Days 42+43, to Davisdale, to Higginsville: Meeting the real rambling man - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

June 3, 2022 to June 4, 2022

Days 42+43, to Davisdale, to Higginsville: Meeting the real rambling man

Friday stats

Start: The river's edge, Portland, Mo.

End: Just north of the Katy Trail, Davisdale, Mo.

The Daily Progress: 66.37 miles

The Ascension: 443 feet

Ice cream flavors: N/A

Lodging expenses: 0. A hidden spot off the trail that "Casey" showed me.

Food expenses: $27. Delicious chicken tacos and elote, plus some snacks, at the campground where I decided not to stay

Saturday stats

Start: Davisdale, Mo.

End: The Classic Motel, Higginsville, Mo.

The Daily Progress: 77.84 miles

The Ascension: 2,635 feet

Ice cream flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter Overload

Food expenses: $33

Lodging expenses: $68

Friday-Saturday ramblings: The real rambling man

I was heading for a campground just shy of Boonville, on course to have pedalled more than 70 miles for the day. I saw a cool stone tunnel ahead, which had been mentioned earlier on a sign along the Katy Trail as the only tunnel on the trail. That's when I first saw him. Or, more accurately, that when I first saw his rig.

The bike was so heavily loaded that I thought it was a tandem kind of setup with an enclosed electric wheelchair in the back. That is how bulky it was. But he was far enough ahead of me that I couldn't tell what he was riding. A guy heading the opposite direction stared blatantly at him as he passed and then looked ahead and saw me noticing his reaction, and he smiled. We were both kind of mystified.

I stopped to photograph the bridge and the man riding the giant rig stopped, too, and got off his bike and bent over to talk to whoever was in the back. "Huh, so there actually is someone back there?" I wondered.

As I approached, he waved to catch my attention. I said something along the lines of "Hi, how are you?" and his response was that he wasn't doing too well; he had just lost "the love of my life" about a week and a half ago and he was struggling with that loss. We exchanged the usual "where are you headed?" questions, and he pretty quickly got around to asking where I was planning to stay tonight and whether I would like a beer and whether I would like to follow him to a spot he knows where we could camp for free; he'd love to have some company.

Yikes! The guy is coming on strong with all the things you're told not to fall prey to. "Stranger danger," as they thought the kids younger than me. I told him I wanted to get some more miles before calling it a day. Really, I was stalling. I needed a few more seconds to decide that this could be an interesting addition to the adventure. I assessed whether he was pulling something on me, and I looked at his rig. He did not have a human passenger in the back; he had a cat! 

If someone was trying to take advantage of someone like me, a cyclist traveling by himself, there are far easier ways to do it than to cobble together the appearance and knowledge this guy was displaying. What the hell, let's see where this rabbit hole takes us.

I told him I was getting over covid and I didn't want to put anyone at risk and he scoffed at that. Having established that, I said let's go see this camping spot.

The guy's name is Casey. Actually, I've changed the name for the sake of publication because I don't think he would want his name published anywhere. So his name is not actually Casey, but that's what I'm calling him. Casey is probably never going to find this blog, but if he does, I don't want him to think I've done anything to make it easier for people in Washington to track him, which he suspected they were doing because they don't like the fact that he's not living his life like everyone else. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Off we went, about two miles down the trail, till we reached a path worn through the grass off to the right. Great, I thought, how far off the trail is this camping spot? Just far enough so that no one will find my murdered body. Well, let's see, I tell myself. At any moment, I could say I've changed my mind (besides, I could really use a shower).

We reach the spot Casey was leading me to, and we start to set up camp. Casey is starting to strike me as an alternate version of me, just with everything amplified to the extreme. Here's the description you've been waiting for:

Casey is 61, tall, thin, white and male with silvery white hair and a neatly trimmed white beard. He said he's been traveling since he was 3. He has been traveling continuously by bicycle since 1996. He had to stop for a few months twice: once when he hurt his knee, and once at the beginning of the pandemic. He did not like it either time. He travels with his cats. He has had his current cat for ten years. I'll call her Katie Carolina (after where he found her, which I'll say was along Route Eighty in South Carolina), or Kayla for short. 

Casey and Kayla had also been traveling with Kayla's son, whom I'll call Tangerine, who was the love of Casey's life, a phrase he did use again besides that first use of the phrase when I first met him and asked him how he was doing. I didn't push for details, but apparently Tangerine was overcome by ticks or some disease that the ticks carried. Casey's voice cracked when the subject came up. I know it's hard for anyone to lose a pet, but I could see how much harder it hits someone who is constantly on the move and on his own except for his pets. At one point, Casey said he can feel lonely sometimes, but never alone.

Okay, I know at least one of you really just wants a description of the (living) cat, so here you go:

Kayla is calico. Mostly gray with some reddish streaks and a white tuft on her chin and chest. Very pretty. Also very round, more pumpkin-shaped than loaf-shaped. And well-trained. Casey carries, on his gigantic rig (which is an e-bike, by the way), a litter box and a cat carrier, which Kayla rides in. Casey set up their tent, which had adequate space for Casey's sleeping pad and sleeping bag plus Kayla's crate and litter tray. Kayla liked to sit on top of the crate and look through the mesh of the tent to see their surroundings. She was very cute and stayed close to the tent with very little prodding by Casey. I was impressed.

Casey asked me where I was from, which led to what I do for a living, which led him to say something like, "Oh, no, I'm camping with the media," and confess that he doesn't believe the mainstream media and instead he listens to Alex Jones and he's a big conspiracy theorist, and I don't think he was joking when, as I mentioned earlier, he said he thought the CIA or someone in Washington is tracking him.

This portrait so far is not doing Casey justice. What's missing in this retelling is his kindness. For example (if you know me, you can probably guess what I'm gonna say): He seemed to sense that I didn't have much food with me, and he made me a giant pot of mac and cheese with garlic and parmesan and Cabot cheese. This was the world's best campstove mac and cheese. He did the same in the morning, with oatmeal and raisins, and said he hoped this couple of meals helped my body rid itself of covid once and for all.

I've previously met at least one couple who had been traveling for years, but Casey is the first person I've met to be traveling for decades. He seemed to stick mainly to the United States in recent times. He washes windows for storefronts and other businesses to make money. He said he's a Luddite and he thinks technology is a scourge. He uses a road atlas to chart his course. He calls himself a traveler.

I describe this man not to draw any comparisons or contrasts, nor to pass judgment of any kind. I describe him to remember him, and for readers of this blog to know about him and his lifestyle, because he is living proof that it is possible to live life by your own rules. May he continue to live the way he pleases.

Today's ride: 144 miles (232 km)
Total: 1,558 miles (2,507 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 4
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Bill ShaneyfeltGreat meeting between you two! Over the years, I have met similar folks. Always have been wonderful.
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2 months ago
Kelly IniguezYour description was kind and vivid. I'm sure you didn't photo him, but is there a photo of Kayla? The pumpkin shaped, not loaf shaped. Another easy to visualize description!
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2 months ago
Chris GeorgeTo Kelly IniguezSorry, no photo of Kayla either.
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2 months ago