Today, especially this afternoon, was just hard. Places to stay around here are a little few and far between so I had the option of a short day or a long one. I’m looking forward to getting to Bolivar and I took the long option. That put me in Farmington MO, instead of Chester IL where I had lunch. But it also meant I spent the afternoon heat climbing Missouri Ozark hills which were pretty tough. I achieved two big milestones; I made it across the Mississippi River and I get to sleep in my home state.
The route this morning took me along the levees near the river. One of the things about traveling by bike is that you follow these little backroads where a lot of work is done, you see a lot of the basic infrastructure that supports us all. Today I saw all matter of raw materials transported by me on river barge, trains, and trucks. When’s the last time that you stood and watched a whole freight train go by? The shear volume of raw goods is kind of staggering.
Just before lunch I passed a big coal loading facility. They take coal from barges, load it on trucks, which then roll right through downtown Chester IL. So I had about 6 miles of bad shoulders and big coal trucks thundering by. Not fun. The drivers gave me lots of room when they could, but when 2 meet, its plain unnerving. Glad to be done with that. I did pick up a souvenir lump of coal. I think it’s actually the first time I’ve seen raw coal. It’s lighter than I expected, more like wood than a rock, which makes sense.
I passed a closed factory this morning too that was falling down – they used to make aluminum siding and it reminded me of just how many closed factories I’ve seen, how many downtowns are vacant. I feel that one of the biggest impressions I’m getting from this trip is that I’m really concerned for our economy on a macro scale. It’s hard to talk to people about climate change when so many are struggling. It’s another one of those things that I “knew” before starting this trip, but I’m gaining a real appreciation for seeing it first hand. The communities that are thriving all have some real economic driver behind them, and a lot of our cities and rural areas don’t have that.
I keep thinking about the Amish and how prosperous their community seemed. They all make things and sell them to each other and to us. But so much of the things that we buy are factory-made overseas – we’re constantly shipping money out of the country. Makes me want to buy and Amish coffee table, instead of one at IKEA. But I won’t go on a total “America First” crusade – it’s our responsibility to make good quality stuff. I’ll buy an American car when they make one that’s worth the money (actually I have a deposit down for a Tesla 3, the cheap Tesla, made in America and coming out next year).
The other thing that is hard to convey in pictures is just how lush and impenetrable the forests of southern Missouri are. I can’t imagine how Indians or early settlers got through.
Big props to Farmington MO! The city is very interested in keeping their downtown vital, which it seems to be. they have even set up a hostel where I’m staying tonight that is just fantastic. It’s a cool loft space with laundry, wifi, a fridge, small kitchen, and bunks all for $20 a night. It’s called “Al’s Place” in honor of a Farmington cyclist who was a big supporter of the cycling community here.