Tick...Tick...Boom! (USA Day 42)
We’d slept underground, a hermitic yet cosy room so perfectly cool that we awoke unaware of the Missouri steam oven warming up outside. With breakfast to chomp, huge Irish Wolfhounds to pet and tiny nectar-slurping hummingbirds to gasp at, we spent a blissful morning with our hosts utterly ignoring the weather. It was only once we’d begun that the heat reared its sweaty head.
It’s become a bit of a broken record. We’ve caught ourselves saying it, one or the other of us, pretty much every day. “This is definitely the hottest it’s been.”
This time, we’d blithely whooshed past a few ‘ROAD CLOSED’ signs, because lord knows we love to take a risk, and come across a blocked-off bridge. There were barriers and big red lights and a sign saying ‘NO. HONESTLY, NO. DON’T CROSS IT.’ So we crossed it.
The fact that I’m writing this blog tells you how it went. The most dangerous bit was lifting the heavy bikes over the high barriers, shearing part of a pannier rack in two. It’s OK, later I fixed it with self-amalgamating tape like a real man.
A few miles later, and positively humming with sweat, we found ourselves searching for a spot to eat a calorific lunch of Slim Jims, red peppers, crackers and peanut butter, all nicely melted after a morning in my pannier, but with a midday sun so ferocious that any activity that doesn’t involve creating wind is pure torture. Eventually we came across a little tree-lined lane: the first shade for miles. Despite the mud, we ventured in, leant our bikes against a tree and sat on the ant-infested ground. And that’s when I saw it. Crawling up my leg. I wasn’t sure at first, but when I tried to crush it, and it kept on crawling, I knew for sure.
I dropped my food and did the insect fandango, brushing and kicking until I was sure it had gone. There’s something about parasites that gets me in the goolies anyway (I mean, can you imagine?), but the way ticks grow as they feed, the way they’re almost indestructible, how slow they walk…ugh. Add to that the very real threat of Lyme disease, and you’ve built my very least favourite arachnid. In the next ten minutes I picked a full SIX of the blighters off me, including one crawling up my shoulder and one already down my sock. I honestly don’t know how they manage. However I can confirm, and I’ve had this independently verified (ew), I’m tic free and raring to go.
So we escaped without getting tickled, but without having really rested much or eaten much, and laboured into Lebanon in a state of unrest. This was not the middle-eastern Lebanon, although the climate had yet to be convinced of that, but the local ‘Kum ‘n’ Go’ did great iced coffee which seemed to be refillable, though I didn’t ask in case I got an answer I wouldn’t like. As we sipped our iced coffees, truckers and holidaying families came and went. One enormous, angry dad came in with two boys who immediately ran off. “Jonathan, get where I can see you,” he yelled. “Too many f****** paedophiles in this town.”
We left town.
After multiple litres of the probably-bottomless coffee, we made short work of the remaining miles and rolled up at our camping spot, a gorgeous State Conservation Area, thickly wooded, surrounded by cattle fields, with the most beautiful sunset and a ground wriggling with tiny frogs and millipedes.
We pitched up in 100% humidity, protected our belongings from the oncoming dew explosion and did our best impression of sleeping people while wondering how much a human can sweat before they dessicate.