Into Missouri! near Ozora, MO

Tuesday June 9, 2009, 59 miles (95 km) – Total so far: 1,309 miles (2,107 km)

Yesterday we bummed around Carbondale, and ended up taking a zero mile day.  Virginia took her bike to a bike shop to get the derailer (gear shifter) adjusted, and ended up needing the derailer hanger aligned, both derailers adjusted, and her rear wheel trued.  That took a while, and by the time it was done, my wife decided she could stay another day, so we just relaxed.  Virginia and I got haircuts, which was nice – getting rid of that layer of insulation felt much better today.

While sitting waiting for Virginia to get her hair cut, I picked up a magazine with a “how to lose weight” article.  They had their answers to weight loss problems, I’ve got mine…

(1) Not enough exercise.  Well, try to ride a bicycle across the country.  3-7 hours a day will do wonders to kick-start your weight loss program.

(2) Mindless eating.  When you’re on the bike, carrying food is extra weight, so you don’t have to worry about it.  Just make sure you stop and eat something for humans every couple of hours, or that bluegrass hay might start looking good.

(3) Getting older.  You don’t know what feeling old is until you can hardly turn your pedals while your daughter, less than half your age, pedals up that enormous hill like it’s flat.  When you get off the bike, you won’t be complaining about getting old until you talk about getting back on the bike.

(4) Poor portion control.  Yes, this can be a problem.  Try finding an all you can eat food bar.  Eat until you can’t eat any more, then sit and sip on some ice tea, water, or a beer.  Portion control only matters if you’re limiting your exercise (see problem #1).

(5) Stress and fatigue.  Go to bed with the sun, because you’re that tired.  Fatigue? You’ve earned it the hard way.  Ride the next day, and your stress is limited to, “Where can I find something to drink?”  “Where can I find something to eat?” and “Where will we sleep tonight?”  You’ll find the reduction in things to stress over, freeing.

OK, so maybe you want to know about today’s ride.  It was pretty good, with a few traffic-related exceptions.  The weather forecast called for thundershowers, and the clouds were overcast, but I kissed my wife goodbye and we left Murphysboro reasonably early.  We took the Mississippi levee alternative, so we headed south.  There was some road work with flaggers; one crew was paving a new shoulder, while the one ahead was digging up the shoulder so it could be repaved.  Well, the south side flagger decided we had had plenty of time, so he let the north-bound traffic go while we were between the two crews.  Pretty scary, ducking into a line of heavy equipment going up a hill because there’s a line of traffic coming at you on a one-lane road.

We crossed Town Creek, where the road had rip-rap on either side, and it looked like they had taken down some phone lines and left them sitting on top of the rocks.  Passed a cluster of houses that must have been Sand Ridge, then cruised down to Gorham.  Looked like a whole series of fish ponds (probably catfish) near there and on towards Neunert.

High water happens near here: riprap and phone lines on the road shoulder

This was lovely, flat riding.  Aside from the ponds, there were corn fields that were just planted, fields a little higher that were growing well, some wheat fields that were ready for harvesting, and some that had already been harvested that looked like scorched earth.

(Cat)fish ponds

Finally, we hit the levee.  Is that a river down there?

Mississippi River levee (river on left side)

Isn't it supposed to be bigger than that puddle?

Well, it’s wet.  I think there was some land off the bank, proper, that was flooded.

We continued along the levee, being passed by two monster tractors coming down to plow some more fields.  Didn’t get pictures of them, because we were too busy trying to see how far off the road we could get.  These things overlapped both sides of the levee road, but the drivers could, and did, drive them off the road to give us some space.  Then there were some spots where we could see the river, and Missouri on the other side, from the top of the levee.

That's more like it!

Nearing Cora, we came upon piles of coal.  Apparently this is a coal train unloading/coal barge loading facility.  It looked pretty cool, but I didn’t realize how bad the news was.

Coal (mountains) near Cora, IL

From Cora through Rockwood up to Chester, we could have been back in eastern Kentucky.  The coal trucks were rolling for nine miles.  There was at least one other coal barge loading facility, and the trucks were coming from both directions.  While there weren’t mountains like Kentucky, there were hills, and my energy level was low.  Finally made it to Chester, IL, where we got some lunch.  Chester’s on top of a hill, but because the courthouse blocks the view, you really can’t see the Mississippi River from downtown.  Chester is also the home of Popeye, and they’re quite proud of it.

Chester, IL: home of Popeye

and the Popeye museum (featuring spinach cans)

and a statue of the character

It was a thrill of a downhill ride to the river bridge.  Not so much of a thrill going across it, since it’s a narrow, two-lane bridge, without a pedestrian walkway, and the pavement is sort of sketchy.  Sorry, folks, no good river pictures – I was riding across as fast as I could, and did not want to risk stopping.  Luckily, there weren’t any trucks going our way, so we didn’t have any problems.  On the Missouri side of the river there are no levees at this point, so the terrain went from river, to mud flats, to a couple miles of fields without any houses.  Great riding, except half the trucks seemed to be coming along with us!

Start of the Mississippi River bridge

And into another state

We passed an east-bound cyclist who waved and shouted, “Good luck!” but didn’t stop.  We usually stop and chat for a few minutes when we come on a loaded cyclist headed the other way, even if it’s only to swap the “Mt. Everest behind us” stories.  We also passed a west-bound cyclist towing a trailer, then left her as we started up the first ridge west of the Mississippi.  A few hills later, we came through St. Mary, where there was an appreciative crowd in the gas station where we stopped to cool off.  From there it wasn’t too far to Ozora, a tiny community with a church, 111-year-old church school, and an interstate exit with a truck stop and a motel.  Looks like out best bet for a place to spend the night for the next 30 miles, so here we are.  After we checked in and showered, but before we went over to the truck stop for food, the rain that’s been threatening all day finally started.  Pretty good timing, I say!

This stop sort of throws out our plans for the next few days, but if the weather is as bad as the weather channel has been threatening, we’ll cut it short tomorrow and get back on track.  With luck, we’ll find a ‘net connection in the next few days so I can post this.

As near as I can figure it, we’ve completed 612 miles in Virginia, 552 miles in Kentucky, and 140 miles in Illinois.  I’m not sure were we are schedule-wise, but I’m pretty pleased with what we’ve accomplished.  There’s an ACA sagged group about a day behind us that started almost a week later, but then again, we don’t have a van with trailer and bike racks carrying 50-pound duffle bags for us, so there’s really no direct comparison with what we’re doing.  (Except for Sunday, when we got to ride unloaded again.  The load really does turn a reasonably sporty bike into the Iron Pig!)

Note I’m posting this around lunch time the next day, from the Farmington, MO, public library.  It looks like this will be the last internet access for 100 miles of Ozarks, if we stay on the plotted track.

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1 thought on “Into Missouri! near Ozora, MO

  1. Pingback: On Naming Your Bike: The Baby Post of Bike Names | chasing mailboxes d.c.

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