Day 43: 400 Miles Closer to Home
Rain had just ended in Columbia as I packed my bike this morning, so I ate a leisurely and much too large breakfast as I waited for the storm to move eastward ahead of me and clear St. Louis. By the time I rode through the city dubbed the Gateway to the West and glimpsed again the majestic arch on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, roads were drying and the remaining clouds were dissipating. Blue sky appeared to be the order of the day as I rode east for about 60 more miles and then turned south on Interstate 57.
But the good news that the rain seemed to be gone, was quickly offset by rising temperatures as thermometers along my path edged into the 90s. Traffic wasn’t terribly heavy, and I could lean back, put my feet up and listen to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends on the “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” series of albums produced during and shortly after my college years. Since I had feasted on a large breakfast, I didn’t feel the need for lunch and I motored contently down the highway. But as the miles accumulated on my odometer, and as the mercury continued to climb the further south I went I felt the need for something. I needed a sign. And then I saw one and pulled over.
A sign, not from heaven, but from somewhere in Illinois. A cold respite from the heat. The Queen of all things Dairy. And a new weather phenomenon to counteract the calefaction all around me. A chilling Blizzard. Aahhhh. Oh, and some blessed air conditioning for about 15 minutes.
And then, back on the road. Somewhere in Kentucky I began to see a few dark clouds popping up in front of me and to the west. Soon, they were bigger and darker. I stopped briefly, checked weather radar and saw that a small summer thunderstorm was indeed in front of me moving east but likely to be finished soon, leaving me at worst some wet pavement.
I restarted the bike, reduced my speed to allow the storm to pass through without soaking me and continued. But I had miscalculated the storm’s speed and worse, hadn’t taken into account the road bending eastward into the center of the squall. Swishing windshield wipers and obvious headlights on north-bound cars bode no good. Topping a hill, I was in the edge of the storm. No problem. The rain would actually cool me off a little. But soon and for about three miles, it was can’t-see-thirty-feet torrential rain and there was nowhere to pull over on the Interstate. So I kept track of the tail lights in front of me and rode through it. I was pretty well soaked in five minutes, but as quickly as it appeared the rain was gone, the sun returned, and the cooling effect of evaporating moisture at 70 mph felt good. I dried (mostly) in the final hour of my ride to Clarksville, Tennessee, and I was 400 miles closer to home.
Tomorrow, I’ll ride the final miles of the CCR. About 300 of them. If the expected rain isn’t too bad, I should be in Maggie Valley in time to have lunch with my best friend. I’m looking forward to it.
Then, after 44 days on the road, I’ll write the concluding blog post of the 2022 Cross Canada Ride and close the book on this year’s adventure.