Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet left the first written account of the land that became Missouri after descending the Mississippi River in 1673. Today, Father Christian Neuhauser, his wife Christa, and their sons Manuel and Florian are on the road with Aprilias and Piaggios to follow their trail.
Fathers are Everywhere
Of course, I haven't taken up the clerical collar - only two people call me father - but I do offer up prayers for their safekeeping whenever they join us on tours. This time, I'm introducing the boys to scooters. "Don't lean over too much and always think about how much more limited the ground clearance is compared to a motorcycle," I warn. "Can we start now?" they reply in unison. Manuel on the
Piaggio BV 200 and Florian on the Aprilia Atlantic 500 cannot wait to hit the road. Finally, Christa is ready on her Aprilia Scarabeo and, once I turn the key on the Vespa 200GT, we take off.
Unlike Marquette and Jolliet, our expedition comes at Missouri from the west, leaving from Kansas City. On the way towards Jefferson City, the state capital, we experience a new situation. Always well organized and sticklers for exact route planning, we have to deal with a handful of detours. Strong thunderstorms dumping a tremendous amount of rain over the preceding days have changed our tour. Some roads in the backcountry wind through smooth rolling hills and the bright sun on the freshly washed trees and grassland casts all we see in a lush green glow. Now and then impressive farms with bright white fences scroll by.
The boys have fun crossing the little ponds on the road and almost everywhere we look, firemen or police officers are on hand to make sure no one gets bogged down or hurt. We pass Sedalia. Some of the musicologists among you already know its significance - the birthplace of Ragtime. Manuel and Florian aren't terribly impressed by my Scott Joplin monologue, but they have to grant the man his props when they realize we couldn't have Hip Hop or Rock 'n' Roll without the strong influences of R&B and Ragtime.
The Journey Starts
Behind us, 61 boring miles on Hwy 50, and in front of us, we see a dull gray cityscape made even less inviting by the dark clouds overhead. We cruise through downtown Jefferson City hoping to find a nice café or restaurant, but there is nothing to see other than the colorless office buildings. The only appealing facility seems to be the capitol, nicely situated on a hill. Somewhat disappointed, we disappear and turn after 19 miles onto Route 100. Our scooters run perfectly over the rolling hills and through the vibrant green valleys. Sometimes steep grades challenge the engines, and the two 200cc scooters need a special technique. With a full open throttle, we chase them down and then we use the surplus of speed to keep up with the Scarabeo and Atlantic. Sweepers and tight turns are changing fast all through the hilly terrain. It is like a continuous coaster ride. But having passed several signs indicating the Lewis & Clark Trail, I stop the ride at the next historical marker.
The big smiles fade from the lips of the rest of my scooter family. They're none too happy about this unexpected interruption, but I always try to interest my boys in history, especially in this case, when we're talking about the greatest expedition in the nation's history.