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5 Apr 05 – 28 Aug 08
Related Photos The Ellington, MO to Columbus, IN Stage Back
(via Highways 21, 32, 61, 51, 3, 127, 147, 146, 91, 120, 132, 56, 136, 140, 764, 144, 69, 66, 37, 62, 58, 46 and numerous County Roads)
September 16, 2004
After a restful night at the Ellington motel, we were ready to resume our tour. We had installed a new chain ring and chain and the kickstand was now firmly fastened with a new bolt. Before our final pack, Randall turned on the laptop to retrieve any new email. The laptop was not booting up. This was unnerving because we never had a boot up problem before. We had thousands of photos on our laptop and a third of them were not yet copied onto CD’s. If our laptop crashed, we would lose a lot of stuff. Knowing that our next destination was a larger city, we decided that there was nothing we could do until then.
As we set up our tandem outside, the other touring cyclist staying at the motel took our picture before he headed out at 6:45 AM. We suspected that our paths would not cross again because Will was traveling with little gear which allowed him to easily bike long distances. At about 7 AM, the reporter from the Reynolds County Courier arrived to take our photo. He shot a photo of us posing in front of the hotel along with an action photo. We later learned that we were featured on the front page of the following week’s paper. The title of the story was, “Husband, Wife Ride Through Ellington” with a subtitle of “Biking From Alaska to Florida for Habitat.”
At 7:15 AM, we set off to conquer more hills. We headed north of town on Highway 21 and had a one mile climb right after crossing a bridge near the city limits. Thankfully, a wide shoulder had been added to this section of highway since there was a factory at the top of the hill. A lot of cars passed us as we climbed up the hill. The shoulder was a bit rough but allowed us to stay off the road and let the traffic continue. Just past the plant entrance, the shoulder disappeared and we were back to riding the narrow highways that Missouri is known for. We would be heading mostly northeast throughout the day. Not exactly the most efficient direction to Florida but we wanted to stay with the cycling maps.
For the next several miles, we encountered a number of hills. At five to seven percent grade, these hills were not nearly as steep as what we had seen before. There was however, a lot of semi-truck traffic. On the average, two to three trucks passed us over the course of a mile. The trees and hills were limiting our sight distance so the big trucks were the last thing we wanted to see. In one instance where two semis approached us from opposite directions, we pulled off the road. There just was not enough room for all three of us! We also met a few school buses along the way but they were not as menacing as the trucks.
After nearly fourteen miles of ups and downs, we reached the small town of Centerville, MO. This village of 200 had a little building that was marked, “Fire House.” The red shed was recessed into the side of a hill. We stopped at a convenience store for icy drinks. When we returned to our tandem, we noticed that a large log truck had parked at the store. Although our bike was parked about 30 ft from the highway, it appeared that the truck had passed within a foot of our handlebars as it pulled off the highway. Whew, these large trucks could be threatening even when we were parked!
Continuing on from Centerville, we crossed over the Black River and then biked over a series of rolling hills. A park sign noted that we were leaving the Mark Twain National Forest as we had passed through just a corner of the park. After six miles, we turned left onto County Road N. To our relief, we were now on a low volume road with virtually no trucks. As we biked through wooded areas with scattered homes, we noticed another sign that marked the entrance of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. This park is famous for the canyon-like gorges (or shut-ins) that were created as the East Fork of the Black River cuts its way though.
Shortly after entering the park, we approached the bridge that crosses the East Fork. We could see that two touring cyclists had stopped to gaze at the river. They continued on their bicycles as they were unaware we were behind them. . Upon reaching the bridge, we also stopped to take photos of the river. We then followed the cyclists for a half mile before catching up with them. When they discovered that we were right behind them, we all pulled off onto the grassy shoulder to visit. Our first observation of this touring couple was that their bikes were heavily loaded and that they appeared to be from another country. We asked them where they were biking from and they just blew us away!
Wan and Mou were from Thailand and were in their early thirties. They informed us that they were halfway into their five-year, around-the-world bike tour. Starting six months after they were married, they had toured in Asia, Australia, South America and now, North America. Their tour, once completed, will have taken them through 44 countries. They were using a digital camera, a 35 MM camera and a video camera as they planned to do a documentary and a book about their adventure. Wan had worked at the US embassy as she spoke fairly good English. Mou mostly talked in Thai, allowing Wan to translate for him.
During our 20 minute visit, this worldly couple described to us one of their more harrowing experiences. In Ecuador, they were robbed by, “Five men with five guns.” Wan used the outstretched fingers of her hand for emphasis. The thieves were on foot when Wan and Mou biked by them so they did not suspect any hostile activities. The robbers took their valuables which included their computer and cameras. To prevent the Thai couple from following them, the crooks let the air out of their bike tires and tied them to a tree. Just before leaving on foot, the thieves called the police to report the location of the cyclists.
The police arrived and untied the bikers but made no effort to find the bandits or their stolen items. Since this incident could not be documented with their camera, Wan and Mou sketched pictures depicting the robbery. The illustrations were later posted on their website, www.ThaiBikeWorld.com. In a more recent experience of potential hostilities, they mentioned that in Utah, they hid from some youths that they considered threatening. Other than those two experiences, they were having a wonderful time on their tour.
Wan asked if we were familiar with the bus options in the area. In the next major city, they needed to take a bus to Chicago and then on to Detroit before crossing into Canada. Their visa was about to expire and they had to get out of the USA to reapply for a new visa. Upon their return, they would stop at Trek Cycles in Wisconsin to have their bikes overhauled before resuming the TransAmerica route. One thing we noticed from their website was that they had a number of sponsors supporting their trip. Their website also noted that they were the first couple to wed in the McDonalds Restaurant in Bangkok. We could have talked all morning with this couple but we had to break away as rain showers appeared imminent.
Meeting other adventurers like ourselves was a wonderful part of our tour. Even though we are all using the same cross-country cycling maps, there’s no assurances that our paths will cross. The timing and location of our starts and stops can be such that we bypass each other. We asked Wan if she had seen another cyclist that morning. They had not. That meant that Will, who started a half hour ahead of us, had missed this couple while they were off the road somewhere. We felt very fortunate to have cross paths with Wan and Mou. What an amazing journey they were on!
As we departed, Wan and Mou prompted us to go ahead of them as they were traveling slower than we were. With all the bike bags and backpacks they had, they were advancing at a snail’s pace. Less than a mile down the road, we came to a construction zone with only one lane of traffic. The flagman was caught off guard as we approached because we did not make any noise. He quickly turned the sign from “STOP” to “SLOW” and radioed the flagman at the other end that we were coming through. The road crew all looked at us with stunned faces. Exhibiting the deer in the headlights look, they didn’t know what to think. We laughed as we wandered how they would react to two Thai bikers going through.
Our morning had been very humid and by 9:45 AM, a persistent mist started coming down. The heavy mist turned out to be a miserable form of precipitation. The yellow lenses in our sunglasses would quickly become coated with water. Every two miles, we had to stop and wipe them off. Even though the amount of water coming down was light, we were getting soaked because of the trees. For miles, the tree branches hung over the road. The mist would build up into large droplets and then drip from the tree leaves. It was almost like going through a shower. After 45 minutes of tree enhanced rain, we were pretty soaked.
When we reached Graniteville, MO, we had to make a decision on the route options. We stopped in the parking lot of a live bait shop to determine which way to go. Our map creator, Adventure Cycling, was promoting an alternative to County Route V. When the route was devised 30 years ago, CR V had lighter traffic. Now, this segment of the route had a heavy traffic volume and was considered unsafe. Because of our stop, we were getting chilled so we had to make a snap decision. Even though the alternate route was a bit longer, we opted to stay away from the busy traffic and turned left onto County Road W.
After four miles of rolling hills, we reached Iron Mountain, MO. The precipitation had finally stopped and we could start using the camera again. The only thing of interest was the trap rock operation. This durable rock is used in making asphalt and railroad ballast. The Iron Mountain Trap Rock Company claims to produce 400 tons of trap rock per hour at this site. Huge piles of trap rock could be seen along the road. Outside of town, we had to turn left on County Road N to stay with our alternative route. If we were to have stayed on CR W to the east, we would have reconnected to the busy CR V that we were trying to avoid. The hilly CR N went by several small farms. Some of the farms had white wood fences which were quite striking.
County Road N ended in Bismarck, MO. At the center of town, we turned right onto Highway 32. Heading north to the outskirts of town, we stopped at Lady Queene Restaurant for lunch. It was nice to be able to go inside and dry out. Although we were climbing a lot of hills, we could never get completely warmed up. After a refreshing lunch, we continued northeast of town. We went by a saw mill that had a lot of large logs. For the five miles we were on Highway 32, the traffic was heavier but there was a bumpy, eight foot shoulder to bike on. It had been so long since we had seen a wide shoulder.
Continuing with the alternate route, we turned right onto Pimville Road which took us into St. Joe’s State Park. We quickly started climbing as the park had a rather large, steep hill to ascend. This was our toughest climb of the day but the park offered nice scenery and very few cars. After two more moderate hills, we left the park on a fast downhill before turning right onto Bray Road. A quarter mile later, we turned left onto County Road W. CR W was now an extremely busy highway. We could see why Adventure Cycling promoted an alternative to CR V and the eastern segment of CR W. For the next mile, we biked up a hill at five mph. It was precarious as cars were constantly passing us and we had to be careful not to run into the curb.
Once we reached the hillcrest, we then coasted into downtown Farmington, MO. With a population exceeding 11,000, Farmington would be our best opportunity to address the boot up problem on our laptop. We stopped at a computer repair shop in the middle of town. They were happy to help us but their technician was out on a service call. They recommended another store about four blocks away. At the second store, a technician was available so we pulled the computer out of our bag and turned it on. To our amazement, delight (and embarrassment), it booted up properly. Was this a false alarm? The tech decided to run a diagnostic on the laptop which found and corrected over 300 issues. He said that the computer should run faster now and sent us on our way with his best wishes and no bill.
For lodging in Farmington, our tour map listed two motels on the east side of town. We had heard from the locals that one was closed and the other had a bad reputation. So, we had to head northwest and back up the hill. We took the side streets up so that we would have less traffic to contend with. After checking into our motel, we walked over to Wal-Mart to buy some CDs. With the laptop scare, we wanted to make back up copies for the rest of our photos. We then walked over to a nearby restaurant for a hot meal.
Miles cycled – 66.6
September 17, 2004
The free breakfast at the motel did not agree with Barb’s stomach, so she rested until 9 AM. While Randall was reading in the breakfast bar, a couple that was traveling on a motorcycle asked where we were biking to. They had come up from Georgia and said that all of the motels were full because of people fleeing the hurricanes. With Florida still a few weeks away, we weren’t too concerned with their warning. As we packed the bike and trailer in front of the motel, we were asked about our trip by several people. They all wished us well by saying “you-ens be safe.” We were expecting the expression, “you-all,” but everyone here was using “you-ens.”
For our exit strategy out of this busy town, we chose to ride down the hill on Highway 32. This would be much faster than riding through downtown and we would have a wide shoulder to separate us from the morning traffic. We rejoined the bike route at County Road OO before turning east on County Road F. The morning was bright and sunny, what a contrast from the day before! The terrain was more open with fields and pastures. For the first seven miles, the hills were gradual. Early on, we decided that we didn’t need to wear our jackets. However, we sometimes wished we had them on when we went down a chilling descent.
After a few miles, Barb’s headset on our wired intercom, Tandem Talk, stopped working. Because we were so dependent on this system for clear, consistent, communication, we stopped to examine the problem. Apparently, there was a short in Barb’s earpiece as we could not get it to work. Randall could hear Barb but Barb could not hear Randall. Having no backup headset, we realized that we must order one and have it shipped to a post office where we expected to be in a few days. We were able to reach Tandem Talk’s manufacturer in Columbus, OH through our cell phone. They had the headsets in stock so we requested two. We arranged to have the order mailed to Whitesville, KY.
Our morning route had some wonderful, scenic vistas as we appeared to be riding on a ridge at times. With few trees to block our view, we could see for some distance on either side of the road. We passed by a number of vineyards. Some of the vineyards were surrounded with eight foot fencing to keep away hungry deer and other critters. We had dogs chasing us on a couple of occasions but they were not menacing. After about 14 miles of riding, we reached Coffman, MO where CR F changed to County Road B. We could now see miles and miles of large hills ahead of us.
While descending a long hill, we could hear a steady buzzing noise that got louder as we got closer to the source. After a half mile, we found that the blaring sound was coming from a saw mill. Since the mill was fairly isolated, we suspected that the noise wasn’t bothering anyone. A mile later, we were climbing back up out of the river valley. The curvy road took us by the sign, “Turkey Run Estates,” which was a classy name for a mobile home park. Once we got to the next hillcrest, we saw more picturesque farm settings among the hills. This wonderful scenery came with a price though as we navigated a few more large hills before turning onto County Road P.
A sharp right turn was required to connect with CR P. Negotiating the turn, we lost all of our momentum at a most inopportune time. A long, two mile hill awaited us. Parts of the hill were fairly steep. What a workout! At the top, two politically motivated signs captured our attention: “Vote Bush to Hell, Texas Isn’t Far Enough” and “Help Is On The Way.” We apparently were not in a Bush friendly area. As we rode down the other side of the hill, we saw a number of fields of soybean and corn. One roadside pond had some cattle that were wading in the water. It wasn’t that warm out but the cattle seemed content.
After climbing another long, curvy hill, we stopped to rest near the entrance to a farm. While we were drinking our water and Gatorade, the farmwife urged us to come over and rest in their yard. Because we had several miles to go yet, we had to decline her offer. She then asked if we had plenty of water. Following our short break, we biked over a couple more hills before reaching Ozora, MO. At Ozora, we made a sharp right onto County Road N. A short two miles later, we then turned left onto County Road Z. The map had us doing a little zigzag to get up over Interstate 55. As we climbed over the overpass, we recalled our cycling days back in southeast Michigan where the only “hills” were freeway overpasses.
Beyond I 55, we passed a rock quarry and then climbed up another long hill. Once we reached the hill top, we biked two miles along a ridge before arriving at Highway 61. From the morning’s extensive hill climbing, we were starting to feel fairly depleted. We turned right onto Highway 61 and headed several hundred feet up the road before stopping to rest under a shade tree. As we snacked on carrots and energy bars, we discovered that we had made a wrong turn. We should have turned left instead of right. Thankfully, we caught the error after just an eighth of a mile. For all of the turns and county road connections we were doing today, we felt fortunate to have had just this one navigational goof.
Rested and properly oriented, we headed back in the opposite direction on Highway 61. Just before entering St. Mary, MO, we were to turn right onto County Road H. Instead, we decided to pass this turn for now and go the additional half mile into town. Having biked 40 miles, we were read for a more substantial meal and the downtown café offered that. St. Mary was once on the edge of the Mississippi River, but the river changed course and was now about four miles east. Even though the river moved, the state line remained the same. As a result, there’s a piece of Illinois that borders St. Mary but is separated from the rest of Illinois by the Mississippi River. Sounds like a good Jeopardy question to us!
After lunch, we stopped to gaze at the grain elevator in the heart of town. We hadn’t seen anything like that since Kansas. With our watches now showing 2:30 PM, we decided to call ahead to our destination to reserve a motel. We still had 50 miles to go and were expecting a late arrival. As we biked out of town, we noticed that a couple of the yards had signs which listed the Ten Commandments. They were professionally printed and were similar in size to political signs. We had been seeing these yard signs ever since we left Ellington. In the St. Mary area, we saw a number of Virgin Mary statues, which seemed to indicate the community was a Catholic settlement.
Pedaling our way back to CR H, we saw a couple of road signs of interest on Highway 61. The first sign designated the highway as the “Great River Road.” A second sign had an illustration of a bike and the letters, “MRT.” We later learned that the letters stood for Mississippi River Trail and that the route followed the river through ten states. Making our left turn onto CR H, we started a long climb up a hill. We soon discovered that trucks liked this route. A number of trucks passed us as we crawled up the hill. Reaching the crest, we were startled to find ourselves on top of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River valley. What a tremendous view!
Without hesitation, we then enjoyed three miles of downhill. As we weaved down the curvy descent at 35 to 38 mph, a semi-truck followed behind. After two miles, we slowed to 30 mph and the driver then passed us. The tailing truck reminded us of single bikes riders who like to draft behind a tandem going down a hill. Once the tandem bike starts to lose speed, the single biker loses interest and moves on. Obliviously, the truck wasn’t getting much of a wind break from us. As the road leveled out, we passed by dozens of fields with various crops. Some of the crops had been harvested and the farmers were burning off the remaining stumble in a controlled fashion. Fortunately, the smoke wasn’t blowing our way.
When CR N came to an end, we turned left onto Highway 51. Finally, we were on our last segment of highway in Missouri, saying goodbye to the narrow, shoulderless roads and to the funky, county road lettering schemes. As we biked through the floodplain, the massive bridge over the Mississippi River was coming into view. Knowing that the bridge crossing would be a stressful endeavor, we stopped at a gas station for icy drinks and a rest. Refreshed legs would be important for a safe and energetic trek across the river. During our stop, the smoke from the field fires grew exponentially in size. The entire floodplain appeared to be on fire!
Departing the gas station, we pedaled the half mile to the bridge. Just before the entrance to the 3,000 ft bridge, we pulled off the highway to allow a line of trucks and cars to pass us. We could see ahead that there was no shoulder on the bridge and that the crown in the bridge had about a five percent grade. When the line of vehicles thinned out, we hopped on our tandem and began our 1,500 ft climb. Part way up the bridge, five vehicles passed us. After that, the motorists considered it too risky to pass us because of limited sight distance. At seven to eight mph, we climbed up to the crest of the bridge. After the crest, we were able to increase our speed to 20 mph.
As Randall very intently steadied our tandem over the crossing, Barb repeatedly aimed and triggered her camera. The view of the Mississippi was just incredible. Randall implored Barb to keep shooting so that he could enjoy the view later on. The river was nearly half a mile wide and had a deep blue color. There were no visible boats but we could see one barge on the side of river a couple of miles downstream. After passing the sign, “The People of Illinois welcome you,” we were able to exit the bridge. We immediately pulled off the highway and into a park. When we looked back, we were astonished to see that the entire northeast bound lane of the bridge was packed with trucks and cars. We didn’t realize how many vehicles we were holding up as no one honked.
While recovering from our bridge crossing, we took in the area’s sights and signs. There was a sign that prohibited pedestrians from crossing the bridge while another sign indicated that cycling across the bridge was permissible. The first prominent sign we saw greeted us with a, “Welcome to Chester – Home of Popeye.” Wasn’t Popeye known for his saltwater exploits? In the park, there was a bronze sculptor of Popeye to honor his creator, Elzie Segar, who was born in Chester, IL. Segar was said to have based his comic characters on people around town during the 1920s. There also was a display that noted Lewis and Clark had been there.
One other sign attracted our attention, “Cigarette Bootlegging – Smuggling Untaxed Cigarettes into Illinois Subject to Imprisonment, Fines to $25,000 and Vehicle Seizure.” As we gazed upon the river one more time, we noticed a train below us carrying coal. Before venturing into Chester, we had to choose between two route options to reach our destination for the day. The main route went through some hilly country. The alternative went by way of the Mississippi levee which was mostly flat. With 40 miles to go, we eagerly picked the levee option. As expected, we had to climb back up out of the river valley. For one mile, we ascended up on Highway 51 until we reached Highway 3.
Turning right on Highway 3, the tricky part was to stay with this highway as it zigzagged through downtown Chester. After climbing another half mile, we found ourselves in the middle of town with narrow streets and heavy traffic. At one point, we slowed to wait for a car to pass before we made a left turn. Barb looked back to find them giving us the thumbs up sign. Getting through town was a harrowing experience. The city was listed with a population of 8,100 but it seemed a whole lot bigger to us! Once outside of town though, the traffic thinned appreciably.
To reach the levee, we followed eleven miles of rolling hills. These hills were wonderfully small as our average speed jumped to eleven mph after going nine to ten mph most of the day. Every once in a while we would get a glimpse of the Mississippi. We started to notice more and more semi-trucks that were parked in small pullouts alongside of the road. Only one or two trucks could fit in each pullout. We were wondering, “What’s this all about?” Later, we reached a barge loading area and then realized that these trucks were waiting for their turn to unload coal. The approach to the station could only accommodate about two dozen trucks. The rest had to wait along the road. The station could only unload one truck at a time. The coal would fall through a grated covered pit to a conveyor below. The coal was then conveyed under a railroad track and out to the barge.
Continuing southeast beyond the unload station, we observed more trucks waiting. For five miles, trucks and drivers were sitting idle alongside of the road. One place had enough room to hold seven trucks, three on one side and four on the other. In the small community of Rockwood, IL, the drivers were all standing together, talking and smoking to pass the time. Barb gave them a wave and seven hands returned a greeting. It was such a spectacle. Surely, this wasn’t a normal scene. Perhaps the empty barges were short in supply or the conveyor was malfunctioning.
After seeing the world’s largest collection of coal trucks, Highway 3 passed through a break in the levee. There were concrete caps on each side of the road which had a slot. The slots could support a gate if needed for flood control. We turned right and headed up the ramp to the top of the levee. Finally, we were on the levee! It was a narrow, paved road with no markings. We soon passed another coal transfer station. This one had massive piles of coal which had been unloaded from railroad cars. A conveyor passed over the levee road and down to the river. Near the tall mounds of coal, a huge auger wheel was used to move the coal. Although the coal was not being conveyed to the river barge at the time, this was quite a collection of equipment to see. There was a private road leading to the river with a sign that said “Road Closed If Water Over It.”
At a height of 25 to 30 ft, the levee gave us some wonderful views of the robust crops in the area. Fields of corn, oats and milo stretched across the flats for as far as the eye could see. The elevated roadway also allowed us to see the river occasionally as the trees would frequently obscure our view. Farms and harvest crews dotted the landscape. Two large combines drove up onto the levee and started heading our way. When they got close, we pulled our tandem over to the grassy shoulder as there was not enough room. As Randall looked down at the rye grass, he thought of the tune, ¯They took their heavies to the levee, but the levee was rye.¯ Other than the two harvest machines, there was no other traffic on the levee.
We exited the levee after seven miles of joy riding. The Mississippi was making a bend to the south and we needed to be heading northeast. Our cycling map had us weaving through a series of farm roads: Indian Ridge Rd., Neunert Rd. and Gorham Rd. We were now at ground level with all the surrounding fields. At one farmhouse, there was a large pack of dogs. The various sized canines bombarded us with howling barks as the contrasting sounds amused us. Some of them gave chase and followed us for a while.
Having separated from the pack, Barb could hear a noise from the trailer wheel. We stopped to find that we had a flat. To get to the spare tube, we had to unpack the trailer. The tire was checked for glass or thorns but we found nothing. We hastily changed the tube as the sun was getting low in the sky and we still had 14 miles to go. With the trailer tire successfully re-inflated, we passed through the small town of Neunert, IL. There must have been a dinner special at Bottoms Up Bar and Grill because over half of the town’s cars were parked there. Four miles and a dozen fields later, we reached Gorham, IL.
Continuing on, our route rejoined Highway 3 for two miles before turning right onto Town Creek Road. Beyond the fields, we could see big, rocky bluffs. Later, we passed by several rice fields with rectangular, water filled plots. At Sand Ridge, IL, we stayed with Town Creek Road which took us over the Big Muddy River. As we approached the river, a line of fog parallel to the water made for a surreal setting. At 7 PM, the sun was setting and we were still six miles away from our motel. Now, we had to face the climb up out of the river valley. We stopped to put on our sleeveless yellow jackets and then turned on our flashing headlight as visibility was a concern.
After a few short climbs and then a long hill, we were relieved to see the “Reduce Speed Ahead” sign. Entering Murphysboro, IL, we now had the street lights to aid us through the semi-darkness. We had been fortunate on this tour as this was only the second time we got caught biking at nightfall. The previous night-riding was in Saratoga, WY where we were also delayed by flat tires (three in a half hour). Like Saratoga, darkness added to the navigational challenge. We stopped at a convenience store to rest and to get our bearings. The final segment of our ride was exhausting as we had pedaled hard up the hills to avoid the darkness.
At the store, a local confirmed that we had to follow Walnut St. to get to our motel, a mile and half to the east. We passed through the heart of downtown and discovered that an Apple Festival was in progress. Lighted apple signs stating “Welcome Visitors,” hung over the street. A carnival was set up downtown and a large crowd was on hand to enjoy the festivities. Chairs lined the street in anticipation of a parade in the morning. One teenager saw our bike and exclaimed, “No way! No way!” At the edge of town we crossed the Big Muddy River again before reaching our motel.
Because it was dark and our motel was distant from restaurants, we ordered pizza to be delivered. The good news was our pizza order was free. The bad news was that it took two hours for it to arrive. First, the delivery guy left the restaurant with the wrong ticket. He returned to get the proper ticket but then delivered the pizza to another room at our motel. The occupants in that room starting eating our pepperoni and green pepper pizza before they realized it was not the cheeseburger pizza they had ordered. The delivery guy failed to tell the restaurant that we didn’t get our pizza and they had to make another when we called. Since this pizza chain started in Kansas, we won’t mention the name. When the pizza finally arrived at 10 pm, we were plenty hungry. What an adventurous day!
Miles cycled – 90.1
September 18, 2004
At 7:30 AM, we hopped on our tandem and headed back west over the Big Muddy River and into town. After seeing what the downtown looked like in daylight, we turned left onto Highway 127. We crossed the Big Muddy River yet again as we headed south out of town. The air was chilly and we noticed a faint rainbow around the sun. This sighting mystified us as we could see no rain or shower in the distance. We speculated that we were seeing “dew-bow” if such a thing exists. A subsequent, one mile climb got us warmed up quickly. There were a large number of cars heading north into town for the festival.
Our map instruction stated, “After milepost 7.92, turn left onto W. Chautauqua St.” That was milepost number what? This was the first time we had seen mile markers that posted anything other than a whole number. Apparently, these mileposts were specific locators of certain side roads. It seemed odd to measure the distance to two decimal places. Another sign of interest was the yellow diamond shaped ones that stated, “Cyclists Use Caution.” Without a comma after the word cyclists, the signs seemed to be warning cyclists more than it was motorists. Four miles south of town, we reached milepost 7.92 and made the appropriate turn.
The morning gradually warmed up after the chilly start. We were seeing “Bike Route” signs every couple of miles. These signs were appreciated because there were so many turns to make. We followed the hilly Chautauqua St. to the outskirts of Carbondale, IL. Along the way, one of the side street signs was labeled, “Deer Processing Ln.” Using the roads, McLafferty, Pleasant Hill and Springer Ridge, we zigzagged through the southwest corner of town. Carbondale had a population of 27,000 so we had no desire to battle the inner city traffic. We were grateful that the side roads had nice shoulders. Before heading south of town, we stopped at McDonalds Restaurant for a late breakfast.
Leaving town, we went a short two miles south on Springer Ridge Road, before turning east onto Boskydell Road. Another two miles later, we turned south onto Giant City Road. Now four miles from the city limits, we were still passing by a number of houses. Urban sprawl, perhaps? While on Giant City Road, we biked by a pretty substantial fire in a yard. Someone was burning logs and trash. After passing the fire, we recalled that we needed to have more supplies shipped from our parts inventory in Kansas. We stopped to call Barb’s sister, Susan. Two bicycle tires and a tube for the trailer tire were among the items requested. Susan was to mail the package to the post office in Columbus, IN.
After advancing two miles on Giant City Road, we turned east onto Grassy Road. With an accumulated 18 miles of travel, we had already made six left turns and four right turns to stay with the route. This route was first devised in the early 1970s. With the maddening pace of the turns, we wondered if the route had been influenced by recreational drugs. Grassy Road was very scenic as it curved around the north shores of Little Grassy Lake and Devil’s Kitchen Lake. The western and southern shores of both lakes were tree lined which made for a pretty setting. While biking along Little Grassy Lake, we spotted a couple fishing from a boat. Just east of the north shore of Devil’s Kitchen Lake, we turned right onto Tacoma Lake Road. For two miles, this very curvy and tree-lined road took us mostly southeast before bending to the east.
At Wolf Creek Road, Tacoma Lake Road came to an end. So far today, we had been over numerous hills but none of the hills were memorably steep. With the terrain ahead, that was about to change. After making a right turn onto Wolf Creek Road, we caught up with a recreational biker that was pedaling along. We soon passed the cyclist as he had a causal pace. Apparently intrigued by our rig, he quickly picked up his speed so that we could talk. As Barb conversed with the man, Randall watched the road carefully as it was narrow and bumpy with no markings.
During our chat, we learned that the biker was in the area visiting his parents. He later opined, “I think that the southern 30 miles of Illinois are the prettiest part of the state. The glaciers didn’t get that far south so the area’s rugged hills were not leveled out.” Coming over the crest of a hill, we immediately concurred with him! For the next five miles, the blacktop was laid over the hills in a straight, linear fashion. Mankind basically paved over what God had left behind. There were no curves or switchbacks to reduce the grade, just forge ahead, heading due south.
Ahead of us were seven, consecutive hills that all had at least a seven percent grade with outrageous segments of nine to ten percent grade. The steepest part of each hill tended to be just before the crest. Our new chain and chain ring appeared to holding up as we shifted to granny gear successfully on all seven approaches. With each hill, our companion rider would fall behind as we raced downward but would inevitably catch up to us as we crawled up the subsequent hill. We had never before seen so many steep hills packed into a five mile stretch of highway. We will never again think of Illinois as being flat!
Completing the tough Wolf Creek Road segment in nonstop fashion, we rested before making a left turn onto Goreville Road. It was time to drink lots of water and to get our heart rates back to normal. After a relaxing ten minutes, we biked a mile before crossing over Interstate 57. Beyond the freeway, we noticed that among the farms, horses and foxhunting were popular. About a mile east of the interstate, we came upon a two-stage hill which presented a rare photo opportunity. Normally on tough climbs, Barb did not work the camera as we were both straining to get up the hill. Half way up this hill, it leveled out briefly which allowed Barb to shoot over Randall’s shoulder to photograph the balance of the hill. Capturing the steepness of a hill is difficult because some perspective is typically lost. We were pleased that in our resulting photo, the eight percent grade actually looked steep.
After biking up the two-stage hill, we went over two more hills before reaching Goreville, IL. We then turned right towards downtown. This community of 900 people really supported their high school team, the Panthers. All the street signs had black lettering on a gold background and included a paw print. With no restaurant opened, we went into the convenience store where they had a table to sit at. We microwaved some sandwiches so we could refill our tanks. Following our lunch stop, we headed southeast on Tunnel Hill Road. The hills were now very gradual as we appeared to be riding a ridge. We later had another freeway crossing as we biked over Interstate 24.
Three miles beyond the freeway, we made a long, fast descent from the ridge. At the bottom, we stopped to rest at Tunnel Hill, IL before continuing back up the hill. A 45 mile rail trail runs through this area and is said to be popular among the local cyclists. After climbing up from Tunnel Hill, we were again riding on the ridge. Once we crossed Highway 45, the name of the road changed to Gilead Church. For the next five miles, we passed by several farms and saw a number of apple trees. We followed the curvy road through the rolling hills until we reached Highway 147.
A left turn took us eastbound to Simpson, IL, a small settlement with a Baptist church and rodeo grounds. For the next eleven miles we had no turns to make (wow). Although the shoulderless road was somewhat narrow, the traffic was fairly light. We passed by a number of corn and soybean fields. With the more gentle hills, our average speed increased by two mph. Upon entering the small community of Eddyville, IL, we stopped at a convenience store for rest and cold refreshments. The bulletin board in the store was covered with Polaroid photos of deer hunters with their trophies.
Leaving the store, we headed southeast on Eddyville Road for our final 22 miles of the day. We were just ten miles from the Ohio River so we wondered if the terrain ahead would be rugged. Two miles later, we had our answer. After ascending a small hill, we saw a small river valley with large hill beyond that. We flew down the one mile descent, hoping to gather sufficient momentum to carry us up the next hill. A half mile up the next hill, we found our momentum to be fleeting. At four mph, we pedaled an additional two miles to the hilltop. We then raced down another long descent only to have another long hill to climb. While resting on the subsequent hilltop, we noticed another variation of the Illinois milepost signs, “EDDYVILLE RD N 37.82 km.” The mile markers were still showing two decimal places but were now metric.
Following a third long descent, Eddyville Road turned left. Now heading east, we did a gradual one mile climb before reaching Highway 146. As we got close to our next turn, a farm dog started chasing our rig. He followed us all the way to the stop sign as he seemed to want to play. While we studied our map, he lost interest and went back home. We were intently confirming our route instruction as it had a weird sequence. We had gone five miles southeast, three miles south and one mile east. Now we were going two miles north followed by five miles to the northeast before going due east. We blamed this oddity on the Ohio River as it was making a big bend to the south.
Heading north and northeast on Highway 146, we had a slight climb as we traveled through the countryside. This road was a more prominent highway as we saw an increase in traffic, particularly motorcycles. The motorcyclists were no doubt enjoying the beautiful weekend weather. We later learned that this highway was part of two automobile tour routes called the Ohio River Scenic Byway and the Trail of Tears. The Byway is a 967 mile river tour that goes through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The Trail of Tears route follows the forced 800 mile march of 14,000 Cherokee Indians from their home in Tennessee to reservations in Oklahoma. More than 4,000 Native Americans perished during the harsh trek of 1838-1839.
After going up a couple short climbs, we realized that the hills had been cut through to leave a more gentle grade. The exposed limestone on the hillside added to the beauty of the setting. Just west of Elizabethtown, IL, we came to Big Creek where they were repairing the bridge. Traffic signals were used to regulate the single lane of traffic. About 100 ft of this lane was covered with thick steel plates. We elected to ride over the plates. Our rig made such a loud racket rumbling over the plates that we felt we were going to be swallowed up by the bridge.
With the close of another challenging day, we were happy to reach the quaint town of Elizabethtown. The Hardin County Courthouse was perched high on a hilltop and had a clock that chimed every quarter hour. Small businesses lined a short stretch of the main street. One bar was popular with many of the motorcyclists we had seen during the afternoon. As we passed by, one biker looked intently at us and then offered, “Dey make dem with motas now.” We strolled a half block towards the Ohio River to reach the Rose River Inn. We had earlier made reservations to stay at this bed and breakfast as it was the only listed lodging in town.
The charming red brick building, built in 1812, was surrounded by a black rod iron fence. Don and Elizabeth greeted us and opened the side gate so we could walk our bike to our room’s outside entrance. We passed a cabin in the backyard that was billed as the “Honeymoon Suite.” A cheery, newlywed couple had booked that cozy place. Our room was in the rear corner of the house across from a huge magnolia tree. We had a queen-sized bed and private bathroom to enjoy. Everything was well coordinated, even the key chain had a rose flower on it. One of the best features of the room was that it was on the riverside, opposite the chiming courthouse clock so our sleep would not be disturbed.
After showering, we walked down to the river for dinner at a small, floating restaurant. Our legs ached as we negotiated the ramp over the water. Inside, we were surprised to see Will, the touring cyclist we met in Ellington. He had arrived earlier at the B&B and was now finishing his meal. We shared our recent experiences and discussed how far we each planned to go the next day. Having enjoyed a nice fish dinner on the river, we realized that we had sat on the restaurant’s benches for over an hour. We both groaned as we slowly stood to leave. Our tired legs had really stiffened up.
Arriving back at the B&B, our hosts were enjoying the evening air on the porch. We chatted about the various bikers that had stayed there. Our trip was the longest of all the cyclists they had met. When we quizzed them on how the summer season had been going, they noted that they have seen a reduction in bikers since the 2001 terrorist attacks. They felt that the European bikers were even fewer in numbers. As we retired for the night, we were thankful our room wasn’t upstairs.
Miles cycled – 85.9
September 19, 2004
Per our request, breakfast was served at 7:30 AM. The other touring cyclist, Will, had skipped breakfast and left before 7 AM as he hoped to finish his cross-country trek soon. The rest of the B&B guests were sleeping in. After all, this was the weekend. For us on the other hand, we have to check our watch to know what day of the week it was. We feasted on quiche, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit and pastries. As we packed up our rig, the spring in our step was back. It’s amazing what a night’s rest will do to cure a cyclist’s aches and pains.
As we bike through Elizabethtown, we were intrigued that this community of only 500 was the county seat. In fact, Hardin County which has the Ohio River for its south and east border, only shows a population of 4,700. That’s not a lot of people when compared to the state’s population of twelve million. Highway 146 was the only road in and out of Elizabethtown so we followed it northeast out of town. We had to climb about a half mile to get up out of the river valley and then the road leveled out. Our route then had us turning right onto Tower Rock Road. This last narrow and hilly segment of our Illinois adventure was a brutal wakeup call for us.
Not long after entering Tower Rock Road, we were wondering why it was part of the bike route. We thought initially we might see scenic views of the Ohio River but there was only one, brief glimpse on this ten mile stretch. The route was completely tree lined so our view was always obscured by trees. From what we had read, the one highlight of this road was Tower Rock which was the highest point along the river in southern Illinois. However, because this hilly route was given us such a workout, we were not interested taking the half mile hike to reach the lookout.
After a very bumpy two miles on this back road, we reached a fork in the road. We focused our eyes at the map’s small detail to determine that a right turn was required. At this right turn, we see could a “Road Closed Ahead” sign. That sign forced us to ponder for several minutes. We wondered, “Should we turn around and go back to Highway 146?” Going back up and down that jarring blacktop did not appeal to us. Of the next eight miles left to do, the highway was either going to be worse, about the same or better. We finally decided to ignore the closure sign as a bicycle can sometimes get through construction zones where a car can not. As it turned out, the remaining miles were like the “road from hell.” And we thought Illinois would be flat!
A mile and half later, we reached the road closure area. It was not an issue to get across as the payment turned to gravel for several hundred feet as we biked over the temporary bridge. Actually, this half mile jaunt was the most pleasant because it was relatively flat. Following the road work, we went over a number of memorable hills. One after another, these short hills were remarkable in that they had an incredible, ten to twelve percent grade. On the downside of each hill, we raced to about 35 mph, only to slow down to three mph at a point two thirds the way up the next steep hill. .For the last hundred feet of each uphill, there was an extraordinary strain to pedal at two to three mph. Without the prior downhill assist, there would have been no way we could have biked up these hills. We would have been walking our rig.
After climbing one last steep hill, we entered the city limits of Cave In Rock, IL. We then turned right and biked three blocks to the dock. The ferry was docked on the Kentucky side when we arrived. This gave us time to recover from our exhaustion and to read the area signs. The ferry operates everyday from 6 AM to 9:50 PM. It can hold 15 vehicles at a time and transports 600 a day over the Ohio River. Cave In Rock got its name from a 55 ft wide cave that has been a landmark on the Ohio River for 300 years. In days gone by, the cave has housed Native Americans, runaway slaves, Civil War soldiers, pirates, outlaws and counterfeiters.
Before the ferry could return to the Illinois side, it had to wait for a large barge to pass. The additional wait gave us time to reflect on the last couple of states we biked through. Through two thirds of our journey, we had crossed over some widely varied terrain. Having crossed the Continental Divide 15 times, we figured that we had seen the worst of it. In fact, we often wondered how tough it must have been for westbound cyclists to bike across Kansas and then have the tough transition to the Colorado Rockies. Now that we had been through Missouri and Illinois, we concluded that the three toughest segments of roads (outside of the Dalton Highway in Alaska) was the 1.5 mile hill west of Eminence, MO, and Wolf Creek and Tower Rock roads in Illinois. We will remember these torturous stretches for a long time.
Once the barge cleared the area, the tug boat pushed the platform of vehicles across. The ferry attendant secured the ramp and allowed the vehicles drive off. We waited as seven vehicles drove onto the platform and then we walked our bike on. Soon, we were off for the quarter mile journey across the Ohio River. There was no charge for the ferry. Operating it was cheaper than building a bridge high enough to allow boats to pass underneath. The tug boat that swiveled about the platform was called the Loni Jo. Various framed certificates were mounted on the ceiling of the elevated cab so that they could be seen from the vehicle platform below.
The attendant chatted with Randall about our trip. When Randall inquired about the extent of the hills in Kentucky, the attendant pointed to the south and declared, “Do you see that road over there? That’s the easiest mile you will do today!” When we reached the Kentucky side, we waited for the cars to drive off and then walked our rig up the steep ramp. Near the ramp, there was a sign that implored, “Please! Love America Don’t Throw Thrash.” Our first mile on Highway 91 into Kentucky was indeed nice and flat. As the road started to bend, we were greeted by the “Welcome to Kentucky” sign. The sign added the phrase, “Where Education Pays.” Some unwise guy had defaced the sign with “WER SMAT.”
Following our Bluegrass State greeting, we faced a gradual climb as we headed south and southeast. We saw our first Kentucky dog in the shadows ahead. It was a medium sized dog and he was trotting in our direction. While we were contemplating whether we needed to get the pepper spray out, the farm pet saw us. He immediately high tailed it into the woods. We had heard so many bad tales about Kentucky dogs being aggressive. After our first sighting, we suspected that the Kentucky canines were over hyped! While passing the robust crops of corn and soybeans, it was evident that we were among Amish settlements as the road signs cautioned about slow-moving horse and buggies. Although we did not see any Amish about, we did pass a sign for Yoder’s Feed Mill, Bakery and Greenhouse.
Four miles south of the Ohio River, we had a gradual two mile climb to the top of a ridge which offered a nice view of the areas farms. After stopping to rest, we had a fun descent down the curvy road. As we biked through the rolling hills, we noticed a number of pickup trucks. The south is often characterized by pickups with rifles hanging in the rear window. The first truck we saw with displayed guns was a small Toyota pickup. Somehow, this “toy truck” just didn’t fit the mold we were thinking of. Over the course of twenty miles, the cross roads all seemed to be named for churches as we saw the following signs in succession: Hebron Church Road, Freedom Church Road, Sugar Grove Church Road, Blackburn Church Road and Cave Spring Church Road.
After 70 minutes of cycling, we reached Marion, our first Kentucky town. In the center of this city of 3,300, we stopped at a convenience store for refreshments. With no tables inside, we sat outside next to our rig. A woman with a video camera walked up to us and asked if she could video tape us. In 1976, Erin had biked from Jackson Hole, WY to her hometown in Kentucky. That was the year of the BikeCentennial, when hundreds of touring cyclists biked across the USA. The non-profit group later changed its name from BikeCentennial to Adventure Cycling (the creator of our cycling maps).
As Erin told her story, she impressed us with her apparent streak of independence and frugalness. Rather than buying the BikeCentennial maps that were available at the time, she decided to go it on her own, using various road maps. Wanting to ask her dozens of questions, we quizzed her with our most intriguing question, “How was the availability of services in those days?” During our trip, we often found ourselves limited to the food available at convenience stores. However, in the 1970s, the service stations usually only sold gas. Erin said she often relied on the kindness of strangers. If, for instance, she arrived in a small town in Kansas at 7 PM and everything was closed, she would sit down on the curb until someone would come by and rescue her. She said it was usually retired, spinster school teachers who came to her aid. They would take her in for the night and feed her dinner and breakfast. When she got home, she made sure that she sent everyone thank you notes
Departing Marion, we headed east on Highway 120 which was bit smoother than the previous blacktop. For first time in a while, a headwind was nagging us as we biked over the moderate hills. A brilliant, sunny sky hung over us as we passed fields of sorghum, milo, soybeans and oats. With harvest underway, some of the fields were dotted with trucks, combines and tractors. We also saw cattle, horses and goats grazing in roadside pastures. Our road was generally narrow, but motorists were patient and waited behind us until they could see traffic beyond the hills.
Eleven miles beyond Marion, our route turned northeast onto Highway 132. Continuing through the rolling terrain, we found the landscape to be fairly green for a late September setting. An old railroad trestle over a creek made for a lovely photo op. After navigating a couple of larger hills, we biked into Clay, Ky. This small farming community appeared ready for fall as they had bundles of corn stalks mounted to posts in the downtown area. A restaurant on main street offered us a welcomed lunch stop.
While enjoying our meal, another patron came up to us and told us we had a pretty bike. He stood a few feet back from our table and chatted with us about our adventure. The whole time he was smoking a cigarette. For years we have become accustom to restaurants segregating smokers and nonsmokers. In Kentucky, tobacco is king. Most small town restaurants do not have nonsmoking sections. The locals appear to be smoking all the time. However, they seemed to be very aware of the location of their lit cigarettes and smoke trails. Although the smell of tobacco was everywhere, no one was blowing smoke in our face.
Heading out of Clay, we continued north and then east on Highway 132. Even though the terrain was somewhat hilly, we had not seen such a large concentration of crops and traditional farms since western Missouri. For one of our rest stops, we took a break across the road from some farm buildings. Three German Shepards in a fenced area were doing their best to uphold the reputation of Kentucky dogs. The hair on their backs was standing straight up as they repeatedly barked at us and ran around trying to find a way to get at us. We were glad they were confined. In this same area, a highway sign humored us. Having lost one of its mounting bolts, the inverted sign appeared to read “East 231.”
After 52 miles of pedaling, we reached the small town of Dixon, KY. To rest our weary legs, we stopped at a service station. This station was operated like the ones in the past. The attendant pumped the gas and the refreshments were limited to cans of pop. Continuing on Highway 132, the hills were becoming more substantial. Although the views from the hillcrests were quite scenic, we were getting quite a workout. After one short downhill, we sprinted fast up to an ensuing hill that appeared to be appreciably bigger. Just as we shifted to granny gear, Randall looked in his helmet mirror and then shouted, “Semi back!” A red, Kenworth truck with a huge shiny grill was only ten feet behind us.
Our immediate thoughts were, “How did this truck get that close without being noisy?” It was almost as if the semi was coasting with its engine turned off. So, what do we do now? The road was narrow and provided no edge to get out of the way. As we cranked hard on our pedals to maintain four to five mph, the driver continued his eight to ten foot spacing. What an unnerving experience! After 200 yards, the hill leveled out for 100 ft and then started going up again. We were hoping that the truck would pass us then. It did not. As we strained to reach the hillcrest, 100 yards away, the truck operator was apparently very patient as he followed us to the hilltop. At the top, a church driveway gave us a much welcomed exit.
A patchy graveled path at Mt. Lebanon General Baptist Church provided us with a safe place to rest. As our hearts were pounding wildly, we sat down to catch our breath. The way we fought up that hill, one would think we were fleeing a grizzly bear. In any event, our bear pepper spray would not have bailed us out against the big red machine! As we recovered, we noticed that the church, founded in 1840, had a distinguished looking bell. A small beagle trotted over from the church and assumed a sitting position about twenty feet away. Not barking or giving us eye contact, the dog was apparently acting as a sentinel.
Continuing through the hills, we passed by several farm homes and there was an occasional pasture with either goats or cattle. The fences tended to be made of wood and were painted either white or black. The colorful fencing along with the varied crops really added to the setting. Along the way, we saw a group of women and children picking apples from some roadside trees. We also passed several long chicken barns. Most were affiliated with Tyson or Golden Feather. As we approached our destination, we saw a number of barns filled with tobacco. The barns used for curing the tobacco were various shapes and sizes.
Upon entering Sebree, KY, we headed directly to the First Baptist Church. Ever since Montana, westbound bikers had been telling us that this was a great place to stay. We pulled into the parking lot at about 5:45 PM and were unsure where to go. The church marquee said that the discipleship class was at 6 PM. An older woman who just got out of her vehicle saw our disoriented appearance and said, “This is the right place.” Soon, another woman warmly greeted us and identified herself as Trudy, the church secretary. The pastor and his wife were on vacation, but she could unlock the biker’s guest area for us. It was located in the walk-in basement of the church addition.
Trudy invited us to the youth led service at 7:15 PM in the sanctuary. Knowing that we still needed to eat and take a shower beforehand, we asked what restaurant might be open. After receiving the directions to Sebree Dairy Bar, we pedaled through the downtown area for our evening meal. Having satisfied our hefty appetite, we returned to the church and circled around back to the walk-in basement. We walked in and were just stunned to see the size of our guest area. On the north end, there was a full kitchen with five tables and seating for twenty. On the south end, there were three couches around a large screen TV. The space in between was filled with a ping pong table and two game machines (one for football and one for basketball).
As we absorbed our new surroundings, Trudy arrived and showed us where the shower was. It was supplied with soap, shampoo, shaving cream and towels. A box labeled “Bike Ministries” had small bottles of shampoo, soap, combs and scissors. A nearby shelving unit had some canned food and microwave popcorn along with some magazines and bibles. On the top shelf was a composition notepad with the title, “Biker Guest Book.” Trudy took Barb upstairs to show her where the laundry room was. She politely requested that we delay laundry until after the youth service as the machine was a bit noisy. We were just amazed with the generosity of this church community. We quickly showered and changed into our street clothes so we could attend the youth service.
The youth service was well attended and included lots of songs accompanied by electric guitars and drums. The kids also performed skits about the true meaning of Christianity. We were warmly greeted and many asked about our bike trip after the service. They repeatedly asked if there was anything they could do for us. With our sleep quarters right across from a busy railroad track, Barb joked, “Could you stop the trains from going by all night?” It had been a couple of weeks since our schedule allowed us to attend church, so we appreciated the Baptists’ invitation.
Following the youth service, we washed and dried our clothes while we checked for any new emails. Since we were the only bikers there, we removed the couch cushions and laid them on the floor to form a mattress. We then rolled out our sleeping bags on top of this padding. As we retired for the night, we were quite aware of the fast trains that went through twice an hour. Because there were road crossings nearby, the trains’ horns were quite prominent. However, we had such an exhausting day that we were soon, solidly asleep and not bothered by the repetitive locomotives.
Miles cycled – 64.3
September 20, 2004
At dawn, the light transcended through our east windows. Another day of riding awaited us. We slowly rose to find that our bodies still ached. This was an exceptional experience for us as we had always recovered after a nights rest. Although we had quality sleep, the last few days had been full of difficult hills and the continuous strain was apparently catching up to us. Since we had such nice accommodations, we decided that a rest day in Sebree would be prudent. Trudy came downstairs to greet us and said we were welcome to stay as for a long as we needed.
For breakfast, Trudy gave us a ride over to the Dairy Bar. While we enjoyed our meal, she went across the street to update a signboard. The First Baptist Church was trying to reach the Hispanics who were moving into the area to work at the Tyson chicken plants. This week’s message was changed to note the time and location of a new Spanish service. Since Trudy did not know Spanish, she was careful to place each letter exactly as it appeared on her note. After breakfast, Trudy took us by the many red brick buildings on main street. She pointed out a classic bank building and an old fashioned pharmacy complete with soda fountain. Unfortunately, most of the other stores on the main street were empty.
Arriving back at the church, we noticed the sign at the entrance doors welcoming bikers and listing four contact numbers. We told Trudy that cyclists don’t always hear about their location through word of mouth. Recently, Adventure Cycling started listing their church as having “hostel-like accommodations.” We could tell from the frown on her face that Trudy was not familiar with the word. She thought the lodging description sounded bad, as in “hostile.” We went on to explain that the word hostel is used to describe cheaper accommodations, often with common restroom facilities and dormitory style sleeping areas.
We spent the bulk of our day resting and writing. Later in the afternoon, we biked to a nearby store to get a few groceries. Per our request, the doors to the biker’s quest room had been locked the night before. Before departing, we talked to the associate pastor about which door to re-enter through. He said that one of the doors upstairs would be unlocked. However, while we were away, the janitor locked all the doors. One by one, we called the four contacts listed on the sign before making contact with the last number. Soon, Linda came by to let us back inside.
In the evening, the pastor, Brother Bob, stopped by to chat. He had been on vacation with his wife. Following the vacation, she joined a group of church volunteers to provide food to Floridian hurricane victims. Bob, however, came back to Sebree to lead the Monday night visitation group. The group consisted of a team of parishioners who shared their faith stories with others. On this evening, Bob and Linda (who let us in earlier) were joined by Fay. They came down to the biker’s room to visit with us. We talked about what being a Christian meant to each of us and shared in prayer.
Later that night, we reviewed the Biker’s Guest Book. Another visiting biker had complained that the church’s visitation group was too aggressive in their spiritual approach. In contrast, we viewed the group as friendly and faith inspired. Their approach was certainly not as strong as a 60 minute sales pitch that someone would endure to “win” a free resort stay. Among other biker notes, we saw a number of route alternatives described to bypass the “treacherous hills.” Although we sometimes questioned the quality of some of the back roads chosen for the cross-country route, we preferred to follow the route as mapped.
Miles cycled – 1.4
September 21, 2004
With the arrival of another beautiful morning, we awoke refreshed and ready to hit the road. We biked over to Sebree Dairy Bar for breakfast and then left town at 8 AM. We had a gentle climb as we headed east on Highway 56. A substantial number of trucks were passing us but we had a shoulder for the first three miles. Once we crossed over the Pennyrile Parkway and the Green River, most of the traffic went away. The Green River offered quite a view. To the south, a tug boat was holding two barges steady as a conveyor was loading coal. From our map, it appeared that the barges would be tugged about 30 miles north to the Ohio River.
A couple of miles beyond the river, we went by a Tyson Hatchery Plant. Later, we passed by several long chicken barns with large fans on one end. Even though they were confined to barns, we felt that the thousands of chickens produced a more appalling smell than the cattle feed lots in Kansas. Poultry certainly has a strong presence in Kentucky. Upon entering Beech Grove, KY, we stopped at the convenience store for refreshments. In the store, copies of 2004-2005 Kentucky Hunting Guide for dove, wood duck, teal, woodcock, snipe and crow were available. Across from the store, the Sissy Jacks tavern had a large sign showing a woman trying to pull a donkey. Leaving town, we followed Highway 136 for four miles before turning left onto Highway 140.
Over the next ten miles, we saw a large number of tobacco fields and barns. What was curious to us was that there were several stages of tobacco crop and barn curing activities within the same county. Several patches were completely barren as harvest was finished. Other fields had mostly green plants with large broad leaves that were just starting to turn yellow. In a couple of patches, the stalks of leaves had been cut and then speared with a stick. With a resemblance to small teepees, it was quite a sight to see the rows and rows of speared stalks. We learned later that the stalks were left to wilt on sticks in the field for a day or two before being hung in a curing barn. Among the curing barns, the color of the leaves ranged from mostly yellow with a hint of green to a very reddish brown. The dark color leaves had a very strong aroma and would probably go to the market soon.
Having seen numerous chicken barns and tobacco curing barns, we wondered which came first, the chicken or the tobacco. The state was obviously prospering from both. Even though we were in a heavy segment of tobacco farming, the crops of oats and soybeans were just as prominent. The farms, themselves were strikingly smaller as the cultivating and harvesting equipment was also a smaller scale. While going down a small hill, a semi truck loaded with hogs passed us on its way to the market. The area’s agribusiness appeared to be quite diverse. We occasionally saw painted wood fences as Kentucky is well-known for that kind of setting. One pasture attracted our attention as it was covered with purple wildflowers.
After enjoying 25 miles of mostly rolling hills, we reached the small town of Utica, KY. We stopped at the general store to get some icy drinks. The store was stocked with food, fishing tackle, video tapes and hardware. Continuing east on Highway 140, the hills were now bigger and somewhat steep. A residential area east of Utica was marked with the caution sign, “Congested Area.” We had seen this sign elsewhere in Kentucky and suspected that it alerted motorists to traffic from driveways and crossroads. After weaving and climbing over a few large hills, we pulled over for a break. A man driving a tractor on the road stopped to talk to us as we rested at the side of the road. He was on his way to his mother’s house to mow her lawn. He was glad to see us but told us to be especially careful ahead as the road got narrower and hillier.
Nine miles later, we joined Highway 764. As we were forewarned, the road was narrow and hilly but traffic was reasonably light. After two miles, our very curvy route took us under the William H. Natcher Parkway. A couple of tough hills later, we stopped to rest under a tall shade tree. The tree’s leaves were still mostly green with a slight yellowish tint. We were probably a few weeks too early to see any significant fall color change. As we continued on, the road bent to the north before crossing the Daviess County line. After navigating several curves in the highway, we reached an orange sign that stated, “Road Closed 1,000 FT.” We were curious that no detour was offered and that we had no prior warning. Having recalled our previous road-closure sign in Illinois and how we successfully rode through, we decided to forge ahead.
As we rounded another curve, the whole scene unfolded before us. Beyond a large truck and pickup, we could see that the bridge was gone. The construction foreman saw us coming and then looked down at his feet, shaking his head in disbelief. Pulling up for a closer look, we could see that to the right of the missing bridge, there was a ten foot wide wood ramp that allowed the construction vehicles to cross Deserter Creek. The approach, before and after this ramp was packed haphazardly with large, white rocks. We watched while a crane repeatedly dropped a huge block of metal onto what remained of the concrete support pillars. With every impact, the payment under our sandaled feet shook. After waiting several minutes, the area workers seemed to be more and more distracted by our presence.
The foreman then walked over to us and said, “You can go ahead and cross, but if you turn an ankle, it’s your our own fault.” So while all activity stopped, we walked the bike and trailer over, being careful how we placed our feet on the large, loose rocks. Occasionally, a bike or trailer wheel would become snagged between two rocks and we would have to tug on our rig a little harder to advance. Once across the wood ramp, the second set of rocks was even more challenging to negotiate as we had a slight incline. Back onto the payment, we were thrilled to have made it across without any damage to our rig or feet. The only discomfort that we experienced was dusty feet. As we pause to recover from the treacherous crossing, the crew resumed their ground-jarring activity.
Heading north of Deserter Creek, we had a long gentle climb before reaching Oklahoma, KY. The sign identifying the town was not very large, about the size of a street sign. There was not much to this small settlement as we figured that it was a residential extension of the neighboring Whitesville, KY. Continuing north, we passed by more crops and tobacco barns before reaching Whitesville. Four days earlier in Missouri, we had arranged to have new headsets for our intercom sent to Whitesville by the U.S. Postal Service. We walked into the post office to find it closed for the lunch hour. So, we biked over to the dairy bar and had lunch. The order clerk at the restaurant asked where we were biking from. She was just floored when we said we had been biking for four months. She asked, “Aren’t your seats sore?”
When we returned to the post office after lunch, a woman there was aware of our package. The post office staff was stumped about why they were receiving this package. Being a small town of about 800, they not only knew who lived there but also who was visiting. There were definitely no Angells in town. We were quite fortunate with the timing because the lady said she was going to return the package to the sender after today. Outside the post office, we quickly unpackaged one headset for Barb to use. It was so nice to return to comfortable, two-way communication.
As we wrapped up things in Whitesville, we realized that we had reached a significant point in our travels. For 2,670 miles, we had been following the convenient detail of the Adventure Cycling maps. To stay with our planned itinerary, we would now be leaving the TransAmerica route. This meant that we no longer had route instructions or list of services laid out for us. It also meant that it would be unlikely we would cross paths with other touring cyclists. We were pushing northeast to Columbus, IN before heading south to our destination of Key West, FL. For the next 1,685 miles, we would have to rely on basic road maps to help guide our way.
After examining our Kentucky road map, we determined that we needed to continue six miles north on Highway 764 before heading east on Highway 144. North of Whitesville, a few of the roadside homes had patches of tobacco growing in the yard. They really embraced the green and yellow leaves in this area. The road had lot of bends as we zigzagged through the countryside. Corn harvest was in full swing with several fields dotted with trucks and harvesting equipment. Having gone five miles on Highway 144, our next turn was onto northbound Highway 69.
Like the blacktops before, this highway wasn’t very wide but the motorists were kind to give us a wide berth when passing. We were now about ten miles from the Ohio River. When we last approached this river in Illinois, we had an extraordinary workout. So, we were wondering if we would get a similar challenge. As it turned out, the hills were long in some instances but most of the climbs were moderate. The scenery was great as we saw a few more decorative wood fences and some homes had beautiful, landscaped ponds.
With a few strategic rest breaks, we were able to bike along comfortably. At one rest stop, a semi truck driver heading south came to a stop right across from us. He was now parked in the southbound lane which seemed a bit haphazard. Because cyclists always have their windows down, we had a good hunch what this driver wanted. He motioned us over so Barb hopped up on the truck’s running board to see what’s up. This guy had become disoriented and because we appeared to be travelers, we had to know where everything was around there.
With our simple Kentucky road map, Barb convinced him that he needed to head north. As expected, the southbound cars were queuing up behind the truck but no one expressed impatience. The motorists probably thought that the cyclists flagged down the trucker for directions! We then parted ways as the driver’s challenge was to find a place to turnaround. After we had gone about two miles, the truck passed us, giving us a little toot from the horn. We figured that a little goodwill with a trucker could enhance the cyclist’s image.
When Highway 69 ended, we turned left onto Highway 60 for a half mile jog to Hawesville, KY. This much busier highway was a divided, four lane road with an appreciable shoulder. We then turned right onto Madison Street. We knew we were very close to the Ohio River Bridge but we couldn’t see it for the two story buildings that lined the main street. Getting within four blocks of the bridge, the traffic started backing up. Knowing that something was up, we couldn’t assess the situation until we got within a half block of the bridge entrance. To our horror, the south third of the bridge was under construction and down to one, narrow lane. Traffic lights regulated the motorists on either side of the construction zone. When we got to within 100 ft of where the two lanes necked down to one, we pulled completely off the road to ponder our options.
Biking over long, tall bridges was not exactly our favorite thing to do. Without researching the construction activity, the river crossing we had chosen now looked very perilous. We were not even certain that bicycles would be allowed on the bridge. While studying the speed and volume of traffic going through the traffic signal, we contemplated having a pickup truck take us across. Typically, a dozen vehicles passed by after a light change. Knowing that there was a five percent grade to climb, we expected our speed would only be seven to eight mph. After watching four intervals of traffic go through, we decided to go for it.
On the fifth interval, we waited until the last vehicle passed and then we started burning rubber (at least we tried to). As the last car became more distant, we pedaled hard up the single lane. We had to get through before the opposing light changed. About four car lengths away from the opposing traffic, the light changed to green. Thankfully, the lead car saw us coming and gave us a break. They inched forward so that the vehicle behind them wouldn’t honk, but waited long enough for us to get through. We made it!
Once we got by the construction zone, we had an eerie sensation. We still had two thirds of the bridge to cross but the northbound lane was all ours to bike freely on. Reaching the apex of the bridge, we enjoyed the view of the water. Because of flooding from the recent hurricane, the river was pretty muddy with a lot of trash and tree limbs floating about. Barges and power plant smokestacks could be seen off in the distance. Speeding through the bridge exit at 22 mph, we were safely into Indiana before the next interval of cars arrived from the south.
Just beyond the bridge, the “Welcome to Indiana – Crossroads of America” sign greeted us. Having biked in the Alaska, Pacific, Mountain and Central Time Zones we could now count the Eastern as our fifth. However, since Indiana, Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight savings time, our watches remained at their Central Time setting. We made a left turn on Highway 66 for our last segment of road for the day. Although we were riding mostly north, parallel to the river, it seemed like we were always climbing.
After passing through the small river town of Cannelton, IN, we reached Tell City, IN which was named after the Swiss hero, William Tell. The traffic quickly got very heavy when the highway expanded to four lanes. Competing with motorists heading home from work, we pedaled until we reached the cross street our motel was on. Turning onto Orchard Hill Drive, we were puzzled as we expected that we would be seeing our lodging by now. Looking around, we finally found the motel, perched high on a hill. Wonderful! Shifting down to granny gear, we finished our ride with the toughest hill of the day.
Miles cycled – 71.4
September 22, 2004
After enjoying some muffins and cereal at the motel, we coasted back down to the main highway. Turning left, we merged with the morning traffic rush as we bike two miles through this historic city. At the north end of town, we turned right onto Highway 37. Now using our Indiana road map, we were keeping it simple by spending most of our day on this northbound highway. This stretch of Highway 37 was the main route to Interstate 64 so it had a lot of traffic. Because it was such a busy thoroughfare, we were thankful that we had an eight foot shoulder to ride on. The shoulder was apparently an enticing place to park on as a sign stated, “No Parking Next 21 Miles.”
With this improved road, we also enjoyed the more gradual grades. However, since we were leaving the river valley, we still had two long climbs before the road leveled out somewhat. For the next 22 miles, there were no towns along the highway. After 12 miles, we stopped at a roadside convenience store for refreshments. Just beyond the store we had our first sighting of an Indiana dog. We passed some farmers that were doing some work near a pond. Their dog did not spot us right away but once he did, he chased us for a half mile which was probably the entire span of the owner’s property. The surrounding land was mostly pastures with an occasional crop of corn or soybeans. After entering the Hoosier National Forest, we no longer had distant views as the trees were abundant.
When we arrived near Interstate 64, we had to turn right onto Highway 62 for a seven mile jog east. This detour from Highway 37 was used because the highway was being routed over the interstate highway which we were not allowed on. As we were making our turn onto Highway 62, we could feel the bike swerving out of control. Once we made a safe stop, we discovered that we had a rear flat tire. Finding a piece of glass in the tandem tire, we removed the sliver and then patched the inside of the tire with a strip of purple duct tape. After putting in a new tube, we were back up and pedaling through the small community of St. Croix, IN. The town’s post office was a tiny, eight by twenty foot building that looked like a storage shed. A dozen mailboxes were mounted on posts on the west side of the shed. The mailman didn’t have very far to go to deliver the mail!
The signs on Highway 62 told us that it was both a scenic route and the Lincoln Heritage Trail. Anyone who reads car license plates knows that Illinois, not Indiana, is the Land of Lincoln. The 1,000 mile trail marks the exact route traveled by Abraham Lincoln from Kentucky through Indiana to Illinois. Since this trail pertained to his earlier days, the youthful Lincoln profile on the sign was beardless. Other signs warned of road construction for the next ten miles. Fortunately, the construction was completed and we had a beautiful surface to enjoy.
The eastbound Highway 62 was quite a workout. With the trees and multiple bends in the road, the sight distance was limited. Two climbs were very long and required a rest once at the top. At each summit, we had a great view of I 64 below. With a lot of the highway shaded by trees, our fast descents cooled us off quickly. Riding down to the small town of Sulphur, IN, we turned left which put us on old Highway 37. A mile to the north, we passed over I 64 and were now back on Highway 37. With no shoulder, the highway had a different look to it as we climbed up the curvy hills in a heavily forested area. We were hoping that no big truck would sneak up from behind us.
After a few miles, we reached a newer stretch of the highway that climbed for nearly two miles up a hill. During our climb, an emergency vehicle sped south as we suspected it was headed for I 64. Another mile later, two more emergency vehicles zoomed by us. Three miles south of English, IN, we ascended a 1.5 mile hill before riding on a ridge for a short distance. There were several twists and turns in the road which made for an easier grade to climb. Entering the city limits of English, we had a very steep descent into the center of town. Randall had to brake very firmly to avoid exceeding the 35 mph speed limit.
With the nearest restaurant being two miles east of town, we stopped at the convenience store for lunch. While eating outside, a local walked over to look at our rig. He remarked, “That’s quite a machine you’ve got there!” We later found that English, in Crawford County, was another county seat with a small population of 700. The town was named after William H. English who in 1880, ran as Vice-President for the democratic ticket (and lost). Just north of English, we passed a golf course. This course seemed out of place as it had been a long time since we had seen putting greens.
For the next 17 miles, we headed mostly north on an extremely curvy road. The terrain was generally rolling hills as we were riding on a ridge. It made for an enjoyable ride on a sunny afternoon. We biked by several small farms with crops of soybeans, oats and corn. The barns were old and distinctive looking but none were holding tobacco. Occasionally while riding on the ridge, we could see into the tree-filled valleys for miles around. We no longer saw the decorative fences as barbed wire with wood or metal posts was the norm.
Arriving in Paoli, IN, we pedaled until we reached the main street. Because the approach to the traffic signal was very steep, we got off the bike and walked our rig to the convenience store on the left. We went inside the store to get some icy drinks and snacks. As we enjoyed our refreshments outside, we marveled at all the traffic going by. A number of log trucks were coming from the west and going through the town square to the east. Paoli was the county seat of Orange County and the distinctive, white courthouse sat in the middle of the town square. We were trying to gauge if most of the traffic was continuing east or going up north but because of the courthouse, it was hard to see.
To merge with the heavy eastbound traffic, we waited for the light to turn green and then allowed a few vehicles to go ahead of us before advancing. The town square was only a half block away but it was an uphill climb. This was probably the only town square we had seen that was on the side of a hill. Once inside the square, we could see that it was in a roundabout format. We circled around the square a couple of times before exiting north onto Highway 37. The northbound traffic was quite abundant with cars and semi trucks passing us on the long hill out of town.
Only two miles away from town, we pulled off the highway and into a driveway. Randall had been griping the handlebars so tightly that a break was needed. This segment of Highway 37 had pretty high traffic volume and we had no shoulder to ride on. With the next town five miles away, we were hoping to see some relief with either a shoulder or diminished traffic. The terrain was somewhat flat so at least we didn’t have to deal with difficult climbing. As we continued north, the log trucks, petroleum trucks, cars and pickups continued to pass.
In one instance, a car didn’t seem comfortable passing us and soon, several vehicles were forming a line behind. We exited at the next available driveway to allow the quarter mile long line to pass by. In a subsequent encounter, an oncoming semi truck was going to reach us at the same time as a truck from behind. For our well being, we pulled off onto the bumpy, grader ditch. We then waited for a brief clearing in the traffic before pushing back onto the payment. With the increased stress of riding in congestion, we took breaks every two miles as opposed to our usual five mile intervals.
We were relieved to reach the small town of Orleans, IN which billed itself as the Dogwood Capital of the World. This area must be a pretty site in the spring. The town square in this community was on the west side of the main road. Not knowing what the conditions would like ahead, we rested for a long spell. Heading north out of town, we only advanced five blocks before the tandem started wobbling. Yikes! We had another flat so we pulled into a deserted parking lot. This time the flat was due to tire failure. The rear tandem tire had a slit in the sidewall, just above the rim. These Continental tires just weren’t very good when they’re made in India! We retrieved one of our two new tires from the tire bag and then threw the failed tire into a nearby dumpster. After inserting a new tube, we were finally on our way out of town.
Continuing on Highway 37, we still had no shoulder but the traffic was somewhat lighter. For some reason, there were very few semi trucks which was nice. The blacktop was also fairly flat, something we hadn’t seen since western Missouri. Before long, we rambled into Mitchell, IN. With the highway bypassing most of town, there were a high proportion of fast food restaurants lining the road. We considered stopping to eat but with our destination being just ten miles away, we decided to wait. We instead ate a power bar and drank some Gatorade. After Mitchell, we now had a four lane highway with a wide shoulder. Oh, how wonderful!!
With people starting to head home from work, the intensity of the traffic ramped up. There was one annoying aspect of the wide shoulder however. Instead of running the rumble strips parallel to the highway, they ran perpendicular to it and across the entire shoulder width. So, every dozen feet we had this annoying thud, but we were thankful not to be in the thick of traffic. As we continued along, we discovered that we weren’t the only ones appreciating the shoulder. Every so often, we saw piles of horse manure. A few moments later, we spotted an Amish wagon with three young men heading south. We were amused that we met them just as they were approaching a billboard with the caption, “Old Buggy Café.” Later, we met a southbound Amish family in a buggy. Both the wagon and buggy riders returned our waves. Because we were seeing the world at a slower pace, we somehow felt a connection.
About four miles south of Bedford, IN, Highway 37 overlaps Highway 50 for a mile and half. During this overlap, the road crossed over the East Fork of the White River. We found this tree-lined river to be very colorful with stark reflections on the water. To stay with Highway 37, we took an exit ramp from Highway 50/37 and then curved up and over Highway 50. We started climbing as soon as we got on the ramp and didn’t stop ascending until two miles later. What a workout to finish the day! During the ascent, we passed by the sign, Welcome to Bedford – Limestone Capital of the World.” At the hillcrest, we noticed a number of restaurants. Unsure if there was a restaurant near our motel, we stopped at Wendy’s for a hearty dinner. Following dinner, we biked a mile to our lodging to complete our day.
Miles cycled – 81.9
September 23, 2004
After finishing our continental breakfast, we pulled our rig out of the room and to the main lobby. In the lobby, a motel guest trotted over to open the entrance doors for us. What service! To begin our ride, we turned east onto Highway 58. This route through northern Bedford had some awesome hills to climb. We hadn’t gone two miles and we were already needing a rest. The morning traffic was surprisingly hectic as everyone was rushing to work. As we reached the outskirts of town, someone had setup a birthday greeting in Dr. Hunter’s yard. Thirty yellow smiley faces were spread out over the lawn to draw attention to the greeting.
Beyond Bedford, the road did a couple of zigzags to the northeast. While going up and down several more large hills, we were enjoying distant views to the east. As the sun climbed in the sky, the beauty of the various farms unfolded before us. The red roof of one barn contrasted well with the blue, morning sky. Five miles into the countryside, the cars and trucks were almost nonexistent. The lighter traffic was appreciated as the roads were narrow and without a shoulder. After going by several farms, we entered the small town of Heltonville, IN. We stopped at a convenience store to get some icy drinks. A couple of things in the store drew our attention. On one shelf, we saw several jars of Fischer’s pickled rope bologna. This local cuisine might be a popular item for picnics but the odd looking pink/orange tinted extrusions of mystery meat certainly turned our stomachs.
On the back wall of the store, there were newspaper clippings and framed poster boards that expressed the famed, basketball pride of the Hoosier state. This small town had a basketball star of it own that was featured in all of the wall postings. Damon Bailey had a legendary high school career and then went on to play for Indiana University. So much has been said about the passion for basketball in the state of Indiana. Any visitor to Heltonville would have a closer understanding of what that passion was about. Continuing through town, we made a very sharp right turn as the road wrapped around the Heltonville Elementary School. Outside the school, an eight foot limestone monument honored the achievements of Bailey. On the outskirts of town, a sign proclaimed, “Welcome to Heltonville – Proud Home of Damon Bailey.”
For the next 16 miles, we passed through Zelma, IN, Norman, IN and Kutz, IN. The three towns all had something in common. They were very small and offered no services. Once we got beyond Heltonville, the large hills gave way to moderate rolling hills. Our route continued to have several curves and ninety degree bends. We were okay with this irregular path as long as we avoided going over the steep hills. Near Zelma, we passed by a short, covered bridge that was on a side road. Kerosene lanterns hung in the interior of the bridge, apparently to light the way at night.
As we biked though south central Indiana, we enjoyed the diverse agricultural in the area. We biked by two pens of goats before trekking by several miles of corn. The stalks of corn were fairly tall at eight to ten feet in height. In the Norman area, the trees were more abundant as two, small logging operations were seen along the road. After a couple of ascents over small hills, we could see quite far ahead to the tree covered hills. Near Kutz, we met two log trucks headed west. One quaint farm setting had a dozen horses grazing in the barnyard. Cattle and fields of hay were also becoming more prevalent.
Upon entering the small town of Freetown, IN, we were surprised to see that one street was named, “No Name St.” We later came across a Freetown map, circa 1925. Back then, the street was called Maple St. Two blocks to the east, a second street was also called Maple. So, we figured that the post office had too many headaches with duplicate addresses and someone came up with the unimaginative name of No Name. With only a dozen streets to name, one would think they could do a better job of coming up with a name!
On the northeast side of town, we stopped at a small gas and food store for lunch. The shop was setup inside a former residence and entering it was like going back into time. The produce scales and cash register used were not electronic, a rare sight indeed. They had a deli counter so we had some sandwiches prepared. We bought a bag of ice since they didn’t sell small quantities. After stuffing the ice into our Camelbaks and water bottles, we managed to use almost all of it. The owner said that we were welcome to use the picnic table out front. We sat in the shade eating our sandwiches and chips while watching the traffic. For a small town, we were astonished at the number of visits the store was getting. Some people bought gas and some bought snacks or meat from the deli. None of the purchases were very big but they kept the site pretty busy.
After finishing the main course, we went back into the store to get ice cream bars. We each bought two bars. The clerk was at first taken back at the quantity of food we were eating, and then said, “I guess you can really burn the calories biking so far. I suppose you can get away with that!” We were certainly enjoying that benefit as we had both lost some weight. Back at the picnic table, the owner’s cat was now trying to attract our attention. The presence of a dairy product made us instant friends. Before finishing our meal, the Coke deliveryman had unloaded several cases of pop. When he was set to go, he asked for our assistance in backing out his long rig. He didn’t want to hit the gas pumps.
For the next 13 miles, we continued through even more Indiana small towns with Spraytown, Waymansville, Mt. Healthy and Ogilville in succession. Just past Spraytown, Highway 58 took us by the south and east sides of a field of oats. Seeing a truck parked just off the highway, we then saw the small Gleaner Baldwin combine making the rounds. Cutting four rows with each swath, the harvesting machine went back and forth down the rows of oats. The thrash and dust dispersal from behind the machine was quite substantial. Randall, with his allergies to farm dust, was about to sneeze so we pedaled on. With the red barns and the green fields sprinkled with bales of hay, the farm scenes in this area were quite colorful.
A few miles later, we came up to some road construction. The flagmen were limiting traffic to one lane although it appeared that the work was nearly done. Once our flagman radioed ahead, we were given the okay to advance on. While riding on the nice road surface, we then recalled that during the Midwest Tandem Rally, the blacktop was wonderfully smooth. Before long, we started seeing the MTR road markings that were used to help guide us back into Columbus, IN. We were getting close to our destination for the day.
Passing through Waymansville, one home had a shiny red, model A Farmall tractor sitting in the front yard. The subsequent towns of Mt. Healthy and Ogilville brought back memories as we recognized the surrounding buildings. Beyond Ogilville, Highway 58 turned and headed directly east to I 65. Instead of crossing over the freeway, we turned north onto a series of roads that ran parallel to I 65. Beginning with Crossing Lane, we were now retracing the return route to Columbus that we biked on during the MTR 2004.
After a short jog to Terrace Lake Rd, we biked one mile before turning right onto Carr Hill Road. As we learned from Tell City, when a road has the word “hill” in its name, the cycling will be difficult. Climbing up a steep, curvy ascent, we finally crossed over I 65. Beyond the freeway, we flew down the hill as it curved to the north. With Carr Hill Road taking us up to Highway 46, we were now a mile east of the motel we stayed in during the tandem bicycle rally. But, we did not plan to stay at that motel so we turned east onto Highway 46 and headed into Columbus.
Our southwest entry into town took us over the East Fork of the White River again. Just to the north, the confluence of the Flatrock and Driftwood Rivers formed the East Fork. To set the tone of majestic architecture in Columbus, the bridge over the East Fork White River had stunning features. Four huge red poles formed an “A” frame high above the bridge. Like a series of well-tensioned bicycle wheel spokes, 20 white cables fanned down on either side. As we entered the bridge, we were able to capture the stately Bartholomew County Courthouse (completed in 1874) that was just beyond the bridge. This was the same bridge that was lost in the fog at the start of the Saturday ride at the MTR.
Three blocks past the bridge, we stopped at The Republic newspaper office. Since it was 3:30 PM, we were hoping to plug our story with a physical presence. Upon entering, we learned that the reporters were in a meeting so we waited in comfortable chairs in the air conditioned lobby. Later, an editor stepped out of the meeting to briefly quiz us about our trip. We could sense that the editor was preoccupied as he didn’t seem very enthusiastic about our story. Sending us on our way, he said they would be in touch about getting a photo.
From the newspaper office, we headed two miles north through town to reach a private residence. Our hosts, Charlie and Diane, were also tandem bicycle enthusiasts. We had first met them at the Southern Indiana Tandem Tour two years ago. Back then, the Indiana tandem club was contemplating hosting the MTR in 2004. The HOOTS (Hoosiers Out On TandemS) did a fine job at the SITT rally and later hosted a superb Midwest Tandem Rally Labor Day weekend. With the aid of a rental car from Missouri, we were able to attend this wonderful rally.
While we were at the rally, Charlie and Diane invited us to stay with them when we arrive to town on our own power. We knew better than to pass up an opportunity to stay with a tandem couple. Someone once pointed out that tandem couples are fun to be around because they are a couple who actually enjoy being with each other. If they didn’t, they would have sold the tandem long ago. That joy carries over into other activities they share in. Plus, it is always nice to share with people who have a common interest.
Natives of Columbus, Charlie and Diane moved to Montana when they were first married and he was serving in the military. Stationed in Great Falls, they made many visits to Glacier National Park. We enjoyed seeing photos from their hiking trips in Glacier as we also found the park to be spectacularly beautiful. They, in turn, had several questions about our adventure. That evening, we got a call from a photographer at The Republic. He was much more enthusiastic about our trip than the editor was. However, it was already dark when we connected so we set up a meeting for the next afternoon. Having gone 207 miles over hilly roads, and with Charlie and Diane as our gracious host, we decided to make the next day a restful one.
Miles cycled – 54.3
September 24, 2004
During breakfast, Charlie and Diane discussed their interest in boating. They hoped to acquire a boat soon and go out and explore the waters. The couple is retired and said, “Every week is like six Saturdays and one Sunday.” Charlie had a couple of appointments during the day involving church activities. Otherwise, we had a pretty casual day. We drove to the airport cafe for lunch and watched the planes come and go. Among our errands, we stopped at the post office, bike shop and Wal-Mart.
The package of bike supplies that Barb’s sister Susan had mailed arrived successfully. With two new tires, we could now replace the front tire and restock our tire bag with two spares. While at the local bike shop, we checked on additional supply needs. The staff there was thrilled to hear about our bike trip. Barb later picked up some supplies at Wal-Mart. Expecting The Republic photographer to arrive at 4 PM, we dressed in our clean bike clothes for the photo shoot. As we pulled the bike out of the garage, we discovered a flat on the rear tire. Since it was a slow leaker, we just pumped it up for the quick photo op. The photographer had us pose by the bike and then ride up and down the residential street. After asking a few questions, he said that they would have an extended caption with a photo in the paper the next morning.
After the photographer left, the four of us proceeded to search for the cause of the flat tire. A very small hole produced a few tiny bubbles when we submerged the tube in a tub of water. This was not the kind of leak that would be easily detectable on the side of the road. We looked for any debris in the almost new tire (changed about 70 miles ago) but found nothing. Concluding it was a tube defect or pinch flat, we replaced the tube and pumped up the tire, taking advantage of Charlie’s’ floor plump.
A neighbor joined us for a delicious dinner. He had just gotten back from visiting the northwest and had seen some of the same sites we had biked through. Later, Charlie and Diane’s son dropped by with his wife and two kids. Their granddaughter was particularly interested in our photos as she viewed them on our laptop. It was a wonderful evening with a nice family.
Miles cycled – 0.5
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