Oh, how the times is changin’. For the last three days, we have had two new members on our team. Our dear friend Kate drove up from Kentucky with her dog Mo, to shadow us for a week.
This is the first time since leaving the Atlantic coast that we have had a support vehicle, and it is a pretty big change in our daily routine. The biggest benefit is that we can let the dogs rest during the heat of the days this summer, which will keep them safe and free us up to keep walking when it’s hot. The car can also carry a bigger supply of water as we move through less populated areas. The mental strain of worrying about hot dogs and heavy water has been lifted, and it is a huge change.
Outside of Fairview, we met a string of people on the road who wanted to help us out. Gloria paid for our lunch at the local cafe, John Smith offered encouragement from his bicycle seat, and Paula offered us a yard to camp in, a home grilled meal, and a shower on the far side of Ellisville. We hung out with her son, Nate, his wife, Meredith, and their ridiculously adorable daughter, Elanor. She’s one of those kids that really makes me want one. Cute little monkey.
The next day, we stopped under some shade in Walnut Grove, and the local Riden Farm Supply company offered us lunch in their air-conditioned break room.
After a night of not-so-stealth camping, we hoofed it to La Harpe – the last town before we reach the Mississippi. Kate had driven ahead and made friends at the Cookie’s Diner, and when we arrived they bought us lunch. The owner, Cookie, interviewed us for the local paper while we crushed through delicious diner fare.
Cookie’s grandson, Mili, does most if the cooking. He offered us a place to stay for the night, and eventually bought us dinner when we returned to the diner. Feeling like we were being given too much, I insisted on paying the check for our second meal. Mili laughed and said, “Your money doesn’t work here.” If he hadn’t been giving us a free meal, I could have taken it differently.
So we ate and did laundry and went to the local swimming pool to use their showers. This morning, we start walking the last 17 miles to the Mississippi River, where we will cross into Iowa and leave hospitable Illinois behind us. It’s been a good state. Not saying goodbye, just saying.