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The Great Mississippi River Ride, page 3
St. Louis, MO to Minneapolis, MN
(The Great Northern River Ride '08)

current date and time 2008-08-28 | 06:47:56
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Number of Journal Entries online: 11
Day 15
Day off in St. Louis!

posted 2008-05-29 | 17:17:40 | article number: 1

Day 16 - May 28, St. Louis to Louisiana, MO � 106 miles. 4,200 ft of climbing
Weather: Sunny, cool at the start, warming up to the low 70s. Headwinds most of the day.

After a day off the bike in St. Louis, we hit the road hard, with a 106 mile day that included quite a bit of climbing and headwinds. The riders were up to the challenge and successful in arriving in Louisiana.

There is a great bike path that got us out of busy downtown St. Louis. It parallels the river (mostly on top of the levee) and runs past Lewis and Clark historic sites and museums. We were on that path for most of the first 45 miles. At one point it briefly joins up with the old route 66 where we take an old steel girder bridge across the Mississippi into Illinois. The river is higher than it has been in past years. At the town of Grafton, the bike path was completely under water, so riders were on the main street for a few miles until we reached the Brussel�s ferry and took that across the Illinois River , a small tributary. After the ferry, the climbing began with one fairly long, steep climb and many �rollers�. At mile 77, it levels out again.

Pizza was served for dinner, followed by a necessary trip to the local DQ.

posted 2008-05-29 | 22:01:09 | article number: 2

Day 17 - May 29, Louisiana to Hannibal �Home of Mark Twain�, MO � 38 miles - 2,075 ft of climbing
Weather: low 60s at the start, upper 70s at finish. Winds: very light, mostly tailwinds.

Today was our shortest mileage day of the trip. It was supposed to be 33 miles, however due to a washed out road and a mud slide, the detour, Jeff and Deb routed us on added a few more miles. The day started with a beautiful sunrise showcasing the bridge near our hotel and a good breakfast at a local B&B;/caf�. Once on the road, the terrain was pretty rolling as you can see by the picture. However, no complaints from the riders, they are loving the challenge. Our SAG stop was in the town of New London in front of the Ralls County Courthouse.

Everyone arrived in Hannibal by noon, giving them a chance to explore the town. Several of our group climbed up to the lighthouse; others visited the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum or took a trolley tour of the town.

Tomorrow we are holding our t-shirt swap, I saw several riders busy trying to find interesting t-shirts in order to out do the others. Tune in tomorrow to find out details.

Featured Rider of the day:
Bill Zeeb, age 60, from Cincinnati, OH
Married, 2 daughters, one grandson, age 2 years.
Occupation: Retired Executive � Lenscrafters
Currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity. He has worked on 20-25 homes over the past 5-6 years.
Favorite Food: his wife�s chili
Bill is one of the most well traveled persons I have met. Especially, since retiring in 2002, he has been to some fantastic places. I asked him what was his favorite or most memorable vacation was and he replied �it�s like Baskins and Robbins, 31 flavors, all good and too hard to choose�. Here are just a he has mentioned: Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Egypt, Petra, Taj Mahal, Europe, and more. If you ever want suggestions for vacations, or just to talk travel, Bill is who you want to find!
Bill is a strong rider and planning to ride with AbB again this fall on the �West� ride.

posted 2008-05-29 | 22:08:02 | article number: 3

Day 18 - May 30, Hannibal to Keokuk, IA � 60 miles - 1,430 ft of climbing
Even though the mileage was fairly short today, we got off to an early start due to some possible severe weather coming our way later in the day. There was not much climbing today and a very nice tailwind blowing, which helped get everyone to Keokuk by noon. We even made the paper; see picture for the proof �Cyclists use wind to advantage�. Once in Keokuk, it did pour on and off all afternoon, so we were very glad to be in and dry!

After dinner, we held our t-shirt swap. The best story was how Stu obtained his. Yesterday, when he stopped at a gas station for a candy bar, he saw the shirt the clerk was wearing and commented on what a nice shirt it was and asked where she got it She replied �Wal-Mart for five bucks� and proceeded to explain how to get there. I think Wal-Mart was just a little too far away for Stu to get to on his bike, so he offered her $10 for the one she was wearing. We were all surprised when she actually said �yes, but it�s dirty�. Stu�s reply, �that�s even better�! At the swap, Larry ended up with it. I don�t think the picture does it justice; it is Kelly-green, size XXXL and says �Have a Nice Day�. Oh boy, now AbB riders are taking shirts off of peoples backs!

Interesting fact we learned: Keokuk is known for its extensive lock and dam system and hydroelectric power plant which provides power for most of St. Louis and surrounding area.

Funny things heard today:
�you�re not riding sweep today, you�re riding mop�!
�my key wouldn�t work, so I went up a floor and then it worked�
�I�m not touching that shirt�

Tomorrow is a long day � 96 miles!

posted 2008-05-30 | 21:55:21 | article number: 4

Day 19 - May 31, Keokuk to Galesburg, IL � 96 miles - 1964 ft of climbing
Weather: upper 60s at start, 80s at finish and SUNNY. Winds: tailwinds and quarter headwinds at various times.

After spending the night in Keokuk, Iowa, we crossed back over the river into Illinois. For the first 14 miles, we had spectacular views of the river, complete with sightings of Blue Egrets, Pelicans, turtles and eagles.

Soon we entered the town of Nauvoo, which was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter-day Saints. This is where a beautiful Mormon Temple (picture) can be found as well as many Mormon historic sites.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in rural Illinois farmland, cycling to the sound of crowing roosters and the smell of honeysuckle. We saw very few cars, sometimes none for 8-10 miles. Illinois is laid out in a square grid; it made our route fun as we zigzagged our way NE towards Galesburg.

It is noticeable how far north we are getting; here the corn is only 2 inches high versus 2 feet high like in the south. Also, the spring flowers, like irises are in perpetual bloom.

At our 2nd SAG stop, some of the riders ventured down the street to where a man was selling grilled prime rib sandwiches for lunch. It was a calorie bonus on such a long day.

At mile 74, there is a rotary, which seems totally out of place, since it is basically in the middle of nowhere. We always get a kick out of riding around it a couple of times, wondering where to get off it.

Tomorrow we head for Moline, home of John Deere Co.

Featured Rider of the day:
Larry Mathias, age 67, from Lake Havasu City, AZ
Married, 2 daughters, one is a chef and the other a photographer
Occupation: Retired VP of HR and Public Relations, American Crystal Sugar
Bike: 2003 Cannondale R800
Hobbies: Racquet ball, boating, bowling and escaping to Durango, Colorado during August.
Interesting, little know fact: He is a Pink Floyd fan and even has a bike jersey to prove it!
This is Larry�s first trip with AbB. He wanted to see if he would be able to manage a bicycle trip longer than a week and has found he is more than capable. Larry can usually be found biking with Bill, they set a nice, strong, steady pace and they always have a smile on their faces!

posted 2008-05-31 | 21:51:31 | article number: 5

Day 20 � June 1, Galesburg to Moline, IL � 62 miles � 1,497 ft of climbing
Weather: Warm and sunny, winds: light, mostly tailwinds

Wow! What a peaceful ride through more Illinois farmland. For hours there was hardly a car to be seen or heard. The farm houses are nice with well kept yards filled with flowers in bloom. It is Sunday and as we rode past several country churches, the sound of hymns streamed out their doors.

At mile 52, a group of riders stopped in the town of Milan, which is not pronounced like the town in Italy. We found out the locals feel pretty strongly if you say it wrong, it is MY-LAND (minus the �D�). The local fire department was holding their annual chicken fry. It seems like the entire town turned out for it, there was hardly a seat to be found. One of the most unique things about these rides is the attention we draw (all good, we hope). Just picture a bunch of cyclists in bright colored spandex showing up at a small town gathering. Stares, curiosity and questions are abundant. At the chicken fry, we struck up a conversation with a sharp witted older woman (I think her name was Nellie), she really had us laughing at times. To give you an idea, here is part of the conversation:
Nellie: I think there was an article in the newspaper about you guys riding through here.
John: Then why wasn�t there anyone lining the streets to cheer us on?
Nellie: Looking at you, they probably hid!
Stu: Can I put my arm around you and take your picture?
Nellie: no one has ever asked to put their arm around me before!

The last 6 miles were on a very nice bike path along the river (see picture of the view), which took us right to our hotel. Several riders visited the John Deere shop and museum, which is just a couple blocks from where we are staying.

Tomorrow we ride to historic Galena, IL and have quite a bit of climbing to do.

Featured Rider of the Day:
Dale Crockatt, age 53, from Tucson, AZ
Single, 2 sons � ages 14 & 15
Bike: Roark
Occupation: Attorney; Assistant General Counsel, InfoPrint Solutions
Favorite Food: Japanese, Dale spent six months in Japan, where he came to love the food.
Interesting, little known fact: Is related to Davy Crockett, though his last name is spelled differently.
Dale is a very strong rider, he has already logged over 4200 miles this year! Also, has qualified for the 2009 Senior Cycle Olympics being held in San Francisco.
Dale has ridden his bike across the US from West to East in sections and is now working on completing a course from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. Last year he rode with AbB from New Orleans to Memphis, this year he is with us from Memphis to Minneapolis. Dale always has a smile on his face, you can tell it is pure joy for him to be out on his bike!

posted 2008-06-02 | 21:44:08 | article number: 6

Day 21 � June 2, Moline to Galena, IL � 94 miles - 3,120 ft of climbing
Weather: partly cloudy and then a little overcast. Moderate temperatures and calm winds. A few sprinkles in the afternoon.

For the first 54 miles we were on a very nice bike path/route that followed the river. It was a great way to exit town and avoid the Monday morning rush hour traffic. The route was quite scenic and at times, we were right at the river�s edge.

After our 2nd SAG stop, we were back on country roads and climbed up to a ridge and spent the next 10 miles rolling along the top enjoying the fantastic views. Rolling farmlands mixed with plots of dense woods - absolutely beautiful.

After a few good climbs (and some descents too), we reached Galena, a beautiful town with over 85% of the buildings on the historic registry, it was also the home to Ulysses S. Grant. Main Street is filled with various specialty and antique shops as well as many, bed and breakfast establishments and of course an ice cream shop!

The winner of the �best socks� contest was Paul. The socks have a mug of beer on them and some sort of saying like �be happy�.

You never know what will happen on one of these rides and when you might need a goat rescued. Today, Stu, Abe and John rode by a farm and came upon a goat whose head was stuck in a fence. Without hesitation, they stopped, dismounted their bikes and freed it. (This is the same group that regularly �rescues� turtles).

Also, yesterday when biking, Richard met a couple, one which is a licensed massage therapist, Laurel Darren. Laurel came to our hotel and gave free massages � Thank you Laurel and Richard!

The only serious thing we have to report is Dale was involved in a high speed chase with the Albany police chief, Bill and fire chief, Larry; we even got it on camera (see picture).

Tomorrow we enter a new state � Wisconsin!

posted 2008-06-03 | 06:04:28 | article number: 7

Day 22 � June 3, Galena to Prairie du Chein � 72 miles � 4,750 ft of climbing
Weather: cool and overcast at the start, by the 1st SAG it was raining.

It was a challenging day, shortly after departing our hotel; we had some serious climbing to do. The Wisconsin countryside is beautiful, however a bit rolling.

When we left Galena, it was under overcast skies with a threat of rain, by mile 27 in was raining with some lightening and thunder. Most of the riders took refuge in a bar in the town of Potosi for about an hour. The bar was packed with people playing cards (Euchre), some drinking coffee, some drinking beer�it was 9:30am, what a great place to wait out a storm � a Wisconsin bar (picture). Just another typical Tuesday in a small town.

Our 2nd SAG stop was at mile 41 at a roadside park next to a cheese shop. The riders were treated to cheese curds, a must have if you are in Wisconsin. Some tried them for the first time. Here are some of the comments:
�They feel like I�m eating pencil easers�.
�Hmm, tastes like it too�!

We held the �oldest jersey� contest today. Pictured are the winner, Dale (middle) with a jersey 15 years old and the runners up were Abe, 13 years and Sara, 10 years. Stu said Abe should have won, since he IS the oldest Jersey (being from NJ).

We also held our �poker run�. The riders get two cards at the start and then one at each SAG. A final card is drawn at route rap. The winner was J.P. with two pairs.

Featured Rider of the Day:
John Dickens, from Freemont, CA
2 daughters, ages 26 and 28. One lives near-by and the other is in Ghana doing some work with the Peace Corps.
Occupation: Retired engineer; Lockheed Martin
Bike: Bianchi
Riding: from St. Louis to Minneapolis
John is doing this ride because he is originally from SE Iowa and loves riding in the Midwest. He has been busy visiting with friends and also filling us in about the history of the area. He has done Ragbrai several times, accompanied by his daughters. We enjoy having John on the ride, his quick wit and sense of humor is appreciated by all.

posted 2008-06-03 | 21:31:31 | article number: 8

Day 23 � June 4, Prairie du Chein to La Crosse, WI � 67 miles � 1,275 ft of climbing
Weather: cool, mid 60s most of the day and overcast. Light rain midway through the ride. Winds: light, mostly tailwinds, side winds at times

After a good hot breakfast, we set off for La Crosse in overcast conditions, there was a fog hanging over the river and bluffs most of the day, which obscured the view sometimes. �Mystical� I heard one rider say.

We were on Wisconsin highway 35 most of the day, which winds along the river and has sweeping views of the river, lock and dams, and bluffs. There are also many pull outs with historical markers and scenic overlooks to stop at. Several riders climbed .7 miles up a very steep hill to one overlook.

We are entering an area populated by the Amish and saw several horse and buggies (picture). Along our route tomorrow there will be shops with Amish made furniture and quilts.

Featured Rider of the Day:
George Schlesinger, age 58 from Santa Rosa, CA
Married, 2 daughters, 1 son, 1 grandson (2� yrs) and 1 granddaughter (4 mths). All his children live in the bay area.
Occupation: Rabbi
Bike: Trek Madone
Riding: from New Orleans to Minneapolis
Favorite Food: Various Ethnic foods; Thai, Indian, etc�
Little known interesting fact: George plays the harp (started lessons at age 10)! He also plays the piano and guitar.
Before signing up to do this ride, the longest ride George had ever done was 75 miles in one day and he had never ridden consecutive, high mileage days. We were a little worried at orientation when George mentioned this. However, we were all pleasantly surprised and amazed when it turned out George is one of our strongest riders!

posted 2008-06-05 | 05:40:40 | article number: 9

Day 24 � June 5, La Crosse to Red Wing, WI � 101 miles � 2,050 ft of climbing
Weather: Light rain/drizzle at the start, temperature 70 degrees, then turning cloudy, winds out of the South (tailwinds)

The forecast called for rain, rain, rain; however, as is often in this part of the country, the weather is very unpredictable. So, after we got dressed in our multi-layered raingear, it of course quit raining, warmed up and we even saw a few peeks of sunshine!

This part of the ride is so pretty; the road is lined with pink, white and purple phlox in bloom. The views of the river and bluffs are fantastic and the wildlife plentiful. There were sightings of various birds such as eagles, falcons, pelicans, herons, egrets. Also, spotted a few groundhogs and wild turkeys.

Today we went through several small towns that had little cafes with a lot of character and great food. Even though it was a long day, the riders took time to stop and �smell the roses�. It was like they didn�t want the trip to end�understandable, as tomorrow is our last ride together on this trip.

We held our final dinner/banquet, shared our experiences, emotions and said our goodbyes. It seems like just yesterday, Minneapolis was just a dream and so far away, now that the last day is upon us, we don�t want this to end!

Tomorrow is a beautiful route into St. Paul/Minneapolis.

posted 2008-06-06 | 06:24:46 | article number: 10

Day 25 � June 6, Red Wing to Minneapolis, MN � 66 miles � 2,340 ft of climbing
Weather: What a whirlwind! The wind was howling, swirling and gusting (up to 35 mph). Fortunately, it was mostly at our backs, though sometimes it was a wicked side wind or swirling, which made handling the bike difficult.

As we rode out of Red Wing, there were threats of isolated thunderstorms all around us, however, we managed to get by with just a few showers. The first part of the day was on Wisconsin Hwy 35; it had a nice wide shoulder with fantastic views and also a few good climbs that were a mile or two long. After our SAG stop, we entered Minnesota, took on a few more climbs, and then entered a bike path, which took us into downtown St. Paul. Along the way, there were several sightings of bald eagles, which made the day complete. After negotiating the traffic for a few blocks in downtown, we were back on bike paths almost the whole way to the hotel.

After we arrived, we said our final and sometimes tearful goodbyes.

Oh, what an adventure this trip has been. I will forever remember the people that made this ride so special:
Joe, being prepared for anything, as he carried everything on his Bike Friday, including a spare tire! Dave�s quiet, wry sense of humor, always ready with a quip. Richard, a man who has friends in every city and is able to get a deal on anything with just a smile and a silver tongue. Paul, for drawing all the dogs to him, thus keeping them away from the rest of us and earning �stickers� for his pump. There was Dale, always a joyful smile on his face, just happy to be riding his bike. Mark, for the courage it took to come back again this year after a bad fall. George, who surprised us all in so many ways; his biking ability, musical talent and it was a treat to have a Rabbi traveling with us. Darrell, a friendly fellow, who joined us for such a short time, he has a wonderful southern accent and we hope to see him again. I will treasure riding sweep with the three �bicycleteers�, Abe, Stu and John, it always made for an entertaining day with the frequent stops to visit with the local folks. I think of Bill always riding at a rapid cadence and speeding up the hills, seemingly with little effort and for providing the daily elevation climb and route feedback. Larry for his kindness and easy going manner and always having Bill�s back. I will never forget Sarah�s boundless energy and for always looking for just the perfect banana. It was wonderful to see the quiet satisfaction on J.P.�s face after she crested the top of a long climb on her recumbent. Mike, who is always willing to help, I don�t think the word �no� is in his vocabulary. I have to thank Deb for her support and wonderful sense of humor. And to Jeff, for his knowledge of the route, his humor and getting us all to our destination safely.

Another AbB trip completed, goals accomplished and lasting friendships formed. As the bike saying goes; �may the days be sunny and the wind at your back�, until we meet again.

posted 2008-06-07 | 22:40:11 | article number: 11

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