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.
So let’s get to it:
The WiFi Pedalers 2010 Mission POSSIBLE Tour Closing Thoughts
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 Surprises, BAD Surprises, BEST 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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!)
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.
#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!)
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….)
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.
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!
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.
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.
Where do you ride?
(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!!!!!)
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.
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)
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!)
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.
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.
2. The ride along the top of the bluffs from North Buena Vista to Balltown and even past Balltown….truly amazing, jaw-dropping vistas
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!
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!)
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!)
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
….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!!!
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!
2. THE CAVES…simply amazing!! The cool air on a sweltering day was SCRUMPTIOUS! Link to the 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!
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.
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
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.)
And finally, our FAVORITE sign on the MRT…..
1. You have reached the SOUTHERNMOST POINT in LA
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.
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.
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,