Bike Odyssey 2014 – Day 46 (July 2) – Eastward ho!
Last night both Rox and Sandy worked on my knees, one on either side as I lay prone on Rox’s massage table. At the end I rose and walked into the sitting room to cries of ‘A miracle!’, unless it was me speaking. I certainly was walking pretty well (I now couldn’t remember how it had felt before the laying on of hands) and went to bed with a cold compress and expressions of heartfelt gratefulness. By the end of today’s 275 miles on the road, however, my right knee had forgotten its good fortune. Rain returned, the weather had dropped more than 10 degrees, and we were faced with the prospect of putting up a tent in the rain and on sopping wet grass in Long Branch Park, followed by a very cold night, or a wonderfully inexpensive motel in Macon, Missouri, run by a very nice Indian lad called Jay. (A motel along Route 29, Audrey’s Motel, proclaims itself ‘American owned and operated’ in huge letters. To us, as experienced customers, this is not an incentive.) We’re planning to ride some longer days so as to get back to Woodstock earlier and, to accomplish this, a good night’s sleep is called for, no less for Joe than for me. We had another memorable off-highway experience in Hamburg, Iowa, one of the lost towns of the Midwest. (You’d never know it – our photo fails to reproduce its desolation – but it actually produces 52% of all the popcorn produced in the United States.) Joe maintains our meal in the town’s sole eatery was our worst so far. I feel this has something to do with his having ordered a side of gizzards. It’s all my fault: we were in an eatery with gizzards canceled on the menu and I pretended regret about this, a regret that Joe took seriously, and which even when I’d make it all clear left him curious – unlike me – to taste gizzards. Our gizzards were triple deep-fried, like some sort of chicken nugget from hell, so that by the time you reached the vile, chewy gizzard, you were throttled by brutally rusty batter an inch thick. Elsewhere the very limited menu offered ‘yellow cheese sauce,’ weirdly unappetizing. The rest of the day was spent speeding along interstates (with breaks at gas station offering diversions – left), through downpours and past similar small towns – each of them plentifully supplied with banks (Hamburg of course had one, in a spanking new building, to bank all the popcorn money). Banks for farmers? Ranchers? There seemed to be no visible manufacturing industry. (My mistake: Macon has a plant, visited supportively by President Obama, producing millions of gallons of ethanol every year.) But so many banks? Banks for the estimated 45 people working at the ethanol plant? Banks for the remaining 5,455 inhabitants to bank their welfare checks? Banks for nice young Indian chaps like Jay to obtain loans to purchase a motel – while local people lack the initiative to do it? No wonder ‘American owned and operated’ is deemed so noteworthy by the owners of Audrey’s Motel!