Start: Antioch TN (34265)
End: Warrensburg MO (34807)
I am itchy to hit the road in the morning. Literally. I think Isaac has fleas.
I've got a long day in front of me, weather to beat, more heat and humidity to endure, and a lot of miles to get to my sister's in Missouri. So, I want to blow out of Nashville in a hurry, and am barely polite to Nancy in my haste to get underway. I decline her offer of hanging out for a leisurely breakfast, in fact I don't even shower, knowing I'll just get grimy on the highway. Sun's up and time's a-wasting. I am northbound on I-24 through Nashville proper in time for the Tuesday morning commute, which is a drag. In fact, I detour around a few of the hub highways, getting on SR-155 for a time, before finding my way out of traffic and heading back north on the interstate. Cars are bumper-to-bumper in the opposite direction, coming into the city. It is good to be on vacation and getting out of the big towns once more.
Today is a superslab day, in the interest of making miles. I-24 takes me through western Kentucky, which is corn country, flat and neat and pretty. There are a few hills when I am skirting around an area called The Land Between The Lakes, and I also see a sign that tells me I am close to Murray State University, Amy's alma mater. I'll have to remember to tell her that. The road crosses over into Illinois, and more flat featureless land. Small cities are separated by miles of corn. A lot of folks are bored by the heartland, but I love it. I don't love the herds of eighteen wheelers on the road, though. I-24 turns into I-57 for a while. I am on a major trucking route. It's hot, I'm relaxed, just stopping for gas every hour and a half, riding. Lunchtime hunger finds me in Mt Vernon IL, where I stop at a Steak & Shake. It is surprisingly good, I equate the burgers with In-and-Out level of tastiness, and it's a comfortable enough place to cool off. I think today is my hottest day so far, and I'm starting to feel it. Coming out from lunch, I see that there is oil all over the front cylinder. Uh oh. Closer inspection shows that it's not a huge amount of oil (and it only takes a small bit to grime the bike) ... the level on the dipstick is still OK and nothing is puddling on the ground under the frame, but it's still worrisome & bears careful watching. On with the Joe Rocket gear, pick up I-64 westbound, and head into Missouri.
Approaching St Louis from the east is entirely different from coming in from the west. From the East, the Arch stands in magnificence over the city and the riverfront, glorious in its size and sweep, welcoming you to the hugeness of the land. The first time I saw it, I was creeping up behind it, sideways and with ruined sightlines, by the buildings that crowd around I-70 eastbound. That was last year's trip. This year, I see the Gateway as it is meant to be seen. Again, I grin broadly as I cross the Mississippi, wondering if I'll ever lose the feeling of specialness for seeing America's great rivers. I don't think so.
Now, it's just a straight shot across most of Missouri on I-70. The heat is really wearing me down, enough that I am starting to worry about my ability to continue. Breaks get more and more frequent. If you start feeling fuzzy, you GOTTA get off the road before it's too late to think any more. Through the afternoon, I end up stopping for ice every hour, or even every forty-five minutes. Some places will give you a cup of ice for free, some will charge you a quarter. I take most of it and roll it into my buff, making a neckroll. This cools the blood heading to my brain, plus the meltwater drips onto my shirt for a while and I get a little evaporative core cooling. It feels good for about twenty minutes, which is how long it takes for the ice to melt. Then, I keep going until I start feeling fuzzy again. I tell myself not to be a hero, that my sister will understand if I end up late or delayed today, that I can finish the ride after dark or even tomorrow and that would be infinitely better than killing myself. But, all the stops and ice and hydration keep me going, and I roll off the interstate and into Warrensburg before dusk.
I arrive at about the worst possible time, when the family had just piled into the car to head down to the restaurant for birthday dinner. We resolve it thusly: Kay stays behind to let me into the house to shower & clean up, while Mike & the kids will zip down to the restaurant to get a table (there are friends & friends' kids dining with us, so it's a large party.) Ahhh, the shower feels so good, even racing through it. Scrubbed & wearing clean clothes, my sis and I head out for good Italian food, and my visit with my family begins. (I miss them. I still find it strange that they are now so far away.)
Happy Birthday to my nephew. I did not bring you anything, because I am on the bike. Christmas is coming, though.
An aside: Who knew? The little place at which we eat, a three-generation family run joint, miles from any ocean, has the BEST calamari I have EVER had in my life. (Including when I was in Italy.)
Next: Day Eleven