Monday, May 26, 2008

Dover, TN to Nashville, to Memphis, to Chicago. (Whew)

Good morning all, I'm back in Chicago now, actually Barrington, IL and this will be the last official entry in this blog, Muscatine to New Orleans. Once I decided the ride was over, I needed to figure out how to get from this small town in Tennessee, Dover, about 65 miles west and south of Nashville, back to Chicago. The train I had initially thought I would take from New Orleans to Chicago is routed through Memphis, but Memphis is about 150 miles west of Dover.

By the way, in either direction, it was hills, hills and more hills, so riding my bike, although an option, was not attractive. But if I had to ride, Nashville was a lot, lot closer to Dover than Memphis!

My plan then was to get myself a ride to Nashville, rent a SUV, drive to Memphis with all my gear, get a train ticket, pack up the bike and gear for storage on the train, return the car to the Memphis airport, get back to the station and come home. I asked the very nice lady that owned the motel in Dover where I had stayed overnight if she knew anyone in town with a pickup truck who might want to make a few bucks driving me up to Nashville. Turns out, she did, and I met Harry, recently discharged from the Army after serving 4 years.

This is Harry and his Mazda, not a pickup truck, but it worked with everything stored in the rear with rear seats folded down. We are at the side of the Sherton Hotel in downtown Nashville and you can just see the front tire of my bike off to the right. At this point, I am beginning to feel that this plan to evacuate Tennessee might work.

I'm going to post several pictures I had not been able to add the past few days due to restrictions in libraries and hotels about using outside graphics on their computers. I guess words are ok, but pictures not.

Friends and family have asked how much I ate and drank on this trip.  The picture above is an example of what I would drink in a day plus a couple of energy bars, my usual lunch. These containers were all full when I started out, except for the coke can, which I drank immediately upon arrival at the motel for the night. What are not shown are the two other cokes I drank at rest stops along the way that day. It would usually be at least 2 Gatorades plus additional bottles of water, all of which I carried on the bike.

The following story also relates to how I would eat most of the time. Breakfast would usually be either pancakes, waffles or if cooking myself, oatmeal.  Lunch would either be 1., a sandwich and a coke if I was lucky enough to come across a small town around lunch time, or 2., more often than not, a couple of energy bars eaten on some roadside where I would stop long enough to eat and rest a minute or two.

Dinner, on the same night as the picture taken above, was a walk past a MacDonald's, the only one I rode by the entire trip, towards the Mexican restaurant, also the only one I came upon on the entire trip, up the street about a mile.  I popped into the MacDonald's for a plain cheeseburger, then up to the restaurant for an immediate cold Corona, a humongous burrito with additional rice and beans, a second Corona and then a walk back to the motel!  And it was something like that almost every day!

I have already started being careful, even home less than 24 hours to be much more careful of what I eat as I will be no longer exercising nearly as strenuously.After a day on the road, 30 miles or 50, my appetite was ravenous! The view from my window in Nashville of the State Capitol Building.

Leaving Illinois, but quite a few more hard miles until I'm done for the day in Grand Rivers, KY. 

My home for the night at Grand Rivers, KY. The rooms were clean, the price was right, $44 for the night and by morning, every room was full and the parking lot filled with tricked out trucks pulling all manner of fishing boats loaded with equipment. It looked like a combination outdoor fishing, camping and auto show at the Convention Center in Chicago.

By 6:00 AM, most all the trucks and boats were gone to get a head start on the Memorial Day Bass fishing derbies held all over the lakes.

Main Street, Great Rivers, KY.  This picture taken about 7:00 AM after the departure of all the fishermen. It was the same though, the previous evening about 7:30 after the town had settled down for the evening. Like so many resort areas, business really gets cranking between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. This is just a day or two early as Memorial Day is still 5 days off.

Across the street from where I stayed, this garage. I could not tell which brand they featured but finally decided that rather than try to build a brand, they would just sell everything! Advertising Art at its finest!

This is just one of the channels between bodies of water created by the dams across the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. This recreation area is huge!

Looking down from above on the reason grown men and women spend thousands on a boat and all the gear that goes along with it.  Getting an early start on the Bass fishing derby.  Good luck!

And the beat goes on... 4th state on this adventure.

I mentioned in an earlier post that 27 women passed me going north on a trip from Mobile, Alabama to Niagra Falls on a tour replicating the path of the Underground Railroad. What is remarkable to me is that not one of those riders was under 50 and I'm told the oldest is 65!  Great work ladies!

This is Lois Schneider, riding as part of that group and doing so representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She was just delightful and full of enthusiasm for her ride. We promised each other we'd post a picture of each other on our respective blogs. If you care to read more about her journey and the Make-A-Wish foundation, you may do so at:

And these.

3 of about 25 or 30 hard to see American Bison grazing in a field set aside to protect them. It is estimated that at one time, through the 1700's, there were 50 million buffalo grazing on the Western Plains of North America. They supported the Native American tribes that migrated north and south with the animals. These Native Americans never killed an animal where they didn't use every part of them for food, clothing, tools and shelter.

With time and the entry of settlers who thought the supply of animals inexhaustible, the number of buffalo had been reduced to just a few thousand! Today, thanks to conservationists and Federal and State breeding and protection programs there are an estimated 250,000 buffalo surviving, mostly in Montana and other western plains states. 

It is estimated though, that there were also thousands of these animals that ranged from Tennessee and Kentucky clear up the eastern seaboard. Far fewer than on the Great Plains.  This park contains just a few of what remains today of those eastern herds. Imagine having 50 million of something and in less than 50 years, slaughtering all but a few thousand.

What can be done about that today? Not much for the buffalo except to view these remaining few as an example of what we are doing to our environment if we are not careful with our natural resources.  The example is there for all to see. Those few buffalo in the picture above are a graphic example of our wastefull behavior when we are neither aware nor respectful of nature around us.

My last night away from home, my bike boxed up at the train station and my rental car turned in at the airport, I settled down in the neighborhood near the station at a litte shop which advertised Quiche and Cheesecake. It was all that was open; so on this night, grown men WOULD eat Quiche. 

What an adventure! It turns out to be one of the most popular specialty restaurants in downtown Memphis.  I met all kinds of really nice people who were curious about this guy with the bike packs at his feet - I could not check them until an hour before departure, which was 8:30 PM - dressed in yellow and sitting in a predominately black neighborhood in Memphis!

All were friendly, amazed at my journey, encouraging and interested. It was graduation night all over town and many, many families came to this shop for dessert and to sit outside and just enjoy the evening. I had a slice of ham and cheese Quiche and a slice of spinach and artichoke Quiche. More than enough for two people and absolutely delicious. I had no room for the cheesecake. I must go back to finish the meal sometime!  If you are ever near the train station on South Main Street in Memphis, search out this small little restaurant. You will not be disappointed.


This is a picture, along with a couple others that follow, of the Lorraine Motel, just off South Main Street and literally just around the corner from where I had dinner while waiting for the train in Memphis.  It is the location where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated so many years ago. It is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum and is a living testament to the civil rights struggle in our recent history.

Just outside room 305, marked by that wreath, is where history was changed that day.

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN.

I first became aware of this museum on a road trip that my son Matthew, now in the Peace Corps, and I made several years ago. When I realized that I might be unexpectedly in Memphis on this trip, I hoped to be able to re-visit the museum. Because of time constraints, I did not get to, much to my disappointment.

I believed then, as I do now, the collection of pictures, video and life sized replications of Dr. King and his associates is a stark and necessary reminder of a dark chapter of the political and social history of our country. I do believe that every citizen of this country, old and new, ought to take the time to visit here and see what sacrifices were made in order to steer a new path in social justice.

I remember two things about the visit Matt and I made. A sense of shame at the conduct and circumstances surrounding the treatment of an entire segment of our population by another, while at the same time being treated courteously and respectfully while going through that building by those whose lives had been so damaged. It was an awesome experience and one I'll never forget.

So, why end this adventure on such a note? When I started I was not sure exactly why I was going off on this extended bike ride, only that it was something I wanted to do, have trained to do and felt compelled to complete. Along the way, I met dozens of wonderful strangers who helped me, guided me and treated me to a short place in their lives.  In that entire 3 week period I never felt that my safety was in jeopardy nor did I feel that I was being mistreated by a single person.

I saw some beautiful country along quiet country roads, spent time in little towns struggling to survive change, ate with total strangers who had only kind words of encouragement and in the end, although I did not get to New Orleans, felt as though I had accomplished all I had set out to do. And done it with excitement, grace and a sense of great adventure.

At the end of the day, we are all the same, whether in large cities or small towns. No matter what color, nationality, faith or gender. Words of encouragement from total strangers as well as friends and family back home kept me going, kept me fresh in looking for the human kindness in people and always reminded me that in its simplest terms, all we really want for ourselves is to be loved and respected, to be allowed to pursue our goals and to be able to realize our successes along the way. 

Go visit that museum. It's a good start towards realizing those aspirations.

Thanks everybody for following along and take good care.  I hope you had as much fun along the way as I did.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Keep The Lights On, New Orleans

Keep the lights on, New Orleans. I'll be along another time.

The short version is that I'm done. As I mentioned in a previous note, about my response to my friend Dan when he asked me to run with him, I said I would as long as I was not injured or was no longer enjoying myself.

At 9:49 AM this morning, slugging up yet another long hill, with many more for the day in prospect, I decided I did not need to see any more back road hills, any more beautiful quiet pastures, any more foxes, snakes, deer, buffalo nor cows. The prospect of seeing more of those creatures of God was likely but the prospect of seeing much more of the Mississippi River was dim for at least another 450 miles, or until I reached Baton Rouge, LA.

The fun was done.

Yes, if I stayed the course, I would pass through the south of colonial anti-bellum homes, but really only after about 400 more miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway. It would have been grand to see the burial place of Captain Merriwether Lewis to be sure. It would have been ego lifting to come home to cheering crowds, all wondering how an old guy like me could possibly do such a thing. It would have been fun to cross over the last bridge and enter New Orleans. Yes, it would! And because I'll miss those experiences and several more, I am saddened. And especially I am so because I set out with such enthusiasm and confidence in my ability to make the entire 1500 miles. Yes, I am saddened as I write this.

But lest we dwell in the morass of self pity, lets take a look at what we did accomplish together. In the 18 days I was gone, 2 of which were rest days, I cycled 668 miles from Muscatine to Dover. I did so, not always with relative ease, but did so anyway, making it up most of the steeper hills, and when unable to do so on the bike, I got off and pushed it up to the crest and over, hopping on for the long exhilarating ride down, increasing my daily mileage total to just about 50 per day. And by the way, with the racks and panniers loaded with all I needed on the trip, it was an extra 40 pounds of weight I was pumping around.

I did so cycling on what is called the Great River Ride South, through the Ozark mountains, for a brief time along the Mississippi River crossing it twice, through the flat farmland of southern Illinois and on into the rolling hills of Kentucky and finally into the steeper hills of Tennessee. I rode over the Ohio, Tennessee and God only knows how many lesser rivers, creeks and tributaries.

I was privileged to meet some wonderful people, citizens of the rural countryside of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and finally Tennessee. I was never once turned away when I asked for assistance. I was always treated with at least deference, if not respect in every circumstance. I rode through country where American flags flew on flagpoles in front of a majority of farm houses, and in a few, the Stars and Bars.

This is the land of pickup trucks, most without, but some with gun racks behind the driver. It is the land of farm machinery, some of which looks like it could eat a small car, and certainly a cyclist. It is the land of struggling small towns that will make it in the face of changing economic circumstances, and some of them won't.

It is where eagles soar, cows listen to speeches with interest and on a Sunday afternoon, a family is gathered outside around a picnic table piled high with food, cars parked out on the dirt drive. And they wave to a stranger who they must think is out of his mind as he cycles by. It is Madison County, with or without the bridges. It is the land of two good old boys sitting silent, strong and imposing on a bench in front of a general store. Imposing, until you ask a question and then full of information and local color with a big smile minus some teeth. "You 'ain't lost, you just don't know where you are"!

It is a land of high fluffy-like cotton candy clouds which can turn dark and violent quickly, showering a rider with God's electric show, pounding the ground with rain as though water out of a fire hose, and within minutes, turn the sunshine and heat back on.

It was a magnificent almost 3 weeks. No, I did not get to New Orleans. I'll make that another time by car or plane, so Meg Brossy, keep the names of those places handy. I want to hear the music, taste that great food and drink and cheer with all the others on Bourbon Street.

Keep the lights on New Orleans, I'll be along another time.

Grand Rivers, KY to Dover, TN. (51 Mi)

I left early in the morning yesterday, Thursday, after stopping at the local bakery for some breakfast. 2 pieces of French toast, coffee and a large glass of orange juice later, off I was. (Is that a hell of a sentence, or what?)

I have previously mentioned that the Land Between The Lakes National Park is a product of several dams created in the 1930's by the federal government via the Tennessee Valley Authority. It's primary purpose was ostensibly to provide electricity for rural southern states of Tennessee and Kentucky. The by-product of the TVA was to provide thousands of jobs during the great depression of that period.

My grandfather, a strict Republican, was conflicted because he was sure it was FDR turning the country socialist at the same time admitting giving electricity to poorer citizens in rural areas was a good thing to do.

I digress. This route, of just over 51 miles, winds along the mountain range that separates the several humongous lakes created by the two dams, the one which impedes the flow of the Tennessee River and the one which does the same to the Cumberland River. Once past the dams, both rivers feed into the Ohio, and then into the Mississippi.

Behind those dams are these lakes with federally funded, by way of construction and maintenance, recreation areas for swimming, camping, boating, fishing, horseback riding, off road dirt bike riding and miles of hiking trails.

The area was explored by Daniel Boone in the late 1700's and is along the route of the Trail of Tears a hundred years later. It is, as I may have mentioned, your tax payer dollars at their best use.

The biggest problem with biking through this area with an agenda of achieving 50 miles a day, is that one cannot stop to explore the various recreational or historical areas available along the way. Throw in the wind in your face and pretty good hills to climb, just getting the distance in from Great Rivers to Bristol is a feat in itself.

Having said that, the ride was again beautiful, the scenery beyond description and the folks I met along the way just terrific.

Of interest, I was told there were 24 pair of North American Bald Eagles nesting in this area. Rounding a corner full speed down a hill, I came across one feasting, as good as I could tell, on roadkill just off the road. When he heard me coming up behind, off he went. What a beautiful sight!

On the same stretch, I met a couple of cyclists coming in the opposite direction. They were, they told me, part of a group of 27 women, cycling from Montgomery, AL, to Niagara Falls generally along the old Underground railroad trail. 2000 miles in 5 weeks. All the ladies over 50 with several in their 60's. Here I was, grousing about wind and hills over a 1500 mile trip!

Over the next couple of hours, I met or saw the rest as they pumped their bikes north towards their goal for the day, Grand Rivers and the same motel I had stayed in the night before. Who says women are not equal!! If not better. (The last sentence to satisfy my several strong women friends who have every right to be proud of their successes in life.)

Before I leave Kentucky, I need to mention one friend who I have neglected in this blog who has been supportive and just wonderful about following along the journey. Her name is Mary Stewart and she is my friend of over 30 years. People who know Mary love and adore her, as do I. Carla is one of her great fans. Mary is following this trip, she says in emails to me, with her Atlas next to her computer and is anxious to see my daily progress.

She pointed out in an email to me a couple of days ago that I was about to enter the great state of Kentucky. Mary, need I say, was born and raised in Kentucky and to this day, in spite of being gone from there since she went to college, retains a wonderful Kentucky accent, which gets more or less pronounced as time and circumstances require. I know she figured out years ago that laying that accent on in certain circumstances gets grown men to weep and women to adore. We agree about most things in life except those rate circumstances when UCLA plays Kentucky in basketball.

One of the several unique aspects of Mary's life is her collection of dogs. She is a compulsive dog rescuer, stopping on freeways, busy streets or country roads, in all kinds of weather, rain, snow or shine, to rescue dogs of all stripes. I don't know how many dogs Mary has rescued or has at home at any given time, but its a lot and no dog ever got a better home, ever, than when Mary rescues it.

So, it is with a great deal of interest that Mary reads my dog exploits on this trip. She is overjoyed that I have not had to zap some over-zealous dog with killer strength Mace and reassures me that it is sound thinking to stop the bike and deal face to face with a snarling dog, or dogs. I try to remember that as I wonder how long it is going to take a dog like "Trouble" to take my leg home for lunch.

Mary, thanks for reassuring me that I'm doing the right thing. You'll be the first to know if our tactic fails, for I'll email you a picture of the mangled and chewed bicycle tire or worse yet, foot.

I could go on and on, about the 25 or so head of buffalo, or the Bass fishing derby starting with the Memorial Day weekend and all the boats and early risers. I have some pictures I will add to this when I get to a place where I am allowed to do so.

Otherwise, please know that everyday brings me closer to achieving what I started out in search of. It has been a tremendous experience, one I'll never let go of and one I doubt I could or would want to ever replicate. More in the next day or two when I can add pictures.

Metropolis to Grand Rivers (52 Mi)

Just outside Metropolis is the bridge over the Ohio River and the state highway that then leads on into Padukah, KY, about 10 miles distant.

I was told that the state highway bridge was the safer of the two available, so off I started bright and early. In my mind, the bridge part of this would be easy, remembering the wide shoulders on the Mississippi River bridges both entering Hannibal and leaving Cape Girardeau. As I remember, I even took pictures of the river from both those bridges, they were so safe.

Au contrair! Even early in the morning, lots of traffic on the 1 mile approach to the bridge and in the foot wide distance from the white line to the curb of the bridge. That's a one foot wide shoulder whereas the previous shoulders on bridges had been eight feet.

I've mentioned before the general courtesy of drivers all along the trip and crossing that bridge was no different. It's just that there is a BIG difference between an 8' shoulder and a 1' shoulder. The drivers were just as courteous but the space for forgiveness if one came too close was really pretty stressful. I had no inclination, even if there were space to stop, to take any pictures. What I really had an inclination to do was to pedal like hell in as straight a line as I could so I could be seen in my orange and yellow bike stuff and get off that bridge as fast as I could. I did! I survived to live another day.

Padukah is an interesting city that has made great and successful efforts not to die off with age unlike so many other Midwestern or Southern cities have. It is a city of lovely old homes kept in beautiful shape, a vital downtown business district and within that business district a neighborhood of art and crafts galleries and quaint (Yikes, did I say "Quaint?") small restaurants and tea shoppes. Beautiful old tree lined streets, Victorian homes now galleries and restaurants to suit every taste.

I will not take much time to tell you that the ride to Grand Rivers was along mostly flat with gently rolling highway, the temperature warm but not hot and all in all, a very nice ride.

Grand Rivers is a small town, a gateway to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, a huge area created by the Tennessee Valley Authority Dams which control water from the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The resulting lakes are miles long and wide and the federal government has created camping, fishing, hiking, boating, off road and horseback riding areas for all to use. It is a wonderful example of your tax dollars at work.

The park is pristine, is used by thousands every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day and beyond. The bike route that I am following goes along the mountain range that runs the length of the park and is virtually free of automobile traffic. Except for the hill part, it is a beautiful place to bike.

Unfortunately, I cannot download pictures at this location, so will try to do so tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Trip Is Dedicated To Dan Sayer

It is not unusual for any work of fact or fiction to be dedicated to someone or ones who are or have been instrumental or supportive in the collection or publication of the work. What is unusual, is for the dedication to come in the middle of the work.

But then, if this whole thing were not unusual, it would be unusual!

With great love and affection this trip is dedicated to my good friend of more than 30 years and my running partner of about 10 years, Dan Sayer.

The germ of a trip like this came about years ago when Dan and I thought it would be great fun to ride our bikes from Palos Verdes, CA to Dan Diego, Ca., a distance of about 130 miles, down along the coast past Huntington Beach, - Surfin' USA - through Orange County - yes, THAT Orange County, past Camp Pendleton and on around the trendy seaside village of La Jolla and on into San Diego.

We began to train for that ride, only to have the trip put off by my moving to Chicago and Dan injuring his knee.

The idea lived on and here I am years later, making this trip alone from Muscatine to New Orleans. I elected to do this alone for reasons I am still working out, but had Dan been available, he would have come along and he would be the only person to do so!

Dan was running marathons when we met. I was running a couple of miles a day but he decided it would be great if I joined him. It took two years, but I agreed to do so with the stipulation that I would only as long as 1., I was having fun and 2., I did not get hurt. That criteria is still the criteria behind this bike trip!

We trained and ran in 5 Palos Verdes marathons together. At home I have a picture on the mantle of the two of us crossing the finish line that first time, hands held together high in victory. We trained in all kinds of weather over the years, running up and down all over Palos Verdes, down along Torrance Beach, up past Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, and back. We usually ran early in the morning and shared many a sunrise together. We named particularly difficult hills after friends. There is a "Charlie's Hill", a "Dan's Hill" and a "Bob's Hill".

It is no exaggeration to say that without the urging and constant friendship of Dan Sayer, I would never have undertaken nor completed a single marathon, let alone the 5 we ran together. I only ran one without him, and while fun, not the same!

Dan, a graduate of that dreaded USC, is still today the active husband to his beautiful and wonderful wife Betty, a great dad to his sons Dan, Jr. and Steve, and proud grandfather to I don't know how many grandchildren. Maybe even a great-grandchild. I lose track! His family reflects the love and sense of humor of both Dan and Betty. It has been, and continues to be my great honor and pleasure to be his friend, their friend.

We spoke on the phone yesterday and laughed as we always do about almost anything that comes up. We did then and we do now. We had our serious moments along the way - in 10 years of running almost every day, discussions ranged far and wide. I'm sure we saved thousands of dollars in counselling fees we avoided by just being able to dump our worries, anxieties, pain and pleasure on each other.

We talked yesterday about hills, about whistling Dixie, about 2 Dogs, about my thinking of him along this way and missing his friendship and his great sense of humor.

Dan, this ride is dedicated to you and although you cannot be here with me in person, you are, in fact, in every leg of this journey, up and down every hill and in every joint where I grab a beer and hamburger along the way!

Go Bruins.

Cape Girardeau to Metropolis, IL 65 Miles

After a day of rest in Cape Girardeau, to get legs back and erase the memory of that gawdawful picture of me, I was off to the next third of this trip. And what a wonderful day to ride. Warm, but not hot, the wind behind my back part of the way, just a couple of hills and then almost flat farmland up and around pasture, small country homes, yards filled with farm equipment I could not even begin to describe and as always, dogs who continue in the belief they own the road generally 50' on either side of the frontage of their yard.

Crossing over the Mississippi River on an interstate highway is always a liitle tricky. Although there is about a 6 foot shoulder, the bike is still smaller and slower than the trucks and cars which are wizzing by at 60 miles an hour! Trust in a higher being, trust in the other driver paying attention to the guy on the bike dressed in orange and yellow and concentration make for an interesting few minutes.

That is the approach to the bridge just east of the Cape. Notice the marked shoulder. It is that wide all the way across and beyond...

And just to make sure we all know I made the crossing, the Mississippi River looking south towards Memphis, New Orleans, Cuba and Venezuela. Sorta.

Just on the Illinois side of the river - can I EVER get out of Illinois? - is this prime piece of industrial real estate.

"Prime Industrial Site. Railroad siding sometimes doubles as a lake. Occasional increase of adjacent lake size".

Somewhere toward the end of the day, near Karnak, IL, where I intended to camp for the evening, I stopped in at Wilson's Food Mart to inquire about camping facilities. A very nice lady, Channie Anderson, listened patiently to what I needed, where I intended to go and how I was going to get there. Soon, I had my maps spread out all over their check-out counter and Channie had her mother, Peggy Wilson and another employee, Andra Jackson, all re-directing me to a different route for the next couple of day.

It would save me two days in the hills - thank God - and a bunch of miles. It did mean that I would have to pedal an additional 20 miles yesterday, but I would wind up in Metropolis, near an interstate crossing over the Ohio River and place me in Padukah, KY today.

Here's a picture of Peggy Wilson and her Food Mart, Pizza and Deli in downtown Karnak! Thank you Peggy, et al.

It was a day of meeting more wonderful folks along the way as I stopped occasionally and asked for directions. A really nice couple, he, now retired after 30 years working on the railroad and his wife, the daughter - as she said, "A railroad brat", of parents whose lives were tied to the iron horse. We talked as I rested in their driveway and later, an hour or so, met up with them again when we crossed at a country intersection on my way to Karnak.

I did have one of the more interesting lunches on this trip. Without naming the place, it was very likely one of the worst meals I've ever eaten. Ever. The pulled pork tasted like it had been "pulled" off the highway earlier in the day. Not to dismay. The Cole Slaw was worse and the french fries were almost not edible. It would not have surprised me after lunch as I rode away to see the local dog, "Lucky" get hit by a truck!

Outside of Wilson's Food Mart, I started talking with an older fellow, all dressed up in a pantssuit and fedora. He asked if he should "Get one of those things", referring to my bike. Seems he needs to get around as he shops for groceries and the like. He allowed as how he "Had just visited his wife down at the cemetary". When I asked how old he was, "89"! When I asked how long he and his wife had been married, "79 years. Pretty good, don't you think?". He still misses her so, and visits her everyday. Hang in there, sir, you are one of a kind!

Just a couple of other things this morning. I saw this and thought it would do well to reinforce my sense that red is the color of choice for pickup trucks.

A twofer...

For those who called or emailed alarmed at how awful I looked in that self portrait -there were many - below is how I look after I get a shower and some food.

You buy that? Naw, that's superman in the park in Metropolis, IL, watching out over the town square and seeing that evil is held in check.

I pedaled out of Metropolis this morning, across another interstate bridge, this time over the Ohio River, will finish this post and then head south and west over the Tennessee River and on to tonights stop in Kentucky. I am sure there are lyrics to some song familliar to Kentuckians, but the smell of honeysuckle fills the air outside. It is a beautiful smell, sweet and sticky in this heat. It reminds me of my home in Hollywood growing up as a kid, where my grandmother used honeysuckle on the fences around our yard. On warm spring nights I could lay in bed and smell a mixture of the honeysuckle and night blooming Jasmine. Heaven!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Potosi to Lesterville (53.5 Mi) to Cherokee Pass (49.5 Mi) to Cape Girardeau (55 Mi) - 3 Days

Well, here I am in Cape Girardeau, taking a well earned day off to clean up, tune up the bike, rest my legs and focus on the next part of this journey. 486 miles since Carla left me off in Muscatine 12 days ago!
The past three days have been a combination of great adventure, pure physical test, living with heat, wind, dogs, a cow, really, really nice people and some doubts about my sanity and my ability to complete the job.
Potosi to Lesterville was a day with an early start, a hill just out of town that just about killed me, lots of rollers with an occasional mutha hill just to remind me not to get too cocky.  Let me show you a few of the images from Potosi to Lesterville.

When I stay in a motel, this stuff clutters up the corners while the bike itself is usually on a direct line between the bed and the bathroom. Cool except in the middle of the night when I forget its there!
This country is what makes all this so peaceful and worth the trip;

More green than you've ever seen, with an occasional glimpse of white.

My home for a month, fully loaded.

The following picture is the way you want to see all dogs on the trip! Tired of barking and walking away. Not sure why the picture is out of focus. May have something to do with hand shaking or just tired of holding camera waiting for the dog to finish with me.  For the record, the dog finally turned toward home when his owner called out his name, "Trouble"! Just my luck to run into a dog named Trouble!

The ride from Potosi was long and hot. Below was a beautiful creek that I crossed 3 times during the ride up and down, finally dumping into what would become the Black River, which downstream became the center of a great recreational park for water sports; canoeing and fishing. I really just wanted to jump in...

It's quiet out here. Too quiet sometimes. 
We all wind up in some place like this, so better get done with the important things rather than the trivial.
In Lesterville, I stayed in the Log Cabin Inn. Very neat, across the street from a Roadhouse. I sat exhausted on that bench for the better part of an hour, just recouping from the ride, watching trucks come and go, watching the growing crowd as the day got longer.

Finally I got up the strength, went and took a long hot shower, dressed and walked over.

As I walked up, a really nice lady, Kathy, later to find out she owned the place, said to me, "We been watchin' you watch us for the better part of an hour. We were trying to decide if you'd come over or just sit there for the rest of the day".
Well, I've got to tell you, I ordered a bbq beef sandwich and a 32 oz. Bud, and then a salad, and then another sandwich! There was a crowd of never less than 20 people sitting around at tables outside Lenny's Roadhouse and always pickup trucks coming and leaving with 24 packs of beer loaded on. There were bikers, farmers, constructions workers, staff and me. It went on until just about dark at 8:00 when I finally got off the bench and made my way back over to the log cabin. What a great night.

This is Kathy. She and her husband Denny have owned the place for 13 years. Business seems good, the staff and all concerned could not have been friendlier. A great stop along the way. If you're ever near Lesterville, MO, stop in and enjoy the hospitality.
Next day, Saturday, off for Cherokee Pass. The longest and most difficult day because of the geography, heat and distance. I have to confess, that at about mile , 35, I just couldn't go another foot. I stuck my thumb out and the first truck by, screeched to a stop, agreed to take me to Cherokee Pass, helped me load my bike in the back and off we went! I truly believe that if he had not stopped, I would still be there, even tody, trying to get into Cherokee Pass.
Instead, we talked about our common time spent in the Marine Corps, both at Camp Pendleton and Twenty Nine Palms, CA. He, 25 years after me. Again, he could not have been friendlier and he came along in the nick of time!  Thank you Larry and good luck to you, your wife and 3 kids.

Larry dropped me off across the street from my room for the night.
Finally, yesterday, after breakfast at the Cherokee Pass Restaurant, where they make up in quantity what they may lack in quality, I was off for Cape Girardeau.
What is really significant about that is that the Ozarks, where I've been for the past week, begins to flatten out and the mutha's become much more manageable and the ride truly a joy. Lots of long downhill coasting and for only the second time, the wind at my back! What a difference that wind makes when it is pushing me up hills or across valleys instead of standing in the way and gusting in my face! (A mix of metaphors, but who cares?).
It was early Sunday morning and my attempt to find a Catholic church had been fruitless. The closest one was more than 10 miles away, although if I had been looking for United Church of Christ (dozens and dozens), Baptist (Also dozens of every stripe), Methodist (fewer) or Congregational only one), I could have gone to Church. It was not to be, so just a few miles out of town, I stopped for a few minutes in a beautiful and quiet place and thanked God for all the blessings I have and the opportunity to enjoy this experience.

Quiet, shady and just me and God. 
Further along the route, later in the morning, I came across this cow, standing in the roadway, right on the yellow line. By the time I got the camera out, for who would believe such a story without proof, he/she/it had turned to walk away.

I stopped at the house in the background to let the owner know his cow was out of the pasture, thinking I would want to know that if it were my cow. Perhaps because it was 8:00 on a Sunday morning, or it wasn't really his cow, the owner yelled something through the door that the #$%##*% cow belonged to one of his neighbors and why in the hell was I yelling outside his house!  Sorry pal, just trying to be neighborly.
Look out there. No more mountains except those which lay below me. That means downhill!

And furher along, the hills are alive with yellow!

Towards the end of the day, almost success! Just 4 more miles to Cape Girardeau.

After taking the picture, I had to decide if it were me or the sign that was leaning. Maybe both of us...
The next two pictures are kinda scarey, but in the spirit of sharing all of this with you..

My feet take a beating. Tan line, dirt, cuts, bruises and blisters,
And so does the rest of me.

Man, I look like I took the ugly pill. 2 of them.
It is amazing what a long hot shower, a shave, a nap and then a good dinner does to reinvent the ugly one!  Last night asleep again as so many other nights at about 9:00and today a day of rest.
I have ridden 486 miies since leaving Muscatine almost two weeks ago. I've ridden through mountains and over hills I would have told you I could not have done. I've met some really wonderful folks who live a simpler lifestyle out here, but all of whom treated me as though I was a neighbor - well, with the exception of the cow guy.
This morning off to the Cape bike shop where I met Patrick Koetting who replaced my brake pads and aligned my front tire, and met a couple of customers, Rick Brindell who showed me the way to this library and introduced me to the librarian, and finally Brian Gallmeyer, who is himself on an 800 mile tour through Missouri and Kansas.
Today a day of rest before setting off tomorrow back across the Mississippi and within a couple of days, into Kentucky. It appears on my maps that for the next several nights after leaving here I'll be camping, so the blog will be updated when I next get to a library or motel that allows me to use the computer.
For those of you who entered the contest, I think 4 people, the answer, in the judge's final opinion about the most frequently seen color for pickup trucks out here is....RED. However, since the number of entrants was so few, I believe the treasury has enough money in it to reward all of you with the candy bar of choice. Your prize will be delivered when I get home.
Take care all. The phone calls from home are really a treat. I got to speak with my granson Wyatt and his dad, my son Steve yesterday, his brother Matt and his sister, Meg. Made the day! Bye all.