2004 Illinois-Missouri Tour

The idea was floated for a circular tour, taking advantage of our proximity to both of Adventure Cycling's TransAm route and Great Rivers route. Earl Crowe of Owensboro and Rick Holeman of Madisonville — veteran cyclotourists of the self-support bend — were the original planners; yours truly (Duc Do) jumped on board in an idle moment in the wintertime. Dickie Swift of Livermore decided to join the intrepid band of wanderers to test that mettle forged of countless hours torturing himself in the gym.
In late May 2004, starting in Marion, Ky., we follow the TransAm route westbound into and across southern Illinois and into the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks, going as far west as Pilot Knob, Mo. We then hook up with the Great Rivers route and circle back through southeast Missouri, crossing the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, and cutting across the southern tip of Illinois to return to our starting point at Marion.
The itinerary calls for a seven-day self-contained trek of about 480 miles. But tired of keeping an eye on the sky for the incessant thunderstorms spawned by a stalled front, we combine the last three days into two long days and arrive back at Marion a day early, for about the same mileage.

  Under a beautiful early summer sky, the cycling foursome (Earl Crowe, Dickie Swift, Duc Do, and Rick Holeman) is ready to ride. The tour starts with a short ride into Marion, Ky., to catch up with the TransAm Route there. Earl leads the pack down the road. Earl and Rick crest the first of many hills on this tour on Ford Ferry Road just outside Marion, Ky. Duc and his choice of mount for the tour: the Litespeed pulling a BOB trailer. The bike is pressed into service for its triple chainrings, and boy, did they ever come in handy on the many climbs throughout the tour. Dickie and Earl framed by the wildflowers of the day: the moth mulleins.  

  Waiting for the state-run ferry to cross the rain-swollen Ohio River to Cave-in-Rock, Ill. Rick shows the strain of his injured knee just 25 miles out! The injury is to a once-surgically-repaired knee so Rick didn't want to chance it. Saying goodbye — Rick goes on the disabled injury list and turns around to head back home. The foursome is reduced to a trio. The first of many meals shared on the tour, at the café in Elizabethtown, Ill., and Dickie gets a new definition of Yes, there are hills in Illinois, both the up and down kinds! Dickie coasts down a short rise on the way to Eddyville, Ill.  

  A long, hard day of heat, hills and headwind and pulling a heavy load take its toll. A short rest along the road before the last push into Goreville, Ill. After a night of camping at Ferne Clyffe State Park, Dickie and Earl leave Goreville, Ill., in the bright early sunshine. The sign says it all on the way to Carbondale, Ill. The notorious Twin Hills within the first few miles on the way out of Goreville give us a preview of what is to come. At Little Grassy Lake south of Carbondale, Ill. Picture taken by Anne Johnson of the Carbondale Bicycle Club, who is out on a club ride with several other members. Dickie greets oncoming traffic in Illinois. It's not the last time he's leaving his scent on this ride.  

  Hoping to repair a broken spoke, we wait for Chris Norrington of Carbondale Cycle Shop to open the shop specially for us (Thanks, Chris!). Waiting for his act of random kindness allows us to sit out a gullywasher in Carbondale, Ill. Nearing Chester, Ill., the destination for the day, Dickie moseys on down CR 5 in Wine Hill, Ill., round-up style. Missouri! We are glad to see the Show-Me State after riding two days to get there. An early morning crossing of the Mississippi River put us into Missouri soon after sunup. Earl and Dickie ride easily in the river floodplain. Unfortunately, the easy riding doesn't last long — the river bluffs await just a couple of miles down the road. No more gentle floodplain! The Ozark foothills rear up and challenge us repeatedly in Missouri. Here Earl and Dickie prepare to tackle a climb on CR N near Ozora, Mo.  

  Spokes Pub & Grill, an appropriate eatery on the outskirt of Farmington, Mo., makes for a nice lunch stop. Ever the dedicated professional, Dickie conducts business by the side of the road. Pilot Knob, only a few dozen miles from the highest point in Missouri, is the westernmost point of our circular tour. Marble Creek in the Mark Twain National Forest offers the perfect chance to soak tired feet. The low traffic and scenery on County Road E in Iron County make for the best riding of the entire tour. Earl and Dickie seemingly walk on the water of Marble Creek just for fun. Dickie and Duc put the trailers to good use and get into the relaxing mode while waiting for Earl. Along the most enjoyable County Road E in Iron County, Mo.  

  The rebuilt covered bridge at Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Burfordville, Mo., is one of only four remaining covered bridges in Missouri. Earl points the way home -- across the mighty Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Mo., with another threatening thunderstorm bearing down on us. Duc gets ready to cross the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Mo., to Illinois. Earl and Dickie are glad to see Illinois across the Mississippi River. The cycling-friendly bridge offers wide shoulders and gentle approaches. Duc poses precariously for a picture. While it's a long way down to the water, there's wide platform on the other side of the railings for the cable support.  

  Just two miles outside of Tamms, Ill., and a mere ten or so miles from the end of the day's ride, we have to take refuge on the porch of a Baptist church to wait out another seemingly-daily thunderstorm. Dickie looks out for traffic early in the morning on the way to Karnak, Ill., and breakfast on the last day out. Disaster averted! An obliging semi driver swings wide to allow the rescue this good-sized turtle from certain doom on the Golconda Blacktop near Elizabethtown, Ill. Dickie and Earl load up into the truck and forgo the last 20 miles on a tough day. Another bike tour is over. When can we do it again? Duc loads up for the long drive home from Marion, Ky.  

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