were the involuntary stops; like when Cameron nervously applied his last patch to another punctured tube, knowing exactly how screwed we would be if it didn’t take. There were no open bike-shops between us and the end of the trail, but to our relief the patch held.
By sunset, we were worried. At dusk, we began sprintingpartly to outrun the mosquitoes. We rode into the total darkness, donning helmets after close calls with deer and jeeps. We did eventually emerge into the city, where the trail and a surrounding swath of woods penetrate the outlying suburb of St. Charles. Cameron’s extremely kind grandmother met us shortly after we rolled up to the Trailhead Brewing Company with a minivan for our bikes, saving us from negotiating unfamiliar streets at night.
Cameron and I had two days to kill in St. Louis before Thanksgiving. After indulging in plenty of sleep and breakfast, and a contribution of chores, we headed out to the University City Loop with our bikes. Our first order of business was to get more conventional clothes than what we wore on the trail. At a trendy resale shop, I ended up with an awesomely appropriate t-shirt, declaring “STL [hearts] BMX.” Properly dressed, we got caught by a pretty lady named Trucky as we were admiring her red Schwinn. We talked bikes with her for a while outside of an espresso bar called Meshuggah, and we came to find out that they cater to bicyclists who enjoy cheap beer on Tuesday nights. We killed some time at the St. Louis City Museum (imagine a post-apocalyptic Robin Hood tree-fort), and then the fine folks back at Meshuggah were happy to help us get directions to the Penrose Park Velodrome.
Missouri’s only velodrome was built in 1962, and though it has hosted Olympic qualifiers and national championships, it has seen neglect in its days too. The track was resurfaced in 2005, but it didn’t go perfectly. Cameron and I didn’t mind the imperfections though. I must admit I was even a bit amused by the car tire tracks on the banked turns. Riding the Penrose Park Velodrome was thrilling, truthfully, but when we pulled thorns out of our tires after a couple dozen laps, the hissing air told us that the track still has a long way to go. The guys at Big Shark, a bike shop back on the Loop, admitted that the thorny seedpods spilling down onto one corner of the track discourages many folks who might otherwise go. I’m proud that we got to visit one of America’s dozen velodromes, but I hope some botanical vigilante might eradicate those bushes!
The next day we saw the art museum and zoo at Forrest Park, then enjoyed a cold ride on part of St. Louis’s trail network. The city has a system of paved bike paths throughout many parts of its grid, and from what I saw most of it is a notch or two above what we enjoy back in Columbia, and probably just as useful for local folks commuting as it was for the two of us escaping the kitchen in the buildup to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to be home with family, and I consider Cameron’s family to be remarkably like my own. Many details of their kitchen were comfortingly identical to those found at my own grandparents’ house, where I’ve spent most Thanksgivings, and just as the physical spaces were similar, so are our families, which brings added meaning when I say they made me feel at home.
At Thanksgiving Dinner, the family and I filled several tables in two rooms. We ate and drank, and enjoyed the spiral into overwhelming comfort and satisfaction until we found ourselves sitting with our feet up, sharing jokes and anecdotes about hunting or sailing or our respective encounters with the law. Of course, Cameron and I had plenty of fresh tales to tell, and so we added them to the conversation like sticks on a campfire until we’d relived the whole trip from behind our mashed potatoes. Really, the trip and the meal were one and the same; lists of ingredients spelled out on paper leave out the best parts, and it is the intangible element more than the immoderation that makes either indulgence worthwhile.