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

current date and time 2008-07-03 | 19:26:26
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Number of Journal Entries online: 6
Day 9 � Wed., May 23, 2007 � Memphis, TN [REST DAY] 0 miles
Well, here I am to report on our day off in Memphis.

Despite our vow to sleep in, habit dies hard, so roomie, Judy, and I were at breakfast by 6:30. The hotel had a good conti, so we didn�t need to go far to find coffee. At breakfast, I said good-bye (again!) to my would-be cohorts bound for the St Pete�s ride.

After breakfast, the staff took off for a Super WalMart, a car wash, and a laundry, all of which we found in Arkansas on the other side of the Mississippi River. Gene and I did the grocery shopping, stocking up for the next week�s Sag Stops. While we grocery shopped, Jeff and Jim washed the vans and did a load of laundry.

When we got back to the hotel, Gene and I sorted the food out for each van and I took the fruit to my room to wash and prepare it. Didn�t do that right away, however, because I realized that the ducks were due to march at the Peabody in just half an hour. The Peabody ducks march to the fountain at 11:00 am and return to their penthouse at 5:00 pm daily. So, roomie and I raced over there and got some photos.

How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Here�s what their literature has to say about it: �Back in the 1930s Frank Shutt, general manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had imbibed a little too much Tennessee sippin� whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English Call ducks were selected as �guinea pigs,� and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous. After more than 70 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The mallard ducks live in the fountain until they are full grown and, on retirement from their Peabody duties, are returned to the wild.�

After seeing the ducks waddle to their fountain in the hotel lobby (photo above), we raced back so that Judy could meet some of the other riders and go to Graceland (photo above). Other riders took off for Mud Island, which has a quarter mile replica of the Mississippi River and attractive gardens, the Coors Brewery, the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium, the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio where Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded, shopping at the mid-America Mall, and some even rode their bikes along the river.

Tonight after welcoming the two new riders, providing orientation and safety sessions, and assembling bikes, the staff will eat at the Blues City Caf� on Beale Street. Tomorrow we�ll all be on the road again heading north to Minneapolis. Join us.

posted 2007-05-23 | 16:34:40 | article number: 1

Day 10 � Thur., May 24, 2007 � Memphis to Ripley, TN � 80 miles
[Can�t give you the feet of climb anymore because Rick Myerburg was supplying me with these data and he left the tour in Memphis. I must see if any other rider has a GPS or a computer that will give us total climb for the day.]

Well, we�re on the road again . . . after an excellent rest day in Memphis.

We loaded this morning at 7 am, ate breakfast, Gene conducted route rap, and then Jim Benson led the cyclists out of the hotel en masse at 8 am. Our late departure was designed to avoid rush hour city traffic, but our hotel was very close to our suburban and then country route, so riders had no problems. I set up the first sag today, and Gene set up the second, giving each of us a chance to ride.

The first sag was only 20 miles out at the Shelby Forest General Store. I think the same locals who were sitting on the porch in 2005 were sitting on the porch today. No joke. One with a beard I distinctly remember. When I first arrived, I did all sorts of fancy stuff with the van and trailer trying to park it so that the doors were on the proper side for rider access, the van was in the shade, other patrons had room to park, etc. When I finally got out, one of the porch sitters said: �Well in another minute or two were going to come over and help.� They and the proprietor also said that yesterday a group of cyclists with Women�s Tours had come by and stopped at the store.

Just as in 2005, the store�s pet rooster visited the cyclists at the picnic tables on the deck. This rooster was a new one, however�JJ by name. In the photo above Frank tries a little rooster talk. JJ wasn�t hearing it and wandered out into the middle of the intersection and then into some trees where he proceeded to crow boisterously. Perhaps this intersection is the reason JJ is the new rooster on the block.

When Gene arrived, I donned my riding gear, looked around, and found only two riders left. So, the three of us rode to the second SS together. The roads were wonderfully shady and nearly without traffic. I spotted another Indigo Bunting and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Also several Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. We also picked up some roll (one a 10% winding descent), so life was good. We passed through many tree tunnels, one created by some huge oaks. The scenery was wooded roads with occasional homes tucked back from the roadway, very small farms, and tiny towns. One spot sported the best kudzu garden we�ve seen so far (photo above). The kudzu is still young this early in the season, so we haven�t passed acres of it covering everything in its path. I think that someone ought to start a roadside topiary. All they�d need was a bit of chicken wire and some imagination. A perfect day in Tennessee.

Jeff picked up a watermelon at a roadside stand, so tomorrow we will have it at the SS. When not in the shade, the day was hot, but we had pretty good wind to keep us cool. Riders had a kicking tailwind for their last 10 miles or so, which also helped. The air is hazy, which they say is smoke from the Florida and Georgia fires.

Despite the heat, hills, and occasional headwinds, riders were all in by 3 pm. Tonight we will shuttle riders to Los Portales, a Mexican restaurant. See you tomorrow.

posted 2007-05-25 | 21:00:41 | article number: 2

Day 11 � Fri., May 25, 2007 � Ripley to Union City, TN �69 miles
Up in the morning and off we go. We loaded luggage at 6 am this morning. Several of us had eaten breakfast already, so off we went. Once again today�s ride was mostly on tree shaded, rolling roads in the countryside. ABB knows how to pick �em.

Our first turn was onto Nankipoo Road. A Native American word, I would guess. Also rode on roads with descriptive names: Double Bridges Road, Hurricane Hill Road, Oak Ridge Road, Pleasant Hill Road, and one odd one named Reelfoot Road. Reelfoot?

In several areas today, riders had to be careful not to inhale a throatful of gnats. The gnats hovered in large balls at road�s edge. How do I know this? Yep. I was distracted by some interesting Appaloosa horses and inhaled a few gnasty gnats. Yurg! In fact, there were lots of horses and dogs on today�s route. Each house seemed to have at least four dogs, some of which came barking and boiling out of their yards to run alongside of us. None seemed bent on biting, though. All they wanted was a good chase: �Get off my property and stay off!� they barked.

Gene set up today�s SS at a small roadside church. Riders enjoyed the watermelon that Jeff bought yesterday. After cutting the watermelon, Gene started a seed spitting contest but after Gene had spit the farthest seed, he promptly closed the contest. So it was no contest, Gene won hands down.

The last riders were in by 1 pm, and the frontrunners were in by 10:30 with today�s tailwinds and our early start. We shuttled riders to Ryan�s Steakhouse for dinner this eve. Believe me no one went home hungry. Even after all these years, I still find it incredible how much [some] riders can eat and still not gain weight. They all knew that they needed to carbo load tonight for tomorrow�s 92-mile day.

posted 2007-05-25 | 21:04:00 | article number: 3

Day 12 � Sat., May 26, 2007 � Union City, TN to Cape Girardeau, MO � 91 miles
A hazy warm day with temps predicted in the high 80�s and wind out of the southeast . . . and we�re headed northwest. Yes! We had luggage load at 6 am, and then breakfast at the Hampton, which puts out a very good and varied continental breakfast: waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, cranberry and orange juice, etc. The first riders were on the road by 6:10.

Today the elevation view of the route looked like the cardiac monitor readout of a dying patient: several small, irregular beats on either end connected by a long flat line. The two �climbs� at the beginning were child�s play compared to the series of hills at the end, which though short, were exceedingly steep. You know the saying, �I�ve never seen a hill I couldn�t . . . walk.� Several did. In between, however, the 50-mile segment that I rode, was flat as an expired patient�s readout.

I drove the 18 miles to the ferry this morning and Gene rode it on his bike. The ferry runs from Hickman, Kentucky to Dorena, Missouri, so riders entered their fourth and fifth states. Just before the ramp there was a �Welcome to Kentucky� sign before which several riders posed. Such state welcoming signs have been scarce on this route.

All were curious about the little ferry, which is quite clever because its motor is on a pivoting tug. It simply pivots the tug 180 degrees to change direction (see above). However, this morning all vehicles had to back onto the ferry because one ramp was inoperable. I am no good at backing the van and trailer, so Gene hopped in and showed all the backing skills he�d learned as a farm boy. In no time he had backed the van and trailer down the steep ramp and onto the ferry, aligning it perfectly in the center lane. All gave him a round of applause. Then he asked the pilot to demonstrate the pivoting maneuver even though it could not be used because of the broken ramp. The pilot happily complied and everyone was impressed.

Seventeen cyclists and the van/trailer went across first, with Jeff in the second van picking up the six stragglers and coming across in the next shift. In 2005, the pilot demanded that each cyclist pay individually and get an individual receipt, so I had given each rider $2 last night and told them that they would get no sag food until I had the receipt in my paw. But, this year the pilot ordered all to line up and pay separately (photo above) but gave me one receipt for the group and one for the van/trailer. Much easier on the bookkeeping. He also said that if the van/trailer ever came across again anytime in the future it would be free, so I must be sure to get that receipt to ABB for next year�s crossing.

I set up the SS on the other side and then donned my riding gear for my time on the bike. This time I looked around and everyone was gone. I caught a couple of riders after about 6 miles, but despite our mild tailwind (5 to 10 mph) did not work myself very far up in the line. Three riders were smart enough to sag either at the second SS or shortly thereafter, the heat, hills or other ills prompting their decision.

Tonight the riders will eat again at Ryan�s Steakhouse, a favorite. I will not join them, as I must do some grocery shopping. Also, I had half a sandwich at Panera�s � which is directly across the street from the motel � and plan on eating the other half for dinner.

Tomorrow riders cycle to St Genevieve, MO. Come join them.

posted 2007-05-26 | 18:06:54 | article number: 4

Day 13 � Sun., May 27, 2007 � Cape Girardeau to Ste. Genevieve, MO � 72 miles; 4,380 feet of climb
WAY BACK: A few days back, I remarked that a road named Nankipoo sounded like a Native American word. However a rider thought that Nankipoo was a character in the Mikado. Today I remembered to Google it. Sure enough, NankiPoo is the disguised son of the Mikado, so the word is Gilbert & Sullivan and not Native American.

BACK: Last night, riders rented a taxi and went downtown to Rufus Mudsuckers Liquid Lounge for some �Eatin�, drinkin.� and dancin�.� Don�t know if they got the dancin� in but I�m sure they got the eatin� and perhaps a bit of drinkin� in too. They also wanted to see the levee and the murals painted on it, which are very artful. Called Mississippi River Tales, they depict all the notable people from the states along the river. Missouri, included Stan Musial, Dred Scott, George Brett, Yogi Berra, Betty Grable, Jean Harlow, Vincent Price, Redd Foxx, Ginger Rogers, Frank & Jesse James, Calamity Jane, and many others. I took some good photos of some of the murals, so today am frustrated by the two-photo format of this site. I have at least six photos that I would like to share. Cape Giradeau is an interesting little place and used to be a bustling commercial stop on the Mississippi.

BACK ON TRACK: What a beautiful day. Temps were in the high 80s. but accompanied by high humidity with the prediction of precipitation in the afternoon. It is 2 pm in MO at the mo, and the last riders �appropriately named �The Lunch Bunch� � are in town eating lunch. What else? No rain yet, though it is hazy and overcast. We�ll see what the afternoon brings.

After luggage load this morning, riders rode to breakfast at a Cracker Barrel and then took to the road. And what a road it was. Riders again complimented ABB on the route choice. They were on a paved bike path for nearly the first 13 miles of the ride, and then were on little-traveled back roads riding rollers, a welcome change, many said, from yesterday�s 50 miles of flat. Some of the hills were perfectly spaced for power descents that would swing riders up the next hill with little pedaling, perfect rollers. Others were steep or unevenly spaced and required a bit of work.

Our SS was in Brazeau, MO, at an old Blacksmith�s shop, 1919 Bank, and tiny, still-operating post office. This has been our rest stop for years and I remembered it from previous rides. Since it was Sunday, no one was about and the little winery across the side street from the SS served as a welcome place to sit and rest a bit. A rotund hound dog hounded us for handouts, but we resisted . . . for the most part. Well, okay, I fed it two wheat thins which I think it found by sound rather than sight or smell. Both Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows were nesting in the area, several Cliff Swallows under the winery�s porch eaves. The birds were not happy with riders who sat near their nests.

Today, at mile 884, we came to the official half-way point of the ride. Riders stopped to have their photos taken, and some even lay down in the road to pose. Don�t worry the road was flat and we could see very long distances in each direction. A farmer left his huge John Deere Tractor idling and he and his son and daughter came from the field they were tilling to gab with the staff and riders. The young boy was on a three-wheeler and the little girl was on a small bicycle. She would ride back down the road and escort the riders to the halfway mark.

We�re in a Microtel Inn & Suites this evening with a Subway nearby (we all love this place for lunch) and several other quick food places to refuel after this demanding day of climbs and descents. I took the total climb today from the 2005 ride so it is not accurate since riders were riding south rather than north, but it is close enough. A day that gave all riders bragging rights.

Tomorrow we roll into St Louis where we�ll spend our second and last rest day. Hard to believe that there are only a dozen days left in the tour.

posted 2007-05-27 | 17:00:50 | article number: 5

Day 14 � Monday, May 28, 2007 (Memorial Day) � Ste. Genevieve to St. Louis, MO � 84 miles
�It was a dark and stormy night . . .� as �author� Snoopy always parodied in the Peanuts comic strip. Actually it rained about 4:30 am, then quit and dried, so that riders could get their bikes and gear together and get on the road between 6 and 6:30 am. About half an hour after the last rider left the hotel, it rained pretty hard for maybe half an hour and then quit. For most of the rest of the day it was sunny and humid.

Note that I said �most.� The Lunch Bunch stopped at the second SS for a Quizno�s sub sandwich lunch break about 20 miles from the hotel. Because of this, a thunderstorm caught up with them. They waited in the sub shop until the thunder and lightning abated, and then rode the last miles into St Louis in brilliant sun and high humidity. These five were the only riders to experience this thunder-and-lightning storm.

It was a very hilly day, and one hill in particular caught riders' attention. I think each rider who pulled into SS #2 said the same thing: �Boy, what a hill! I thought it would never end.� Hills in Missouri are usually short and steep. This one was long and steep. Several riders decided to walk part of it.

The ride into St Louis is great fun because riders have a well-marked bike lane for miles, the arch gleams above the downtown skyscrapers, and riders get to ride past the hops smelling Anheuser Busch Brewery with its boot-wearing, chicken-eating, �gargoyle� foxes adorning each corner of its oldest building. I have a photo of same that I may include in tomorrow�s Rest Day report if something else of interest doesn�t displace it.

We are in the Drury Plaza Hotel in downtown St Louis, right on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and just a block from Eero Saarinen�s world-renowned 630-foot stainless steel Gateway Arch. In fact, if I look out my window, I can see the arch to the right. Half of this hotel is in a 1920s building that used to be the International Fur Trading Company. The lobby in this hotel is very large with a fountain and a waterfall behind bronze sculptures of Lewis & Clark, York (Clark�s slave and the first black to cross North America), and Sacajawea. There was also a player piano in the hospitality area of the lobby, upon which Sue D and John H entertained (just kidding) the rest of the cyclists with their rendition of �Up a Lazy River� (photo above).

After drinks and noshes in the hospitality area of the hotel, riders took a shuttle to Old Town and the Spaghetti Emporium, an interesting basement restaurant decorated with stained glass windows, polished brass, and hardwood. The food was very good and plentiful. Jeff and Gene and I walked back to the motel, thus burning off at least five of the calories we ate.

Before dinner, we said good bye to John Hill, who left the 2005 �Katrina� ride in St Louis so has now ridden the whole route. We hope to see him on another ABB ride in the future.

To bed to bed . . . . Tomorrow I will report on all the day off things that both staff and riders enjoyed.

posted 2007-05-29 | 21:42:17 | article number: 6

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