Missouri and Arkansas Trip

April and May, 2005

 Saturday, April 23, 2005

 

Family and Friends,

 

Tomorrow I am beginning a ride from Iowa City to Cape Girardeau, Missouri and beyond. Iíll try to pay attention to what Iím doing and send out notes as I go along the trail. It should be an interesting adventure. Cape Girardeau is about 500 miles away and I would like to make it there in five days. Cheryl will drive down on Thursday to meet me. Then she and I will continue touring parts of Missouri and Arkansas. We may go as far south as Little Rock to see the new Clinton Presidential Library.

 

Right now it is unusually cold here in Iowa City and there is a strong wind from the northwest. Tonight the temperature will drop into freezing range and Iíll have to dress warmer than usual in the morning. My little bag will be packed tight.

 

Laurie Tulchin is joining me on the first day and we are headed to Nauvoo, Illinois, 112 miles away for me and 120 miles for her. The cold wind will be behind us and sunshine will warm us up as the day progresses so it should be a real fine ride. We plan to go through Columbus Junction and Fort Madison before crossing the Mississippi into Illinois. The route is very quiet and scenic this time of year. Weíll surely see crops being planted even on Sunday. I have always enjoyed this section of Iowa.

 

I will stay in touch and let you know how things are going.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

April 24, 2005

Nauvoo, Illinois

 

Hello Friends and Family,

 

Tonight I am in the very, very quiet town of Nauvoo, Illinois. The tourist season here is at a lull and since it is Sunday almost all the businesses are closed but there was one nice cafe open and I had a filling dinner there.

 

If you haven't visited Nauvoo you should consider doing so. The historic sites are worth seeing and these include the rebuilt Mormon temple, several elaborate Mormon visitors centers, and some homes restored from the 1830's. As I walked around the town late this afternoon I really enjoyed the beautiful westward view of the Mississippi River from the west side of the Temple. From here the river is clean, uncluttered and very peaceful.

 

The ride here was 108 miles but it had to be about the easiest 108 miles I have ever ridden. I left Iowa City with Laurie Tulchin at 8:00 A.M. with a northwest tail-wind that began at about 15 MPH and probably got up to 30 MPH during parts of the day. Laurie is building a house for herself sometime this year and I had the chance to quiz her about building materials and techniques. She is planning on a stucco, block and stone home with little or no wood used in the structure and exterior. She is trying some innovative things that I may be able to use on a condominium building I hope to build some day on land I own near Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City.

 

Jim Glasgow joined us at the 70 mile mark in New London and road the rest of the way to Nauvoo. We arrived there at 3:30 PM. They showered and headed back to Iowa City courtesy of Laurie's van and chauffeured by George Malcom.

 

It was sunny all day and even with the cold wind it was one very pleasant cycling day. There was little or nothing happening on the farms since it was Sunday and the winds were so strong. Traffic was light.

 

Tomorrow I head to Hannibal, Missouri and then south of Hannibal to Louisiana, Missouri. I plan to leave early. The wind won't be favorable and the ride is a little more than 100 miles. It should be relatively flat on the Illinois side of the river but south of Hannibal it gets pretty hilly. It should be fun.

 

My modem for my PDA broke so I have to relay on finding a computer as I travel. Tonight I was lucky to find that this motel has a business center. I don't know whether I will find one tomorrow. So, my notes may be late in coming during the next three days. We'll see.

 

I feel very well.

 

Take care.

 

John

April 29, 2005

 

Hello Friends and Family,

 

Yesterday afternoon I made it to Cape Girardeau, Missouri and met Cheryl who arrived about an hour ahead of me. I havenít had computer access for the last four days so I want to record those four days at once. I keep my notes in a journal form so I can look back from time to time and enjoy the memories.

 

During the last five days I have come 481 miles and I feel great this morning. Oh, I have one small ailment, a strained calf muscle in my left leg. I have been riding with that nagging pain the last three days. I think I simply pulled the muscle while pushing too hard getting up and down the steep Ozark hills. Still, I do feel great especially after sleeping in until 7:00 this morning. Todayís exercise will be an easy 50 mile trip south to Charleston, Missouri. We also plan to go over to Cairo, Illinois for a quick peek but tonight we will be in Charleston to see their heralded azaleas, dogwoods and Victorian homes.

 

On this trip I am riding my heavier green touring bike. It has wider tires that give me a surer footing and softer ride. It is also very sturdy and designed for touring. It takes more effort to pedal it up the hills and into the wind but Iím glad I chose it. It did real well on rough pavement and broken shoulders and when I slipped off the road and ended up riding about 30 feet down into a ditch it kept me upright when my lighter bike would have sunk into the muck and thrown me off.

 

Even though I have gotten more careful in my touring, I do have a mishap now and then and the ride down into the ditch happened yesterday. I was riding through the steep hills about 20 miles west of Cape Girardeau on a narrow county road. I was tired and hugging the edge of the asphalt as a pickup truck passed me. It was my fault. I just slipped off the pavement and ended up at the bottom of a long ditch. Nothing was hurt, not even my pride.

 

Monday morning I was up early and had a fine breakfast at Dottieís Cafť in downtown Nauvoo. A group of five retired farmers were friendly visitors and as you would expect, they were on top of weather information including wind direction and velocity. I left Nauvoo at 7:30 AM with the intention of reaching Louisiana, Missouri. I didnít make it that day.

 

The ride out of Nauvoo to the south is very scenic because the road hugs the Mississippi River. The marshes and backwater areas are full of migrating bird life. The geese were feeding and a bicycle didnít seem to bother them as I pedaled by.

 

The town of Quincy, Illinois is an old river town and as I passed through along its river front it appeared to be pretty dreary. South of Quincy I was away from the river and pedaling into a huge wind. By the time I got to Hannibal, 72 miles down the road, I was worn out. I decided to stay in downtown Hannibal to see what Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain sites had to offer.

 

Downtown Hannibal is a tourist destination but at this time of year the tourists are still at home so at least half of the downtown businesses were closed. They try to draw folks in with attractions like Becky Thatcherís house, Samuel Clemens home and other 1800 era attractions. There really isnít much to see. I wouldnít set up shop there.

 

After a real good nightís rest I got up early and left Hannibal at 7:30 on Tuesday and rode 118 miles down to Washington, Missouri. In doing so I rode up and down the bluffs along the Mississippi to Clarksville, Missouri and then headed inland. There were good views of the river and the road was very quiet. It was so peaceful that I listened to an audio book on my mini disc player for several hours as I labored up the hills. Iím listening to a typical murder/conspiracy novel and in the evening I am reading another murder mystery. Itís hard to keep the two stories from blending together. I should probably listen to some good non-fiction instead.

 

Moving inland from the Mississippi I was still on some very quiet, hilly roads and there were many long stretches with no stores. I ran short of water at times but it was cool enough so I made it through okay.

 

At Troy, Missouri I crossed Highway 62, the Avenue of the Saints, and had a big meal. My destination for the day was Wright City, a small town on Interstate 70 about 14 miles south of Troy. However, when I got to Wright City I felt so good I decided to go another 25 miles to Washington, Missouri. Iím glad that I did the extra mileage that day but the county roads were loaded with late afternoon commuter traffic which made the 25 miles into Washington rather nerve racking. There I stayed at a very nice Super 8 that Cheryl and I had used a couple years ago. Washington is located on the Missouri River about 35 miles WSW from St. Louis.

 

On Wednesday morning I left the Adventure Cycling route and took some short cuts as I worked my way down to Farmington, Missouri. I knew that I couldnít make it to Cape Girardeau by Thursday evening if I kept riding the zigzag route prescribed by Adventure Cycling.  I rode 103 miles fairly routine miles but again it was very hilly. Lunch was in Potosi and my shortcuts worked out much of the day but I did have to deal with some nasty traffic for about 20 miles.

 

Iíve been sleeping well and getting up about 5:30 AM each day and at Farmington I had to deal with a heavy rain front moving through. On Thursday morning I tried to wait out the rain. It let up a bit and I left for Cape Girardeau about 10:30 AM. I rode the shoulder of Highway 67 to the south of Fredericktown to a place called Cherokee Pass. Here the ďTrail of TearsĒ (the forced relocation of the Cherokee Indians from the east to the west) passed through in 1839.

 

At Cherokee Pass there is just a small motel, truck stop and a restaurant. I had a big dinner there and then headed east through the woods and hills. The roads were well paved and quiet but quite narrow and still very hilly. I stopped about half way to Cape Girardeau at a settlement called Scopus. There the owners of a small general store were extremely friendly. We had a nice half hour visit before I headed on. Oh yes, the lady who ran the store warned me about the narrow roads and the drop offs.

 

I was very, very tired by yesterday afternoon and it took a little extra determination to keep moving along. However, I have learned that when riding a bicycle long distances, patience is important. If you can just slow down, keep your head in the game and let your body recover you can often do a lot more than you ever expected. So, yesterday I just dawdled and did make it happily into Cape Girardeau, an 80 mile trek.

 

I know that I write about the struggle and hard work of bicycle touring. Maybe I say too much about that but it is the struggle and the work that I enjoy. If this was easy I would probably not be addicted to it. Still, someday I will get a motorcycle and give that a try.

 

Thanks for listening.

 

John

 

 

 

April 30, 2005

 

Hello Friends and Family,

 

We took a slow and easy day yesterday. Since it rained all day I rested while we drove down to Charleston, Missouri about 45 miles along the Mississippi. Leaving Cape Girardeau and heading south takes us into the flat boot heel of Missouri where farming is big. The crops are wheat, corn and beans and the fields look very wet.

 

It is cold and windy this morning but since the wind is from the northwest I will ride south from Charleston and head into Arkansas. I will visit New Madrid because of its unique location on the Mississippi and I want to go to the museum to learn about the earthquakes that occurred in this region during 1811-1813. Somewhere I should be riding across the New Madrid fault line.

 

Charleston is a town of about 5,000 and it is similar to Washington, Iowa in size and appearance except for the azaleas. We took many photos. You have to see them to really appreciate the beauty.

 

We took a side trip to see Cairo, Illinois. Now Cairo is a town everyone should see. It is a true rural, southern ghetto all because of racial strife. About 40 years ago Cairo had a population of over 15,000. Now the population is just over 3,000 and they have to be dull or gutsy to hang on there. The place is full of abandoned, burned out buildings. The entire old downtown is closed up and the buildings are falling down.

 

I vaguely remember that there were racial riots here in the 1960ís and now we have read some reports to refresh our memories.  Even though Cairo is an Illinois town, it really is more like a southern Mississippi community where segregation was deep seated. During the civil rights movement of the 1960ís Cairo self destructed because the white businesses closed rather than give into black demands. The whites moved. The blacks stayed. Everything languished. It was so bad as late as 1990 that the high school principal told the graduating class that year to leave town. I couldnít blame him.

 

Cairo is at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers so we went over a couple river bridges and took photos of the two rivers and all the barge traffic that was moving through the two rivers.

 

Tonight we will be in Trumann, Arkansas not far from the site where the movie version of John Grishamís ďPainted HouseĒ was filmed a couple years ago. We will visit the house and I will see how it compares to the farm houses I knew as a kid. It will be interesting.

 

We are well and happy. Cheryl is bouncing on her BoSi ball as I write this note. I will ride off soon.

 

Best wishes,

 

 

John