After bringing our Chevrolet to a halt and switching off the ignition the Missouri humidity clamped down on us with a great force. I glanced at Barb, hoping she might suggest that we keep on driving. After all, only two days earlier we’d fled the summer heat of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. Cycling the parameter of Lake Superior would be an excellent alternative? But Barb had grit and her expression said otherwise. Rather than let my wimpy side show, I suggested she call the Clinton City Police Department and inform them as to why our car would be in the parking lot for a week or so. In the meantime, I reassembled the Tandem Two’sDay bike we’d brought with us.
McBark, our trailer dog, claimed a place in the shade of our sedan, waiting to occupy his place in the milk crate we’d bolted to the trailer.
“What’d the police say?” I asked as Barb returned from the phone booth.
“They are accustomed to cars being left here. It happens all the time.”
I rolled the bike to the trailhead. After attaching the antenna lead to the ham radio, she took her place on the rear saddle, assuming her duty as stoker. But there was more to her job than furnishing additional power. She was our navigator, stoker, communications officer, photographer, and when we encountered a vicious dog she became our weapons officer. But she wasn’t always stuck in the back seat. I often took my turn stoking while she steered and shifted gears. Once, while pedaling across South Dakota, we took turns and the one stoking read pages from whatever novel we were currently reading.
Years earlier, the Katy Trail had been the right-of-way for the Katy Railroad. After the route was abandoned ownership would have automatically reverted to the land owners adjacent to the track had it not been for the swift action of the late Senator Edward D. “Ted” Jones. Using his personal funds, he purchased much of the route between St. Charles and Clinton, Missouri and deeded it to the state. But not before the state agreed to purchase the remaining miles and convert the entire 255-mile length into a Missouri State Park.
A southern breeze tempered the beginning of our afternoon. However, our trail soon entered a dense thicket, cutting off our gentle wind and all that remained was that which we were generating ourselves. That was when it became obvious that we’d brought too much stuff. Our personal belongings weighed some fifty pounds and McBark added another thirty-four. What were we thinking?
Barb contacted a local amateur radio operator (a female voice always fetched a quick reply). In the course of their dialogue she learned that a soft ice cream store awaited our arrival in the next village—Calhoun. With renewed strength, our tires sang on the crushed limestone.
“There it is!”
“Where?” I asked, my eyes darting about the small town.
“On the right,” she said, her arm extending over my shoulder.
At first glance it appeared to have once measured up to the requirements of Dairy Queen—the red tile-like roof and windows that sloped outward at the top. We left the trail and wheeled across a parking lot belonging to a grain elevator. A half block further I brought the tandem to halt beneath a spreading Elm. After filling a water dish we secured McBark’s leash to the trailer and then hurried toward the store. However, we were a bit too slow and a dozen locals reached the window ahead of us. Our appetites were beyond measure by the time we reached the glass.
“I’m so sorry. Our ice cream machine has been out of order for more than a week and we don’t know when it will be fixed,”
I was stunned and I might have said something I would have regretted. Barb, however, is more civilized and she saved the day. She merely shoved me aside and ordered two large colas and a bowl of milk for McBark.
The sun was a hands-width above the horizon as we continued our trek toward Windsor —the place where we planned to spend the night. Barb was unable to raise anyone else on the radio, so we pedaled in silence, counting the mile markers. At Winsor we found a small cafe, a campground, and enough time to pitch the tent before twilight.
But there were no shower facilities. The following morning we moved on. Another 50 miles and we cane to Booneville, Missouri. This old fellow manning the Camber of Commerce office located in the vacated Katy depot burst out the door.
Do you want a hundred dollar room or a steak dinner?” he shouted.
We were used up. “How about a ten dollar room?”
We didn’t find a room that cheap, but we found one with AC, a shower, and four walls.
Barb, wearing her American Flag scarf.
Look closely and you can see McBark, the trailer dog in his milk crate.