First Days


I pushed off from Bloomington at 7:40 am on Tuesday, 8/28, after the traditional front yard departure photos and Michele’s stern warning, “Now you be careful. I don’t want to have to come back early from France to identify your body.” Michele was leaving for France in three days for a memorial service for her recently deceased brother. It never rains but pours.

I was buzzing along mid-Illinois where at Decatur, 36 merges with I-72. Signs said I-72 west was closed. Sure enough, at the interstate junction, I was directed onto I-72 east. Surely, there would be a turn-around point. Seeing none, I came to one of those median cut-through places that warns “Only for authorized vehicles.” What the heck. I was halfway across the median when I spotted the white cop car half mile distant parked in the median. Yep, a one hundred-twenty-dollar fine and a warning for speeding in the construction zone. You’re welcome Illinois. Hope this helps you meet your quota for this speed (median) trap.

One of my favorite authors is William Least Heat Moon whose first book “Blue Highways” captured me. Moon drove around America in a camper, meeting interesting folks and telling their fascinating stories. Blue Highways are the colored backroads on maps that are not interstates. Start to get the connection, do you? My admiration for Moon was his incredibly picturesque descriptions. For example, “If her face had been cut from cloth it would have been in tatters. Like a curtain opening, the tatters drew back in a smile.” I wrote a fan letter to Moon which he answered saying my letter “warmed his office.”

Driving across Illinois on 36 reminded me of Moon’s words, “ The road …. Never yielding its straightness to nature. If you fired a rifle down the highway, a mile or so east you’d find the spent slug in the middle of the blacktop.”

I arrived in Hannibal, MO, tired, overheated in the 95-degree temps, and ready to settle down for the evening. Quickly changing into shorts, pitching my tent, fixing a freeze-dried dinner, and writing this journal, I was soon ready for the sack. Skies look clear at 7:30 pm, but the forecast was for 2 am rain, so I buckled down prior to turning in.

At 2 a.m. I was lifted off my sleeping pad by a crack of lightning that illuminated my tent like daylight. The following crash of thunder shook the earth. The next 30
minutes was a flash, bam, tree snapping, explosion of one TNT detonation after another. My nylon abode shivered in the blasts, anchored only by my body weight.

Rain only sprinkled my tent roof during this pyrotechnic display but minutes later it came down in a deluge. My tent has a sewn-in floor, but I cautiously felt around for signs of dampness. No problem. By 6 a.m. the storm moved on.

In the morning the exterior of my tent was dripping wet and I hate to bundle up wet equipment, but I had to get moving. Packing up and reloading Rosie is a 60-minute affair. Mike Baumtrog from a neighboring campsite came over, saying, “I’ve been watching you load that machine. My God, I don’t carry that much stuff in my RV!” You’re right Mike, too much.

Finally, at 9:00 a.m. I was ready to depart. Rosie was parked on the gravel drive at an angle so rather than back up (not easy to do with a thousand-pound machine, I decided to cut across a short grassy strip back to the blacktop. Bad plan. The grassy strip was soft mud and Rosie slid sideways, dumping over on its side. Mike, and one other camper saw my dilemma and came to assist. Once we got Rosie back on its feet, I discovered I was stuck in the mud. My rear wheel just spun. Fortunately, with two guys pushing, I made it to the hard surface. Rosie, spattered with mud, was none the worse for wear and by 10:00 a.m. was once again heading west on U.S. 36.

The goal for the day is Maryville, Kansas, moving me 600 + miles closer to Utah. I had wanted to stop at the General Pershing Museum in Missouri, but because of my late start decided to forgo that visit and just push on west. I gained an hour in this direction and pulled into a Marysville motel at 5:00 p.m. I needed to unpack my wet camping gear and get it dried out. Nearby is the Pony Express Museum which I hope to visit in the morning.

I’m moving on. More of this journey later.

8 thoughts on “First Days

  1. Well son-of-a-gun. Almost worth riding back there. I liked Missouri better than Kansas. Thought I would never make it out of that state. Across Colorado tomorrow.

  2. You rode right past me! 36 at Chillicothe, I would have fed you a semi-home cooked meal and told you a tall-tale!

  3. That’s storm would have terrified me. Can you imagine what Mom would have been like?! Looking forward to following your travels.. 🏍

  4. I said stay safe yesterday…boy do you listen!? Should have said…behave!🙈 Following you on a map.🙏🏻

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