Conran to Hayti. 19.4 miles/649.4 total
Saturday, November 7, 2009.
It’s 9 a.m. and I’m leaving from just outside Conran, at the intersection of Highway 61 and a couple of lettered state roads. This trip will take me down through Portageville, then through a long stretch of nothing as I walk next to the interstate, and finally to Hayti.
It’s warm today, probably in the 60s now, and promising to get into the 70s. The skies are cloudless. But again there’s a strong wind blowing from the south and southeast, right in my face, at 20 mph or more.
Today’s walk is going to be a little different, because when I get to my destination I won’t be at the motor home. It’s complicated, but I’ve got nothing but time, so I’ll explain. Last night I was driving today’s route while on my way down to the Walmart in Caruthersville, a few miles east of Hayti. When I drive a route, I write down odometer readings at strategic points every few miles, so when I walk I'll have an idea of where I am and how far I have to go to the next town, or to the end. It was a little after dark when I got to Portageville, where Highway 61 merges with I-55 for 20 or 30 miles before separating again and becoming its old two-lane self. So of course I had to find another road to walk on. My map of Missouri said there was a road that ran diagonally southwest from Portageville to a little place called Wardell, and I was looking for that road, but I couldn’t find it. After a little driving around downtown Portageville I decided to continue south instead on Outer Road, which runs right next to the expressway all the way to Hayti, but doesn’t go through any villages.
This morning I was still hoping to find that other road, the diagonal one. So I drove the motor home to where I would have come out if I’d found the diagonal road, and I decided to drive the route in the car on the way back up to Conran, and figure it all out. The problem was that when I got up to Wardell, I discovered, after talking to a couple of people, that there is no diagonal road to Portageville. The map is simply wrong about this. (I confirmed this on Google maps this evening.) The only way to get from Wardell to Portageville is to go straight north about five miles, and then straight east about the same distance. Or, you can go straight east about five miles and straight north on Outer Road or the expressway. The problem with that is that it made the trip longer than I wanted—about 24 miles, instead of maybe 21. I don’t want to walk 24 miles if I can help it.
The alternative is to walk this Outer Road route, which is a little over 19 miles, and hitchhike over to the motor home when I get down to Hayti. So that’s the plan. Worst case scenario is that I don’t get a ride and end up doing another four or five miles to the motor home, for a total of 24. I will have walked over 120 miles this week, due to the fact that I took just one day off. That’s more than enough walking for one week and I’m definitely taking tomorrow off.
A road kill first! An armadillo! Very very flat, but very definitely an armadillo. I didn’t realize they ranged this far north. (I looked up armadillos after the walk and discovered that they range into Nebraska, and have been found in Illinois, Indiana, and southern Ontario. Crikey!) I think I’ll call him Armadillo Slim, because he’s about as thick as a pancake right now. And he’s wearing his poker face, for sure. He gambled, and he lost. Time to fold ‘em, Slim. You’ve been dealt the aces and eights.
At 4.1 miles I enter Portageville, population 3,295. Portageville is home of the Missouri Grain and Warehouse, Inc., buyers of soy beans, milo, and wheat. Which makes me wonder, what the hell is milo, anyway?
Portageville is a dusty little town on this particular day, with the wind blowing from the fields up Highway 61. I provision myself early in the walk here in Portageville, because the remaining fifteen plus miles won’t have a single business where I can buy anything.
Just south of the downtown, I cross from New Madrid into Pemiscot County. Portageville straddles the county line. According to something I read last night, the name Pemiscot is from a local Indian word meaning “liquid mud.” That’s not a bad name for this area, because without the levees, there would be a great deal of liquid mud around here much of the time. Even as it is, it’s pretty wet from last week's rain.
Part of the reason I was having trouble finding the right road is that I don’t have a detailed enough map of Missouri. When I went through Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, I had DeLorme’s Atlases. They're map books in which the state is divided into dozens of squares, each with its own page. They have every single street and road on them, although not all of them are named. I couldn’t find one for Missouri, and I figured I wouldn’t be in the state long enough to need one. So I got a regular road map. But I could have used a DeLorme’s, for sure.
Some of you might be wondering, why not use your laptop? Well, you’re right, I could, in the motor home, at least. But I like the paper maps while I’m driving.
At about the halfway point in the walk, I come up on the overpass where Outer Road crosses Route A, which goes to Wardell. Of course I’m not going to Wardell. It’s not much to write home about anyway, nor are the other two dinky villages I went through on the way up to Wardell.
I come upon a veritable dune of soybeans. It looks like a semi truck full of soybeans tipped over here and dumped its whole load on the side of the road. I wade into them up to my knees. What a lot of soybeans. I wonder if they're salvageable?
I’m within two miles of my destination for the day, the intersection of Missouri Route 84 and Route J, in Hayti. The wind has continued to blow hard all day. I lean into it most of the time. It sure would be nice to have this at my back instead of in my face.
I passed a truck for the Richardson Gin of Marston earlier, carrying one of those huge cotton modules. It’s all been cotton again today, in the fields, being harvested, formed into modules, on trucks, and clinging to the weeds at the side of the road.
At about 19 miles I enter the city limits of Hayti, population 3,207. The only thing I know about it so far is that they mangle the pronunciation. I haven't heard anybody say it, but the internet says it's pronounced Hay-Tie. That's just bizarre. Who would even think of such a thing?
I get to my destination, and about ten minutes into my hitchhiking adventure, here on Missouri 84, a passing policeman informs me that it’s illegal to hitchhike in the State of Missouri, and that I have to walk. He doesn’t offer to give me a ride, either. So now I’m doing what I was trying to avoid—walking all the way until dark, maybe another 5 miles. I’m still going to walk along the right side of the road, look pathetic, and hope somebody will offer me a ride.
The part of Hayti I’m walking in is all used car lots and barbecue joints and little closed grocery stores and ratty housing developments. Finally I’m out of Hayti and Hayti Heights and back in farm country.
This extra bit of walking has afforded me an opportunity to see another new kind of road kill--a crayfish, or, as they say here, crawdad.
It's almost dark when I finally do get that ride, about a mile and a half before I get to the motor home. I won’t count these last few miles as part of today’s walk, since I’ll be starting out the next walk from back in Hayti where I thought I had ended this one. I'll chalk all this up to experience.
By the way, I don't think there's any law against hitchhiking in Missouri.