By Ed Chasteen
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” -Iris Murdoch, writer (1919-1999)
An Unplanned Day
I’m about a mile from home when my bike phone rings. Rich Willet wants to go for a ride. Rich was an army major, then a Ford Exec. Troops to Teachers it’s called: the program that will take him to Savanah, MO this fall and begin his new career as an English teacher. Rich had sent me an email a few days back. Said he wanted to pick my brain.
“Meet me where 291 and Ruth Ewing intersect. We’ll ride to Orrick.” I say. Old 210 is quiet. We get to know each other. Rich is one of 13 children. Grew up on a Kentucky farm between New Haven and New Hope. His father was a WW II veteran. He died when Rich was young. “My mother could do more with a dollar than anybody I ever knew,” Rich says when I ask how they made it.”
“There was a monastery near our farm. Called Gethsemane.”
“Hey, that’s where Thomas Merton was.” I yell. A Trappist monk. Wrote The Seven Story Mountain. An amazing book. I’ve been to that monastery.”
“I used to ride my horse on their farm,” Rich says, “and swim in their pond. The monks built us a house. Nothing fancy, but bigger than we had.”
We have just passed the Orrick sign when we exit 210 on Z, and spot a billboard announcing the Annual Potato Festival. “Anybody around here grow potatoes anymore I ask Donald,” one of the regulars, when we get to Fubbler’s Cove. “Maybe in their gardens.” The festival is a reminder of days long past.
“You have to be home any certain time, Rich?” He says no. “Let’s ride on to Richmond. Take the scenic route on old 210, now called T, thru Fleming and Camden. Maybe Henrietta.” Rich is agreeable.
John is behind the counter at Casey’s when we get to Henrietta. He and Rich discover a St. Joe connection. John moved here to raise his kids in a small town. I’m 15 cents short when I pay for three granola bars. “I’ve got some change on my bike. I’ll run get it,” I say to John. “Don’t bother, I’ve gotcha covered,” he says.
The new Highway 13 has been finished since I was here last: two south bound and two north bound lanes, wide smooth shoulders. We find Jerry and Ellen both in their office at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. They both have hosted our Greater Liberty Ride for MS. Jerry is a former high school history teacher. He has some bits of wisdom to share with Rich. Ellen recently replaced Jerry as Executive Director of the Chamber when he retired.
Passing back thru Orrick about 4 o’clock, we stop at a service station to fill our water bottles and use their restroom. We leave 210 at the eastern edge of Missouri City and ride to their school. Smallest AAA School in Missouri. That’s what the sign says. At the school we turn right and back to 210.
It’s almost 6:30 when we get home. A 70-mile day. Rich comes home with me to meet Bobbie. “You look a lot younger than Ed,” Rich says to Bobbie. She likes him.