The clocks went back last night and that extra hour helped towards regaining my strength for another biggie. 331 miles in three days. Windless, sticky and well into the 70s today. To begin with stopped at a fast food joint called Sonic, where diners don't even need to drive by a window to order their food – they simply park and a waitress comes to them. I asked a pierced-tongued waitress where I could find a grocery store and she said she'd go ask someone. Had she just been born? The cycling today was first rate : 30 miles on a straight, undulating highway, 70 miles on trails and several through town. The Katy Trail is a disused railway line and most of this section ran through an avenue of trees, past their best, but I'd OD'd on autumnal technicolour over the last couple of days. There were other cyclists and walkers, to whom I smiled and said hello. In return I got small change. It must be a cultural difference, because in a similar UK environment people always say hello back. Then again this is Misery, or 'Missoura', as David pronounced it. Stopping in a leafy enclave, I had the fright of my life when a six inch stick insect tried to hitch a ride on my leg; and later I saw glowworms. A late lunch in dinky Pilot Grove, where even a pre-packaged gas station sandwich proved to be haute cuisine (croissant with chicken, celery and mayo). A bit scary to be alone in the woods when it grew dark, especially as my paltry front light doesn't pick out didly squat and I nearly suffered another fall, then a bolt sprang out of a mudguard and it vibrated for the last 20 miles. Me and my bike both needed a service pronto.
And we were to get one in Columbia, a university town of 100,000. Made my way to Robert's house, son of Judy, tonight's Pixie Pit player. Judy lived way off my route, but as her son lived here, she came up to see him and play me too. Together with her husband, daughter in law and three grandchildren, we drove to a restaurant called Uncle Bill's or Old Bob's, or something, where I was treated to a chicken salad with cranberries and pecans (like Diane in Wichita's salad) followed by an insanely pleasure-giving 'cream silk pie' (chocolate mousse, cream, crumbly yellow pastry). It's a good thing I don't live in America that's all I can say, or my waistline would be forever expanding. In between mouthfuls Judy and I squeezed in a quick game (she had French Toast, bacon and milk). I always feel guilty garnering both blanks, and it makes winning almost a foregone conclusion. I bingoed with WORRIES early on and later played ZITS on a triple word. Judy and her husband worked for a company producing equipment for straightening hail-dented car metal. I didn't even know hail could be that destructive. Robert, a professor of agriculture, had the look of Emilio Estevez, and his children were a tonic. The smallest boy liked to dribble his saliva down his chin and reel it back in... over and over again. All three of them asked me every question they could think of, like what was my name, when was my birthday and how old was I... over and over again. I liked the way their parents let them be, particularly the little one, who walked about talking to all and sundry – boy could he mingle. He had a permanent 'rabbit caught in headlights' expression, while his older siblings had jaded expressions far beyond their years. There wasn't room to stay at her son's house and then Judy told me she'd booked AND paid for a hotel! (I've been calling the state Misery, yet the people I've hooked up with so far obviously are the exceptions to this rule.) It was a thrusting young executive type hotel to boot – and here was me with my bicycle, plastic bags and sweaty clothes. Judy and her husband said goodbye and then had to drive for three hours back to their home in Bolivar, in the south west corner of the state.
The next day was a very welcome day off and for convenience I had thought about staying another night; however I knew it would be out of my price range and checked out.