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 ADDENDUM [From THE Sign, LA]

TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2010 ADDENDUM

Both Earline and I are SO grateful to all of you for your prayers, your financial support, your openness to give of your time and share whatever you had to make this whole 2010 Mission Possible Tour a success. Even something as simple as access to the internet, or ice and water for our water bottles meant more to us than you realize, and we thank you ALL!

Jon and Earline at sign 2

We’re staying with “Sistah Eva” in New Orleans, I’ll be finishing the final 2 days of the blog tonight, and we’ll be headed back to Orlando by Greyhound tomorrow.

It is important to us that we take the time to share with YOU some of the things we’ve learned this summer, to give you the opportunity to share in the lessons that God taught us through the trials, the frustrations, the joys and the circumstances that revealed His mind and His character to us.

It’s been humbling, it’s been scary, it’s been funny, and it’s been comforting to know that God truly IS concerned about the intimate details of EACH of our lives. He cares about you, and you, and YOU!

Give us a week or so to get our thoughts together, as we ourselves go back over the blog to help us remember the events of each day, and we’ll blog those lessons that you can benefit from, as well as some fun things like our favorite eating places (including one we just found YESTERDAY), the scariest of the 42 bridges we went over (oooooooo….you can probably guess this one), our most inspirational moments, or what it is like to ride a recumbent trike all that distance, the clothes and tools that you SHOULD take on a tour (as well as what NOT to take), and our favorite memories from the Tour.

THANKS AGAIN, and we’ll talk to you soon!

ONLY Through God’s Grace,

jon

Day 84 [Woodville, MS – Baton Rouge, LA]

MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2010

Rose up a little later than the 5:30 I had my alarm set for….about 6:15…..we were sleeping so GOOD, yes, even in the twin bed!

It was starting to get light outside, so we packed up and said our goodbyes to Al, after meeting his aunt next door who raised him (who wondered what these strange contraptions were sitting in her carport!).

Goodbye to Big Al

Headed back to the convenience store where we were last night, and filled up on ice. Again, we had the opportunity to explain our Mission Tour to the morning patrons.

Morning patrons

We continued south on 61….the rain cooled things off  little, and it was nice riding early in the morning.

We soon came to the Louisiana state line (again)…..(a little easier to see this time!!!):

State 10 again

This, then, will be our FINAL state line crossing…..are we excited??!!!

Our last state line cossing

We stopped at the State Line gas station/restaurant/casino for some breakfast, and met some more people who became friends of God’s Hands Agency. THANK YOU ALL!!

Friend of GHA

FARM IMPLEMENT LAWN ORNAMENT alert!

Ahhhh….not quite sure what this is….a cultivator? Any “more-mature-timers” have any idea what this is? [Aunt Joanita made me say that!]

Cultivator maybe

Oh-oh….as we approached St. Francisville, we entered a major 10-mile-long road construction project….this is going to be a challenge, because we lose our shoulder, AND there is lots of truck traffic on this road. Help us, Lord!

10 mile construction zone

Construction

Even along the construction, though, there were gas stations where we could get more ice, and engage the patrons in discussions about deafness.

Motorcycle guy 1

So….apparently this dog sent his owner in for some coffee!

Sent owner in for coffee

Continued on through the construction zone. And SOMEONE got the bright idea to put rumble grooves on our single-lane side of the road (AACCKK!…..have they been collaborating with the guys in Northern Illinois?….hmmm), so we had to cross over these each time semis wanted to get around us. [Of course, we let them!]

Rumble grooves 1

Rumble grooves on single lane

FINALLY got past the construction zone, and the road flattened out as we got closer to Baton Rouge.

Past the construction

Saw some, ah, interesting cuisine signs….is this what they serve in southern Louisiana?

Fresh coon

As we came into Baton Rouge, we went past the Exxon/Mobil oil refinery….what a HUGE operation!! We went past this for at least 2 miles!

Exxon Mobile 1

Stopped at a Jack-in-the-Box and had something to eat. We’re following the route suggested by Google Maps for those on bicycles (it is in “not-quite-ready-for-prime-time” beta right now), but it actually is working pretty well for us.

Saw this pretty rainbow downtown (Mr. Alvin….I was talking with you on the phone when we took these pictures!):

Jack in the Box rainbow

Rainbow downtown

We saw an MRT sign down by the levee, and the Google Map route took us up on to that path on the levee.

MRT sign in BR

The levee trail took us right under the Interstate 10 bridge…..it is HUGE (Earline….really….wouldn’t you LIKE to go over this bridge?)

BR bridge 1

BR bridge 2

Just past the bridge we met Gavan Jackson, with the Baton Rouge paper, The Advocate. He had been following us, taking pictures, and got some information from us. He said the article would run in the paper the next day, but maybe the editors nixed it. We haven’t been able to find it. Can anyone out there see if it ran in the paper? Thanks.

Gavan Jackson

We went past the famous LSU campus [and curious cow]….

Famous LSU campus and cow

…..and past this eating place [Reggie, you didn’t tell us you had moved to Baton Rouge??!!…..wink.png ]….

Reggies

….and then scurried a few more blocks as it was getting dark, and came to the First Deaf Baptist Church of Baton Rouge.

Betha Estes, and eventually her husband Walker (who had originally contacted us several weeks ago when someone sent him a link to our web site) met us at the church. Theirs is a totally independent Baptist church that a group of Deaf started themselves over 10 years ago. (Here is  picture I took the next morning):

1st Baptist Deaf church

These folks opened up their church for us, brought us some food, and told us to make ourselves at home (a roof and a clean dry floor….wonderful!! Here’s where we set up our bed…in the nursery!)

Sleep on nursery floor

What a wonderful thing, to see an independent Deaf church….and right next to the Louisiana School for the Deaf. Walker, who is Deaf and works for the school, set it up so that we will be speaking there tomorrow night. Great!

Lord, give us wisdom as we prepare to speak to those kids, and thank you again for providing a place for us to stay.

TGG,

jon

Day 81 [Vicksburg, MS – Port Gibson, MS]

FRIDAY, AUGUST 20, 2010

After staying up late working on the blog, I got up early to put on the tires that Mark had sent me. I actually had to change all 6 tires, rotating some so that the new, more heavy duty tires were on the back under the weight of the panniers.

Fixing tires in Vicksburg

I discovered that the tires had arrived none too soon, because one of Earline’s front original tires was bulging and showing thread!

Bad tire

While I was working I had this pretty moth stop by and visit….camouflage! And it kinda reminded me of a B-2 stealth bomber. AMAZING design!

Stealth bomber moth

Earline and I got packed up, and got ready to head out. Alvin had taken us to get a couple hundred more flyer handouts printed, so with those (AND fresh ice) in hand, Alvin drove us south a ways. He wisely advised us about the danger of Fisher Ferry Road, and took us beyond where the traffic was so heavy. Not only was it a winding road with heavy traffic, but there was NO shoulder, save some grassy areas, and there was a curb on the side of the road in most places that PREVENTED you from even trying to move TO that grassy shoulder…..an accident waiting to happen. Very dangerous.

Thank you, Alvin, for observing and correctly evaluating the need for concern.

He found a pretty spot to drop us off, and helped us get loaded up.

Alvin and Jon packing up

Thanks again, Alvin, for your kindness and generosity. He even broke his “don’t cook in summer” rule, and made us a pound cake. Great!

Pound cake

May God bless you in ways you can’t imagine!

Earline and I headed on to the Natchez Trace, and this was one of the prettiest roads we’ve been on. It is just a 2 lane road, but no commercial traffic of ANY kind is allowed, and the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. The Trace has a very interesting history, and is a popular cycling route.

Natchez Trace Earline

[Still miserably hot, so we had our umbrella’s going again. We did see 2 deer dance across the road in front of us (a wonderful gift from God to watch and admire), but they were too quick for my camera.]

We got off the Trace at Port Gibson, and through some contacts Alvin had, were able to stay right in the County Sheriff’s parking lot.

Courthouse parking lot

But it was just so HOT…..hard to get a good night’s sleep, but we DID have ice in our igloo…..

Ice in our igloo

…..and a fan for our feet…..

Fan for our feet

…..so we are grateful.

Only through God’s grace,

jon

Day 74 [Lula, MS – Great River Road State Park, MS]

FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, 2010

After an incredibly warm night in the RV park at the casino, even this turtle was going ouch-eech-ooch-ouch-eek as he tip-toed across the still-warm morning asphalt.

Turtle in RV park

I forgot to mention that the night before we met a young couple that follow jobs around the country as pipeline welders, and they for the first time realized that THEY ACTUALLY USE a lot of “sign language” in the function of their job. Might be an interesting career choose for someone’s who’s Deaf….they DO make real good money.

We headed east and south into the state of Mississippi (State #9!!).

State number 9

It is SO hot again today…..right, Earline?

Hot hot hot

We are again seeing so many dry fields and damaged crops….this is not going to be a good harvest for way too many farmers.

Dried up field

In the town of Friar’s Point we did get a chance to make some great new friends…Prophet (yes, that’s his name), and his brother Bob, who both run convenience stores in this small town.

Prophet and Earline

Even though their mother was an only child, their family consists of 8 boys and 4 girls, and Prophet himself has 12 girls and 5 boys (Carrie….can you imagine the number of grandchildren Prophet has??!!) Prophet says that even he doesn’t know how many grandchildren he has.

(Prophet, if I’ve got these numbers wrong, please send me the correct numbers….if you can remember!….ha!)

Bob let us have lunch at his Quick Stop store….

Bob and us

Bob was an educator and an administrator in the Detroit school system for many years….both of Bob and Prophet were interested in our journey, and future collaborations, and both of them gave us some ice. Thanks, guys!

We continued south on Highway 1….the long, hot, hot, long, hot, hot, lonely, hot Highway 1….

Lonely hot Highway1

….and stopped for more ice. Met a guy named…well, he gave us 3 different names!…but let’s just call him “Heart Attack” like his grandmother does! [I guess he gives her a heart attack!] “Heart Attack” has a good friend who is Deaf, and we encouraged him to grow in the language so that he CAN better communicate with his friend.

Heart Attack

We saw this gorgeous sunset….

Sunset on 1

Sunset on 1B

….and because it was a fairly quiet road, decided to press on in the cooler darkness to the Great River Road State Park.

Look! She’s flying!

Arms wide

As it got dark, we noticed these big lights behind us. But after a little bit, they didn’t seem to be much closer – maybe a little bit. Hmmm! What in the world!???!

As they finally caught up to us, we realized it was a tractor and harvesting machines convoy….these guys were BIG! (which is probably why they were traveling at night – they took up pretty much both lanes!).

Tractor convoy

We finally got to the State Park around midnight, and….well, it was dark…it was spooky….and….well, it was weird.

We took showers [THANK-YOU!], which worked, but nothing else did. Three fluorescent lights out of 16 that came on in my bathroom…wide open electrical sockets…no fans or AC….busted wood railings with exposed nails….no toilet paper….no toilet seats!….

Seat less toilet

….filthy, filthy, filthy….and empty! 40-plus campsites, and not a soul around….we thought we saw one small RV, but it was not there in the morning….it was so hot again, and the mosquitoes were horrible (but at least the cement under us was cool!)

Again, choosing to thank God…but it’s hard.

We’re both pretty miserable…and this is a very depressing place. More photos tomorrow from this weird State Park. And we are STILL choosing to thank God for His provision and promised guidance. (We need you, Lord!)

TGG,

jon

Day 73 [Lexa, AK – Lula, MS]

THURSDAY, AUGUST 12, 2010

Special message for NEW readers of this blog:

[For those of you new to the blog, please pardon our dust!….er, ah, grammatical and technical imperfections!]

[Most nights, we do NOT have wifi – an internet connection – except thru my Blackberry – which I just got a replacement for [that story is coming up in a couple days] tell God thank-you – but still lost ALL my contacts – still CHOOSE to tell God thank-you – I read this morning in Psalm 50:23, that:

“giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me (God)”….

…actually, that would be a great thing to pray for….if you ALL could pray that I somehow get all my contacts back!] [Or even better, continue to THANK HIM in ALL situation!]

[So what I’m TRYING to say, is that I will upload text about the events of each day to the blog here, and when I do have access to the internet from our laptop, I will upload the photos that go WITH the text….whew!]

Now, to Day 73….we stayed overnight with Bill and Carrie north of Helena / West Helena (yes, that’s the official name now). Bill and Carrie were great hosts, and in the morning Bill even helped me do some repair work on my semi-truck-and-mini-cyclone-damaged umbrella (see yesterday’s blog). Ha! We actually taped wire hanger pieces to the damaged grooved arms of the umbrella (I think we’re on to something….this will work!) Carrie had a chance to try the I.C.E. trike….she’s a natural!

Carrie bookin

[Did we tell you that Bill and Carrie have a grandson name Eli?!]

Carrie and Earline

Miss Loretta came by, and we got her picture as well.

Carrie Earline Loretta

Hey, Miss Loretta in Orlando…Carrie and Bill’s Loretta reminded us so much of YOU!…she was great!

Said our goodbyes, as soon as Bill checked that we hadn’t forgotten anything!

Pretty entryway

Actually, we tried to get lost heading to Helena / West Helena, but Bill checked up on us, and pointed us in the right direction. We even on the way met Eli’s OTHER grandfather.

Proctor family

[Did we tell you that Eli has grandparents named Bill and Carrie?!]

In fact, Bill checked on us one more time (I think we are appearing a little scatterbrained these days).

[Oh, did I mention that Bill AND CARRIE have a grandson named Eli??!!!!!!!] [Ha!]

We finally got into town, and stopped at Walmart for some supplies (wow, is it hot today….over 100 degrees again. We have our umbrellas on again.)

Beatin the heat

We stopped at Wendy’s, explaining our Mission to them, and they were so nice. They gave us a whole bunch of ice (that is like gold to us these days!). Tried to get their picture, but some PEOPLE were NOT cooperating.

Easier to smile picture at Helena Wendys

While we were still at Wendy’s, Kevin Smith stopped by….he was our original point of contact from warmshowers.org.

Kevin Smith and Jon

It turns out that not only did he ALSO bike the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to New Orleans, but his wife works with the Deaf! (Definitely a couple that we need to come back and spend more time with!)

We headed for the bridge across the River into the state of Mississippi. On the way we saw some lush hills…the vines completely cover some of the trees and create odd shapes of foliage. (and there’s hills down HERE along the Mississippi….who knew??!!)

Hills and foliage

Lush banks of MR

We went thru some of old Helena, and saw a LOT of closed stores and shops.

Downtown Helena

Downtown Helena2

Downtown Helena3

Most of the town and cities along the Mississippi River are displaying similar financial hardship – it has been very disheartening to see the economic hardships that so many are experiencing. America…wake up! We are in a mess!

One other note (Florida take heed)….the hardest hit communities (Helena, AK, Dubuque, IA, East St. Louis, IL, etc.) coincidentally seem to have a gambling establishment close by….is it possible that good money that could have been spent on establishing and promoting local businesses has gone instead into the hands of those who establish and promote the game of gambling or lottery, the amusement of casinos?…..just asking.) (see Proverbs 28:19, and Proverbs 23:19-21).

We called ahead to the local police, and made a request for assistance across the bridge…and I’m glad we did. It is a L-L-L-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-N-G-G bridge. Here’s Bridge #40 (wow, we are WAY past 36 bridges!):

Bridge40

Of course, one reason it was long, is because the Mississippi River is getting wider the further south we go. Compare this picture to ones of the river up in Minnesota [Days 1 through 25]:

Wide river at Helena AK

Here was our escort, and Earline appearing to be running away from him (oooo, it’s HOT, running from all these cops!!)

Escort from the Helena West Helena PD

STOP that lady Earline crossing 40

Thanks, Helena / West Helena…we appreciate it!

One thing that was interesting about this escort that had not happened before, is that everybody went AROUND the police car and us….cars, trucks, even semis, all the way across the bridge, even when the no passing line was on our side!! (This did NOT seem to be a safe situation to us.)

Passing semi

Passing dump truck

Passing cars

Were the police telling them to do this? Not sure…..hmmm.

WAIT!

I DID get a picture of him waving the vehicles around! Whoa!

Officer waving around

Even saw this semi barreling down on the police car as he turned around (this does NOT look good).

Semi vs cop

Our man DID get turned around safely, however…..whew! THANKS, AGAIN!

New state! [Signage tomorrow.]

Our guy turned to head home

By the time we got over the bridge, it was getting late, and Earline saw RVs across the way…there was a camping area next to the casino! We checked it out, and for $16 we were able to pitch our tent, and had full access to the amenities, including showers, indoor pool, and wifi! Sounds great! Whoa!

1st night in state9

Well…..REALITY is a little cruel sometimes.

Yes, there was a pool and showers…but the showers and pool area were NOT air-conditioned or dehumidified….apparently the unit had been busted for some time (but we STILL appreciated the pool), the wifi was VERY weak – the computer couldn’t see it, or if it did, there were ZERO bars, and it was unusable, AND the blacktop that we had to set our tent up on stayed HOT ALL night, and even our air mattress picked up the heat, creating a hot air sauna for us to sleep on (I worked on photos until about 5am, but even then, the air mattress was still miserably hot….rough night.)

VERY rough night.

We WERE grateful for the CASINO accommodations. (Proverbs 13:22 says that “….the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the godly.”)

And, we learned a few things – (do NOT set up on black asphalt that has been exposed to the summer sun) (let me repeat that…..do NOT, EVER, NO WAY, NOT EVER set up on sun-exposed black asphalt) (Ha, do you think we mean it??!!).

But like the wonderful Merlin Carothers always taught, we can truly thank Him in ALL situations, because HE is worthy of our praise and appreciation!

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

Day 71 [Tom Sawyer Campground, West Memphis, AK – Co. Rd. 7, AK]

TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2010

A new night, a new state, but the same story recently –  we had another very uncomfortably warm night last night. I understand the low was around 85 degrees, after highs that have been running around 105 actual temperature.

As you can see, we were RIGHT on the banks of the Mississippi.

High and wide MR

Kinda of reminded me of the Army Corp of Engineers Wildcat Landing Campground in southeast Minnesota, DAY 25, with barges being pushed up and down the river, but of course, the River is much bigger here [AND faster, and much higher than normal….people tell us we should be able to see sand bars, but there are none….it’s running bank to bank.]

Huge barge on MR book downriver

Once the mosquitos disappeared at dawn (Earline wants to know….where do they go? She says that maybe we can create something to KEEP them there!) we opened the tent fly and got an hour of at least some sleep.

We liked this Tom Sawyer Campground. Not the fanciest place, but it was only $12 for the night, a 7# bag of ice was $1, cans of soda pop were 50 cents, and laundry was free. We liked it!

Saw some gorgeous scenery this morning – here is a sampling:

Beautiful morning from TSC

Had a breakfast of graham crackers, honey, and peanut butter (sorta yumm…..ah….sorta….well, maybe not) and the last of the fruit from Gayla and Jennifer from Beech Grove MBC.

We received a wonderful e-mail from a lady in Memphis who saw our photo in the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Here’s some of the text of that e-mail:

“I saw the photo in this morning’s edition of the Commercial Appeal. Just last night, I began writing a book about our deaf son who went to heaven just 4 months ago. In writing about his life, I hope to not only memorialize his awesome life, but encourage other parents who are faced with the daunting task of raising a hearing impaired child. Nathan was 37 when he took his life, and we will never be the same. BUT we know he went immediately into the arms of Jesus, instantly into a new and perfect body, equipped with ears that now hear music we cannot imagine. If you are still in the Memphis area, I would love to just meet you or speak on the phone briefly to say, ‘Way to go!’ Have a safe and wonderful journey.”

Awesome! Thank you, God.

I got the idea to try and do a flip video, so we spent about 2 hours trying to set that up, and speak to the camera without make TOO many mistakes. HA! And here it is:

Video clip from Tom Sawyer Campground (you can also find this on the home page of the thewifipedalers.com)

Did our warm-ups and stretching…..yes, this is part of our daily routine. We stretch before heading out every morning – we have found that it makes a significant difference in the energy and power we have the first 30 minutes of our day’s ride.

Stretching at TomSawyer CG

Finally packed up and headed out….got some ice from the office.

Leaving the TSC

It took me about an hour to figure out how to get BACK to the road we were supposed to be on from the campground. Cutting across the south side of West Memphis, we only had to backtrack about 2 miles.

Then stopped at convenience store down the road for a little more ice (and Earline got a Honeybun…she REALLY likes them).

Several people talked to us about the trikes and the Tour. We talked about the Deaf, and various stats….one guy asked to test drive:

Natural rider outside W Memphis convenstore

One lady took pictures [SMILE!]:

Lady taking picture of us

I spent another hour on the phone with T-Mobile and UPS…BOTH of them had policies in place that would NOT allow them to hold a package (my replacement phone) shipped to the UPS store. It was actually T-Mobile that went against their own SOP and called UPS to tell them to hold the package in Greenville for me. Thank you, T-Mobile!

We had a couple other phone calls and e-mails to make, so by the time we left the convenience store, it was almost 4:00pm, and our ice was melted. Ack!!….how do we ever get anywhere?!

Went about 3 miles down the road, and POW!…the back tire blew out!!

I had noticed Sunday that it was looking really worn, but I thought I could get another week out of it. (Yes, Andy, this is the brand new tire that I put on to replace one of the original tires on Day 38, so it only lasted 33 days??!) That was around Albany, Illinois, so…..maybe 800 miles? Hmm!

(Of course, having 500 pounds in my panniers probably isn’t the best thing for the tire, huh…..HA!)

Blow out of tire new from day 35

And after putting new tires on my fronts (after Sunday’s blowout) and Earline’s back tire on Sunday night, I was down to one worn spare. I decided to put the new right front tire on the back of the trike (which seems to be wearing out faster), and put the worn spare back on the front. Whew!

Swapping tires

Finally got going again….by now it’s 5:30.

BARN ART alert!

I would call this BARN ART because of the innovative roofing that allows equipment to be stored next to the barn and out of the rain.

Barn art ALERT plantation

Of course, the implementation of that design requires some maintenance, or the design doesn’t work!

Whoops!….

…..Deduct points for this oversight:

Implementation of innovation

Saw a mother and a group of 4 boys on the side of the rode. Apparently the mother’s grandfather had hit a coyote with the truck 2 nights earlier, and she was showing the boys the decaying coyote. We explained about our trip, and handed out some ASL cards.

(No, I did not get a picture of the coyote…wasn’t much left after 2 sunny days anyway!)

Continued past more playful farm dogs (NOT Earline’s favorite) and I felt led to stop at a house by the side of the road, and ask a gentleman there if we could camp in his yard. It turns out he pastored Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Helena, Arkansas for 10 years. He and his wife, Lord willing, will be celebrating their 60 wedding anniversary in December.

Pastor Cordell and Jon

Pastor Cordell gave us permission to camp, and access to water. Thank you, Lord.

Really muggy again tonight, BUT, we had a breeze! (albeit, artificial)….[Earline says the little Walmart battery-operated fan I got her is the BEST gift she ever received….how ’bout that?!!…..guys, take notes….]

I only had one bar or none of phone service, but I was able to get a text message out to Kevin in Helena thru a warmshowers.org connection. He said yes! Yea! [But it’ll be a long day tomorrow….about 65 miles….pray us thru!]

TGG,

jon

Day 63 [Belmont State Park, Columbus, KY – Cayce, KY]

MONDAY, AUGUST 2, 2010

After an extremely warm night at Columbus Belmont State Park, we decided to stick around for a few hours until the heat of the day was past. That gave me a chance to get caught up on 2 days worth of blogging, and Earline a chance to do some reading and get some rest.

[Trying some manual spacing today.] [Whoops!….that didn’t work either.]

View of Mississippi River from SP

Barge from CB SP

We met Cathy, one of the park’s hosts, and she was so kind to bring us some ice for our water bottles. It has been so hot – heat indexes well over 100 degrees each day, so ice is like GOLD for us.

About 5pm we headed south through some more rolling hills. (They have some serious hills in even western Kentucky!)

Still have hills in Kentucky

At one point, in the middle of 100s of acres of soybeans and corn as far as we could see, we were getting 5 bars of reception on our phones with no tower in sight, even though last night on top of one of the highest bluffs around, we had no phone service.

What?!

Too much technology for me!

(In other words, I’ve been dealing with technology all my life, and I STILL can’t figure some of this stuff out!…..ack!)

A lady sitting on her porch in Oakton greeted us and asked us if we needed some water or ice….absolutely! Here’s the Stinson family AND Howie Houghton.

Stinson family

Perfect timing! (Thank you, God!) We went past this little church…..and take a close look at the name….

Past little church ins outhern Kentucky

Mt Sinai sign

Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church! How about that! I believe this was also in Oakton. They even had a little cemetery in the back.

Mt Sinai cemetery

Continued through some more farmland (and past yet another cemetery)….

Southern Kentucky road

Oakwood cemetery

We got down to Cayce (pronounced “casey”) as we saw another beautiful sunset.

Sunset near Cayce

Stopped at a little convenience store and met Judy Blackburn. Judy was so kind – she made Earline a fat ham sandwich, and gave me a big tall glass of milk. Yea!

Judy and Earline

Please pray for Judy and her daughter, Victoria. At the age of only 30, Victoria was recently diagnosed with the first ever recorded tumor growing in her heart. The Mayo Clinic was involved – complications from the surgery and medications caused her to have a stroke, debilitating her whole right side.

She IS walking again, but much of her right side is still not functioning, and the ability to engage in conversations is a whole new struggle. But they ARE believers, and we do know that with God ALL things ARE possible!

After leaving the convenience store, we met 2 more young ladies and their young son or nephew outside, and spent about 15 minutes talking to them, and explaining our Mission Possible Tour.

By now it was very dark, but I remembered seeing a sign for a Methodist church just around the corner. And sure enough, there it was. There was a big cemetery on the west side of the church, and they had a large cement platform in front by the main entrance. In the corner of that platform, right under a big oak tree is where we set our tent.

Tent in corner of cement

(Here’s a picture of where we set up our tent from the next morning.)

Campsite front of Methodist church

Again, it was dark, who do you ask?….the house to the right might have been the parsonage, but maybe it wasn’t. So….if someone didn’t want us there (we weren’t hiding – we were RIGHT in front), I’m sure they’d let us know….we quickly set up the tent, and laid down to rest.

And there’s something peaceful about laying down right next to a building where they worship God. Even David extolled the idea of living in God’s house. [Psalm 27:4]

Earline says she heard wild dogs and wolves, but that’s another story!

ONLY TGG,

jon

Day 38 [Fulton, IL – Davenport, IA]

THURSDAY, JULY 8, 2010

We were up as James was leaving. The neighbor to the south had agreed to lock things up for James and for us, so we headed down the road to Albany. Saw this Conestoga wagon on the way to Albany:

Conestoga wagon

QUESTION….if the cow skull horns are right where you’re supposed to sit…..well, ah, where do you sit?!?

Just asking.

In Albany we mailed some stuff to Torin, and ate at Julie’s Cafe. Nice little cafe, right on the Mississippi River. They even had 3 sets of binoculars for you to use to see stuff while you were dining. The waitress was real pleasant, and told us how she had a Deaf customer that came in fairly often, and she was learning some food signs. Good for you!

THEN, it turns out that SHE was JULIE! It was the owner who was waiting on us….AND gifted us lunch. Waited on by the owner!…..now THAT is special. Excellent food AND great service! Eat at Julie’s Cafe! Thanks, Julie!

Julie fom Julies Cafe

Once we got south of town, the bike trail paralleled Hwy 84 for the next 20 to 25 miles. Yes, it is a separated trail. But the bikeway vegetation was encroaching on the path (natural?….more like unsightly and potentially hazardous), there were a few scenic views like this powerline….

Powerlines by road

….this downed tree branch on a litter-filled path….

Broken tree limb

….and even some glimpses of a distant nuclear power plant. [Do I sound unimpressed?…..sorry.]

The signage was really bad – sometimes there, sometimes not. On several occasions we had to pause, and GUESS which way to go.

Sometimes the path was not a path, but a road, which added to the confusion, and if it was a path, it was only a few feet from a very busy highway with lots of trucks roaring by, so, well, what’s the difference?

Then on one particularly long, hot stretch my rear tire BLEW OUT. No fast patching this one….but why did it blow? Closer examination of the tire showed why….

Down to the wire

Down to the WIRE!

Whoops…..

Guess I need to examine the tires more closely, more often, huh?!

Well, I believe this tire has absolutely lived a full life to the extreme extent of its abilities!!! Ha!

Replaced the tube and tire, loaded everything back on the trike (3 flats in 3 days), and we’re back on our way.

Fixed tire

As we got closer to the Quad Cities, the pathway got a little nicer, but the signage got even more lean. It made for a frustrating ride.

Did see this interesting signage, but only a few times…..and several of them were in disrepair.

Cordova bike sign

The path in the Quad Cities area wound through some parks along the river, and some of these were kinda nice. Saw this picturesque scene beside us which was cute, UNTIL…..we realized that the geese had just had a poop fest on the bike path…..YUCK! I would’ve taken a picture of the sidewalk, but I was too busy trying to avoid the geese poop. HA!

 

GEESE

We did have time to stop and munch on spam/graham cracker/peanut butter sandwiches! (okay, I was the ONLY one munched on Spam) (!!!!)

Munching down a spam sandwich

Had another bicyclist take this nice picture of the both of us….

Jon and Earline Illinois side of MR

Also saw this family out for an evening stroll, and momma was making sure that the “baby in the hopper” was getting some fresh air, too!

Young family out for walk

As we wound around Moline and Rock Island, another biking couple led us to the Government Bridge, which the locals call the Arsenal Bridge. It is actually 2 unique bridges – the first taking you to Arsenal Island, and the 2nd bridge goes from the island over to Iowa.

Bridge #29 and pathway:

Bridge29

Bridge29 bikeway

Bridge #30 and pathway:

Bridge30

Bridge30 bikeway

After we crossed the Mississippi River on this bridge, we went south along the river on a bike path in Davenport.

Saw the nighttime version of the picture of the Centennial Bridge from Bob Robinson’s book:

Lit Centennial bridge

Obviously it is getting dark now, and my light in front is dying….trying to find a convenience store, or anything that might have some AAA batteries, but this end of town seems to lack ANY stores (a least ones that are open 10:00 at night.)

After getting to Highway 61, and realizing that our turnoff is just ahead, I am hesitant to head out to the campground at night on an unfamiliar road, and especially with my light in front barely showing ANY illumination. We run across a Westside Assembly of God church, and did a little exploring.

We found a large, day-care center back behind the church (and away from the road); we figure we can get some sleep under the large overhang at the front of the building, and leaving at daylight before any staff might get there. The overhang was about 15 feet, and should also protect us from any dew.

We had just settled down to a snuggie night’s sleep….

Earline sleeping on the trike2

….but I couldn’t get comfortable on the trike, so I laid down on the wooden wheelchair ramp to sleep (and it got cool!….about 55 degrees….brrr!!)….

….and about 11:30pm a van pulled up, and we thought “oh-oh”….it was the cleaning crew for the day care!

But I explained the situation, and she was really nice, raving about the great youth group they had at the church. She even brought us out some ice!

Nighty-night!

TGG,

jon