Wednesday, August 13, 2008

St Louis to Dubuque by bike May 11th-16th

Some may ask why? To be perfectly honest I don't quite remember where inspiration like this comes from, but once we came up with the idea, we were pretty sold on it. The couple days previous we spent a lot of time getting things ready, putting skinny tires on the bikes and making sure the trailer was going to work with the mountain bikes, etc.

May 11th, Day 1: We got up bright and early and expected to eat a quick breakfast and be on the road...Well when 3:30 came around, we finally were all loaded up and ready to go


Things actually started out pretty smoothly, after a quick load adjustment around the corner (around the corner because that was at least out of sight of the house and the farthest I thought I could let the rather awful rubbing noise continue.) we were on our way. From Webster we biked through Ladue and after a little turning around we ended up on the Creve Coure bike trail and biked over the Missouri River with the end goal being to get to highway 79. We got so close to not having any mishaps, but alas...following along highway 70 on the frontage road we see the exit coming for highway 79. Three miles , two miles, and then our frontage road turns away from the highway and goes through this little town, over the train tracks and to an intersection... hmmm. But suddenly to the rescue on the road directly in front of us

(MRT standing for Mississippi River Trail) which was what we were supposed to be following anyway- Decision made we pressed onward, until we ran into this

and you can see, right about sunset

It started off ok, a little bit wet, but standable. Then the 2nd puddle, a little longer and a little deeper, and then, as far as the eye could see, water. But what choice did we have? Already wet and going the "right" way we decided to push on, I mean that giant truck got through how bad could it be? Lets just surmise to say that things did not improve as we tried to move our water logged bikes and trailer through the flood water. I finally stopped at a half submerged mailbox, trying to hold on to it and keep both feet out of the water my legs screaming like I had just swum miles. Meanwhile Mike is way back lugging the trailer which is creating a wake behind him. It was about now that I realized that he hadn't been yelling for me to slow down for him to keep up but because he had a stick stuck in his derailleur. So he had to step off his bike and reach his hands into the murk to free himself to keep going on. As he's trying to free the bike he looked behind him and the trailer was actually floating. By the time he catches up to me, we still can't see the end of the water. This is when we decide to re-consult the map. Ooops, Highway C is definitely part of the MRT the problem is that it's the part that goes back to the arch. So all that for nothing. We turned around and rode about 3 miles back through the flood water to that oh so famous intersection, and went the other way and sure enough there was 79.

Notice the water draining from the trailer- and the sun has left us long ago

After finally ending up on 79 we continued on to a sign for a campground and settled in for a dinner of cookies m&ms and peanuts. 1st day: 54.74 miles, max speed 26.2, riding time 3:30-10pm.

May 12th Day 2: After convincing the campground host that we really shouldn't have to pay the $15 to stay there we were back on the road again.

I mean$15 for this?- we asked if we could just pay $10 because we are living off a rather limited budget, we're travelling on bikes after all- Some how the guy let us stay for free- I wasn't going to argue

All of our stuff was a bit damp after being submerged in the flood water, but luckily we actually came pretty prepared with a drybag and lots of garbage bags and all the important stuff stayed dry

Unfortunately, my panniers did not fare so well- Apparently a raccoon really wanted to get at my pop tarts.

It was a nice day for a ride


This was one of those times that I was really happy to be on a bike- the road was closed to cars, but we could squeeze right on by

The whole ride up 79 was really pretty but really hilly. We had lunch in Clarksville and I panted like a giant hippo climbing up some of those hills, feeling like I was just as likely to roll backwards as I was to roll forward.

As evening came round we passed the Mark Twain cave and arrived in Hannibal. Not having many camping options and not wanting to go on anymore in case we would have to go up again we settled in a city parked, directly above the train tracks. And then the lights came on in the park, and I no longer needed a flashlight. I could read a book inside the tent just fine. And then a group of teenagers showed up and were playing duck duck goose around our tent. We finally got some sleep when a thunderstorm came around 2 am. It was a long, ear-splitting night, and we were both certain, up until the thunderstorm, that cops were gonna show up any second and tell us we had to move on.

2nd day: 87 mi, max speed 42.4 (there were some long down hills too), riding time 10am-7pm, total mileage: 142

May 13th Day 3:

Ready to ride

Not tempting our good luck we got up and out of Hannibal fairly early and rode over the Mississippi on a very nice bike lane, yay. After fiddling around in Illinois for a while trying to determine what street was what we made our way to highway 57 and Quincy IL as the sky got darker and darker. Just as we got into the outskirts of Quincy it started sprinkling. We found ourselves a McDonalds and settled in for a couple of hours as the storm raged. We had timed it perfectly and left the bikes under an overhang, so we and most of our stuff stayed fairly dry. Once the storm passed we were back out (glad to be on the Illinois side since we were hearing about tornadoes on the Missouri side) and suddenly the going got much easier- we had a glorious tail wind.

Enjoying that glorious tail wind

From Quincy we headed north on 96 passing through the booming metropolises of Lima and Ursa up to Hamilton. Then continuing on 96 right along the river from Hamilton to Nauvoo which was one of the nicest, scenic wonderfully flat 12 miles I've ever biked. There were little rest areas every 2 miles or so, and best of all no water on the road.
We were going to call it a day in Nauvoo, but we were actually feeling pretty good so we recharged on some pizza and decided to keep going.

mmmm recharging

Unfortunately by the time we were ready to stop, we had ran out of places. Lots of corn fields and more train tracks. Finally in Dallas City we saw a sign for camping, we followed the sign to find picnic tables peering out from the river (sigh), but it was late and we were tired, so once again a city park served us well. This time right behind an apartment complex. We figured if anyone would happen to see the tent, they would suppose it was someone elses.

3rd day:92.18 mi, max speed 34.1, riding time 9:20am- 9:30 pm (with 2 hour McDonalds break)total mileage: 234.1

Home sweet home

May 14th Day 4: This was a loong day that seemed to be a lot more heading into the wind than away from it. We had a nice lunch in Oquawka where we stopped at the grocery store bought a loaf of bread a thing of lunch meat, some apples, a couple pieces of fried chicken and a few other things- it was very nice. Then I don't really remember much about the rest of the day we just kept mindlessly riding north

We saw a neat covered bridge with a chocolate river along the way

At some point we stopped at a gas station and bought hot dogs, since we know we were headed to a camp fire that night.

Then we turned on to Washington, and we were on Washington for the rest of my life, and the damn thing would not stay flat at all, ever.
After days of biking in a few hours we finally got to highway 192, and then finally to Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, where we used to go mountain biking when we went to school in the Quad Cities
Yay actual camping, we had another incredibly healthy dinner of 5 hot dogs each.
4th Day: 78.6 miles, max speed 30, riding time 9:20am-8:30pm, total mileage: 313
May 15th, Day 5: As expected, due to the amount of mileage and no rest, the inevitable occurred. Michael's knee stopped functioning. But he pressed on, probably doing a lot more harm to it...but at the time it seemed like such a good idea. As we left Loud Thunder behind we feared for our lives riding on 92. Finally we made it to the Quad Cities and on to the bike path.

Where there was also flooding, but luckily none on the bike path
We followed the bike path up the river and across into Iowa, we then had the brilliant idea that the most direct route between the Quad Cities and Dubuque was to take 61. Direct yes, bad idea, Yes. Getting out of the Quad Cities was terrifying with traffic whizzing by, barely any shoulder and on and off ramps every mile...very bad idea. Finally we found the old route 61 which was essentially a frontage road, which was really nice. Unfortunately, Mike's knee was still informing him that it was a very bad idea to continue so we were trying to find a place to stay before we ran into the main highway again. But nothing was presenting itself, there weren't even any city parks. Finally as we were leaving De Witt IA we came across a church that still had cars in the parking lot. We pulled in and I ran inside. Luckily they were very kind, and said sure you can sleep in our yard- I have to say, I felt a little safer that night then the rest.

As you can see, they had quite a yard

Another play set to call home

We even were able to work in some rock climbing
5th Day: 58 mi, max speed 35, riding time: 10:45 am- 8pm, total miles: 360.3
May 16th Day 6: More Terrible riding on 61. The shoulder got even narrower, and then turned to gravel, we were competing with farm equipment for the little shoulder there was, and Mike was in excruciating pain the whole time. We stopped in Maquoketa for lunch and then just kept going. I told Mike a number of times that I could call and we could get a ride, but he would have none of it- we had come 360 miles, and we certainly didn't want to back off now. Thanks to the help of a package of cinnamon bears we were finally in sight. After a loong downhill that leads over a bridge with NO SHOULDER and up the other side of that hill we had finally arrived at

Our Exit (heavenly angel songs in the background)
So we made it, no crashes we only lost 1 bottle of oil to the flood water (it had been in the trailer, and when we got out, it had dissappeared) and almost lost a sleeping pad (it flew off the trailer along the highway, but some nice people were kind enough to stop and pick it up and bring it to us) and 1 broken knee but we had made it. Home at last, for awhile...
6th day:58.03 miles, max speed 35, riding time 9:15am-6:40pm, TOTAL MILES: 418.4

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