“See you there!” he said, pointing at us and grinning.
“Yeah, maybe!” Wells offered. The boy ran off and we exchanged glances.
“I’m not going to that.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
We had just been invited to go to “get some bud, some beer, and light up,” by a highschool aged boy.We had actually been told earlier that marijuana and alcohol were the only things the natives did in this town, but now we had firsthand evidence. They were apparently a large enough party to warrant renting a bus.
But on a Wednesday night? Really?
It had been a strange day.
I woke up at 5:30, eager to be off. We planned to do 60-70 miles that day, which would have been our longest day yet. Thankfully, shortly after I woke him up, Wells convinced me that it would be easier just to cut our distance in half and come in later on Thursday. It may have been a desperate ploy to get more sleep, but it was definitely a good idea.
We hung out and chatted with Bob a bit more then headed our separate ways, but not before I got his business card. We were once again headed toward Hermann, where we planned to stay.
At the Mokane trailhead, we ran into a man we know only as Kansas City, his city of origin. It was his 15th annual trip, and he was surprisingly large for a biker who moved so quickly, though he did travel significantly lighter than we did, staying at bed and breakfasts instead of camping along the way. He had a terribly bleak view of all the towns along the way: “Tebbetts kills me, I can’t stay there,” “Hartsburg is full of old people, I can’t stand it,” and the like. We would see him a few more times along the trail, one of which was at the Trailside bar and grill, which served delicious food, pie, and iced tea and lemonade on the house.
Departing Rhineland, we also ran into, or rather, were followed very closely by, a man we call Creepy Jason. We had seen him briefly while leaving Rhineland, and then he caught up to us and refused to leave. He had a high pitched voice, which he used to complain about his first and second wives and recount stories that can only be described as terrifying. He came from Hermann, where we were headed, and I listened with growing concern as Wells gave away more details about who we were and where we were staying for the night. I attempted to lose him by saying we had to reseat the trailer hitch, which we did. ‘That’s good, I have to rest too,’ he said, and kept talking.
Don’t tell him anything! I mentally screamed at Wells.
Lie! Lie! Wells mentally screamed at himself. But for reasons neither of us truly understand, he resisted that voice and told Creepy Jason exactly where we would be that night and where we were going. We lost him at the McKittrick trailhead, where he headed into Hermann. After a short rest and a brief exploration of McKittrick, we followed him into Hermann, dropping the cart off at the campground we had stayed at previously.
Hermann is a traditionally German town, like many of the towns along the Katy Trail, but Hermann had the distinction of being an officially designated German traditional heritage town. “Can’t get more German than Hermann,” Bob had said. It even showed in the population – a noticeable percentage of the population was blond. That’s why it was shocking to find an Indian family managing a motel in the heart of town. We asked for directions to the bike shop after getting their rate for the night.
One of our bikes had been having problems with the front brake engaging too eagerly, and had nearly thrown us from the handlebars several times in the morning hours. We wrestled the thing across town, cursing it the whole way, and finally made it to the bike shop.
The owner ambled out to the bike, took a look at it, and then flipped the handlebars 360 degrees, proclaiming it fixed. Sure enough, that had been the problem – the twisting was engaging the brakes, and all we had had to do was flip the handlebars around. It had taken less than three seconds.
“So…how much do we owe you?” I asked, stupidly. He waved us off, saying it was no problem.
We decided to stay in the Indian-owned motel after learning that bed and breakfasts were twice the cost. We were foregoing the campground for running water and air-conditioning, only later realizing that we had inadvertently (and most fortunately) misinformed Creepy Jason as to our plans for the night.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Hermann, though we didn’t end up doing so with the aid of marijuana or alcohol. Thanks anyway, kid.
We finally settled on the same restaurant we had gone to just days before, Wings-A-Blazin’, which was chock full of WWII memorabilia and pro-USA, anti-Japanese sentiment. We realized that, as a German heritage town, Hermann residents must have been under pressure to be seen as patriotic and yet find a way not to refute their proud German heritage. Which explains why they had these posters proudly framed on the wall:
Wells was sure it had led to strange stares, but I hadn’t noticed anything of the sort. We probably just smelled bad.
We headed back to the motel, booked a room, haggled a discount and an upgrade to two beds for free, and then went to sleep.
Tomorrow was the last leg of the journey.