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The Great Mississippi River Ride, page 2
St. Charles, MO to Memphis, TN
(The Great Central River Ride)

current date and time 2008-07-03 | 19:31:19
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Number of Journal Entries online: 7
Day 10- Tuesday, Aug. 23--St. Charles, MO -- Off Day!
First off day of the tour. Many folks played tourist and went downtown St. Louis for a look at the sights, Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, Union Station, etc. Others took a hard earned rest and attended to houskeeping duties, washing the bike, doing laundry, relaxing etc. Everyone enjoyed their time off the bike. Looking forward to moving on tommorow!

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:40:13 | article number: 1

Day 11--Wed., Aug. 24--St. Charles to Festus, MO -- 80 miles, 3200 feet of climb
After breakfast, I heard one of the riders singing Mr. Rogers� song �It�s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .� Indeed, it was. Riders cycled through Old Town St. Charles, northern St. Louis, and then cycled the Riverfront Bike Trail down the Missouri River to the magnificent St. Louis Arch. Most of the riders gathered for a ride photo at the at the Arch. What a great day it was already and riders were only two hours into the ride.

As we departed the Arch, we passed the huge Budweiser plant with its interesting foxy gargoyles perched on the building corners eating drumsticks and drinking beer. Here�s an interesting fact [Gene is an emeritus professor and extension specialist of wood processing, Ed.]: In the brewery business, beech wood aging means that small strips of beech are put into the brew. These wood pieces help hold the yeast in suspension. Normally the yeast would drop to the bottom of the vat.

As the route became more rural, riders encountered the frequent, short hills of Missouri . . . someone counted them today and said there were 96 � a slight exaggeration indeed. We had only one substantial climb today, and it was not steep. Riders are �hill hardened� at this point in the ride, so these small hills almost (but not quite) appear flat. At least they are not something to dread or fear anymore.

Riders did a lot of urban riding, which they like because it is so broken up and interesting that time seems to fly. The countryside scenery today consisted of small farms and woodlots.

ABBike travels with a first-class mechanic on all its trips; this trip being no exception. Our mechanic is Josh. Everyone�s bike has performed well, but today Josh had one broken pedal, a set of squeaky brakes, and some bad shifting to fix . . . the busiest he has been on the trip. He typically has his shop open for repairs at 4:30 pm. He was able to fix everything in short order and all are ready to ride tomorrow. (For problems on the road, either Josh or I provide roadside assistance at no extra charge.) Staff member Susan seems to be leading the flat tire competition with 3 in 2 days. She is changing out her tire, which has a small gash in it, tomorrow in hopes of avoiding a winning streak.

Tomorrow we have a short (46-mile) day to Ste. Genevieve. Riders have all sorts of things planned . . . . Tune in tomorrow and see how the day goes.

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:42:29 | article number: 2

Day 12--Thur., Aug. 25--Festus to St. Genevieve, MO--46 miles, 3160 feet of climb
Today riders left Festus, MO, with temps around 70 and very light wind. Riders had lots of hills to climb, but the half-full glass says that they also had lots of hills to descend in this beautiful, wooded part of Missouri. Also the scenic winding roads allowed for some very interesting and good technical riding.

At times it was so quiet that riders could hear the sounds of the countryside--tractors, cows, dogs, birds, and mowers. We also smelled the country--a fresh woody smell . . . except near the pig farm.

Ste. Genevieve, our destination, was the first settlement (1735) in what is now called Missouri. The town has many registered historic buildings and a beautiful Catholic church.

After lunch a bunch of riders took a ferry across the Mississippi River and back just for fun. They were impressed with the high water mark for the 1993 flood.

One great feeling after a day of riding is to roll into the motel, check into your room, and take a hot shower. Today, shortly after the shower, the local TV and press arrived, curious about all the colorful bicyclists and support vehicles they had been seeing on the road. I obliged them with an interview. Tomorrow, over breakfast, riders will be able to read about themselves in the local newspaper and see themselves on the news.

Tomorrow we're off to Cape Girardeau. See you then. GW

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:44:03 | article number: 3

Day 13--Fri., Aug. 26--St Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, MO -- 68 miles; 4,380 feet of climb
Every day of this ride has offered up different terrain, scenery, and sights. Today the weather was a little foggy at first, so I delayed starting the ride for almost an hour to be safe. Shortly after ride start, however, the fog burned off and riders had a fun ride cycling through eastern Missouri, staying mostly on top of undulating bluffs, but also enjoying a couple of nice downhill runs. Riders saw many farms along the route, plus one of the largest hardwood sawmills in the U.S at East Perry, MO. They also saw buffalo (or were they bison?), antelope, emu, and elk on one farm and many cattle along the way standing in ponds to cool off. Several fields of sunflowers (adjacent to Begonia Lane and Bumble Bee Lane) were really beautiful, their large faces all turned to the sun. Cicadas buzz-chirped at us as we peddled by�someone said that the speed of the chirps indicates the temperature, but I did not seem to have the correct information, because I counted 45 chirps and it was not that cold. In fact, the temperature today became a factor about mid-ride. It was very hot and humid. Riders had to hydrate almost constantly to find the energy needed to tackle the rolling terrain. Several were smart enough to know their limits and had the sense to sag part of the route.

Today was also a celebration . . . we have now gone over halfway to New Orleans! We took a lot of pictures at the America by Bicycle �Official� Halfway point . . . located on a flat part of the route between�what else?�cornfields.

As our route historian, I told riders about the �Trail of Tears� the forced march of the Cherokee in this area 1,000 miles to Oklahoma. About 4,000 Cherokee died as a result of this government Indian Removal Act. The route they traversed and the journey itself became known as �The Trail of Tears,� or, as a direct translation of Cherokee, �The trail Where They Cried� (Nunna daul Tsuny).

I also told riders about the New Madrid earthquake of 150 years ago in the central Mississippi Valley. This area was settled initially by the French and then later by German Lutherans from NE Germany. Along today�s route were many French names (Cinque Hommes Creek, Omete Creek Lane, Brazeau Blacksmith Shop), plus we saw many Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod churches that the Germans started in the 1850s.

All told it was a good riding day with everyone in safely by 2:30. Tomorrow we ride to Union City, TN. Check in and see how the day goes.

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:45:41 | article number: 4

Day 14--Sat., Aug. 27--Cape Girardeau, MO to Union City, TN--93 miles; 2,200 feet of climb
WELCOME TO THE SOUTH. We cycled from Missouri, took a ferry to Kentucky, and then cycled into Tennessee. We have definitely cycled into a different part of the country, as we saw millions of morning glories, soy beans in 90% of the agricultural fields, 20 to 25 cows with 30 or more cattle egrets waiting for the cows to kick up a few insects, lots of beautiful flowers that looked like wild hibiscus, mocking birds singing, people with Southern accents, a waitress who called me �honey,� and grits for breakfast . . . without asking for them. Plus, my history lesson for the day covered fire ants and chiggers. Oklahomans Susan and Richard P. covered goatheads (sand burs), the spiny seeds of which puncture tires and fingers with equal ease. By the time the three of us were done with our introductions to the perils that await cyclists at roadside, some riders decided not to get off their bikes between here and New Orleans! (Just kidding.)

Compared to yesterday�s 94-degree heat, today�s weather was wonderful, as it was cloudy and not too humid with no temperature increase. Yesterday riders were challenged by the heat, but today they were challenged by pretty strong headwinds for much of the ride. (They preferred the cooling headwinds ovedr the heat.) Our weather is compliments of Hurricane Katrina, I�m sure. We�ll probably meet up with her on our day off in Memphis if the weather pattern holds.

Our second sag stop was at Tootsie's Landing. Riders arrived, replenished water and fueled up for the last 20-something miles, and then took a small blue ferry from the Missouri shore across the Mississippi River to Kentucky. Many stopped in Memaws (suth�n for grandma�s) Cafe on the Kentucky side for a second fueling session before cycling the last of the day�s miles to the Hampton Inn in Union City, Tennessee. The ferry ride let us see how wide the River has become with the addition of the Ohio and Missouri Rivers. A local cyclist who organizes the popular Tour de Corn � Mike Bryant, from Little Prairie � told us that the river was down 10 feet and that the barges we saw were unable to carry full loads because of it, thus driving up prices, etc. We saw plenty of signs that said roads would be impassible when the River was flooded, but right now the River is extremely low with barge traffic just barely making it in the 9-foot channel.

It was a fun day of riding and all riders were safely in by 3:30, so I was a happy Ride Leader. Tune in tomorrow and see how TN greets us. GW.

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:47:09 | article number: 5

Day 15--Sun., Aug 28--Union City to Ripley, TN--68 miles; 2800 feet of climb
Susan here today reporting for Gene who is taking a day off.

We left Union City this morning under blessedly overcast skies and haze on the hills. Our route took us along smooth, rolling, tree shaded back roads, and we had a favorable tailwind to boot. What could be better?

The road was lined with honeysuckle, elderberry bushes their umbels drooping with dark berries, and poke bushes/berries. We also cycled through clouds of butterflies � painted ladies, sulfurs, red-spotted purples, tiger swallowtails, skippers, lots of commas and question marks, pearly crescent spots . . . Josh even reported spotting a zebra swallowtail.

Riders took to this route like ducks to water and most arrived at the sag stop nearly at the same time. In �98 when I rode this route as a guest, this SS, which is at a small country store, was the gathering place for the local population, all of whom were waiting for a few of their men to finish cooking a large kettle of squirrel stew on the store�s front porch. This year we arrived on Sunday so the store was closed. Dang.

Karen set up the SS today and tho she is taking flower arrangement 101 from me, she received only a C on today�s arrangement, a couple of stalks of Timothy grass. Even so, this was a much higher grade than the F- she received the day she stuck a couple of motel pens in the flower vase and called them an arrangement. Geesh. We have presentation standards to uphold for our riding guests. Guess I have my work cut out for me.

Seems as though Tennesseans in the country like dogs. We were greeted by dogs (two or three or more) at many of the houses we passed. Though they were all playful, we had to ride carefully so as not to get mixed up with them. It�s amazing what a deep commanding voice or a squirt with the water bottle will do. These techniques generally stop most dogs in their tracks. They then sit and look at us quizzically.

We found a dog at the motel, also. A miniature Pomeranian. Cute little thing called Nibbles. The hotel welcomed us with a hand-lettered greeting and then put out cheese and crackers, fruit, and vegies plus drinks for a little welcoming reception. All talk is of hurricane Katrina who is due to come ashore at New Orleans early this morning. We are remaining positive about the tour and have some contingency plans in place should our way south be barred.

Before Rap, we gave Cindy, who will leave us in Memphis, her ride-end packet and she said a fond farewell to each of us and we to her. We will miss her sunny disposition and strong riding. We also wished Dave McGan a happy 66th birthday. Gene's history lesson for the day was on the blues examples of which we are bound to hear on our rest day in Memphis. Check in tomorrow and see how our day unfolds. Susan

posted 2005-08-29 | 12:49:07 | article number: 6

Day 16--Mon., Aug. 29--Ripley to Memphis, TN--2600 feet of climb
I know that sixteen days ago, the riders would have been somewhat concerned about having an 80-mile day. Today, even though we left at 7 am, everyone was into the motel in Memphis and settled into their room before 3 pm, including the slower riders. This includes a 20-minute delay while a thunderstorm from Katrina rumbled by and a delay in getting rooms because of the many evacuees from Katrina who were here in Memphis.

Forecast: Everything looks very good for a complete ride to New Orleans in spite of Katrina . . . she is not going west far enough to hurt our route with debris, power outages, or flooded roads. Yippee! Sometimes it pays to have a weatherman for the Ride Leader.

Today�s ride was certainly beautiful. Perhaps the highlight were the times riders cycled through �tree tunnels,� places where the trees on both sides of the road hung over the winding roadway, making it dark inside. But other neat things were the 10-mph tailwind, numerous butterflies (identified accurately by staff members Susan and Josh), arrows painted by Karen so we didn�t miss any turns, hummingbirds, turkey melt sandwiches at the Shelby Forest General Store, and the lack of rain until we pulled into the motel. And, since rooms were not ready so early, some of us heard a blues band playing outside on Beale Street. And then there was dinner at the Blues City Cafe (real Memphis BBQ and live blues music), and even a minor league baseball game at the stadium adjacent to the motel. Several riders thought they spotted Elvis before Route Rap too!

Tomorrow we have a rest day. Everyone has something special planned. The staff is looking forward to dinner (and mint juleps) at Jim Rutledge�s house. Jim rode the ABB North ride this summer and it will be fun for the North staff (Karen, Josh, and Susan) to hook up with him again. Click in tomorrow and see what�s up. GW

posted 2005-08-29 | 21:45:22 | article number: 7

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