Sorry in advance – I crammed a lot of days into this post! Just about to take the bridge into Illinois and out of Missouri today. Cheers!
Day 38, June 6th – Cape Girardeau to Caster River Ranch Campground (near Marquand)
I started wrangling all my things together this morning… my hotel room looked like my panniers exploded open after I walked my bike in. By the time everything was organized and back in it’s place it was nearing 11 AM. I grabbed lunch on my way out of town and found a sporting goods store where I picked up some camp suds and another gas cylinder for my stove.
I didn’t realize it was going to be such a pretty ride today. A ways into my ride today I began reaching the outskirts of the Ozark mountains. Not big as far as mountains go, but plentiful hills, winding roads, and beautiful scenery. I was taking it slow today. My legs were still a little tired from the nearly back to back century rides into Cape Girardeau. Coupled with the late start, I wasn’t expecting big miles today.
There were no camping options listed on the map so I thought stealth camping was in order. As I was getting close to Marquand there was a small little restaurant called “The Hideaway”. I could smell the smoke from the BBQ they were making and decided to stop in. While I was in there I got to talking with a guy (Taylor I think his name was) from Cape Girardeau who keeps an RV at a private campground… he also knew of another campground that was even closer than where he was at so I got directions from him. He left shortly after because his order was to-go.
When it came to order I told the owner I’ll have whatever was on the grill outside. The Hickory BBQ plate was amazing. The owner came by and gave me a free cinnamon roll wrapped up for the road and when I went to pay he said Taylor had already taken care of my order! I wish I had the opportunity to thank him, so I told the owner to let him (Taylor) know how grateful I was if he stopped in again. This trip really has me excited about paying forward all the generosity I’ve received.
I found the campground around 7:00 PM and biked up to the office where I met the owners Jon and Mary eating dinner outside their home. They told me I came to the right place and had me sit down and help myself to some dinner (I always have room for more food). After finishing up, Jon gave me a tour of the campground and let me pick out a spot. I took a shower and by the time I returned to the campsite Jon had a fire roaring for me. I got to meet my camp neighbors: Scott, his son Dylan, and Dylan’s friend Brandin. They were great company and Scott generously gave me a few beers while we chatted around the fire.
Zebra? Donkey? I shall call it…. Zebronkey
Acts of Kindness: 5 – Early dinner paid for and campground suggestion from Taylor (name?); Owner of the Hideaway gave me a free cinnamon roll for the road; arrived at the campground and got to sit in on a 2nd dinner with the owners Jon and Mary; Jon gave me a tour around the campground and had a fire started for me while I was showering; Scott gave me a few free beers while I chatted to him, Dylan, and Brandin
Day 39, June 7th – Caster River Ranch Campground to Lesterville
Woke up and enjoyed my cinnamon roll with coffee. After doing a bit of writing, Brandin and Dylan came over to chat and we went to the river so they could show me how to catch crawdads. I returned from the excursion unharmed and started packing up. As I was finishing up, Scott made breakfast and invited me to join them. I was happy to fill up a bit more before I hit the road! Thanks for the generosity and fun times Scott, Dylan, and Brandin. Oh and Jon too… especially for the comical faces.
Back on the road I wasn’t long before I met with heavy rains. After a couple hours I decided to pull into a gas station to dry out for a bit. The rain seemed to hold off until the final shower near the end of my ride. The weather has been cooler lately which has been nice for riding. The Ozarks provided great views and a fair share of hills to climb. I’ve been keeping the pace slow as my legs tend to enjoy this more. I’ll settle with some shorter days for a while. I set up camp in Lesterville, MO which has lots of camping options. They have a big canoe, kayak, and tubing scene here so I picked my campground based on the cheapest prices I could find online. As long as it has a place to shower (river or actual shower) I’m happy.
This dog followed me for about 5 miles today. Not barking, but just wanted to follow me. I finally pulled away on a big downhill. I was worried I was going to have a dog to take care of if it followed me much longer.
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Free breakfast and Crawdad hunting lessons
Day 40, June 8th – Lesterville to Potosi
I fixed up some coffee this morning and while I was packing up the people camping near me got curious about what I was up to and started up a conversation. They invited me over to their campsite for blueberry pancakes and of course I was happy to join. On the road about 10:00 AM today. Lots of hilly riding as I slowly worked my way to Potosi.
Once in Potosi I grabbed some dinner in town and started looking for camping options. I was about to give up and ride out of town to look for a stealth camping spot when I saw by the Potosi Fire Department. They were outside working on a fire engine so I swung by to ask if there was a place to camp. They directed me to the Lions Club Park just near the fairgrounds on the way out of town. Here I found a shelter to set up in for the night for free.
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Free breakfast from my campsite neighbors; Camping advise from the Potosi Fire Department
Day 41, June 9th – Potosi to Washington; Washington to St. Louis (Amtrak)
Today was a long stretch of riding before I ran into any towns. Once I got to Sullivan, MO I grabbed a late lunch and stopped to jump on the internet and figure out whether I was going to visit St. Louis or not. I had been on the fence about visiting because it was a substantial detour (about 2 extra days of riding there and doubling back) and I want to make sure I make it home for the 4th of July. Call it cheating, but if it meant seeing St. Louis or skipping it entirely I was totally ok with taking the public transit into the city.
Just this morning a friend Jason Garvens sent me information to contact his Aunt and Uncle, Celia and Paul, who live right next to downtown St. Louis. I read in my map yesterday that there was an Amtrak that ran from Washington, MO into downtown St. Louis. Reviewing the Amtrak website I found a train departing Washington for St. Louis at ~8:00 PM. Since Washington was in range for todays ride, I gave Celia a call to make sure it was ok if I showed up at their place this evening. Celia said I was welcome to come stay so I booked a ticket for myself and my bike.
Acts of Kindness: 5 – Jason Garvens sent me a message with contact information for his Aunt and Uncle; Celia and Paul invited me into their home soaking wet where I got a shower, amazing kettle corn, and laundry done before bed; My friend Kevin Steck had sent me contact information several days ago for his friend in St Louis. I might have used this had Jason not said that his Aunt and Uncle were “expecting a call from me” 😛
Day 42, June 10th – St. Louis (Rest Day)
I woke up and came downstairs to find coffee cake, cereal, and coffee sitting out for me. Thanks Celia! The coffee cake was great! After breakfast Celia gave me some ideas of things to check out in the city. I headed out on my bike for the St. Louis Arch… might as well start with the obvious attraction. The arch was much more impressive in person than I expected it to be. I got a few cool shots and then headed into the museum for a ride to the top. Very cool views of the city up there.
On the ride down from the top of the arch I rode with a couple guys working on a documentary for the pencil… they learned about my trip and had me take a picture with their pencil prop under the arch. Cool guys. I’m interested in seeing the finished documentary. They sent me the link to their Facebook page: facebook.com/pencildoc
After checking out the St. Louis Arch, I rode to the City Museum which my friend Paul Phillips had highly recommended. I’m glad I checked it out! This place was CRAZY – in a good way. An insane maze of rebar, concrete, and miscellaneous items turned into art. Oh yea… and they let kids and adults alike climb all over it. And if that wasn’t enough, they serve alcohol too! I’m not sure what their insurance policy is like, but it must be ridiculously expensive. If you’re in St. Louis this place is definitely worth checking out. Your bound to feel like a kid again, even if your not scaling through all the tunnels, hideaways, and the numerous maze of shortcuts. If your bringing kids be prepared to lose track of them!
From here I headed to Bailey’s Range for some lunch. They had tasty burgers and a great local brew selection. The bartender here tipped me onto a place for an amazing cup of coffee south about 4 miles. Glad I made the trip down to Sump Coffee because he was right, they do make good coffee! On my way out the door I chatted with the barista for a bit. I got to sample some of their cold brew (I asked about the giant glass orbs on the back wall) and then he sent me away with some cool stickers!
I raced back to Celia and Paul’s to avoid the rain (success) and we went out for dinner. We ended up changing dinner plans and stopping at a popular BBQ joint called Pappy’s because the place was unusually vacant compared to normal. Paul refused to let me pay – Thanks again for dinner Paul! This place was incredible! I’m glad I got to experience some St. Louis BBQ while I was in town. Stuffed after the great meal, I got a guided tour around the town by Celia and Paul.
Acts of Kindness: 5 – Breakfast set out by Celia; Free bling from Sump coffee shop; Paul bought me dinner at Pappy’s; Keith Short (from work) sent me a video of the biscuit and coffee memorial work snack (see end of post); Another nights stay with Celia and Paul.
Biscuits & coffee…
Lastly – here’s an attachment I got in an email from Keith Short. Looks like a good time! I got a good laugh out of it, hope you do too:
Day 43, June 11th – St. Louis to Washington (Amtrak); Washington to Cuivre River State Park (Near Troy, MO)
I got up and purchased a Amtrak ticket back to Washington. I said my goodbyes to Paul and Celia (and the dogs Arlo and Duke). Celia sent me off with some trail mix for the road. St. Louis was great. Glad I had such great hosts to stay with! Thanks Paul and Celia. I tried to catch up with some blog stuff on the train but it was too short of a ride to get anything published online. Once in Washington I hit the road again. Today was great riding weather – cool and cloudy.
Along a segment of the Katy Trail (gravel running and bike path) I met two young guys from the Netherlands, Phillip and Frederick, who were biking from Los Angeles to the eastern coast. I forget where exactly but they were on their way to Washington D.C. first. Nice guys who said they took a year off school and were doing some traveling.
I broke for dinner in Troy and took my time getting to Cuivre River State Park. Little did I know that the campground was tucked way back in the state park with some pretty impressive hills between the entrance and the campground. It was a beautiful ride as the sun was setting it poked through the trees and was slowly rolling in. I must have seen 10+ whitetail deer on my way in.
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Breakfast at Paul and Celia’s; Celia sent me off with some trail mix
Day 44, June 12th – Cuivre River State Park to Hannibal, MO
Up at 6 AM, made breakfast, broke camp, did some writing until 8 AM waiting for the ranger station to open so I could settle up. Broke for lunch in Louisiana, MO and met another cycle tourist, Tracy. Tracy is from Alaska and flew into Minneapolis to do a midwest tour before rounding back to Iowa for Ragbrai. After a good chat, I pressed on to Hannibal. I found plenty of challenging hills and rain along the way.
TOTAL MILES: 2,292