Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 22 Mississippi Crossing Clarence, MO – Pittsfield, IL 89 miles

Today I crossed the big river. It felt good. I felt like I had gotten somewhere, a landmark by which I could judge my progress. A river this big makes one pause. It was a scene to behold as I peered southward down the serpentine river body. I thought of how far I was from its Minnesota forested beginnings, and how far I was from its Gulf terminus. If it could talk, the old Mississippi would have a lot of tales to tell, about floods and droughts, spills and clean-ups, and lives it has touched. Mark Twain was one.

I have always been taken by rivers. They just seem alive to me. It must be their motion. The more turbulent the river, the more it captures me. I think the same goes for the rest of us. Big waterfalls grab our attention more than slow, serpentine backwaters. I have been at the very top trickle of two mighty American rivers, the Green and the Hudson. At the top of each, I wondered how many character changes each undergoes before it merges with another, or before it rests at the ocean.

Today was a good day not just because I crossed the Mississippi but because I got absolutely pasted by heat and headwind. I say this is good, because I was forced to resign myself to the fact that the weather give and also take, and my legs are feeling pretty tired. I just had to go slow the whole day – in the morning on account of a 30 mile long gravel shoulder and in the afternoon on account of temps and winds. In western Illinois, I traveled a back road and saw familiar things: deer drinking from a stream, a big red tailed hawk circling the skies, and my first sugar maple trees of the trip. The road (Illinois 106) kindof had that New England feel to it with its well maintained farmsteads. Things felt familiar again. The town where I found a campground for the night - Pittsfield - has a pulse. The county courthouse in the town square is as stately a building as I have seen on the trip. Finally…east of the mighty Mississippi.

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