Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

St. Joseph, MO -- the Jumping Off Point

I said goodbye to Arkansas today, and vowed to come back and ride some more.  It's really quite nice here.  I made it as far as St. Joseph, MO tonight, about 330 miles from Fayetteville, AR.  I was thinking maybe I'd make it as far as Council Bluffs, IA, but the heat got to me, and I stopped 100 or so miles short.  That's OK, it will give me time to explore a bit here and hit Council Bluffs too, then head due West towards home.  St. Joseph is the traditional historical jumping off point for the early wagon trains west, as well as the Pony Express, and the Louis and Clark expedition, so it makes sense for this to be the point where I more or less turn West as well and start heading that way too.

Fayetteville is one of three towns in a row that make up a mini-metro area -- one of the other towns is Bentonville.  Home of Wal Mart.  Now, I have nothing against Wal Mart, unlike so many of my elitist Seattle friends.  They are just another giant store, I don't like shopping in them per se, the quality of stuff isn't that good, and the clientele leave much to be desired (see ) But they are a business success and their stores are everywhere in the South.  They have a huge campus of buildings in Bentonville, and I motored past it and turned NW and headed up into the lower corner of Missouri.  Arkansas is somewhat a dry state, and so right at the state line -- just like between Utah and Nevada with casinos -- is a liquor store.   I expect, like the little convenience store in Franklin, Idaho just over the Utah state line, it sells per-capital the most booze like the Idaho store sells lottery tickets.
I love riding along the Missouri river bottoms, it's cool, and very pretty, with these limestone bluffs rising above.  The road I was on twisted and turned and worked its way to Joplin, MO.   I'd been in Joplin two years ago on my Route 66 ride, but this year as I motored into town there were huge chunks of the town that were, for lack of a better way to describe it, missing.   They had a big tornado a while back that took out a hospital and a large swath of town, and the vacant lots, half standing buildings, and piles of bricks and lumber were what was left. 

The Mother Road -- Route 66 -- runs through Joplin, and I decided to take a little stretch of it again, this time going West into Kansas.   I have to confess, I toyed with the idea of staying on 66 and going back that way since I enjoyed it so much two years ago heading East, but I wanted to tick off the last two states on my list, as well as ride the Pony Express/Mormon pioneer trail to Salt Lake, and if I missed SLC, there would be hell to pay from the family.  But the short stretch I was on reminded me how much I enjoyed that 2000 mile linear ghost town -- whether it's been "restored", like that little Esso station, or left to crumble like this school/church, it's all a reminder of what was.
I turned off of old 66 at US 69 and headed North.  This highway runs due North about 10 miles inside of Kansas, paralleling the border and is as straight as the border is too.   Try riding for 130 miles without a curve.  It's really exciting I have to say.   I'm not exaggerating either.  There was not a single curve along the ride between Riverton and Overland Park on the outskirts of Kansas City.   It was hot, with a constant Easterly wind blowing me about.  There are times when I don't enjoy the ride -- this was one time.  And to top it off, I hit Kansas City right at 5pm.   Nothing says "whoopee" like strange city rush hours.  I decided to take the I-435 loop around the city (I know, hell froze over), but figured it was better than trying to navigate the city at rush hour.

Kansas City is one major city I've not explored at all, but I think I might like to one day -- especially the giant roller coaster park on the North East side of the city.  Why Seattle and the PNW don't have an amusement park has always been a mystery to me, but I digress.   On the North side I exited off the dreaded freeway and picked up US 169 for a 50 mile run into St. Joseph.  It was a relief to be off the freeway and back onto country roads, winding along the Platte River.  The names all started sounding familiar from US and Mormon history and the countryside was quite beautiful.  It finally cooled off and the wind died down, and I pulled into St. Joseph about 640pm. 
This is a nice old city, but the downtown seems rather abandoned.   The desk clerk recommended a cool steak place in an old brownstone up the road, so after showering off the road grime I motored up.  The waitress told me "everything was made with love", and kept asking me if  I "could taste the love".  Well, yes, they had  nice homemade dressing on the salad and one of the best steaks I've had in a long time.

The weather tomorrow calls for a 40% chance of rain as I head up into Iowa and across into Nebraska, but it's also supposed to be cooler which is nice.  Time to start heading West and home.

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