This is a multi-part trip report. If you haven’t already, you should start at the beginning. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to see larger versions of them.
We briefly rename this trip “Tour de Places that HAVE NO FOOD.” The old restaurant in Tebbetts is closed this morning. Hoping for breakfast in a few miles, we hit the trail. But Wainwright is only a sign in the road, there’s nothing more than wild mulberries at the trailhead in North Jefferson.
The Claysville store is only open on weekends, and none of the three restaurants in Hartsburg served lunch today. Disappointed and hungry, we dig snacks out of our bags and then took a nap on the cool concrete in front of a vacant bike shop.
Everything is covered in dirt. Our bikes have a thick layer of light grey dust, and our panniers are filthy. Our water bottles taste like dirt. Bryan keeps getting tiny pieces of gravel stuck in his pannier clips, so that either he can’t get the bags on the bike, or he can’t get them off.
In Wilston, the funny little store is closed but the owner is just across the road “getting ready for the flood” so he unlocks Riverview Traders and sells us cold drinks. There’s high water moving quickly down the Mississippi, already breaking levees in Iowa. The water may be worse this year than in 1993. We head for Coopers Landing, having heard that they serve Thai food and cheap beer.
We finally pull in to Cooper’s around four, hot and tired and ready to eat. The guidebook’s made this place sound like a busy place with great food, but there’s only a scruffy, creepy campground. The Thai place, actually an old motor home with a broken sign, wasn’t open. We finally find a door into what seems to be either the front of a store or the back of the store. We choose some snacks, since actual food isn’t available – but no one ever arrives to help us. We see men in the next room, and even wave at them when they look up, but they stay in their recliners. Finally I open the door, and one of them waves vaguely in my direction and says ‘just leave money on the counter.”
Finally, we eat the first actual meal of the day at nearly 6 pm, at Lucy’s Bar in McBaine. It has air conditioning, chairs, a table, and a smartass waitress. I love the feeling of small-town bars in the middle of the day. While we devour burgers and pie, a little boy flaps in the front door carrying a homemade bow and arrow. He’s told he can’t shoot inside, and he goes out the back. A mom with a preschooler and a baby arrives, orders a beer, and smokes a cigarette at the bar while feeding the little one in a highchair. The older girl runs out to get a bag of ice for the waitress. A young man comes in, moves the pool table, and leaves without saying a word. Another boy, older than the first one, comes through the back door dragging a stick along the floor. “What are you doing with that?” “Cade’s gonna make me a bow, too!” And he wanders out the front, as if dragging a large stick through a restaurant is the sort of thing he does every day of his life.
We end the day at Katfish Katy’s, a simple campground in a cleared field on the river. The bathrooms are clean, and there are trees for the hammocks at the water’s edge. We say hello to the other cyclists in camp, a man named Chad and his nine-year-old daughter, Sophie. It’s still warm but there’s a brisk breeze off the river, and it’s shady. We set up, do our laundry in the bathroom sink, and finally have some time to lay in the hammocks and watch the river go by. Chad comes back from their ride to Lucy’s with three beers, and we sit and talk to the other cyclists who’ve just arrived before taking showers and going to bed.