On August 13 a group of some 28 cyclists will meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota to begin a 25 day tour by bicycle along the Great Mississippi River from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. The ultimate destination is "the Big Easy": New Orleans, La.
I will be with them--as we travel 1800 miles through 9 States following the Mississippi River "on a magical and history filled adventure" ( according to America by Bicycle--the touring company leading the trip).
I know many of you followed the website reports last summer on www.bikingwithbill.org as I biked across America with a great group of cyclists on the Cross Country Challenge 2004.
This year on this blog site, I will again maintain a daily online journal reporting on the activities of the group, the scenery and views along the way, the historical points of interest, and the amusing and memorable experiences we share. AND OF COURSE, I WILL HAVE PICTURES EVERYDAY!
I invite you to join me- and the group- and experience the ride with us.
I'm told a blog is meant to encourage reader responses. You are most welcome to send along your thoughts or questions to me here at "the blog".
Oh yes--we get under way on Sunday, August 14. I CAN'T WAIT!!!
Posted: Wed, 31 August 2005
Day 18 Memphis, TN to Hernando, MS
The Great Mississippi River Ride 2005......IS OVER!
Tomorrow we will return to Memphis, pack up our bikes, and fly home on Friday, September, 2.
The decision to discontinue the ride short of our goal was made by ABB—with complete agreement from the bikers. In reality, it was the ONLY call. There is far too much destruction, uncertainty, and chaos South of here to attempt a safe continuation of the GMR. Availability of gasoline for the vans was becoming impossible, power outages are prevalent in the cities we were to visit, and motels are overflowing with refugees from New Orleans. We discussed the moral issues of 20 bikers perhaps displacing hurricane evacuees in the motels ahead. We could NOT continue.
We are currently in Hernando, MS, a gentile Southern town of 10,000 people , following our 37 mile ride here this morning from Memphis. We will retrace the route tomorrow back to the same hotel in Memphis. There the ride culminates....6 days short of New Orleans. I hope to complete the Memphis/New Orleans segment next year. I feel strongly about finishing the route!!!
It is truly a sad experience to talk with the New Orleans evacuees we meet continually. They have nothing–there homes and businesses are under water, yet they remain relatively optimistic. Many have children in tow–where will they live?, what will they do?
Our group is composed of vacationing cyclists, all of whom have a home to return to. It is time we got out of the way–for our own safety–and to allow others to do what has to be done in the wake of this disastrous storm.
I think we all want to finish a challenge we have begun...the challenge of cycling the length of the Mississippi River. I plan to do just that...one day!!!
Posted: Tue, 30 August 2005
Day 16 Ripley, TN to Memphis, TN
The catastrophic predictions from the Weather Channel and CNN involving Hurricane Katrina naturally had all of us greatly concerned: would we make it?, would we be able to continue on our ride to New Orleans? No one knew what would be ahead, we were heading into a worrisome unknown. We knew from watching TV that our Memphis-- hotel and many others there-- were filled with refugees from Louisiana and Mississippi, and that the storm would pass through that city.
With assurances from ABB, we deported at 7:00AM from Ripley, TN and cycled down the road to Memphis. Once there we were hoping to be able to sit out a weakening hurricane on Monday night and Tuesday - a rest day.
It was an 82 mile hurried ride under dark skies and humid conditions. Our group of riders included most of the crew at one time or another during the day, but at ride the into the city of Memphis it was - as usual - " Rick, Dan and Bill." ( We are sometimes referred to that way by the others, since we are together so often. We ride at the same pace and are good friends.) The route was mainly the MRT ( Mississippi River Trail ), a bike route on local roads and country lanes. It was a fun ride with some rollers and curves, plenty of farmers fields to look at, some shaded wooded areas, and unfortunately the sights of many very poor rural Tennessee shacks and trailer homes. Maybe the dogs sensed the on-coming storm today, as they mainly stood by the side of the road - and WATCHED US.
The SAG stop at Debbie’s Corner Store provided some relief in a short rain storm. All the pick-up trucks at the 2nd SAG at the General Store in Shelby County had 2 hunting dogs in the open bed. The cotton fields and heavy accents here made it very clear that we are in the deep, rural south.
Five hours out of Ripley, we rode into Memphis on a bike path on Mud Island with the Mississippi River on one side of us, and beautiful new river view homes on the other. We finished the ride to the hotel on the main downtown streets in the heart of this city.
Our hotel, and the famous Peabody Hotel directly across the street, were mobbed with hurricane evacuees - mainly from New Orleans and LA and MS. Just as we arrived on our bikes - the rains and gusts of wind began. The weather on our rest day here will be AWFUL! That’s okay - we are the LUCKY ONES - so many people are severely hurt by this hurricane.
Joyce joined us in Memphis - warmly greeted by all.. Cindy - our daily riding mate - leaves us here to rejoin her family in MA. We will certainly miss her. She is a great girl.
Memphis is the "Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock and Roll".- and it all started on Beale Street. So, of course, we all went there last night for dinner and some blues. It was a fun ( and funny ) night at the Blues City Café enjoying some famous baby back ribs and music, and even some dancing. We do have some "dancers" in this group.
Earlier we "experienced the duck parade" at the Peabody Hotel. Literally a hundred or more people
(mainly refugees with their kids) watched the ducks march from the lobby fountain pool to the elevator - guided by the uniformed "duck master." It is a daily orchestrated event that had taken place for over 50 years.
We expect to continue biking South on Wednesday morning into Mississippi.
DID YOU KNOW? My friend Rick is riding for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in support of a buddy afflicted with this illness. The local papers along our route have been notified of his mission.
Yesterday on the road to Memphis, one of our riders was stopped by a lady who had read the newspaper article about Rick’s ride and wanted to donate. She handed the rider, David (FL), a check for Rick... and informed him that her husband had died of the disease only a week ago.
Posted: Sun, 28 August 2005
Day 15 Union City,TN to Ripley,TN
Sixteen cyclists rode out of Union City, TN this morning hoping for a great Sunday morning bike ride in the Tennessee countryside. That is exactly what we found. The weather was sunny and warm. The traffic was almost nonexistent on the rural roads. The only people we saw were at the numerous Baptist Churches along the route. We were on our way to Ripley, TN–68 miles down the road.
Yesterday, I mentioned that DOGS were a bit of a problem. Today they were a constant threat. It seems that every rural home in this part of Tennessee has at least 2 or 3 dogs. They came at us in PACKS! I actually hit one as it ran into our group of bikes as we raced by (dog and biker are fine).
We saw several Black Angus herds, a buffalo ranch, our first cotton field, and some beautiful country landscape scenes. We saw the kudzu vines that grow as much as a foot per day, climbing trees, power poles, and anything else they contact. Kudzu is reported to cover 7 million acres of the southern US.
We have certainly arrived in the deep South. The accents are now heavily southern, we are offered
"sweetened" ice tea everywhere, pulled pork BBQ is readily available, statues of Confederate soldiers are in town parks, and the vegetation has changed. Clearly, too, we are in the Bible Belt.
The short ride day allowed us to get to the motel early. The motel provided "a party" offering of fruit and cheeses for us. Many of us cleaned bikes–AND....of course, we all talked about the latest Hurricane reports.
This group of riders has certainly "come together". It is a great collection of cyclists, diverse in age, home states, and backgrounds, but we get along very well. We do have a good time riding together. There is a lot more kidding and humor at route raps and meals. Whatever we run into in the days ahead, we hope that we will be able to get out our rain gear and...KEEP RIDING!
NOTE: From this Blog site you can now link directly to Elizabeth’s daily website journal of our trip. She is a fellow GMR rider from Sisters, OR. Click bikelizabeth link.
Also the America by Bicycle website link is available. The staff on our ride provides a daily journal with photos of the ride.
BTW... on days that I post a journal entry without photos, it is due to dial-up internet service ONLY being available at our motel. The following day photos will be added...please look for them.
Posted: Sat, 27 August 2005
Day 14 Cape Girardeau, MO to Union City, TN
I went again to the ABB bulletin board for inspiration for this journal entry. It said the following about what to expect on today’s ride: "LONG DAY–FERRY RIDE" , and when we got in this afternoon the recap was "WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY TO RIDE YOUR BIKE". It was all to those things—plus we rode in 3 states today: Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The "long day" was due to the distance; 93 miles from Cape Girardeau, MO to Union City, TN, and to moderate headwinds for most of the ride. We rode on almost isolated country roads under overcast skies in reasonable temperatures. Except for a few hills at the 13 mile marker and again at 72 miles, we were on flat roads deep in farm country all day long. From comments at Route Rap and at dinner tonight we all enjoyed today’s ride. It was a pleasant Saturday in the Missouri countryside—riding bikes!
Melanie, Dan and I entered the town of Charleston, MO and rode under a canopy of trees for blocks in what was apparent to us as the first "Southern town" of the trip. It "felt" southern and the homes had the "look of the South". We bought drinks at a grocery store where the cashiers asked in disbelief:: "You are biking WHERE"?, "You began WHERE"? Folks are always amazed at what we are doing.
At mile 72 in Dorena, MO we boarded a small ferry for the trip across the Mississippi River to the town of Hickman, Kentucky. It was only 8 miles until we biked into Tennessee–our 7th State of the trip.
HEARD ON THE ROAD: Melanie, fighting the headwinds today asked: "Does anyone ever bike UP the Mississippi River? It seems the prevailing winds are always in THAT direction ".
QUESTION: What is it about DOGS and BICYCLES? ----we have been chased and barked at by every breed of dog imaginable.
P.S. : We all watch the Weather Channel every morning and evening, particularly now with Hurricane Katrina approaching our path. ABB has contingency plans and assures us we will finish our ride! We may get wet , but we will ride into New Orleans!
Posted: Fri, 26 August 2005
Day 13 Ste Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, Mo
LOVE ‘DEM HILLS!!.... was written on the ABB bulletin board at the hotel. I’m not sure the consensus among the riders today would support that statement.
We had a 68 mile ride from Ste Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, MO. Our departure was delayed by ABB due to low visibility caused by heavy fog, but by 7:30 am we were underway. The fog dissipated later in the morning; the HUMIDITY did not. It became a very humid, hot, sunny day that had all of us soaked in sweat as we climbed and climbed in the Missouri hills.
It was a climb day of 4,380 feet. I know the number itself is difficult to relate to, but believe me that is A LOT OF CLIMBING. The topography chart of today’s ride shows 15 miles of flat roads. The rest was hills; the rolling hills of Missouri that we have experienced for days.
The route was entirely rural. Farmlands, green pastures, browning corn fields and hilly terrain were with us all day. The quiet country roads were without bike lanes, but in good condition with minimal traffic. We pushed ahead for hours , stopping only to photograph ourselves at the HALFWAY POINT in the ride to New Orleans–and at the SAG stop in Brazeau at an old blacksmith shop.
We continued riding the hills through Pocahontas, MO and into Fruitland, where some riders stopped for lunch. It was HOT. The humidity was draining. The hills seemed endless. Rick, Dan, Jim and I decided to only fill up our water bottles in Fruitland and finish the last 15 miles into Cape Girardeau where we could eat.
I missed a turn at county road W, but corrected quickly, but then had to catch the others. That was hard work on the hills. I was tired. The final 3 or 4 miles were on the MRT bike path into town through refreshing green-way.
I was exhausted at the finish. For me it was a very physical day!
A celebration is planned for this evening to mark our group having reached the mid-point of the Great Mississippi River Ride!
Did you know? The once cold concrete flood wall in Cape Girardeau has been painted with 24 colorful murals depicting the history of the city; including the passage of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803.
Posted: Thu, 25 August 2005
Day 12 Festus to Ste Genevieve,MO
We "fueled up" early this morning at the Waffle House in Festus to be ready for the "great rollers and super descents" promised to us for today’s ride. We were headed for Ste Genevieve, MO–an historic river town 46 miles to the South.
Rick took off like the rabbit at a greyhound track. He claimed he had an off -day yesterday, but proved he was back in form. We hit the hills hard for 20 miles. The rolling hills passed through farm lands and rural neighborhoods. It was a pretty ride.
Since this was a short ride day, we took the option of visiting the town of Ste Genevieve, MO, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the state of Missouri. This territory was held by France in the late 1740's, and its earliest residents were French Canadian farmers. Following the French and Indian War, France ceded all her holdings West of the Mississippi River to Spain. The French speaking residents then suddenly found themselves citizens of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Much of Ste Genevieve’s charm today is due to the preservation of features of the colonial settlement, including narrow streets and French colonial architecture.
Leaning the bikes against the fence in town, we entered the Old Town Café for coffee and pastry. While there we decided to take the Modoc Ferry across the river to Illinois–just for the ride. We biked the couple of miles to the ferry landing and rode over to Illinois and back for $6.00.
Dan, Jerry, Rick, Billy and I had lunch at the Ste Genevieve Hotel–probably "too classy" for a sweaty cycling group, but we were welcomed there.
After lunch the 8 to 10 mile ride to the motel was again "the Missouri rollers". I think we are all better climbers now than at the beginning of our ride. Certainly we are stronger and more experienced in how we take them on. We LOVE the downhills!!
Did you know? My TREK 5200 bike passed the 10,000 mile mark during yesterday’s ride.....all that in just 16 months. Great bike!
Did you know? Long distance cyclists on a trip like ours should drink 1 liter of water EVERY HOUR.
Posted: Wed, 24 August 2005
Day 11 St Charles to Festus,MO
Dan called it "A day of contrasts". He was right about that! Today’s ride from St Charles to Festus, MO had something for everyone: urban and rural roads, lots of hills and flats, major roadways and bicycle paths, big cities and little towns , sunshine and sprinkles, and throw in the Gateway Arch and a covered bridge. It was another challenging route and a good day to be on a bike.
Crossing the bridge over the Missouri River, we departed old St Charles, MO and headed for the Gateway Arch for a group photo. Our route took us through the St Louis suburbs on a 32 mile trip to the Arch that for some time was under the flight path for planes going into the St Louis airport. The roads were "up and down" as if we were riding in San Francisco.
We soon entered the MRT (Mississippi River Trail), a bike path along the river going through some old industrial areas. It was not too scenic, but ahead we could see the major downtown office buildings and the Arch..
The group photo was a brief stop on our ride through the streets of St Louis. Traffic and stop lights were with us as we biked past the Budweiser brewery and along Broadway in the St Louis suburbs.
We had another 12 miles in these conditions before we hit more rural surroundings.
Several of us had lunch in Antonia, MO at a convenience store just as it began to rain briefly, on an otherwise overcast and cool day. Jerry, Cindy, Rick, Dan, and I took a short loop off the main route to see a covered bridge at Sandy Creek.
The ride into Festus was Pure Missouri: rolling hills–some tough climbs and great speedy downhills. We had nearly 5000 feet of climbing today... that’s a pretty tough day.
We rolled into Festus, MO, population 7,000, where Karen at the desk at the Baymont Inn had some information for me. She claims the town "used to be called TANGLEFOOT " , but the town leaders wanted a more respectful name. They decided to open the Bible to a page and give the town a new name according to what was on that Bible page. It was a story about FESTUS....and the rest is history.
Quote of the Day: Upon entering Ryan’s All You Can Eat Buffet Restaurant tonight in Festus and seeing the clientel, Cindy (MA) said, " The food must be great here, these people are HUGE!
Posted: Tue, 23 August 2005
Day 10 Day Off in St Louis
Our biking group who has talked about being able to "sleep in" on today’s REST DAY, were all up and in the breakfast room by 6:00 am. I had been up, done my laundry, and written the journal by that time. I guess we are programed to get going early.
A rest day is always the day to REALLY clean the bikes. We were lined up by the motel fence washing, de-greasing, and lubeing our bikes after breakfast.
Rick, Dan, John and Jill (MI) and I rented a Dodge Caravan from Enterprise for transportation into St Louis (about 30 miles). Once in the city, we had lunch at an outside café in "The Landing " section of St Louis near the riverfront and the Gateway Arch. The neighborhood of renovated factories–turned restaurant and bars– is undoubtedly the "night life" spot in St Louis. It is "hip" and a charming area paved in cobblestones.
The Arch is incredible! We took the ride to the observation deck at the top for some great views.
(Did you know? The Gateway Arch is 630 feet high and is made of stainless steel and concrete. It was built in 1965 for a cost of 15 million dollars )
The Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour was our next stop. That too was interesting and so well done we all became Bud fans. We met Jerry, Daco, Cindy and her sister in law in the "tasteing room" (of all places)
Dinner was in the Hill district, the Italian neighborhood in St Louis. Cunnetto’s House of Pasta–as recommended by Mordy and Gabe– was outstanding. We all did our "pasta loading" in preparation for our return to the road.
A great and relaxing day off!
AN APPROPRIATE THOUGHT FOR THE DAY FROM ST LOUIS:
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"
( Quote appears on a pair of biking socks given to me by the American Cancer Society)Day
Posted: Mon, 22 August 2005
Day 9 Hannibal to St Charles, MO
We biked on Missouri Route 79 south for 86 of the 96 mile ride today from Hannibal to St Charles, MO. It was not a scenic ride, in fact, we had only a few looks at the Mississippi River. What we DID have in the first 20 miles today were hills: 4 big climbs followed by some terrific downhill runs. My new "personal best" downhill speed of 40.4 mph was dwarfed by Rick, Dan and others at 45/46 mph.
The traffic on the highway became much heavier after the second SAG stop in the town of Foley at mile 68 until we departed Rt 79 at mile 86. Missouri’s roads (voted the worst by fellow cross country bikers) so far have shown NO improvement.
The good news today was the pleasant, sunny weather and good riding companions to do what we all came here to do: enjoy long distance cycling, and the rewards of meeting the physical challenges encountered. Our major challenges on today’s ride were the distance –96 miles, and the climbs–nearly 4000 feet. I know that most of us were tired as we pulled into the Travel Lodge in St Charles to begin a REST DAY!!
About 8 miles from the finish, Rick, Dan, Cindy and I stopped in St Peter’s , MO at Elmer’s Old Town Tavern for lunch. The pizza was not great, but the Tavern was a small town classic. ( No, we didn’t have a beer....yet... that came later at a Hooter’s type bar next to our motel before "route rap" this evening.)
This was the last ride day for 12 of our friends who were segment riders from Minneapolis to St Charles. They complete their trip here. We will miss them all! Our core group is now 15/16 for the balance of the GMR.
Tonight we are busy planning our activities for tomorrow on our day off St Louis.
HEARD ON THE ROAD: Rick said " If you like trains, TODAY was your day". We rode along the railroad tracks for miles and miles seeing and hearing numerous freight trains passing by. The trains were incredibly long. Billy called the sounds, " The sounds of POWER"
There were also comments about the contrast coming from days of cycling on quiet country roads through the farm lands of Illinois to entering the city of St Charles and its TRAFFIC AND NOISE.
Posted: Sun, 21 August 2005
Day 8 Keokuk, IA to Hannibal,MO
Note : 2 Journal Entries Are Posted Today
We were trying our best to avoid the glass in the roadway while crossing the bridge out of Keokuk this morning at 7:30. We all stopped and got off our bikes to check our tires once we reached the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. A few flats did occur later in the day.
We had a relatively short 61 mile ride to Hannibal, MO ahead of us on a beautiful Sunday morning. The Illinois countryside was our venue. More of the same soybean and corn fields along quiet country roads were in our sights the entire length of the ride. Riding 2 or 3 abreast we could talk while keeping up a pretty good pace today. This group doesn’t stop much—I’ve noticed.. We ride 20 or 30 mile segments without stopping. SAG stops and "photo ops" are our only breaks. Most often we stop for lunch along the way as well.
Passing through Quincy, IL, all the cross country rider alumni recognized the magnificent bridge from our previous trip here. It is a new and grand structure across the Mississippi. Quincy provided our only view of the river between Keokuk and Hannibal, MO.
Sunday morning rides are always the favorites among cyclists–today was no exception. It was a short, fast ride for our group (mainly- Rick, Dan, Mordy and Gabe, Cindy and Daco, and me). We were at the Hotel Clemens in Hannibal before noon (EVERYTHING in Hannibal is either Clemens or Mark Twain related) .
On the way to lunch in town we saw Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens) boyhood home and museum, THE whitewashed fence, The Becky Thatcher café, the Mark Twain riverboat, Riverview Park etc. It is a great little tourist town that backs up to the dike at the river.
Tonight we have a t-shirt exchange event that is always fun on these trips....AND another 100 mile day tomorrow!
Did you know ? Samuel Clemens maintained that the pen-name "Mark Twain" came from his years on the riverboat , where 2 fathoms (12 feet), or "safe water" was marked by calling "mark twain’.