Week #4 – Flooded Bridges and Fording Ditches

Week #4 – Flooded Bridges and Fording Ditches

Day #22 – June 1st, 2019

Miles – 51.7
Fordsville, KY -> Sebree, KY

I awoke to absurd amounts of dew on the grass, on my tent, on my bike, and anywhere else moisture could show up unwanted. This is a common problem, but today, it seemed unreasonable. I felt like complaining.

On our ride, we stopped at three different small town general stores. All three served food, had a small supply of groceries, some hardware, and local folks catching up. It was refreshing to see so many small towns with places of community that have yet to fall prey to Dollar General.

We stayed at the First Baptist Church in Sebree, KY. Their cyclist hostel is basically the Hilton of Church Cycling Hostels. Showers, laundry, couches, kitchen, pool table, the list is endless. It was a welcome sight after a few nights of camping.

Day #23 – June 2nd, 2019

Miles – 55.5
Sebree, KY -> Cave-in-Rock, IL

After a big breakfast of spinach, eggs, and toast, we reluctantly left the Sebree hostel palace. We had lunch in Clay, KY. For whatever reason, I decided to plug my battery bank into the diner wall for a little extra juice. We paid, we left, and I never remembered to put it back in my bag. I remembered about 10 miles down the road. It felt too far to turn back for something that can be replaced. 

To cross the Ohio River, we rode on a ferry to Cave-in-Rock, IL. I bought a lemonade shake-up from a roadside stand while we waited. It ended up costing $6. That’s pretty steep for a couple lemons, a cup of sugar, some water, and a little elbow grease. The merchant is a smart businessman for not posting the price. I’m sure lots of thirsty cyclists don’t bother to ask first.

Bougie lemon shake up stand.
Boarding the ferry.

We camped at Cave-in-Rock State Park. The main attraction is a pretty neat cave. The cave, like all caves, is in a rock.

Sue, Chris, and Jason looking very Scooby Doo.

Day #24 – June 3rd, 2019

Miles – 60.5
Cave-in-Rock, IL -> Goreville, IL

We rode to Goreville. It was a nice ride. Nothing noteworthy happened. This is starting to feel more like “normal life,” so on average days, there’s not much to remember or reflect upon. But I rode my bike and didn’t have to work, so there’s nothing to complain about either. 

We stayed at a Methodist church in Goreville. Sue had suggested I call the cafe I left my battery bank at to see if they could mail it forward on the trail. I gave that a try and found out the manager had actually driven to see if he could find us on the route and get it back to me. He said he drove for an hour (round trip, I hope!) but wasn’t sure which roads the route followed and never crossed our paths. I was blown away by his generosity. It turns out a pair of cyclists we have been seeing along the trail (Prashant and Shruti) came through the cafe later in the day. He gave them the battery bank, and I’ll be able to coordinate with them to get it back. 

Day #25 – June 4th, 2019

Miles – 46.6
Goreville, IL -> Cape Girardeau, MO

We diverted to Cape Girardeau today due to a flooded bridge at Chester, IL. The closest other bridge across the Mississippi River is in Cape Girardeau. This is off-route but doesn’t add much mileage. Chris and Sue were up and packed before Jason and I had even rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. They took off while we got ready. We took our time. It’s only 46 miles today. What could possibly go wrong?

We saw lots of signs of flooding while riding. At one point, Jason and I thought we were riding right along the Mississippi River. We remarked about how wide it was. About a quarter-mile later, we saw a house in the center of what we believed to be the river. Looking at a map, we realized we were still 3 miles east of the Mississippi. The flooding here is intense. 

In the last 8 miles of our ride, Google Maps suggested we use a side road to get to the bridge. When we reached the road, it looked completely dry. We were excited about getting off the highway, so we headed down the road. It was pleasant and scenic with no traffic. Just as we approached the highway that would take us to the bridge, we saw the sky reflected back from the ground. The last 100 meters of road were a couple feet under water.

After lots of groaning, cursing, and laughing, we noticed a driveway that was less flooded. It seemed from our vantage point that we could ride over the driveway, across a field, and back on to the highway. Thinking we had already come this far, we rode over the flooded driveway.

The field seemed fine. It was visibly dry on top, but our wheels sunk in pretty quickly. We trudged through the muddy ground in our lowest gears, leaving deep tire tracks behind us. I’m sure the farmer’s flood insurance covers dumb cyclists as well. When we got to the edge of the field, we encountered yet more obstacles: a fence and a flooded ditch.

Our debts were surely too deep at this point, so we unloaded the bikes, dropped everything over the fence, hopped it, and waded through the floodwater to the highway. It took us both 3 trips through the ditch to get all of our possessions across. Meanwhile, every motorist on the highway was staring at us with wide eyes. I’m sure it was a strange sight.

We stayed with Judy, a WarmShowers host, in Cape Girardeau. Judy is awesome. She rode in the original 1976 Bikecentennial ride, which eventually became the TransAmerica Trail. She told us stories about that summer and all her other cycling adventures.

Judy telling stories.
Chris and Judy

Day #26 – June 5th, 2019

Miles – 70.2
Cape Girardeau, MO -> Farmington, MO

Today is my birthday. Today I rode pretty far. Today I rode pretty fast. 

Someone called me a jackass and told me to get on the sidewalk. I don’t think they knew it was my birthday. Also, there was no sidewalk.

My friends sang me happy birthday while we rode. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I wore the big sombrero and the staff sang happy birthday. It was a good day.

Day #27 – June 6th, 2019

Miles – 62.5
Farmington, MO -> Ellington, MO

Today I started riding solo again for a few days. Chris, Jason, and Sue are taking a rest day, and I am moving ahead. My parents will be visiting me in a few days, and I will take a day off then. We’ll regroup down the road.

The day went smoothly. It was overcast and mild temperatures. I stopped at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and swam around a little. Well, I mostly just sat on a rock and let the water wash over me. Swimming takes effort.

Enjoying some soothing water.
Still enjoying some soothing water.

I stayed at a little cyclist hostel in Ellington and had dinner at a pizza shop in town.

Day #28 – June 7th, 2019

Miles – 70.3
Ellington, MO -> Houston, MO

The day started with the toughest section of the Ozarks, 26 miles from Ellington to Eminence. The hills were long and steep, but the road was pretty quiet. There were lots of scenic views, as this was through Missouri’s National Scenic Riverways. 

On one of the last steep climbs, I heard some clanking noises from my bike as I pushed hard at the bottom of the hill. The chain snapped. I pulled off the road. After the panic and frustration subsided, I stripped the bike of all the gear, flipped it, and stared at the situation. I know quite little about bike maintenance, but I have a rudimentary understanding of chain repair. I pulled my chain tool out and fidgeted with the chain for awhile. I was able to reconnect the chain after about an hour. Proud of myself, I started again.

At the next hill, it snapped again. I started to feel like this was probably a lost cause, but with no cell phone signal and little traffic on the road, I didn’t have many options. So I tried again. After about 40 minutes, I had the chain reconnected. This time, I noticed the link I reconnected was way too tight. I adjusted the tension and realized that was probably the cause of the second snap. I carefully moved onward, and the chain held.

I lost 3 links from the chain. This means the chain is a bit too short for the gearing system. I have to be careful not to push it too hard or stretch the chain too much. It’s going to be a few days before I can get a new chain.

I finally got to Houston close to 6PM, much later than I usually arrive at a destination. I ate Taco Bell and headed to the city park to camp. The guided Adventure Cycling Association touring group was also there.

Week #4 Mileage: 417.3
Total Trip Mileage: 1,411.2

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