have four tiers of government in Scotland as well and in Caterham, Surrey, UK we have FIVE tiers - parish, district, county, UK and European Parliament.
Glad to hear you're still on target even though you're cycling such long distances.

keefe said...

I told you not to use the cleats!

Adrian said...

I stand corrected.

Polly said...

I was going to warn you about those clipless pedals but I had trouble posting that day and was reassured by your comment that you'd wait to return home to try them. In my opinion, the learning curve is too great. Especially if you have many years (as do I) of the clip pedals. People who use them swear by them but they all admit to having had a fall or so before they got used to them. You are headed into some great food country soon. Try some BBq while you're in KC. It's supposed to be fabu.
Polly (Oregon)