Bike Odyssey 2014 – Day 47 (July 3) – Biking perfection
The gizzards of summer
Storms seemingly behind us, we had 6, 7 hours of the most perfect biking it’s possible to imagine, in perfect biking weather (70-ish) under a clear blue sky all the way, dotted with small fluffy clouds, a kind of dream-Midwestern cloudscape. Bodies and bikes still holding up well through another long day (plenty of ice packs last night), and some interesting encounters in small towns along the way: Rte 36, Macon, Missouri, to Decatur, Illinois, and then on east on 36 to a place called Teskola. Nothing we ate could top yesterday’s gizzards (left); instead we had some good solid food at Country Kitchen in Hannibal, Missouri. This is Mark Twain’s boyhood town, and Hannibal – named after Carthage’s Hannibal, everyone says, but no one knows why – doesn’t let you forget it. It knows which side its gizzards are battered. (Both sides.) At Country Kitchen, Joe had the Big Bad Bacon Burger; I had fried eggs. over medium, an instructions few chefs understand. But our cook, Sam, speaks ‘over medium’ to perfection. Sam’s a good name for a cook – I’m thinking of Hemingway’s The Killers – and in my life a good name for a son (who is also a proficient cook, now cooking up a storm for his new family, his partner Maeve writes).
Sam the cook
I’ve been at pains to avoid reporting any dreams (an extremely bad habit). But last night I had a dream I never expected I could possibly have. I was on a railway platform with my mother, and we were about to be loaded onto a train bound for Nazi death camp extermination. (Who dreams about this? – unless you’ve experienced it.) I was looking round desperately for a means of escape. To my left was a small square structure with cement walls and no roof. Somehow I knew that a) this structure contained gay people, and b) if I scaled a wall and jumped in I’d escape the train (at least for the moment). An agonizing debate followed – to my eternal shame. Gay or dead? In life, rather than extermination I’d have chosen a sex change – let alone merely identify myself as gay. In my dream I chose – yes, death. Please believe me when I say that the presence of my mother in the dream had nothing to do with it, doctor, and that having been steeped in Christian fundamentalism (When You Break God’s Law You Make God Cry) for the past 6 weeks had everything to do with it. The defence rests. (Also I am still dealing with lasting shame at having failed to bring myself to go and see Brokeback Mountain.)
On the outskirts of Decatur I overtook a sleek, extremely lovely black Corvette; almost at once a sleek and no less lovely white Corvette came past going the other way. This moment seemed to symbolize, for both Joe and myself, the arrival of wealth. Illinois seems like a land of plenty. Plenty of corn, of course. A lush crop. I find it reassuring to suppose that few animals will bolt across the road out of hundred-acre fields of corn. Possibly some aliens. (Signs – with Mel Gibson in the role of former priest. The ‘former’ part always comes as a relief; hard enough to picture Mel as a priest at any point.)
Outside the small tidy town of Winchester, Illinois, where we stopped for gas, we paused & I ate a banana while peering into a place I shall remember long after others are gone from mind, an empty, broken-down little farm: a white-washed shed for farm machinery with a wild rose blooming beside it, a crumbling white-washed cow byre, and cows close by it in a field full of thistles. The place hadn’t seen a mower in months, if not years. It had irresistible charm and reminded me of a hundred similar farms in postwar Europe. (Not any more! Now all such places are as tidy as a balance sheet.) Cycling around Europe, I spent many nights in such barns, at the farmer’s invitation, waking in the loft to hay smells and fragrant, steaming cow breath, and to the soft lowing and stamping of cattle eager to be milked. Ah memory!