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 ChristianNeuhauser, his wife Christa, and their sonsManuel and Florian are on the road withAprilias 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.