“Five days, four rivers, three bridges, two ferries,
one hell of a two-wheeled tour in four states.”

The Five-day Four-state Tour
June 2006

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Accommodations | Photos | Statistics

“America is a great story, and there is a river on every page of it. . . . We are a nation rich in rivers.”
— Charles Kuralt, On the Road With Charles Kuralt (1995)

5-day 4-state map Day 1 Day 1 destination Day 2 Day 2 destination Day 3 Day 3 destination Day 4 Day 4 destination Day 5 Day 5 destination With seven states sharing their state’s border, Kentuckians don’t have to go too far to cross into another state. Consequently, it is relatively easy to plan an interstate bike tour from any point within Kentucky. The real challenge is to see how many states one can ride in in a relatively short tour. On that premise, we will set out to do a five-day tour from Western Kentucky that encompasses parts of four neighboring states and have fun doing it. The tour is slated for early June 2006.

Seismic Activities

The tour can also be sub-titled the “All Shook Up Tour” as there is a whole lot of shaking going on where we meander in the New Madrid seismic zone (150 or more quakes a year, though most are imperceptible rumbles deep in the ground). We will come close to the eponymous town of New Madrid, Mo., and cycle by Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, supposedly created when the Mississippi River flowed backward for a time following the famous New Madrid quake of February 7, 1812, purported to be the strongest earthquake ever experienced in the continental US. (Since it predated seismometers and the yet-to-be-devised Richter scale, this claim cannot be quantitatively validated, but various newspaper accounts were used to extrapolate an 8.0 magnitude for the famed New Madrid Big One! The major quake was preceded by several large ones and perhaps 2000 smaller pre-shocks all through the winter of 1811-1812.) We will spend one night in Charleston, Mo., where on October 31, 1895, another earthquake of 6.6 magnitude shook the area and caused a great deal of damage.

How active are the fault lines in the New Madrid area? Here is a real-time depiction of earthquakes within the past six months in the New Madrid seismic zone.

“I’m in love
I’m all shook up
Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!”

— Otis Blackwell & Elvis Presley, All Shook Up, on the All Shook Up album (1969)
“All my daydreams are disasters
She’s the one I think I love
Rivers burn and then run backwards
For her, that’s enough.”

— Jeff Tweedy, New Madrid
on the Anodyne album by Uncle Tupelo (1993)

Geography & Terrain

Starting from Marion in the hills of the western end of Kentucky’s Pennyrile Region, we head north to the Ohio River and cross into Illinois on the Cave-in-Rock ferry. 5-day 4-state relief map The east-west band of hills that marks the southern edge of the Illinoian glacial advance (see relief map at left) and the rugged terrain of Southern Illinois’s Shawnee National Forest provide the challenge while we ride across the southern tip of Illinois. Crossing the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Mo., we soon are treated the flattest stretch of the tour in the flat alluvial plain of the Mississippi Embayment, the ancient upper reach of the Gulf of Mexico (visible as the flat green area in the Missouri Bootheel and northeast Arkansas and bisected by Crowley’s Ridge) before the glaciers came and the ocean retreated south.

Recrossing the Mississippi River on the Dorena-Hickman ferry to the far western tip of Kentucky at Hickman, we ride through the bluffs marking the eastern edge of the river floodplain on the way to Union City, Tenn. North of Union City, the gentle terrain of Kentucky’s Jackson Purchase region treats us to a nice day of cycling on the way to Benton, Ky. On the last day of the tour, we are back into the undulating hills of the Cumberland and Tennessee river valleys, which we cross to arrive back in Marion.

References: The physiographic regions of Kentucky are described on the Kentucky Atlas & Gazetteer Web site. The relief map above is a small portion of the Mississippi Embayment map on Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, and used in accordance with the GFDL.


The fellowship of the wheels consists of: Greg Beachy and Duc Do of Louisville; Earl Crowe and Steve Fort, and Ryan Bartholomy of Owensboro; Dickie Swift and Jesse Tichenor of Livermore; and Rod Tompkins of Madisonville.

Day 1, June 4 — Marion, Ky., to Vienna, Ill. – 76 miles

Route: Marion - Ohio River (16) - Elizabethtown (10/26) - Golconda (16/42) - Vienna (23/65)
The long way: Golconda - Vienna (32/76)

Day 2, June 5 — Vienna, Ill., to Charleston, Mo. – 106 miles

The short route: Vienna - Karnak (11) - Grand Chain (6/17) - Olmsted (8/25) - Mound City (11/35) - river at Cairo (10/45) - Charleston (16/61)
The long route: Vienna - Karnak (11) - Ullin (13/23.5) - Miss river at Cape Girardeau (28/51.5) - Dutchtown (9.5/61) - Benton (15/76) - Charleston (25/101)

Tunnel Hill Trail: http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/Landmgt/PARKS/R5/tunnel.htm

Day 3, June 6 — Charleston, Mo., to Union City, Tenn. – 69 miles

Route: Charleston - Dorena (34) - Tenn. state line (9/43) - Union City (8/51)
The long way): Charleston - Dorena (34) - state line (8/42) - Union City (27/69)

Dorena-Hickman Ferry: http://www.dorena-hickmanferryboat.com/

Day 4, June 7 — Union City, Tenn., to Benton, Ky. – 82 miles

Route: Union City - KY/TN state line (11) - Crutchfield (9/20) - Beulah (17/37) - Hickory (16/53) - Symsonia (14/67) - Draffenville (15/82)

Day 5, June 8 — Benton to Marion, Ky. – 50 miles

Route: Draffenville - Lake City (12) - Frances (24/36) - end (14/50)


Vienna, Ill.
Limited Motel
709 E Vine
Vienna, IL 62995
Budget Inn
1420 State Route 146 East
Vienna, IL 62995
Country Schemes Bed & Breakfast
3220 Old Metropolis Road
Vienna, IL 62995
Charleston, Mo.
Comfort Inn Charleston
102 Drake Street
Charleston, MO 63834
(south side)
Econo Lodge Charleston
310 South Story Street
Charleston, MO 63834
(east side)
Economy Motel
2811 E Marshall (US 60)
Charleston, MO 63834
(in town)
Union City, Tenn.
Hampton Inn Union City
2201 West Reelfoot Avenue
Union City, TN 38261
(west side)
Country Hearth Inn
2009 W. Reelfoot Ave
Union City, TN 38261
(west side)
Hospitality House
1221 W Reelfoot Ave
Union City, TN 38261
(west side, very nice, recommended)
Benton, Ky.
Holiday Inn Express
173 Carroll Drive
Benton, KY 42025
Toll-free: 866-270-5110
(actually in Draffenville)
Shamrock Motel
806 Main St
Benton, KY 42025
(270) 527-1341
Aire Castle Inn Bed & Breakfast
435 Salem Chapel Road North
Benton, KY 42025
toll free: 866-403-2473

Photos of the Tour: 2006 FDFS Tour on PBase.com

Statistics: 383 miles, five days, four rivers, three bridges, two ferries, one hell of a two-wheeled tour in four states!

Copyright 2005-2006 except portions thereof as noted. All rights reserved.
web posted: 10 October 2005
last updated: 24 October 2006