Closing Thoughts for the 2010 Mission POSSIBLE Tour

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2010

Earlier this week I already saw my first Christmas decorations in a shopping center in Orlando, and then I remembered that Esther, my next-farm-neighbor growing up, had recently reminded me that I had not yet put a summary up on the blog.

Whoops.

So let’s get to it:

The WiFi Pedalers 2010 Mission POSSIBLE Tour Closing Thoughts

Jon and Earline FINAL on 42

I’ll be covering a lot of things in this summary, including:

• The TOP 5 Eating Places that we ran across this past summer.

• The WORST and BEST Bridges we crossed of the 42 bridges we went over (from a TRIKING standpoint!]

• The WORST and BEST Sections of the Mississippi River Trail that we experienced (Remember, there is an MRT on both sides of the river for much of the way south of the Twin Cities, so you may have some different stories to share….we’d love to hear them!)

• GOOD SurprisesBAD SurprisesBEST Views of the Mississippi River, and MORE. Let’s get started!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

First, some things I thought we may not really need, but brought anyway, and used….a LOT:

• Old pair of tennis shoes

• A pair of jeans

• A big, honking LED light…didn’t like the weight, but used the darn thing a LOT

• Waterproof covers for the panniers (MUCH thanks to Terry and his wife from Jannd Mountaineering for their foresight)

• A simple, inexpensive, needle-nosed pliers

• Extra rechargeable batteries and recharger for recharging the cell-phones, GPS, walkie-talkies, etc. when you can’t find electricity!

• The hand pump for the air mattress….it was super-bulky, but my arms got exercise, it was much lighter than a battery pak for blowing up the mattress, and the $10 pump lasted almost all summer (I did eventually strip the plastic threads the end of August).

Some essentials things to bring with you (for summer touring):

• LOTS of suncreen. This became part of our morning ritual, and we STILL turned colors [Earline turned PURPLE!]

• Flat Attack tube juice (LOVE that stuff…probably prevented at least a dozen flats)

• A couple vacuum thermoses each (you’ll need and appreciate the ice that lasts more than 2 hours)

• A (or 2) set of Allen wrenches…do NOT forget this (like I did!)

• Enough tires and tubes for the unexpected (we went through two sets each)

• The ground cloth under the tent (worth the extra effort to protect your tent)

• Bungie cords of a variety of shapes and sizes

• An 50-foot electrical cord with at least a 3-way at the end (it can be small in width/capacity, but you’ll need the length)

• A small fan for the tent at night (Earline says it is the best gift I ever gave her)

• Patch kits for repairing the tent, or the air mattress

• A tarp to cover your bike/trike at night

• Batteries for your various devices

• The full-sized SMV (slow moving vehicle) signs were an excellent choice, especially for night riding. These were seen on various construction vehicles and farm equipment throughout the trip, and it was an easily recognizable and FAMILIAR warning of caution to other vehicles. We got the ones that reflected to 1200, which were up to the current State of Illinois standards, and only a couple bucks more than the 600 foot reflective signs (around $12 a piece). I have seen a lot of “cutesy” smaller SMV signs, more flexible and lightweight, but these are NOT FAMILIAR to drivers. You can avoid the weight of the signs on metal backing by just getting the adhesive signs, and sticked them on some plastic cardboard cut to size.

Okay….NOW, some award giving!

First, the Top 5…okay, Top SIX eating places of the 2010 Mission Possible Tour

Yes, we had great bar-b-q eating in Memphis (and great tasting water!); we found 12 Dairy Queens we took advantage of along the route (but none south of Cahokia, IL…hmmmm, need to call DQ to get that FIXED!); the Happy Hours at Steak and Shake that were a pleasant surprise (and RIGHT on time); places like Cape Girardeau, Baton Rouge…..LOTS of good eating in a lot of towns and cities.

And I can’t move forward before FIRST mentioning all the GREAT meals we had at the homes of the families that we stayed with this summer. Final tally:  we stayed with 14 families (including 3 connections through warm.showers.org). These and MANY other stats, photos and videos are available on the new 2010 Mission POSSIBLE Tour DVD just completed, which will soon available on this web site. Stay tuned!

We can’t really put our favorite eating places in some kind of arbitrary order, because each had a speciality or a characteristic that warrants recognition. So, here are our SIX favorite eating places, in alphabetical order:

Ann’s Trailer in Port Sulpher, LA (had to go thru a couple locals to find this place, but WORTH the effort….HUGE Poor-Boy sandwiches, literally DOUBLE what you expect) Link to our visit on Day 92

Anns trailer

Breitbach Restaurant in Balltown, IA – Excellent customer service. It is Iowa’s oldest restaurant that has AMAZINGLY risen from the ashes TWICE in the last five years (see the February 2010 Reader’s Digest for this great story!) Link to our visit on the night of Day 31

Breitbach Country Inn

Buck’s Restaurant in Greenville, Mississippi (Both…and that’s a rarity…BOTH Earline and I got happy with the GREAT TASTE of the food here.) (We understand that MRS. Buck does most of the cooking….BRAVO!) (AND….thanks to Firehouse #1 in Greenville for recommending Buck’s….you were right!) At Buck’s on Day 77

Bucks Place store front

Cayce Cafe in Cayce, KY (the BEST French Toast I have ever eaten, period, and GREAT prices – if you’re anywhere between St. Louis and Memphis, you need to stop here!) Our morning visit to the Cayce Cafe

Cayce Cafe GREAT French toast

Julie’s Cafe in Albany, Illinois – a great little menu, neat desserts, an excellent view of the river (with supplied binoculars) AND the owner waited on us! (How’s THAT for service!) Lunch at Julie’s

Julie fom Julies Cafe

And last, but not least…..the Royal Family Restaurant in Little Falls, MN – a GREAT little buffet, and good prices, but what makes this place stand out is the HUGE mugs of coffee and hot chocolate that you can wrap your cold Minnesota hands around….EXCELLENT! Our grateful lunch at the Royal Family Diner

Sorry…NO PHOTO! But they are right in the center of town, on the northeast corner of one of the main intersections. They’ve been there for years….just ask one of the locals!

WORST BRIDGES

Tie – Bridge #26 in Hastings, MN and Bridge #39 in Memphis, TN. Well, enough has been said. To review, follow the link through these photos.

#26 – Hastings, MN….this was just a scary, shaky bridge with MUCH traffic, and a narrow, 4-foot sidewalk raised up just 4 inches on the one side. (This biker had to get on the shoulder so that WE could get by!)

Hasting meeting biker

Oh, and a quick note to the Minnesota Department of Transportation:  the following photo shows an MRT sign, but the arrows need to be rotated clockwise 90 degrees. We saw this sign just after we crossed the Hastings bridge, headed north, and we were making a right hand turn to head down into Prescott, Wisconsin. The MRT does NOT go north from this intersection.

Arrows need to be turned clockwise 90 degrees

#39 – Memphis, TN….Okay, you’ve seen the video (if you haven’t, check it out). The DVD even has a LONGER video of this crossing, with a view of the water through the railing…..it is scary.) Now, granted this is an Interstate Highway, I-55…..so should we NOT have gone on it? What other choice is there?

On page 143 of Bob Robinson’s  “Bicycling Guide” book, he has a picture of himself on what looks to be the north side of the bridge, heading west, on the same side that we crossed on, but we certainly did not FEEL welcome. Look at these photos of the entrance and exit of the pedestrian walkway.

(Does Earline look like she’s fussin’? Ah….well, yes….ah….that would be an accurate statement!)

Entering Interstate 55 walkway

Bridge 39 path

Exit for Bridge 39

What was also curious, is that after we took Exit 3 (thank you Bob, for telling us NOT to take Exit 1, and for a working GPS on my phone that CONFIRMED that advice, because it took all that and MORE to convince my nervous-wreck wife NOT to take Exit #1!!!!)….where was I….oh, AFTER we took Exit 3 and took the video of our reactions to that Bridge #39 crossing that is on the DVD, we noticed a couple MRT signs.

As we were sitting on the road that looped UNDERNEATH I-55 just east of Exit 3, one sign was directing us to continue west on the south side of I-55 on a frontage road that would take us into West Memphis, Arkansas.

But the other MRT sign, was sitting on the southeast shoulder of that road underneath I-55, and was facing toward that west, so that you would see it if you were COMING FROM West Memphis. (And there was NO road there, though we COULD see what looked like “off-road” dirt trails in the humps and ridges looking East under the highway).

(Wish I had a picture of this. WAIT! I found one….here it is….)

MRT sign southwest side of bridge

Is THAT the official MRT trail, which I imagine might then take you to the SOUTH side pedestrian pathway of the Memphis bridge? Maybe THAT side is maintained, but with all our gear, going on those dirt trails would NOT have been an option.

Hmmmmm.

So, I guess we took the only option available. I understand that there IS planning taking place to make the train bridge on the north side of this interstate into a PEDESTRIAN bridge, so that would be GREAT!

And now, our FAVORITE bridge….YEA!!!!

#19 in St. Cloud/Sauk Rapids, MN – wide shoulders, scenic view turn-outs, and a wonderful (at least in the direction WE were going) downhill spiral ramp at the end. Link to more photos from Day 14 of Bridge #19, our favorite!

Bridge 19 in St Cloud

Also we enjoyed and appreciated the wide separated lanes of other bridges in St. Cloud and Minneapolis, and even the recently remodeled Eads bridge in St. Louis….the bike lane there was a little narrow, not much over 3 feet, but clean, with several little scenic view turnouts of the river and the Arch. Nice.

Arch from Eads Bridge

Worst routes or sections of the MRT

5. The 2 miles of bike path north of LaCrescent, MN – VERY creepy, narrow, lots of debris, sitting water, AND lots of spider webs. EEWWWW! (and for extra points, try doing this path at night with a dying headlight….you know, just for FUN!…..HA!)

4. The lack of signage along the Illinois side of the MRT, especially north of the Quad Cities. It switched often between roads, and bike paths, and shoulders, and sidewalks, and….ACK!!! Without help and guidance from SEVERAL locals (one couple even personally GUIDED us to the Government Bridge) we would have been completely lost (just keep the river on the right, the river on the right, the river on the right….)

3. The roads in Cass County in Northern Minnesota….cold winters have dealt harshly with roads in this county. It seemed like every ten-twenty feet there would be a crack running across the pavement, with some obvious (but unsuccessful) attempts to fill in the cracks with blacktop, making for a very rOuGh RiDe….oomph!Now, when we would switch county lines, like into Itasca County….much better. Seems to be some obvious financial challenges in Cass County. Hope you can get that fixed!

2. The 10 miles from East Dubuque to Galena, a construction area with cement barricades on the left side of the east-bound lane, and rumble grooves along the right edge (now officially, this road is NOT part of the MRT, but we encountered RUMBLE GROOVES several other places along the route…..so ANYWHERE we encountered rumble grooves, like from Elsberry to Winfield, Missouri)….a smooth blacktop, but a very BUSY road, and just 2 to 3 feet of shoulder with 18 inches of rumble grooves in the middle of that shoulder.

Rumble grooves for closing thoughts

Where do you ride?

NOT fun.

(The ONLY exception to this, of course, where there was, say, an eight foot shoulder, like between Cayce and Hickman, Kentucky, and the rumble grooves were way to the inside edge of the shoulder, so we could ride safely and smoothly outside of that. We LIKED those roads!!!!!)

We LOVE roads like this 1

And finally…..the #1 worst section of the MRT….the 10 miles south of Quincy, IL….many grain elevators along the river, and many semi-trucks supplying those elevators. NO shoulder of any kind on this 2-laned road, and a minimal grassy area to pull off on. A very hectic, unpleasant stretch of road.

But, NOW….

Our FAVORITE sections of the MRT

6. The ride south of Nauvoo, IL. Fairly decent shoulder, not too much debris, and right on the river, with shady overhanging bluff trees on the left, and scenic views of the river on your right (even saw ICE on this 100 degree day on one of the ravines on the left) (there IS a scientific reason…..see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cave)

Between Nauvoo and Hamilton

5. The Natchez Trace (saw 5 deer in 2 days – neat!)…..there is no shoulder, but NO commercial traffic allowed, so very little traffic, truly a peaceful and tranquil ride (well, okay, maybe a little boring!)(after a couple days of trees and, well, trees and, again, trees, we were ready to move on!)

Natchez Trace Earline

4. The Illinois route as it STARTED at Savannah, IL (some areas still under construction), but a separated route for about 10 miles through woodsy areas, over little bridges….shaping up to be a real pretty ride.

South of Savannah

3. The route through the Twin Cities, some industrial areas, but MANY beautiful, woodsy secluded areas, interesting sights and local attractions, AND well signed and maintained.

South side of Stone Arch bridge

2. The ride along the top of the bluffs from North Buena Vista to Balltown and even past Balltown….truly amazing, jaw-dropping vistas

Approach downhill by Balltown

View of MR from Balltown

1. The 6-1/2 miles of 1203 around Bardwell, Kentucky from Hwy 51/62 to Hwy 123; no shoulder, but a smooth road, gently rolling hills, trees overhanging the road, very pretty, and maybe 3 or 4 vehicles the entire distance!…just simply a GREAT, peaceful ride. We LOVED it!

Smooth 1203

And now….

Most UNPLEASANT surprises and the most WONDERFUL surprises about the ride down the Mississippi River (we obviously did not ride BOTH sides of the Mississippi, so I don’t hesitate to tell you about OUR surprises, because I am sure YOU can find MANY more!)

BAD SURPRISES

6. Discovering the only real flaw in riding recumbent tricycles:  slanted or tapered roads (my center of gravity was a little high with Earline’s books on TOP of my panniers!) We both tipped over one time.

5. The coolness, the poor customer service attitude of a certain tourist attendant at the “Welcome” Center in Galena, IL

4. The abundance of rain, which made for some miserable riding, and responsible for the closed ferry at Modoc, IL. This IS the dock…..HA! (And you can SEE the ferry on the other side….c’mon!)

Dock and ferry at Modoc

3. The lack of WiFi, phone service, gps, or even electricity…ACK. Words to the wise: Plan ahead – we got MUCH use out of our little Ryobi charger which kept two 4-volt batteries charged up which in turn could recharge our phone (AND my GPS….that is, WHEN I could get a satellite connection!)

2. The high percentage of devastation of many towns along the entire route—closed stores, businesses, and boarded up homes, indicative of the current economy, especially still in New Orleans, and even MORE especially, Cairo, IL.

1. The truly awful condition of the Great River Road State Park in Mississippi

But now….

….our GOOD SURPRISES!

7. How much BETTER food tasted after being outdoors so much. (yes, even graham crackers, peanut butter, and honey were edible after the 20th time) (we were ESPECIALLY fond of the plums that Philip and Ana gave us from the organic store – amazing flavor!).

6. The CYCLING HOSTEL in Chester, IL, donated by the Local Fraternal Order of Eagles. (Chester is also on a major East/West cross-country cycling route). Way to see a need and fill it…YEA!!!

Chester hostel

5. The ACCURACY of the book “Bicycling Guide to the MRT” ….a huge APPLAUSE to Bob Robinson for the literally THOUSANDS of details that you WILL need to know about the Mississippi River Trail…..close to PERFECT! (the ONLY mistake that I found, besides some expected updating, was the distance between the start of CR X56 by the big church at the west end of McGregor, Iowa, and the turn on Marina Road in Guttenburg, Iowa. The distance listed is 6.3 miles, but my odometer read closer to 17 miles, and I confirmed that on Google maps with their distance measurement tool….they show the distance to be 17.4 miles.)

I also did get really confused north of Rock Island/Moline—couldn’t get the book to match what I was seeing, but I think this was not so much the book’s fault as that of the COMPLETE LACK of signage in Illinois.

4. How long ice will STAY ice in a thermos, esp. a vacuum thermos. Earline had a silver vacuum thermos she brought for coffee, but we soon discovered that it would hold ice for almost 2 DAYS (we called it her “Silver Bullet!”….OUTSTANDING!) However, a sad discovery was that even if we had access to a freezer the night before (which we usually didn’t) the ice just did NOT stay ice very long in our insulated Polar Bottles. I consider these bottle a complete waste of money.

We did an experiment one day, and froze one of the Polar Bottles solid ice, and a Zephyr Hills water bottle solid ice….you know, just the thin plastic water bottle that you buy in paks of 24 in the store. The Zephyr Hills bottle kept ice LONGER than the “INSULATED” Polar Bottle! The only thing nice I can say about the Polar Bottle is that it is a convenient size and shape for drinking liquid, but that’s it. But the THERMOSes….great stuff. NEXT trip (shhhhhhh…..don’t tell Earline)…..we’ll only have the vacuum thermos…absolutely worth the extra weight.

3. The number of CHRISTIAN messages we ran across throughout the trip….the cross at Wycliffe KY, the JESUS IS satellite dish north of Memphis, the HE IS RISEN wheel in TN, the sign in the Family Dollar in Hughes, AK, and others. Christianity is Alive and Well in America…..BE ENCOURAGED!

Decorated wagon wheel

Family Dollar sign

2. THE CAVES…simply amazing!! The cool air on a sweltering day was SCRUMPTIOUS! Link to the CAVES

CAVES

1. The way God “coincidently” SUPPLIED NEEDS (I guess we should have understood this better).

For example, the “Oasis” at top of the Prescott, Wisconsin hill; the tent stake we found at Nauvoo State Park after we had just lost one; funds from the St. Louis church just we we needed them; the delicious brownies from Aunt Joanita and the scrumptious Amish bread from cousin Susie (hey, we had just had 2 days of very hard riding, and these goodies truly “hit the spot!”)….

…..the continued places “developing” for us to stay – from the Roulands at the end of our VERY first day (when Earline was in a lot of pain), to meeting James on the trail, to the pavilions that appeared JUST when we needed them, to the Beech Grove MB church that just “HAPPENED” to appear out in the middle of nowhere when the sun was going down…..

…..the graciousness of Jandd Moutaineering in San Diego, who had the thought to donate waterproof covers for our panniers, which got MUCH use THIS particular summer; the service attitude of Mark Power of Power On Cycling from where we got our trikes….his tubes and tires arrived JUST IN TIME, even the exact day we needed them….

….and it ALL pointed us again and again to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus teaches his disciples AND us that God knows our needs even BEFORE we ask Him!

And we have proof. Period.

BEST VIEW OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER

The roads around Balltown, Iowa, and the view from the old Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky are stiff competition, but the winner here has to be Pike Peak State Park south of Macgregor, Iowa. Truly beautiful!

Pikes Peak 2

Pikes Peak 1

FAVORITE signs along the route

(By the way, this is a good place to mention it….even though Baton Rouge is not officially on the Louisiana MRT route, we went that way because of the invite we had from a Deaf church in Baton Rouge, as well as from the Louisiana School for the Deaf right next to it. And we DID notice that there WAS a Mississippi River Trail SIGN underneath the I-10 bridge in Baton Rouge, right on the levee.

MRT sign by levee in Baton Rouge

There is talk of eventually being able to ride the top of the levee all the way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, so it looks like that plan is being implemented.)

And now our three FAVORITE signs!

3. The Coon and Seafood / “FRESH Coon” sign north of Baton Rouge, LA

Fresh coon

2. Entering and Leaving Watson, Iowa (Less than 10 miles from the MR, we happened to catch THIS sign because of the side trip we took to my boyhood home of Monona, Iowa.)

Watson

And finally, our FAVORITE sign on the MRT…..

1. You have reached the SOUTHERNMOST POINT in LA

Southernmost Point

The PRETTIEST sunset that we saw all summer.

It has to be the one we saw as we approached New Orleans on the levee on the northwest side of the city. The hard rains we endured earlier in the day were NOT pleasant, that is for sure; but the storms DID make for some beautiful, colorful skies.

Levee sunset

And personally, here are my three most favorite memories about the MP tour:

3. Warm showers wherever can find them – after a day of long, hot riding…..I’ll never take warm, clean water for granted again! (esp. the aptly named warmshowers.org web site, just for cyclists – all 3 hosts we had were EXCELLENT)

2. People’s generosity and encouragement – from Pastor Scott and Believer’s Temple Word Fellowship in St. Louis, Pastor and First Lady Williams from Zion Baptist Church in Greenville, MS, all the people of Swedesburg Lutheran Church in Iowa……

……all my various cousins along the route; Sharon Black from Mt. Sinai (the song she left on our voice-mail is ON the DVD!); the lady with disfigured face in Warsaw, Illinois who bought water for us; the man of simple means in Mounds, Illinois who gave us $5; Big Al, who gave us a place to lay our heads at 1am; and ESPECIALLY Mr. Alvin Taylor who was SO gracious in helping to supply our needs; and many, many more….

AND, my NUMBER ONE favorite memory of the Mission POSSIBLE Tour:

1. Listening to Earline sing old hymns as we were riding…doesn’t get any better than that.

Silhouette Earline

And finally, WHY did God have us go on this Mission POSSIBLE Tour?

I can think of several Deaf individuals, and a few Deaf groups that we personally ministered to, any of which might have been THE specific reason He had us go on this trip.

And I can think of several HEARING individuals, among the literally THOUSANDS of people we personally ministered to this summer, encouraging them, boldly declaring without reservation or hesitation, that TRULY, with God, ALL things are possible [see Matthew 19:26]…..any of whom might have been THE reason He took us on this journey.

Or even those individuals who said that this BLOG has personally ministered to them.

Are YOU one of those individuals? If so, would you let us know? You can do it here, and publicly share it with others who are reading this blog….OR, you can do it privately, by going to the contact page here on the web site, and send us your testimony that way.

We would appreciate it, and would LOVE to hear from you.

And as always…..it has ALWAYS been….

…..ONLY through God’s grace,

jon

Day 92 [St. Bernard State Park, LA – Venice, LA]

TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2010

Okay…..so the alarm went at 2:30…we heard it….we rationalized that we could sleep a few more minutes (why do we DO this to ourselves….HA!). Well, after a few tries, we did get up a few minutes after 3. We both took showers to help us wake up, and I had some good prayer time right here:

Day 92 prayer closet

Earline thought she heard something….

Did I see something move

Actually, she did! We saw several raccoons terrorizing some garbage cans by the bathrooms…..tried to get a picture, but couldn’t get close enough, and too dark.

After packing and stretching and praying, we headed down Highway 39 about 5:10am…..and the traffic was HEAVY! [What??!?]

We were very thankful for a 6 foot shoulder. We got to English Turn Road, and headed down it, and realized…..no more shoulder! So like English Commander Banks did over 300 years ago, we TURNED AROUND and headed down Highway 39.

We stopped at the corner store and got a Honey Bun for…..ah, energy? Yummmm!!

Honey bun breakfast

We saw some beautiful clouds in the south that the rising sun poured out its light out on….

Southern cloud bank

….but we actually couldn’t see the sun itself, because of this cloud bank….

East cloud bank

….and I looked at the red lining under the cloud, and THEN I remembered: “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning….” (remember? from Matthew?)….

….and I thought, “oh, oh!”

There OVIOUSLY had been quite a bit of rain here during the night, because the tires were picking up the water and SPRAYING US as we went along.

(Hey, Mark, about those fenders….!)

As we continued south along the east side of the Mississippi River, the sky got darker….

OH NO, more rain

….and the sky got heavier….

Rain storm on levee

……and we got soaked again. [Yes, I had climbed the levee to visit mother nature.]

Through the rain

(Already taken the rain suit OFF, because it is so HOT!)

(Of course, after a few minutes, we had to put them back on again, because it started raining again.) (Ack!!)

Finally got to the turn for the ferry, and it was there waiting for us!

Enter ferry

The ferry took off just minutes after we got on board. [Doesn’t Earline look GOOD??!!?] [We’re CLOSE, Honey!]

 

Ferrying across the river

Boy, this River has gotten BIG!

Lookee how BIG

Saw this bumper sticker on one of the cars on the ferry….interesting! Hmmm!

Kiss bumper sticker

This ferry knows where it’s going, right??!!

Ferry knows where going right

We actually got to the other side pretty quickly, and off we were, down the WEST side of the River.

Exit ferry

The road was 4 lanes, and had a nice 8-foot shoulder…..for a while. Then we ran into this:

Road closed

Still had a shoulder for a while….we tried to find someplace to eat, and after a couple tries, someone sent us to Ann’s Restaurant. Just a little trailer…

Anns trailer

…..but Ann was GREAT, and busy!!

Anns restaurant Port Sulpher

And we soon found out why….not only was the food good, but the portions were HUGE. We ordered one Poor Boy cheeseburger, and both of us TOGETHER could hardly finish it. Wow. The phone was ringing, people were lining up, and I think she’s only open from 11 to 2 each day, but the word was out, and the people came by in droves.

Do yourself a favor. Check out Ann’s Restaurant in Port Sulpher. GREAT!

Full of lots of carbohydrates (ha!), we sped on down the road. The shoulder ended in Port Sulpher….and riding got a little tricky.

We had heard about a huge overpass up ahead, and realized even today, in the Mississippi River delta, we had one more hill to climb:

WHAT another hill

We were warned that this road had lots of truck traffic, and that trucks coming over the hill COULD NOT SEE slow traffic over the hump of the road.

So we went cautiously up the hill, and then I stayed at the top while I sent Earline down the other side.

(I did have a nice view of the delta from the top of the overpass.)

View of Gulf from top of overpass

As it turned out, we only had about a dozen vehicles that came over the overpass while we were on it, and only ONE tractor-trailer. Thank you, God!

After we both got safely to the other side, some people stopped to ask questions or take our picture…

Taking pictures

…..Steven Turner stopped to check out WHAT IN THE WORLD we were doing!

Steven Turner and Earline

We saw lots of damage down here as well from the various storms….

House hurt

People told us that Port Sulpher used to be full of homes….but no more. Venice was the same story.

Wrecked house

We saw this Community Prayer Center that had a replica of a Garden Tomb right on the side of the highway….

Community Prayer Center garden tomb

….and we saw a LOT of RV Parks, and temporary housing…..

Temp houses

….and we saw signs of the BP oil spill having an impact on this area. I image the news reporters and oil workers all needed places to stay, and that some of the RV parks and motels probably did pretty well. We also heard, though, that tourists for the most part were scared away, especially the charter fishing industry.

We even saw this sign by some a company trying to take advantage of any possible legal action!

Oil spill claim sign

And then….

…..rain clouds threatened AGAIN.

MORE rainc louds

We did get rained on a LITTLE more, but not too heavy, and we were grateful.

We did have a police officer for the first time all summer, stop beside us and tell us to move on to the shoulder. I explained that the surface was not very good, and had a lot of debris, and that I felt that it was dangerous for us to ride there. I also explained that we had just come all the way from Minnesota, and he said, “well….” and then he took off.

Here’s what the shoulder looked like at the time (it was some kind of sea shell mixture, it looked like)….

Shoulder huh

The Mississippi River was just to our left, and sometimes we could see the top of ships on the other side of the levee.

Ships on MR

We even saw cows on the levee to our right (why do the white birds seem to flock around the cows….hmmm??)….

Cows and birds on levee

As we got to the south end of Venice, and headed out on Tidewater Road, we saw these huge sand bags…

Jon on sand bags

….OOPS….what I did NOT realize is that these huge sand bags had WET sand in them…..ACK!!!!

Oops wet sand

There was lots of industry down in this area, and actually lots of traffic!….

Industry

Lots of cars

Near the end of the trail there was even this huge plant….

TARGA plant

But there was a little more pretty scenery, and a beautiful sunset before we reached the sign…

Near sunset

Sunset on delta

Left side of delta

…..and there it was…..THE SIGN! (even the sign showed evidence of disrepair)

At the sign Earline

Jesus is ONE way

Ack! Getting dark! But still snuck in a couple more pictures.

 

Jon at the sign

Jon and Earline at sign

Just across the road from the sign was a local fisherman, and he shared how the fishing moratorium was hurting so many.

Fisherman at the sign

Diane’s son, and “Sistah Eva’s” nephew Frederick, came with his Jeep to pick us up and take us back to New Orleans.

Everything fit! [Whew!]

Both trikes in the Jeep

Thanks, Frederick! (And thanks to you and the fisherman for taking our picture together.)

Frederick 2

A WONDERFUL end to a long journey!

Thanks to God for His gifts, and His grace. [And a HUGE congratulations to my wife, the FIRST Black woman to cycle the entire Mississippi River Trail on a cycle of ANY kind! Bravo!]

Kiss

Only TGG,

jon

Day 89 [Hwy. 70/3125, LA – New Orleans, LA]

SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 2010

Hmmm!

Well…..it turns out that this Mission Possible Tour, Summer of 2010 is the adventure that just keeps on giving!

I get up around 5:45am, but before we can get out tent torn down we experience this:

WET

With all the rain that we’ve run into this summer, one thing we HAVEN’T had to do is tear down in the rain…..until now. The rain has run under the tent [not good], and both sleeping backs have gotten WET. We have to pack a WET top-tarp, and a WET tent, and we’ll just have to wait until tonight to see if we can get dried out at that point.

Earline does one final check to see if The Advocate picked up our story for today’s paper. Nope…..zip, zilch, nada….hmmmm.

(Hey, Honey, what’s the weather forecast??)

Check the Advocate

Apparently the forecast is for a 10 to 20% chance….

….of sunshine.

Oh, oh.

Hey, Earline….here’s one last look at that bridge we went UNDER last night [we can see it, now!]…..sure you don’t want to go over it….just for fun??!!

Highway 70 bridge

Headed east….played on-again-off-again with the rain coats and rain pants. Too hot to keep on, too wet to stay off.

Had a quick little meal of fried catfish (that Cajun coating is too hot for me) and chocolate milk (mixed in with little gasoline pump smell). Hmmm! Ha!

Quick lunch

We’re bucking a very strong east wind today, and it is slowing us down, even with the more streamlined, recumbent position. We are seeing rumble grooves again, but at least it is also with a wide shoulder so we don’t have to fight busy Highway 61 traffic. We’re following 61 instead of the River Road on the advice of several locals….shorter route, and River Road has no shoulder.

Earline has no more cornfields to visit, so she checks out the local sugar cane field:

Sugar cane fields

We can’t believe all the casinos we’re seeing….sad….

Casino 1

We run across a few more admirers who say we’re getting close to New Orleans!

A few more admirers

As we head over the spillway, we’re praying…..God, you MUST have something very special planned for tomorrow. There MUST be a reason for us having to go through this rain to get to the Deaf church in New Orleans. Use us, Lord, to work YOUR will in someone’s life.

Fighting the elements

God MUST have something special planned

The rain lets up finally, and we stop at Burger King for a quick snack.

Stop at Burger King

We FINALLY get to the start of the levee bike trail…..sweet!

Levee bike path start

We’re still getting rained on off-and-on, but it IS nice not having to fight the traffic.

Levee trail

We see huge grain elevators, with augers and pipelines criss-crossing the levee:

HUGE grain elevator

Augers and piplines

One thing that rainy days DO provide is beautiful clouds and rainbows. During our 20 mile run on the levee, the sun goes down, and forms a colorful backdrop for Earline and the trikes:

Levee sunset

We finally come to our exit, and Google Maps takes us on a suggested path that…..well, I might have not suggested it. Some very rough streets….and a couple road blocks that we had to go around.

But we also understand, that 5 years ago, this was ALL flooded after Hurricane Katrina, and under a LOT of water, 3 to 8 foot high. And much of it is still a mess.

We finally made it to the church about 9:15pm, and the Pastor and his wife Barbara greeted us. Sweet couple, and also a powerful testimony about how God brought THEM together. They’ve been married about 13 years.

We set out our wet and damp clothes on the tables, each of us grabbed a sofa, and after a tough 60-mile ride, we slept soundly….VERY soundly.

Table dryer

Separate beds

Thanks, Lord, for seeing that we arrive safely.

TGG,

jon

Day 88 [Geismar, LA – Hwy. 70/3125, LA]

FRIDAY, AUGUST 27, 2010

I was able to get quite a bit of work done on the blog, while Earline and Ana had a chance to spend some quality time together. We’re headed out today for New Orleans!….getting closer to the finish line!

Philip’s folks stopped by for lunch:

Philips folks

We finally said our goodbyes…..

Ana and Earline

…..headed toward the entrance of Philip and Ana’s housing development….and got rained on!! We put on our side-bag bags, and our raincoats….

Putting on side bag bags and rain coats

…..and continued on our way. No rainy day activities for the wifi pedalers! (in other words, no special “dry” activities in case it rains….we do the same thing – ride, baby, ride – whether it rains or not!!)

Rained pretty hard, too…..ack…..[drip, drip]….

It FNALLY let up a little, and Earline had to make a pit stop (her prostrate is acting up again…..huh?? HA!).

Stopped at the Honeywell security station, and Jason had sympathy on Earline, and gave us some helpful advice about which route to take toward New Orleans. Thanks! (from BOTH of us!)

At this point we are seeing LOTS of huge cooling units, chemical plants, grain elevators, refineries…..the industry that has arisen on the banks of the Mississippi River is pretty amazing. The river has permitted tremendous amounts of business growth and development.

Huge cooling units

Industrial plant

We make it down to the River Road, and we see……well, not much of the River, but of the levee.

Levee and River Road

As you can also see, there is no shoulder, and there is some semi-truck traffic, even on a Friday late afternoon….

Truck on River Road

So I said, “Well, what can you see from the top of the levee along River Road? What’s on the other side?”

So I stopped and went up the levee and took a look (and that way you don’t have to wonder). What’s on the other side of the levee along River Road is….

From the levee top

….well, it’s…..the Mississippi River! [What were you expecting….ha!]

Hmmmm.

And along the top of the levee is a gravel path….would make a great bike path, and we’ll experience some off that tomorrow as we get closer to New Orleans. And I understand that eventually, there is a plan in place for there to be a paved bike path all the way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

[Remember the MRT sign by the bridge in Baton Rouge?]

Gravel road on top

Mystery solved…..we’re of again towards the city.

We saw some real pretty, fluffy clouds.

Fluffy clouds

We drew some attention at a convenience store along the levee.

Levee convenience store

By now, we’re going thru another heavy industrial area, and it is starting to get dark. We think about going on through the dark, but it has been raining off on on today, and we’re pretty beat. We go underneath this HUGE Highway 70 bridge (too dark for a good picture) (Earline says no, but I think she secretly WANTS to go over this one!…..ha!) (NOT!).

We decide to plan on a long day tomorrow. (Trouble is, Proverbs 16:9…..we can MAKE our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps……you will see what I mean in tomorrow’s blog.)

Thanks to Google Maps and GPS, I AM able to zoom in to the map on my Blackberry, and after some map-sleuthing and locals-talking, I am able to determine exactly which direction to go.

We end up at a Shell gas station / casino (the casinos are everywhere down here!) Earline finds a set of semi-trailer rigs at the back of the back-side parking lot, creating a deep shadow from the lights over the diesel fueling pumps…..a perfect hiding spot!

It’s around 10pm, and we quickly set up in the shadow. This photo is a kind of dark and fuzzy, but it gives you a little idea off exactly where this camp site is (you can see the lights of the casino entrance across the parking lot, and the trailers just to the left).

Tent at Casino

What we did NOT know…heh, heh….

….is that there is some kind of industrial plant just to the right of this picture, about a mile away, and one off the entrances to that plant goes right through the parking lot of OUR convenience store here!

We had at LEAST a couple dozen vehicles go right past our tent site during the night. All we can do is pray that we don’t get run over, and that God will hide us in the shadow of His wings.” [Psalm 91:1,4]

TGG,

jon

Day 87 [Baton Rouge, LA – Geismar, LA]

THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2010

Working again feverishly to get this blog caught up.

My desk at church

That really has been one of the more challenging aspects of the entire Mission Possible Tour…..with all the riding, and talking to people, and making ourselves available to serve them, and yet still plan ahead for the next day, and still try and get some rest, and still find a couple hours each day to select and edit photos, and put down these thoughts, and try to be encouraging to YOU…..I just pray whatever priorities and fine-tuning that I have learned this summer might be something that I can pass on to you as clearly and effectively as possible.

Part of all of our daily routines MUST be some kind of spiritual and physical exercise each day. Now back in Jesus’ day, of course they were doing a lot of walking, and getting physical exercise….but even Jesus had to get alone many times to pray and spend time with God the Father. So I pray that Psalm 119:147 be a rallying cry for ALL of us….“I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help, and I put my hope in your words.”

We ALL need DAILY spiritual nourishment. Let’s commit to that even stronger! Amen!

We’re trying to eat up the last of our nasty crackers that have disintegrated into crumbs along the way….heh, heh.

A spoon and a cup work nicely….yummm!

Crumbs into cup

Crumbs in cup close up

We got packed up from our stay at First Baptist Deaf Church of Baton Rouge, and found a route that would take us to Geismar, Louisiana, on the east side of the Mississippi River. This is probably one of the first stays of the summer that was penciled in several months ago, through Bobby Sue at New Vision.

At that time, we didn’t even know that we would be ministering in Baton Rouge, or specifically at the Deaf school, but Geismar is only about 20 miles south of the school, so it worked out perfectly with our schedule. (ANOTHER one of those “heavenly coincidences!”)

Nicholson Drive

The route was a fairly straight shot, most of it along Nicholson Drive, with a shoulder the whole way. Traffic was VERY heavy, so we again appreciated that shoulder, albeit, because of being a heavily traveled road, the shoulder was also full of quite a bit of the usual debris….rocks, glass, animal bones, ripped up tire pieces, various pieces of assorted metal, hula hoops, shovels, electric generators, etc. (okay, so I maybe I made up a few things) (no flats or punctures, Mark….or at least, none that I know about!….ha!).

The sky was pretty again, even if viewed through a variety of power lines….

Powerline sunset

As it was getting dark, along an unlit, woodsy road by the river, an officer stopped us and said he had gotten a call about some bicycles out on the road, and that the caller was worried about hitting us. But as he was saying that, he just shook his head and said that he had seen us a little earlier, and he was impressed at how well we were lit up!

I told him we had less than a mile to go, so he said fine, and told us to just be careful. (When the authorities are impressed, you know you’re lit up pretty well!)

We finally arrived at the son’s house of the friend of Bobby Sue. They have a beautiful home (and fast wifi….yea!!), and prepared a nice home-grilled meal for us….wow, great!

Philip and Anas home

Philip and Ana

Philip and Ana are a young Christian couple who have a wonderful testimony. Married only about a year, Philip met Ana on a mission trip to Columbia, South America. (And I found a soul-mate in Philip, who is also enthusiastically interested in Intelligent Design, and the evidences for a literal six-day creation and world-wide flood….in other words, people, evolution is a HOAX….let’s get back to faith in what the Bible teaches. See Exodus 20:11).

Thank you , Lord, AGAIN, for your provision and your guidance.

TGG,

jon

Day 83 [Natchez State Park, MS – Woodville, MS]

SUNDAY, AUGUST 22, 2010

[Hey, it is my sister Jyl’s birthday today…..everybody wish her “Happy Birthday!“] [In BOHEMIAN, it is: Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám!]

Woke up to a LITTLE cooler temperatures this morning…..we appreciate it!

Natchez campsite

We touched base with Walker Estes, our contact at the First Deaf Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, and let him know our plans. He said that he was getting all the logistics worked out for us to stay 2 nights in the church itself.

After some examining of various routes, I decided that we would head back to Highway 61. It looked to be double lane all the way to Baton Rouge, it should have some available services along the way, and even though the traffic will probably be heavy, it would be the shortest way to get there.

As we came into Natchez, we saw this most unusual cloud formation:

Natchez cloud

Grabbed something to eat at Burger King…..talked to a lot of people about our trikes and our Mission Tour….and headed south of Natchez on 61. Isn’t Earline really looking like a professional triker?

Earline looking professional

We again saw some weird shaped foliage….I understand that much of this caused by kudzu, which is an invasive plant that can destroy the foliage it clings to.

Weird foliage shapes

As we headed out a Natchez…..YIPPEE…..fresh asphalt AND an eight foot shoulder….AND no rumble grooves. THIS is nice.

WIDE shoulder

The shoulder only lasted about 5 miles, and the fresh asphalt about 10 miles, but it sure WAS nice while it lasted.

We saw this unique looking restaurant south of town…..the sign said “CLOSED”…..hope that they’re open during the week. They certainly went to a lot of trouble to get some attention! Ha!

Big skirt lady

As it was getting dark, we noticed this storm coming up gradually coming up closer and closer behind us….

Storm clouds

I tried to catch a video of the approaching storm. Here’s what it is like to be running from the rain…..

OKAY!

Time to put on the rain gear, and make sure everything’s covered up.

Prepare for rain

God, please protect us!

With nowhere to hide, we just kept riding….we had quite a light show, with the lightning and thunder all around us. It rained heavy for only about 10 to 15 minutes, but after that it was only drizzling lightly….light enough that we could open up our rain gear to keep from getting too hot!

The lightning continued to our south, so we were driving right towards it, and got to see some heavenly fireworks for almost 2 hours. We eventually got to Woodville around midnight, and there was a Shell gas station convenience store open (YEA!), where we could change clothes (yeah, we got soaked right through the rain gear), and get a little something to eat.

Unsoaking at the Shell station

But what to do now?

Should we continue?

We wanted to arrive at the First Deaf Baptist Church in Baton Rouge before dark on Monday, and I figured we still had about 60 miles to go to get there, or about 12 hours of traveling time.

I mentioned to Earline that it sure would be nice if someone would just let us sleep on their floor for a few hours. And no sooner had I said that, but I noticed a young man with a white shirt and plaid shorts going back into the convenience store (he’d already been in there once….hmmmm). This time he stopped and said hello….and after some conversation, he kind of paused, looked at us and said, “why don’t you come and stay at my place?”

Wow.

It was only about a mile to his house, and even though “Big Al” was in the middle of renovating a “fix-her-up” house next to where he grew up, he opened up to us what he had, and said welcome. Remember Deuteronomy 10:18-19…..God WANTS us to be kind to strangers.

Here’s our bed for the night (on which we slept WONDERFULLY!! Thank-you-very-much!!), and Al himself:

Bed we slept on

Big Al

Thanks, Al!!!!

And once again, Lord, thank You for Your provision and Your leading in the details of our lives! We love You!

TGG,

jon

Day 80 [Vicksburg, MS]

THURSDAY, AUGUST 19, 2010

After a wonderful night’s sleep, I had a chance to work on the web site and the blog, getting the video from Day 71 loaded to our front page, and Earline had a chance to get out a lot of thank-you cards written.

Now admit it….doesn’t this photo remind you of Whoopi Goldberg from The Color Purple, writing letters to her sister?

Patio at Vicksburg casino

I am glad that Earline also thinks that writing thank-yous is important, because I find that God also high values thankfulness and gratitude. [see Psalm 50:7-15] And I think that value is built into each of us…..we LIKE to be thanked, and valued, and appreciated.

And our hearts more than ever are brimming with gratitude for all the hundreds and hundreds of people who have contributed to helping make this Mission Trip possible….from those who have made financial contributions, to those who have opened their homes, to those who have sent us encouraging words just when we needed it most.

[Like the song that “you know who you are” sang on to our VOICE-MAIL [really!]….we have saved that message for our entire trip and still listen to it when we need a pick-me-up].

Our own Mr. Taylor gave us a little tour of the city this evening.

[By the way, the tires that Mark had mailed from Florida for us to Herman Smith of the bridge commission didn’t arrive until today, so Herman Smith called Alvin, who went and GOT them for us and brought them to the hotel!] [How about that!!]

Alvin showed us slave quarters that have been turned into nice little rental units where people can stay.

Slave quarters in Vicksburg

He showed us the beautiful flood wall mural downtown and the markings that display the heights of the various floods of the Mississippi River over the years.

Downtown Vicksburg murals

One of the paintings had this plaque that described the Christian heritage and origins of Vicksburg itself.

Interesting info founding of Vicksburg

Another beautiful painting depicts the devastation that a flooding Mississippi River caused over 80 years ago, with boats trying to rescue stranded victims. The text below this painting is from the plaque that describes that flood.

Flood painting

THE FLOOD OF 1927:
“Vicksburg and the Nation’s Most Destructive Flood”

“Torrential rains in the fall of 1926 and the spring of 1927 set the stage for one of our Nation’s worst natural disasters. Levees held back the water until breaks occurred at Mound Landing, Miss., and Pendleton, Ark., on April 21, 1927.

“Bt the time the floodwaters receded in August, more than 1 million acres and 162,000 homes were flooded, $100 million in crops had been damaged, over 700,000 people had been relocated to refugee camps (like this one on high ground in Vicksburg), thousands of buildings had been destroyed and several hundred people had died.

“Over 31,000 heroic volunteers cared for their fellow citizens, rising above prejudices and self-interest to rescue, comfort, and shepherd them home.

“As a direct result of this disaster, Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928 providing Federal funding and responsibility for flood protection on the lower Mississippi by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission (MRC).  The MRC has relocated from St. Louis, Mo., and the Corps’ Waterways Experiment Station was created to work with the Corps’ Lower Mississippi Valley Division and Vicksburg District offices.

“These efforts established Vicksburg as the center of expertise for water infrastructure engineering in the Nation.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Alvin also showed us the playground that he had helped build with hundreds of other volunteers [I wish I had a playground like THIS growing up…..it’s great!].

Playground

Earline and I saw this beautiful afternoon sun from our patio.

Afternoon scene from ourr oom

Later this evening, Alvin treated us to the wonderful buffet again, and we had a chance to meet his friend, Johnny (she was the one who spied us at the Popeyes in Tallulah!).

Alvin Johnny Earline

Thanks again, God, for your provision and concern for the details of our lives.

TGG,

jon

Day 79 [Lake Providence, LA – Vicksburg, MS]

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2010

Woke up as it was getting light (really warm again last night) and I realized there were DARK CLOUDS from the south headed straight for us!
[Okay, so I didn’t get a picture of THESE clouds, but this sample will suffice…ha!]
[I was….concerned.]
[I really DO hate getting wet.]
[ESPECIALLY when packing!]
[Enough parentheses!]

During the night, we decided that sleeping in our trikes again was NOT an option, so we went around from the front to the back of the church, and set up the tent, and got a FEW hours of sleep!

Spurred on by the approaching dark clouds, we quickly got packed (whoops….so fast that I didn’t get a picture! The tent was right behind where the trikes are.)……

Site behind church

…..and headed TOWARDS the rain. [I know, I know….] Really dark clouds…..but they seemed to kinda dissolve as we rode towards them. Thank you, Mt. Zion Baptist Church for being a place of refuge for us that you didn’t even realize. May God bless you!

Saw this interesting marquee at a church further down the road:

Marquee about texting

I think that message is pretty clear, huh!?!!

Okay, Earline wanted me to go back and take a picture of this armadillo.

Dead armadillo

Yes, the joys of riding in the open air.

We did see (and SMELL!) a fair amount of road kill on our entire trip, and most were in various stages of decay. This one was intact yet for the most part, before the flies and sun got to him. Death is something we saw almost every day on our trip, and death is something we ALL will experience and have to go through.  Best to think about it now while there is time. [See Ecclesiastes 7:2]

Farm equipment lawn ornament alert!

Farm implement lawn ornament mower

And yet again!

FILO rake

The logging industry also seems to be pretty big in this area….note this L-L-L-L-O-O-O-O-N-N-N-N-G-G-G-G stretch of logs:

BIG pile of logs

One thing we had taken note of in Bob’s Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail is that this stretch of Highway 65 would have a good number of eating places and food service. Because we are moving slower than your average bicyclist this is an important factor for us when choosing a route. (ESPECIALLY ice on these hot summer days is like GOLD to us – the small IGLOO that we picked up a few weeks ago south of West Memphis TRULY was a God-send.)

So small rural roads may be good for weekend trips, or small excursions, and appropriately marked as part of the MRT…..longer, slower, and UNSUPPORTED trips like ours have a much higher need for services – food, water, bathrooms, even ELECTRICITY to charge our phones are things one has to consider when planning a trip like this.

Unfortunately, one of the things we have experienced this summer is that MANY of these roadside eating places and convenience stores have been hit hard by the economy, and closed doors are NOT good for us. Along Highway 65 we saw closed shop after closed shop. The convenience store/cafe in Transylvania…..closed. Other shops along the way…..closed. Between the truck stop we were at last night just south of Lake Providence and Tallulah, a distance of almost 30 miles, there was nothing.

Nothing.

We finally did reach Tallulah, and after getting a couple things at the IGA there, Earline noticed a couple ladies signing in their car in the parking lot. We had the opportunity to talk with them for a good hour, discussing their situation, as well as Deaf culture issues.

They talked about the pathetic lack of services available locally for the Deaf. (If I remember right, they were part of a group of four Deaf that lived together in Sondheimer, Louisiana. They said they had to go to Monroe or Baton Rouge for any services for the Deaf.)

Thank you, Lord, for the timing that allowed us to have this discussion with them! Here’s Elsie and her friend….

Earline with Elsie and her friend

Signing at the IGA

Elsie and Earline

2 Deaf ladies at the IGA

I did not want to be TOO obtrusive with my picture taking, but I did want to get a few photos.

I found out later that they had actually asked US for money….[little did they know!…heh].

BUT, Earline was compassionate, and gave her some of the few dollars we had. God, please bless our kindness…you KNOW our situation.

What do those of you who are Deaf think? Was it a good idea to give her money or not?

We decided to stop in at the Popeyes to grab a quick, inexpensive lunch with the few dollars we had left, and WHILE WE WERE IN LINE ordering our food, Alvin Taylor, our contact from attorney Willie Griffin in Greenville, called from Vicksburg, and said he heard that we were eating at the Popeyes in Tallulah.

WHAT??!!

(HA!…..you never know WHO’S watching you!)

He said that everything was set up [after the casino checked out our web site and confirmed that GHA was a 501(c)(3)] for us to stay in a nice room at one of the casinos in Vicksburg – a WARM SHOWER, a SOFT BED, AND an evening meal and breakfast…..YEAH!

[And I MUST interject here, that I strongly feel that God here was almost IMMEDIATELY answering our prayer to bless our earlier giving….one of those “coincidences” that kept happening to us time and time again along this journey. Just awesome….really!]

AND, it turns out that Mr. Taylor not only knew and had been talking with our evangelist contact Gertrude, but that he ALSO KNEW my contact with the Vicksburg Bridge Commission, Herman Smith, and had been in touch with him! He said he’d meet us up on the other side of the bridge.

Wow….

We took the old US 80 highway about 20 miles over to the old bridge (still a fairly busy road with a number of semis, so be careful.) I seem to remember getting drizzled on a little bit between Tallulah and the bridge, but it was light….and I was GRATEFUL!

Came up to the closed bridge, and Herman Smith was waiting for us.

Entrance to bridge 42 with Herman Smith

Herman helped me load the trikes on the pickup, and we headed across the bridge:

Herman Smith helping unload our trikes

Even though this bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic for some time, there IS a train that runs across it several times a day. And it gets used a lot by various cycling groups. They just have to have a permit / permission / insurance waiver to use it. [An EXPENSIVE permit, from what I understand.] It seems that this bridge is the only bridge across the Mississippi River that is owned entirely by a municipality, county or city. There is apparently a legal battle going on between Warren County which wants to open it up to pedestrian traffic, and the railroad, which doesn’t. It should soon be decided by the courts.

Here, then, are some photos of Bridge #42 (is this our LAST bridge over the MR?…..we’ll see!) (We even happened to catch a train going over at the same time!):

Vicksburg bridge over MR with train

Bridging the gaps over 42

Herman and Jon front of Warren County truck

So, welcome to Vicksburg, Mississippi! (back in State #9)

Mr. Taylor was indeed in the parking lot waiting for us, and led us straight to the casino. What I didn’t realize is that Vicksburg is hilly! In fact, it reminded us of Burlington, Iowa, with all of the hilly streets.

Down Down along the river

Mr. Taylor helped us get checked in, along with some special attention from Lana at the front desk!

Checking in at the hotel

Lana at front desk

Alvin even helped us move our baggage up to the room…..he was SO HELPFUL!….he truly became our special angel with his kindness and helpfulness. He was like an armor-bearer that waited on us with exactly what we needed. He is retired from the Army Corp of Engineers, where he helped with the regulation of levels and study of the Mississippi River. He is now a GOLFER who represents various companies, and has a handicap of only 5 (Pastor Mills, that’s pretty good, right?!!)

Helping us check in

Oh, and did you notice he’s 6 foot 6?!?! Ha! This photo maybe shows it better:

Alvin and Earline

We had a WONDERFUL buffet down in the restaurant, and had a chance a chance to share with some people that Alvin brought to meet us…..he actually became one of our best advocates!

Advocate

2 ladies at dinner

Mickey the Sous Chef even stopped by…..by the way, the broccoli and cheese soup was absolutely scrumptious!

Mickey the Sous Chef

Headed up to nice, dry, soft, bed….exactly what we needed after spending 2 nights sleeping on the ground……thanks, Alvin, And thank you, God, for bringing into our world people who can provide exactly what we need.

TGG,

jon

Day 78 [Warfield Point Campground, MS – Lake Providence, LA]

TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2010

Our campsite at Warfield Point campground shows how close we were to the Mississippi River……we could hear the barges all night.

Warfield Point tent site

We found this tree next to us, that had this weird seed or fruit on it…..anybody know what it is?

Weird tree seed or fruit

Weird seed fruit on tree

We decided to have…..okay, do we really have a choice?….graham crackers, peanut butter and honey (hey, if John the Baptist could live on locusts and honey, well, we have got it going on! Thank you, God, for your continued provision.)

Graham crackers and peanut butter and honey

Lovingly prepared, of course, by MY Honey:

Honey making honey

[Linda, did you notice we are using the honey-sticks you gave us? They’ve worked out good!]

We ran into some drizzles as we left camp, but our handy-dandy umbrella not only protect us from the hot sun, but also from….well, RAIN.

Warfield Point Campground riverside rain

Hot, yet again today, but we decided to take the umbrellas down before heading over the bridge. Good thing….the winds were a little gusty on the bridge. We were excited to cross this bridge, because it had only been open for ONE WEEK! I think we can safely claim that we are the FIRST recumbents to go across this bridge. We understand that this bridge now is the longest cable-stayed bridge on the Mississippi River (similar to the Cape Girardeau bridge). It WAS long, and here it is, Bridge #41!

Bridge41

At least the new bridge DID have a nice, wide shoulder. [No need for a police escort here!]

Oh, oh…..texting while triking…..do you think she is starting to get comfortable on these bridges??!! (You can see the old bridge in the background).

Texting while triking on 41

Oh, by the way……to experience what some of the older bridges feel like when going over them, I have just posted a video back on Day 70 of the I-55 Memphis bridge pedestrian walkway. Check it out.

Nice wide shoulder

Semi not so ominous here

Some of you might have noticed that our proposed route stayed on the EAST side, the state of Mississippi side of the River, but after realizing that the Arkansas route had an 8-FOOT SHOULDER the entire length of Highway 65, as well as being about 15 miles shorter, we both agreed that we’d try the Arkansas side of the river.

[And again, we’re fighting a proposed schedule here, too….I had made arrangements to pick up some more tires from Mark Power, and he mailed them to Herman Smith, a bridge manager in Vicksburg, MS…so we are tentatively supposed to be there by tomorrow afternoon, and highway 65 should knock 2 to 3 hours off of our arrival time.]

As we left the bridge we saw some beautiful homes on our right, on the banks of Chicot Lake…..I understand this is the largest oxbow lake in North America.

Interesting home on Chicot Lake

At the corner of 82 and 65, off of Chicot Lake, we met this road construction crew that not only gave us water, but guided us through the busy intersection. Thanks, guys!

Guys at 82 and 65

65 turned out to be a very busy road as we suspected, and the shoulder sometimes was closer to 5 foot than 8, but we still were VERY glad for that shoulder the entire way.

Saw this….well….what is it? (Looks like the Martians from War of the Worlds!) A FREE WiFi Pedaler T-Shirt (if we ever get them made!) to the first person who can tell me WHAT THESE ARE??

Martians

Saw this gorgeous skyscape north of Eudora. (The heavens declare/announce/proclaim/tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship……Psalm 19:1)

Beautiful sky north of Eudora

In Eudora…..interesting…..an officer stopped us, and said that somebody had “reported” to him about some bicycles coming through town. He seemed to kinda laugh it off, and he offered to escort us through town. We said “sure,” and he followed us for over 3 miles. Earline was a little suspicious of the offer…..she thought that maybe they were making sure that we went THROUGH their town and didn’t stop! HA!…….well…..maybe…..hmmmm.

Escorting Earline

Officer escort

Thanks for the escort, officer….we DID appreciate it!

Meanwhile, we kept trying to reach the 2 contacts in Vicksburg that attorney Willie Griffin had given us in Greenville. Our phone service was very intermittent in this area, and when I did get through to Alvin Taylor, it said his voice mail service was not set up. Hmmm.

We finally did get ahold of the lady, but she said that she was going into the hospital the next day, and couldn’t help us with a place to stay, but that she knew an evangelist friend who could provide a safe place. We finally then did talk to Miss Gertrude, and she said she’d get back to us. But, we didn’t hear from her…..hmmm…..maybe she tried, but couldn’t get through….well….

We saw this weird mailbox, and I guess I took a picture of it because, well, it’s weird!

Robot mailbox

By now it is getting dark, and we came to the Louisiana state line (Our final state – State #10!!). Here’s a picture of the sign and Earline:

Welcome to Louisiana State 10

Ack!

Okay, so you can’t really see Earline…..after several attempts, I COULD NOT get both the sign and her to show up. Something about the light bouncing back off of the reflective sign….hmmm.

Well, here SHE is by herself!!

THERE she is

Soon after this we had a Louisiana officer stop us…..he was curious…..wondered what we were doing. I gave him our flyer, and explained the Mission Tour. He told us our flashing blue lights on our wheels were ILLEGAL in Louisiana, but when I asked him if he wanted me to turn them off, he said no, that they helped make us more visible. He said the SLOW MOVING VEHICLE SIGNS showed up real well. He asked who was in the other trike (he couldn’t see from the back), and I told him that it was my wife.

He then warned me that there was a rough area in the town coming up that had a lot of Blacks in it, and that we should be careful. I thanked him for his concern, and then I went up to talk to her, and the policeman proceeded to go around us, and then made sure that Earline waved at him as he went by, with a surprised look on his face.

HA! Oh, well…..

We had decided to keep riding because it WAS a wide shoulder, much cooler than riding in the daytime, a straight shot to Vicksburg, and we figured we could make up some time……and we wanted to make Vicksburg before it got too late the next day to make sure that we could get a ride across the river.

I had called ahead, as Bob had suggested in his book, and talked to Herman Smith. The interstate bridge there has been open for 30 years or so, but the old bridge was closed down to traffic around 15 years ago. Large bike groups can apply for permits to go across with the appropriate liability insurance, but individuals or small groups like us can actually get rides across the bridge in a pick-up if you call ahead.

We went through the “bad” section of Lake Providence, and continued to a truck stop that the officer had mentioned would be on the south side of town.

There had been a car that kept turning around, and seemed to be following us, and we thought….what?……hmmm. When we got to the truck stop, Janie and her son stopped to talk to us….apparently THEY had been following us, and hoping to catch up with us at the truck stop.

Janie and her son

They were excited to hear about our Mission Tour and Janie even called another son and daughter to come “check us out.”

Janies 2nd son

Night time picture taking

There was another couple there that tried out the trikes, and donated some money to GHA…..

Riding trike

Couple lost child

It turns out that the couple had recently lost a young child, and were struggling to deal with the grief of that. We had the opportunity to share some words of encouragement, as well as some Scripture that tells of a God who blesses those who mourn, and who fulfills promises to those who cry out for help.

We continued another mile or two down the road, but we were both getting pretty sleepy, so we took a nap in the shadows of a roadside church, that turned into setting up our tent on the backside for a few more hours of sleep.

Parked in the shadow

An interesting thing about this picture….yes, you can see Earline beside a door on the east side of the church, but this location was actually in the shadow of a yard light that sat on the north side of the church. And Earline, sitting in this shadow, it was so dark, that from the main road, only 60, 70 yards away, even with her white clothes on, she could NOT be seen.

It was really amazing to see!

It reminded me of the verse in Psalm 17 where it says that we can “Hide in the shadow of God’s wings.”

Lord, protect us, and give us some refreshing rest. In Jesus name.

TGG,

jon

Day 72 [Co. Rd. 7, AK – Lexa, AK]

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2010

We left our little alcove in Pastor Cordell’s back yard [where the tent WAS!]…..when, WHOOPS!….

Alcove where we camped

….ACK! I left my glasses in the tent again!

Left glasses in tent again

Finally got underway around 7:30am, continuing south through northeastern Arkansas. After about 20 minutes, I realized that my left front tire was going flat. I checked it – couldn’t find any nails – so I inflated it back up to full pressure, and head down the road. (Was this another Flat Attack success story?!) About another 20 minutes or so, the same tire was going flat again. Same story – not completely flat, but at least “half-flat.”

Again, no nails, no tacks, no pieces of glass…..hmmmm.

I noticed that the valve stem was at a pretty severe angle coming through the rim (at least 45 degrees). I decided to take the whole tire off, straighten that tire, and see if I could see anything else.

Slow leak

The only thing I could see, is a possible start of a cut around half the valve stem – from the severe angle, from the edge of the rim hole? Hmmm. I tried to patch that area with some patch material I had, but the patch was too thick to allow it to pass through the hole. I did not want to use another tube, because I was out of Flat Attack to plug minor holes in the tube.

Fiddled with it a little more, put the tube back on the rim, with the valve at a correct 90 degree angle, pumped it back up, and had no more tire challenges the rest of the day. So was it the valve stem?

I don’t know.

I DO know that it is HOT today! Look at this sky (no shade here!):

Flat hot countryside

One of those big watering rigs went by us on the road – there was a guy at a steering wheel at the very tail end. Interesting!

Tractor pulling irrigation unit

We finally saw a little cloud on the horizon, and I was reminded of the story about Elijah, who sent his servant seven times before he finally saw a little cloud on the horizon [see 1 Kings 18:44]….

Little cloud like a hand 1 Kings 18 44

We saw some more cotton fields….fascinating how some of our favorite clothes originate in fields like this!

(Earline was getting to ready to say that she did NOT want to have her picture taken in no cotton field!….HA!….But knowing that she can CHOOSE to be or not be here makes all the difference. We also understand that all the harvesting now is done by machine!)

Cottonfield and Earline

After the cotton plant flower (or square) dries up, the cotton pod, or boll is formed, which results in the brown leafy bur that holds the white cotton fibers, or locks.

Cotton bulb and cotton

It is so dry here….we saw this tasseled corn field where the plants were only 3 foot high.

Tasseled corn barely 3 ft high

By now it is almost noontime, and we HAD to get out of this heat…..but we needed to get to Helena for our warm shower host.

But how can we continue in this heat?

We saw this little sign in the Family Dollar door window in Hughes, Arknsas:

Family Dollar sign

Hmmmm. Lord, how can we beat this heat?

We went down to the Dollar General store across the road. There we found a portable size IGLOO cooler that we had been looking for for several weeks. [See photo on Earline’s trike of the new cooler at the bottom of this Day’s blog.]

Then I got the idea….no, I have to say that God gave me this idea….how about an UMBRELLA, to block out the sun’s rays?

We found some $6 golf umbrellas in the Dollar General, and fitted them to our trikes…..voila! A little shade so we can continue our journey!

New shade

The folks at the Dollar General were so helpful….helping us think through the umbrella idea, and even gave us some good, cold, icy water. Thanks, Hughes Dollar General…..you’re the best!

Dollar General Hughes AK

We must have looked even weirder now, because more people stopped to take our picture!

Guy taking our picture

But we don’t mind, because now we are sitting cool!

Staying COOL

The umbrellas really did work great. We estimate that having that heat off our shoulders decreased the temp by at least 10 degrees.

At least we were okay until the first semi-truck zoomed on by…..WHOOPS! Shoot….bent a couple of the braces inside the umbrella. So now, Earline and I have to try and warn each other when a big semi approaches!

We saw some new grain bins along the side of the road….

New grain bins

…..and we saw some old ones.

Old grain bins

And if the semis weren’t hard enough on our umbrellas, I got excited when I saw the little wind funnel. “Hey, Earline, it’s okay….I’ve been through these before….they’re fun!”

[NOT thinking about this FRAGILE umbrella overhead….whoops!]

[The picture makes it hard to see, but the field debis was actually twisting around in a tight circle.]

Whirlwind forgot might damage umbrella

[Yes, I bent and broke a couple more braces on the umbrella….ACK!!!]

Holding on tighter now.

I saw this one yard I didn’t understand. The signage LOOKED like he wanted you stop in and partake of his goods and services. But, then again, the razor wire??!!???……

Razor wire

Our Warm Showers contact in Helena said that he had found another place for us to stay….and as we made the turn off of Highway 1 on to 242, there they were! They led us to their home only a couple miles away, they are Christians (and we really enjoyed talking with them), we were able to take those warm showers, and Bill and Carrie were every bit the great warm showers host…..thanks!!

Simmons driveway

Wed nite hosts Bill and Carrie

Only through God’s grace…..

jon