I slammed the cart down underneath the gazebo, the storm outside hammering the small town of Hartsburg with unexpected ferocity. Wells opened the tent flap.
“Shit, the wheel!”
I scrambled over to look at it, and sure enough, it was completely flat. A pang of guilt hit me immediately. Perhaps I’d manhandled the contraption just a bit too hard.
“What do we do now?”
We waited out the storm and weighed our options, using the Big Muddy’s wifi to look into bike shops. The one in Hartsburg had moved to Jefferson City and did not repair leaks, in any case. But Jefferson City was our best shot, regardless. So we dragged the cart 7 miles to the North Jefferson trailhead through wet gravel. The trailhead was two miles outside of Jefferson City proper, so I volunteered to stay with the cart while Wells took the wheel into the city. It was hard and demanding (I slept on a bench) but I was up for it. Wells returned, and we were soon on our way again.
Thankfully, we had planned an easy day, so the detour didn’t affect our schedule at all. We made it to the Turner Katy Trail Shelter in Tebbetts, fully equipped with beds, air conditioning, showers, a bike shop, and a second level with a fully functional ping pong table.
The whole building had been owned by Mrs. Turner, who had donated it to the bikers of the Katy Trail. One of the guest book entries had her down as the patron Saint of Katy Trail, and I tended to agree.
The first order of business, of course, was to find dinner and since Jim’s Bar and Grill held unusual hours, we were forced to bike back to the grocery store in Mokane. With dinner at stake and me at the helm of the cart, it was the fastest we would go the entire trip until the very last leg of the journey. We pounded through the 6.2 miles in 30 minutes, averaging 12 miles per hour compared to the 5 or 6 we had averaged the rest of the time. We ate at Mokane and returned.
We would later find out that we could have simply knocked on the door and gotten into Jim’s Bar and Grill, since the owner lives in the building. But that was later.
Lying on the table in front of the Katy Trail Shelter was a leathery man with long, surfer-dude sun-bleached hair and a bracelet around his ankle. We had run into him sleeping on a table before in Dutzow, but we hadn’t met him until now. We invited him into the shelter to avoid the scorching heat. When we returned from Mokane, he was inside. Bob was a brewer for Anheuser-Busch by trade, but retired and having adventures around the United States. This was his 4th time on the Katy Trail. We chatted until the sun went down.
I passed out in the middle of updating my journal. We woke up to a fog looming over a beautiful sunrise.
We had planned for the next day to be the longest day yet. It would turn out to be the strangest.