Missouri Loves Company…
All photos not in the slider, courtesy of Brent Knepper.
Our last day. We knew we were fucked. We just didn’t know how fucked. Or how to fix it.
Waking up along the Missouri River bank was absolutely beautiful. I wish I could have just stayed and watched the sun move across the water for a few hours. But we had to go.
We didn’t sleep where we were planning, so we had no breakfast. We didn’t have much. We shared a cookie we picked up in Chicago, and covered it in the last of my almond butter. I would have killed for a coffee. But it was enough to get us going.
We hit the trail. Drained. Tired. Hungry. The trail stood in front of us. Straight as a god damned arrow. I could see 20 miles, straight ahead of us and I didn’t want to be in that head down, suffering, motoring place in my head anymore. I wanted a cup of coffee. And some real food.
We had to get somewhere. We had to keep going. Trail markers said 155, 150. One hundred and fifty miles to St. Louis. There was no way we could make that during daylight. No way.
I put my head down and pushed. I found that car tire track and I rode that line. I went to that place in my head.
Four hours, and a hair over 30 miles later, we found ourselves in a hilly Jefferson City, MO after I search the term ‘Vegetarian’ on Google Maps along our route. I swear there’s vegetarian sandwich shop right on the corner of Lafayette and High St!! Nope, there isn’t. It turned into some sort of office. With a half dozen people inside on their laptops, looking at us in spandex as we stare through the glass door through cupped hands.
There’s a Chipotle a couple miles away, close to where we came into the town.
We ride over. Lean our bikes. Order in a daze. Sofritas burrito. Extra rice. Extra everything. Chips and guac. Lemonaide.
We eat in silence and stare through space and time as our bodies process the first real food we’d had all day. I started weighing our options as the realist in me pulls out my phone and checks the remaining distance on the Katy Trail. No way.
Our next viable option was to get back onto the Katy Trail and ride another 50 miles to Hermann, MO. The next town with a train station. We both had Amtrak return tickets from St Louis to Chicago for the next day. Another 50 miles on the trail in it’s condition would take at least another 5 hours. The train comes once a day, we’d totally miss it.
The next train out of Jefferson City to St Louis left in about 4 hours. We had to wait here. There was no other way.
We came back to earth a bit and sat outside Chipotle for about 30 minutes. What now? How do we tell the Bicycling Magazine audience that we had been live Instagramming our trip with? How do we deal with the tail between our legs? I sat in the sun and let my brain shift out of suffering/riding/survival mode into rational thought, into real thought, back into dealing with a reality where people are depending on you. Back into real life where I knew there were people that cared whether or not we finish, if we were alive, if we even ate lunch. The sun was burning my skin as I sat there and figured out how to tell the story of being broken by this trip. The feeling of being broken was taking precedence unfortunately and I needed more time to come back to, and to think real thoughts.
We passed a bike shop on our way into Jefferson City, we should go check that out! It just so happened, that day, the shop we passed was celebrating their opening. They were having a full on ribbon cutting celebration with the city. We rolled up to their ribbon preparation, and some open arms and open ears and a lot of “You guys are crazy for trying that this early in the season!”. They fed us some beers and asked us to stay. I stood by my bike and noticed the salt stains that had shown up on my saddle over the last couple days.
We eventually rode over to the train station. A small station, with one train a day heading towards St. Louis. A handful of mennonites and some people selling the word of god on the sidewalk. Jefferson City is quite endearing. I had an idea post-burrito, when I realized I looked like a total trainwreck. We were both photographers. We should take portraits of each other, and share our experience of being broken by a plan that didn’t quite finish and, well, ran us into the ground. We had no idea the Bicycling Mag audience would be so receptive and so amazingly supportive to our stories(Mine and Brent’s).
I drifted in and out of sleep, laying on the sidewalk in front of the train station.
Our train came. I fell asleep in my seat immediately.
We get into St. Louis and head directly to the Huck Finn Youth Hostel in the historic and beautiful Soulard neighborhood. It was almost midnight, but the Soulard neighborhood was absolutely gorgeous. So many small brick and stone houses with so much charm. We set our stuff down and headed towards Melt, a bar/restaurant open, and serving loaded waffles until midnight. We stuffed our faces, drank a couple beers each, and went back to fall asleep in our bunk beds at the hostel.
I felt alright. I fell asleep.