Independence, Missouri


It all seemed simple: just follow Interstate 70 to the east, and it’ll take you straight to Independence, Missouri. Two hours of riding, max. But for reasons unknown to the rest of the world, some brilliant mind has decided, in the middle of the week, to close the highway in downtown Kansas City. No explanation, just some men with helmets and reflective vests, looking like Playmobil puppets, walking up and down in front of the road block, and a matrix board that says: ‘I-70 closed, use detour’. Another way of saying: ‘You’re on your own’.
Suddenly all the traffic on the ‘Main Street of Kansas’ has to cram through the same exit. My GPS goes into panic mode (‘turn back, wrong way! turn back!’). I decide to just go with the traffic flow. It’s impossible to stop here, and I assume that everyone else wants to go east too, because that is where the I-70 is going.
It turns out to be a good decision. As soon as the GPS has calmed down a little, it takes me without delay to the front door of the National Frontier Trails Museum, where I spend a nice hour looking around – mainly because it’s so cool inside.
Thanks to the friendly lady behind the reception, a few blocks ahead I find Courthouse Square, with, indeed, the courthouse in the middle, the unofficial starting point of the trail. This is where, around 1840, the outfitting shops were found and where the emigrants could buy all the things they needed for the long journey west.
Here they bought oxen and mules, wagons, food, weapons. There were blacksmith’s shops where horses could be shod, and necessary adjustments or changes could be made to the wagons. I suppose there was a photographer who could make one last picture of the adventurer. A tent maker, an armorer, a doctor, a dentist. Maybe even a barber. This was where it all started, this was the centre of activity in the early days of the trail.

All the inconvenience of the last couple of days is forgotten when I park my bike right in front of the building. I take a look around, but it’s mostly because of my own fantasy that I see the historic part of town, helped by a beautiful painting from the museum I mentioned earlier. The courthouse itself has undergone some dramatic changes the last 150 years too; it’s hardly recognizable.
I take a few pictures and then I focus on the next challenge: trying to find something to eat and then a campground.

‘Okay, so here’s were you can put your tent. And right there are the restrooms. And this is where I want you to go in case of severe weather’.
I look outside the small office building. The sun is still shining, and I estimate the temperature to be in the seventies.
‘Uhm…are you expecting any…?’
‘Oh no, dear, that’s just what we have to tell everybody’.
Weather forecast for Kansas City tomorrow: ‘Isolated T-storms’.