The Big Chicago Loop Leg 3
Cleveland to Chicago the final Leg!
I decided to take the train from Cleveland to South Bend Indiana and save a few days’ riding. By this time I’d ridden about 700 miles and wanted to have a break. As it turned out, some stormy weather was headed my way so I was glad to be on the train instead of on the road.
South Bend to Portage, Indiana, 61 miles
This day started as one of the best ride days of the trip, considering I created the route, on quiet, country roads. Rolling hills, but nothing particularly difficult. When I came across a gravel road, I had flashbacks to Missouri, but it was only about a mile and was flat. I did suffer about ½ mile on busy Highway 20 but it was over quickly. I took a break in Hudson Lake, a resort community and had a nice chat with the local food truck owner.
As I got closer to Portage, I picked up yet another bike trail and then a predicted rainstorm hit; drenching rain, lots of wind. I couldn’t find the hotel, so I invited my dripping soggy self into a restaurant to get some assistance and discovered the name had changed but the signage had not. So another half mile in the pouring rain eventually got me to my destination. I was glad to not be camping!
Portage to Chicago, 57 miles
After a couple of days to dry out in Portage, Stanley and I rode back to Chicago to visit my friend Ellen again and organize for the train ride back home. I was once more awestruck by the number of bike trails. I think this day was about 75% (I’ll try to list every one I’ve ridden at the end of this diatribe).
I picked up the Prairie Duneland Trail just 2 miles from my hotel and continued on to Iron Horse Trail, Marquette Greenway, and Lakeshore trail. Another start in drenching rain but soon it stopped and of course the humidity went up. For those of you in the Chicago area, the Marquette Greenway is a real gem and worth a visit; much of it protected wetlands.
As I proceeded onto the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago proper, and since it was a Sunday, every manner of walker and rider was out. The pedi cabs, motorized scooters, e-bikes, walkers, doggies on extend-a-leash, speedy cyclists decked out in their Lycra outfits. I guess there are no helmet laws in Indiana as few were wearing them. The last few miles to my hotel was on busy streets where there were lots of cyclists, seemingly tempting fate and trying to dominate the roads. I guess drivers are used to it. I wonder what the statistics on cycle/car accidents in Chicago are…
Thus, I ended the Big Chicago Loop. Total miles ridden, about 875 with average of 47.85 miles per day.
The biking infrastructure in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio has to be experienced to be believed. I still stand in awe of the lengthy, mostly paved trails I rode. I approximate 60 percent of the entire ride was on these trails.
In case you’re interested, here’s a list of many but not all of the bike trails I rode (some twice, out and back from Chicago):
Lakefront, Burnham Greenway, Erie Lackawanna, Pennsy, Hazel Dell, Judson Erie, Nickel Plate, Monon, Blue River, Lee Mills Creek Greenway, Little Miami Trail , Prairie Grass Trail, Galena Brick Trail, Alum Creek Trail, Westerville Trail, Genoa Trail, Hoover Scenic Trail, Galena Brick Trail, Sandel Legacy Trail, Darden/LaSalle Trails, Prairie Dunes Trail, Iron Horse, Oak Savannah Trail, Hammond Trail, Marquette Greenway, Wolf Lake Trail, Illiana Marina Trail….
Thanks to my Warmshowers hosts, the kindness and curiosity (I hope I’ve inspired you!) of the many strangers I met, Rails to Trails and the various local organizations who continue to campaign for and develop these fantastic off road cycling routes.
Amtrak return and final thoughts
I opted for a roomette car for the return leg and in all the years I’ve ridden the train, have never done this. Yes the room is small but big enough for one to two small people. There is an attendant for the sleeper car and one just pushes a button and he’ll bring water, soft drinks, ice, coffee…and he makes coffee early in the morning for those wishing to self-serve. Some rooms are bigger than others and some have bathrooms in them. They do have showers and after my two trips back and forth to Amtrak from hotel in Chicago in the high heat and humidity I just had to try out the shower. Soap and luxurious fluffy white towels are provided. Three meals per day are included and the food is quite good with a varied menu. More food than I normally eat in a single day. I’m sold and spoiled now!
Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for additional fun stuff – trail work (yes, I call that fun), a supported bike tour, camping and kayaking, and more!
The Big Chicago Loop Leg 2
Cincinnati to Cleveland
My friend, Flaviu, met up with me for the ride to Cincinnati on the OTET, which is really a combination of many, many smaller rail trails, connected thanks to Rails to Trails, OTET, and the many local organizations taking on this huge endeavor. The entire route, 326 miles, is about 80% paved and 80% dedicated rail trails which means no traffic to deal with. Well an occasional turtle, ground hog, or chipmunk and in some sections Amish buggies and horses.
Day 1 Cincinnati to Waynesville, 54 miles
Flaviu’s Warmshowers host, Lou, was kind enough to personally guide us out of Cincinnati on the local bike trails and routes, as it can be somewhat confusing.
There is a section which I’d read about with no official detour. We met two other riders headed to Columbus on our same route; they selected a highway detour and we rode on, hoping we could walk through the construction zone. Luck was on our side, as even though work was in progress, the nice workers allow us to walk through the rocky/muddy area where they were working. For those of you traveling on OTET, you’ll likely read and hear about this section as a detour. The other two riders caught up to us with a report of the road riding conditions (no shoulder, high speed traffic); if you proceed slowly, you’ll likely get through also, as we did. At north end of the trail detour, there’s a barrier which only involves hike a bike around it with a bit of mud.
Arriving in Waynesville, our destination for the day, we were not successful in reaching the local law enforcement to ask permission to camp in a large open space area with shelters. Lesson learned. Officer “I Don’t Make The Rules” woke us about 1 am (thankfully after a torrential rainstorm had stopped) and told us we had to leave. No sympathy at all, considering it was in the middle of the night! We slowly packed up and by 2:30 am were on the trail. It was surprisingly pleasant, cool, and very quiet except for the bull frog chorus accompanying us for many miles. As daybreak approached, we reached a town, and we agreed if they wanted to kick us out of another park, we’d deal with it. We collapsed onto park benches to get a few hours’ sleep.
Day 2 Waynesville to London (and official campground), 44 miles
The London campground was fantastic, primarily for cyclists, right on the trail! Shelter, gravel tent pads, wi fi, tables, bike work station, charging ports, and bathrooms! Oh and a secluded, outdoor shower. We called the number posted to register, get the wi fi password, and password for bathroom. Considering the possibility of rain, we pitched our tents in the shelter to keep them dry. The local “host” came by to greet us and that was that! Wonderful quiet evening as we cooked up our dinners.
Day 3 London to Westerville, 47 miles
Back on the trail, we were challenged by navigating through Columbus. We did have a route map but wasn’t good enough. Thankfully, Flaviu was an excellent navigator using Open Street Maps’ cycling edition. He almost never got us lost! We encountered torrential rain, as predicted and were soaking (mostly just on the outside) as we approached the Columbus Visitor Center. We ran inside the building, had plenty of space to dry out and make our lunches; the employee welcomed us with enthusiasm.
As rain let up, we continued on to Westerville, where Flaviu had a connection of sorts with the local bike shop. He called them asking where we might camp and the owner of the shop offered his patio which is sort of hidden and off the street. There was a street fair going on so lots of people in the general area. I found a street vendor selling Haitian food and the beef stew and rice went down very well.
In the morning, people began arriving, mostly with the bikes, asking if Mason (the owner) was here yet. Since he wasn’t, we had some good conversations with the local cyclists while we packed up and they waited for Mason’s arrival. Mason gave me permission to mention his shop and “camp” to anyone riding through Westerville. So if you’re looking for a place to camp, call him at Westerville Bike Shop: 619.891.5654
Day 4 Westerville to Mt Vernon, 31 miles
Knowing we had a shorter distance today, we enjoyed chatting with the folks waiting for Mason to arrive then got a chance to chat with him for awhile, so we didn’t leave until around noon. The OTET goes right through Westerville, and even though it was a bit hot, we were sheltered by the canopy of trees as we rode entirely paved trail to…wait; a gravel road to next campground?!
Oh it’s only a mile. But it was so steep in places I had to walk. Often we couldn’t see over the next hill and there was a bit of traffic not expecting bicycles. After the longest mile of my life (since the last longest mile of my life in Missouri), we arrived at Rustic Knolls Campground. Busy Memorial Day weekend at this family style campground. We were the only tents and were assigned a nice primitive area away from most of the activity. Hosts allowed us to charge our devices in a little outbuilding. We got showers too!
We discovered an alternative exit route, mostly paved; the rolling hills were much easier to navigate on pavement. If you’re planning on camping at Rustic Knolls, recommend you take second left off the trail, Pleasant Valley Road, instead of Keys Road, the first left.
Day 5 Mt Vernon to Bridge of Dreams, 24 miles
Another short day but somehow, with stopping, stalling, and riding slowly, we typically rolled in to camp around 5 or 6 pm, regardless of mileage for the day. We camped with permission at a shelter near the Bridge of Dreams, a restored covered bridge. We met several Amish families, either in their buggy “rigs” or on E bikes. The E bikes far outnumbered the rigs. We also met the local ATV’ers who were out for an evening of noise making. Camp was quiet after dark and we enjoyed a peaceful, undisturbed night.
Before arriving to our campsite, we stopped at a Walmart which was right off the trail, to get some fresh food and take a break. We were surprised to see the barn and parking for buggies and horses, complete with tiedowns, water, and straw on the surface. There was also a huge outdoor parking for the E bikes and other buggies. I asked an Amish man if they had a hand in setting this up. He said no, Walmart created this and does all the maintenance/cleanup.
Day 6 Bridge of Dreams to Dalton, 50 miles
I earned the reputation of not calculating mileage very well and some short days were not short at all. Thankfully Flaviu is easy going, didn’t abandon me, and continued to suffer along with me. Today was primarily road riding in exposed and hot and very hilly terrain. Low traffic made the suffering not quite as bad as it could have been. It was so hot that the tar on the road became sticky and adhered to our tires, picking up small gravel along the way. We climbed to the rhythm of click, click, click as the sticky gravel hit the road.
The local police in Dalton allowed us to camp in Greenway Park – toilets, water, and power outlets! Although a very large, well cared for sports complex, it bordered the busy highway and made for a not so good sleep that night.
Day 7 Dalton to Peninsula, Cuyhoga State Park, 54 miles
Long hot day today, but very little climbing. The paved trail has turned to crushed gravel but seems to drain well and very few hazards to deal with. We were mostly in the canopy and the rest stops/trailheads were top notch in this section…flush toilets, functional water fountains, and bike work stations.
Our destination tonight is Heritage Tree Farm, just about the only place to camp in the Cuyhoga National Park. In spite of not having water (one purchases gallon jugs in advance for delivery to campsites), it was a beautiful setting. Porta potties, the 20 or 30 camps are well spread out and each secluded somewhat.
I have two nights here while Flaviu waits for his ride tomorrow to return home in Columbus. Thanks my friend, for a memorable and enjoyable adventure!
Day 8, Cuyhoga National Park, Zero miles
My zero day was quite pleasant and I stayed very dry in the little hut in spite of some torrential rains during the night. Notice the photo shows a tarp, which can be secured over the front of the hut and even covered Stanley. I spoke to the owner/host, who told me the story of how they came to have camping here.
Her family has owned land here for many years and in the 70’s they were forced to sell some of their acreage for the creation of the Cuyhoga National Park. Time marched on, t
and they continued to raise Christmas trees. Oddly, there is no camping places in this national park; there was a small location at one time but it had closed. The parks people came to Heritage and asked them to create just 5 campsites. They did just that and over the years have increased that number to 15 amazing walk in campsites, with the possibility of even more someday.
More pix below...
The Big Chicago Loop Leg 1
Me and Stanley my Kona Sutra touring bike, took Amtrak to Chicago to spend a few days with my “tour guide”, Ellen, before beginning the Big Loop.
I left Chicago on the Lake Shore trail heading southeast with pleasantly cool weather. The first day, or any other, for that matter, never seems to go as planned. I missed a few turns and got bonus miles, repeating part of the route, but no need to stress about it, as I was riding on a network of bicycle paths. While taking a break, a nice rider offered me a bottle of Gatorade and a couple of tandem riders provided good directions to pass through a tricky part of town. Arriving in Dinwiddie, Indiana, I opted for a hotel as weather predicted rain/storms. Today’s mileage – 61.5; bike trails ridden: Lakefront, Burnham Greenway, Erie Lackawanna.
Dinwiddie to near Monterey, Indiana; 45.9 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate
Today’s route was on quiet farm roads, using Adventure Cycling routine for CHI-NY Map 1. The digital map worked flawlessly on my Garmin 830 but I'm glad I also bought the paper maps. I was pleasantly surprised to discover all these back roads are paved! And well maintained. The state park I planned on involved another 5 miles on a heavy traffic, no shoulder, pouring rain road (off route).
I decided to continue on to Rising Sun Campground. What a wonderful, old-style, family campground with a large community room where I was able to set up my “camp”. Heavy rain continued through the night and I was thankful to be inside the building.
Rising Sun Camp to Peru; 53 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate (goes right through Peru)
The day started dry, except for the dampness of the dense fog. The miles logged quickly for the first few hours, then it got really hot when the fog burned off. I met a nice local couple, Jim and Rayne who rode with me to Peru. I called local police and was given the OK to camp in the River Walk Park in Peru.
Peru to Tipton 32 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate
It got hot very fast today and while on the Nickel Plate, I enjoyed some shade and views of the vast farmlands stretching to the horizon in every direction. I expected wind today but not this. Winds were 28 and gusting higher, almost on the nose and it was very hot. By this time, I was on Highway 19 but the few cars/trucks were so very kind and respectful. I began to struggle to keep moving forward, stopping often, drinking both water and electrolytes. I took a break at the Macedonia Christian Church and had a chat with the pastor and his wife, recently arriving from Florida. Back out in the very miserable wind which worked really hard at knocking me and Stanley over, in spite of his weight of 70 or so pounds.
I saw a gentleman hitting golf balls from his yard into the wind, stopped for a chat and spontaneously asked (begged?) for a ride to Tipton, about 6 miles on. I was just so done. Don and his wife graciously complied and in the short ride to town, I learned a bit about the area, including the fact that in one week, 20,000 pounds of pigs are sold by a guy with a 1000 acre ranch. That’s a lot of bacon!
Tipton to Indianapolis, 44 miles; bike trails ridden: Hazel Dell Parkway, Monon Trail
Yay! No wind today. Weather was threatening severe thundershowers but knowing I’d be in more urban areas, I could easily find shelter if I needed it. I did start out in heavy rain, but traffic was light on a Sunday morning. Rain subsided and I reeled in the miles. Passed through Northridge population over 75K, with two farmers’ markets going on, so traffic and people were everywhere, but the beautiful historic neighborhoods I rode through compensated. I took a break in Carmel, which looks like a brand new town, but with “historic” buildings. It’s a very wealthy suburb of Indianapolis.
Arrived at my WarmShowers hosts, Nathan and Liz, in Indianapolis and was greeted by Charlie the black lab and their two cats. They live in a wonderful historic house which has been renovated and modernized inside but retained its historic charm. Liz works for an non profit organization called Historicorps.org, recruiting and placing volunteers to restore historic public buildings. Fascinating stuff. Check it out!
Days 6 and 7
Indianapolis to Greenburg (54.6 miles), Greenburg to Cincinnati (63 miles)
I created this route, as I could find no guidance. From Indy to Greenburg was pretty good in spite of the fast-moving traffic. Thank you Indiana drivers! You are respectful and never once seemed irritated to have to wait to pass me. One woman held up a line of traffic so she could offer me water. Passing through Shelbyville, established in 1822. Most of the little towns I rode through were established around that time and I often checked cemeteries (there are plenty of them) for the oldest graves. Greensburg is partly famous for a tree growing out of the courthouse tower. I couldn’t find it as I mistakenly rode west instead of east, again acquiring some bonus miles.When I left Greensburg for Cincinnati it was actually cold enough to wear my leg covers, jacket and long fingered gloves, something I didn’t expect but glad to be prepared.
I took a break at the Heartland Events Center of which the building was a former covered bridge, arguably the longest in the US in the early 1900’s. The owner, Angie, gave me a tour and some of the history. A massive river flood knocked the bridge off it’s pilings, and moved it intact, down river. Into another county. A battle ensued as to who had salvage rights. Once settled, it was purchased and built into a building which hosted community events, square dancing, and more. Angie’s father purchased it and eventually Angie did and it’s now a popular wedding venue. While I was visiting her crew were cleaning up after an unexpected tornado which came through a few days earlier. On the day of a wedding. Somehow they worked around it and the wedding was a great success.
The last push into Cincinnati was not pleasant as my route took me to the “heights”; beautiful area but a couple of hills so steep (6%) that I had to walk. Walking a 70 pound bike up hill with no shoulder and heavy traffic – not even type 3 fun! I have a zero day today to eat and sleep then tomorrow I begin the OTET trail, Cincinnati to Cleveland, with my friend Flavia. Of the 326 miles, I’m told 90% is off the road! Stay tuned for Leg 2 updates...
Pack, Repack, Add, Remove...
In the remaining days before my next tour begins, I'm certainly not the only one who does this packing, repacking, adding, and removing stuff. Is it essential? Can I get it on the road if I really need it? How much does it weigh? How do I balance the weight, side to side and front to back?
Oh, then there's camping reservations (many states don't have hiker/biker no reservations needed), finding local contacts, downloading likely routes to my Garmin 830, and general logistics.
The adventure starts with a 45 to 60 hour train ride to Chicago to visit with my friend there, playing city tourist for a few days. Then I'm on the road southeast toward Indianapolis. In planning routes, I'm delighted to see how many rail trails I'll be riding on. I hope to note each one with the number of miles I've traveled on each. One of the coolest is the OTET (Ohio to Erie, from Cincinnati to Cleveland) which is apparently 90% off roads! And reportedly very well marked. I'll be riding the entire length of that one, about 330 miles.
Stay tuned for reports from the great unknown (unknown to me, that is).
This is a very rough drawing of the route. I’ll be starting in Chicago and following ACA route Chicago/New York to Indianapolis, then making my way to Cincinnati to pick up the Ohio to Erie bike trail to Cleveland. From there, I’ll head west back to Chicago. I’ll mostly be camping with a few hotels and a few WarmShowers along the way. Want to join me for any section? See contact page and let me know!
Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat
In spite of my unfounded concerns about traveling to and in Mexico, I could not resist a supported bicycle trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. Turns out my concerns were indeed unfounded and unnecessary.
Arriving in Mexico via Cancun (and on our bikes next morning out of that chaos), I was impressed with the level of COVID awareness and enforcement absolutely everywhere. During my 9 days’ adventure, every single indoor location (and some outdoor as well) required masks, temperature taking and hand cleaning. Not one local or tourist took issue with the rules.
The fun began upon arrival at our hotel in Cancun, meeting my fellow travelers all from US and one from Canada. It was evident right away, even with our varying interests, we were all up for the adventure of riding mostly low traffic back roads, pot hole infested dirt roads, and averaging 40 or so miles per day in the heat and humidity.
Our organizers and all-around cat-herders: Kurt (from Portland OR), Marie, originally from France but long-time resident guide and Maya expert), Alex our patient van driver extraordinaire as well as rest stop concierge and bike wrangler, and Renee our sort of “unofficial” guide and all around support (Kurt’s wife and just not officially guiding on this tour).
Because we were usually in motion from sunrise to sunset, then dining, then dropping into blissful sleep, I didn't do a day-by-day narrative. I just was too tired to write much stuff down. The good kind of tired!
I was particularly excited about this trip as I’m very interested in the Maya and had visited several ruins in the past. Our first stop was Uxmal, where Marie demonstrated her thorough knowledge of the ruins and unbelievably, could recite the history of the rulers and pronounce their names. Thus began my daily peppering of questions. No doubt my tour buddies were just wishing to get out of the sun and sit down with a beer.
In the coming days, we rode to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Coba, Tulum, and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve. Along the way, we swam in a couple of cenotes, did a lazy float (wearing life jackets on our bums; see photos) down a beautiful river. We spent two nights in Valladolid, one of the most historic cities in the Yucatan.
We stayed in many historic hotels, ate regional specialties, and rode along the western coast of Cozumel; the sea breeze and even the headwinds were welcome.
Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the cars and traffic. On the back roads, cars approaching from either in front or behind (and we were pretty spread out), flipped on their flashers and proceeded with much respect and caution in passing. Absolutely no honking, gunning engines, or throwing stuff from their windows. We did encounter a few that stopped to take photos or give us a thumbs up. On the occasional wide highway with plenty of shoulder, cars and trucks gave us a wide berth.
Kurt was a life-saver when midway through our trip, the rules for returning to the US via air changed. He figured it all out, and got us to the right place at the right time to get our COVID tests.
It was a wonderful way to start the beginning of winter in the PNW and the end of 2021, by going someplace hot. Click here to find out more about the tour company Bicycle Adventures.
Next up self supported bike tour – Chicago-Cincinnati-Cleveland and beyond.
Viva Mexico! Viva Bicycle Adventures!
One of our "tribe", Peter, created this cool YouTube video. Click here to view!
Click here to view another of Peter's fun YouTube videos.
Short Tour Olympic Peninsula
I wanted one more tour this year, so I decided to revisit North Seattle and Olympic Peninsula to see how things have changed in the last 8 or so years, and as progress is made on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Day 1, Seattle to Kingston, 20 miles
My train arrived in Seattle sort of late in the day, and assuming I remembered a route to Edmonds WA to get the ferry across Puget Sound, I felt I could make closer to 30 miles. You know what they say about “assumptions”…well I eventually made it to Edmonds to catch the 7 PM ferry to Kingston. Knowing I would not make it much further before dark, I asked around on the ferry for camping options in Kingston, and was fortunate to connect with a man who belonged to a local church. After confirming with the Pastor, I was invited to camp in the churchyard. I set up my camp in the only flat area, the kiddie playground.
Day 2, Kingston to Port Townsend, 40 miles
After a leisurely breakfast stop at the Cup and Muffin in Kingston, I proceeded onto the busy northbound Highway 104. Good shoulder but the big traffic was a little unsettling. I stopped at a visitor center for my break and then on to Chimacum. While taking another break at the local hangout, I was given guidance to the Larry Scott Memorial trail, which would get me off the highway for the remaining 7 or so miles into Port Townsend.
I shared an ocean side campsite at Port Townsend’s Fort Worden State Park with a delightful fellow traveler originally from Romania, named Flavia.
Day 3, Port Townsend to Sequim, 43 miles
I backtracked some on the Larry Scott trail, then headed to Hwy 104 then to Hwy 101. The Olympic Discovery Trail officially begins in Port Townsend (first section shared with Larry Scott trail), and still much work to be done on the section from PT to Sequim. Signage guides users off and on quiet side roads but some Hwy 101 must be ridden at this point. Shoulder is mostly adequate. Once I got to Blyn, it was a real trail all the way to Sequim State Park about 9 miles on.
I was happy to see Flavia also arrive to set up camp at Sequim. Another tourer, Colin, also appeared to share the hiker biker sites. I stayed 2 nights at Sequim State Park before heading towards Fort Flagler State Park.
Day 5, Sequim to Fort Flagler, 29 miles
The route involves a very dangerous section of Hwy 101 so when I got to Discovery Bay, I waited for a regional bus which got me to a transit center about 6 miles up the road. I then rode the hilly route out to Fort Flagler. Fort Flagler definitely warrants some exploration as it was an army fort guarding the entrance to Admiralty Inlet, and much of the military bunkers and artifacts remain. The biker campsites are the best! I had tent-side views of the beautiful sunset.
Day 6, Fort Flagler to Port Ludlow, 20 miles
Arrived in Port Ludlow and had several hours before I was expected at my Warm Showers host, so I basked in the sunshine, the last of which I’d see for the remainder of my trip. My Warm Showers hosts, Ben and Anne, gave me a warm welcome into their lovely home. Their love of cooking was apparent in the wonderful dinner they prepared for me. They have had many touring adventures and I enjoyed hearing their stories that evening.
Day 7, Port Ludlow to Seattle, 26 miles
I realized as I was packing up, that I had left my helmet at the restaurant, which wasn’t open yet. Thankfully, Ben was able to loan me one and later recovered mine. Traffic wasn’t bad on my route through Poulsbo except where I made a wrong turn. The rain came quickly but I was ready for it and stopped in a bus shelter to gear up. It poured rest of the way to Bainbridge ferry, which I was fortunate to board right away. A short ride to the train station and several hours early, gave me the time to dry out before the train ride home.
Another tour in the books. Already thinking about next years' tour options, maybe Natchez Trace or Chicago to Cincinnati to Cleveland to someplace...
Closing thoughts on Route 66
Total miles ridden, St. Charles to St. Charles (see Katy Trail post also), just over 700 and 23 days including some zero days. Total miles traveled, about 800.
If you use Google maps for cycle directions in unfamiliar areas, use caution. Riding the gravel/rocky roads from Olathe (O-lay-tha) was not what I expected and I would not wish it on anyone. Same with some of the other highway riding, including Highway O previously mentioned. The best moments, the ones that really touched me, were when the people I met showed kindness, in their own way or told me I inspired them.
I hope you've enjoyed this travelogue; let me know by posting your comments or questions.
Stay tuned for the next adventure, likely in the fall a little closer to home.
Chesterfield to St Charles and end, 15.2
After crossing the Missouri River on the Daniel Boone Memorial Bridge, I was “home free”, riding again on the Katy Trail for the remaining miles back to my car and hotel.
Pacific to Chesterfield, 24 miles
I picked up the Allenton Road, which goes through Six Flags Resort, and is a popular cycling route. Comforting to know that this back road is familiar to both drivers and cyclists. First 5 or so miles was all climbing but I felt good and made it to the summit parking area where I chatted with a road cyclist while I caught my breath. The road wends through Greensfelder County Park, where mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians share heavily shaded trails.
Sullivan to Robertsville State Park/Pacific
Well the route I picked to the State Park was really a bad one, via State Highway O. Hilly, no shoulder, fast cars and commercial big rigs. If you use Google maps for any of your touring routing, be cautious. They are very far from perfect. I was quite fortunate to ask for and get a ride from a kind person, Mitch, who drove me 6 miles to the town of Pacific. I was ready to quit riding after this scary day!
Phillipsburg to Meremec State Park
Jesse from Safe Rides Lebanon picked me up right on time and loaded my bike into his truck, and he dropped me off in Sullivan, MO, with about 6 miles to ride to the campground. I was warned of a “steep climb” to get to the campground. No kidding. I suspect it was a bout a mile of steep, uphill walking/pushing Stanley. All the while I’m thinking about getting back, 2 days later! The campground was beautiful and I vowed to do nothing for the next 2 days but read and relax. It was hot, but I took my chair over to the Fisher Cave and enjoyed the bug free, natural air conditioning. In spite of due diligence, the racoons got into my food pannier (who knew they could open zippers?) and ate all my lunch and snack foods including 2 packages of gel blocks and half a tube of Nuun. Wondering how that set in their little stomachs. I was able to get a lift out of the park and thankfully didn’t have to walk down the steep hills with my loaded bike.
Springfield to Phillipsburg, 48.3
Today was a sufferfest of heat and climbs. Oh, and navigating out of towns is always a challenge for me.
I got about ½ mile of downhill, then a mile of uphill. Stanley continues to perform well but sometimes I wish he had an auxiliary power source. After reviewing the elevation profiles for the next few days, I’m thinking of how I might get a lift up the route a bit. I arrived at Rustic RV Park and met the hosts, Dee and Bruce. I was able to find a lift to save me almost 100 miles of misery and though expensive, I did it. I don’t want to suffer ALL the time!
Bruce and Dee invited me to dinner and I had a wonderful time hearing their stories. Bruce was a cowboy, as in herding and caring for cows in the middle of nowhere, mostly on BLM land, all over the Western US including Washington and Oregon. They are pushing 80 years old but I would not have guessed. They are vibrant, quick-witted, and still ride and care for their horses and a small farm.
Miller to Springfield, 37.4 miles
Rolling hills to steep climbs. I did some walking to rest. The highlight of this day was meeting a large group of motorcycle tourists at Paris Springs. I regret not getting more photos!
Joplin to Miller, MO, 57.9
Leaving Joplin, I picked up the Frisco Greenway toward Webb City. I met Andy, who was out for his daily ride and has dreams of doing some touring. We had a great conversation and I hope I inspired him to keep dreaming and planning. As I climbed a hill outside of Carthage, a man waved me over to stop at this little campground store. He offered to buy me a cold drink…no way I could turn that down! He told me about his tree business and his grandkids reported on their recent trip to Florida. This encounter cancelled out the dog encounter below.
Dogs – sometimes they are pretty terrifying when they race out to the road, barking and growling. I instantly stop and try to keep Stanley between me and them. But when there’s more than one, they tend to surround me. Today, one particularly aggressive dog attacked my pannier and was biting it. I dropped my bike and grabbed a water bottle. For all the good it’s gonna do me. It’s usually a hurry up and wait for the dogs to lose interest, which they eventually did.
I found a quiet school yard to camp in, which had plenty of power outlets.
Prairie State Park to Joplin, 37.3 miles
More gravel but at least it’s flat and easier to ride on. The last 10 miles into Joplin and a hotel room was on Highway 171, busy and fast traffic, but a wide shoulder clear of debris. I had a nice break on the way, setting up my chair, drinking ice cold tea and a pre made sandwich made on “wonder bread”. Haven’t eaten that kind of bread since I was a kid. Oh, was it good! Once checked into the hotel, I walked to the nearby grocery store and got salad and some deli chicken. Great to have fresh food!
Day 13, Fort Scott to Prairie State Park, 29 miles and more gravel
I took a break just 4 miles from the State Park, in Mulberry, Kansas, a former mining town, population about 500. Set up my chair (oh how I love my Helinox Zero!) and discovered the county provides free wi-fi! So, I just relaxed and checked the weather. Turns out the rain was coming, so I packed up and raced onward to the park (please no gravel). Well the last 1.5 mile was gravel but much easier riding than previous days. Made it to a nice campsite, sheltered by the trees and barely got wet.
Day 12, Pleasanton to Fort Scott, 27 miles and only 7.5 gravel
I have been a little surprised, with all the traffic on the gravel roads, that no one has stopped to ask me what I'm doing out there in farm country. Well today, Randy Ratty stopped and we had a nice chat for awhile. He's proud to say he's retired from the power plant where his high risk job paid well and set him up for a comfortable retirement. Arriving in Fort Scott, I again opted for a hotel, the Courtland, built in around 1900 and restored in the 80's. It's just a lovely, and homey place. I felt welcomed when I walked into my room, decorated with antique furniture, muted colors, and a quilt that my grandmother could have made. Fort Scott was a very important military base during the early days of of the US. Anybody traveling near there should take the opportunity to visit. The Race Across America goes through there and although the cyclists don't really stop, there's plenty of support crew who spend money and time in the town.
Day 11, Linn Valley to Pleasanton, 17 miles
Short day, 90% gravel. Stanley performed well and continued to amaze me with his agility on these miserable roads. I had a great burger at Cookees in Pleasanton. It's a 50's style diner and chatted with the owner about what goes on in Pleasanton with a population of about 1400. She told me that the following week, the annual Christian motorcycle ride will be descending on this small town, with about 1000 riders. There's a motorcycle museum and another regional museum; both closed today. Hunting is popular, as is living here and working in Kansas City. I made my way to the vast city park with a lake and several stone shelters. Spread out my ground cloth, and just relaxed rest of day. There's no water available, but a kind neighbor brought me into his home and let me fill everything from his refrigerator tap.
Day 10, Olathe to Linn Valley 46 rough miles
What's with all this gravel??? I had no idea I'd be riding on gravel/rock roads. It was slow going and much walking on these rough roads. Oh, and some hills too. Some of the rock was too difficult to ride on so I walked quite a bit. This day was about 85 percent gravel and little did I know that there was oh so much more to come. I made it to Linn Valley Park, a private camp/park/lake. I was very grateful to be able to camp there, close to bathrooms and showers. The nice security lady, Janet was kind enough to give me two cold bottles of water. Pitched my tent and was asleep before dark.
Onward to Leeton then Pleasant Hill
On the way to Leeton to camp in the city park, we stopped in Windsor and found the only place open - the Side Track Cafe. We had the best ever burgers before traveling the remaining 10 miles. We're now on the Rock Island Spur, a route that continues northwest to Kansas City. Continuing on to Pleasant Hill to camp the following night, Jim will then proceed to Lee's Summit (southeast of Kansas City), where he'll catch Amtrak back to his car in St Louis and head home. I'll continue to Olathe for two nights in a hotel before heading south/southwest to Joplin.
Day 5, Pilot Grove to Sedalia, 28 miles
We got a few bonus miles today, looking for the fairgrounds in Sedalia, where we planned to camp. Turning unexpectedly colder. I chatted with Jeff from Rolla, on the trail, who's starting a new gravel touring business. He offered me his front yard for camping, when I get to Rolla on my return leg to St Charles. Sedalia was given the choice to have the state college or the fairgrounds. They chose the fairgrounds. Sedalia has been hosting the Missouri State Fair since 1901 on almost 400 acres of grounds of 47 buildings.
Day 4, McBaine to Pilot Grove, 38 miles
Weather has been getting cooler during the day, necessitating long sleeves and sometimes leg coverings. We had read about the dreaded Salt Creek Detour...a bridge on the trail that had washed away in 2016 with no repairs planned. I had anticipated this, and found a road route that was actually quite nice; a change from the sandy surface and cave-like trees we'd mostly been riding through. After a 5 or so mile detour, we returned to the trail and had the opportunity to inspect the damages to the bridge. At some point, I'll upload photos. Some riders will trudge through the yucky mud and maybe 6 inches of water, to avoid riding on the road. After a heavy rain, even that option wouldn't be possible though.
We picked up some bonus miles in Booneville as I searched for someplace to buy cheap reading glasses as I had left mine at the hostel. No glasses, but we did discover an A&W Root Beer stand with the oh so yummy root beer freezes. Made a great lunch!
Pilot Grove is a delightful little town with a wonderful city park that welcomes bike travelers to camp for free. Covered shelters, bathrooms, and water available. The local Dollar General was a 3 minute walk in one direction and I got my glasses. A few minutes the other direction was a Casey's market/gas station, in case there's something you need that Dollar General didn't have.
We met a nice man, Tim, riding a recombant trike. He's from Indiana and was also riding the Katy, but both directions. His great sense of humor in sharing his stories, including that he's had six (yes, six) strokes and a heart attack made for a pleasant evening of conversation. He has some mobility and vision limitations, but dang, he's out there riding self supported. A great inspiration!
Day 3, Tebbetts to McBaine, 46 miles
We decided to make this day a few miles longer, so that the following day would be less than 40 miles as I had originally planned. I've enjoyed riding with Jim, my ride buddy, as we came up with ideas to maximize our energies and time. Anyway, there was no place to camp in McBaine. So, we found a place near the sewer plant to stealth camp (odor-free!).
Day 2, Marthasville to Tebbetts, 54 miles
Even though the trail appears flat, there's a grade of no more than 2 percent. On a road, it would not even be noticeable, but with a total bike weight close to 70 pounds and soft surface, it's VERY noticeable. A storm was due this day, and although the worst went north of us, we still got free showers before getting to Tebbetts. We stopped in the tiny town of Mokane, and ducked into the local bar to wait for the rain to stop. We had a beverage and a delightful conversation with Jennifer the young bartender, with lots of ideas to attract the cyclists along this popular route.
Arriving at the hostel in Tebbetts was a welcome sight after this long soggy day. We had called ahead and were advised where the key was hanging and that we put our $6 in an envelope and drop it in the US mail box over at the post office. When full, the hostel accommodates about 40 travelers but there were just 3 others joining us this night. The kitchen was adequate and showers were hot. We spent some time washing off the sticky grit from our bikes before storing them in the adjacent storage area.
Day 1, St. Charles to Marthasville, 39 miles
Marthasville is a small town with a population of less than 2000. We're camping at the local ballfields (game night!) and I think everyone in town must be here. The food vendor is open for business and provided us with a cold beer while setting up our tents. We had both electricity and showers for a camp fee of $6. We're sharing this nice space (covered picnic tables and farm equipment) with four other travelers, going the opposite direction.
Apparently Daniel Boone called this town home and he was originally buried here. At some point his remains were relocated to Kentucky. Missouri has never gotten over that.
I was fortunate to connect with a fellow bike tourer via Warmshowers.org and we'll be riding together for about five days. Our first day is about 40 miles to the town of Marthasville to camp in a city park. The weather people warning of severe storms on Day 2, Thursday, but with an early start to ride the 50 miles to Tebbetts, we hope to reserve bunks at the Turner Katy Shelter and beat the worst of the storm.
Drive, Hike, Run, Ride!
; In looking forward to touring in 2021 I've decided, instead of taking the train to St. Louis for last years' deferred tour, I'll drive! I plan to visit some national parks, do some hiking and some trail running along the way. For a person who doesn't enjoy long drives, I'll load up on audio books and limit the number of driving hours per day, making for a longer crossing.
I bought an atlas and with several tour books on National Parks; I'm looking forward to visiting Death Valley, Grand Canyon, and others, car camping my way to St. Louis. When I arrive in St. Louis, a gracious WarmShowers host will allow me to park my car at their house for the 700 some miles of my bicycle tour.
All the planning for the bicycle tour was already done and with a few tweaks, I'll be ready to hit the Katy Trail and beyond.
Bike Tour Days 8 & 9
Corvallis to Willamette Mission State Park, 49 miles, 1047 elevation
Somewhat cooler today but still too hot. The Willamette Mission SP is way out there, close to the Wheatland Ferry, if you know where that is. Campsites are hot and dry but only hikers, paddlers (from Willamette River), and bikers can camp at this state park. Otherwise, it's day use only. Many miles of hiking trails bordered by hop vines and fruit trees. Apparently a world class, competitive disk course here. Most of the people I encountered were there for the disk throwing. Water faucet at campsite, thankfully. I left at daybreak, heading back to start, for 48 miles more.
Total distance on the tour, about 405 miles. Garmin recorded a high temperature one day at 107. Highlights - camping in the cemetery and the fresh peaches. Lowlight - heat and heavy traffic.
Stay tuned for the next adventure.
Bike Tour Day 7
Deadwood to Corvallis, 61 HOT miles, 2100 elevation
This was the worst day of the ride. Not only because the temperature peaked at just over 100 degrees, but the traffic was miserable, as I closed in on Corvallis. I had already planned a hotel stay so I was motivated to keep going for the air conditioning, if nothing else. As the day progressed, I had to stop every few miles in any available shade. I had plenty of water and also consumed electrolytes.
Bike Tour Day 6
Florence to Deadwood, 28 miles
I decided for a shorter day, knowing there is significant climbing and still temperatures pushing 100 degrees. I decided to check out the Deadwood Cemetery as a possible campsite instead of on the highway at the boat ramp. Up a short hill and directly above the highway, I came to the Deadwood Pioneer Cemetery, Est 1853. Beautiful secluded location. A large area that could be used for gatherings, not just funerals. There is a local organization that is attempting to identify all the graves, an generally preserve this historic site. The oldest I found dated back to the Spanish American war. Many WWI and WWII sites, logged, identified, and numbered in case one is looking for someone.
A local man, Mac, is in the process of chiseling a stone marker within the cemetery. He had interesting stories to tell, not only about the land surrounding Deadwood, but about his time as a historian on the Lady Washington Tallship. Check out the link above to their website. Mac told me the elk come through every evening on their way to the river. I waited and waited but they must have decided to keep away from me.
Bike Tour Day 5
Ranger kicked me out of the campground so I found a cheap hotel in town. I informed the ranger that there needs to be more clarity on their website about coastal hiker biker sites being closed. I did a little walking around Florence, finding the best burger and beer in town, in my opinion, at the Beachcomber Pub. That's it. That's all I did except wash some socks.
Bike Tour Day 4
Fern Lake/Richardson to Honeyman State Park, 65 miles, 1900 elevation
Well I decided to ride the whole way to Florence (Honeyman SP). This involved climbing from near sea level over "low pass", about 1100 feet. Yikes, 100 degrees! Thankfully lots of shade today.
The thing about routes in Garmin 830 is that they list out the day's climbs and as you approach them, you get a little countdown to climb notice. I mostly didn't want to know I was riding 8% or 10%. Although knowing I had 30 feet of climbing to go was good. Also a graphic climb profile was helpful.
I stopped at Triangle Lake at the city park for a long break. Set up my Helinox Zero chair and enjoyed the view and a snack. Most of the lake access appears to be private, as the lake is ringed with houses and private docks for water ski boats and fishing boats.
I stopped again, in Deadwood, about 30 miles from Florence and the state park. The nice lady at the market told me where I could camp, across the street, at a boat launch area along Deadwood Creek. I was also informed by a fellow customer that "riding a bicycle on highway 101 is suicide".
As I reeled in the last 14 miles to Florence and the state park, the road became 4 lanes with a shoulder between 5 and 8 feet. I was very glad for that, considering the heavy trailer and motor home traffic on this stretch. It was hot, hot, still, with a headwind, and I was looking forward to the upcoming layover day.
I was unpleasantly surprised to learn, upon arrival at Honeyman SP, that hiker/biker sites were CLOSED. No one around, so I made my own campsite anyway. They would have to carry me out if they thought I was leaving tonight.