After a chilly start to the day, where I was wearing nearly everything I brought, including the rain pants for the first time, not for rain, but for stopping the chill wind, as well as the rain jacket over the synthetic insulation pull-over, and my green wool cycling cap over my SmartWool stocking cap. I rolled out at 10:15 AM, the earliest yet. I had high hopes for the coffee shop I saw in Cassville, and it’s promise of WIFI, as the sign on its door proclaimed in capital letters. When I got there the WIFI sign was still up, right next to the CLOSED sign. Huh? Hours: 10AM – 3PM but only Thu – Sat. D’oh! So much for a second cup of coffee to go with updating the blog. Not feeling like hitting the “Silver Spigot” bar, and the “Town Pump” still looking inhospitable, I sat down on a park bench and perused the Mississippi River Trail guide book. Feeling no better about my options, I saw a street sign for the town library, and set off in hopes of wifi. I thought I must have missed it, as I passed the “downtown” section, then the middle school, then the high school, and was back to just houses. I almost didn’t see it in time, but narrowly avoided having to pull a U-turn. The library had a flimsy looking “wheel-bender” type bike rack, which I avoid like the plague, and cozied up to the wall opposite the book drop. Once inside I found my way to the back, much relieved to find wifi and an open power strip. As I was working one of the women at the front of the library asked behind my back “Is that your bicycle?” to no one in particular. Assuming they must have meant me, I turned around and answered “Yes” as the very confused looking gray-haired man who had sat down in one of the reading chairs facing her continued looking, well, very confused. The loudest four-way library conversation (all at normal speaking volume, not the proscribed library-whisper) I’ve participated in ensued.
As I finished editing and posting blog entries I’d written nights previously, I saw the clock had already slipped towards 1 pm. “So much for getting to Dubuque today” I thought to myself. As I was leaving, the librarian introduced me to a playwright, and I had to go through the whole Frequently Asked Questions list again. (One of these days I’ll follow through on that threat I keep making to myself while grinding up hills to actually write up a FAQ page, so I can just say “that information is on my blog”.) For the record, I claimed my hobby was eating, and I was sampling bacon-cheeseburgers the whole way along the route. Really, though, I think it’s the other way round, and my hobby is bicycle touring. But I digress.
The playwright (I’ve really got to get better about remembering names) mentioned that I was in for a big hill just south of town, and the librarian recommended the infamous “Town Pump” bar & grill as being the best place for lunch in town. I declined, and then changed my mind about 30 seconds after getting outside into the wind. Bacon-cheeseburger it is. Why I got the lousy restaurant coffee when they had $2 Spotted Cow pints on tap is beyond me. I blame the chill north winds on that lapse in judgment. Oh yes, the bacon-cheeseburger? It would have been better without the tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise. But it was still good, better that yesterday’s frozen-food toaster-oven fare next door at the Silver Spigot. The fries were better, too.
After several more cups of bad coffee I finished one more blog post and decided I had lingered long enough, and had to leave soon lest I put down roots in Cassville. Not that it’s a bad sort of small town. Just that I’ll never get where I’m going if I don’t move.
With the stiff north winds I was rolling along at close to 20 miles an hour. For about a mile, till I passed the library again, and reached the hill I’d been warned about. I generally make a point of not stopping part-way up a hill; it’s hard to get started again. This time, however, I was over-heating from the rain jacket, and decided I couldn’t take it any more. From there things settled into the routine: grind up the hill at 4 mph, then fly along at 20 mph on the flats with the wind (I think I even hit 37 mph going down one hill).
Before I knew it I had reached Grant River Rec Area, another Army Corps of Engineers park. This one, however, had free showers as well as $10 camping sites (marked with yellow flags), and to just set up camp on one, then register at the shack between 6 and 9pm.
Cruising through the park, I finally found the cheap sites way in back, between the river on the one side and the train tracks on the other. Fearing both the wind on the river side and the train noise on the other, I finally picked a spot in the middle. I had nearly the entire park to myself; I think I saw only three RV’s parked in the entire place.
Being still quite early, I set up my tent in the daylight, and then perused my Mississippi River Trail guidebook. A gray-haired fellow walking his dogs wandered by, then stopped to talk. His name was John Mest (sp?), a resident of near-by Potosi. And talk he did. He told stories of famous people he’d met over the years, including Bob Seger, Madonna, Dick Van Dyke, Alice Cooper, and more. I heard all about his history in motorcycles, how he ran for town president, was defeated (unjustly he thought) and how he intends to run again. Meanwhile, the freight trains rumbled by with disturbing regularity. Every half-hour, one northbound, then 30 seconds later a southbound one. Conversation halted out of necessity, and I wondered how much sleep I was going to get that night.
The park ranger, Terry, drove up at one point, stopped briefly to listen to John’s stories, and asked me to stop by the ranger station before 9pm.
After dark had well and truly fallen, John eventually ran out of steam, and said he looked forward to meeting me again some time.
At the ranger station, Terry just smiled about John’s stories. He extolled the virtues of the Army Corps of Engineers parks, and offered me ACE park brochures for all of the parts of the country I was likely to pass through.
It was a quite night after that. Dinner. Trains. KP. Trains. Watching the stars, the river and the trains. Trains. TRAINS. And did I mention (wait a minute, there’s a train going by) the trains? They slowed down in frequency to about once an hour after dark. Still, somehow, I managed to sleep.