top of page
  • Chris B

Midwest Biking - Fall 2018

September 16th – October 6th

Of the three states remaining in which I haven't ridden a bike trail, two were on the slate for this trip. One in North Dakota and one in Montana. We waited until mid-month hoping for cooler weather. Two years ago, on the trip to Oklahoma the heat really got to us.

For this trip, we decided to look for another teardrop camper to avoid driving the truck and pulling the travel trailer. Rhonda has little desire to pull the larger unit and it limits our maneuverability. We found a eleven year old, four foot wide teardrop camper made by “Little Guy”. The teardrop I built in 2010 was to heavy for the Nissan Rogue. Loaded, the Little Guy weighs 840 lbs.

In the time between purchasing the Little Guy teardrop and our departure, I made some upgrades and modifications. In the area of upgrades, I added two LED lights, one in the galley and one in the sleeping area. I also installed two electrical receptacles in the same areas. The wiring was connected to an exterior plug that I connect to the campsite electrical box.

I added a small 8” shelf across the front inside above our heads. We use it to hold reading materials, flashlights, glasses and such stuff we want to keep handy while we are inside. It also provide a place to mount the small wired LED light. The camper came with a small cabinet across the back above our feet. We primarily use it to put our clothes for the next day.

I also removed the spare tire to give more room for the bicycle that is racked on the hitch attachment I had added when using the homemade teardrop. I made a new mount for the spare tire over the tongue and slightly under the slant of the camper body. Before it was parallel to the tongue and further forward now it is over the tongue and further back.

I added a paper towel rack to the galley lid and put a partition between the sleeping area and the rear; making for a small storage area. One more addition was that of a light weight receiver to allow the use of a bike rack in the rear.

The remnants of Hurricane Florence was moving in our direction with lots of rain in the forecast. Thursday and Friday were beautiful days and it would have been great to have left then, but I had to lead our Sunday school class lesson. I had already swapped off some of the Sundays that we would be gone, so I did not want to impose on the other leader.

After returning from church in town, we finished loading the car and had lunch. We were on our way by 1 pm, with a destination beyond Knoxville. We stopped at a Love's truck stopped before leaving Virginia to fill up on the slightly cheaper gas Virginia has over a number of other states. While there, I decided to go across the scales to check our vehicle weight. It was very close to the maximum weight recommended for the vehicle. When Rhonda told this to her brother in an email, he responded by saying that we may have to take turns eating.

We drove in light rain pretty much all the way to Crossville, Tn, where we stopped for the night at Cumberland Mountain State Park. There had been a few breaks in the rain here and there. We stopped at a Taco Bell before going into the park a few miles down the road. The rain had stopped and we set up and relaxed reading and doing crossword puzzles.

I had rigged a mount on the roof rack of the camper to put a short piece of PVC pipe for a TV antenna. The antenna I had was supposed to be a super duper, but I could not pick up a single station on the 19” TV I had bought new at a flea market for $40. We were between Knoxville and Nashville so I thought surely I could tune something in. I checked the connections, rotated the antenna and re-scanned, but no avail. I finished the evening with a few crossword puzzles.

I had checked the homemade bike rack several times to see how it was holding up. On a trial run a week before, the bolt holding the cross bar had broken and the bike and cross piece had fallen off. Fortunately, it was in a friends driveway and there was nothing harmed.

At one of the stops, I noticed the top bar was leaning and the bolt was slightly bent. The weld I had tried to make, had broken loose. Later, when I stopped, I decided to remove the two wheels from the bicycle to reduce the weight and strain on the rack.

Monday morning, we left the campground early and ate breakfast at Hardee's. There was no system to pay for the site like most campgrounds. Most have an envelop to fill out and drop in a box or slot along with the payment. The campground host said I would have to wait for the staff to come in at 8:30. We were out and gone by 7:30 and did not want to wait. We had to get the rack fixed and make some more miles.

We found an all purpose automotive service center and they welded the rack and we were on our way after about an hour and forty dollars lighter.

It was a long day on Monday. I drove all the way to Alton, Illinois on the east side of the Mississippi River, up river and across from St. Louis. It was 90 degrees at 6 pm, so we decided that it was going to be too hot to try to sleep in the Little Guy even with good screens in the doors, a roof vent and a small fan.

We found a reasonably priced motel and got ready for the first ride for the next day. The trail was the Sam Vadalabene Great River Bike Trail. It was twenty miles along the river from Alton to Pere Marquette State Park. Much of the trail that hugs the Illinois shoreline follows the Alton-Grafton section of the Illinois Terminal Railroad, which ran interurban lines in western and central Illinois. This section served residents along the river from 1896 to the 1950s.

Arriving at the trailhead, we saw the Piasa Bird overlooking the parking lot. The giant painting on a limestone bluff is a reproduction of an American Indian petrographic that settlers discovered nearby. I prepared by putting the wheels back on the bike and discovered that the bolt that holds on the rear derail-er had fallen out and I did not have anything that would work in its place. I put the bike back on the rack and took off on Rhonda's bike. It didn't fit me as well as mine, but at least it served as a backup.

I met up with her again in the town of Grafton where she was sitting on a bench in the shade. She had walked the short few blocks where there were shops, but nothing was open. I soon was back on the trail and passed the location were the Illinois River came into the Mississippi. The Illinois flows out of Lake Michigan through the state to that point.

At the state park, we met up again. Pere Marquette State Park is the largest park in the state’s system. Named for the first European to set foot on Illinois soil, the park is known for its scenic overlooks, American Indian burial mounds, autumn colors, and winter population of bald eagles. There was a great display inside of the bald eagles and even a eagles nest where you can have as a prop to take a picture with you inside.

Inside the visitor's center was air conditioned and there was a water fountain with wonderful, cold water. It was already near 90 degrees outside. There were high school agriculture students there from a number of the area schools on a forestry field trip. A test had been distributed after their time in the woods. I asked one of the teachers who was at the picnic table where I was resting, if I could see one of the tests. It was multiple choice and I was able to answer quite a few of the questions.

Rhonda had seen a restaurant on the river down in Grafton that advertised hot fish sandwiches in several varieties. We headed down that way for lunch and had a very good sandwich. There was so much fish that we could have and should have split the order. Before leaving the area, we went back to the visitor center for a restroom stop and some more of that good cold water.

Our next destination was the Des Moines, Iowa area. I had found two bike trails to do; one of which was featured in the Rails to Trail magazine. Des Moines was on our way to our destination goals in Minneapolis, Mn. We took highway 16 and just before crossing the Illinois River, I spotted a road side business advertising peaches and fresh apple cider. I made a quick left turn into their gravel lot. The cider was unpasteurized and the two peaches were firm and very tasty.

We crossed the Mississippi at Hannibal, Missouri. It was the location of Mark Twain's boyhood home, the setting for two of his novels, and the present day museum. From there, we continued northwest. Rhonda found Lake Keomah State park with camping on the map in Iowa outside of Oskaloosa as we were working our way to Des Moines. We ran through a small rain shower before our arrival. We had a bit of trouble finding if, even with the camping directory, atlas, and the GPS.

There was no campground host on site, but there was a self registration Kiosh. The rate was $16 for an electric site. There were about 40 sites and only five were occupied. It was a very neat facility including the restrooms and showers. For supper, Rhonda fixed a mac and cheese with shredded beef concoction along with green beans, a fresh sliced peach and apple cider. I tried the TV again. The scan found four stations, but none of them were viewable.

The next morning I got up first and made a breakfast of eggs, fried bologna and grits. Rhonda exited the camper just as I was setting the (picnic) table.

After doing the dishes and a little packing up, we headed to Martensdale, Iowa to the Great Western Trail. The GPS did not direct us right to it so we stopped by the post office of the very small town to ask for its location. The postal worker lived in another town and was not familiar with the trail, but she willingly researched it on her Smart phone and we were soon down at the trailhead across from the football field.

The trail ran 16.5 miles to the Water Works city park in Des Moines. It was very overcast as I started the ride, but the sun peeked out several times along the way. I, again, was riding Rhonda's bike since I had not had a chance to locate a bike shop to find a bolt for my derail-er bracket.

Rhonda was waiting in the park, but we had to talk by phone to re-connect. I was at the trail end and she was at a parking area less than a hundred yards away. We had sandwiches at a picnic table. We discovered that the park was being use a brief stopping spot for a big bike event.

After lunch, we found bicycle shop and had the derailer remounted. They did not have the bolt that was made for my Trek, but found something that got me back riding.

Rhonda found a federal Corp of Engineers campground on Saylorville Lake called Cherry Glenn, but when the campground guide led us to the dam and we did not see any sign indicating there was a campground, we decided to go to the one our 2013 campground directory said was closed after Labor Day. We found Acorn Valley campground and it was open. We paid the eleven dollars and found a shaded campsite. We were concerned about the temperature, but it started cooling down. With the small fan, we were able to sleep comfortably.

Thursday morning, we headed across the lake to the town of Arkeny to the High Trestle trail. On the way, we saw signs for the Cherry Glen campground. We sort of wished we had found it the day before. It would have save us some time getting on the trail.

The High Trestle trail was 25 miles long and ended in Woodard. I had read an article in the Rails to Trail magazine about it when it was featured as a “Trail of the Month” in July 2016. The trails main feature was the trestle over the Des Moines River with special metal work that was added in its reconstruction. “Like the entrance to an alien star ship, the fantastical channel of blue lights along the signature bridge of central Iowa’s High Trestle Trail beckons curious travelers to explore. Wrapped in 43 twisting diamond-shaped steel ribs lined with LED lights, the bridge is meant to elicit the sensation of traveling down a mine shaft, a nod to the area’s coal mining history. Towering 130 feet above the Des Moines River, it is just as impressive in daylight, providing an ever-changing picture of the scenic river valley hung with an elaborate frame.”

We looked for a cafe in Woodard , but Rhonda mentioned that she had seen a barbecue place back in Slater as she was driving from Ankeny to Woodward, so we headed that way. The restaurant was called B Fabulous Barbecue. It had a great menu to select from. We got the sampler with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked turkey. It came with corn bread muffins and we added broccoli slaw and barbecue baked beans. There was a shelf down by the condiments that had nine sauces for mild to very hot. There was one like the South Carolina mustard recipe, the North Carolina vinegar base and the Alabama mayo style. There was one called “Burnya” and one labeled as “TPTP” (today pleasure – tomorrow's pain.

After consuming the absolutely delicious fare, we topped it off with banana pudding. Rhonda said it might have had cream cheese in it; so it was like a banana cheese cake. The whole meal got a rating in the top 10 of barbecue places we have eaten at.

The owners, Deanna and Billy, had a board in the lobby describing their special mission of helping the people in Haiti in the form of sustainability projects. There was a donation box, some photos of them in Haiti and statement that a portion of their profits went to the special mission.

We headed north toward Minneapolis to cross off two things on our to-do list. There was a very significant cold front coming in and a severe associated storm was forecast for around 6 pm. Again, we opted for a motel since they were calling for heavy rain, high winds, and thunder and lighting, and the likelihood of tornadoes.

In an effort to keep our lodging cost low, we chose a Motel 6 in Lakeville just off I-35. It was bare bones, no refrigerator or microwave in the room and no breakfast. Fortunately, there was a McDonald's across the parking lot. There were several other issues and our opinion of Motel 6 declined. We had stayed in a rather nice one in Bristol when I had my first cataract surgery, but this one did not measure up.

The storm came and went pretty quickly. Several towns south of us got hit harder and had power outages and some tornado damage.

The next morning, it was still heavily overcast, drizzly and windy. The temperature was not expected to get out of the 50s. It was such a drastic change from the 90s we'd been experiencing. We found a Menards a few miles away and spent and hour looking around. It was similar to Lowes and Home Depot, but quite different.

Afterward, we drove to The Mall of America in Bloomington. It opened in 1992 as a huge retail experience and tourist attraction. The site was the former Metropolitan Stadium where the Minnesota Twins and the Vikings played until 1982. The mall has the home plate in its original location and a seat where hall of famer Harmon Kilebrew hit the 520 foot home run in 1967.

It hosts more than 400 events a year, like concerts, celebrity appearances and fashion shows. Each year 40 million people from around the world visit the mall. It is the largest in terms of floor space, fifth in North America in leaseable space and twelfth in the world. It encompasses 96.4 acres with 530 stores on threes levels with restaurants, a cinema, and of course, there is the amusement park in the center. Before leaving, we took a ride on one of the roller coasters, just to say we did.

We had already found a campground on the southeast edge of Minneapolis in Burnsville. It was on the side of town we were going to the next day (Saturday). One of the items on the addenda was to ride the Mid-Town Greenway, which is one of the Rail-to-Trails hall of fame list. With that ride, I will have ridden all 32 current HOF trails. The last two that were added I had already done in the past prior to being named (one in Indiana and one in Louisana).

The campground was very nice and had a number of amenities. The camping directory listed it with rates in our normal price range. When we arrived, we discovered it was higher than we like to pay but didn't want to spend the time and travel to go somewhere else. Our Good Sam's camping directory is five years old. I guess it is time to get another one.

By dark, it most of the sites were occupied. Friday and Saturday are usually always the nights you are taking a chance if you do not have reservations in some areas and times of the year. Sunday, is normally the best chance. I went on and called our next destination. They had only a few sites left for twenty dollars and they were non-electric.

I used the internet and a map I had printed to locate the western start of the trail south of downtown (midtown). We used the GPS to locate a small shopping center to park the car and camper close to the trail. The trail was at the end of a short street right behind the Whole Foods store and we were soon on our way east to ride the five and a half miles down to the end next to the Mississippi River.

For most of its distance across the city, the corridor is grade-separated from the street grid, either in a gorge passing under bridges carrying streets overhead, or on a levy with traffic passing underneath it. This offers barrier-free bicycling that can make cross-town trips faster than going by car. To the west, the Greenway connects with paths around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and the Southwest LRT Trail extending to the western suburbs. To the east, the Greenway connects with paths along the Mississippi River.

The Greenway serves a very ethnically and economically diverse community. All the way across Minneapolis the Midtown Greenway runs parallel to nearby Lake Street, a commercial strip with hundreds of retailers, restaurants, and other businesses. The Greenway trails are plowed in the winter, lit at night, and open 24/7. Several thousand people use the Greenway each spring, summer, or fall day, and hundreds of hearty cyclists and runners use it each winter day no matter how cold or snowy.

The Saturday morning temperature was perfect for riding. As we rode, we saw runners, walkers, bikers, inline skaters and skiers, and parents pushing strollers. Most of the trail had three lanes with east and west bound bikers and a lane for pedestrians.

When we got back to the shopping center we decided to try out a restaurant call Noodles and Company. From the name, you can make a good guess that they offered a variety of noodle dishes. Various kinds of mac and cheese was a prominent item. We got a steak stroganoff dish, a nice salad and a bowl of tomato basil soup. The portion was generous and the prices very reasonable.

From the Minneapolis area we drove 130 miles north the Brainerd and Baxter area, arriving around 3:30. We did not have directions where the original trail started and the new extension to Crow Wing State park began. We went to the library and one of the staff members looked up a map of the trail. I finally figured out a starting point and headed out of town on the bike. Rhonda went to Walmart for some supplies and then would meet me at the park.

It was about ten miles to the park campground. On the way, I crossed the Mississippi by going under a highway bridge on the eastern side of the river, crossing the river on a partitioned off bike lane and then back down the other side on the west side of the river.

I arrived at the park and went down to the reserved campsite, but Rhonda had not arrived. I was a little concerned, because it had been an hour since we had parted. When she had arrived she said the store way very busy. She hadn't stopped at the entrance to check in so I rode the bike back up to get our site permit. I discovered when I got there, there was also a vehicle entrance fee. The site was twenty dollars, the reservation fee was ten dollars, and the entrance fee was seven dollars. I told the attendant in the office that it was absurd and ridiculous to have to pay $37 for a non-electric site. We had stayed in a very nice state park in Missouri a few night before for $16 and it had electricity. Most parks do not charge the entrance fee if you are paying to camp.

Sunday morning, I fixed a good breakfast of corn beef hash, eggs, toast, and a fruit cup. After breakfast, we drove to Pine River where I had stopped riding in 2007. It was suppose to get up to 65 degrees, but it never got above 55 and it was heavily overcast all day. I rode thirty miles to Walker and met Rhonda in a parking lot on the edge of Leech Lake.

We debated where to get a motel room or camp because there was rain in the forecast for the overnight. After calling a couple of places, we decided to checkout a very well-kept RV resort north of town. It had wifi, cable TV, a clubhouse and very nice showers and restrooms. The off season rate was less than half the less expensive hotel we called.

I had asked in town about a bike shop. My rear brake cable had gotten worse and there seemed to be some resistance in the sprocket or derailer. They gave me the card of a man that had a bike repair shop in his basement. He had run a bike shop in town, but decided to reduce his overhead and not be committed to store hours. I gave him a call after supper to see if I could bring the bike by the next day. He said “how about 11am” and I said I was hoping to get some biking in if it wasn't raining. He responded by asking if I could bring it by then. I said sure. He change out the rear brake cables and housing, trued the wheel a little, put on a new chain (which was badly needed), cleaned up the cassette (rear sprockets) and worked on giving me a better solution to the derailer bracket bolt that was put on in Des Moines. He only charged me $37.59 for parts and labor. I tried to give him more, but he would not take it.

While talking to him, I found out he was a professional musician. He primarily played the guitar, but also play ten other instruments. He had a concert scheduled for the next week with a violinist. He recently put out a CD of instrumental hymns. His name way Paul Nye. On his card he had “Paul Nye (the bike guy).

The next morning, after a good nights sleep and only a few sprinkles, we went into town and ate a good breakfast at the Outdoor Sportman's Restaurant. It looked like the rain was going to hold off a bit. The forecasters were saying it was going to start around lunch time.

We went back to pick up the bike, returned to town and began riding. I rode eleven miles to La Porte, where Rhonda met me and I decided that maybe the rain would hold off a little longer, so I rode another six miles to Guthie. The next leg was to Bemidji; the end of the trail, but it was 19.5 miles with no towns and only one road crossing in between.

We returned to the campground and I paid for another night. We had lunch in the clubhouse and then drove to town to look around and browse the stores and shops. I stopped in a Ace hardware to get a piece of rubber tubing to put on the bike rack bar to hopefully protect the brake cable from damage. It started to raining steadily around 1 o'clock and rained steady all afternoon.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the clubhouse reading. Before supper, I decided to put up the 10 X 20 nylon tarp and poles to cover the camper so we could get in and out without getting wet after taking our raincoats off. Also, since we normally left our shoes outside, this would keep them dry. For supper, we drove into town and ate at a restaurant that served walleye. It was battered in a beer batter and was very good. We had been wanting to eat walleye ever since we got into Minnesota. It is a popular game fish in the northern midwest.

The next morning we used a hot plate in the clubhouse to heat water for oatmeal and then took down the wet tarp and put it in a large trash bag and racked the bikes. It was still overcast as we headed back to Guthre. The rain had stopped early the evening before.

The ride to Bemidji was a little over twelve miles and there was another seven miles to the state park. I met Rhonda at the park entrance and we headed back to town to get lunch. I had a hankering for Asian and we found a Chinese restaurant on Main street. It was one of those typical little places you see in strip malls; all having the same menu on a place mat size sheet of paper. We split chicken chow mien and fried rice along with egg drop /wonton soup mixed and an egg roll on the side. We got quite full.

The car was due for an oil change and tire rotation, but neither of the shops in town could get to it until the next day. I went back to the first one I had inquired to see how early the next day they could do it. He checked his appointment book and told me to come back at 4 o'clock. One of the customer's cars was waiting on a fuel pump so he could work me in. We walked around the two blocks of retail businesses in the downtown to pass time until four. Like most small towns, the majority of the retail businesses and restaurants were out on the main highway that came in town.

The town sits on the edge of Lake Bemidji. The lake is a glacially formed lake, approximately 11 square miles (7,000 acres;) in area, located less than 50 miles (80 km) downstream from the source of the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca It both receives and is drained by the Mississippi

The Beltrami Historical society accounts that Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statutes were commissioned to be built in 1936 and were unveiled January 15th 1937. Ever since, the 18 foot lumberjack and his faithful ox have christened the south shore of Lake Bemidji with their presence. The Bemidji Chamber of Commerce documents that "As some stories go, the idea of building a giant statue of the town’s lumberjack son was conceived over sharing a pint (or two). 737 man hours, and 2.5 tons later, a national tourism legend was proudly born. After more than 50 years of towering Lake Bemidji, the statues were officially honored by the National Parks Service as a cultural resource worthy of preservation, adding them to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are recognized as the second most photographed roadside attraction in the nation.

The service station owner said that a lot of ice fishing takes place on the lake and last year the ice was four feet thick and that they had to add extensions to the augers that drill holes in the ice.

We decided to stay at a motel since the next mornings low was going to be in the thirties. We found a nice Super 8 motel near a Hobby Lobby and an Applebees. We use a rewards card from our credit card account to pay for a great supper and got a pretty good breakfast at the motel the next morning.

After breakfast, we headed west on US. Highway 2. The highway is the north-most numbered US highway and runs 2,571 miles from Houlton, Maine to I-5 in Everette, Washington; with a missing section from Rouses Point on US 11 in New York to St. Agnace on I-75 in Michigan (through Canada). It read a story one about a man and his son that biked the entire route together. I also thought it would be an interesting trip to pick a US highway and travel it end to end writing about and photographing its highlights, history and special places like Route 66. Tom Brokaw did a documentary in 2010 on US highway 50, traveling from Ocean City, Maryland to Western Sacramento, California.

Our destination for the day was Grand Fork, North Dakota to ride the greenway there and add the 48th state to my collection. We stopped at the chamber of commerce downtown and picked up a greenway map of the trails. Afterward we went back across the Red River and state line into East Grand Forks, Minnesota to a state park in town to get a campsite and have lunch.

The state park was Red River State Recreation area. I negioated with the attendant about the fees since I felt I was overcharged back at Crow Wing. There was no reservation fee since I just showed up and I talked him out of the vehicle fee. I'm not sure how he had the authority to make that concession, but I was glad he did.

After lunch, Rhonda dropped me off at the south part of town where the greenway ended. The greenway encompassed over 20 miles of trail on both sides of the river. The greenway was in a large flood plain created after the devastating flood of 1997. There were twelve foot tall attractive concrete walls all along the edge of downtown as a prevention for future floods. After looking around town and visiting the Bass Pro Shop, we went back to the campground and put up the tarp over the camper and started supper.

We discovered that the park had quite a few campers there to help with the big sugar beet harvest that was officially starting on the first of October. The campsite fees were paid by the sugar beet owners while they were there helping harvest and process the beets. One of the workers said once it starts the harvesting, hauling and processing goes on for 24 hours a day until they are all harvested. He said there would be about 700 workers camping around the area until the harvest is complete. We had already seen some of the big trucks loaded with beets heading to the plant.

The next morning, we headed south of Grand Forks on I-29 with a destination of Souix Falls, South Dakota. Our original plans were to drive to Great Falls, Montana to do a bike trail, but after putting the destination in the GPS and realizing that it was 750 miles with twelve hours of driving one way, we changed the itinerary. That's a lot of plains and prarie.

Rhonda saw on the map that there was a structure a little ways west of us that was a described as the tallest man-made structure in America. It was a television tower KLVY in Blanchard, North Dakota. It is 2,063 feet and was completed in 1963. This was the third item Rhonda spotted on the Atlas map that was close by, but we chose not to visit. The first was the American Gothic house in Eldon, Iowa. It was in the 1930 painting by Grant Wood. The second was the Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota.

We stopped in Fargo to check out the biggest sporting goods store in the midwest called Scheels. It was the biggest and most complete such store I have ever visited. It was quite entertaining to see what they had. The bicycle section only sold Trek, but it was a big as any bike shop you've seen.

We drove all afternoon and stopped at the Red Barn campground on the edge of Sioux Falls. It was a mediocre campground that was starting to show its age and lack of upkeep. They had a great internet connection and good price for doing laundry.

The next morning we drove downtown to see what it looked like and had to offer. We also wanted to see what the towns namesake, the falls, were like. It was on the Big Sioux River and very close to downtown. The rock in the river and in the falls are a taupe or pink color. There is a five story viewing tower in the park that surrounds the falls.

The lure of the falls has been a powerful influence. Ho-Chunk, Ioway, Otoe, Missouri, Omaha (and Ponca at the time), Quapaw, Kansa, Osage, Arikira, Dakota, and Cheyenne people inhabited and settled the region previous to Europeans and European descendants. Numerous burial mounds still exist on the high bluffs near the river and are spread throughout the general vicinity. Indigenous people maintained an agricultural society with fortified villages, and the later arrivals rebuilt on many of the same sites that were previously settled. Lakota populate urban and reservation communities in the contemporary state and many Lakota, Dakota, and numerous other Indigenous Americans reside in Sioux Falls today.

Before leaving the downtown, we stopped at the Duluth Trading Company to see what their merchandize was like. They had high quality stuff with a price to match, much like LL Bean. I bought some “Buck Naked” underwear for 12 dollars and it was marked half off. I also got a tube of cedar and fir sented hand lotion.

Our destination for the day was Council Bluff, Iowa right across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska. We stopped for gas and had lunch at the Dutchman Cafe. Good menu, but it was under staffed and it ended up taking an hour to get served and eat. I think there was one waitress and one cook.

The trail I wanted to ride in the area was the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. It was a Hall of Fame trail and was 63 miles long. I had riden a small portion in 2007 between Shenadoah and Blanchard at the Missouri border. As is often the case, it took some searching to find the trailhead. It looked like it was going to rain, but I wanted to get a section done to shorten the rest of the ride for the next two days.

I headed out a little after 4 o'clock to do the 9.6 mile distance to Mineola. Rhonda was patiently waiting when I arrived about an hour later.

From there, it was about 20 miles back to Council Bluffs to a motel. We wanted to camp at Lake Manawa state park, but when I called, I was informed that the campground was closed for repairs.

We picked up a large chef salad and chicken nuggets, before going to the motel.

The Council Bluffs area was rich in history, particularly regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1804, they met with the Oto and Missouri indians at a place called Council Hill or Council Bluff. Sergent Floyd, the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die on the expedition is buried near by. He died on August 20th, 1804. It was a little over three months from the beginning of the trip. Today, it is believed to have been ruptured appendix.

We were back down at the traihead in Mineola after breakfast in the motel. We missed an exit and had a long to take a long way back to the trail.

The next leg was to Imogene, a distance of 23.9 miles. It started to rain after I left the town of Malvern. It was a very light rain at first, but the last eight miles the rain was steady and the temperature was around 46 degrees. I heard thunder in the distance several times. This inspired me to ride faster, but fortunately, it never got closer.

I arrived in Immogene a little after noon and Rhonda was waiting, parked by several large grain bins (they are everywhere in the midwest. There was an old abandoned bank building and the Emerald Isle Bar and Grill (that looked more like a feed or farm equipment store from the outside) and that was it. We went inside to get something to eat and I changed out of my wet socks and shoes. I had removed my rain jacket at the entrance vestibule.

While I was in the restroom taking off my wet shoes and wind pants, Rhonda ordered us two bowls of hot chilli and a cup of coffee for ne. We chatted with the server an another patron the counter (bar). After downing the chilli, the server asked if we wanted a slice of Heath Bar pie. It had a layer of dark chocolate and layer of chocolate silk topped with whip cream and sprinkled with the Heath Bar crumbles. The wedge was about 4 inches thick and was marvelous. They said a lady in the community made it along with the Snickers and Butterfinger pies.

We drove from there to Shenandoah and rode around town. We discovered that a house in town was the boyhood home of the Everly Brothers. We took a picture of the house before going to the motel at the edge of town. It was earlier than normal check in time, but there were only a few cars in the lot. We got a room and watched college football most of the afternoon.

We went back out to before supper to get some frozen dinners and brought them back to microwave in the room. It was still raining steadily. I had chicken pot pie and Rhonda had chicken fettichini with brocoli. I also finished off the chilli from lunch. The Virginia Tech – Duke game was on TV and we got to see other ACC scores from the day.

Sunday morning was foggy and drizzly. The temperature was up to 52 degrees and rain was forecast for midmorning. We went back down to Imogene and I rode the last 8.6 miles back to Shenandoah; completing the entire trail.

Our plans were to stop in Kansas City for some Gates barbecue and head down to Clinton, Misssouri so I could begin riding the Katy Trail which goes all the way across the state to St. Charles outside of St. Louis. I had ridden 60 miles of the trail in 2007. My plans were to ride the 72 miles from Clinton to Booneville where I had started before. Maybe, one day, I can find a willing soul to come out with me to finish the entire 238 miles.

We arrived in Clinton, went to the trailhead and picked up a brochure with a map and mileages. Afterward, we drove eight miles out to Sparrow Foot campground on Truman Lake. It was a Corps of Engineers facility and accepted our federal senior card for a discounted rate. There were two loops of camp sites and there were less than a dozen campers on the sites combined.

We saw the sun for the first time in a week. We spent some time airing out the camper and reorganizing the car.

Monday morning we were back at the trailhead just out of town by a little after 9 am. I met Rhonda in Green Ridge after a ride of 25.4 miles. Along the way there was a small sign that indicated that it was the high point of the trail at 987 feet. Also at the same location was an interpretive sign telling how the corridor of the trail has helped restore a small sample of how the prarie was before all the land was converted to agriculture.

I had some lunch and we chatted with a couple that lived in and had ridden down from Sedalia. The man had a “Ride Across N.C. - 2014” jersey on and we talked about various trails we both had ridden and my dislike for road riding. They said they only rode the highway with groups.

Rhonda drove on to Sedalia, where we planned to meet at the fairgrounds campground. When I arrived, we found a somewhat shady spot and disconnected the camper. After a little rest, we drove over to the depot and then went out to where the trail left town. I rode the bike back to the campground to cut off several miles on the next day's ride. I had ridden over 40 miles for the day. It had been the longest ride since I had ridden the Natchez Trace back in 2014. The dozen rides I had made in the last two weeks helped emmensly in conditioning for a 40 mile ride.

The fairgrounds was huge. It made North Carolina's look like a county fair. The section of campground we were in was called the “inner campground” had more than 250 spaces and was for exhibitors, concessionaires, and special handicapped. There was an outer campground that had 1100 spaces. The charge twenty-five dollars for a site with electricity and $12 without. There were about a dozen other campers there when we were.

There was three long distance riders (riding the entire trail) setting up across from us. They had started in Clinton about an hour after I did and were carrying all they needed for the trip except for food they would buy along the way. Two of them were from Colorado and one was from Utah. They had driven all day the day before to get there. Early that morning, I had seen six men riding toward me and headed to Clinton after riding all the way from St. Charles; probably a five day trip.

There is a organized ride every year in June that does the whole trail in five days. They charge $700 and provide transportation of your gear, a campsite, hot showers, breakfast and supper, entertainment, a tee shirt, and some other support. It is limited to the first 350 entrants. I considered doing it, but two factors came to mind: you have to ride no matter what the weather (heat, rain or storms) and there were a 60, 47 and 50 mile days back to back. This is because it has to be done in the five days.

Tuesday, we got up early and went to Hardee's down the street a ways for breakfast to save time from cooking and cleaning up. I was on the trail by 8:20. It would have been sooner, but we spent some time talking with a local guy driving a small transit bus who had parked at the trailhead. He filled us in on why the trail ended at the depot and resumed out here on a country. Street riding into and through a town takes away from the experience somewhat.

The trailhead on Glessen Road was closed going back into town and from the depot, the trail followed city streets. The man told us that a big company bought the land next to the trail and needed railroad access to the business (plant or factory?). They closed the trail from the active railroad to Glessen Road and the railroad built a spur to the plant, thus the trail had to go to the street. He said lightning struck the structure and burned it down. The owner(s) collected the insurance and left town. It is a shame that the trail surcomed to this. I guess the potential economic value of a sizeable business out weigths the economic impact of the trail.

It was another pleasant morning starting out about 70° with a great deal of shade from the trees that lined the trail. Just beyond the trees were fields of corn and soybeans. We had been seeing fields of corn and soybeans before we left Tennessee. It is almost beyond comprehension of how much of it is produce by the American farmers and we only saw what was along our routes of travel.

As the day before, I met several through riders going west and would be soon ending their trek across the state. When I got into Boonesville, I found Rhonda parked in the shade near the big bridge that crosses the Missouri. She had seen a cafe on Main Street (US 40) adjadcent to where she had parked. When we went in the first thing we noticed was a long table seated with about a dozen bikers. They were having lunch before heading out on an almost 50 mile ride to Jefferson City. I wondered why they waited until the middle of the day to get started.

There was a great variety on the menu and served breakfast, lunch, and, dinner. We split a Ruben sandwich, a bowl of soup, and a house salad. I really enjoyed the food and the rest.

The access to the I-70 ramp south of town was closed due to construction so we had to cross the river on US 40 to the north and then turn east. My plans were to camp near Columbia and ride a 19 mile section the next day. I had ridden the section between Booneville and a little place on the trail called Early. The next morning we planned to try to find it and I would start there.

The campground we stopped at was the Cottonwood RV Resort and just out of town to the north and was a little more expensive than we wanted, but the state park was further north in the opposite direction from the trail. It must have been a significant stop for RVers traveling west on I-70. The couple on our right was on the way back from Oregon and heading back to Massachusetts after dropping their son of at college in Eugene. The couple on the left was from Winchester, Virginia and on the way to the Colorado Springs area to visit their daughter and grand children. The couple behind us use to live in Columbia, but now reside near San Antonio, Texas. They were back for a daughter's wedding and to see their two month old grand baby for the first time.

The next morning we found the trail location in Early on a dirt road and I was soon on the way to the North Jefferson trailhead outside of Jefferson City, the state capital. I met more riders than the past two mornings. There were several Lewis and Clark interpretive markers where they had camped or a significant event had occurred as they went up river around June 6, 1804.

The current was very swift as I looked out on the river. It was hard to imagine the work involved to get the heavy keel boat up river. They used oars and a sail as power At one point, the top of mast was broken off by a sycamore limb when the boat went too close to shore to avoid a sand bar.

In the little town of Hartsville, the kiosh told of how the town was settled in 1842, but was invigorated by an influx of German immigrants in 1877 and in the early 1900's there were two passenger and ten freight trains coming through every day. It was almost completely destroyed during a civil war battle in 1863 and it took another blow from a tornado in 1959.

At the North Jefferson trailhead, I spotted Rhonda from a distance going into the restroom. When I arrived, I parked the bike and plopped down on a picnic table seat across from the restroom. When she came out she did not see me. I figured she did and was just going over to read a information board. I gave her a little time to get a ways down the trail knowing she probably could use the walk to stretch and excercise from all the sitting. She was a little surprised when I came up from behind her on the bike.

After some refreshments, we headed to downtown Jefferson City, which sat on a hill across the river. We rode around a few streets to see the large capital building and governor's mansion and gardens. The Lewis and Clark plaza along with the capitol building was under renovation. Further down the highway, we stopped for gas and lunch. Mid-afternoon we drove through St. Louis and cross the river and headed east on I-64. We were back in the area which we had been in seventeen days and many miles earlier.

There was a state park on Lake Rend south of Mt. Vernon, Illinois off I-57. The campground was very basic. They were getting ready for an early Halloween celebration. Some of the campers had already decorated. There were quite a few sites that had a camper or small tents there but there were no occupants. They apparently were holding the sites for the weekend, since there was no reservation system. I guess they wanted to have a site for the festivities so much that they were willing to pay twenty dollars a night to save it. On the way to the bathhouse, we rode through the loops to see what decoration were already in place. One was quite elaborate with lights and inflatables.

The day had been up to 87° and the evening was only cooling back to the upper seventies. Thankfully, the small fan I brought made it tolerable to lay down inside. We had the windows up in the two doors and I put the fan on the screen of the top vent.

Thursday morning we headed east again with our destination being around the Cinncinati area. We planned a visit to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky. Rhonda found a state park on the map in that area and we set the course on the GPS. We experienced our first real traffic slow down as we were leaving Louisville.

The Big Bone Lick State Park was just 20 miles from the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kty. We arrived at the park in the middle of the afternoon and took time to go down to the site of the mineral and salt springs where prehistoric fossilized remains had been discovered. A sign near the visitor's center stated that the scientific community recognizes the site as the “Birth place of American Vertebrate Paleontology”. The fossilized remains of giant mastodons, wooly mammoths, and ground sloths were discovered there in 1739 and displayed at museums throughout the world. The animals are thought to have been drawn to this location by a salt lick deposit around the sulphur springs. We also hiked over to an area where the park maintains a small bison herd. We saw six adults and several calves.

When we first entered the exhibit area, we were surprised by a plaque that stated that this area was also the location where Mary Draper Ingles and her sister-in-law escaped from the Shawnee Indians in October of 1755. The raid occurred in Draper Meadows near Blacksburg, Virginia. She had been a captive for three months along with her two young sons, her sister-in-law, and two neighbors. Her trip back home took forty-two days.

The next morning we decided to get breakfast on the way to the Creation museum in order to save time. We found a McDonald's about half way there and arrived at the museum just after it opened at 9 am. We spent the morning walking throughout the exhibits and watched a 3D movie based on the six days of creation as recorded in Genesis. It is based on the supposition that the earth is only six thousand years old rather than the 4.5 billion years old and that man came on the scene around 160,000 years ago. One of the many examples of how the geological evolved so rapidly was that of a study of what has happen at the Mt. St. Helens site since the eruption in 1980. It was an excellent museum, but I think they had a bit too much of a exhibit on dinosaurs and dragons. It probably was done to catch the attention and interest of children attending.

We left the Creation Museum and headed down I-71 to the Ark Encounter and stopped for lunch before entering the area. The ark could be seen from the parking lot, but it is about a half mile bus ride to the exhibit. The size and engineering that went into it was amazing. It is the largest timber structure in the world. It is 510 feet long and 85 feet wide. The project cost over 100,000 million dollars to build.

I did some additional research on the internet and found that several controversies arose during its construction and after the opening from atheist and issues regarding church and state, tax incentives and hiring practices. If you don't have a chance to go, it would be interesting to read about both of the sites.,

Our last stop on the trip was the Dawkins Line Trail near Personburg and Paintsville, Kentucky. It was kind of an after thought or last minute addition. I had seen a sign in Abingdon, Virginia a year or so ago announcing the opening of the trail. My friend Brian and I talked about taking a trip to ride it. I decided it would be a good time since it was sort of on our route home.

We found a campground in a state park on the map and put it in the GPS. It was right out of Personsburg. We found the state park, but the signage for the campground was poor or non-existent. It was getting dark, so we opted for a motel again.

The next morning it was extremely foggy in the area. I wanted to get an early start, but wasted a lot of time trying to print a detailed map off the internet and printing it through the motel desk printer. I finally gave up and we headed out to the Hager Hill trailhead.

The last use was a coal-hauling line owned by the R.J. Corman Equipment Company, the railroad corridor was originally constructed in the early 1900s by the Dawkins Lumber Company—hence the trail's name—to transport timber. The trail crosses eastern Kentucky's striking Appalachian region, home to the highest biodiversity in North America.

The rail-trail passes historical coal structures, traverses 24 scenic trestles and the Gun Creek Tunnel, which spans nearly 700 feet. It is also the site of a national forest and state park. I rode the 18 miles from Hager Hill to Royalton. It had a hard packed limestone surface that was in great condition. An additional section of almost the same mileage is soon to open; making it a 34 mile trail.

We made it home shortly after 3 pm after traveling three weeks and close to 3,000 miles. It was another great trip, with some wonderful sights, and plenty of great rail trail riding. Praise God he has blessed us with the finances and good health to enjoy traveling.

24 views0 comments
bottom of page