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 91 [New Orleans, LA – St. Bernard State Park, LA]

MONDAY, AUGUST 30, 2010

Because of the excellent speed of the internet in the church hall where we were staying, I stayed up until 6:30am last night (this morning) getting completely caught up with the blog (whoo-whoo!).

(Needless to say, I then slept in a little bit this morning….HA!)

We finally left the Canal Boulevard Deaf Baptist Church around 3:00pm.

Leaving Canal Blvd DBC

We saw these cemeteries along Canal Boulevard, where the tombs are all ABOVE ground.

Cemetery on Canal blvd

And then, as we continued down Canal Street…..oh, no, it’s raining again.

Oh no rain on Canal St

It didn’t rain too hard, and by the time we got to the French Quarter, it was only drizzling a little. We were hungry and looked for a place to eat.

In the French Quarter

I turned down a side street, and wondered, what is this….it looks like a red light district. It was then that I realized after looking at a street sign that we were on THE Bourbon Street!

Bourbon Street

Well, we weren’t sure that we trusted the food from the places we were passing, so we continued on out of town, before stopping to eat.

Even though it has been 5 years, we passed so many places that obviously had just been abandoned from the flooding after Katrina.

New Orleans mess 1

Gas station

Weed

Charles Colton middle school

But even this school had a sign in front of it saying the the Colson School will RISE AGAIN.

And we saw other encouraging signs like this church next to some dilapidated buildings…..

Rough street and church

…..and this Think Positive sign.

Think positive

We saw this “Urban Organics” store….ah, what is “Urban Organics?” Ha!

Urban Organics

And then, we saw ANOTHER casino….

Another casino

It looked so nice and fancy…but it gets me to thinking….the money for this nice building, where does it come from? If someone wins a pot, or whatever they call it at the casino, say $500 at a slot machine, where does it come from? The income that the owners of this casino make…..where does IT come from?

It comes from the game.

It comes from the dollars and pennies that people who can’t control their urges spend their food money, and their rent money, and their mortgage money, and their light bill money.

Proverbs 10:2 says that “Ill-gotten gain has no lasting value….“. The King James Bible says “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing….

Let’s not do this to ourselves. Let’s put money into worthwhile endeavors, and let’s invest in people.

‘Nuff said.

We went through several industrial areas as well, and there does seem to continue to be companies surviving along the Mississippi River and using the resources that this huge flow of water provides.

Gas industry

More industrial areas

After it got dark, we pulled into our only Louisiana State Park that we stayed at, St. Bernard State Park. It wasn’t the cheapest park in the world, but it was clean, and it was secure. We knew we had 75 miles yet to go, but we felt it better to get some sleep now, and then continue on early in the morning.

Michael from Texas got us checked in around 9:30pm, and we set the alarm for 2:30am. [WHEW!]

Camp site at St Bernhard State Park

Thanks, Lord, for a place to lay and rest.

TGG,

jon

Day 90 [New Orleans, LA]

SUNDAY, AUGUST 29, 2010

We were OUT last night, and didn’t hear EITHER of our phone alarms. But God DID wake us up around 6:45, which gave us enough time to clean up and pack up our gear to get ready for the Sunday School class that we were told started at 9:30.

Hall clean up

Conversing before Sunday school

About 9:40 or so, I asked when does Sunday School start, and they said that their teacher was out of town at a funeral.

Okay.

So Earline asked if they needed a Sunday School teacher….she said SHE’D teach….and she did! AND it was an excellent lesson!

Earline teach SS

Thank-you, God.

We headed next door to the sanctuary. “Sistah” Eva was already there, and it was good to see her! [Eva is the sister of Diana Stewart who used to live in New Orleans before Katrina, but now lives in Orlando and attends our home church of Mt. Sinai MBC.]

Church before service

The Deaf church service started out with hip-hop singing from the Pastor Lovas’ wife, Barbara. (Lisa McClung, you would love this service!)

Barbara leads worship

Pastor Lovas was the object of somebody’s height-challenged joke!

Height challenged

Earline and I did the entire Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Jesus found in every book of the Bible segment. Pastor got up and talked about the 5-year anniversary of Hurrricane Katrina, and how the sanctuary we were sitting in had almost 4 feet of water in it. He showed a slide show with a bunch of before and after pictures.

Before after photos of Katrina

Afterwards we had a time of snacks and fellowship in the hall where we were staying…..there were actually several people from other churches, even hearing churches, who came to the hall to fellowship with THIS church….interesting!

[Was it the food?]

Afterwards Sistah Eva took Earline and I out to eat at Appleby’s, and then to HER place to wash some of our wet clothes, and for me to get some more blogging done. [Diana, Earline was talking with YOU on the phone when I took this picture!]

Cousin sister Eva

Cousin sister Eva in kitchen

Thanks, Eva! God used you!!

She also drove us past Rev. Stewart’s refurbished house where brother Philip now lives.

Refurbished Stewart house

When we got back to the church hall I decided to take advantage of the fast internet access here, and I stayed up to 6:30am getting the blog caught up – took a nap, and then finished up yesterday’s thoughts to be current. It is about noon, Day 91 now, and we are packing up to head out on the last 2 days of our Mission Possible Tour.

Since we may not find any more internet access, I will blog short segments from my phone [as long as I have phone service!]. The goal is to be at the “Southernmost Point in Louisiana” sign by tomorrow night. We’re excited! Pray us through! We love you!

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 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 75 [Great River Road State Park, MS – Greenville, MS]

SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 2010

[Again, please excuse our dust as we work around grammatical and technical issues…when we DO get somewhere that has reliable wifi, we will update this blog with correct paragraph spacing and a WHOLE BUNCH of photos (there are already 500 photos here), so check back often!]

Do you realize that there are only about 2 weeks left in our Mission Possible Tour? Hard to believe!

And have you seen the video yet of Earline and I from Day 71 at the Tom Sawyer Campground just south of West Memphis, Arkansas? The link to its posting on YouTube can be found right on the top center of the Home Page of this web site (see if you notice the “something” floating down the river behind us as we’re talking!).

Back to the Great River Road State Park….it should be closed.

As we were coming in at midnight last night, a truck pulled beside us on the road inside the dark park, and said we needed to pay $20, or something like that. It was late [and I don’t remember if we even HAD $20, but we said we’d take care of it in the morning.] [Plus we didn’t know who these folks really were!]

Good thing we didn’t, because I don’t really even think the place was open, and SHOULD be closed, at least until there is some major clean-up completed.

The campground is filthy….I won’t belabor the point, but here are some photos, including from the dining and office area which signage says was open daily, but it was locked down and the doors were chained.

Lonely campsite in GRR State Park

Blown light

Torn shower curtain

3 lights out of 18 working

Plateless socket

Busted railing

Chains on door

Appropriately so, even the bugs know this place needs prayer. I saw my first ever praying mantis, and he hung around our campsite almost all morning.

Praying mantis

Had our morning breakfast of Vienna Sausages and Spam….yummm…..

Vienna sausage

[….doesn’t Earline look excited??!!] Left the campsite and checked the main area.

GRR SP pretty place empty1

I mean, as this last picture shows, it is a pretty area…..that’s the Mississippi River way in the background….but even this area around the office was unkept – cobwebs and leaves unswept, sidewalks cluttered….and totally empty. Really left you with a sad, sick feeling.

Has the economy hurt them as well? Is there mismanagement going on here? Not sure….someone later in the day told us that Hurricane Gustav a few years ago had completely flooded out the place, so maybe that’s part of it….or ALL of it.

Just be forewarned….do NOT bother to go to this mess [in less you check first and see if repairs have been done]….

….and WE proceeded to head south towards Greenville [where my phone should be waiting!]….little knowing….

…..what special things God had in mind for our week to come!!

As we left the Great River Road Campground [the ONLY one leaving, ‘cuz no one else was staying there!], we saw a house with some people around 80–100 yards away [maybe the ones from last night?], and we waved good-bye, but we didn’t go any closer.

As we exited the campground, we saw a payment box, so we left one or two dollars in the box along with a “concerned” note about the campground.

Only right to leave SOMETHING, right?

It is HOT again today….we heard 105 was the forecast. Earline and I still have our umbrellas goin’ on.

Under umbrella at GRRSP

We saw our first farm equipment lawn ornament [FILO] that we had seen in several weeks. [I think they need some pointers, tho, from the folks up north!]

Notice the feisty guard dog protecting the FILO!

Lawn ornament cultivator with dog

At a convenience store in the little village of Beulah, and were again talking to many of the patrons of the store, when we met music minister Eldridge Jenkins. Looking for a church to go to tomorrow morning, we asked him what church he recommended in Greenville, and he didn’t hesitate: Zion Baptist Church, apparently one of the churches where he rotates as music minister.

We called the pastor, and after several tries with our on-again-off-again phone service, we were able to get thru. He recommended the Salvation Army as a place to stay (not what we were hoping for….but we were fine with ANYPLACE God led us.)

Yet another beautiful sunset (The heavens reveal His glory!).

Sunset north of Greenville

It was again dark as we pulled into town (but not nearly as late as last night – only about 9pm). We went to the Salvation Army…we had been trying to call them all late afternoon and evening, but no answer.

And now, no one came to the door. Hmmm.

Weird.

Salvation Army in Greenville

We called Pastor back, but it went to his answering machine.

Okay.

Maybe they’ve gone to bed….now what?

Should we find the church and camp out, like we did at Beech Grove in Kentucky?

What other option is there?

Suddenly, they called back. They had been outside, talking to relatives. They were going to come by with their pickup, and transport us to the local Fire Station #1!! (It turns out the pastor’s wife works downtown and called the Fire Chief for us!)

So the Pastor and his wife showed up at the Salvation Army with their big pick-up truck, we loaded our trikes in the back, and they drove us down to the fire station.

They suggested setting up our tent on the grounds, but the guys at the Fire House said we could sleep in the air-conditioned barracks with them. After the experiences we had the last 2 nights, we enthusiastically said YES!

In the fire house

Jon in firehouse washroom

Earline in firehouse

Jon on bunkbed

Great showers, actually very comfortable bunk beds that the guys slid together for us, WIFI connection!!, the AC was CRANKIN’!, and…..VERY COOL ambiance.

Thanks, guys! (Some photos of y’all in tomorrow’s blog!)

And thank you, God, AGAIN for your protection and provision.

TGG,

jon

Day 60 [Cape Girardeau, MO – Twente School Road/Hwy 3, IL]

FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2010

Wow…hard to believe it’s been 2 months already…only 1 month to go, and less than 990 miles to go.

We said a prayerful good-bye to “mom” today…she had made us eggs this morning (and she milked the cow….MILK) (ha), and I had a chance to get caught up-to-date on the blog this morning.

Squeeze Earline mom

(By the way, for those of you who are new to the blog here, unlike last night at “mom’s” house, many times we do not have WIFI to do the daily blog….but I was able to set it up so that I can e-mail text to the blog from my Blackberry, and I just add pictures later. What I HAVEN’T been able to figure out, though, is how to leave spaces between the paragraphs so that it does not look like one run-on sentence. I have tried space bar spaces, periods, alt-spaces…..nothing has worked. Tonight I am simply trying to put a (P) where a blank line should go. We’ll see if THAT works.)

(It didn’t.)

(By the way #2….tonight we don’t even have phone service, so this blog won’t go out until I have bars in the morning.)

(“Mom”….this is why we didn’t call you tonight…we have no phone service where we’re at.)

(Sure are a lot of parentheses here, huh?!!)

((((((((((yup!)))))))))))

After we left mom’s, we happened to be going right past the SE Missourian, so we stopped in to see if they wanted a story on us…not really, it seems. Like Earline said, you throw the seed on the ground, and some grows, some doesn’t.

We met a fellow cyclist at the library. (Earline had to pee-pee.) David gave us his “I’m big, I’m bad, and I ride a bike” pose:

David at library in CG

We saw this wonderful, elaborate painting on the side a building along Broadway [yes, this is ACTUALLY painted on the building….I did NOT add this in Photoshop]:

2 story Bible verse

We stopped by the floodwall to look at the mural we heard so much about…we really enjoyed the artists’ work….interesting!

Start of flood wall mural

We met Gary and Clodine Metje, who were also looking at the high water on the outside of the floodwall. They just celebrated their 55 wedding anniversary.

Gary Clodine and Earline

You can see how the water is lapping at the bottom of the outside of the flood wall. The river is HIGH!

Outside of floodwall

Stopped and had lunch at a shady shelter at the south end of the mural. Talked to Cyndi, and encouraged her “in the Word.” What we learned later, is that Cyndi had lost one of her patients earlier that day…..thank you God for allowing us to be an inspiration!

Headed across the Mississippi River, back one more time to Illinois, over the Bill Emerson bridge. (Pssst….see the Mormons on their bicycles just ahead of us?!) (We sometimes need to explain to folks that we are NOT Mormon!)

Bridge #37:

Mormons on bridge

Crossing BE bridge

Bridge37

Entering Illinois on Bridge 37

Saw this neat beam of sunlight streaming through the clouds.

Beam of light

The water is high, and running fast, and the swamps on either side of Highway 3 were looking full. Then it started to rain, as we came upon a flagman and single-laning for traffic. He let us go on ahead as the rain started to pour down. We went maybe a few hundred yards when….TA-DAH….we noticed a camping sign to the right…and a pavilion!

We raced for that, and waited out the rain. It poured for a good 30 – 40 minutes. Earline was singing some old hymns, and I got some neat photos (remember to thank God in ALL situations!) (see Hosea 6:6)

Singing in the little pavilion

Jon in the little pavilion

Silhouette Earline

I saw this tugboat pushing a barge downriver….and with the current so strong, boy, was he bookin’!!

Barge thru rain

(It is raining again right now as I write this at about 10:00pm….but we’re nice and dry. I’ll explain.)

When the rain stopped, as we left the little pavilion we discovered was that this was the town of Thebes, and we headed south. The little map at the shelter said we weren’t too far from the Horseshoe Campground, so that’s where we intended to spend the night.

As we continued on Hwy 3, the water on the hot asphalt was creating clouds of steam that created kind of an eerily pretty scene.

Steam on road

By now though, we could hear thunder behind us, and some tremendous lightning. ANOTHER storm!

The storm was coming closer and closer. It looked like we were not going to be able to outrun it. I could see a wall of rain maybe 200 yards behind us.

I stopped to tell Earline to put her rain gear back on, when we noticed a large pavilion to the left, next to a Baptist Church. We raced for that pavilion as it started to rain, and lightning, and more rain….(shelter in a storm).

By now it is only about an hour before dark, and as the rain continued for a bit, we decided to camp right there. There was a house right next to some playground equipment, next to the pavilion, but no one answered the door. (So who DO you ask?)

There were Christmas decorations by the front door, and lots of bird poop under a snowman wind chime….it looked like the house hadn’t been occupied for a while.

We set up the tent, and since we couldn’t stake the tent down, we tried putting each trike on either side, and attached the tent tarp to the stake behind the spokes….and it worked pretty well. It kept the side walls pulled out, creating more room in tent.

Tent set up by Baptist church

We had a little supper (Earline slaved over it all day – and we both agreed it was good!) (Ha!)

Supper is served

The rain has been off and on all evening, but we’re nice and dry….(now if we can just find this mosquito that’s been bothering us all night) (Earlline! Don’t spray that BUG BOMB while we’re IN here!….let me deal with this….good night!)

Through God’s Grace,

jon

Day 57 [Chester, IL – Perryville, MO]

TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2010

(Okay, this is NOT good…sitting here in the tent right next to a metal shed Pentacostal church outside Perryville, I just accidentally deleted 90 minutes of work on today’s blog…and there is not a thing I can do about it….wow…..so, let’s try it again.)

I didn’t finish getting caught up through yesterday’s blog until 11:30pm last night, and the “late to bed” and “early to rise” things do NOT go together. [“God desires for His loved ones to get their proper rest.” from Psalm 127]

So we decided to sleep in a little, and planned to leave AFTER the heat of the day. This also gave Earline a chance to get caught up on some of her e-mails, after I hogged her computer all day yesterday. [Sorry!]

I met Bob, the chaplain for the Chester FOE, and he said to stick around because there was “fresh fish coming.” And boy, was there ever!

Pan of fried STUFF

Fried FRESH fish, fried pickles, fried mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, some other stuff I didn’t know….we ate til we were FULL. Donna said that every once in a while on Tuesdays he brings in a bunch of stuff. Good day to be here! Here’s Donna and Earline:

Fried guy and Donna

Remember, Donna is one of the ones who promoted and helps maintain this cycling oasis.

I sent the President for this FOE chapter the contact information for Terry Eastin, the Executive Director for the Mississippi River Trail, Inc., and for Bob Robinson, whose “Bicycling Guide to the MRT” is the book and maps we’ve been using for this trip.

Bob! The book’s been working great! (Although I’ve been abusing the heck out of mine…had to tape it up a couple times already, and we’ve got a thousand miles to go!) Here’s Bob, and a friend of his in Minnesota:

Bob Robinson and friend

Suggestion for those of you doing future tours:  do yourself a favor, and photocopy and laminate the maps and directions pages…it’ll make following your route easier, and safer!

Called Mark Power of Power On Cycling, and ordered some more Flat Attack and a couple more tires. My front tires are starting to show some wear. Remember on Day ___ when I blew out my back tire?

Okay, okay….a FREE WiFi Pedaler T-shirt [if we ever get them made] goes to the first person who correctly identifies which day it was that the Flash Attack goop could not hold together my worn-down-to-the-wire back tire.

Actually, on these “tadpole” recumbents, with all the weight on the back, it seems that the back tire is taking most of the abuse. Even Earline’s back tire is going to have to be replaced pretty soon.

[Hey, Inspired Cycle Engineering! [where we got our trikes from] How about sending Mark some “tyres” to replace the ones he’s sending me?! Thank you!]

[Hey, everybody, would you do me a favor and click on this email link (and then click on the same e-mail at the web page this takes you to): Contact I.C.E. and simply say “Please send Mark some tyres for Jon.”] [We’ll see if it works!]

That’s all…..thanks!

Actually, the other day I was examining more closely one of the tubes that went flat on me a couple weeks ago…..[now you may ask, why in the world is he carrying around a flat tube from a couple weeks ago??!!……dah!…..so that I could one day examine it more closely, of course!)….and it had maybe a DOZEN little punctures that the Flat Attack goop was filling in.

Love that stuff.

I know 6 flats on the trip so far seems like a lot, but I’m convinced that I would’ve had over twice that number without the goop.

And really, the blow out was only flat that went beyond what the goop and the liner were able to stop. (Did ANYBODY figure out what day it was yet?) (Yes, it was in Illinois.)

I actually learned from Andy Cairns (last seen in Hannibal, Missouri) that I can General Delivery something to a Post Office and they’ll hold it for me. So I checked with a Postmaster General on our route in Kentucky, and he said he’ll hold it for me. Yea!

Saw a couple geared-out cyclists headed up the hill to the FOE, and thought “oh-oh”…somebody else wants to use the cabin tonight! [Hey, we’d already used it long enough….ha!]

Jake and Sophia were passing through on their way from Indianapolis, Indiana to California.

Jake and Sophia

We packed up quick so they could have the cabin, and it started to rain! Ack!

And then I noticed that one of my tires was FLAT! Ack, ACK!

Flat6

But….I did the Flat-Attack-spin-the-tire-and-reinflate dance, and it worked again!

LOVE THAT STUFF!

Said our sad goodbyes….

Trikes front of Eagles lodge

….and headed toward the Chester bridge.

Road down to Chester bridge

I called the Chester police department to ask if someone might escort us over the bridge, because I had learned that it didn’t have a separated bikeway/walkway, and guess who was the dispatch person who answered the phone?!!

Her name was Kim, and she was the daughter-in-law of the nice lady in Ellis Grove who had given us cold water on Sunday afternoon, the mother of Keirra and Jessica that Earline went trampolining with [see Day 55].

How about that!

We waited at the start of the bridge, and Officer Rinehart soon came by and escorted us over the Chester bridge. Here’s Bridge #36 (and Officer Rinehart!) (Whoops…..guess I missed a few bridges in Minnesota in my calculations….guess there’ll be a few more bridges than 36!) (Of course, Earline wants to know how many.) (I…ah….I’ll work on that.)

(BTW, across state lines again, but you’ve already seen a Missouri sign!)

Bridge36

Officer C Rinehart

Police escort across Chester bridge

Chester bridge, north side

Chester bridge inside

Headed over to the outskirts of Perryville, Missouri, and saw some gorgeous setting sun skies, and yes, a few more bluffs:

Truck down bluffy dusty road

Hwy going thru bluffs

Blue pretty clouds north of Perryville

Gorgeous sunset north of Perryville

Colorful sunset north of Perryville

As it was getting dark, after exploring a couple different places, and being turned down by another, as we were just entering the outskirts of Perryville, we found a flat area to camp in beside a storefront Pentecostal Church! (Here’s a picture from tomorrow before we tore down.)

Camped beside Pentecostal church

(As I mentioned at the very top, this is now the 2nd time I have blogged this day…..but I’m finished….finally…..zzzzzzz.)

Good night. God bless!

Only thru God’s grace,

jon

Day 54 [Valmeyer, IL – cornfield by Modoc Ferry, IL]

SATURDAY, JULY 24, 2010

My “owl” was singing away this morning, loud enough that I think I WAS able to get an audio recording of it. [It is soft, but you can listen to it here.]

While setting up last night, we had moved a bench over by the doorway….and apparently a spider saw that as an opportunity to build a web. Now, I do NOT like spiders, and I strongly dislike giving human intelligence to the “animal/insect/sponges” kingdom. These are all creatures of God’s designs and creation, and show HIS ingenuity and character.

But I still HAVE to appreciate the instinctive industrious-ness exhibited by something God designed…this bench was moved in this position about 9pm, and this web was finished before 6am:

Spider web

Officer Chandler stopped by to check on us, and I got his picture (thanks, Officer Mike!):

Officer Mike

It is hot out today, but these donkey’s didn’t seem to mind the heat!

Donkeys

Saw lots of grain bins….storage and drying facilities….and lots of Pioneer seedcorn fields (my dad used to sell Pioneer seedcorn):

Grain bins

Pioneer fields

Corn and bluff

We saw this little house SURROUNDED by flowers, and marveled at the work and care that went into maintaining all this beauty:

Pretty garden house

It was SO hot today. And it was in the middle of all this heat that we experienced one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip.

We were pedaling along, trying to make progress in the heat, when all of a sudden, between some trees on our left and corn on our right, we felt…..coolness!

Huh??!!

Where is this coming from?

After some exploring, we found this cave behind and above the trees on our left. And there was some COOL AIR coming FROM the caves, spilling out on to the roadway! These caves (I understand many of them used to be salt mines) were very interesting:

Bluff cave

Cool cave

And then there was another one, and another one….and the temperature coming from the caves was wonderful….I’m guessing, maybe 65 degrees, on 100 degree day….the relief it provided was incredible! Earline had to get a closer look….AND FEEL!

Earline and THE cave

Earline and THE cave close1

Earline also at this same time, had her prayer answered about a butterfly alighting on her arm. It is like God was saying, “I’ve got this…I know it is hot out here….here’s a little coolness for your day, an oasis of cool in the middle of all the heat!”

Butterfly on Earline

We stopped in Prairie du Rocher, and got some supplies at a small grocery there. Met John, the tri-athlete, who was also biking in the heat…he shared his left-over ice with us. Thanks, John!

There was a disagreement among the locals as to whether the ferry was open….the general agreement was that IF it WAS closed, they put up a sign saying so at the turnoff to the ferry. So after going about 4 miles, we saw the turn-off to the ferry, and there was NO sign, so we headed down the 4 mile road to it.

Well….

Sometimes the street committee gets things right, and sometimes they don’t.

When we arrived at the area from which the ferry departs for St. Genevieve, Missouri, this is what we found (the road for the cars is to the LEFT of the two timbers):

Road to ferry

And another view of the road to the ferry (I know….because I was walking on it):

Road to ferry2

And one more view of the road, that takes you right up to the ferry…..that is, IF the ferry is docked on this side of the river….

Road to ferry3

….instead of on THE OTHER side of the river, safely in St. Genevieve, while the dock that these plants sit on, on THIS side of the river is, sadly, under water.

The Modoc ferry in St G

Okay….so now I’m walking back on the road to give Earline the news….

Walk back to Earline

And she takes a picture of me walking back to her….to give her the news….

Walking back to earline

Ack…..back the way we came, along the railroad track, beside the road that’s covered with water, back past the cornfields and….

PSSSSSSTF!

Yup….

Flat tire….Earline examines the scene of the crime….

Flat tire on ferry road

After we fixed the flat, it’s time to set up camp….and it looks like there’s a cloud bank coming up in the northwest…..

Torin, this is when you called, during the ALMOST full moon….setting up our tent next to a cornfield!

Cornfield camping with Jon

Thank God in ALL situations…right?….Right??!!

TGG,

jon

Day 53 [Cahokia, IL – Valmeyer, IL]

FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2010

Sitting here on the morning of Day 54, writing about yesterday’s events, munching on a chocolate pop-tart and a Yoo-hoo, and you can see we are in a pavilion again, in Valmeyer, Illinois. You can see an old pavilion in the background….apparently this area was devastated by a levee that broke in 1993, and the entire town of 1200 was underwater for two months.

Valmeyer pavilion morning

The devastation was so complete, that many residents decided to move the town up the bluff to a safe location.

A memorial plaque nearby says that the pavilion we are in was built in 2001, and dedicated to Floyd Floarke, Sr. who was a die-hard baseball fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the local Midsummer Classic baseball tournament.

Apparently the local ball field and park, Borsch Park, is one of the few things that did survive the flood, and the new pavilion was built in his honor.

Officer Mike Chandler stopped by about 11pm last night, and asked if we had permission to stay here (at 9pm when we set up camp, who do you ask?). Anyway, he checked out our IDs, and told us to have a safe journey.

HOT around here….yesterday I saw temperature signs in the upper 90s.

So how did we get here?

The night before was kind of miserable….we couldn’t seem to get ANY breeze in our tent, it was warm and muggy, and the truck traffic just over the fence was REALLY loud. This was at the Camp Cahokia RV Parque and Campground just south of East St. Louis. Being on a cement slab helped make tearing down easier, though. No dew to deal with, and the hard surface makes rolling up the sleeping bags and tent pieces easier.

We were told that there were a number of services available just a mile to our east, so we headed down to the Walmart to pick up a few supplies, and stopped to eat at Dairy Queen #12….yea!

We found these “neck ties” in the Walmart sporting goods area….they have some kind of gel in them that you can fill with water and then refrigerate or freeze, and then wear them around your neck to help keep you cool. We think we like them….give us another couple days to evaluate.

After leaving Cahokia we went through Dupo, a heavy industrial area with lots of truck and train traffic. There was even a terminal  for coordinating all this traffic (yes, this was part of our route, right were the maroon van is heading):

Busy truck area

Terminal for truck train coodination

Ran into 2 boys, Dustin and Darryl, at one of the truck stops where we were getting some more ice for our bottles. Shared our mission with them, and taught them some of the phrases from our sign language cards:

Dustin and Darryl2

Also went past this……van? Somebody got happy with their air brush!

Air brush van2

Once we got through the Columbia area, it is again out to rural America, in the “bottoms” area between the bluffs of Illinois and Missouri (yes, there are bluffs, and LOTS of corn down here, too….check this out):

Bluffs in Illinois

Bluffs in Illinois2

Also saw this nursery in the bottoms….can anyone from the DAH Nursery tell me what it is they are growing?

Nursery in bottoms

DAH Nursery question

Headed down into the town of Valmeyer…it was almost sunset…..

Curve thru the bottoms

…..and seeing the park with this huge pavilion next to the ball field seemed like a wonderful place to stay for the night….but as I mentioned before, who do you ask? There was no one around, except for 2 boys digging in the trash bin by the old pavilion. I learned that they were trying to find wood for a ramp for their bicycles, to do some stunt riding….now where did they learn that? TV, or the internet, I guess.

Valmeyer pavilion

Settled in for the night (until Officer Chandler stopped by at 11p!), cozy and dry (and praying for a breeze!).

TGG,

jon