The plan seemed clear enough. I have to report back to my school district next week, but first we’d cycle large chunks of the KATY Trail, along with segments of mid-Missouri back roads. My wife, ever in “bargain mode,” had zeroed in, with laser precision, on a Groupon deal for the Hotel Frederick in Booneville.
This, of course, was the plan earlier in the year, when we were enjoying incredible, unseasonably mild weather. You know: before the extreme heat and drought descended upon the Midwest. A week ago, in the midst of our summer’s “new normal,” I questioned whether the plan should be moving forward at all. The Fox-41 weatherman was calling for temperatures that were not just the hottest of the summer, but in all likelihood the hottest ever recorded in the state. The better half, however, felt that half price trumped heat stroke.
And so off we went!
Given the sort of intense heat that I normally associate with … oh… say – Death Valley? – coupled with good, old-fashioned southern-style humidity… well, the incredible combination of those conditions left us pedaling around in awesome heat indices. To avoid the worst of the worst, I figured to hit the trail early each day and leave the afternoons for wandering around small town antique shops, relaxing in ice cream shops, and crashing for a nap under a ceiling fan in a cool hotel. No worries – my proclivity for early morning is, I hope, well known. My wife, on the other hand, likes to sleep in…
One sultry afternoon, we found ourselves in Blackwater, Missouri. Aside from a few scattered homes, the entire town is basically a single block of nineteenth century buildings housing antiques, arts and crafts, a telephone museum (what the hell???) – and the “Pie Lady” of Blackwater!
Imagene toils behind a makeshift countertop that is blanketed with glass-covered cookies and slices of pie. The pie shop is tiny; the walls are covered with aprons and doilies and cushions. Imagene – the Pie Lady of Blackwater – has stitched every stitch, baked every pie and cookie by hand. Visitors wander in and out, purchasing a slice, an apron, a copy of Imagene’s book of pie and cookie recipes, the pages of which are reproductions of her handwritten recipes. She’s been operating the shop since she turned eighty – twelve years ago – and at 92 she shows no sign of slowing down.
We sat down at one of the cluttered tables that were tightly squeezed into the space, navigated around the other seated visitors, and enjoyed slices of homemade blackberry pie and a healthy dollop of vanilla ice cream and the world was suddenly a little bit cooler place.
Meanwhile, the bikes languished in the heat.