Stations Along the Track
July 18, 2013
“I am not blocking your wind, am I?” he asked as he pulled himself out of his car.
“Oh, no. Better yet, you are blocking my sun” I exclaimed!
The girl and I had arisen early in our attempt to beat the heat, developing the pattern of awaking when the birds first started singing so we could get in as many miles as possible before it was too hot for her to safely, comfortably be in the trailer.
We had also developed the habit of eating breakfast on the curb together; mine a sandwich from a local convenience store, hers a water-gravy treat of Iam’s.
His conversation starter had been as pleasant as what I had a few mornings earlier when a man in a newer model sports car pulled up beside us and asked me if my dog was friendly. After responding, “Of course,” he asked if he could pet her.
After a few cursory strokes, he asked, “May I help you?” When I looked askance, he added, “With money or anything?”
My off-colored responses stuck on the tip of my tongue, but the question made me immediately realize he had either mistaken me for a prostitute (who knows what role Stink would have played in that scenario) or a transient.
That had been the first time, or at least of which I am aware, that I had been mistaken as homeless. When I explained my objectives, he laughed embarrassedly, added, “Well, this certainly is a good way to see the country,” and hurriedly left as though it were a crime scene.
After finishing breakfast, I always slip into the store once more to assure that I won’t have to play the role of a biking cornfield inspector because of my morning coffee. As I did, I noted the driver of my morning’s shade had been joined by a number of other locals, including the one I had met the night before in Arcadia who had provided the detailed directions to the next hundred miles of local parks, useful information since most of the state tour information offices had been closed because of my restricted hours of travel.
I met a few other local farmers, all gathered at the convenience store for their morning coffee and local news feed. They informed me the reason U.S. Highway 30 is dotted with small towns every 8-10 miles is because each town had once served as a train station, and that I had chosen my route well because it was flat, the same reason the railroad ran along the same course.
After noting that I had made slower progress than I had originally planned, my tractor-driving tour guide added, “You would make better time if you didn’t stop for these kinds of conversations, you know.”
“You are going to mention us in your book, right?” my sun block added.
“Absolutely,” I replied, adding, “these are exactly the stories I am gathering along my journey. And if conversations like this take up a little more of time, I know I am doing my job well.”
As I left, I realized that while the convenience store may not be as picturesque as the train stations once were, they served the same purpose: providing locals with a place to hear the latest news and aiding passers-by with a welcome respite from their travels.
For those I have met, I am glad our tracks have crossed, even if I do have to pause at the intersections along the way.