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“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be in Kansas for a while!”




Missouri Wrap-up


Missouri seemed like a huge challenge a month ago, but it just sped by, too fast actually.

The Katy Trail sure helped.

A 270 mile-long dirt path through the woods mostly, along the Missouri and Lewis and Clark’s path some ways.

It’s a well-maintained bike and foot-friendly route and we loved every step of it!


(The Missouri River from the Katy Tr.)

(One of many informational signs along the L & C route.)


***


Julie chatted with her son, Andrew, today and he said he and his friends had been a little worried about us when we were in Missouri.

The state has a bit of a reputation, as do most other “Red States” that have recently made access to abortion almost impossible, banned books, made life hard(er) for LGBTQ people, and generally been seen as “unwelcoming” to outsiders.

And, this is what has been a surprising and happy outcome of our journey; we continue to be surprised at the beauty and kindness of the landscape and the humans (not “Americans” or “Missourians”) that we meet! Everywhere, people slow down and ask if we are okay, need help, a ride….and offer insider local intel about roads and camping.



(Walking into Osawattomie KS... start of the Flint Hills Trail)


***

Every day, even today when the weather is really shitty, I have moments when I’m buzzing with gratitude for just being allowed to be out here trudging. And every day I interact with someone on a really human level. Community and gratitude.

The land, too, has been so lovely to pass through at 3-4 miles per hour.

Most of us have disparaged the “heartland” as just a tedious 1000 miles of flat freeways and Love’s Travel Centers to suffer through, in order to reach the more spectacular mountains and deserts of the west.

But as we walk, we occasionally, between the miles of corn, catch a glimpse of that mythic high plains landscape. The high rolling hills of grass through which land-hungry settlers walked west. And, before them, the thousands of years of the buffalo hunters, the mound builders, the horse tribes.

We are literally treading on the blood, bones, tools, and homes of the people who shaped “America,” without knowing they were doing so.

And, on top of that, remember that as we walk along the rails-to-trails, we are walking along the historic railways that were built by your Irish and Chinese ancestors. All that incredibly hard labor for maybe 100 years of train traffic, and then they were abandoned, and resurrected so that we Lycra-clad, self-absorbed hipsters and yuppies (is that still a thing?) can pedal or parade from BnB to AirBnB.

Jeez Louise… I’m getting all Ken Burns over here….

But, seriously, you can feel something in the wind when you move slowly through this country.

***


This all changed as we approached the terminus, and Kansas.

Like a bad movie, the atmosphere of the scene abruptly shifted. Our last miles on the Katy were sunny and 82 degrees. We met some fun trail people, and had good camping.

The next day the temperature dropped 45 degrees and the wind and rain fell as well.

We walked roads with no shoulders and wandered through the blighted neighborhoods of failing towns. The poverty of the Midwest is not centered in the rural areas; it is along the edges of the small towns. Clusters of trailers, or small shacks with broken cars and porches. The saddest ones have yards littered with children’s toys.

It’s easy to see the ravaging effects of meth and opioids in the faces of the people watching us walk past from their porches.


(Yup... all too common along the road.)



***

Sometimes I get rubber-legged. It’s weird.

When I see someone coming at me, or from behind on a bike, and I know they’re looking at me, my legs get wobbly like there is a cop telling me to walk a straight line.

I’ve always been this way, walking.

I remember a time in high school a pack of younger kids, my brother Mike’s friends, were loitering outside our house waiting for him I guess, and when I walked toward them I lost control of my legs just a little and they laughed and mocked my gait.

I can run fine. No problemo.

Anyone know a good psychiatrist?

(I came out a different man. Well, I went in a different man, too.)


***


We are keeping our eyes on the prize of the next bit of rails-to-trails, the 100 miles long Flint Hills Trail just over the state line in Kansas.

We had a swell reprieve from the nasty weather yesterday when we motored up east of Kansas City to visit some old friends—Jay and Shelley Becker, whom I knew from my days at Valley View Hot Springs in Colorado. Jay is a… I don’t actually know what he calls himself. Massage therapist, healer, Rolfer, sadist?

I shamelessly asked him to do some work on a hip that has hobbled me for the past few weeks, and he gleefully cracked his knuckles and went to work. He also performed some magic on Julie, who was amazed at how well she could breath and move for the next few days.

He advised me to do some backward walking, which I did practice on some more desolate sections of road this morning while all the locals were at church.


(3rd Street Social, one of of Harry F. Truman's favorite hangouts. With Jay and Shelley Becker... yeah, I know it's really Harry X. Truman.)



***


Kansas Wrap-up Part One:


The sun came out today!

We took that as a sign that crossing 400 miles of Kansas wouldn’t be as harsh as we feared.

We have 100 miles of rails to trails coming up starting tomorrow. Whew! Being back on busy roads has been a shock to the system.


(Julie and the GII!)

***


Halloween!

My 13+ miles to get to Mile Zero of the Flint Hills Trail were rather hellish. All into the teeth of the cold wind, hilly, and then right when I got to Osawatomie (home of John Brown!) where the trail is, I hit construction and a miles long train that kept stopping, backing up, going forward, back, forward. I waited for 20 minutes for it to make up its mind, but in the end had to detour northeast (remember, we’re trying to go SW) for an extra mile. I was cold, hungry, and thirsty. And Julie was 5 miles up-trail with Giizhik waiting for a pick up.

But, the forecast is for warming temps, and the trail looks almost exactly like the Katy!


Julie bought us mustaches and some candy corn for our big two person-two dog Halloween party. (sorry...no pics)


***



I’m continuing to explore more southerly routes, especially as our water was frozen when we got up this morning. It was 19 degrees (feels like 13.)

I like to do simple arithmetic in my head as I walk and have ciphered that we can be to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado by my birthday--December 1st. This is very motivating to me. But I'm trying to be more "processed-oriented," just being in the mile I'm in.

For now, we have this trail and we’re going to live in the warm moment!



(We made these placards to put in the window of the car bc we often have to park in pretty sketchy/private property spots.)


(This dog and this cat came out of a farm driveway to greet me, and decided they wanted to go to California. No one was home and I finally had to put them in the back of an old pickup truck. The little beagle guy's legs were too short for him to jump back out. Hope he's out now!)

Peace, friends

Oh, yeah.. and keep breathing and moving!

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5 Comments


fabcat49
Nov 12, 2023

Nothing like a beagle nose to turn things around! ❤️❤️❤️

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Rick Novitsky
Rick Novitsky
Nov 10, 2023

As I sit here reading your post, The Lake is quite calm. Over the past three hours, the sky has morphed from a mottled blue/gray to the color of Paul Newman's iris! Thinking about you guys a lot these days. Especially when eating avocado toast. Rosie and I are also practicing our cribbage game so we can turn you into honest card players when you return . . .

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peacelovehaiti
Nov 11, 2023
Replying to

We play a game every night to unwind from our stressful day of walking along the rural byways of America. We do miss the lake, and friends, like you two ne'er-do-wells.

Thanks for the message! -jess

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artbyhaight
Nov 10, 2023

Good post! Wishing you unfrozen water and SUN!


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peacelovehaiti
Nov 11, 2023
Replying to

Thanks! So far, your wishing is working.

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