6. Nixa: Now

Writing from my breakfast table at Lola’s Pasteries and Eatery in Nixa, MO.

 

Note: The pictures here go backwards in time – day by day, morning to evening – from the present moment to my last full day on the Katy Trail, which would have been Sunday. The next morning I stopped for breakfast on the main square in Clinton, then bombed south at about twice my former rate on the broad shoulder and excellent surface of Missouri State Highway 13.

 

Everything here is like a big, tacky strip mall, stretched out along Highway 13, with plenty of noisy, zooming traffic. On one of the main roads to the west, I went some distance looking for a decent place to stop for breakfast. Finally ran into a gourmet coffee joint. Turns out they didn’t serve breakfast there, but the lady in attendance was very kind about directing me back across the highway, past the MacDonalds and auto parts store, to a place that looks just like a house, which also has wifi and will give me exactly what I want in the way of a reasonably priced sit-down breakfast. This kind and friendly lady was originally from Mississippi, came to Missouri to attend college 17 years ago … and stayed. Marriage, quite naturally, was a key factor that kept her in these parts. She, and a man who walked in while we were talking, mentioned a television series whose main character (David Webb???) was born in Nixa. Neither of them was sure about where the name comes from.

 

So I am attempting to do my general online catch-up here. I’ve already eaten and lingered here for a couple of hours. They’ve been very nice about insisting that I wasn’t in the way, despite a large lunch crowd descending on them after I’d taken up position, when the place was deserted.

 

  • #7903 – Lola’s in Nixa. 
  • #7905 – Bob at Lola’s 
  • #7906 – Ideal situation. I can keep an eye on my bicycle through an adjacent window as I sit here. Only problem is they’ve got the place air conditioned, and my feet are icy cold. 

 

I won’t feel bad if I don’t travel far today. I was meaning to spend a couple days in Springfield, but thought better of it. The place is too spread out. The downtown area was inhabited by riff raff. A cop in front of the library chased away a group of down-and-out-looking young people, as I sat on the sidewalk yesterday afternoon checking my email. It’s the sort of place where something might get vandalized or pilfered – namely, my bicycle and gear – so I will stand down for a day or two someplace much more rural and rustic, probably when I get into the heart of the Ozark Plateau in northern Arkansas. Meanwhile, I’m getting my business done along the way – laundry yesterday, long catch-up missive with pictures today.

 

I’m aiming for the vicinity of Kimberling City. Plan to stay on 13 and follow it into northern Arkansas. I don’t like the noise along the major road, but the google map directions are too uncertain, and I don’t like all the very frequent twists and turns. As long as the road provides a decent shoulder, I should be OK. What I don’t want is to get on a back-country road without a shoulder that’s heavily trafficked by recreational vehicles, many driven by absent-minded old codgers.

 

  • #7884 – Where I had breakfast yesterday. Just south of Bolivar. I heard someone pronounce this as a street name in Springfield – BOLL – uh – ver. I was wondering how they’d render this name in southern Missouri English. 
  • #7886 – Nostalgia for old Route 66. I told my waitress she was too young to remember when this paraphernalia was current. It comes right out of my childhood years. I spoke with a young couple from Germany when I was near the Arch in St. Louis. They were driving all of Route 66 … from Chicago to L.A. Proof that the classic old 2-lane highway really is that famously romantic. It goes back to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath time, long before Eisenhower inaugurated the Interstate System. 
  • #7888 – Approaching Springfield. Nose pointed due south. Stopped briefly at one of the many convenient restroom facilities a bicyclist will find, after tanking up on coffee, along the open road like this. 
  • #7890 – Typical landform. Road blasted through granite formation. 
  • #7891 – Downtown Springfield has some character. I enjoyed an excellent burrito at Maria’s here – recommended to me by at least two people I’d questioned on my way into town. I was also warned not to stray into neighboring areas after dark. 
  • #7892 – Headed south on Campbell. This road turns into Missouri State Highways 13 South & 160 East on the south edge of town. En route, there are miles and miles of heavily trafficked, all-American strip-mall ticky-tack. This could be almost any town of reasonable size, almost anyplace in the USA. 
  • #7897 – Lot of road noise here. But I slept really good. After a week, I am getting used to sleeping on the ground again. The first couple nights I had trouble falling asleep. Or woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling asleep again. One night I woke up in the night and cried (again) for my brother. The first few mornings I woke up stiff, or with a crick in my neck. But now I am sleeping really well. It feels so good to sleep like that. Today I got up later than I have any morning so far. I didn’t get packed up and roll out onto the highway until a few minutes after 9 a.m. It got very quiet deep in the night. Then by morning it was all awful and noisy again. 
  • #7898 – Normal precaution. I camoflauged the bike with my rain poncho and other forest-colored gear last night. The reflectors and strips on my panniers are really bright. I endeavor to remain unnoticed by various perspectives of the social spectrum – not only police but property owners and hoodlum types as well. 
  • #7852 – Note the Katy Trail off to the right. I have a policy of never sleeping where I’m visible from a public byway. But I hadn’t seen anyone in hours. I wasn’t visible from the highway. And it was getting late, time to stop and make camp. If I went much farther, I’d be getting into the next town along the way, where relative seclusion would be even harder to come by. One guy did come along the next morning, headed in the opposite direction, just as I was strapping the last of my gear onto my bicycle. 
  • #7860 – Square 109. Great wifi breakfast spot on the central plaza in Clinton, MO. I liked Clinton. Spoke for a good while as I ate with a fellow about my age, certain Eric at a neighboring table. Obviously one of the regulars, as everyone addressed him by name. 
  • #7872 – Excellent highway, going south out of Clinton. I made really good time here, with a bit of a tail wind. Smooth, hard, clean surface; broad shoulder. Katy Trail ended in Clinton. 
  • #7875 
  • #7874 
  • #7869 – Ice cream stop. Mint chocolate chip, 3 scoops. Also picked up a canteloupe for dinner, whenever I set up camp. I’ve been craving fresh fruit. 
  •  #7868 – Chatted with a couple of old guys as I savored my ice cream. The fellow on the left owns 80 acres five miles from here. Says he “don’t do nuthin’.” The ground is too rocky to farm. Lives out there with his “boy,” who “don’t do nuthin’ either.” I cordially agreed – allowing as how idleness is our natural condition, basically what we humans were designed for, a good and proper adaptation to life. 
  • #7866 – Amish people in and out of here. Note the horse-drawn buggy. The two old timers told me no one had warned them the land around here wasn’t any good for farming. They first showed up in these parts about ten years ago. You see the unmistakable sign that their horses have passed by, along the same broad shoulders ridden by cyclists like me. You also see “Share the road” signs, like the ones that picture bicycles, but with horse-and-buggy silhouettes instead. 
  • #7878 – Camped at a junky spot, behind two ramshackle sheds. I’d been chased off by a highway cop, about 20 minutes farther back up the road, as I was exploring another possible lodging site. He saw my abandoned bicycle resting at the side of the highway and pulled up to investigate. So I ambled back across the grassy median from the frontage road to the highway, carrying my collapsible walking stick, as always at such moments. He did not look at all like the kind of fellow I’d wish to contradict or argue with. When he explained that the property owners might not like my being there, I nodded and stated simply, “I understand. Maybe I should just keep moving along.” He agreed … and disappeared before I’d hefted my bike back up off the ground. I scuttled very quickly under the next patch of likely cover I came across to the south. 
  • #7835 – A rare vestige of the former railroad. The last few dozen miles of the Katy Trail, approaching Clinton, were not as well surfaced as they’d been farther east. At points they were almost sandy, causing me to labor as I pedaled my heavy-laden bike in the light rain and mist. 
  • #7836 – More wayide flowers for Elizabeth. 
  • #7838 – Coming into Sedalia, MO, the county seat. One of the rare stretches where Katy Trail deviates onto public roadways. This was a very sad and dilapidated looking town. The downtown area, which I didn’t pause to photograph, was downright depressing – quite an appraisal coming from this observer, who normally appreciates down-at-heel surroundings. Decay, you know, is a natural process. Even the most worldly artifacts, when marked by this condition, acquire the stamp of nature, and thereby a certain uniqueness, a tempering of age, and an aspect of character that the handiwork of man alone may not confer. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel that Sedalia would be an appealing place to live … even with the (to me, never experienced) status home ownership (see below) going for about half of what we pay to rent our small apartment for a year in northeast New Jersey. Sedalia, incidentally, is derived from the nickname – Sed – of the daughter, Sarah, of the town’s late 19th century founder. Someone suggested that the suffix “-alia” would dignify the honored monosyllable. ¶ I gather that this whole region of western Missouri was booming throughout most of the 19th century – first, as a jumping off point for westward expansion, and later as a nexus in the trade routes between civilization and the west. ¶  For instance, New Franklin, the town just north of Boonville on the Katy Trail, was the origin of the legendary Santa Fe Trail in 1821 – until it was replaced by Independence, MO, a hundred miles to the west, about five years later. Manufactured goods went west; furs and silver came back east. The first of these expeditions made a 1500% profit. ¶ Another of the interesting tidbits I learned from the many informative signs along Katy Trail is that the sturdy Missouri mule – a hallmark of the state – came into being through the Santa Fe trade, by crossing Mexican jacks with American mares. At one point in the first half of the 19th century, the state was producing well over 30,000 of these creatures yearly to keep “progress” – commerce and settlement – moving in an east-west direction. 
  • #7839, 7841, 7842, 7843 – More of residential Sedalia, as I saw it, coming in from the north off Katy Trail.    
  • #7844 – MacDonalds, in a more economically favored part of Sedalia. I only stopped here to take advantage of the wifi and juice up my laptop. Good timing, because it sheltered me from a downpour. 
  • #7846 – Backcountry Missouri. Passing over a rural stream. It misted for hours, but most of the afternoon was warm enough for me to ride in my shirtsleeves. 
  • #7849 – Another one-horse wide spot in the road. Still big enough to have a Casey’s Store, where I could lay in two 22-oz. bottles of Bud. One per night in my tent, sufficient for the next two nights. 
  • #7851 – Dressed for rain. The bulge in the middle is not my pot belly, which has by now almost completely disappeared. This always seems to happen when I go bicycle touring. The slight protuberance is a large, reversed fanny pack, containing my 4th generation iPod Touch. 

 

 

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