I said it before and I'll say it again: the KATY trail is rugged. The ride today was grueling. I pushed through 80 miles of crushed limestone and dust in 100 degree weather. Though there were two weeks before the summer solstice, it appeared that summer had come early this year. I wasn't ready for the heat and humidity. I was miserable.
In addition to the rugged terrain, there were critters everywhere. For the first time on my trip I spotted lizards scurrying about the path. I also blew by a two foot black rat snake, which evoked a loud, "FUCK!" from me. I'm generally not scared of snakes, but this one caught me off guard. Far past the reptiles I spotted a fox inspecting some animal carcass on the path. A few miles later I encountered my first armadillo, rotting dead on the side of the trail.
I was struggling with the KATY trail. It was all too real for me. The heat was inescapable. The animals were wild. My newfound affinity for Missouri was fading.
Halfway through my ride I bumped into another cyclist, Michael. It turned out we were heading to the same destination, a little campsite in Bluffton. I proposed that we split a cabin and he was on board. It wasn't until about 20 or 30 miles later that I would bump into this guy again at the Trailside diner in Rhineland. While stuffing our faces with the roast beef special, I learned about this native Missourian and world traveller. After spending the past 7 years teaching English in Korea and Myanmar, he was installed in Vermont as a University teacher. Now he was enjoying his 6-week summer break. He had just finished doing a section of the Appalachian trail, was currently blazing down the KATY trail during and had planned to enroll in a song writing workshop. I thought to myself, Man, this guy is living the life.
After dinner we struggled to get through the last five miles of our ride. I had a sharp headache and stiffness in my neck. Each inch felt like a mile. God, I wanted this ride to be over. Despite my physical duress, I was pacified to see that the scenery had become beautiful. It was again the magic hour. Near corn fields and distant hills were illuminated by a soft light as the escaping son left behind a pink-purple dusk sky.
We arrived at the awesome campsite jus before sunset. For 30 bucks we rented an air-conditioned cabin for the evening. My new buddy and I sat on the porch of our cabin watching hummingbirds whiz by and drinking Busch beer. These had to be the best Busch beers I had ever had in my life.
Though it got off to a rough start, today's long ride came to a pleasant end.