On my recent bicycle journey from Kansas to Annapolis, I met quite a few really interesting folks. I’m doing a series of posts on these wonderful and interesting people, and this is an installment in that series. While there are others I met along the way as well, these are the ones who I was able to spend enough time with to get a feel for their story.
The Cat Lady of Hartsburg, MO
The pre-dawn air drips with moisture as I roll onto US50 headed east out of Warrensburg. It’s a warm wetness, not really rain, but a light mist that keeps the pavement damp.
I’d expected a reasonable road, good shoulder, and reasonably light traffic. I built this expectation by talking to a local cyclist in Sedalia.
At 30 minutes before sunrise, the highway is packed solid with two eastbound lanes of people driving fast. While I have blinking lights on my back, the foggy mist and pre-dawn poor visibility makes me pretty nervous. I stay as far to the right as I can on the shoulder, even though this means I’m riding through all sorts of “junk” strewn along the pavement – most of it invisible to me in the poor light.
This is the downside of shoulders for bicycles. The shoulders are a magnet for all the glass and pieces of metal and all the other detritus of our motorized culture. These things aren’t gonna be a problem for most modern-day car and truck tires, but the consequence they bring to the cyclist is quite predictable.
So, after 10 or 15 miles, I’m standing on the side of the road changing a flat tire, while cars fly past me spraying mist all over me. Interestingly, a young woman pulls off the road to ask if I need help. Nice. I assure her I have it under control, and thank her for her concern. That’s a pretty unusual gesture – for someone in a car to pull off to ask a cyclist if they need help.
A new tube, and I’m off and running, (or rolling). The sun’s peeked through some eastern clouds now, and the mist has stopped. The traffic volume has slowed down a bit, so I feel more comfortable staying out on the edge of the shoulder, where I can avoid some of the sharp stuff.
I’m ready for breakfast by the time I’m rolling through the back streets of Sedalia. There’s a little dive called the Sunrise Cafe, so I lean my bike against the front window, and walk in to a room full of cigarette smoke.
It takes me by such surprise that I just stand there for a minute, looking at a couple both smoking as they drink coffee. It strikes me that Missouri must not have outlawed smoking in restaurants yet, so I better just buck up and accept it.
Everyone in the place seems to know each other – my kind of breakfast place! Sure I’m an unusual site for ‘em – all decked out in spandex and a helmet with blinking lights – but everyone is good and friendly. The waitress seems really concerned that I need a big breakfast, and brings me two plates stacked high with food could easily feed five people. I eat about half of it, (that’s enough for two or three people), and she wonders if it isn’t good, since I didn’t eat it all. No, I assure her, it was wonderful. Then I look around, and notice that I probably weigh half of what anyone else in the place weighs. They feed their customers well at the Sunrise Cafe!
At the far end of Sedalia, I get off the road completely, and jump onto the Katy Trail. The Katy is one of the most well-known rail-trails in the country – nearly spanning the entire state of Missouri. It’s not paved, so not ideal for road tires like mine, but it’s packed hard enough with fine enough material that the ride is reasonable.
The Katy is beautiful across this section northeast of Sedalia – at least the part of it that I see. I miss some of it due to a mechanical problem that requires a bike shop. But I end the day in Hartsburg, along the Missouri River. I meet friends there, and we stay in the old Globe Hotel.
Now, I doubt if the Globe was ever really a hotel. Maybe it was, or maybe it’s just an old house. It’s packed with character, as is the proprietor, Jeanette, who I’ve heard referred to as the cat lady of hartsburg. You would not want to stay here if you have a cat allergy, as there are LOTS of cats around. But it’s a fun little place to stay along the trail.
By the end of breakfast the next morning, Jeanette has shared a lot about her life and her journey as the proprietor of this old place. She’s someone who’s seen a good bit of life from a lot of perspectives, and has always found a way to stay on the side that’s floating above water. A wonderful woman and a delightful hostess.
An interesting little tidbit about the town of Hartsburg. They must get a good bit of traffic from the trail – enough to support a couple different inns. We’re there on a Thursday night, and it seems that all the dining establishments in town have decided that Thursday night is a dining holiday. There are 3 or 4 places to eat, but they ALL close on Thursday. The local bar has frozen pizza’s, so we chow down on a couple of these before they run out – which the apparently usually do on Thursday nights.
Wouldn’t ‘ya think that the restaurants would want to spread their “closed” days across the week? It would just make sense, as then each of them would get a competition-free day, and travelers would always be able to eat.
Funny the quirks you run across in the way people do business…