USA CYCLE: THE ROUTE WEST, PART 1
So there I was, with just 5 days to get organised and hit the road cycling 2000 rugged and relentless miles across the USA. I had the bike, the gear, and the food (that consisted by in large of little packets of sugary highs that would send me bouncing off the sidewalk – not my best choice of the expedition there). Now all I needed was a route plan. I’m notorious for spontaneity, and not surprisingly headed out with no real plan, leaving the route map completely up in the air. I figured as long as I kept pedalling with the compass showing West ahead I would eventually hit California and the Pacific Ocean. Simple, right?
What I had in store for me was a completely unexpected land of the weird and the wonderful. First up was 100 miles of stunning Katy Trail in Missouri. A little forested wonderland thickly blanketed in the reds, golds and yellows of millions of fallen Autumn leaves. The urge to just dive in and swim through this fairy tale land was almost overwhelming. Fluffy white tufts of deer tails dissapeared into the undergrowth as I cycled by. Gangs of giant turkey vultures, wobbling their unfortunate chin flaps, showing off haggard feathers and brightly coloured bulbous features, woke the forest for miles around with their skwawks as they tried in vain to heave their bodies skyward. Mile upon mile of compacted flat trail met my tyres as enormous old trees arched above to create a tunnel of boney branches clutching at my clothes. I almost expected Alice to float out of the woodwork with a smoking caterpillar in tow.
I popped out the other end and blinked at the dazzling lights of Jefferson City. The state building sat majestic across the Missouri River. The bridge across to the city swayed and groaned gently from hundreds of cars and trucks rumbling over it. My nostrils filled with fumes. It was time to pedal the tarmac now.
As the last light faded into night I found myself in the wrong part of town, and this beautiful, sleepy city turned into an eery, dangerous place with strange characters that would sober even the brightest mood. This was a good, and somewhat nerve wracking, reminder of the importance of being aware of where your route will take you. It’s all well and good leaving things fairly unplanned, but be cautious of large cities at night on your own. They are not always fun places. I hurriedly checked into a dodgy little motel, locked myself and my bike in the room and peaked out through the curtains. A chap drunkenly wheeled an empty shopping trolley down the road and 2 women dressed in shiny mini skirts waiting on a corner. The people next door must have been having a barney because their door slammed, rocking the entire prefabricated building, every few minutes. What a stark contrast to the forested Katy Trail. But what a great insight into the changing character of a city from day to night. I fell asleep with a smile. This journey was going to be epic, cycling my way through the multitude of different faces of the American towns and landscapes.
At first light I headed onward, west on the US 54 Expressway, dodging roadkill and laughing at the fast miles I was tucking under my belt thanks to smooth tarmac. Next up? Lake of the Ozarks. An overnight camp stop tucked away next to the highway, a morning fry up at a tiny old saloon converted into a diner, then south to Lebanon on highway 5 where I would meet up with America’s famous old Route 66 highway.