Our penultimate day.
It had rained the previous night, and more storms were forecast for the day. This made me very nervous. Our ride was not supposed to be as long as the previous day’s, but it was supposed to be hillier as we headed away from the Mississippi and further into Missouri.
Our googled directions had us heading through Jackson MO and then mostly north on minor roads that meandered through farmland and across streams, but overall ran roughly parallel to I-55.
As it turned out, some of these roads were paved, and some were definitely not, and they were softer and messier after the rain. This made our day longer and tougher than we anticipated. We just crawled along for miles and miles, and really only hit one stretch where we were able to maintain a good pace.
Eventually, a light precipitation started. The sky was looking pretty ominous, and we were getting pretty hungry. We stopped at a town called Oak Ridge, which was really just an intersection with a post office and a few buildings. The weather radio wasn’t indicating that there were any storm warnings, so we left our overhang and kept riding. There were no other towns on our route, but there was a butcher shop near the intersection of I-55 and state highway KK, so we decided to pull over there when the next band of ominous clouds approached. We fussed over where to put our bikes for a little while, and decided there wasn’t really an ideal place.
It did start to rain, so we bought some snacks. But the rain didn’t really stop while we were there. Since the precipitation was lighter, we decided to keep riding, and we also asked for an alternate route to avoid any more unpaved roads. One of the locals we asked happened to be a talker, and a talker who was involved in some multilevel marketing scheme to sell juices/energy drinks/diet shakes or something that he thought would help us lose weight and improve our performance. Elizabeth was quite upset by his presumption, but I’ve heard these pitches before for a variety of products. We did have a little trouble getting him to move on, even though he was in his car and we were obviously standing there in the rain. The worst conversations we’ve had on this trip were with people who opened the conversation by feigning interest in talking with us, and then used the opening as a foray to proselytize to us. Most of the time it was about religion and believing in Jesus (this had happened as recently as the previous day in Cairo), but a few times it was about unique opportunities to buy nutritional supplements. Leave me alone while I drink my Dr. Pepper!
Anyhow, the first section of our reroute was slightly uncomfortable, as it was steep and windy with no shoulders and a bit of traffic, but it was worth it to get on highway 61, which may have been slightly longer but was paved and had a shoulder.
We made good time through Old Appleton and Uniontown and arrived in Perryville in midafternoon. We hadn’t really figured out exactly where we’d stay. We rode past one cheap motel (which I didn’t even see) and found a second one, which looked even sketchier. Instead of continuing our search, we went back to the first, which was cheap, so we took a room.
We asked for advice on a place to eat, and the motel manager recommended the Park-Et Fine Foods, which was conveniently located next to the motel. So, we had a late lunch there. I wouldn’t say it was “fine” by any account, but it was decent and very affordably priced, and since there weren’t really vegetarian options, they made me an omelet from their breakfast menu.
We were safely inside for the afternoon showers. That evening, we spent a lot of time watching the weather channel. It was the afternoon that another tornado was bearing down on Moore Oklahoma and bearing down on Oklahoma City commuters caught in rush hour traffic on the interstates. The same line of storms also hit a St. Louis suburb to our north. We ate a light dinner and went back to the Park Et for dessert.
The worst of the weather didn’t hit Perryville until after midnight, but the deluge and thunder woke us up. The motel was not in the best shape. Our room had a significant gap–two inches or more–at the bottom of the door. The wind was blowing rain underneath the door and soaking the carpet in our room.
When we woke up in the morning, it was still pouring.