Wednesday, May 03, 2023

3 Rides in Illinois


Garmin Stats and Maps

St. Charles, MO to Pocahontas, IL

Pocahontas to Altamont, IL

Altamont to Olney, IL

New State Day

Crossing into Alton, Illinois

7:20 was the earliest I had ever started a day's cycling on this tour. I left triker Marian's house in St. Charles to make my way to the end of the KATY trail and then figure out how to cross the Mississippi River. It was another beautiful day. After 6 weeks of frigid cold, this felt especially good. From the end of the KATY trail at Machens, I got on a paved road for the first time in over 240 miles of riding. Back to riding with traffic. I loved the KATY trail and recommend doing it but the trail is very, very dusty. I wasn't sure how I was going to get the week's worth of dust out of my trailer.

White pelicans on the Mississippi River

Nickel Plate bike path to Edwardsville, IL

I was disappointed to not see the St. Louis arch. A picture with Myrtle and the arch in the background seemed iconic. Unfortunately, riding into St. Louis from the end of the KATY trail is more than 20 miles. The ride is complicated and not recommended. Instead, I crossed the Mississippi River at Alton, IL. There is a bike lane on the bridge and it put me right at an entrance to the Mississippi River bike route. This route goes the length of the Mississippi River on levee paths. It was fun to be on this path which I took south for about 10 miles where I turned off to start riding east. For this part of the tour through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and to the start of the GAP trail in  Pennsylvania, I was going to be relying on Google Maps bike routing and RideWithGPS where ever possible. I put a route to Pocahontas where I had a hotel reservation into Google Maps and followed with turn-by-turn directions in my Airpods. There was an industrial section through South Roxanna where I was on rough roads chewed up by heavy commercial traffic. Even though there wasn't a bike lane, the road was wide and I felt safe enough. Coming into Edwardsville, Google found a series of bike paths. This was a big surprise. Edwardsville is a cute college town. 

After Edwardsville, I rode on country farm roads through the town of Grand Forks where I expected to find a grocery store. Unfortunately, there wasn't one.  I continued on into Pocahontas which is a very small town on Hwy 70. Country music star, Gretchen Wilson, grew up here and that seems to be the claim to fame for this town. There were also quite a few weathered-looking antique stores. The highway sign for the hotel had pieces missing which made me wonder about the quality. Turns out a powerful wind storm had blown through a week ago damaging the sign. The Powhattan motel turned out to be a very nice find. The room was tastefully designed with very comfortable bedding. The quality surprised me.

Huge meatloaf dinner from the Powhattan motel restaurant

Great blue heron

The motel was old enough that the doors are too narrow for my trike to fit through. I ordered some food at the restaurant and asked if anyone could help me lift the trike through the doorway. The cook came out to help and also offered to help, again, in the morning. I ordered the meatloaf special which was a huge amount of food. I'm going to have to remember to plan for grocery store stops on each day's route. 

Video of ride from the end of the KATY trail to Pocahontas, IL


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The next morning was another beautiful day and I started cycling in short sleeves. A follower and his son, Ron and Brett, had sent me a route inspired by a couple of upright cyclists who did a cross-country tour. I think Ron and Brett put a lot of time and effort to recreate the route in Ride With GPS. The route followed Hwy 50 but stayed on adjacent farm roads. They plotted a route from the KATY to the start of the GAP trail in Pittsburgh. This route was over 1,000 miles with 30,000 ft of climbing. The map included some accommodation and cafe recommendations as well. I really appreciated the helpful route. 

Route that Ron and Brett designed for me

Myrtle through the Dogwood tree flowers

Beautiful blooming pink and white Dogwood trees

All day, I was on beautiful, quiet farm roads. Maybe a hand full of cars passed me throughout the day. A couple of times the route put me on gravel. I'm really not set up for gravel riding and prefer staying on pavement. I was able to look at Google maps on my phone and easily find paved alternative roads. I found a nice hotel in Altamont on the Hwy. 

Video of ride from Pocahontas to Altamont, IL

Myrtle and the big farms

Sharing the road

The temperature was certainly warm enough to camp but I couldn't find any campgrounds. This area is all farming. Even the towns are too small to have a city park that, sometimes, will allow camping. I wondered if I would find any camping opportunities through the section of my route in Illinois. Leaving Altamont on another beautiful day felt like such a luxury. I really prefer heat to cold. I'm sure, soon enough, the weather will turn hot and humid but, for now, I was loving this weather. Again today, the roads were on very quiet farm roads. Most of the traffic I experienced was giant farm equipment being moved from field to field. The farmers seemed to enjoy seeing me out there and I got lots of waves and honks. I love the farmers. Tonight there was a big storm brewing and I probably wouldn't have been able to camp anyway. Heavy rain with strong winds was forecast for the next couple of days. I found a comfortable hotel in Olney to remain safe and dry. Olney is famous as the home of the white squirrel. 

Video of ride from Altamont to Olney

Home of the white squirrel

Olney mural

Sunday, April 16, 2023

KATY Trail


Garmin Stats and Maps

KATY Trail

Overnight there had been a powerful storm. I felt very fortunate to be safe staying with Warmshowers hosts. Tornados touched down in a town not far away and 5 people were killed. Yesterday, the temperature got up to 81 degrees. This morning's temperature was 29 degrees. This was a huge change and bbbrrr cold! Chris and I said goodbye to hosts Ben and Jessica heading just a few miles to the start of the KATY trail. 

The KATY trail has an unpaved crushed limestone surface. It is 240 miles long. The entire trail is a state park. It is the longest and narrowest state park in the US. There are 26 trailheads.

Meeting Andy at Clinton

Chris and Andy at the Clinton trailhead

Today I met triker Andy O'Neil. He was waiting for us at the Clinton trailhead. Andy has been an integral part of my tour for many months. He has designed a separate website with many tabs and features. One tab is to keep track of Myrtle's progress with miles and elevation and another tab has a map with all my Youtube videos. He has also designed a contact form that is making it easy for me to schedule meet-ups and group rides as I tour as well as a donation page. (Thanks to everyone who has contributed!!) He has donated all of his time and talent. Andy is super smart, easygoing, and a joy to work with. I can hardly believe how lucky I am to have him on board with the tour. As you can imagine, it was very special to finally meet Andy and ride with him.

Catrike, HP and Performer trikes

3 triking amigos

3 trikers started down the KATY trail together. That is something that probably doesn't happen very often. Andy rides a Catrike, Chris rides a Performer and I ride an HP Velotechnik. Chris and I were also pulling trailers.

Andy, removing debris in our path

Because of the big storm last night, there was lots of tree debris scattered all over the trail. There were also dead trees that had fallen across the trail. Luckily, Chris and Andy were able to lift them to clear our path. We also had to stop fairly often to pull twigs and branches from out of our spokes. The limestone gravel was soft from all the rain and my rear wheel skidded a few times. 

Riding with Chris and Andy

Just a few warnings

Andy doesn't ride with e-assist so Chris and I let him set the pace. We rode together for 20 miles merrily yakking away. It was a nice but very cold ride. Windsor was Andy's turnaround point. We stopped here for lunch before saying goodbye. I think this was a long ride for Andy but I am very happy he made the effort. He was a real trooper to make the trip to meet up and ride on such a cold day. I really enjoyed riding with him.

Chris and Andy through the trees

Chris and I continued on to Sedalia. We did 42 miles. It was a long day. The limestone gravel was thick enough to slow me down. I think my average speed for the day was only 8.5 mph. Chris's wife was waiting with the car to take him back to Springfield. Chris and I had been riding together for 4 days. I was very happy to have his company and especially his knowledge of the area. It is so nice for me to be with someone that knows the way and enjoys leading. In Sedalia, I said goodbye to Chris and Patty and then found a very inexpensive hotel. There was a frost warning for the morning and I decided to stay for 2 nights.

With Chris on the way to Sedalia

On the trail with Chris

The forecast called for warming temperatures every day for another week. I am ready for some warmer riding weather. The first 2 days of riding on the KATY had the most climbing. Today's ride to New Franklin had 620 feet of climbing. Yesterday, there were only a couple of joggers on the trail and, today, I didn't see anyone. Again, there was lots of debris scattered all over the trail. Most of the bigger branches came from dead trees and were easy to remove. Once there were 2 fresh trees down and I got very lucky. The only 2 bikers on the trail I saw all day I met at these downed trees. Pat and Ruth were locals out for a day ride and helped me get passed. It took a great deal of effort for them to hold branches back. Slowly I was able to lift the trike and trailer over the large tree trunk. I learned from them that the trail has rangers to monitor and maintain it. But they only do trail maintenance on Mondays. The big storm happened on Tuesday night. I really hoped there wouldn't be any more big trees down as I continued.

Pat and Ruth - heroines

Big tree across the trail

AZUB and 2 HPs

With trikers Craig and JD

On my way to New Franklin, I met 2 trikers going in the other direction. Craig was riding a beautiful AZUB and JD was on a HP Velotechnik. It was very fun to meet them.  I camped at the Roundhouse RV park. No one was there. I filled out a form putting $10 in an envelope.  The RV park is very rundown and the layout is confusing. It took me a while to realize the RV parking and tent areas are actually across the trail from the main house where I paid. I was walking around for quite some time looking for the bathroom. The tent area has electricity and the bathroom was clean with hot water. While I was setting up, another cyclist showed up. Caleb has been living on his bike for more than 10 years. He travels with his calico cat, Marilyn. Somehow, I always feel safer when someone else camps with me even though I don't know the other people.

Drone shot with Caleb and Marilyn

Riding with Caleb and Marilyn

Through the trees

In the morning, Caleb, Marilyn, and I rode down the trail together. I flew my drone a bit to get video of us all riding together. I was also on the lookout for trikers Bonita and Jay who had reached out to host me. We met up after Rocheford. They also got a kick out of meeting Caleb and Marilyn. Bonita and Jay took me to see the Williamson Burr oak tree which is more than 400 years old. The day was beautiful and I really enjoyed riding with Bonita and Jay. We got our trikes loaded into a trailer at the Hartsburg trailer for the drive to their house. This couple is very sweet and super generous. The offered for me to stay as long as I wanted. If the weather wasn't so nice I probably would have stayed longer. It's impressive that people are reaching out to me offering to host when we have never met before. I have noticed that trikers tend to trust each other possibly more than other groups. We had a lovely meal together and I stayed in a very comfortable guest room. Many thanks to Bonita and Jay for opening your home.

With Bonita and Jay at Harzburg trailhead

Williamson Burr 400 year old tree

Bonita and Jay on the trail

I was doing the KATY trail early and riding season hasn't really started. Most of the businesses aren't open yet. In many of the towns on the trail, there are small parks with a bathroom. The water in the parks is still turned off for the winter and the bathrooms are closed. Camping at these parks isn't possible until the bathrooms open. Aside from these parks, there aren't many opportunities to camp. From what I understand, the businesses don't really open up until the middle of May. 

Joey's Birdhouse b&b

Myrtle outside Joey's Birdhouse

The next night I stayed at sweet Joey's Birdhouse B&B in McKittrick. It was Easter Sunday and I was surprised to find anything open. Bonita had sent me off with plenty of food because the grocery stores were also closed. 

Camping at Klondike Park

Caleb and Marilyn


From McKittrick, I made my way a short distance to camp at Klondike Park in Augusta. I camped, again, with Caleb and his calico cat, Marilyn. Another triker couple had reached out to host me. Lisa would meet me in the morning and we would ride to the trailhead closest to her house. Her husband, Jeff, met us with a trailer ready to load up the trikes for the drive to their house. Jeff helped me with a big project. One of my battery mounts has been missing screws since before I started the tour. Until recently, I didn't know the size of the screws. Jeff found the screws at a local hardware store and helped me get them installed. This was far more difficult than it should have been. The placement of 2 of the screws was very hard to get to. I was very grateful for Jeff's patience and happy to have the project finished successfully. They have a very comfortable house and Lisa is a terrific cook. It has been very special to have trikers reach out to me even though we have never met. I really enjoyed my stay.

Jeff, loading up the trikes

Lisa and Jeff

Lisa prepared a beautiful breakfast

In the morning, Jeff drove me and Lisa back to the trailhead. She rode with me 16 miles into St. Charles on a beautiful day. Jeff was waiting with the trailer to take Lisa home. Thanks for the fun visit and ride.

Thanks for the fun ride, Lisa

In St. Charles another triker opened her home. I have known Marian from BentRiderOnline for probably 15 years. It was very fun to finally meet her. She lives 2 blocks off the KATY trail. Marion took me shopping and paid for my groceries. Thank you Marian for opening your home.

With Marian

I really wanted to take advantage of the warm weather and was eager to continue riding even though everyone who hosted me offered for me to stay longer. I left Marian's home early and finished the KATY trail at Machens. From there, I got back on paved roads finding my way to the Mississippi River crossing at Alton riding into Illinois. Crossing into a new state is always very exciting. My average speed is only 11 mph but I feel like I'm making very good time on this tour.

End of KATY trail at Machens

New state, baby!

The KATY trail is very nice and I recommend riding it. For me, this ride was extra special because of the trikers who hosted me. That was terrific! It was also fantastic to meet Andy O'Neil and ride with Chris. Cycling the KATY was a rich experience. The trail itself is good for triking. It is also very dusty. My trike and trailer were coated in fine limestone dust. A shower was definitely needed after every ride. Doing the trail later in the season when everything is open would make it an even better experience. While I was on the trail there were very few other bikers.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Afton, OK to Clinton, MO

Garmin Stats and Maps

I left my exotic motel safari room in Afton to get back on Hwy 60 which is also Route 66. The winds had shifted and the temperature warmed up quickly. Within a couple of hours, I was able to take off my rainjacket and rainpants that I have been living in for warmth for a very long time. What a relief! This ride was very beautiful and enjoyable. The sun was out, the birds were chirping and the landscape was scenic. This was all making me very happy.
First sign outside a liquor store

At the more formal welcome sign

Myrtle with more formal Missouri state line

Soon I was at the Oklahoma/Missouri state line. The 1st sign I came to was outside a liquor store and there were ads for liquor and cigarettes surrounding it. Not much farther there was another, more formal, sign. It feels like I've arrived in Missouri much sooner than I expected to. 

video of ride from Afton, OK to Joplin, MO

Today was also the end of my tour on Route 66. I had been invited to stay with Warmshowers' hosts who live south of Joplin. I had originally planned on ending my Route 66 route in Springfield, MO. If I had continued on, Route 66 goes through a corner of Kansas before crossing into Missouri. Instead, I took off at Hwy 43 to find my way to an area called Redings Mill. It was a lovely ride. The roads in Missouri are very smooth with good shoulders. The hills Missouri is famous for also started right as I crossed the border.

Terrific hosts Leigh and Ron

The Warmshowers couple are building a home they are calling a barndominium. Since it is under construction, they put me in an RV that is hooked up to water and electricity. What a smart idea! Leigh and Ron were very nice and served me a delicious dinner. I slept great in the RV. They live out in the country in a quiet, peaceful area. There were lots of colorful birds around the property. I enjoyed meeting their mule and horse too. Ron made sure I had good strong coffee in the morning. 

Chris with his homemade trike rack

The next morning, a new triking friend, Chris from Springfield came to pick me up. The weather channel showed a big scary-looking storm approaching. With the threat of tornados, Chris thought it was best to get me off the road. 

Very positive painting

With trikers Chris, Wendell and Joe

From a trail ride near Springfield

I spent 3 nights in Springfield. The storm took a turn away from Springfield and wasn't nearly as strong as the forecast predicted. One day had crazy strong winds but we were still able to do some rides on Springfield area trails. I got to meet some local trikers, Joe and Wendell too. 

Chris has been busy designing a route we are going to take together from Springfield to Clinton, Missouri. In Clinton, we are going to pick-up the KATY trail.

Chris and I are ready to roll out of Springfield

Springfield is the birthplace of Route 66

Start of the trail

Myrtle on the Frisco Highline trail

We loaded up our trailers and hit the road. From Springfield, I followed Chris out of town to the start of the Frisco Highline trail. This is an unpaved 37-mile trail ending in the town of Bolivar. It was a chilly ride in blustery conditions. For the most part, we were sheltered from the wind on the tree-lined trail. The trail crosses over many creeks and rivers where we saw fishermen in the water and many people paddling in kayaks. Once, we had to backtrack because of a downed tree. No doubt felled during the powerful wind storm 2 nights earlier. 

Snake bite!

The highlight of the day was when Chris tried to get a garter snake off the trail and it bit him. That was quite alarming but garter snakes are, luckily, harmless. Once leaving the unpaved trail and getting back on roads meant climbing some very steep hills. It's Missouri and to be expected.

video of ride from Springfield to Bolivar

We arrived at an RV park where Chris had made a reservation. This was primitive camping on a hill and, boy o boy, it was windy. Chris actually brought tyvek, poles, and paracord prepared to fashion a wind-break. It worked great, too. There was an outlet outside the office where we charged up our batteries and gadgets. I turned the sign attached to my trailer cargo rack over so we had a tabletop to cook at. All-in-all, considering the tough conditions, I thought we did great.
Using my sign as a tabletop for cooking

Dinner is served

Primitive campsite with Chris' windbreak

Light on in the tent

It was such slow going on the thick gravel of the Frisco Highline trail that, in the morning, when Chris suggested we take Hwy 13, I was all-in. Hwy 13 has a good amount of traffic but it also has a very wide shoulder. It felt good to ride at a normal speed again. 

Myrtle and the trailer parked next to the tent

Sunset at the campsite

The second night we camped at a city RV park in Osceola, MO. The winds had calmed down and the temperature really warmed up. I was loving it. The RV park put us under a covered shelter that had electricity. There were also lots of picnic tables where Chris and I could spread out. This was great. The bathroom was close by and I took a good hot shower.



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The next day we continued up Hwy 13. I felt bad that Chris and his wife had put in so much time to find us quiet roads to ride and we ended up on the Hwy but it was still a very good ride. The planned route was on mostly gravel roads and I'm not really set up for that. With my trailer and extra weight, I have a more difficult time keeping traction with the rear wheel on gravel. Riding on asphalt is much easier for me. The hwy was also much less miles than the planned gravel route. We were expected at the home of Warmshower hosts in Clinton. We got to town earlier than expected and headed to Walmart to pick up supplies we would need for our ride on the KATY trail. The temperature had climbed into the 80s and Chris also needed a pair of shorts. 

Parked outside Walmart- Clinton, MO

Orange safety cone lifting the rear of the trike

Chris working the tire wearing his new shorts.

As we left the Walmart parking lot I had a rear wheel flat. My first flat tire of the tour. I used my trusty orange safety cone to raise the rear wheel off the ground. I was also very happy to have Chris' help with the repair. We found a gash on the inside of the tube close to the valve. It seems that my rim tape has sunk into the spoke holes that are closest to the valve hole. Although the rim tape isn't ripped the tube still was affected. I put electrical tape over the rim tape and will need to get that rim tape replaced. The tube gash was big enough that I used a fresh tube instead of patching.

Video of ride from Bolivar to Oceola to Clinton, MO

With the repair complete, we headed to our Warmshower's hosts. We were their first guests! Ben and Jessica had a comfortable downstairs area set up for cyclists. There was a bowl of snacks and another with hotel shower/shampoo samples. They prepared a delicious meal for dinner. I loved meeting little baby Moriah and puppy Penelope.

Jessica with sweet Moriah

Tomorrow, Chris and I head to the start of the KATY trail.