Friday, July 6, 2012

Post 032 - Terminal Moraine

Day 28 - Missouri, Trying to Turn West to Nebraska

Another 100 degree day

My previous day was long in the saddle. I knew this day would be shorter. I would turn west into the Missouri River Valley and follow the Lewis and Clark Trail.

A little over 200 years after Lewis and Clark the land is nothing like the one they experienced. They sailed, rowed, poled, and dragged their 50 foot boat up the river making about 13 miles day. I zoomed along on smooth paved roads using an internal combustion engine and rubber tires. They hunted for food and met with Indian Chiefs. I ate convenience food and made jokes with clerks.

In the town of Excelsior Springs I found a little restaurant called, At Sarah's Table, serving breakfast. They had potato bread French toast with cream cheese. It was delicious. At the register was a sign that said, "No Smoking On Weekends." I asked if people smoked inside during the week. I was told yes, but the weekend traffic has picked up considerably.

My plan was to curve north around St. Joseph and take a county road paralleling the river. I made it to the little town of Amazonia and found my road. I followed it in the low Missouri River flood plain. The river itself was not in sight. The plain is wide and there are many trees hugging water sources.

Then the pavement ended. Gravel. My nemesis. I was hot and not in the mood for compromise. No, I did not turn back. I forged on. Slowly I rode the small gravel road. It turned inland and started to go up and down. This caused me concern. In time I came to an intersection with another gravel road. The was a small house and a car. I pulled in and knocked at the door. No answer. I sweated profusely.

A pickup truck appeared. The driver told me which road to follow and how soon it would become paved. He was right. In short order I was back on pavement, but heading away from the river. I found a gas station / fireworks sales place near the interstate. It was broiling hot. Why people would buy fireworks and put them in their hot cars was beyond me.

A digression. Everyone smokes. Many people smoke at gas pumps. Seriously. When I saw this I moved as far away as possible. This thing about smoking or not smoking in restaurants is new. Smoking near a gas pump is illegal, but often ignored. Missourians have an odd relationship to smoking.

Back on the road. I charted a new course into the river valley. In time I found myself exactly where I wanted to be and was about to make it to the Big Lake Campground. I rode between the river and a steep sided ridge. It was apparent to me the ridge was terminal moraine from the last ice age.

I pulled into a lonely gas station between the ridge and river. A woman with thick black hair was behind the counter. When I told her where I was going she informed me the campground was closed. It, along with everything else along the river, was wiped out in a flood one year before. I was so worn out from the heat I could not register disappointment, just dumbfoundedness. We shifted the conversation to the ridge and my theory of terminal moraine. She walked me outside and confirmed my theory. She pointed to a large cut in the distant hillside. The interstate was originally slated to go that way, but the builders ran into ancient Indian artifacts and the road was rerouted.

I asked if any significant minerals were in the moraine. She said no, that it was almost useless. She then told me a story of she and her husband cattle farming and not being allowed to dig into the hillside because of the artifacts. So they bought this gas station. I saw pictures of her college age daughters. She had a very upbeat personality. I hope they succeed.

I pushed on northward, not sure what to do. I found another campground on the map about 50 miles into Nebraska. I made it as far as the town of Mound City. It was 6 p.m. The bank temperature sign read 101. I was exhausted and overheated. I checked into a motel. I would be in Missouri one more night.

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