No Hurry Missouri
I’ve now been on the road for a month. I’ve gotten a little ahead on my timeline, putting me in range of Colorado a week or so early. The only destination between here and Boulder is Kansas City, so I’ve been taking my time to explore
I spent two nights at Sutton Bluff, a lovely little ATV campground just north of Centerville, Missouri. It was the first maintained campsite I’d stayed in on the NO2SEA leg of the trip, and I think I’ll have to do a little more of it. Stealth camping is nice as a financial and creative thing, searching out a spot that you believe you’ll be invisible for 6-10 hours. But I definitely slept a lot sounder knowing it was alright for me to be there. I pulled into the campsite around 11A.M., the earliest I’d gotten off the road in a long time. I’d spent so much of the trip focused on covering ground, but now that I’m almost half way back to Seattle I am much more at ease taking time to see what’s off the beaten path.
The campground was situated on a pretty little bend in the Black River, which was the first freshwater I’d gotten in since September. Growing up with lakes, rivers & streams in Washington, I was feeling a little landlocked watching the murky Mississippi flow by in New Orleans, knowing there wasn’t a natural body of water within a hundred miles that I’d be comfortable swimming in. At the campground every hour or two I’d skip down to the river to cool off, watching the giant fish swimming out in the deep and wishing I knew more about fishing. I checked out some of the nearby ATV trails, most of them just gravel roads, but a few of them were quite hairy, with tracks deep enough for my side cases to scrape along the edges of the ruts. I turned around after going a short ways down, deciding to wait until I have a riding partner with me before I go beating up the steed I expect to carry me at 60mph the next day. I don’t know what it’s like to get stranded miles out in the bush, and I think I’ll save that experience for another day.
The camp concessionaire was a very friendly man in his fifties with a kind smile and a open, sociable personality. He wasn’t around until the second day, but after the initial meet and greet, he returned to inquire about me being a magician. He said he had a few young boys at home, and he asked if I’d do some magic for them. I happily agreed, as I was already considering entertaining the family of four across the camp. Later on that evening, he told the rest of the campers that there would be a show at the pavilion, which gathered a crowd of 10 or so.
It was a blast performing in a completely different venue than what I was used to. Here I was, a lone traveler, 10 miles off a remote highway, laughing and smiling with three families I didn’t know. I felt super comfortable with them, and the show went great. The camp concessionaire returned my money from the first night and let me stay the second night at no cost. We ended up sitting outside his camper and chatting for a good while afterwards.
He’d been a machinist for 32 years before stumbling upon this gig. It paid dramatically less than his previous career, but what fascinated me was that it was so apparent from his attitude that he was exactly where he wanted to be. Tending to that camp was his full-time job 7 months out of the year, the other 5 he had to himself. A dozen hours a week was all it took to keep the camp tidy, and he did an exceptional job, going so far as to provide soft-serve ice cream at $1.50 a cone, dipped or undipped. He loved what he did, and was one of the very few people I’d met in my travels that could honestly say that. The tranquility of the wilderness was balanced by the plethora of interesting people he’d meet through the camp ground, and he was content as can be.
At one point, he was offered a job by a Boeing executive that was impressed by his knowledge of the machining practices in airline production. The job paid over five times what he was making at the camp ground. He turned it down without a second thought. “Once you get past the need and the want stages, you realize none of that stuff matters all that much”. This man was a real inspiration, no reason mores than the fact that he was truly happy with how he spent his time. I couldn’t stop thinking about the quote “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?”. I went back to my camp with a smile and an ice cream cone, and stared into the fire for a few hours before crawling into my tent to sleep.
The next morning as I came back up from the river, I looked at my bike and my tent and couldn’t help but bust out a goofy grin. Two years ago, this lifestyle was a dream. For months and months I held the image in my mind and watched as the pieces fell together. In the last 10 months I’ve gone coast-to-coast and made magic on both. Being a street magician, I’ve seen the best and worse parts of human nature. But without a doubt, the amount of generosity and appreciation I’ve been shown vastly outweighs the insults and discrimination.
I left Sutton Bluff and headed to the Lakes of the Ozark region. I checked out the State Park campsite, and remembered why I generally avoid them; tons of spaces a few dozen feet apart, cars driving by constantly, airplanes overhead. I sat for an hour without unpacking, jumped back on the bike and went to check out another area. I found a nice campsite a few miles out of town, and their primitive sites were completely unoccupied. I got a beautiful forested area to myself, where I sat by the fire and sang away the evening.
This morning I rose with the sun, made coffee and had breakfast before filming my first speaking video of the trip. I believe I’ll be transitioning into including more video-blogging (“vlogging”). I likely have close to a hundred hours of footage from my GoPro’s, but I’ve just been stashing them on my external hard drive since they take so long to edit and upload. I’m getting super excited to share some of the sights and stories I’ve experienced over the last year.
There’s a Hot Summer Nights event happening here in Ozark Lakes, showcasing cars and motorcycles, and I’m going to attempt to show up and work it. Tomorrow I’ll head towards Kansas City, where a carburetor rebuild kit will arrive someone Monday or Tuesday. Until then I’ll be kicking it within the city if I find hosts, or camping on the outskirts if I can’t.
Thanks for joining me <3