Chester, IL to Pilot Knob, MO. (70 mi.) Mile 1357
West of the Mississippi
By 6:30 AM we had rolled out of Chester, IL, Home of Popeye (or rather, the creator of this cartoon character) and crossed the wide Mississippi River into Missouri. Our first glimpse of the Mississippi yesterday, with its barges and expansive flood plain, had an emotional impact on me. Though I've seen this great river before, finally reaching it from the east coast by bicycle, after pedaling many miles and following the westward development of our country's history, gave me a real sense of westward progression.
Early morning start past the Popeye statue in Chester
Then crossing the mighty Mississippi River to Missouri
It is always good riding when we get an early start. The morning temperatures are cooler, the sun is at our back, the sky to the west is a deeper shade of ultramarine, and the landscape is bathed in warm light. We passed feedlots and hog farms, corn fields, and rural residences. As we move westward, the architecture of the barns and houses has been slowly changing. Barn roofs are sometime curved, more complex, and made of sheet metal.
Mike stopped to look at the hogs....and vice versa.
Our new plan, in which we are having the U.S. Postal Service carry our camping gear on ahead, worked well for me. Mike has carried the bulk of the remainder of our stuff today while I carried very little, in order to give my legs a rest on the hills. Mike has also put himself between me and the more aggressive dogs when we are harassed. Today we encountered what the eastbound cyclists have told us are the only problem dogs west of Kentucky, right where the cyclists said they would be outside of Farmington. When the three dogs came rushing out at us, Mike squirted the lead dog on the nose, and they all Halted! As we pedaled off, we could see the lead dog in our rear view mirrors, still blinking his eyes, while his two companions studied him as if to ask, "Whoa! What just happened to you?" That should be the end of that for our Dog Trouble.
Of the original 4 cans of Halt! we started with, we have lost one and given 2 to eastbound cyclists now that we are past the worst of the problem. All of the eastbound cyclists we have encountered are familiar with the stories, and many have prepared themselves in various ways. Today we were pedaling along when we saw an eastbound cycle tourist pedaling toward us. We all pulled over to chat and exchange TransAm news. The cyclist was Gerald Wier, who is bicycling across the country from California. He told us of encountering all of the other cyclists we have met so far (Walter, Paul, and Dale are all ahead of us) and of cycling for a while with the other eastbounders we had joined for dinner and a campsite at Cave-
Southern Missouri countryside
The remainder of the day was the usual pedal, pedal, pedal, with another binge at a Dairy Queen. This time it was me who had forgotten I was wearing that bright safety triangle over my lycra-
Today was not as hot as previous days, though it was still too hot and humid. We had a variety of challenging hills, flat roads, some very heavy traffic for a few miles, and scenic rural countryside. It is always with a great sense of relief when we reach our motel after 70 miles of pedaling, and can flop on the bed, ("Ahhhh!"), take a shower, and go eat some more.
Daylilies, along with Queen Anne's Lace, asters, and a variety of other wildflowers, line the rural roads.