The day began at 3:30 a.m. I woke up stressing about the fierce weather approaching from the west. The day’s sole objective was to not get caught in the maelstrom.
After inhaling the hotel complementary breakfast (they had Cheerios!!!), I hit the road at 6:50 wearing 2 shirts, my jacket, and my long pants. It was only 48 degrees outside and the wind was blowing. Fortunately for me the wind was either at my back or to my side all day.
I hopped on a rail trail and rode it southwest out of Staunton. I passed a couple of horses munching near the trail side. One was a palomino, my favorite. It brought to mind the dearth of livestock I’ve seen in this trip. There have been no herds of cattle or horses to stampede like last summer in the northern plains.
I flew by into Edwardsville in about 2 hours. There I pondered whether to take a google maps short cut to St. Louis or continue following Route 66 on a circuitous track to the north. After briefly attempting the google route I decided to stick with my Route 66 maps. Google has too many turns and, for all I know, goes through sketchy areas.
Before crossing the Mississippi into Missouri, I stopped at a market to buy snacks. It’s been painfully obvious that I haven’t been eating enough on this trip so I bought apples and candy bars and cheese.
The river and a connected canal looked bloated as I rode across the old Route 66 bridge which is now closed to motor vehicles.
Turning south, I followed the riverside trail and passed a Missouri DOT truck parked at a trailhead. The truck’s flashing lights were on. The driver was asleep. I continued for another 100 yards and found my wheels encumbered with thick, slimy river mud. I worked my way up to an adjacent highway and started scraping away at the gunk in the narrow paved shoulder.
An African American man of about 40 pulled up and stopped in the north bound lane.
“Are you okay? Do you have a flat?”
“Nope, just clearing off mud.”
“You should get up in the grass out if the road.”
So I did. He pulled his white SUV onto the grass next to me.
The people who drive on this road are crazy. You gotta be careful.
Seconds later: BANG
Two sedans collided on the road. One went one way. The other ended up right where I was standing.
As the SUV driver, whose name was Jerry, said, “That would have fucked you up.”
All I could do was think of my friend Dave.
One of the two cars took off up a side road. The driver of the other car walked up to us to see if we got the car’s license. Unfortunately I was too dumbfounded to notice. For someone who just went through a hit and run this drivers remarkably composed, as if it happened every day.
Off she drove shaking her head.
Back at my mud chore, I notice that my right index finger was bleeding. Jerry pulled out a first aid kit and gave me alcohol swabs, disinfectant patches, and band aids.
He then gave me his phone number to call him if I got stuck in the storm later in the day. Finally, he gave me directions to get back to the trail where it runs atop the levee, away from the mud.
“Whatever you do don’t stay in this road. It goes through the most violent neighborhoods in the area. Two or three people get shot every day.”
I thanked him profusely and followed his guidance. Unfortunately the trail diverted from the levee back toward the river. The mud in this area was several inches thick and super slick. I had to backtrack about a mile and ride in the road again.
This road has heavy truck traffic. Big trucks too. It’s a good thing that truck drivers are patient because every one of them passed me with plenty of room.
At Broadway and Grand Boulevard I had a choice: go two more miles along the river risking crazy drivers and gawdawful mud or ride up a steep hill toward the center of town. I chose to ride up the hill thereby bypassing the Gateway Arch and the interesting buildings along the riverfront. Having already seen them I didn’t think it was worth the risk. Plus, the hill cut some distance and time from my route, a good thing since I had lost at least an hour of time to the mud.
The neighborhood I rode through made the gnarliest DC neighborhoods look like paradise. It was hard to decide what was sadder, the depressing poor people at the bus stops or the shattered big round stained glass window in a beautiful old church. This was obviously a neighborhood bereft of hope.
Then suddenly I was in Grand Center, a few city blocks of lovingly maintained old theaters and businesses. Next came St. Lois University with gorgeous gothic revival buildings.
Turning west on Lindell Boulevard I passed the majestic Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. On past Forest Park I pulled up to the main entrance to Washington University. The main building stood on a hill facing the city with an unobstructed view. Sadly the University has cluttered the place with modern buildings, with another being added.
Soon I was heading west out of town through posh suburbs with hectic traffic and traffic lights that always seemed to be red.
This was taking too long but I had no choice. My original plan was to stay at a motel in Ellisville but the google picture made it look like a dump.
I forged ahead 12 more very hilly miles to Eureka. Along the way I rode on Woods Avenue. It was about a 3-mile, 400-foot windy, wooded descent, the stuff of bicyclists’ dreams.
Unfortunately this was followed by a 1-mile, 400 foot climb that taxed my body to the max. It felt just like the two mountains I climbed near Pittsburgh on last summer’s tour.
As if to pat me on the back for surviving the climb. The road descended 400 feet over the next mile, after which another 200-foot climb was a non event.
I pulled into a Burger King. After I dismounted I was shaking from the effort of those nasty hills. I ate an Impossible burger, a veggie burger that is supposed to taste like beef. It did. Well played BK.
The last two miles were uneventful. I checked in to my hotel, showered, inhaled some snacks then checked the weather.
We were under a tornado warning. Soon sirens blared. This was not a drill.
The hotel’s guests were gathered in the lobby looking at the radar on a big screen. Scary stuff.
It took a ton of effort, sone luck, a trail Angel, and way too much mud but I pulled it off. A day for the ages.
85 miles today. 380.5 so far.
And this happened on one of those nasty climbs.