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  • Chris B

Fall Biking in the MidWest -2019

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

September 30 – October 12, 2019

After church, we left Wytheville heading out on I-77 and stopped at Dickie's Barbecue in Beckley, West Virginia. It had been a few years since we ate at one; probably in Raleigh. It was very good and rates in our top ten barbecue restaurants. Meat choices and sides helps them get that rating. They have beef, pork, turkey, chicken and sausage. You have the choice of three sauces and the soft serve vanilla ice cream is “free”.

I-77 and the West Virginia Turnpike is a good route to get to Ohio quickly, but there are three toll plazas and with a trailer, it was five dollars at each one.

In and around Charleston, we crossed the Kanawah River (begins as the New River) three times and ended up on I-64. I-77 continues north into Ohio all the way to Cleveland. We finished off West Virginia traveling northwest on US 35 and crossed the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, home of the Mothman museum.

Our destination for the evening camp was Ceasar Creek State Park southeast of Dayton, just off I-71. This was our third stay at this park in the past ten years. The two previous times were when I was riding the 72 mile Little Miami River Scenic Trail. It runs from Springfield, Ohio to Cincinnati.

The park had thirty-five sites available for non-reservation use. All but a few were occupied. We chose one next to the shower/restroom building so as to be convenient, when we needed to make a visit in the early morning hours.

The day had been very hot (up near 90°) and we were were hoping for a rain shower or cloud cover to help cool it down so we could sleep comfortably in the little A-Liner camper. We did get get some significant dark clouds from suppertime to dark, so with the little 10 inch fan, it was comfortable enough inside.

We had purchased the A Lite 400 camper off Craig's list just a few weeks earlier and had used it the previous weekend camping at Kerr Lake in North Carolina with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. e wanted a small camper so we could pull it with our Nissan Rogue. Last year, we had a Little Guy teardrop and liked it, but it was only four feet wide. We liked the back galley feature of it, but inside the A Liner it is five by six and you can stand in the middle. It's dry weight is around 600 pounds, where as with the Little Guy, we were starting out around 850 pounds. The extra weight capacity gives us a little more cargo carrying capacity. The tongue is long enough that the double bike rack can be attached to the trailer hitch. With the Little Guy, one bike had to be put on a rack on the back of the camper.

The next morning, I got up before sunrise and began breaking camp. Rhonda brought out the little one cup drip coffee maker and we ate egg salad sandwiches with ham. Our destination for the morning was Richmond, Indiana where the Cardinal Greenway ended. I had ridden the section between Gaston and Losantville back around 2012. The distance from Richmond back to Losantville was 23 miles. It was named as the 30th of the currently 31 Hall of Fame trails by the Rails to Trails Conservancy

With driving time, which included going through Dayton, we did not get to the trailhead in downtown Richmond until 10:30. We would have loved to taken a look around town, because it looked very interesting, but it was predicted to be another hot day. There were several buildings near the trailhead, decorated for Halloween. Several had false windows painted on them that looked very real. Another had skeletons climbing up the side. It looked as if they were really into Halloween.

I headed out with two bottles of water and a snack. I told Rhonda that it would likely take me until 1 o'clock to reach Losantville. I was planning to get more water at one of the other trail heads, but as it turned out, only one had a water fountain and it was just two miles out of town.

As I said before, it was forecast to be another 90 degree day and it was right at that when I met up with Rhonda at the Losantville trailhead, four minutes ahead of schedule. She had a shady spot in which to wait and there was a breeze blowing. Back down the trail there was an open area and a gradual grade and the breeze was more like a slight headwind; which was both a blessing and a disadvantage.

In the first years of our fall biking and national park adventures, we generally started right after Labor Day. For the last couple of years, we have waited to the end of September because of the heat.

While waiting in the shade of the trail parking lot, Rhonda had talked to a number of other bikers. One of them told of a general store just down the road in the direction we were headed. It was run by Amish and they told her about a three dollar cold cut sandwich that they made to order. The sandwich contained the choice of two meats, the choice of two kinds of cheese with toppings so desired, that included lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise.

The store had all kinds of discounted products and included a walk-in cooler with fruits, vegetables and drinks. The drinks were thirty cents room temperature and fifty cents cold. I also got a bag of lemon flavored peanuts.

We ate half of the sandwich outside the store in the shade (there was no eat-in facilities). I thought I could eat all of mine, since I just finished a twenty-three mile ride and breakfast was light and at seven o'clock, but I decided to put the other half in the cooler with Rhonda's half.

There was a 11 mile section a little further north of Muncey that ran between Gas City and Sweetser, but as we checked out where it started, we both decided that it was too hot to ride further and enjoy it. We also decided that since there was not a likelihood of a rain shower to cool things down, we would opt for a motel.

Gas City was first known as Harrisburg when settled on May 25, 1867, by Noah Harris. It became something of a boom town when natural gas was found in the area in 1887. The Gas City Land Company was founded on March 21, 1892 and the town of about 150 people changed its name to Gas City a few days later. However, as of 2012 much of the gas is depleted. All the street signs on the main roads were small oil derricks. It was unique, but made for a more expensive way to display the street markings.

The motel was very nice, clean and comfortable. We were up early and after having the complimentary breakfast, we headed up to Sweetser to where the trail began. The sun was just coming up as I headed down the trail back to Gas City for a 11.5 mile ride. On the way out of town I passed a display of a large silver rock that was described on a marker as follows: Here lies the largest silver nugget discovered. It has an estimated weight of 9 ½ tons. It was discovered on the Boucher farm just west of present day Jalapa, Indiana. Pioneer Byron Cook attempted to take the nugget to market in 1894. After 7 days, his team of 12 exhausted mules left here.

From searching the internet, I found that the claim for the largest silver nugget was in the same year, but in Aspen, Colorado and it was only around a ton. The photo with the article showed the nugget to be more than three or four times larger in size than this one in Sweetser. What is the truth concerning this one in Indiana? I may never know.

From Gas City, we drove about 60 miles to Westfield, Indiana just north and outside of Indianapolis so I could finish the Monon Trail that I started back in 2012. It is another Hall of Fame Trail.The 23-mile paved path follows a former section of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway, whose lines formed an X as they crossed in Monon. The railroad adopted the train’s popular nickname, the Monon, as its official name in the 1950s. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad acquired the railroad in 1971, but by 1987 parts of the line were no longer used, including a section that launched the Monon Trail in 1999. The town of Monon itself, located 90 miles northwest of Indianapolis, is not part of the route.

Running from 10th Street near downtown Indianapolis north through Carmel to Sheridan, it follows part of the old Monon Railroad, which once provided a central route from Lake Michigan south to the Ohio River. As one of the only north-south corridors in the state, the Monon became an important supply line for Union troops and volunteers during the Civil War, and later for coal and other freight. Refitted for passenger service after World War II, the Monon shuttled customers twice daily between Indianapolis and Chicago. Along its tracks, as well, the Monon line served five major universities in Indiana—Butler, DePaul, Purdue, Indiana University and Wabash College.

Before long, the railroad became inseparable from the state's identity. It was sometimes called the "Lifeline of Indiana" or the "Hoosier Line." In the 1940s, in fact, some passenger cars even bore the red and gray of Indiana University, and freight locomotives were painted black and gold for the Purdue Boilermakers.

We could not get the GPS device to locate the street off 146th Street where I wanted to start. We finally stopped and asked and found out we were only a few blocks away. The end of the trail was in Sheridan, but I could not find out how many miles it would be. I was guessing around 15 miles.

I got delayed at one point because the trail sign indicated another trail name and after I picked it up again after getting some poor directions, I lost it again in a large sports complex. After some searching and using my phone I found the route and was on my way again; losing about twenty or thirty minutes in the process.

I met up with Rhonda in a town park in Sheridan after logging about 14 trail miles. We ate the other half of our Amish cold cut sandwich, Cheezits crackers, and lemonade from the cooler. The park was very shady, making our lunch break very pleasant.

From Sheridan we headed west to Danville, Illinois and the Kickapoo State Park. It was still quite warm. I had ridden the Monon Trail with the temperature again around 90 degrees.

Thankfully, there was a good amount of shade in the campground. There was not much breeze and some little biting insect was zeroing in on Rhonda. We were wondering if maybe we should have sought out a motel. The temperature gradually backed down into the lower 80s and the fan made it possible to sleep.

I had been having some significant discomfort with my lower left teeth and gums, particularly when I ate. When I brushed my teeth that evening, I saw some blood so the next morning, I called a dentist and had her look at it. She did not see anything inflamed or out of place on the x-ray. Maybe I was being too cautious, but the discomfort had been increasing.

When we returned to the campground after lunch, we packed up and headed west on I-74 pass Peoria to a state park campground outside the little town of Brimfield. The park was Jubilee College State Park. There was a 38 mile trail called the Rock Island Trail that I planned to ride. It ran from Toulan to Peoria. It had been overcast all day with temperature reaching 88°, but was dropping slightly all afternoon. It would have been a somewhat better day for riding than the previous day. It was also good that I was taking a day's break, since I had not conditioned my rear end and I was feeling the previous 47.5 miles.

The campground at the park had about 130 sites, but there were only a dozen campers there. Two sites away from us was a single lady with a little fiberglass Scamp that she was pulling with a Subaru Outback. Beyond her was a very large travel trailer. After they set up, I went over to see if they had and I could borrow a drill and bit so I could make a hole in the corner of the floor in one of the storage cabinets. I needed to run a TV antenna cable through it for the small TV we brought with us; rather than under the door. I decided not to put up the antenna because of the storm that was coming.

The clouds were getting heavy and the predicted front was moving in. Around 10 pm, it started to rain, thunder and lightning. I was praying that the wind would not get too strong. The storm lasted a couple of hours. I had put up a tarp awning with tent poles and ropes and it held well. I was our first time in the camper with rain and it was tested good. We stayed completely dry.

The next morning the skies were very overcast and the temperature was 51°. There was 0% chance of rain for the day.

After breakfast, we headed up the road for about 20 miles to the town of Toulon where the Rock Island State Trail began. On the way, I saw a sign at a driveway saying that they had fresh cider for sale. I quickly turned the car around and pulled into the driveway. As I stopped at a barn out back of the house, a man came out to greet us. I told him I was interested in some cider. We went into the barn and he got me a half gallon out of a cooler. He told me he only had three varieties, one of which was Honey Crisp and I told him they were one of my favorite. He had the apples in small bags. We paid him and put both in the car and headed back down the road. On the way, we took a couple of big gulps of the cider and ate one of the apples together. It was one of the best apples I had had in a long time. Over the next week or so we really enjoyed eating the apples as a part of our snacks.

The sky was changing to partly cloudy and the sun popped out here and there. The wind was blowing around 10 to 12 mph. We left the camper back at the campground, knowing it was going to take two rides to complete the 38 miles.

The trail was in pretty bad shape from the rains and flooding back in May and June and the three days of rain the weekend before. There were soft spots, standing water, and washed out trenches. Thankfully, I would run into stretches with decent trail surface. There also spots where dozens of black walnuts had fallen and almost completely covered the trail. As I started out, there was a sign that said that the trail was closed, I had called a number I found on the internet the day before and the individual told me the trail was passable.

I met Rhonda in Princeville after riding 15 miles and we ate lunch at Ellen's Diner in town. After lunch, I decided to ride another five miles to Dunlap so as to reduce the mileage for the next day.

On the return trip to the campground, we entered the park from the entrance that took us by the site of the old Jubilee College, hence the name of the park. Jubilee College, and the frontier community that supported it, was founded in 1839 by Episcopal bishop Philander Chase. Earlier in his career Chase had founded Kenyon College in Ohio.

Chase still had dreamed of establishing a self-sufficient rural college, and traveled to England first to raise funds for what became Jubilee College in Brimfield, Illinois. The cornerstone was laid in 1839. Fundraising proved more difficult this time, so Chase undertook another tour, this time in the southern states while his cousin Samuel handled operations, his sons Henry, Philander and Dudley handled the farm and sheep, and his daughter Mary ran a small girls' boarding school. The chapel was finished in 1840-1. However, fire destroyed the saw and grist mill in 1849.

This was one of the earliest educational enterprises in Illinois. One of the primary missions was to educate young men to go into the frontier and spread Christianity. After the Bishop's death, the college closed in 1862. In 1933 the college and grounds, then consisting of 93 acres (38 ha), were presented to the state of Illinois. The site has since been expanded to 3,200 acres (1,295 ha) and includes the original Chase residence and church.

As Rhonda prepared supper, I got the antenna hooked up. I was able to tune in 10 stations and we watched This Old House and a couple of re-runs of Home Improvement, before retiring for the night.

Friday morning, we got up as the sun was coming up and it was 43 degrees outside; not sure what the inside temperature was. I had bought a small digital thermometer, but it stopped working. I put on my warmup suit and went out to make breakfast. I got the coffee going as I heated water for oatmeal. I made cheese toast in the frying pan on the propane camp stove. I handed the oatmeal and cheese toast into Rhonda as she was letting the tiny electric heater warm up her clothes before putting them on.

We headed downtown to the waterfront on the Illinois River in Peoria. There were only a few folks around. We walked around the area waiting for the temperature to get up around 55°, before I began the 18 mile ride back to Dunlap where I had stopped the day before. Thirteen miles of this route was the Rock Island Greenway and connected the the Rock Island State Trail.

There was a paddle wheel riverboat docked along the river. It offered day cruises, dinner cruises, and a three day cruise up the river to Starved Rock State Park. There also was a five day cruise down the river to the Mississippi and up to Hannibal, Missouri offered twice during the summer. The passengers would be shuttled to a hotel at the stops along the way since it did not have cabins for overnight stay. At the end in Hannibal, the bus would bring the passengers back to Peoria. It cost about $1100 a person. It sounded very interesting, particularly the part going up the Mississippi to Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain.

I made it to Dunlap by 12:40 and we had lunch from stuff we had in the car. I would have arrived sooner, but I somehow got off the trail before leaving town and it took asking at two different places before I was able to reconnect to the trail. Earlier, I had eaten a granola bar and one of those delicious apples right before finding the trail.

When we got back to the campground, we broke camp and headed north to Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River near Utica. The park only had a few vacancies left and they were just for Friday Night.

The park derives its name from a Native American legend. In the 1760s, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe, was attending a tribal council meeting. At this council of the Illinois and the Pottawatomie, an Illinois-Peoria brave stabbed Chief Pontiac. Vengeance arose in Pontiac’s followers. A great battle started. The Illinois, fearing death, took refuge on the great rock. After many days, the remaining Illinois died of starvation giving this historic park its name – Starved Rock.

In 1835, Daniel Hitt purchased the land that is today occupied by Starved Rock State Park from the United States Government, as compensation for his tenure in the U.S. Army. He sold the land in 1890 to Ferdinand Walther and developed the land for vacationers. He built a hotel, dance pavilion and swimming area. In 1911, the State of Illinois purchased the site, making it the state’s first recreational park. In the 1930′s the Civilian Conservation Corps placed three camps at Starved Rock State Park and began building the Lodge and trail systems that you can now experience here in the park. The park is very heavily visited because of its unique gorges and waterfalls. It is acclaimed as one of the best attractions in Illinois. That's not hard to come by, since the majority of the state is corn and soybean fields.

The morning began cool again. I fixed spam and sweet potato pancakes. We packed up everything and headed over to the main park visitor center a few miles away. We had to park in gravel overflow parking area because the regular parking lot was still dealing with mud issues from flooding four months previously. From the parking lot, we hiked down an interpretive trail to the visitor center and spent a short time studying the exhibits and the history of the area. From there we headed out see the gorges and waterfalls. We hiked about four miles all total, visiting Pontiac, Wildcat, and French canyons. When we got back to the parking lot, it was totally full with more people coming in looking for parking.

We drove a short distance to another parking area, so we would be closer to hike down to St. Louis Canyon and waterfall. We made sandwiches when we returned to the car and had lunch before heading into Utica to check out the L&M canal trail.

Rain was predicted for the late afternoon and early evening. The trail looked interesting, so we both decided to ride from Utica to LaSalle-Peru for a little over nine miles round trip. There was a trail closure sign after about two miles, but we were able to get by with no problem.

The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. In Illinois, it ran 96 miles (154 km) from the Chicago River in Bridgeport, Chicago to the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru. The canal crossed the Chicago Portage, and helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the United States, before the railroad era. It was opened in 1848. Its function was largely replaced by the wider and shorter Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900, and it ceased transportation operations with the completion of the Illinois Waterway in 1933.

In LaSalle, there was an old canal boat that was towed by mules and it took paid passengers on a short trip up the canal for a short trip lasting about an hour.

When we returned to Utica, we loaded the bikes and headed out to a motel so I could see some football and we could avoid the rain.

It started raining a short time after we checked in. We watched the very entertaining Virginia Tech – Miami game (Va Tech won a close one), before going to Kroger to get roasted chicken, potato salad and a vegetable salad mix that was kind of like slaw, and french bread. We even had leftovers for the next day.

Sunday morning we headed east on I-80 beyond Joliet to the Chicago Heights/Park Forest area off US 30 so I could ride the 22 mile Old Plank Road Trail. It ended in Joliet and was paved. It went through the rear of a number of suburbs and beside two big natural areas. The trail follows a Native American track around Lake Michigan that was later used by fur trappers and early settlers. Business interests later acquired the corridor for a plank road. Before they started laying lumber, however, they decided that a railroad was a better idea. The old Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR) line fired up in the mid-1850s and ran through here between East Gary (now known as Lake Station), Indiana, and Joliet, Illinois, until the 1970s. Observers nicknamed it the Joliet Cut-Off because it enabled trains headed west to bypass Chicago. Remaining mileage markers still tell the distance to East Gary.

When the line went out of service, trail supporters realized that the railroad had unintentionally preserved swaths of natural prairie that had never been cultivated. That prairie growth survives along the trail in many places today.

It took us a little longer than it should have to find the start. (I found out later that the actual start was about two and a half miles further east off of Campbell Avenue near Thorn Creek. The trail guide was not real clear. If had done more research and used the Trail Link site on the internet, would have been apparent and made it easier to find the trailhead. There should have been a sign on the main road. I did not get started until 10:50.

About half way, the village of Frankfort, the trail’s physical and spiritual center, comes into view. You’re welcomed by an archway overhead that’s emblazoned with the trail’s name. The pathway runs through the community’s historical downtown with many shops and restaurants within easy reach. A bustling Sunday farmers’ market offers a big variety of locally grown produce and homemade baked goods May through October. I stopped at the farmer's market and took a look around. I bought an ear of corn and a clump of Swiss chard and tied the bag on my handle bars. If I had known it was there I would have suggested to Rhonda to check it out.

On the western side of town, the trail reaches an award-winning arrowhead-shaped suspension bridge, which takes you over US 45. I stopped a little before that and pulled out a protein bar and ate it along with one of those delicious honey crisp apples.

It was after 1 pm when I reached the end. Rhonda and I had a chicken sandwich and the salads from the items we had left over from the previous evenings meal before heading back west on I-80. We took a detour to drive through downtown Ottawa and see what the river walk was like, but discovered it was just a short walking trail and not one of those shopping and entertainment venues one often associates with the term “river walk”.

Our evenings destination was the Johnson-Sauk State Park not far off the interstate outside the little town of Wenucee. The camping area was the nicest one we had stayed in thus far on the trip. It was well groomed with great sites with the best shower/restroom facilities we had seen on this trip. It had close to a hundred sites with only six or eight occupied. Rhonda took the opportunity to take out her clarinet and play some. One couple stopped briefly as they were leaving to compliment her playing and said they wished they could stay and hear more. I told them maybe we could draw a crowd and put a can out for donations.

We cooked the chard and corn together in the same pot and ate it long with stew beef and gravy open-faced style on the French bread from Kroger. It was powerfully good.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed to Dubuque, Iowa through some back roads, where the twenty-five mile Heritage Trail began. We arrived at lunch and stopped at Arby's a few blocks from the Mississippi River for lunch before going to checkout the private campground Rhonda found listed in the Good Sam's camping book.

The Red Barn Camping Resort was actually located across the Mississippi River in Keiler, Wisconsin. The rates started at $37, but the manager saw my little rig and said since we would not use much electricity and it was Monday, he would let us have a site for twenty dollars. We got a great site near the restroom,/showers and laundry. The campground had a nice rec. room and several outside games. There was also a beautiful small chapel on the grounds that looked as if services were held in it on Sundays.

We disconnected the camper and headed off to find the trail northwest of town. It was a perfect afternoon for trail riding with clear skies and the temperature around 64 degrees. It was a twenty-five mile trail and I wanted to reduce the ride for each day. The trail ended in Dyersville. Right outside of Dyersville is where the movie “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner was filmed in 1989.

Along the way and beside the trail, I passed a ski lift chair mounted on a stand much like a yard swing and across the creek I could see the ski lifts on the hillside and at the bottom. Rhonda picked me up in Gaft and we returned to the campground. On the return trip to the campground, we passed the uphill side of the small ski facility called Sunset Resort. When we got back to the campground, I straightened out the car while Rhonda did some needed laundry. The washers and dryers were very reasonably priced and in a clean and tidy room.

The next morning, we drove back to the trail access at Gaft. A mile or so before reaching the parking lot, the trailer came loose from the hitch. Of course I had the safety chains attached, but the bike rack put a small perforated dent in the front of the camper and broke one of the plastic handles used for pulling the camper by hand. As a result of this I discovered that the two inch ball fits very tightly over the hitch and when you go to hook it up it looks like it is down on the ball. I now know that when I hook it up, I need to make sure it is completely down. Sometimes it even takes a screwdriver to move the latching device back so the hitch is in proper place. Rhonda said if it was going to happen, she was glad it did not happen when she was en route to the rendezvous point.

It was still cool as I rode out onto the trail from the parking lot, but it warmed up to a comfortable temperature quickly. When I arrived in town, Rhonda was waiting where the trail began at a street in Dyersville. We made a quick trip a couple of miles out of town to the site of the movie. There were a handful of other tourist there (motor homes) and a TV or radio station crew doing an interview or news story; probably about the new 8,000 seat stadium being build there for the game between the Yankees and White Sox next August. The construction was in the cornfield behind and to the left of the movie set field.

We returned to town and decided to have pizza for lunch. I did a pretty good job of getting stuffed at the Pizza Hut buffet. The waitress even let me take a few of the sugar and cinnamon bread sticks with me to augment breakfast the next day.

The next trail on the slate was the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. It started in Evansdale near Cedar Falls and Waterloo. It is a 52 mile trail that ends in Cedar Rapids. All but a nineteen mile section in the middle was paved. The website on the internet says it is a 67 mile trail that goes to Ely, but the section from Cedar Falls (Hiawatha) to Ely is actually a part of the Cedar River Trail. Hard surface trails make riding much more efficient, with this in mind, I was hoping to do about twenty miles and end up in Brandon. Somewhere before LaPorte, I realized that it was almost 32 miles to Brandon and that would be more than I wanted to do with the thirteen miles I had ridden that morning. I also discovered that the trail bridge over Wolf Creek was closed just outside of LaPorte. I got directions from other riders on how to get into town. I called Rhonda on the way to town to come back to LaPorte from Brandon. We arrive at the trailhead in town at almost the same time.

Rhonda had found a campground in Urbana just a few blocks from the trail in town and I-380. The campground was more expensive that we are use to, but it was very convenient. It would have been a great place for a family to spend a few days. They had all kinds of recreational amenities, cabins, and a small lake.

Rhonda had bought one of those indoor antennas at a thrift shop for three dollars. The box claimed it has a reception distance of 50 miles. It was a flat, thin plastic-like design and about a foot square. The box contained all the components; including a power USB device to help boost the signal. I hooked up to the small 14” TV we brought along so we could get a idea what the weather had in store for us. It picked up about a dozen stations. The antenna I brought with us was cumbersome and required some assembly each time it was put up.

The weather report said the area was in for a big change which included heavy rain and a drastic cool down. Our destination for later the next day, was Jefferson City, Missouri. We hoped that dropping south for a couple of hundred miles might diminish the effect of the weather front.

It was again very cool starting out the next morning. The trail turned back into pavement int the town of Center Point. I reached the end in Hiawatha, which was a part of Cedar Rapids. Rhonda met me at a city park and we headed out of town. We stopped in Mount Pleasant about 75 miles south and had lunch at a KFC. Sometimes it is difficult to decide what to have for lunch. The Pizza Hut the day before was easy and this day I had a hankering for fried chicken.

We drove all afternoon and stopped at Finger Lakes State Park just north and outside of Columbia, Missouri on US 63. They gave us the senior discount and we asked for a site near the restrooms, but none was available. The site we settled on was the closest one out of those in the section we were in.

Rain was predicted for the early morning. I put up the tarp awning to make it better to get out if it was raining. The thunderstorm started around 5:30. Finally, after about an hour it let up a bit, so we got dressed and took down the awning and put a few things in the car. We had stored most of the stuff the evening before in anticipation of the rain. We GPSed the McDonald’s and head in that direction.

The final trail I wanted to do was the second half of the Katy Trail. It is a 238 mile trail that transverses the state from Clinton to St. Charles. I had already ridden the first half and wanted to finish it. After McDonald's, we went to Walmart to get the new tires (6,000+ miles) rotated and balanced and pick up a few things. One of the things was a ratchet strap to stabilize the bike rack better. The one I had kept loosening up, allowing the rack to sway a little from side to side.

We went by the visitor's center and I got a contact number for the Katy Trail office. I called them and they said there were two new blockages with no recommended detours. The rain was expected to last for about thirty-six hours so the trail would be soft, especially where there were repairs from the late spring and early summer flooding of the Missouri River. I did not want to wait for almost a week for it to dry out a little to be decent to ride, so we decided to head back east. Before leaving town, we stopped at a Bandana's Barbecue restaurant and had some very good beef and pork. As most barbecue places these days, you get the smoked meat and have a choice of sauces on the table.

We drove in the rain all afternoon and stopped in Illinois east of St. Louis and found a motel near O'Fallon, Ill. The ride through St. Louis was hectic with the rain and heavy traffic. It rained throughout the night and there was a light drizzle as we left the next morning.

We drove out of the rain before reaching Louisville. I wanted to ride a trail that started downtown and followed the Ohio River for several miles, but the rain was catching up with us, so we just did a quick tour. While riding around downtown, we saw that the Riverfront Park had preliminaries going on for an Iron Man event. There were a number of folks with some real high dollar bikes. It was predicted that rain was still on the way from the west and so it was likely they were going to have some real wet competition.

As we drove toward Lexington, we were searching for a campground. Since we planned to go south on I-75 toward Knoxville rather than continue on I-64 into Ohio and West Virginia, we decided to stop in London and stay at the Levi Jackson State Park. We had stayed there previously in 2011 after biking a number of trails in Ohio.

It was Friday evening and the campground was almost full. We lucked out and got a site near the shower/restroom building. There was lots activity with kids riding bikes, dog walkers and people sitting around their campfires. The rain was predicted to catch up with us during the night. We again put away as much as we could before retiring for the night so we would be ready to break camp in the rain, if needed.

Yes, it was raining early and we headed for Bojangles after moving things to the car and folding down the A Lite, which we are calling the “Cha-lA”, a play on the alpine chalet.

We arrived home by 2 pm and began the job of unpacking, which included sorting out what needed to be set aside to dry. We were very pleased to have stayed dry in several significant rain events and the overall use of the A-Liner camper. It being light, allows us to have an option for camping when we do not want to use the truck and travel trailer or just a tent.

Trail Ride Info:

Cardinal Greenway, Indiana 24.5 miles

Monon Trail, Indiana 14.5 miles

Rock Island Trail, Illinois 38.0 miles

I&M Canal Trail, Illinois 4.6 miles

Old Plank Rd Trail, Illinois 20.3 miles

Heritage Trail, Iowa 26.0 miles

Cedar Valley Nature Trail 34.0 miles

161.9 miles

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