Missouri Loves Company…
All photos not in the slider, courtesy of Brent Knepper.
Our day started off around 1:30 in the morning when we woke up to a torrential down pour. My tent’s rainfly was not stretched out and just draped over my tent for a bit of privacy. The rain was coming right in, and I woke up to a few drops on my face, and the sound of rustling. Brent was wearing his sleeping bag as pants and stretching out his rainfly over his hammock and we crammed our bikes under it. The rain lasted until about 5:30 in the morning, and I finally fell back into a deep sleep then.
We woke up around 8:30, and spent a while drying out our gear, and packing up as everything was wet and muddy. My tent left a dry footprint in the brown grass. Stopped at a gas station. One banana in the whole place. Horrible coffee.
We finally rolled over to the trail head and take our photos with the trail sign, and ride along the trail for a while until it finally becomes picturesque, and I posted a photo for Bicycling Magazine.
We hit the trail, and hit it hard. Holy hell this thing was soft. It was hard to tell if the trail was soft from the rain that had come through or if it was soft from the winter that had just passed. A week ago, night time temperatures had dipped into freezing, and the soft supple gravel felt like it had been freezing and thawing for weeks.
I locked myself into the firmest part of the trail, a car tire track that seemed to be from a maintenance vehicle, and I pushed. I pushed for hours until my body was out of gas. I would stop and eat a couple spoonfuls of almond butter, half a Lara Bar, a bonk breaker bar, whatever I had with me. This was exhausting and it was so soft. I’ve never pushed this hard just to feel like I was going nowhere.
Train bridges, the smallest towns, fields forever, a laundry mat in the middle of nowhere to fill up our bottles, a funny look from the locals. Another go at the soft trail.
I was gassed. So spent.
By 7:30 we were only about 60 miles from where we had started. The sun would be going down soon. Nowhere even close to the 100 miles we had planned to ride, and we were tired. We stopped in Rocheport, MO as the sun was starting to go down, and made some phone calls. There was a camp site 7 more miles down the trail, and we begged the owner to let us stay there even though they were still closed for the season. We scraped together some firewood in Rocheport, a friendly woman gave us some lighter fluid from her home as we explained our story. Everything was closed for the season still, so we pushed another 7 soft miles on the trail, a piece of firewood on my bars, and the sun turning everything golden. The shadows were getting cold.
We get to the campground as the sun is sinking in the tree line. It’s right on the bank of the Missouri River, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The owner meets us and gives us a toilet for the night, a shovel with a roll of toilet paper. We make jokes and thank the owner for letting us stay there despite the grounds being closed. We had nowhere else to go. It was getting dark.
We set up, build a fire, and cook dinner. There is hardly any conversation. We’re tired. And we’re wondering how the trail will feel tomorrow. A few packs of coyotes start howling to each other in the woods across the river. We can’t see anything around past the radius of the fire’s glow. The only way we can see the river is from the moon’s reflection. The coyotes are talking to eachother. We eat in almost silence as we’re both deep in thought about the day and the tomorrow.
I tilt my head back, I can see every star in the sky. I can see galaxies a billion miles away. I can see them swirl and cross paths. I can see farther into the night sky than I have ever seen in my entire life. I feel small, and my problems really mean nothing in this context. In this large and vast picture.
The ground is soft under me. I take a swig of whiskey in my tent and I fall asleep to coyotes howling at each other across the water.