Monday, June 1, 2009

St. Mary, MO to Garnett, KS: Acting Like a Total Asshole and Other Stories

Miles Per Day: Day 27=43.36; Day 28=REST; Day 29=REST; Day 30=69.84; Day 31=60.94; Day 32=64.06; Day 33=47.38; Day 34=58.35; Day 35=46.30

Total So Far: 1,555.76

Inspiration: the humming and silent grunts of Glenn Gould in the Goldberg Variations recording; Dairy Queen ice cream; Johnny Cash's guitar in the Folsom Prison live album; Wilco; the instrumental in Dire Straits' On Every Street.

Spirits: calculating; inspired; fired up; strong; understanding.

Things Seen On the Road: more and more snakes crossing the road; a perfect rainbow; a replica of the General Lee car from the Dukes of Hazard; more Amish caravans.

Favorite Quotes: (1) female resident of a small town in MO to me at 6:15 am while drinking a beer: “Turn around...I want to see your ass!” (2) Gloria who was doing her laundry next to me somewhere in Festus, Mo: [paraphrasing] “I've had a hard time recently, but I'm going to keep on going. No matter what.”

I've had my first bad moment on this trip. All things considered, it wasn't such a big deal. If anything, it showed me that I can still act like a total asshole on a moment's notice.

It was at a cafe/bar somewhere near St. Mary, MO. I entered as I always do, wearing my bike helmet, biking shorts and a tight biking t-shirt. I was disheveled, sweaty and totally out of place. Usually, if I even get a reaction from locals it's because they are merely curious. Almost always someone comes by and asks where I am going, where I have been, if I have a place to stay, etc...It's these conversations that have made this trip so amazing and memorable.

Things didn't go quite as smoothly this time. The place was pretty empty, save for the waitress and some guys sitting at the end of the bar. As soon as I walked in, the waitress looked up and stared at me with some derision. I sat down on the bar and in a courteous, cheery manner asked for a menu. She seemed annoyed but slowly walked over with a menu before going back to talk to the locals at the other end of the bar. She never asked me if I wanted something to drink and since I was totally dehydrated I walked over and asked if I could get a glass of water. She rolled her eyes and said she would get me one in a minute. Twenty minutes later I walked over and asked for a glass of water again. With a pained look in her eyes she grabbed a glass and filled it with sink water. I took the opportunity to order food right there and then.

After I was served (about 45 minutes later), I looked around and realized I didn't have any utensils. Once again, I walked over and asked for utensils. The pained look on her face returned as she gathered a knife and fork and put them down on the bar. After I was done eating I asked politely for the check. “Huh?” she asked. “I was just wondering if you could give me the check?” She looked deliberately confused and very annoyed. “What?!” “Could I please get the check so that I can pay,” I said very slowly. “Check? Oh, you mean the bill.” She had a slight grin on her face as she wrote up the check and gave it to me.

By this point, I was pretty pissed. I got out just the right amount of cash for the bill, walked over to where she was standing and talking to the other locals. She looked up at me with a slight grin on her face. I put the check down on the bar with my cash and said: “Thank you very much. The food was fantastic.” I then took out a $20 bill out of my pocket and put it down forcefully on the bar so that everyone could see it. “And this is just a little something for you.” The grin on her face disappeared instantly as she looked down on the $20 bill. She looked completely shocked. I felt everyone else at the bar stare at the bill as well.

Without missing a beat I turned around and walked to the door. As I was walking out, a sheepish voice behind me yell, “thank you sir! Have a great trip!” I said nothing as I slammed the door behind me.

Being an asshole aside, I am still collecting some pretty amazing stories:

*Being Sexually Harassed: It was about 6:00 am when I walked into a diner looking for some breakfast. Two women were sitting by the bar nursing a beer and laughing uncontrollably. I sat nearby and we started talking. Turns out that one of them is battling breast cancer and has 5 kids that she hasn't seen in years. We talked about family, death, travel and everything in between. As I was leaving, she asked me how old I was. When I told her my age she said that I was only one year older than one of her sons. She then demanded that I turn around so that she could touch my ass. Somewhat nervously, I complied. After a good amount of sexual harassment I asked for a photo:

*Perfect Rainbow: It had been raining off and on for most of the day. I was heading down to a public park near Jefferson City, MO to camp when I spotted the most perfect rainbow I had seen in years. It ended over a lake right next to the park. What an amazing moment.

*Turtle Rescue: Turtles seem to cross the road on a pretty regular basis and more often than not become roadkill before they get to the other side. The sad truth is that I see at least a dozen turtle shells on the road each and every day. On my way to Sedalia I actually spotted a turtle slowly coming out of the brush. I hit my breaks, picked up the critter and deposited him on the other side of the road. I hope you guys would have done the same.

*Dehydration Danger: Somewhere near Sedalia, MO I lost the cap on one of my three water bottles. Heading to the Kansas border I found myself in a pretty scary situation. The terrain was surprisingly hilly, the dreaded Western winds started picking up, and the heat was unbearable. Within two hours I had run out of water and still had to bike 15 miles in order to reach Drexel, MO. It was tough, but I eventually reached Drexel where I had about a gallon of Gatorade at a gas station. I swore to be better prepared the next time around.


Crossing the Ohio River into Illinois [this was a video I wanted to include in my last trip post but didn't have the bandwidth to upload when I finalized that post]:

Biking on an Interstate. Don't try this at home:

Marshlands in Western Missouri:



spiritualastronomer said...

Great pictures. Have you seen any armadillos on the road yet?

George and Kerri said...

Love your update! FWIW, I don't think you were an asshole. Had you stiffed the waitress a tip, then...maybe.

And I ALWAYS brake for turtles and give them a hand across the road while biking! I have also stopped traffic to assist turtles while in my police cruiser. With overhead lights on. And spotlight.

Dorothy said...

I don't get it -- why do you show other people's faces but not your own?

Jennoit said...

Great stuff Jack!

Carrie said...

My tortoise Merlin thanks you for braking for his cousins! =D

Fonk said...

I don't think you can call giving $20 to someone who looked down upon on you and intentionally gave you crappy service, "being an asshole." That was amazingly nice, not matter how you did it.

Unknown said...

Definitely not an a-hole. You didn't curse her out, you didn't make her life hell, you didn't do anything.....If anything, it was her that was treating you like a transient that earned her the appropriate nickname.

dtb said...

I can see why you felt like an asshole. But you didn't act like one. You were treated very poorly. And having waited tables for several years, I have never been so well-treated as to get a 200% tip.

What you did was perhaps dishonest, which is why I think you *feel* like you were an asshole. Because if you had been honest, you would have told your server that her actions were, if nothing else, unprofessional. But instead you played a bit of a head game.

However, it was effective, and it was actually wierdly kind. So I don't think you did anything wrong.

Dewey said...

On behalf of tortoises everywhere, we thank you.



Julia said...

It doesn't sound like you were an a-hole to me. Rather, you made a choice to be kind to someone who clearly needed a lesson in kindness. You were able to leave with your head held high and peace of mind. Peace of mind, in my opinion, is the end-all, be-all of living a life of simplicity. Good for you!

Jerry Critter said...

Great stories, Jack. I think giving the waitress $20 is great. Personally, I probably would have stiffed her, but I think your response is one she will remember for a long time, although it probably will not change her behavior.

Too bad you can't go back in a month or so and see what she does this time.

Nicole said...

So has the turtle become your traveling sidekick?

Anonymous said...

I did a 100 mile loop from my house, that included a two mile stretch of interstate that Pennsylvania has graciously labeled Bike Route J. It wasn't near as fun as I thought it would be. To avoid the rumble strips you have to ride wide right, right where all the road debris is deposited. Left side of the rumble strips are usually clear, but then you have to cross the rumble strips when a car comes up. So although we do this ride quite frequently, once you do it once, you don't look forward to that portion of the ride. I can also give you some pointers on how to be a bigger asshole. Pointers that won't leave you $20 poorer.

Your blogs a great read, keep it up.

Jill Homer said...

St. Mary, Mo. is the town where a policeman kicked us out at 1 in the morning for camping in a city park during my bike tour. The park had RV hookups and everything, no signs that said "No Camping," and nearly every other town before that offered camping in the park. Kind of a rough area for hospitality, in my opinion.

Jack said...


Yes. Unfortunately, all have been right on the side of the road after becoming roadkill.


That is quite a commitment for those turtles:)


I'm still anonymous on this blog. Every person in the pics you are seeing gave me their express permission to be on the blog.

Jack said...


Thanks. When am I seeing you on the road?


You tell Merlin I said no problem.


I take your point. I guess I do see myself as being a royal asshole in that I got super angry at someone who clearly is disadvantaged (this is a pretty poor part of MO) and expressed it in a way that made me feel as if I was better than her. I used money to "show" her up. I hope that makes sense.

Jack said...


Thanks for the nice thoughts. Do see my comment to Fonk above though. It was pretty shitty, even if the effect was positive.


You probably got closer to the issue than anyone else. It was definitely a head game. Have to stop thinking like that and get beyond being an asshole.


I'm glad I could be of service.

Jack said...


See my response to Fonk above. That's just it. I wasn't being kind. I was being an asshole because I got angry. Maybe the act was technically kind, but a measure of humiliation was my intention.


Definitely made an impression. You are right about that.

@Mss Scorpio,

Naw. Just deposited him on the other side of the road right after taking that photo.

Jack said...


Thanks for describing every 3rd day of this trip or so. That's a big problem, particularly when I go off route and it's unclear what kind of shoulder I will have to work with. Thanks for commenting.


Wow, there must be something up with that town. What are the chances, huh? BTW, loving your last month of postings. Love it when you mix it up outside of the Alaskan snow.


The Executioner said...

I was recently in TX to visit a dying relative and had to travel back and forth down a 15-mile stretch of road 4 times a day. It was covered with turtles (tortoises?). It wasn't a particularly busy stretch of highway, but the speed limit was 70 MPH and I think people got hypnotized by the long straight road. I got sick of seeing turtles crushed on the road, so I started watching closely for them. I can happily report saving one who was on the center stripe and would likely have become flattened by the oncoming traffic if not for my actions.

Also, not trying to jinx you here, but how many flat tires have you gotten (if any) on the trip so far?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have missed you in Sedalia and Windsor! By the way, it is mating season for the turtles so they are very active now. I see so many turtles on the roadway on my daily commute. I always want to rescue each one.

In Windsor, I think there are 45 Amish families in the area. On Monday 6/1, an Amish house was destroyed by fire. I saw only the studs remaining. By last night 6/3, the house was back together with walls and a roof. I saw about 10 Amish men putting the metal roof on. They are an amazing community of people.


ps I'll let you know if I find your bottle cap.

PleaseRecycle said...

Came across this story:

and I thought "Maybe Jack did start a revolution!"

Glad you're enjoying the ride so far...

Jack said...

@The executioner,

Love your dedication to turtle rights. And to answer your question: so far only 3. All have been for the rear wheel. It might be the weight on the back, but I suspect that the wheel itself may have a problem.


Good to hear from you. So, I'm assuming you are now on the road. Email me; maybe we can hook up somewhere on the road.


Heard about that on the news. I think it's a pretty neat idea. Good that a church is giving money away; goes against the grain of what is expected.