July 25 - Did You Say It Was Hot?: Jacksonville IL to Hannibal MO

So, Will and I got off again right after sunrise, this time with the temp at 71 F. No flat, but we did go about 12 miles out of our way when the trip route finder (me) went straight instead of right out of town.

When we reached a freeway interchange (not on our planned route), I said, "Uh, Will, stop a minute. I think we're lo... we're, uh, I don't know where we are right now. Let me look at a map." Which we did, oriented ourselves, and plotted a route back to our first meeting spot. We needed to find Exeter and Bluffs. We got to a fork in the road, and took it, went back and took the other one, and found a couple of guys cutting the grass on the side of the road. This was a county road, unsigned, with no cars in sight, and about 20 feet wide. These guys had a great job; actually, one of them had a great job - the other actually had to be out in the sun cutting the grass, while his buddy drove the pick-up along side, helping him around obstacles.

I pulled up, and spoke to a chunky man with Levis and a plaid shirt, short hair and a double chin, probably about my age. "Is this the road to Bluffs?"

"Sure is; just follow this asphalt road and you'll get right there." Smile.

There's a left turn ahead we take?" We were heading north at the time, the map showed Bluffs to the west.

"That's right, just take that straight turn up ahead, and you can't miss it." Another smile, which I returned with my thanks. Will and I rode on, pondering what a straight turn might be. When we got there, it was basically a "T" intersection, with a curve into each arm of the "T".

We started seriously sweating at that time. The temp was up to 78 by the time we met Bikrutz, and rose to 82 by the time we pulled away 20 minutes later, a little after 9. Cheryl joined us, and we motored off to Chambersburg.

"I've got to call home!" Cheryl shouted. "Susie [the cleaning lady] will be there all alone. Sylvie is going away today with her father, and I don't want Patches to escape - you know how Susie is with doors and windows [she tends to ignore them]". So we stopped at the local auto shop in this town of 200. While she snagged a call from the phone inside, I worked a bit to adjust my saddle outside. Will conversed a bit with two Beagles who stayed asleep as we rode into their space in the the shade of an elm tree. We all took off after five minutes.

Several miles later, a pick up truck slows down ahead of me, and a man in a red tank top and Levis, with a beard, about my age, gets out and says, "I want to talk to you guys. Are you the ones who left my water running?"

Will was closest to him, and felt most guilty; he said, "No", with the best teenage innocence mumble he could muster.

"Well, aren't you the ones on bicycles who were by my tree." He didn't seem angry or threatening, just a little concerned and intense. "I was out back, and when I got in front, I notice the water was running." We'd seen no water source, running or not; we again said, "No, that wasn't us". Cheryl explained about her phone call, and I pointed to our water bottles and my camelback, saying "We carry our own water". This seemed to convince him, and he started apologizing, "My mistake, must have been somebody else."

I tried to commiserate a bit. "I understand; I sure wouldn't want somebody doing that to me. He didn't want to talk, though, he just got in his truck, turned around and headed back to town. Strange encounter.

Ten miles later, we needed a rest. We'd entered the bluff country east of the Mississippi flood plain, with endless rollers up and down, and serious heat reflecting back from the pavement. The map showed "Fishhook", and we saw a church off the the left. No town, though, so we stopped in the shade to regroup. After removing shirts (Cheryl had her jog bra on) and wiping sweat way with them, I finally had the energy to walk up to the crossroads, where I saw a sign saying "Fishhook store - gas - ice - groceries."

We biked in, passing a youngish (but getting plump_ man with longish hair and a beard, working on a flower garden. We exchanged waves, but no words - he seemed more interested in his flowers than in us.

Fishhook had two churches, the one store, two streets, and about seven houses. Everything had chipping, faded paint. The town had a sweltering, deadened feel to it. We stepped up to the porch of the store, and it was like going back about 40-60 years. Sagging screen door, crumpled bench under a large, store-length roof jutting out five feet to provide shade. Three thermometers, two rusted and at least 35 years old from the looks of the soft drink logos. The temps read, in order, 82, 93, and 94 F. We dropped the lower, and accepted the 90's. It was still before noon.

We went in, and found a lady doing book-keeping behind the counter. Bought three drinks. She asked me to read the prices to her; she offered 59¢ for mine, which was actually 89¢. She added them all up by hand on a pad of paper, and we exchanged thoughts about the value of bifocals. We went to the back of the store, creaking along the uneven wooden floor to an oscillating white fan, set on the wood stove. Obviously where people gathered, summer or winter, In the next room were bags of feed and fertilizer, and on the table were instruction cards for various high-protein supplements to pig and cow diet. We took it all in, as we sure didn't want to ride any more. But on we went, another 8 miles, to the next meeting.

Our own thermometer read 103 on the sunny side, 95 on the shady side (Will switched it to discover the difference). The girls were kept inside, in the air-conditioning, and the three of us went back out for the last 14 mile leg. More rollers, more heat. By the time we got to Bikrutz at Payson, all we wanted to do was (a) put bikes on rack, (b) enter cool vehicle, (c) collapse. I sincerely thought as I was putting the bikes up that I would melt right there, just like the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz. Cheryl, for the first time, complained about the heat and being unable to continue. It was 2 PM, and we'd gone 69 miles, to where we would return in the morning after seeing Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal. I'll save that story for the next installment.

As we passed into town, the bank sign read "101".

Miles: Will, 69; Al (single), 69; Cheryl (single) 65; ; Ann (single) 37.

Total Miles: 1450

**Next Day's Journal**

-Al Bikrutz