Tuesday, June 30: Yesterday really had me in a quandary as to what to do for today. I told Judy yesterday evening, as she was kind of consoling me about the fact that I had to settle from berm riding the latter half of the day, that the whole point of this trip was to get AWAY from the hubbub of vehicular insanity on rural, backcountry roads. Yet there I was right in the thick of it with car, truck, and semi traffic whizzing by me at 55 and 65 mph. What’s more, if the berm is good, any bozo can ride a mt bike on berm, across a county, across a state, across a country for that matter. What the heck’s the challenge of that? That was the same situation I faced in Western Illinois when I had to bypass all the flooding by riding berm on state and federal routes down to the Mississippi River. 

So I just really hate the fact that I have to do this berm thing. BUT….I’ve really no choice right now. I could, I repeat I could just suffer through the sand trap stuff, but to be dead honest about it, I just don’t have the time and money to plod along like that for another week or so gaining maybe like 25-30 miles in a day. Believe it or not there are parameters with which I have to kind of stay within for this trip, and those two are biggies. A couple of the less critical issues involved with tackling the sand trap roads, include my sanity, my physical capability in 90+ degree heat, and putting Judy through my act of self-flagellation just to say I did it.  

After really looking over the KS gazetteer last evening I decided I’d do the berm thing for at least half the day, and test out the non-paved roads as we went south, and then west. I’d try to stay parallel with my original route, so if I found the roads to be changing for the better, I could get back on course asap. I also put my ancient geology degree to work and did a little research on the surfacial geology of this part of KS. And I’ll give you a little of what I’d found. First of all is the problem with the kind of sand I’d been trying to ride through. According to the Wentworth Grain Size Classification chart, I’d gone from riding on gravel/chert and flint road beds when we first entered KS, to riding on a course to fine silty, earthen/clay/silt roadbeds, to riding on course to very course grained sand conglomerates with a clay matrix, to riding on fine to medium grained sand. And the latter is the one that has caused me fits. It’s unconsolidated beach sand. At least in the others there was somewhat of a clay/silt matrix that held the stuff together to pack down hard into a good, solid roadbed. The beach sand - no matrix to hold it together. Turns out this nasty stuff is Cenozoic age dune sands and alluvium.

Next I pulled up some surficical maps of adjoining counties where my route goes through to see the extent of this particular soil composition, Turns out it’s very extensive in Edwards Co, and Kiowa Co, but begins to change to a more favorable soil composition in Ford Co. So having laid all this mumbo jumbo on you, I tell you only because it kind of helped me to guess when I might encounter better suited riding conditions on the backroads. Looked like Ford Co is where the surficial soil has more of a clay matrix - alluvium. So at least I had a bit of hope for later in the day.  


Now with all this being said, I was pretty much tied to the berm riding across the rest of my routed area through Edwards Co, and then also in Kiowa Co. Then I could take a few chances once we entered Ford Co when I’d really turn more westward. Got rolling out of the Do Drop Inn at 7 AM promptly, this because the forecast is for a balmy 99 degrees today. I wanted to be done by 2 PM when it was in the low to mid 90’s. So I hit Rt 183 south and rode this kind of bumpy, but very solid gravel berm that consisted of limestone that was about marble sized to a bit bigger in a fine lime matrix. Perfect compared to the sand traps. Judy hung in the motel and did a wt workout while I rode south. 

We met up with me about 40 min into the ride, and she just drove ahead 3-5 miles at a crack. I was able to at least keep a good 12+ mph pacing on the berm despite a westerly cross-wind. The temp was cool and I was able to really get in a groove despite the thick flow of traffic. But, this road paralleled my route perfectly. I checked a couple east-west trending roads now and then just to confirm my hunch about all the roads being the same sand trap stuff, and I was right - they were just too sandy to try to ride for distance. We made it to Greensburg, or actually just outside of the city in just around 2 hrs. Did a quickie break for hydration, and then I was off again, this time taking a right on Rt 54/400 west. This berm was just awful, crappy, ugly, terrible! It was a  mix of the sand trap soil and prairie grasses along with broken chunks of asphalt and garbage. Couple that with a pretty stiff headwind and it made for just loads of fun. I had to endure this mess for 18 miles to the town of Bucklin. BUT my carrot on the stick was that Bucklin was just over the Ford Co line, where I thought the backroads might be more rideable. I did a little test ride on an east-west road just before entering town, and it was doable, so I was starting to feel pretty optimistic about getting back on track. 

Did a support break there in Bucklin, and then we decided to take 54 out of town just five miles and try to pick back up on my original route. So we met at the junction of 127th and Rt 54, where I went right on 127th, and I sent Judy down the road two miles, where she’d get on an asphalt road north to meet up with me and hear the verdict. I took 127th to the junction with Wildfire Rd, then went left on Wildfire for a couple of miles. Bingo! They were ridable. So I met Judy, and just had her follow me. The roads were pretty manageable for the van. Now this is the time of the day when the heat really sets in - about noon - and then add the wind and the never-ending false flat and I was getting tired, parched and weary each mile we went west. 

I’d been checking my altimeter for the past several days, and I can say that I’ve been picking up a several hundred feet per day since we’ve been in KS. Left MO at an altitude of just around 800 ft. Today I’m at 2500. So this section of Wildfire, this pup must have put in a good 100 ft of gain alone for the day. It was just this stair stepping up over and over. Finally, add the radiation effect of the sun off of the road surface, and well that only makes you feel like you’re in an oven. Thankfully, and I don’t often speak well of headwinds, that headwind really helped to keep me cool. Down side was that I just couldn’t do more than 9-10 mph at any point on that stretch of road. Heck, I consumed a staggering 140-160 oz of liquids over the course of the day, and at least 60 of that came on this stretch of Wildfire Rd. 

Did the miles to go countdown from the end of the day with about 8 miles to go. My mouth was just so parched each and every mile. And it didn’t matter that I’d just injested 20 oz of powerade, 5 minutes later I had cotton mouth. Thank God I had that van so close. We pulled the plug on the day at the junction of Rt 283 and Wildfire, about 12 miles south of Dodge City, KS. I got in 66 for the day, and finished before the heat got intolerable. Then we high tailed it to Dodge City to a Super 8. I swear, these guys love us - Super 8 - as we’ve used them umpteen times on this trip. I should have a free night coming up here for rewards points - I let Judy take care of all the rewards stuff, so she’ll let me know where we’re at with that. 

Sitting here in the motel room with the AC cranking. It’s now 98 degrees out, and will probably top out at 99-100 later in the afternoon. As I’ve said before, the true high for the day out in this part of the US is usually between 4 and 6 PM. I mean it’s blistering hot out right now. I was telling a friend on the phone yesterday, that the weather has pretty much put a wrench in the cog with respect to our trying to do a lot of camping for this trip. It’s either been raining like hell for weeks on end or hotter than hell for weeks on end - but absolutely nothing in the middle. I mean we see people in these little RV parks here in KS, and no one is outside during the day. Hell, they’re all camped out inside their RV’s or Fifth Wheels with the AC on. 

So hopefully I can continue on some ridable roads again tomorrow. The maps I’d looked at show alluvium going west, so that’s at least promising. I just hope there are no little regional aberrations that pop up on us.


Monday, June 29: This sand just got beyond worse today, and I mean so bloody ridiculous that there was no way in hell that I’d have had Judy driving on some of these roads. They were equivalent to driving down the beach on the dry beach sand. My van would have been spinning rear wheels  in some of those uphill spots sure as I’m stupid enough to be doing what I’m doing right now!

I had to come up with an alternative strategy today, what with the problems I had with riding on the sandy roads yesterday - kind of like a backup so to speak - so we were not going to be way the hell out in nowhere land if we ran into deep, treacherous sand. So I had to deviate from my original itinerary which was going to take me some 5-7 miles off of a main road parallel with Judy. I needed to be just one grid mile from a main road. So first thing in the morning I kind of briefed Judy of the changes and decided that we’d go just about 10 miles for the first stretch, and then 10-15 miles at a time after that. 

So Judy dropped me off at the junction of Sterling and Long View, and I got going west on Longview which was just one grid mile from an asphalt parallel. This stretch had some sand, but nothing just crazy thick, so I made some good time - until the road ended - like just ended and was gated off. So I went around the gate and continued to ride for about 3/4 mile, until I came to the reason why the road was gated off - a bridge was out! Now this was just a little stream, but it was not something I could hop over. I’d have to either ford the stream, or ride back 3/4 mile, then go another mile north or south to pick up a detour, and then ride west, then go north or south again to pick back up on Longview. Rather than ride an additional 2.75 miles, I took off my cycling shoes and socks, walked across the stream, and continued to the other gated side, whereupon I had to climb the gate and hoist me bike up over my head and then bring it over the gate. It wasn’t so easy. Then I was back on track. 

Made it to our first check-in point at the junction with Rt 50 in Sylvia a bit on the late side due to that creek Xing. Hell, I’m not wearing my good mt biking shoes, and there was no way I was going to tramp through a creek with these guys when I only just started wearing them 3 days ago! Yea, I’ve been wearing my old Sidi mt bike shoes, and right about now they’re just about toast from all the creeks, streams and shit I’ve trampled through. Next up I did a mile of berm on Rt 50 and then got on Brownlee and went south for a mile to junction with Red Rock Rd, and went right, west, hoping to take this towards Stafford. Problem was that within a mile, Red Rock just died out in this gas-oil area with about 4-5 wells. I mean the road just died, not even a gate for this one. Gazetteer did not indicate this, gps did not indicate this…nothing. It just died. So I went back to the next junction, went L on Raymond for a mile and then got on the next west trending road - Greenfield. So now I was two miles south of an asphalt parallel. Crossed into Stafford Co. where Greenfield turned into 20th. 

Again, sandy road but no real problems. But I was still worried that I was going to get in a pickle with this sand. I mean it was gradually getting more frequent and thicker as I moved west. Made Stafford on 20th, got hydrated at the van, and then we decided to make Macksville our next support stop, some 16 miles west. Got going on 20th west and wow, the road really started to get super thick with sand in spots. I’d have to shift into the little cookie and then just spin like hell through the best tire track. Within another mile I was “sand surfing” through the thick stuff - just building up speed and then letting it go to kind of slide over the thick sand. I had to really focus on keeping inside a tire track, other words - you sol! This continued until I just started to have deeper and more unconsolidated sand for nearly the whole mile between between junctions. 

I was still dead set on trying to make this work, so I began a third mile and it just went to hell nearly from the beginning. I though I’d just have a rough spot to get through, but this thing was just a sea of sand, so bad that I finally had to dismount and begin walking through the ankle deep sand. Managed to get back on the bike at the end of that mile and I decided to be a glutton for punishment and go for another mile. Ditto, this thing was even on a climb with a short little ots climb. Back off the bike, and this is when I let out the shout that was hear round the world. Remember the movie, Christmas Story, where Ralphie says the F word? Well I said it to, and it wasn’t Fudge, and I yelled it so loud that my sister tells me she heard me back in Lakewood, OH. It was a cry of total frustration. And my damned voice hurt afterwards. I mean I was beside myself. So I declared then and there that I was getting the F off of the sand and onto the berm of the next asphalt road. I was lucky because the very next road I crossed was asphalt. I was on the berm like stink on a skunk. So I took 503rd road north on berm to the junction with Rt 50. Then I got on Rt 50 and rode on it’s berm all the way to Macksville.  Now the berm of Rt 50 was great in some spots and just junk in others - BUT I wasn’t walking the damned bike through ankle deep sand.

At that point I was thankful that I’d changed the itinerary to what we were doing. Had I not, I’d have had a long, ugly ride back up to Rt 50. And as I rode on 50, I’d occasionally get on a north-south side road to check out the road surface…sand, sand, sand…deep and wide for every one of them. It was not a isolated thing - all the roads out in this part of KS are either asphalt or sand. Nothing in between. And the sand is just so thick now compared to yesterday. I mean we’re talking like over 100 miles so far where the roads are really more of a sand matrix than anything else. And here, shoot they’re just nothing but beach sand, fine grained and unconsolidated. 

Well, after the support stop in Macksville, just for &%&$ and giggles I decided that I’d give it another try, like as if out of nowhere this sand thing would dissolve into great gravel. So I went a mile south on 528 Rd and junction with 10th for a 8 mile stretch to meet Judy in the small town of Belpre. Well, 528 was ok, sandy, but rideable, and then 10th was good for about 5 miles, but then went to hell the last 3, where again I had to do some walking. No F word this time - my voice was still pretty sore from the first time. I did manage to get on the very periphery of the road and find some solid surface that hadn’t been broken up by the truck and tractor traffic. But these sections were fleeting, and eventually all turned into unrideable crap. 

Once I slithered into to Belpre, I vowed I was done with sand for the day. Berm was in my future and that was the end of the story. I rode Rt 50 berm to Lewis for a final support stop for hydration, and then continued the rest of the way to the town of Kinsley. We got this little motel in the town called the Do Drop In - no joke! I mean this is small town America if there ever was such a place. Great people, some environment and very simple amenities. Like there are two liquor stores in town, and they’re both about the size of a small garage. And the supermarket, it’s just a little place that still has the baggers carry the groceries out to your car. 

So I made it 70 painful miles today, and I’m just beat from the sand riding. Now I could kick it up to 14 mph on some of the good berm sections on Rt 50, but hell, my whole plan was to do this thing on backroads - not on the berm of state and federal routes. Yet these are the cards I’ve been dealt, just like the flooding situation. And I’d be out there like some kind of madman in the desert if I were to try to traverse all those miles of unridable sandy roads. I have to roll with this until I find that the backroads are not these gruesome sand traps as I rode on today. Thus, my gameplay for tomorrow is the same as today: try to ride the backroads, but keep them within a mile of asphalt just in case. We’ll be heading south to Greensburg tomorrow, and I’ve a very distinct feeling that I’ll be doing at least half of that 20 miles on berm. 

As a side note, we ate at this little hole in the wall Chinese place in Kinsley, and Judy was rather dubious of this from the get-go. But she went along with me nonetheless. And tell you what, this little place was amazing. We were both just beside ourselves about how wonderful the food was. It’s this dine-in-self-serve place, with a one page menue, but the food - incredible! And the entrees were 4 to 5 bucks! No kidding, and that’s for a full plate of food. I got 2 entrees and Judy one, and we both walked out of there totally satiated. Great little find after a rather frustrating day in the saddle. 

Right now I’m going to crack a beer and just forget about sand while we sit on our camp chairs in from of our little motel room right off of Rt 50. Ohhh I hear an amber ale calling….Late!


Sunday, June 28: I knew as soon as I got on the bike today that I was in the hurt locker from the last several days. Those of you who ride regularly, you know the feeling: lethargic body, legs feel weak, head’s not into it. This is pretty common with X country riding. I mean one day you’re on top of the world and the next day the world is on top of you! This kind of thing ebbs and flows throughout a trans continental trek, and I know from past experience that when you have one of those days, well, you just grit your teeth and try to get in the miles. I mean, what else are you going to do right? You know the times will be slow, the mph will be poop, and you long for the end of the day….all day! Now if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to ride into a headwind all day on roads that resembled access roads to the local beach - sandy beach roads!

Got going today at 7:45, at the junction of 1st and Woodlawn. Sent Judy west on paved Rt 50, while I stayed on gravel. Went south on Woodlawn, and that’s where I knew that today was going to be one of those “one foot in front of the other” days. Just felt so weak and lethargic. Hell, yesterday I’d finished the last 10 miles at over 15 mph. This morning, damn, everything I could do to keep the mph at 10 or above. The wind was out of the southwest, but really, more west than south, and it was pretty stiff even early in the morning. Took Woodlawn for 4 miles and then went west on 48th street. 

Now the first 4 miles of Woodlawn was pretty good hard pack gravel. And ditto for the first 2 miles of 48th, and then the fun started…sandy road surface. It was kind of like this course conglomerate of sand, not just pure, fine beach sand, but more like beach sand mixed in with quart pellets. But still, it was washy in areas. And not only that but you had to find just the right line to ride in this stuff. All of a sudden the whole road wasn’t fair game, just this two spots on each side of the middle, where all the traffic goes. Really these gravel roads are about a lane wide, maybe just a tad bigger, so everyone drives right down the middle…thus the sweet spots just to each side of dead center. 

Now I was hoping that this sand thing would be a mile or so kind of thing, this from what I’ve discovered over the years of riding out here where you change from gravel to earthen to sand and back again numerous times. But the further I went west on 48th, the same sandy road surface continued. And between that and the headwind, it was really bloody tough to make any good mph’s. Found myself struggling to get even 10 mph. Funny, my elation from yesterday was turning into survival for today. I’d wash it here and there when the sand just got stupid deep. I’d switch sides, and even ride on the very outer left and right periphery until that also turned into deep, washy sand. It was a constant shifting from one spot to another, aways thinking that that sweet spot was just across the middle. Well it was…for maybe like a quarter mile, half mile, or even mile. But eventually that turned into crap and I was back searching out another sweet spot. What a freaking mind game. Made the first support stop with Judy at about 17 miles, and man I was just beat. Tried to keep it short and sweet so I could get rolling again. Decided to have Judy drive back on 50 west to meet up with me at the Arkansas River Xing, and I’d continue west on 48th - the sandman road! 

At this point some of you might be asking….”hey stupid, why don’t you just get on a different west-trending gravel road/“ Yea, I thought of that, but ALL the non-paved roads in this county are sand - it’s a county-wide thing, and I was hoping with all I had in me that when I rode out of Harvey Co and into Reno Co that the sand would cease. Anyway go rolling again just slithering along through the sand and against the headwind, which by this time had decided to be all out of the west. No big surprise here obviously with the prevailing winds out of the west in this area most of the time. And actually, though it did slow me down, it was rather nice considering that the temp was beginning to hover in the 95-degree area. So if there was any consolation, it was getting cooled down just a bit by the headwind. 

About half way into the second segment I knew that I’d change counties, and I was really counting on saying adios to that freaking nasty sand. And the answer is….Xed over into Reno Co, and….nothing, same old poop for sure. Well, at least I had a chance to ride with hope for 10 miles. Continued on in Reno Co as the road changed to Ealses Rd. On I rode to the dead end of Eales at the Arkansas River. Met Judy at the junction of Eales and Yoder at the Arkansas. Man, once I got in the van and sat down to guzzle down some powerade and water, I just didn’t want to move. I could have just freaking bagged it right then and there. So I decided to change the itinerary just a bit so I could save myself a few miles here and there, what with the way I was feeling. 

Rather than go south for a mile and then east for a mile and then south for a mile and then back to west for a mile, all this to stay on gravel road, I decided to just go south for 2 miles on the berm of Yoder and then continue easy. No harm no foul there, and it saves me 2 miles of riding that I didn’t need to do. And we also decided that the sand road was just fine for Judy to drive on, so she could just ride ahead 2-3 miles at a time. So we got going south on Yoder where the berm was good. Then we went right on Long View Rd and continued west….on bloody sand of course. There were sections of sand on this road where the sand was just so thick and loose that I was washing from one side to the other trying to find that sweet spot. In some areas it just wasn’t there and I had to endure for an undetermined time. Usually it wasn’t more than a half mile. 

I did another 13 miles on Long View, through all the sand and against the headwind. And by then the temp had really begin to get torrid. That’s usually the case out here unless the high for the day is forecast in the 100’s. If in the 90’s the real sizzling heat kicks in around 1:30-2 PM. At that third support stop I was pretty spent. But heck, I had only 51 miles under my belt for nearly six hours of riding. Decided to do just 10 more miles, this only to kind of make the day look respectable. But honestly, I could have bagged it 13 miles ago. 

Did the last 10 with Judy giving me the countdown thing, but actually, with the grid system thing out here for road placements, everything is in 1 mile squares, so I knew where I was at each time I came to a X road. That in itself is just a maddening as mile markers - when you don’t want to see them! 

Finished at the junction of Long View Rd and Sterling - about 16-18 miles west of Hutchinson, KS. Think this puts us about half way across KS, with what I think is another 4 days to get to the CO line or just into CO. Boy, it’s slow going doing the gravel….errr sand road riding gig! Hope I’m feeling a bit more pup in my pedal tomorrow.


Saturday, June 27: What an awesome day of gravel grinding in the great state of KS. This was kind of like my vision of American Dirt. Now that’s not to say all the pain and deprivation that we’ve been through in DE thru MO was not in the fun category, but today was my nirvana. I mean just riding out here and being so aware of your surroundings, of this massive expanse of land just unfolding in front of you for mile after mile. It’s humbling, foreboding, challenging and amazing! As many of you have heard me reiterate so many times when talking about my X country trips here in the good old USA, KS has to be my favorite for the gravel road riding. It’s just this fantastic land that surrounds you and swallows you up. 

Ok, so we got going at 7:45 AM today, where I left off. I did about 1 mile of berm on Rt 99 south, and then took a R on 280th, and was on gravel the rest of the day for 85 more miles! I did have Judy follow me on this first stretch because it was nice and wide with a pretty good road bed. That only lasted about 7-10 miles. Then we had to part company because the roads I was planning on riding, they were not for the 2-wheel drive van. So I had Judy take Q road north to the junction with 300th and then go west to Cassoday while I went south on Q to these minuscule backcountry roads through the wonderful Flint Hills area of KS. 

Went R on 7 which had this maze of little access roads coming and going off of it, and this was my undoing. I had mapped, gps’ed and memorized this section, and be damned if I didn’t blow it. Somehow I just remained on 7 south towards Eureka. Once I realized that I screwed up, I was 5 miles down the road. So I checked my gps and saw the problem. As I was doing that a father and son stopped and wanted to help, seeing me standing there. I told them what I did, and the guy offered to drive me back to where I should have gone straight. Took that offer with zero though. Hell, I’d already gone out of the way, and I wasn’t about to feel guilty in taking a pick-up truck ride back to the right spot. They gave me 2 pints of water to take with me when I departed. 

Got going again in this tiny dbl track road that began to undulate all over the place, and I mean with some STEEEEEEEP climbing on really rocky, rutted road bed. Passed the access road to the hamlet of Thrall, and then continued straight into the Flint Hills area, doing deep descents and crazy climbs, especially across the E. Branch of Fall River. I mean this place was so amazing because you’re in KS, yet you’re going through and along all these flint and chert cliffs and ridges cut by this stream (not a river for sure!). Made it out to River Road, H road, and went south for a couple miles. Next up was this little dbl track road called 260th. This looked more like a farmer’s access road than a county road. And once on this…LET the climbing begin. It was relentless and steep. I ended up riding in a place called Lapland. Now for those of you who know of Lapland, you know that it’s an area up in Finland that is above the arctic circle and just treeless, with nothing but these big hills rolling on forever covered with arctic grasses. I’d been there many years and it’s the spitting image of the real Lapland. It’s also reminiscent of Northeast Iceland, and I had this de ja vu moment riding in this area because it reminded me of when I’d ridden around Iceland on the ring road, entering the dirt road portion of that ring where you’re just surrounded by all this crazy topography. It’s just beautiful.

The road was just relentless though with all  the ups and downs. So this road started out as 59, and then changed into 270th, and then changes again to 135th. Look on a map or gazetteer and you’ll see this as a little hair of a road that traverses Greenwood and Butler Counties. I passed a couple guys doing ranch work out here because it’s open rangeland, and I waved and yelled out how cool this place was. They just smiled and waved back at the goofy Ohio ass cyclist. I would ride by the cattle and they’d just scatter in front of me and behind me. Couple times I was worried that I’d get taken out by a frightened cow/or herd of cows. 

Went R on T323 - Battle Creek Rd - for more miles, and once I kind of topped out on 323, I was out of the green, rolling Lapland area. That’s when I could pick up speed. Took a R on Hilint Hill Rd, then a L on 140th, X ed a RR and there was Judy at the corner of 140th and 150th. She related to me how the roads she took, they were bad to, and only the last couple of miles on 150th were asphalt. Her section took her 1 hr of driving on a rugged, rocky road at 20 mph. She was a bit shaken, but ok. I told her there was no way in the world that she could have taken that van on the roads that I was on. Hell, the two ranchers I’d seen, they were on a ATC. 

Lunched with Judy at the junction of Rt 99 and 140th, and then I threw my bike in the van to recon 150th for Judy, seeing that she’d have to be on it for 38 miles to the town of Newton. It was asphalt and I just wanted to be sure to make her feel better - and heck, me to. I didn’t want her doing another 38 miles of rugged gravel. If it would have been crap then I’ve have routed her down I-35 and then west on KS-196 - which would have been a long, long detour. But anyway we were good. She took me back to 140th, and I got going again west, this time on this earthen road that had 1 foot deep ruts in it from the rain days of the past few weeks. No way for the van on this one either! Did a R on Price, and intersected with 150th to meet up with Judy just to be sure 150th was still asphalt. It was. So we decided that she’d go 15-20 miles west on 150th, while I paralleled her on 170th and 160th. 

Off I went up Price to the north, then went L on 170th west, to a L on Turkey Creek south, to a R on 160th west. And most of these were just smoking fast gravel roads, most notably 160th. With the wind out of the northeast, I had a slight cross-tail wind, and there were times when I could do 18 mph. Now there were still some slight ups and downs, but nothing, I repeat NOTHING like the Flint Hills. And cool thing out here on the gravel in KS, all the people, the farmers and ranchers wave at me. I mean it’s a KS thing I guess. It’s cool to have someone wave a friendly wave at you on a bike instead of flipping you off. You know how the jeep people have this wave thing going on? Well, here in KS it’s the same thing, but from car to bike. Love it!

Rode along and watched the combines mowing down the summer wheat by the thousands of acres, watched as farmers plowed fields and watched as ranchers did ranch work with a gazillion cows out in the fields, just thousands and thousands of cows out here. Took 160th to the junction with River Valley Rd to meet with Judy again. She was good on 150th, which for me as assuming because with were only a mile apart on parallel for this section. Got hydrated with powerade and water, and got going again for my last section of 160th to Newton. Again, super fast riding. I mean some of this gravel out here is so packed down that it like desert concrete. Other sections are loose, thick, and a pain in the ass to ride. But really it all evens out in the long run. Did a piece of riding where I entered Harvey County, and 160th turns into 12th, past this nice swim lake & and camping area - Harvey County East Lake. The people were out there today en mass what with the sun and it being a Saturday. Just past the lake I met up with Judy, trying to see if she could drive down 12th. We met up with about 3 miles to go for me. I think with all the waiting around today, she was just restless and bored, and had to find something to do, so driving was the answer. 

I made a L on Woodland Rd and junctioned with 1st street, aka 150th. That was the end to a great day of riding. So at this point I was 3 miles east of Newton. Got in a total of 86 miles, and I really had FUN. Yea, imagine that, fun for a change on the bike rather than getting my ass handed to me. The weather today was hot by my standards, but cool based on the areas typical weather in late June - temp was 86 today. Tomorrow we go up to 94. But much sun is in the forecast. So I hope to get an early start again tomorrow and maybe make it past Hutchinson, KS. Have to X the Arkansas River tomorrow, and I have a distinct feeling that it will not be via canoe. Water is still up everywhere. Guy told me yesterday that had we come through here 3 wks ago that I would NOT be riding on the gravel. Many of the gravel and earthen roads out here are really washed out and rutted from all the rain in the previous weeks. 

So the rivers are still pretty loaded with all that water. May have to employ the same method as I used yesterday on the Neosho River - bike to one side, car caravan to the other side. Remember - there are not many bridges out here! Late……Pete


Friday, June 26: Woke up this morning to lightening storms….just another day in the life!! With this going on I was in no hurry to get rolling, so Judy did a dumbell workout in the room and I worked. We still got out at a good hour, and got back to our end point at the junction of Oregon and 2400 (I had it down wrong in yesterday’s blog: Oregon NOT Soldier). The sky looked as ominous as it has in past days, with these low hanging, nasty looking gray masses that pretty much were ready to bust wide open at any minute. Wind was out of the northeast at about 15-20 mph. So I got on my bike at 8:30 AM, rode about a half mile north on 2400, and boom, more lightening and rain, and I was back in the van. We had decided to have Judy just stay behind me with the way the weather looked, and this was great because as soon as I got the bike in the van the deluge hit and the thunder and lightening began. 

This lasted about 30 min. When things began to clear, I was back out and on the road….and this stint lasted 2.5 miles. Rain and thunder/lightening back, and this time for a good while, like about an hour. I just hung in the van and actually fell asleep just listening to the storm. Judy just sat in the driver’s seat reading her 7th or 8th straight book for the trip. Once the rain and storming stopped I kind of groggily woke up, whereupon I was accused of snoring. Got back on the bike and rode in a light drizzle for another 5 miles…and the storming continued once more. 

This one lasted another 45 min. No more sleeping for me. I kind of worked on looking and tweaking the route a bit for the day. Now I’d intended to canoe across the Neosho River, but it was still pretty swollen from the storming that had occurred last week, so that was out. Then the bridge going over the river in Iola, that was out due to construction. So I needed to reroute myself across the river in a different direction.  So during all this storming this morning, I’d been trying to ride north on 2400 to junction with South Dakota Rd. Then I’d go west to the very dead end of South Dakota at the Neosho River. Then I’d load the bike in the van, we’d drive north 3 miles, west 3 miles, south 3 miles and 3 miles east, and I’d get out on the other side of the river, just across from where I stopped on the east side at the dead end. What a mess!

So anyway, this I was trying to do for hours during the on and off shower activity. Finally, at that last stop, a farmer stopped next to us to ask if we needed help. Thanked him and told him no, that we were waiting out the weather so I could continue riding. He said, “well, you should be able to ride in about 20 minutes!” And be darned if I didn’t look on my cell at the weather map and he was right, the thing was moving southeast and we were almost at the tail end of the front. Waited another 10 min and I got going in a very light rain just to try to get the jump on a very shortened day already.  Made South Dakota Rd, went L and took that through some pretty sloppy gravel road, with my tires kind of sinking ever so little in the road, but just enough to make me feel like I was riding a bit harder than I needed to. 

Made it to the end of South Dakota, just at the banks of the Neosho River. Then loaded the bike in the van and did the goofy end around to the other side. Glad I did NOT choose to canoe the river as it looked a bit on the angry side! Got out on the west side of the river after about a 12 mile shuttle. Now you might think this is loco driving all the way to get around the river, but THAT was the shortcut. With Rt 54 closed in Iola across the river, there are only 2 bridges to get around this thing in about 30 miles north and south of the river. It’s a nightmare to try to negotiate across this thing when I cannot do it in a canoe. 

So got going on South Dakota west and that turned into 280th once we got into Woodson County. And this puppy went on and on and on for nearly 25 miles due west, stair stepping up in an endless series of plateaus every couple of miles. Yep, false flat for much with all these stair step climbs that were out of the saddle, middle and little ring, and exhausting with the wet gravel road bed. The next time I hear some knucklehead tell me that Kansas is flat, I’ll personally kick the idiots butt down to 280th in Woodson County! I’d average anything from 5-7 mph while climbing, to 23 mph while descending. But honestly, the up definitely added up to way more than the down. 

There was a point where Judy was telling me every couple of miles on this thing how far we’ve gone on 280th, and I finally asked her to please shut her pie hole and let me suffer with dignity! I didn’t want to be reminded how long this thing was, and how many more miles I had to go. Took a good rest break with about 3 miles left in this monster. Did my usual 20oz each of powerade and water, and then ate a bag of fresh Strawberries. Then it was on to the hamlet of Virgil. Took a R on Rt 3 in Virgil, and then stayed on Rt 3 at a little gravel 3-way intersection where we went L, and then the big decision….what to do with the van at the next road? 

Then next turn was a L on 270th, and it looked water logged and muddy, and it was more or less dbl track. No way I wanted the van to go through that, and the rest of the roadways I needed to ride on all looked as though, at least from the gazetteer, that they were just like 270th. So I had Judy get on Virgil-Vernon Rd, asphalt, and take that to Rt 99, and then go north to meet up with me as I rode these tiny farm access roads that were thin and muddy. This could very well become more prevalent as we move along through the state of KS, and then well into CO, UT, NV and OR. I just don’t want to put her or the van in harms way, so I have the route set up such that she can have quick access to asphalt while I ride on gravel, and then we meet up at an asphalt junction. Now I’ve got it like this for MUCH of the trip, but not all of the trip. There are still some very tricky areas for me to do such that I can meet up with Judy in a timely manner. Anyway, this was a good test. 

So we got her going on the asphalt road to Hamilton, and then up KS Rt 99, while I did this little zig zag course on 232nd, and then onto 290th. Problem was that my gps on the cell calls 290th twp 801, and my Garmin 810 on my bike calls the road two 802. BUT the Garmin gps in the van for Judy, that freaking thing lists the road as 290th. And I didn’t realize this until we had departed one another, and I hit 802. At that point the road sign said 290th, meaning county road 290th, NOT twp road 802. Now my Edge 810 confirmed after all the zigging and zagging that I was indeed on 802. But out there on the asphalt Judy was not going to find that 802 on a sign. Hell no, it will be listed as 290th. And let me tell you, these gravel roads are a bloody maze out here in Woodson and Greenwood Counties. My big worry as soon as I saw that 290th sign was that I’d told Judy verbally and in the itinerary doc, that she should look for 802. SHIT! 

Well, with about 5 miles to go on 290th before I would junction Rt 99 I got a call from Judy. And man, I was just stoked that she had service on her cell, because mine, which has much better service, was just barley registering 2 bars. Over a bad connection we could just barely communicate. She had driven 3 miles past the meeting point and could not locate 802. I told her of the gaff, and to go back and look for 290th. Done! I felt much, much better on that last 5 miles knowing that she’d be there at the end with zero drama. Now as far as her riding on the road that I took, 232nd and 290th, well, I think we made the right decision and had her go asphalt. This first 5 miles was pretty sketchy for a non-4WD van. I mean this van is great but it’s not all terrain. The rear end is just so light that it gets stuck pretty easy on soupy, muddy, sticky and tacky surfaces. And there were a couple climbs on 232nd that were just dbl track and fairly muddy from all the rain last night and today. Could have been a nightmare. The last five miles of 290th was great…but you just never know when you’ll hit a swale that’s just too muddy and steep. 

I’m telling you from past experience that the gravel and dirt roads out here, some of these are just like the most rudimentary tracks you could think of getting a vehicle on. And we’ve seen signs on virtually all of these soft surface roads warning of flash flooding and low flood prone areas, so it’s serious business making the right call on what the van can and cannot drive on. I’ve really got to be on my A game from here on in. 

So I finished with 60 miles today. Now it’s way under where I wanted to be, but hell, I actually didn’t really get riding until after 11 AM what with all the freaking rain. So I ended the day at the junction of 290th and Rt 99 in Greenwood County. We had to drive 16 miles to this little town called Eureka, KS to find a mom & pop motel for the night. I mean we’re way the heck out in ranch country. Most of the woodlands have been replaced by rangeland and grassland. Definitely feel the difference in topography in just 2 days. 

Forecast is for good weather for next 4-5 days, with temps going back up into the 90’s by Sunday.


Thursday, June 25: Crazy hot day today on the plains. Good news is the wheel bearing issue is gone, and the van is sounding like the good old days, so I’m not fixating on that damn thing all day. We got out of Butler, MO early, and Judy got me back to 9001 so that I could get rolling at 7:38 AM. Now the wind was out of the southwest again, and it was a very challenging 10-20 mph. But actually that was ok with me seeing that the temps and humidity were just blazing again. 

So I got rolling on the grave 9001 and rode that to the junction with Road V. V is asphalt, and it’s berm is just about as useless as nipples on a bull - just terrible because the asphalt ended with about a 4 inch lip, and then the berm, if you can call it that was just knee high weeds that slope down at about 45 degrees. I tried just a couple times to ride this nightmare, but I had to let common sense prevail and just ride on the asphalt rather than wash it down into these deep weed ditches. This was about 5 miles of “forced asphalt” to my credit. Then junctioned with a L on 3988 and took that gravel road to the KS line. Then this turned into 1000R as soon as I entered KS and it turned into asphalt to. And once again, the berm was the same crap as on Road V in MO - weed berm with a 45 degree slope - so I had to ride that for about a mile on asphalt. 

But once on Wattle Rd in KS, it was gravel the rest of the day. So here is the litany today for roads: R E100, to L on 245th, to R on Xylem, to L on 242nd, to L on Wagon, to R on 255th, to R on Range, to L on Soldier, to L on Tomahawk, to L on 95th, to L on 135 to R on Range, to R on 95, to L on Ridge, to L on Soldier to the junction with 2400th. I ended the day at the Soldier/2400 junction with 80 miles in for the day. 

So really, with that southwestern headwind, it made for a great cooling off for me throughout the whole day. Now it did make for some difficult riding obviously, and slowed me down so that my average for the day was around 11-11.5 mph. So that was 7+ hrs in the saddle for 80 miles! Nice huh? And as I’ve told people for years now….”it ain’t flat in KS, and Western MO for that matter. The first 35-40 miles was nothing, I repeat NOTHING but gravel rollers. There were big ring rollers, middle ring rollers and little ring rollers. Matter of fact, round about 20 miles in I just quit using the big ring. I was just taking too much out of me what with that heat and humidity + the headwind. So I used the middle and little ring the rest of the day trying to spare energy and leg muscle. And I’ll tell you what, some of these rollers were pretty much climbs, a couple of which went on for 2 miles or so. Then I’d top out in the little ring just crawling along. 

Took my first support stop in KS at about 35 miles in. With the early start I was able to get more mileage in during the cooler morning temps, but once I did take that first rest stop, we had Judy find a slice of shade-tree to park the van under as I drank and ate. By then, with about 3 hrs in, the heat was really on. Downed 20oz each of Powerade and ice cold water and ate half a turkey sandwich and some fresh strawberries. Then got going in the real heat of the day. 

Judy, man, she had a tough day just driving in the AC on these freaking one lane gravel roads, parking, waiting for me to go by, and then off again to the next road change. Bless her man, she worked equally as hard as I did today in that bloody heat. Never turned the van off today due to the insufferable heat. Next support stop was at about 55 miles, and I was just getting torched by the weather. Did another 20oz each of powerade and water, and that was it. 

Now we did have some issues today with my directions, because this Soldier Rd, according to my research, should have died out for a section, but it didn’t and Judy was kind of peeved at me for wanting to stay with my directions. And she was right…it was through. So I ended up doing 2 miles, one north and one south to bypass what I though was this die out section. Then, miles from there, Soldier really did die out, So I had to improvise for a short section to get back to where it starts up again. It is easy to improvise out here because everything is set up on one-mile grids, and almost all the roads are gravel. So it was a minor hassle. But the issue was that Judy wanted me to throw the bike in the van and drive the section where Soldier starts up again because I’d be picking up the same parallel again. Me, I wanted to connect everything together, so I rode the sections. We had some words over the issue. 

I explained to her that it would be much easier to just hop in the van and get to the next east-west parallel, and that wasn’t the “theme” of the trip. So we kind of came to an understanding on that. But even bigger is the issue that I have mistakes in my routing, and I knew that would be the case. See, I’d spent the better part of 3 months writing the itinerary for this, and with all that time involved in transcribing directions onto a word file, I’d just made some mental errors now and then about taking a L or taking a R. Well, she found several of these already, and it really saved us. So on some of this where I have me routed north and then west and then south and then west again, well, that’s just so I stay on gravel the whole time. Judy, on the other hand just didn’t understand the logic in this because it’s taking longer to go west. And I’d told her that some of these roads ebb and flow from gravel to asphalt and back to gravel again. This I know because I’ve used county maps that discern what the road is at all points in the county. So I have these sections where I have to do north and south to stay on gravel, and then get back to another east-west gravel. It’s a freaking complicated mess, and at times this has kind of pissed her off. Anyway, we’re good now. 

I did have my first real dog-chase today, where 2 bloody pit bulls just ran after me for a good mile. At first I did disengage from the pedal to begin my “field goal kicking practice”, but after watching these guys, they were just trying to have fun with keeping up with me. They were not looking angry, and trying to nip at me. Rather, they were just kind of horse racing with me. And with the temps in the 90’s these guys burnt out fast. And they ended up trotting away with their tongues just hanging and panting like they were spent. 

Now my third support stop, at like 70 miles, I was just running on fumes. I downed another 20oz each of powerade and water, and was determined to get in 80 for the day (to be honest I had myself down for 104 miles for this stretch today which shows you how over ambitious I was in designing this whole shtick) to see some real progress. That last stretch along Soldier was just brutal. The gravel was thick and washy, such that I had to ride on the very periphery of the left or right side to stay in “thin” gravel. Made it to the junction with 2400, and I’d been counting down from 3800 the whole time, knowing that each north-south X road was -200 for every mile. So that was a lot of counting - like 7 miles worth. 

Plopped in the van with a headache, and downed another 20oz each of powerade and water. And I was just silent for about 10 min as Judy drove west to a Super 8 in Iola, KS. Finally perked up by the time we made town. And doing all the ice cold powerade I think really helped me recover. We went straight to Walmart and got 2 8-packs of powerade, then went to Sonics and I just gorged on a dbl cheeseburger and a footlong cony dog! Judy was a good girl and got a grilled chicken sandwich. And now we’re back here in the Super 8 with the AC on max. High temp today was 96 with a heat index of 106. I mean it was just smoking hot today. My legs were just caked with lime dust, kind of like cement from the sweat mixing with the dust. 

And speaking of dust, damn, when a truck (which almost everyone drives out here) or semi (used for hauling grain and hay) went by I would just get blasted by this immense white cloud of dust. I learned to hold my breath just as the vehicle went by so as to not suck in the lime dust, and then after a minute or so I’d do this gagging exhalation/inhalation once the cloud was gone. Did this countless times. I also have this “sweat rag” that I use to wipe my forehead and eye sockets that just drip with sweat. Add that dust and the sweat and lime form this thin layer of lime mud on my face. Wonderful!

Storms are forecast for this evening and tomorrow morning, and the temps are supposed to go down about 10 degrees. Hoping I can ride some tomorrow despite the rain what with the lower temps. 

Well, from Iola, KS, have a great evening!


Wednesday, June 24: Today was quite an interesting day for sure. But let me degrees a bit to kind of put this together. About a week ago, round about, that or maybe 10 days ago, I began to notice a very slight whirring noise coming from what I though was my right front wheel. Now with that damned canoe on top of the van, that in itself causes weird noises as you increase/decrease speeds. Sometimes it sounds like a bloody airplane is landing on the roof. So anyway, I wasn’t really sure if the sound was from above the passenger side or below it. And heck, I was in the van so seldom each day that I didn’t really have a chance to dial in on that whirring noise. 

Well, I noticed big time several days ago that it was most definitely coming from the right front wheel. And that got the alarm bells going in my head….front wheel bearings! So I kind of really started to listen to the sound…was it a tire, wheel bearing, front end alignment issue, tie rods? But at this point I knew one thing - it was not the canoe on the roof. So yesterday I was putting my head down to the floor (nice contortion exercise in the van) on the right side and the driver’s side to see if this was just one side or both. Definitely louder on the right side, and the noise seemed to be getting louder each day. Last night I got on the web and surfed Ram 1500 wheel bearing issues and what to look and listen for. 

Sure sounded like I was on the right track with what I found there. Then this morning, I drove the van back to my end point from yesterday to see if I felt anything different from the driver’s side. I did this turning the wheel to the right and left test, and noted no significant sound difference or sloppiness in the wheels. But that dag gone right side wheel definitely was beginning to make a airplane engine sound on our drive out this morning. Did my first segment’s ride and got back to the van - after Judy pretty much yanked me in there to get some fluids and food - and while I was at it I called my good friend Keith to get the number of an automotive tech who I’ve just begun to use for my auto/truck work. The tech is Scott, and this guy is a true pro. Keith has been raving about the work that Scott does for years, and since the shop I’d been using closed down back in February, I thought I’d give him a try. And Keith was right, this guy is the equivalent to my bike tech guy Steve - a bloody perfectionist! 

Got Scott’s number and I called him from out in the middle of Western MO farm country to see if he could give me some guidance on getting this wheel thing diagnosed and fixed. Scott spent a good 15 minutes on the phone with me telling me that I was probably right, and to make sure I had BOTH sides done, not just the right. He also gave me the shop price for having both sides done, this so I could tell who was being honest with me, and who was giving me the shaft. And finally he gave me a list of all the stuff that needed to be done, and told me to get an estimate. “Should be between 3 and 4 hundred dollars,” he told me. “If it’s more than that find someone else,” he added. Finally Scott also told me to get it done asap or I could cost myself even more money by trashing the spindle and God knows what else. So that was it. 

Now we had stayed in Butler, MO last night, and right next door was a Dodge dealership, Max Motors II. So I got on the phone, looked up the dealership and began looking at reviews of their work. They had a pretty darned good list of reviews, and they were Dodge techs…AND they were only 10 miles east of where I’d taken that first support stop. Gave them a call, talked to the Service Manager,  Jonathan, told him my issue and what I needed done, and asked how much this would cost. His quote was exactly where Scott said I should be, and he said they could get it in the shop at 11 AM. So the day ended then and there. We went directly back on Rt 52 to Butler and Max Motors II. 

The people there were just great. Jonathan got me in, and a tech looked at the wheels while I talked with the General Manager, Dallas, who is a mt biker himself, and and an avid rider on the Katy trail. Jonathan came back in with the right side bearing race, and it was gnarly looking, pitted and rough. So I had them go ahead and do both sides as Scott had suggested. They did a wonderful job getting me in and out and that was done. Now riding at that point - at like 2 PM in the afternoon, well it was 96 degrees by that time. So we pulled the plug, got a motel and some food from Walmart and called it a day. 

But I will give you a recap of the days ride. Got back to yesterdays stop point and got on the bike at 7:45 AM, and it was just starting to get toasty out, even at that early hour. I got going with nothing but that van issue on my mind, and worrying about Judy in the van and any potential problems coming down, so I just couldn’t enjoy the pure beauty of being out there on the lonely country roads with no traffic. My list of roads for the day went like this. Began at junction of 9004 and Z, and rode berm for 3 miles on Z, some of which was just total crap - like weeds growing out of a ditch. So there were several occasions where I had to ride on the asphalt to avoid careening into the ditches and doing a series of endos. Then back onto 9004 west, to L on 493, to R on Road F, then R on 1001 to L on 9002 which turns into Road CC for a short piece, to L on 9001 to junction with Rt 52. And that’s where I made the calls about the van and eventually stopped for the day. We stopped right around this little place called Virginia, MO.

I ended up with 25 miles today, almost all gravel, with some really challenging riding: long rolling climbs, short steep climbs, and a very notable headwind out of the southwest. And with the high heat and humidity, this was a tough way to start. I couldn’t get more than an 11 mph average if my life depended on it today. There was one section, when I first got on 9001, where for about 2 miles the country had just spread a thick, new layer of limestone gravel - the size of ping pong balls - and this stuff was just wicked to ride on. I ended up riding on the very periphery of the road where most of the new gravel had not had a chance to gather. This stuff was way worse than riding on RR ballast. 

As I had said, Judy kind of pulled me off the road to eat and hydrate. I tend to get in this zone, my TEMPO zone, where I want to just keep amassing the miles. She’s a good one for yanking me out of my “zone” when I really need to back off and take a nutrition/hydration break. And that’s how the day ended on the bike. So… so far, “It ain’t Kansas yet my friend.” I’m still about 7 miles as the crow flies east of the state line, and about 15-20 miles from actually entering KS and getting on my intended start point for the state. 

I’m falling further and further behind on this thing…but, I’m just going to keep on and do the best I can. Have to say that I’d really kind of overestimated the time-line for this trip, believing that I could do more than I’ve been able to do each day. DE, MD, WVa, and OH had really kicked my butt, and also there’s been the weather issues. And it’s funny, in that there’s been times when I was out there riding, paddling, or bike-hiking, where I’d just chuckle to myself, thinking, “dude…what the freaking heck were you thinking of when you sat down at the desk to figure this one out?” Yea, I definitely made myself laugh at myself on more than several occasions. 

Now I don’t see me making huge gains on what I’v lost, but I’m still hoping that I can pick up a day here or there in each of KS, CO, UT, NV and OR. That could help. Well, anyway, that’s the dope on today. Hopefully the van is A-ok, and the weather will cooperate just a tad. Tomorrow - Kansas or bust!!


Tuesday, June 23: A nice little cool front moved in last night, and at least cooled things down a bit compared to the last several days. Instead of morning temps in the 70’s, they were in the 60’s this morning. Wind was out of the northeast. It appeared that for a day, everything was going well. Ate breakfast and then Judy got me back to the big Sedalia Katy TH, and I was able to get rolling at about 8:10 AM. Jude did a hike while I pedaled southwest to our first support stop in Windsor, about 21 miles off. 

Felt awesome this morning with such “cool” temps to start out in. My God, I wasn’t sweating like a man on death row for a change. Matter of fact I kind of gage the suffer factor by how quickly my arms bead up with sweat. This morning, no beading - just a light glistening sheen. And with that tailwind, oooopa, it was just great. I could just ride no-handed at a good 14 mph and relax. The miles ticked off fast. Cloudy skies kept the sun at bay so life was definitely good. Made the “summit” of the trail just a tad outside of Windsor. And honestly, you can feel that little uphill for nearly 40 miles west of Boonville. It’s there for sure, even though you’ll do little descents in these swales, but then the climbing begins again and just kind of goes on and on and on. 

Just did a powerade at the Windsor stop, and Judy joined me for a piece of riding west for about a half hour. Again, heat just not an issue at this point and that last 16 miles of trail to Clinton were a breeze. I’ve been on this trail 3x now, and this day going to Clinton had to be the easiest due to the lower temps and humidity. In 2011 and 2012 the temps and humidity were just as gnarly as they were yesterday and the day prior. Made Clinton before Judy did, so I continued further on the old RR bed. Now the Katy officially stops in Clinton, but as with many of these rail trails, the old bed just continues on. Sometimes it’s a jungle of foliage, or sometimes it’s a path or trail that people use. In this case it was a single track trail that had low hanging branches and crap that raked my arms and head, but I made it through town and to Ohio St, where I needed to begin berm riding. So then I turned back and rode asphalt back to the trailhead to meet up with Judy. 

Got back and she was out hiking east on the trail to meet me, not realizing that I’d already done more riding to the west on non-trail. So did lunch and came up with a gameplan that I’d come up with last night: I’d take Ohio west out of town and then get on gravel farm roads - this rather than continue on the old RR - which once through town, actually still has rails and this crap ballast that looked horrible in every respect. I’d be much better trying to find gravel out there. And really, after all the gravel roads I crossed on the Katy, I kind of had a feel for looking at the gazetteer and knowing what would be gravel and what wouldn’t. 

Had to ride through a mile of two of peoples front yards and devil strips, and then Ohio St turns into Rt 18, and has this awesome gravel berm for a good 8-9 miles. Then it turns to total garbage where there is a grass/weeds berm with about a 6 inch lip to the left where the asphalt is - tough and dangerous to ride, so I did a few 50-100 yard stretches on the asphalt where the situation dictated. Now there was a road closed sign for Rt 18 west, and Jude was a bit worried about it, but I thought that my gravel roads with kick in before we hit the closure. And I was right, we hit our first gravel road about 3 miles before the closure. 

Went L on 701 and I began this chippy little gravel rollers. Then went L on Division and headed west to parallel Rt 18. Now for those of you junkies who are actually google or garmin mapping this, I’ll go through the litany of roads and then continue with my nonsense. So here you go: L on 901, to R on Rt 18, to R on 100, to L on Division, to L on 160, to R on Rt 18, to L on 14473, to R on 9004. 

So I had to hit Rt 18 a couple times when Division just ended. That made for some going north to go west and then going south to go west, but it did the job and kept berm riding to a bare minimum. And I’ll tell you what….THIS is what I’d been waiting for for the past 7 weeks of riding - beautiful one and two lane gravel roads that stretch on for as far as the eye can see. There were times, when I wasn’t climbing some of these stiff little power climbs, that I was just sailing on the flats at 16-20 mph. It was mind numbing for me to be cruising this fast.

By this time, about 1 PM in the afternoon, the heat was back on, and I was starting to sweat pretty solidly. But no matter, we were cruising. Now there was one road, 14473, that Judy and I both agreed that she not take the van down. It was just single lane, and really loose gravel with a big climb looming in the distance. I mapped her away on asphalt roads for about 10 miles, and I just took my pack with tire tools and my phone and went off on my own. Worked out great, as this little 14473 was doable in the van, but it looked pretty intimidating from a distance. Either way, better safe than sorry with her in that van. I know I’ll be doing a LOT of this from here on in when we hit gravel and dirt areas that just don’t look good for that van. 

I’ve tried to route this thing such that there are always - well almost always - some good parallel asphalt roads for Judy to drive if my roads get real dicy for the van. Otherwise she just drives ahead of me a couple miles at a time. So anyway, when I met back up with Judy I had 76 miles in - and I was still a good 30 miles from the KS line. By now I was just dripping with sweat, and I torn through 2 powerades and 2 water bottles. The time was getting past 3 PM, so I decided to bag it there because we could get a cheap motel in the town of Butler, MO. My exact stop point is the junction of Z, 9004 and 6003, about 12 miles northeast of Butler. And off to Butler we went. 

Oh well, I thought I could make KS today, but that would have put me riding into the eve hours. Now tomorrow the forecast for the Butler area, as I sit here like a Weather Channel junkie watching the latest weather news for Western MO and Eastern KS, is for 96 degrees and high humidity. So it’s back into the furnace for at least Wed and Thurs. My only consolation is that I feel I’m free of the freaking rain and flooding. Well….maybe I shouldn’t count my chickens quite yet!


Monday, June 22: Well, as I sit here at 5 PM the temp is currently at 90 degrees, with a heat index of about 102. Yea, it was definitely a hot and humid one today. But that’s pretty much part and parcel of this area in the heat of the summer. Yet we avoided rain!

Got back to Hartsburg this morning for me to get rolling at 8:30 AM. And it was just muggy right from the get-go, with a kind of foggy humidity hanging over the Missouri River Valley. Looked a lot like the potential, but the weather people shamans were giving today zero change of rain in the daytime hours, but high chance this evening. Still, I made sure to put all my electronic gear and wallet in a dry back that I pack in my small Camelback pack. Off I went west towards our first support stop, in the little town of Rocheport along the Missouri. This was a good choice because Judy could drive there, then get on her mt bike and ride back to meet me. 

This was one of the key areas I had been worried about for flooding over the trail, because just shy of Rocheport the Missouri just hugs this little dirt access road and the Katy Trail. And as I was nearing this section it looked like the river had indeed flooded over both the trail and the gravel access road. Matter of fact the trail is about 4 feet higher than the gravel road, and it’s sometimes used by residents and campers going to and fro when the gravel road is under water. And that road is just right ON the river. 

Enjoyed some great riding and sight seeing as I rode this section, looking at the high limestone bluffs on the north side of the river, just to my right. Some of these guys go up a good 100-150 feet off of the trail. Being into rock climbing, I was pretty caught up in looking at some awesome buttresses to climb, and I wondered if this area is indeed legal for climbing. Never heard of this area as a hotbed of climbing, but it sure looks like fun! 

Anyway, made it through the flood prone section, and it was dry and the river had definitely gone down over the last couple days. But as I rode right into the flood area, there were county workers using scrapers both on the gravel access road and the Katy, scraping all the mud and junk off. There were log jams to clean off the access road and the traffic was still using the Katy as access to camps and campgrounds for a good mile where the gravel road was still being worked on. 

Made it to Rocheport in just over 2 hours, with Judy having joined me when I was about 7 mile outside of town. I downed 2 powerades, a coke and a couple muffins, and just kind of chilled for 15 minutes, trying to give my body a chance to cool down before I headed back into the furnace. Rocheport is a cool little place, and if we were not so far behind, with me having to now push to try to get this trip done within our designated time slot, I’d have loved to just bag it there, get a little cottage and relax here, to soak up the ambience of the place. If you’re ever coming out to do this trail, Rocheport is a great place to settle down for a day and just hang out. 

We got rolling west to our next destination, Pilot Grove. Judy rode with me for a half hour, and then turned back to drive the van. So she got in a good 2+ hrs on the trail today. This section for me, was a bit hot, with many more open sections than on the first segment. And what a difference that shade makes when the temp is so high. The wind was out of the southeast, so that at least helped to cool me down a tad, and give me a push now and then as a cross-tailwind. Now once the trail gets to Boonville, there is this asphalt section that goes up and over the Missouri River. This pup I had to ride. No choice with the river still looking pretty angry, as it was  just full of logs and crap flying downriver to the east - just another of many such concessions I’ve had to make as of late.

Once across the Missouri, it’s by-by to the river, as the Katy begins a long and perceptible climb out of the Missouri River Valley, and heads into the heartland of Missouri farm country. This climb out of the valley, well, it’s a good 3-4 miles, and then the trail just goes through these ups and downs. But all in all, over the near 30 miles of trail I rode today west of Boonville, it feels like you’re climbing 75% of the time. And I know from having ridden this trail through two times previous, the highest point on the trail is still to come. Luckily this section, from Boonville to Pilot Grove is very shaded without with a lot of foliage just hanging over the trail like a wonderful pair of blinds. Made Pilot Grove to meet Judy in another couple of hours. And man, as soon as I stopped the heat was just stifling. Judy would have all the doors open on the van just trying to keep it cooler. Did a couple more powerades, a sandwich and some water, and again, I just sat there for 15 minutes trying to regain energy and gumption to head back out. 

We decided to do the last segment, 24 miles as two stops since the heat was so intense. And now, with no more flooding issues to worry about, Judy was pretty mellow with the driving, not having to worry about road closures. Same for me, as it was as if I was on a different trail. Everything seemed dry - the trail, the crops along the trail, even the creeks looked normal. What a huge difference it is once we got out of the river valley. 

Now during the first 12-mile section to Clifton City, I swear, I was just dripping with sweat as I peddled along. But having done all the powerade over the prior 4-5 hrs really paid off in keeping me in the saddle instead in the AC in the van. Made that pup in about an hour, and again, most of the pedaling was uphill - a very distinctive false flat. Pounded another powerade, secured a motel room on the cell, rested in the van for 15 or so min to just chill, and then went for the last 12-mile section to Sedalia. Again, the false flat continued all the way, with some places where you just SEE the trail going uphill. 

When the trail gets within 1.5 miles of the city, it goes on road, and I did my best to ride berm for all but the final half mile through this kind of poor neighborhood. Didn’t want to ride up through people’s front yards and make a scene of myself, so I did that on the hard asphalt. The trail resumes at a wonderful old train station in the “Old Town” section of Sedalia. Here in this old brick train depot you have a little bike shop/bike rental place, a little eatery, and a kind of knick-knack shop selling Katy souvenirs. It’s fun, in a schticky kind of way, but the old restored depot is just beautiful. It a main hub kind of place for all the trail traffic. So I bagged it here, getting in about 75 miles for the day. My legs are pretty beat, and I definitely lost some fluids. So I’ll be replacing with plenty of water….and Tinmill microbrews from MO. Tomorrow I hope to make the end of the trail in Clinton, and then make another 30 or so miles to the KS line. I do have to recon that 30 mile section between the end of the Katy and the KS line. I had never gotten to this over the past couple of years recon. I have KS all mapped out, but I just need to connect the end of the Katy to the KS line. Until tomorrow.


Sunday, June 21: First of all I want to say Happy Father’s Day to my dad. I doubt that he or my mom will be reading this, or any of the blog for that matter, and I’m a sad for that fact, but I just had to say publicly that this guy, Frank Gladden, is just an awesome man, and he’s been a fantastic father, husband and provider. So this is a salute to you dad, for you’ve been such a wonderful example to me in so many respects. Love ya much!!

Well, today is such a diametrically different day than yesterday. Yesterday I felt this sense of renewal in the trip. Today, I just felt like we were back to the freaking battle zone once more. We awoke to a steady rain in the morning, and it was like deja vu all over again. As the Linda Ronstadt song goes “poor, poor pitiful me”, and I felt that as I looked out the window this morning. I mean shit, what can I do to catch a break for a while? The area of Herman, MO was just a big white-out with nothing but rain. So on we went to the morning news, and the rain that was forecast for last night, well, it didn’t come through until this morning, and it was situated all along the I-70 corridor moving from west to east. In other words there was a big line of rain and thunder storms that was moving all the way across the state in the exact line that I was intending to ride. Man was this ever a let down first thing in the morning. 

So we had no impending sense of urgency to get going. Went to this little continental breakfast for the Inn we were staying at, and then headed back to the Katy to sit and wait for about a half hour for the rain to dissipate. Once it got down to a light drizzle I got going, and again, with all the recent flooding, we decided to take the same tact as yesterday with respect to support - often! This way I could keep track of Judy, and she could keep track of me in case of any flood situations and detours. And wouldn’t you know it, right off the bat Judy hit a flooded section on Rt 94, just west of McKittrick. Luckily the water had receded a lot and she was able to drive through it safely. 

Me, I was just worried more for her the whole time wondering if she’d hit a flooded out area without me to help her navigate. So I was fixated on looking out at Rt 94 when the trail would closely parallel it, to see if there was any flooding or any road closed signs. So honestly, Judy and I were both kind of wigged about the day, especially with the weather looking so foreboding again. Anyway, she made the first closure with no issues on her way to Portland. For me, wow, the wind was out of the west with this storm system, and it was just kicking my butt with some very strong headwinds. Yesterday I felt like I was flying - today I felt like my bikes tires were deflated to 10 psi. Man it was a battle to even maintain 12 mph. And today the trail just felt like a false flat forever. I limped into Portland telling Judy NOT to expect me ticking off he miles as I did yesterday. Nope, today was a whole different story. 

So the next meeting spot was to be Mokane. This went better for me, as it seems as though the headwind died down a bit. But for Judy, another freaking closure on Rt 94 west, and this one was where the waters were a good 3-4 feet deep. So she waited for me just a mile outside of our meeting area. She had seen drivers using the Katy to bypass the flooded out area, and she waited for me so I could be her “eyes” as she drove on the trail, making sure we had no  one coming the other way. So that’s just what I did, sighting for her about a half mile down the trail, making sure someone else wasn’t coming at us at the same time. Worked great! And off she went to the next meeting spot - Tebbetts. This one was good for both of us. No nasty headwind for me, and no flooding for Judy. 

Ok, next up was the stretch to North Jefferson City. For Judy, another road closure due to flooding, but it had subsided enough for her to go through. For me, man, the headwind was back, the humidity was crazy, and I was feeling like a great big bonk was in my future. You can feel this coming on. For me I kind of get this really dead feeling, and sometimes I get the hypoglycemia shakes with a lethargy. And I was well on the way despite getting in plenty of electrolytes and nutrition. I mean I was just loosing fluids and energy faster than I could injest them. And then I had a nice little biff on this goose-shit slippery bridge just covered with a green algae. As soon as I hit this thing I knew that with it being so wet, that that algae was going to be bad. It was - my bike just went right out from under me like I was on glare ice. Hit my elbow and kind of did a superman slide with my arms up so as to not blow out a wrist or collar bone. Man was I peeved at myself! Just a bump on the elbow and a dented ego, but I was ok. 

Now the trailhead in North Jefferson City is just a maze to get into. And I’ve been through this thing twice already, and Judy once before this - and it’s still a pain in the butt. So anyway, I had to help her navigate from about a mile from the trailhead, in trail miles. Actually it’s about 2-3 miles to drive along all these little roads to make up that one trail mile. Crazy construction of this trailhead for sure. So we got through that and she parked. Now prior to all this I’d been kind of peddling away, trying to beat what looked like another storm system coming at us. About 10 miles outside of North Jefferson City, the skies to the northwest were just black. By the time I got to North Jefferson City the rain had begun. So I put the bike in the van and we just waited for the deluge to begin. But it didn’t. It just drizzled, like a portent to the crap that was coming in. 

So I got on the cell phone and pulled up the doppler radar of the area, and sure enough we were just along the southern periphery of another big weather system where to our north was severe storm cells. I didn’t get rolling because of all the thunder, and the possibility of getting caught in a lightening storm wasn’t too appealing. We just sat there for a good 45 minutes, with me napping at times. Finally, after refreshing the radar some 10-12 times, I decided to go for it and shoot for a meeting spot about 10 miles up the trail in Hartsburg. Figured I could hammer it for 10 miles even if I was imminent danger of getting myself into a storm cell. From this point onward on the trail we were not going to be paralleling one another. So when I went out now, I on my own until our meeting spot. Plus, Judy now had long support routes due to the non-paralleling nature of the roads. 

Got going with little spatters of rain here and there, with the western horizon looking grim for each mile that I peddled. Put way more energy into this section than the other just to kind of make sure if I got dumped on, it wouldn’t be for long. Down side of that is the energy I used in this humidity to keep a fast pace. I was pretty wiped out by the time I made the stop with Judy in Hartsburg. Was going to change out of my sweat soaked, dripping cycling gear for a new kit so I could get one more segment in, but the rain really began to come down. So again, I took refuge in the van and got on the cell to look at the radar. This time we saw a massive dark red cell coming at us from the west. I pretty much knew that being trashed, with 16 unsupported miles ahead of me, and a red blob of storm cell coming right at me…I was done for the day. 

Couldn’t say I was devastated, but the other side of me really wanted that last 16 miles. As it stood, I ended up with 60 miles for the day. My goal was another 80 for the day as I’d done yesterday, but, well sometimes you can want all you want, but it just wasn’t there. So we beat feet south back to Jefferson City and got a motel. The nasty stuff stayed north on our original track to Columbia, MO. So we drove out of the storm as we headed back to Jeff City. Let’s try it again tomorrow. With the temp forecast at 94 and with sick humidity, that should be another sweet ride!


Saturday, June 20: Well, so amazing to wake up to a non-rain day. Felt as is I was Noah starring out over the remnants of land masses left above water after the flood. So I wanted to get it rolling early today so as to make some real progress through MO. Judy got me in the van and we began driving back to where we entered MO at the Golden Eagle Ferry Xing. So we get on Highway B, and fly down that until we see a road closed sign. And I totally knew what was coming. Hell, back when I did this section in 2011, the Mississippi was in flood stage as it is right now, and the whole Mississippi flood plain on the MO side of the river is prone to extreme flooding down here near St. Louis. Sometimes the whole delta out here is just under water. 

And such was the case today. Highway B was closed about 2 miles from where we crossed the Mississippi on Thursday. So I just had Judy drop me off and leave to go back to the cabin to get a workout in and then to get on the bike to come meet me. I was well familiar with the area since I’d done recon here and ridden through this area several times on previous X country trips. Went past the barriers and rode right up to where the waterline was on the road. That’s where I ran into a farmer who was just standing out in the middle of the road looking glumly at his corn crop that was situated in the flood zone next to the flooded out road. 

“How long has this been flooded,” I asked him? And he rather rudely replied, “it’s been raining for six weeks now, where have you been?”. I explained that I was riding X country and had just arrived on Thursday during the tropical depression. That’s when he really lightened up, and kind of forgave me for my ignorance. So I stood there for about 10 minutes talking to the guy. And let me tell you, I was really feeling for him. He just looked devastated. “I’ve got insurance on this, but that doesn’t even cover all the time and supplies,” he said,  “so I’m loosing about $90/acre.” And he had 100’s and 100’s of acres in that flood zone. 

Told him that I’d seen first hand what the farmers do, and what they go through what with the crazy weather every year now, this because I’ve ridden across the country 4x. And believe you me, you ride across the country is it’s more farming and livestock than anything that you see out there for mile after mile. The suburbs - that’s just such a minuscule part of this big beautiful country. Nope, it’s the agg and livestock farmers who represent the vastness of the United States. So it really hit home with me actually talking to someone who’s being impacted directly with this stupid weather. Then he said, “and then the people bitch because the produce is expensive in the shopping markets. Hell, they think this stuff just appears out of nowhere in the supermarket!” And he’s right. We really take it for granted. It’s this guy, and a gazillion more who feed the country, and to me, these folks really symbolize the backbone of America. We parted with a firm handshake, and really, I was beyond words in trying to convey my sympathy. As I rode off on soggy, spongy berm, I just remember seeing this guy standing there like a statue looking across all the acres of flooded corn fields. As I was riding I remembered that he’d  told me that the Golden Eagle ferry closing on Thursday evening, and right now it’s undetermined when it will open again. Kind of me me feel good about our decision on Thursday to get out of dodge and X that river before the ferry closed down. 

Made it on some real sketchy berm back to the junction with Rt 94. Went left on 94 on even sketchier berm, some just totally eroded away with a 4 foot ditch on each side of the road - this obviously due to past and present flooding. These 30-40 yard sections I had to stay on the asphalt. But this was for a short mile of travel on 94. Then I took a right on Wiedey Road, all a gravel farm road, and just cranked it up to a very wonderful 13 mph. This pup wraps around and eventually crosses the Katy Trail. Got to the Katy, took a right and got er going. And not more than two miles down the trail I hit this trail closed sign - flooding! Yep, right down along the Missouri and on the wrong side of a big levee and it was just totally under water. BUT…having done recon I knew I could ride the levee and rejoin the Katy about 2-3 miles west. Did just that.

Wasn’t simple though, cuz the top of this pup was just a muddy mess. I rode on tire tracks, but I was in the middle ring just spinning through muck tracks and giant puddles. Finally made it back to the Katy after just mudding it big time and ending up coated in muck from my feet to my knees. About a mile later met up with Judy riding east towards me and we rode together back to the cabin. Got in some breakfast, and off we went again, west through downtown St. Charles and west along the Missouri. Judy rode about 30 min with me then turned back to check out of the cabin and drive out to meet me. 

Now I had to change my support itinerary today due to all the flooding. I had checked online to see if there was any current areas closed on the Katy, but found none. That still didn’t make me feel secure, because Rt 94, which Judy would use to parallel me, that floods even more than the Katy. The Katy at least sits up high over most of it’s course due to it being an old RR line. But Rt 94, it dips and climbs along the river. So we decided to just go like 10-20 miles max at a time in case one or both of us ran into a flooded out area. First stop on the support itinerary was Matson, some 21 miles west of St. Charles. There were portions of the trail, where it was anywhere from right next to, or like several hundred yards from the trail, and the water was right up to the base of the trail - for miles on end. But there was a steady stream of people coming at me from the west so I felt pretty good about no trail closures. 

This portion of the trail, from St. Charles to Augusta, is the most used. Anything east or west of this stretch of trail and usage falls off big  time. Now around Weldon Spring, where there’s a big park, this area was about as close to flooding as you could get - the water was a mere 1 foot to 6 inches from lapping across the trail. It was wild to just pedal on this ribbon of land totally locked in by water on both sides. To my left is the Missouri with flooding right up to the trail, and to my right is a low area all along the trail that just collects all the water coming off the northern bluff of the Missouri River Valley. 

Made Matson just ahead of Judy. Once she arrived I got a sandwich, powerade and coke, and got it rolling again. I ditched a top and rode topless what with the temp approaching about 88 degrees with off-the-charts humidity. Next stop the town of Dutzow, 14 miles to the west. Got there in great time, with my riding improving to a good 13-15 mph. Just told Judy to keep it rolling to our next stop of at Treloar, another 14 miles down the trail to the west because I was feeling pretty good. But Judy on the other hand, had to take a detour due to Rt 94 being totally flooded over for nearly a mile. The detour was well marked, but we weren’t sure how much of a detour it would be. Later she told me it was steep, narrow country roads that took her a good 15 miles out of the way. As I rode the trail, right next to 94, just to the south, I could see that it had a good 3-5 feet of water covering it. I mean this was extensive. So our plan was working ok, with Judy feeling the brunt of the flooding thus far, but at least having detours available. 

Again, the flooding was crazy, but the trail was dry. And I was lucky enough to not to have to deal with all the deadfall that had just recently been removed from the trail. It too was extensive. But man, this trail is pristine with respect to maintenance. Funny thing to, when I’d go by these yellow “Rough Trail Ahead” signs, it was nothing more than a little loose gravel or some washboaring for 40 yards. I mean with all the total crap I’d ridden through on prior trails, this was just a belly laugh. “Rough,” I thought, “shoot, this is pure heaven!”

Made Treloar in great time, and met up with Judy and a really friendly chap by the name of Sammy, who was the Katy all the way out and back. Judy informed me that there was another closing of Rt 94 just up ahead, but this time there were no detour signage. Got a sandwich and powerade and coke first then went to the maps to see what we could do. Meanwhile Judy got Sammy a sandwich and powerade. I could only see this massive detour on the gazetteer that would add a good 25-30 miles to her 18-mile trip. So after we talked with Sammy for a bit I put the bike in the car and we drove down to where the flooding was. I got out, rode past the barricades on the bike and into the water to check the depth, then, seeing a truck coming at us and going right through the two flood-outs I motioned her on through the two 4-inch deep flood areas. The truck guy even told Judy it was fine, so through it she went with zero issues and no trepidation. 

So I motioned her through the other side of the barricades, and then I turned around went back to the trail to make up what I’d not ridden, and as I was riding away I forgot that I had put my pack with phone, flat equipment, and camera in the van with the bike. I had nothing with me for a 20-mile ride to McKittrick. Now I wasn’t freaking, but what if Judy ran into more flooding…with if I ran into flooding…what if I got a flat? That was going through my head like a ear worm. And we were in an area that had very little to no traffic on the trail. So with nothing to do but ride, I cranked it up to super warp speed such that I could get this section down in just over an hour, just in case of flat or flooding or whatever. It just made me ride with a mission. And that I did, feeling amazing by sticking it at a good 18-19 mph for the duration. Biggest ride of the day for me at 80 miles! 

Once I reached McKittrick, I was definitely DONE. Temp and hunidity were some high that I was just sweating like I’d come out of a Finnish sauna. We decided to bag it there, and drive the mile across the Missouri to the town of Herman to find a place to stay. The extreme heat and humidity pretty much 86ed any thoughts of camping. I mean it is so hot that you sweat just standing in place! Got a nice little room at this inn with AC and a fridge. So here we sit in the AC as I write the blog. We’ll have some drinks out on the porch area in a few minutes to relax and watch life in a small town. We’re on the second floor, which is kind of cool because we can just look out over the north side of town while catching a nice breeze up higher. 

Damn is it nice to just ride again!


Friday, June 19: 4 PM - Off day and I actually loved it. Felt amazing to just relax in the morning and watch the news and drink coffee in our little cozy cabin. And wow, it just rained all of last night, and darned near all day long today. The rain subsided a couple times, but by and large it was just constant for the past 12 hours. Finally, around 2 PM the rain stopped, and it’s been really cloudy from then on. I do think we’re in the clear though for a resumption of riding tomorrow. 

Now Judy has had a tough day just sitting around. I worked almost all day long, while she napped, read, watched TV and looked out the door a gazillion times to see it the rain had subsided enough for her to go out and do a walk and run. That didn’t happen until 2 PM. In a way I just love these rain-out days when I’m doing X country riding. It’s a no excuses reason to just chill for a day and recharge. Now it puts me even further behind for this trip, yet what was I going to do, be a hardass and ride in non-stop driving rain on a lime gravel trail for 6-7 hrs of misery? NOPE, at least not after dealing with this crap for the past 2 weeks where I did ride in the rain on gravel trails and gravel berm.

We’re situated just about 200 yrds from the Katy Trail here at the Sundermeier RV park. And all around us is flooding. The trail parking areas right behind us, and in many of the places in the downtown are now closed due to flooding, not so much from the Missouri River, but from all the water collecting in the low lying parking lots and access roads. The Katy actually sits up high, so you’ll have this ribbon of high ground surrounded by flooded out areas. It’s exactly like it was back in 2011 with I did a X country trip on dirt and asphalt. Came through here back then and the Missouri was just overflowing its banks into Frontier Park in downtown St. Charles. Ditto today. But the water is actually subsiding as I write this. And speaking of St. Charles - great little town with a very cool “old town” area just in front of the Missouri River - well worth the stop for a day if you’re out in this neck of the woods. 

We’re going out to the Trailhead Brewery again tonight to relax again. It’s good for the soul to not be a cheap ass for a day or so and enjoy a place rather than skimp and just hole up in a motel room or cabin and do nothing but watch cable. 

7 PM - Just got back from Trailhead Brewery, and had a dynamite dinner and drinks. Had the Dark Ale and Stout and they were super! If you ever go here, hit it between 4 and 7 PM where you get half price apps. and the house thin crust pizzas. The burgers are amazingly good to! I think Judy’s got her “dining out” fix for a while, so we’ll be back to Subway and Golden Coral! Back to reality we go. 

I’ve been doing some checking on the trail conditions and as of yet have not come across any major news on trail closures on the Katy. Now that does NOT mean that there isn’t going to be some issues, but at least things don’t look dismal right now. So up early tomorrow and I’ll do the ferry dock to St. Charles section. Then check out of cabin, and subsequently ride with Judy on the Katy for a stretch. Weather forecast is good for the next week…BUT temps expected in the 90’s all week. Also a chance of afternoon/evening thunder storms a couple of those days.


Thursday, June 18: Well, we made it to MO today, but not the way I’d wanted to. Got it rolling a bit on the late side this morning, and by the time we were where I finished yesterday, the bad weather - yea if it’s not been bad enough - was on the southwestern horizon, this being the remnants of Tropical Depression Bill blowing in from OK and TX. I tried to really push it from the beginning, and then, on Rt 100 south we start seeing signs saying Rt 100 south is closed. That had me concerned right off the bat. So next up was a Xing of the Illinois River via a big draw bridge. 

Now before I go further I had to say that just seeing the extent of the flooding of the Illinois was kind of stark and foreboding. This thing was flooded like a quarter mile on each side. Made me really wonder if the signs we saw were pretty much putting the kibosh on getting all the way down to the ferry crossing via 100. So I Xed the bridge by riding across, and on the other side was a county worker out doing something with some signage. So I asked him if 100 was closed due to flooding. The guy told me he wasn’t aware of any flooding right now. So off I went, climbing up out of the Illinois valley on this 2 mile climb on grassy berm. Topped out and got rolling on some great berm which was a paltry 2 feet wide, but flat, fast and well packed. And then I see the road closed sign again, with Judy driving back towards me. That didn’t look good. All I could think of was of all the riding I’d invested in 100. 

She told me there was a detour, and as we were discussing the detour a local lady was pulling out of the drive Judy was parked in. So I asked the local about the closure. She told me that a few bridges were out down the road, and that 100 was open, except we’d have to take the detour. So I was feeling pretty relieved and excepting of the fact that we’d do a short detour. That’s about the time Judy suggested that I ride down to where the bridge is out, then jump in the van, do the detour, and then get back on the bike on the other side of the bridge closure. “This could be a long detour,” she warned me. Perfect solution. We did just that, then got going on the detour, and going and going and going and going….for a 27 freaking mile loop! She was spot on with that hunch. Had I of done just 3 miles of that damned detour I’d have been committed to the loony bin. Totally amazing. Plus it was on all these winding roads and it ate up time as the weather was deteriorating. 

Got going again on the other side of the bridge closure and continued to ride this great berm on Rt 100 south towards the town of Hardin, IL. Now there were some crapass areas, but by and large this was fast. I was able to crank at warp speed - some 12-14 mph. Now part of this was the fact that I could see the sky in the far southwestern horizon, and it wasn’t looking good. So I kind of had this impending sense of doom hanging over me. The local forecast predicted the Tropical Depression Bill stuff would hit in the early afternoon, and it was looking like that was going to be a reality. I would keep waving Judy onward so we could me Hardin before the winds of fate caught up with us. 

And around us….ALL around us was the flooding of the Illinois River. It was lapping at the very base of Rt 100 in places. All the summer homes out here are build on stilts, and I see why, because most all of them had a good 3-5 feet of water surrounding them, with access only with a boat. So to my left was the river water lapping at the road’s foundation, and to my right were the buffs of the valley. More than a couple of times Judy frantically asked me if there was a chance that the road was just totally submerged up ahead. Yet we’d see traffic coming and going, so we assumed that all was good up in Hardin where there’s another drawbridge across the river. With about 10 miles to go I got caught in this wicked micro burst storm that was just like a mini hurricane for about 5 minutes. I just put the hammer down and rode right out of that puppy before I got totally soaked. From then onward I rode as if I was riding a 40K TT.

Told Judy to stay closer in case I hit another one of those pups. And as I ticked off each mile the skies to the southwest got darker and darker, and misty drizzle turned to just drizzle and then to light rain. With two miles to go the light rain got steady. At that point I was cursing to myself that I’d done nearly the whole stretch of ten miles and yet I was going to get crapped on in the last mile. But somehow, someway, I made it before the (&(*^*& hit the fan. Got the bike put in the van, and me in the passenger seat when the rain hit with full force. Judy had food and drink ready for me and I was able to enjoy a late lunch as the storm hit. 

So there we were, about 20 miles from the Golden Eagle Ferry Crossing of the Mississippi River to MO. We were in Hardin, IL, this little town that’s situated on a sliver of land that’s between both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The water of the Illinois River was about 6 feet from flooding out Rt 100 and Illinois River road. Two of the four ferry crossings were already closed due to flooding, but Golden Eagle was still open. And it’s raining like hell. The choices were not good. The ride would take me a good three hours due to us having to go up and over the bluff of the Illinois River Valley, and then back down to the Mississippi River Valley - all on grassy berm. So we decided then and there that we’d better high tail it to the ferry Xing before it either closed down, or before the weather just totally deteriorated into severe thunder storms with the chance of flash flooding. It could be our only chance to X for the next couple of days. 

And that was it. Judy put the pedal down and we zoomed down all these little side roads to the Golden Eagle Ferry Xing. I now have a 20-mile gap in the ride that I’ll likely not be able to make up due to the current weather forecast. But I do have to say that it was probably the ONLY decision at this point to make. Anything involving riding or waiting would have been foolhardy. The ferry down here is not what you’re envisioning, this is a flat little barge that holds about 6 cars at a time and it’s pushed by a tiny tug. As soon as we got there to the dock (no dock really, but just a road going into the water) it was unloading, so we were on within five minutes of pulling in. Outside, damn it looked like a scene from the Weather Channel with the wind gusting and the rain kind of blowing horizontal. 

The Mississippi River….CRAZY! That water was just hammering by with all this debris floating by us like little drag racers. Judy was a bit freaked by the whole situation, and I couldn’t do a thing to calm her down. I’d done this Xing last year on recon, and it was a breeze. Today, the river looked twice as big, and so swift it was scary. Couple this with the wind and rain, and it was pretty stupid. The captain piloted the little barge up river for a stretch so we could make the parallel when he slowed down to dock on the other side, knowing the current would take the barge downriver a bit. And the dock road on the other side in MO…well the one we docked on last year was now a quarter mile into the river! They had a temporary platform set up at the exit of the original road that’s now submerged. Once off the ferry we beat feet to St. Charles, MO, rented this cozy little cabin in a campground a mile outside of town, and that was the day. 

Ended up with 47 miles for the day. I feel guilty about that 20-mile section, and to be honest, what with the current forecast I just don’t see how we can get me back there to make it up. The St. Louis forecast is calling for a full on 36 hrs of storms tonight and tomorrow, with the main “guts” of this remnant tropical depression coming through late tonight. So I’m guessing, according to what the campground owner was telling us today, that the Golden Eagle would be closed for a few days with the river levels going even higher.

We had this little “eye of the storm” clearing pattern thing from about 5-7 PM, so I took Judy to the Trailhead Brewery and Restaurant in downtown St. Charles.  Enjoyed a great meal and had some awesome micro brews - quite a wonderful change from eating at some of the dives we’ve eaten at in the last 3 wks. So now we’re back at the cabin kind of waiting for the real “Motha” to blow through. Forecast is for Friday to be a total wash, and then for everything to be cleared out by Saturday morning. So my guess is that we’re here for the next 36 hrs, and then shove off on Saturday morning. I can have Judy drop me off at the ferry Xing on the MO side of the Mississippi and I can make that 12-mile stretch to St. Charles up in the morning of Saturday, and then that will put me on the Katy Trail where I can get the ball rolling. 

Let the tropical depression begin! 


Wednesday, June 17: Man, I’m about to rename this trip American Drenched! P.S. If any of you would like to email me your new name for this trip, I’ll post a list just for the giggles. I mean all I can do is laugh at the situation - and I hope you will to! As I’ve told Judy and as I’ll say here, we’ll either make it to the Oregon coast, run out of time, run out of money or run out of both. But I’ll continue on until one of the above happens!

Soooo…yes indeed, rain did return last night. During the 10 PM local newscast we watched a short piece on the local flooding in the rural areas, specifically Schuyler County. In this short piece they were talking about how the farmers were somewhat stranded because of not being able to drive out on some of the little county roads, and not able to have any delivery service in for their supplies for farming. This was amazing to us because this county was one of about 6 counties that we had planned on doing all the little gravel and dirt backroads. Some film footage showed the creeks and streams a good 2-4 feet above some of the roads out there. Was very shocking to see the extent of the flooding AWAY from the big rivers like the Illinois and the Mississippi. And just a bit more flood related news: during my ride today I saw farmers digging these drainage ditches to try to drain some of their corn crops before the plants rotted in the field in several feet of water. Saw tons of “Road Closed” signs as we moved south. Listened to flood warnings for numerous cities, towns and burgs along the Illinois River. I could go on and on. You get the idea. I mean it’s getting very serious. 

Well, with that being said, I had gotten up in the morning, and I’ve been so snake bitten with the flat situation, that the first thing I’ve been doing in the morning is checking the Mt bike tires to make sure they’re still holding air. Today my rear tire was flat. So I pumped it up to see if it would hold air while I was working, eating and getting everything ready to go. , Finished everything, was packed and ready to go so I gave it the tire a check….and it was pancake flat. Ok, back to the drawing board. Pulled out my camp chair - and it’s starting to drizzle now - and got to work on the tire. Found out that one of my Park glue-on patches had sprouted a leak right on top of a seam in the tube. So I just popped a new tube in, and then went through the same hell as usual trying to seat that damn tire back inside the rim. I mean this is WORK! Finally got it as my heart rate was about Z4 by the time I’d gotten done. 

So we got out of Macomb and continued to drive back down Rt 67 south towards Rushville, IL - in a pretty hard, driving rain. By the time we reached the Schuyler County line, where I stopped yesterday, we were in a total white-out rain. Now I was already about an hour late on my ETD because of the flat. Now add more time for us sitting in the car for a good 40 minutes hoping that thing would just blow over. It did…to a point, but then just stayed on a holding pattern with light drizzle. Had to at least get something today, so I put on my neon vest so traffic could see me, and got out into the mess to ride - on freaking crappy berm.

Wind was out of the southwest about about 10 mph, and honestly, I was going so slow - 9-10 mph - that it just didn’t matter. Only when you go FAST does a headwind actually count for something. Nope, with the crappy, unconsolidated gravel berm that’s as saturated as beach sand, with washouts, and with 18-wheelers whizzing by at 60 mph, fast wasn’t in my cards today. And I was good with that. I mean with this trip, the speed is quite different than during my prior trips X country. On this one, shoot, 13 mph is flying, 10 is moderate and anything below 8 is slow. So maintaining 9-10 was ok with me. You just have to get used to not covering big chunks of distance per day that’s all. But I think the thing that really bugged me today wasn’t riding in the rain, wasn’t going moderate in speed, and wasn’t even not going very far…it was the fact that I was on a state route with this frenzy of traffic whizzing by me non stop - exactly what I didn’t want. I’ve been there and done that with X country travel. This trip, I was looking forward to just getting away from all the hubbub. And where was i today? Ass deep in the thick of hubbub!

Ok, so much for me feeling sorry for myself. Got going in this light drizzle and it just continued for a good hour. The berm consisted of the new gravel that had been tossed on top of the old hard pack gravel, so it made for some rough, soft, and tough riding. Right about the time I got to Rushville, the sun made a very feeble appearance and then was gone again in a thick veil of dark cloud cover. And bing bango we were right back into the drizzle, then light rain. Judy stopped several times to see if I wanted to get in the van and wait it out, but I just motioned her to go on. I was willing to ride in the rain as long as it wasn’t a whiteout where drivers couldn’t see me, and as long as I wasn’t riding in lightening. So on I rode, just trying my damnedest to make some miles today. 

Now last evening I had to apply the old “goosegrease” to my poor butt due to all the sweat, rain, grit and constant bouncing from  berm riding. I was downright raw last evening and I applied the ointments liberally. Today, I just had to lock out the shocks that I had ON all of yesterday. Seemed to make my butt feel better NOT getting so much bounce. Now my hands…that’s another story. Hands, triceps and shoulders take the brunt of the road shock when those front and rear shock absorbers are locked out. But I just had to give my butt a break for a day. This also helped to give me a bit more bite with each pedal stroke. Kept on rolling and rode across this massive bridge spanning the Illinois River into Beardstown. The river looked to be a good 2x bigger than normal judging by all the trees and foliage that was in water. It was a brown gurgling mess. Did a quick food and drink break in Beardstown and then continued south on Rt 67, still riding in and out of either misting, drizzle or light rain. Once we crossed over from Cass County to Morgan County, the cloud cover just got really ominous looking, and the light rain turned into a steady rain. 

Judy was up ahead and I told her I’d just keep going until it got dangerous. And wouldn’t you know it but within the next quarter mile the rain just exploded into a full on whiteout rainstorm. Thankfully Judy had taken her time pulling out, so I got off the bike and motioned her into this gravel pull-off to get me. Loaded the bike in and that when all hell broke loose. Rained so hard that you really couldn’t see more than a couple hundred yards ahead of you. I’d say we sat there for nearly an hour, just hoping like heck that it would clear once more. By that point I had in 33 miles, and I was really wanting to get further down the road. Well, after playing with my phone checking the weather, booking a Super 8 motel in Jacksonville, IL, checking emails and just shooting the breeze with Judy, the rain settled down to a light drizzle again. And out I went. 

Now we were kind of kicking around several options today as to which direction we would go. With all the bad “Sky is Falling” talk on the news I was inclined to stay on US routes due them being a much dryer, safer choice. My original intention, and this is after I 86’ed going country roads where all the flooding issues are, was to go with a couple State routes like Rt 100. But after this morning’s newscast, I thought that might even be a problem, especially when Rt 100 was down inside the Illinois River valley. But Judy was kind of intent on giving it a try, this because taking Rt 67 all the way south would be WAY out of the way. So I agreed to give it a try, with the restrictions that: #1 it had to have descent berm to ride on, and #2 there had to be zero flood issues. I sucks when all the recon I had done is just thrown out the window, and there we are - guessing where to to? Well, we agreed to give 100 a shot. So when we came to the Rt 100 split, off we went, staying down inside the Illinois River Valley. And to my surprise the berm was better than on Rt 67. The traffic wasn’t as hectic and the flooding didn’t seem to be a problem along this road - yet. Well, the berm ebbed and flowed from great to ok, but it was still a really good, safe route. So chalk one up for the Jude, she made a good choice and I’m glad I went with her suggestion. 

We made it down to the junction with I-72/Rt 36, and at that point I was at 47 miles. I checked to see if Judy was good with me getting in three more miles just to make me feel good with 50, and she was game. So I got in the last three and called it a day. On the way to Jacksonville my mechanic Steve Thomas called and gave me some tips on getting that damn tire seated back on the rim - use a little spritz of dish soap on the rim to help the tire’s bead slip on. Thanks so much Steve!!

And I’d like to give some more kudos…to my number one supporter, Judy. Man, those of you out there reading this, imagine if you were asked to give up your whole summer to drive a vehicle across the country, driving through God knows where, day after day after day,  dutifully supporting, helping, encouraging, making arrangements, all that. Imagine doing this! That’s what Judy is doing for me. And though there are times where we have our moments, she is just amazing at adapting to the situations and trying to help me be successful each and every day with this silly endeavor. For that I am truly humbled! I’m a damned lucky guy.

Ok, so I still have a LONG day’s ride to make the Golden Eagle Ferry Xing of the Mississippi River, right across from Machens, MO, where the Katy Trail starts. I’d originally planned to paddle the Mississippi starting further north, and Xing right where Judy would take the van for the ferry Xing. But obviously the ferry is in my future to now. So that’s what we’re pointing towards as we move south. I’ve no idea how the berm will be on more of Rt 100, which goes all the way down to this ferry Xing. Will it be flooded out at some point? Will the berm be ridable all the way? Will the ferry even be operable with the flood conditions (Right now the ferry is still running, BUT the gentleman told me to call 24 hrs ahead just to be safe)? All this we’re going to answer shortly.


Tuesday, June 16: Man, I just hate to beat the same drum day after day. And there’s probaboy more than a few of you folks out there who are just sick and tired of hearing about this bloody rain thing. But today it really impacted the itinerary of the trip. 

Well, the rain continued through about half the night last night, but before we hit the hay we did watch the local weather and they were forecasting a good day for today, so at least we had that going for us. And sure enough, at the crack of dawn the sun was out - man I think I have an inkling of how Noah felt after the deluge. It was just so great to wake up to a sunning day - really energizes you. So I worked while listening to the local news, and of course the weather. And during that weather forecast the guy is warning people to be aware of the secondary and tertiary roads - the county roads - that are closed and flooded in the county, and there were many. He also warned folks not to even drive on some of the “unpaved” roads because of all the water. “There is a good possibility of getting stuck or ending up in very deep water” he said. That was a huge downer what with the great sunny morning. Anyway, got my gazetteer out and checked out my intended route, which as I mentioned yesterday on the blog, consists of about 2 pages worth of some gravel and earthen roads to ride. There had to be stream and creek Xings every 3-5 miles. In some places the country roads hug these creeks and streams for miles.

Didn't take me long to decide that putting Judy, the van, and me in potential bad situations all day long, that wasn’t going to fly. I was looking forward to this section of riding as much if not more than the Kankakee River paddle I had to 86 way back in Indiana. But it is what it is, and there’s really nothing I can do barring just waiting for God knows how long for things to settle down - and that could take weeks - or revamp the itinerary to fit the situation. My only choice is the latter. Soooooooo…all of a sudden I was scrambling with the gazetteer trying to figure out a route that kind of paralleled my original itinerary, but that stayed on state routes where the possibility of running into flooding was much less than on the county roads. And there it is. 

So with that done we hit it really early to get a good jump on the day. Got going at 8 AM. Rt 150 though Galesburg was just garbage for berm and I was hoping - big time - that the rest of the state routes wouldn’t mimic that rotten mess. And probably what contributed to the road’s crappy berm situation has been all the rain just eating the gravel away and creating a bumpy, soft and uneven surface. Out of Galesburg we got on 400N west, which was passable, and then got on Rt 41 south, which for a while was good, like this gravel berm on both sides of the road that was nearly a full lane wide. With the steady stream of truck traffic on this road, having all the space felt pretty good. 

But that deteriorated down to half a lane wide, then down to about 4 feet to 2 feet wide. There were areas where the gravel was just so soft from all the water that it felt like I was riding on wet beach sand, and that feeling continued on and off all day long. Other times the gravel berm was firm and fast, but that wasn’t quite half the time today at best. Then there were other sections where it appears the IDOT crews just spread new quartz gravel and/or limestone gravel on the berm, and that was loose, washy, and amazingly bumpy. Some times I would just shake my head in frustration. Then on some of the small climbs….good God, the whole gravel berm was missing in some places, having washed downslope and into the ditch. What a mess. And of course there were some sections where I had no choice but to get on the asphalt for a hundred feet or more just to avoid riding a washout funnel right down into a ditch filled with several feet of water. 

The GOOD thing about today was the temp and the wind direction. Due to this temporary cool front from the northwest, the temp and humidity were very mellow today, and I wasn’t soaked within the first 10 minutes of riding. Matter of fact I wasn’t soaked at all today. And the wind was enough to cool me off, but not so intense so as to create a barrier when riding against it. That felt good. Did a break at about 25 miles in, and felt really good, despite the rather questionable berm situations thus far. Downed a Powerade and had a slice of pizza from last night’s Pizza Hut dinner, and I was on my way. 

From Rt 41, we went west on Rt 136 berm, and this was fresh quartz  gravel that ranged from good and hard packed to poor and loose and bumpy. Then we were on to the next state route - Rt 67 south.  This guy started out really good, with the old hard packed lime sand of about 2-4 feet wide. But heck, as I’ve found out, things can go from great to crap in the span of 100 yards, so this road had some really good sections where I could ride at 14 mph, to some just horrible stretches, like climbs where the berm was just washed away, where I could only muster about 4-5 mph out of the saddle and working it. Now along the way on Rt 67 I started hearing this horrible squeaking coming from my right pedal/cleat. My first inclination was that the cleat was worn out and squeaky from all the wet and rusting it could have gone through each and every day. So at the next rest stop by the van I checked the pedal, and the dag gone thing would barely even turn. Bearings were either frozen or destroyed. So out came the toolbox and on went another eggbeater pedal - I have 2 pr with me for this trip for just such an occasion. 

Got rolling again and all was fine. So after that first break, I’d been taking a break every 12-14 miles, eating a slice of day-old pizza and chugging down a Powerade and coke/or water. Worked great today with the heat humidity on the lower end, and what’s more I didn’t sit in the van in the AC like a half melted candle as I had in days prior. I’d just pop in, eat and drink, then pop out and get rolling again. Managed to get about 4 miles south of the town of Industry, IL for the day, and snagged very good mileage for the day - 70+ of berm!

Ok, so the rain is supposed to come back again starting tonight, and then continue tomorrow and Thursday. Heck, yea then remnants of Tropical Storm Bill are supposed to come through Southern IL and the St. Louis area on Thursday, so more fun is in store!


Monday, June 15: Well, got to tell you it’s turning into the same old song and dance my friend. Got up, began working and be darned if it didn’t start raining again first thing in the morning. That’s after rain for half of last night. Nonetheless, I tried to get done working early, get everything packed up and ready to go for an early start. Yea, right. That’s when it the morning rain got even more intense, like knocking out the motel’s cable in a complete deluge of rain, thunder, lightening and wind. So we just sat there in the motel dining area killing time for a bit. When the rain did stop we hustled into the van and drove back towards Hennepin State Park where I left off yesterday. And of course the rain began yet again as we were driving back on I-80. Got so intense we had to stop at a roadside rest to sit it out. And….the rain stopped, off we went to the park, and of course the rain began again. I mean it was just maddening. 

So we sat in the park for a good 30 min more and I finally just decided to take my chances and go for it. Got going as the rain sputtered down to a light mist. We had decided, what with the weather to do the remainder of the Hennepin canal trail in 3 smaller chunks, so if I did get caught in a nasty thunder boomer, I wouldn’t have a ton of ground to ride to get my butt out of the storm. So first stop would be in Annawan, about 12 miles west. Of course the trail was just a soaking, soggy, sodden, and just about every other descriptive adjective to describe an aqueous mess. The trail surface changed between the Precambrian asphalt (geologic age that denotes extreme age) that’s very deteriorated, to a fine sand/lime. When I rode on the Precam. I just rode on the very periphery where the deteriorated gravel had collected on the grassy berm. And of course when on the sand/lime surface I could ride anywhere, but this stuff was a bit soft from all the rain, so my pace was slow. 

The whole time I was just watching that sky, waining for the drops to fall and the big rains to come, but as usual the sky just stayed steely grey amidst an oppressive humidity. Made Annawan in just over an hour, and motioned Judy on to the next support stop in Geneseo, another 13 miles west. I just didn’t want to let a minute escape due to the 100% chance of rain today. On this segment went  by this area that just stunk like dead fish, and wouldn’t you know it but all of a sudden I started to see hundreds of dead fish floating in the canal. It was a very putrid stink. Couldn’t figure out what in the heck caused the kill, but it was confined to this 2-3 mile section of canal. Made this segment in just over an hour. Grabbed a sandwich, Powerade, coke, water and got it rolling for the final section to Colona. 

Now this 11-mile section was basically a closed trail, and I’d remembered back when I did recon here a year ago, that it was closed then to. Turns out absolutely NOTHING had been done to rectify the issues: washouts and deadfall mainly. Now there was nothing near as bad as what I went through on the I & M, but it made me think of how lucky we are in the Cuyahoga Valley, and all along the 80-90 mile towpath trail for that matter. Because when something gets washed out, or there’s a ton of deadfall, man, they’re on in that day. And it’s cleared and good to go. But out here….nothing. Some of the washouts I’d experienced on the I & M, those things were years old, not from the recent spate of storms we’re experiencing right now, but from storms years ago. So tell you what Akron-Cleveland-Massilon-Dover, you’re lucky you don’t have to deal with the lack of maintenance that’s going down out here in Illinois. 

Made it to Colon in another hour, and while I was at it I scouted out one of my options just about a mile from where I was to meet Judy, a RR feeder line that went in my intended direction of travel to the south. I could meet Judy, then pedal back to this line and go on it for about 20 miles. But on closer inspection I saw that it contained concrete RR ties, and the gravel was all funneled into the middle creating this nasty trench of loose ballast. So that pup was out right off the bat. I knew from there onward that I was berminating it for the remainder of the day. Met Judy, banged down a Powerade and coke, gave Jude directions on the berm riding and had at it, still trying to get the most bang for the buck out of the day before the predicted rain hit us. 

Did berm of Rt 84 S, to berm Rt 6 W, to L on 200E. And they ranged from great to horrible, especially 200E - it sucked big time! Made me question why in the hell I ventured so far north to go east-west, when I had to go right back south again. But….had to go with the gameplan. And speaking of gameplan, I took the east-west on those canal trails to get some great gravel trail in, about 110 miles worth actually, but my price for that was to have to go due south to get to where I need to be to X the Mississippi River and hit the Katy Trail in MO. Now the good thing is that there’s many more gravel roads in western IL than eastern and central IL, so I do have that going for me, but I still have to go south for a solid 120 miles, and my laundry list of roads to make this happen is two full pages long - one line at a time. So suddenly that seems very daunting. It really hit me as I struggled on 200E. I mean there were points where I was just snailing along at 5-6 mph. 

So then I got on 150 south, and that berm was good, but from all the rain, the gravel was a bit soft, which took away a couple mph’s. Went through the town of Omega, yea, that’s really the name. And then my goal for the day was actually going another 11 miles through Alpha - yup, another winner of a town name. AND who named these towns anyway, the nerds from Big Bang Theory? - all the way to Galesburg where I have access to some dirt and gravel roads. But about 5 miles from Alpha…RAIN! I even got a severe weather warning on my cell. So Judy zipped on back and got me just before the deluge hit. And that was the end of the day. I managed to get in 56 miles, having gotten shorted on the start of the day and the finish of the day. And I continue to fall further and further behind schedule. 

As I sit here and work on the blog…surprise….it’s raining and it’s been raining for 4 hrs thus far. Well, as I often tell my clients “we have control of many things in our life, BUT we don’t have control of the weather, so don’t let it control you!” I’ve got to chew on my own advice big time this evening - cuz I’m feeling pretty beat down by this weather. 


Sunday, June 14: I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record….but when in the heck is this monsoonal rain system going to get out of here? Rain began at about 5 PM last evening and continued to 7 AM this morning. It was just wild to listen to that on and off deluge last night. I was really thinking this morning that today would be a wash, and yet, as usual, the skies cleared and the sun came out…and the humidity was through the roof. Within about an hour we went from game over to game on. 

Went back to yesterday’s endpoint, for the start of today. Now I’d completed the whole I & M, but actually, back in the good old days it was connected to the Hennepin Canal via the Illinois River with some portage route that today is long gone. So I had to come up with my own “bridge” so to speak, to stay off the pavement for this 16-mile stretch between the tow canalways. My options were three: paddle the Illinois, do the berminator thing, and take a RR feeder line. Option one was completely out, as these rivers are so swollen and angry right now it just ridiculous. Option 2 I knew from recon would be a real tough go because the berm is terrible. Option 3 was my clear choice - do the feeder line. As I’ve said in past blogs, I like the feeder lines because they carry little in the way of daily traffic. They’re used, but only occasionally. Still, that does NOT mean that I’m Mr. Legal doing this stuff. I just try to stay under the radar when I go this route. Today being Sunday, that’s even better because most everything along the feeders are closed and rarely does any train traffic use these lines on Sunday’s. So I felt pretty good about this long run on the RR today. 

The end of the I & M is tucked right next to this feeder line, so I just walked the bike around this big Riverboat pond and - inconspicuously - over to this little fence, dipped around the fence along a very well trodden path, and bingo bango I was on the RR line. I rode this double track off to the left side of the RR line through an industrial district, and right out of La Salle and into the adjoining city of Peru. They’re both pretty much heavy industry down here along the Illinois River, so there were a myriad of little accessory lines that went in and out of factories and big mega-industrial joints. I just stayed high on the main line, about a block above these accessory lines and I was good. Most of the riding through Peru was on the double track along the main line, so at least I looked fairly kosher. 

Once I got through Peru, the tracks split yet again into a higher side and the low side right up along the Illinois River. That’s when I chose the low side, with much better ballast packed between the ties and got it rolling. Once I left Peru I was just out in the middle of the woods for a good 12 miles, with the next town that I’d actually go through being Depue. Have to say that this was really quite nice, just me riding right down the middle on the RR, with the flooded Illinois River just lapping and churning some 50 feet below me to my left side. There were some barges parked here and there for a few miles, but as I rode further west that just ended. Saw: a couple of grey foxes X the tracks, deer by the 10’s, saw an eagle, red tailed hawks, turkeys and turkey vultures. I mean this was just out in the middle of nowhere. 

The first 6-8 miles felt ok, but after that I kind of had to rest my hands from all the bumping by taking a really light grip on the handlebars, OR just ride one handed at a time. It’s much harder doing this on the hands, arms and shoulders than it is on the butt. Couldn’t really do more than 8 mph, and when I did, the effort just didn't justify all the energy and sweat I was expending, so I just backed it off and rode at a comfortable pace. Judy called me from Spring Valley, where I told her I’d meet her, and at that time I told her that I’d be there soon. But as I rode on and on and on there was no Spring Valley. That’s when I stopped and checked my gps to see that the RR really didn’t go INTO Spring Valley, but just down a piece south of the town. So I called her back and told her I’d already past the place, but I’d meet her for sure in Depue, where the RR went right through the middle of this small place. 

The whole time riding along the Illinois, I was just amazed at the massive amount of flooding. I mean the river was at times just lapping at the bottom of the RR grade which is elevated probably some 10-30 feet above the river in places. I reached Judy in this little burb of Depue via a double track trail that’s on the left side of the RR line about a mile out, and I just followed this thing right into town. That way it looked pretty good with me not coming into town right down the middle of the RR tracks. Did a sandwich, Powerade, coke and water and hit it for the town of Bureau, an even smaller place than Depue if you can believe that. This was another 3.5 miles down the RR, and again, it was out in the middle of nowhere once you reach the other side of town - which is about a quarter mile! 

Now I have to admit that this last 3.5 of riding down the middle of the tracks, that stung a bit. Heck I was just sweating like crazy with the hot sun and torrid humidity, and then my hands were just getting numb from the jostling for 2 hrs. Made Bureau feeling pretty thirsty and sore, but still, I felt pretty good to get that section in the books and get on with another “easy” little towpath trail. Did another 2 bottles of powerade and did a quick mile of berm, leading Judy to the Hennepin Trailhead just down the road from the center of town. We decided that I’d go about 17 miles down the trail because out here in the middle of nowhere land, this was the easiest access point for Judy to drive to. The logistics out here on this trail are much tougher than on the I & M. The roads getting to and from the canal trail are these little county roads. Now just before I got going this fellow told me that a bridge was washed out about two miles down and that I might not be able to get through because of the high flood waters. Judy and I decided to give me 30 min to either make it past the washout or come back, this because she had no cell service out here. So I took off wondering if I’d have to do another grunt traverse through a washout as I’d done yesterday. Even wondered if the flooding would be so intense that I couldn’t even ford the creek. 

The beginning of this trail was kind of weird, as it’s this ancient asphalt that’s just so deteriorated that its asphalt gravel on both the right and left side of the trail and barely asphalt in the middle. So I just rode the gravel on either side of the middle. So I passed what looked like a new bridge over this creek, and tell you what, I’d NEVER have been able to ford Bureau creek if the bridge was still out. That stream was a raging river. But then came this washout of massive proportions, right where this park official was scoping out the damage. Bureau Creek had taken out almost the whole trail at a point, where the trail was just falling down into the creek some 20 feet below. 

So I ride up to this guy and he says, “didn’t you see the trail closed sign?” And I had to play the Touron card (touron is a tourist moron), saying, “sir, I’m riding across the country and this is the only route I know, where else can I ride to get around this?” And that kind of settled the dude down a bit. He told me I could ride on this bulldozed area, then go on the horse trail, go around the washout, and then get back on the towpath again. It was a muddy mess, but hey, I let me by and all was good. That’s about when the trail went from the Precambrian asphalt to just like this hard pack sand, which provided a bit more resistance to ride on because the tire sinks just a smidgen. And I’ll have to say that for a towpath trail, this thing is just so NOT used. I mean I saw one bike riding the whole day, and this guy was back at the beginning of the trail. The rest of the ride I saw no one but fisherman at all the locks and bridge Xing’s. But zero with respect to runners, cyclists and walkers. And this was a Sunday. 

What’s more this trail is not just flat, because it seems that up to each and every lock there’s this little power climb, and it definitely takes its toll on you after doing these things mile after mile. And today, most of the ride was on this sandy double track that is really way the hell out in farm country. Reminded me of the Katy Trail where you’re just a million miles from big towns and cities. 

Made it to Judy with a bit of trouble as I came to our designated meeting spot, Lock 21, and she wasn’t there. So I called, and thankfully she had a signal. “Where are you,” I asked? and she told me she was right where we agreed. And I;m like, but you’re not, because this is Lock 21 and you’re not here! So she checked with some fisherman in her area and found out that I was at the Lock, but she was at the boat launch….about 500 feet down from me around a corner. Poweraded up x2, and got in one more quick segment to Hennepin Canal State Park and that was it for the day. The humidity was just so stifling today that I pulled the plug for both of us. I ended up with 40 miles with a late start, so I feel good about getting in miles, but kind of bummed that I couldn’t put in another 20 for the day. I keep thinking things will clear up here and I’ll be able to put in some big days, but the weather is unrelenting. 

And guess what, it began raining about 6 PM and it’s still raining right now at 8:30 CST….unbelievable! Tomorrow I hope to finish the Hennepin and begin the long gravel road/berm ride south to the Mississippi River Xing. I fear, with this current storm pattern and all the flooding, that I’ll not be able to paddle the Mississippi. Better clear up very fast!


Saturday, June 13: Well, I thought today would be this nice little relaxing ride on the towpath. You know, the kind we do down in the Cuyahoga valley and just chill, smell the roses and noodle along. NOT! Instead I got another dose of American Dirt smackdown. 

As usual, the rain continued through the night, but by morning we had some blue skies. BUT…the humidity machine was in full force. Got back to the start of the I & M Towpath in South Joliet. I had Judy drive to Morris, about 25 miles to the west so she could ride towards me, rather than have her start in South Joliet me and then ride back into that *^&$hole by herself.

So I got up and checked that that front tire that I’d patched last nigh, and be darned if it wasn't a slow leaker again….AGAIN! So rather than fight pulling that tire, reinserting a new tube or repatch again, and then fighting like a ninja trying to reseat the tire again,  and then loose an hour of ride time, I decided to try to just fill it with air at each support stop. I mean I pumped 80 psi into that bad boy at the start with the hop of getting as much run as I could out of each riding segment. So I got going on this soggy trail that’s exactly like our Ohio & Erie Towpath trail down in the Akron area. And it holds water exactly like our trail to. First 5-7 miles were just puddle after puddle. I was coated in lime gravel and lime mud instantly, and then throw in the extreme sweating that I typically exhibit, and it made for a pretty sticky ride. 

Now the beginning of this trail closely mimics our valley towpath where it’s up in the Cleveland area, what with all the heavy industry and garbage sights along the Cuyahoga down close to the flats. So it was nice to get through that area and out into the farm country. And I was fixated on the miles as they ticked by hoping that that pump-up would last the entire 24 miles of the first segment. Once I got to 10 miles in, and the tire was still very firm, I kind of relaxed a bit and rode. By 18 miles in Judy had rode up to me and we finished the last 6 miles together. And man, I was just torched from the humidity. I was just dripping, and felt like my energy was nearing empty. So Judy told me that the park that I had given her directions to, well, it was flooded over by the Illinois River, and gated off, so she had to park on a side street. 

When we got close to Morris, and rode by the park, it was under water! Shoot, there were three kayakers paddling past near submerged picnic tables. Got back and I downed 2 Powerades, a coke and water, in addition to eating this bomber turkey and roast beef sandwich that Judy made for me. I felt a tad of energy return, so I wanted to get back out there for the next 22 miles before the predicted thunder boomers arrived. Pumped the front tire back up to a solid 80 psi and I was good to go. This next section to the town of Ottawa reminded me completely of the towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley, where you go by corn fields, farms and old circa 1950 two-story houses etc. So that was nice. Felt good for a bit, but by 16 miles in, the humidity was again just crushing me. Was averaging about 12-13 mph the whole time, but it definitely felt tougher. 

Then came some gnarly flooding on the trail. I mean GNARLY flooding. The first flood section started out as about 3 inches deep and then got progressively deeper until my feet were going under water on the down strokes. Made it through that one and then came the second flood section - this about a half mile long. This guy got so deep my feet were totally submerged in the water as I was peddling - aqua biking! Ended up about knee deep in the water. I had to stop because of all the floating debris in this thing and the deadfall. So I walked the bike the rest of the way though this little valley of water with all the muck and sand filling up my poor old cycling shoes. The third flood section was an easy 1 deep where I could ride it, though I had to keep sighting way up ahead for the direction of the actual trail so I wouldn't ride into the muddy berm and then stall out. Did get out of there with about two more miles to go to Ottawa. 

Made it to the town of Ottawa, which I told Judy reminded me of Ravenna (sorry if any of you are proud citizens of Ravenna, but it’s a place that’s still a bit dated and a tad shoddy in spots). Judy was actually scared to park in the center of town because it was so….run down and decrepit looking, so she moved to an trail access area in a park that was right next to the flooded out Illinois River. Now at this stop I was really kind of out there, out of it from the heat and humidity. Downed several Powerades along with another coke and some water. Just didn’t have the stomach for eating though. I could have just bagged it there with 46 miles in as I sat there in the front seat feeling beat to heck. And then, just as I was dragging my sorry butt off the seat to begin the last 16 miles stretch, this big blob of black sky was above us, and rain began. 

Honestly, I was happy to get back in the van and try to catch some Z’s as this monster rain cell moved through. Rained for about 30-40 minutes with thunder and lightening, and I was slumped down in the front seat the whole time, with leg muscles twitching with small spasms and cramps. The storm cleared out the whole park, and by its end we were the only ones left there. The sun reappeared, burning hot as heck, and the humidity was just through the roof. Had to get that last 16 miles in to finish the trail for the day. That would give me a 61-62 mile day. Well, we booked a Super 8 in Peru/La Salle as I sat there, which gave me impetus to get this thing over for the finish in La Salle. 

So I got the it together enough to do this last segment, hoping to just dial it back a bit and take it easy. Pumped the front back up again, got it going. As soon as I got back on the trail, it was a flowing river about 3 inches deep from all the rain. I mean I had to do about 8-9 mph so as to not engulf myself in a monster rooster tail off the front wheel. Then went through a slosh of mud and gunk through town. Just outside of town was this sign that said: “Trail Closed”. “What???????????????” No bloody way. I was getting through this come….hell OR HIGH WATER! So I dove right in, and within a mile I came to a bridge that had been knocked out a while ago. This wasn’t a recent washout, this pup had to be out for a long time. 

Bike walked over and down and then walked this concrete abutment and made it past that obstacle. Then went past another sign  to reiterated that the trail was closed. Went by that one to. This time I had to scamper over countless downfall, ford puddles, and ride this single track shrouded in weeds. Then came the big kahuna - this washout section that was about 8 feet deep, with these big steel culverts awash in the middle of this stream - an angry little stream to boot. So I had to drop the bike down into this mess, by lowering it from the bars and kind of dropping it a few feet. Then I had to use the bike to kind of balance off of as I lowered myself down into this big trench. Kind of scraped my shin on the way down. 

Next up was fording the stream, climbing over two 5-foot high metal culverts, climb back up the other side using my bike again for balance as I climbed up this steep, muddy slope. I was just covered in mud by the time I got over this thing. More riding and more deadfall. Finally, about 4 miles outside of La Salle, I passed the other side of the “Trail Closed” sign and the trail was back to towpath trail. But man, I was just a total freaking mess. My hands were mud coated and dripping mud-sweat, and I had this red “shinner” on my shin. 

Made it back to Judy in the parking area along the Illinois River in La Salle, and called it a day. We pealed my clothing off and threw the sodden mess in a big garbage bag to wash back at the motel. So off to Peru to the Super 8. And before going in I wanted to get the tire fix out of the way, this with a ferocious looking thunder storm coming in from the west. So I parked the van, pulled the bike and my tools out and got going. This time the tire came off fairly easy. And I found that the glueless patch that I’d put on yesterday, well it had partially peeled off. And I say this to you all out there: DO NOT USE TOPEAK GLUELESS PATCHES! This was my second one and I think they stink. Put on a big glue patch, and then came the fun - trying to seat that tire back on the rim - with a black sky and thunder and lightening coming at me fast. I struggled for 15 min with this dog, and the storm was right on me as I finally snapped the final bit of bead back into the rim. The wind was blowing at 40 mph and the thunder and lightening seemed to be right on top of me as I put everything away and locked up the van. As soon as I got inside all hell broke loose. Made it by an eyelash. 

It’s been raining ever since, with maybe about a 30 minute window of no rain since we got here. Pretty beat right now so I’ll sign off.


Friday, June 12: Man this rain thing is just getting to be a debbie downer. Rained last night, and then this morning it just rained like hell for 3 hrs. Did another long work session this morning and then was a doppler weather radar groupie for another hour just waiting for this big blog to more out of the Kankakee area. We finally left the motel about 30 min before check-out and drove back in the rain to where I left off yesterday - on this gravel road, 1200N. Then we sat in the van for another 45 min waiting for the rain to ease up. I finally got the bike out, only to have another cloud burst come through. So again, we just sat there watching the gravel road fill up with water for another 15 min. Finally the rain stopped, but the clouds overhead look totally threatening. HAD to at least get to the Wauponsee Glacial Trail today to feel as though we were making some kind, any kind of progress. 

Started riding amidst a light drizzle with Judy driving right behind me in the van in case the heavens burst forth again. The temp was in the high 50’s, but the humidity….well it was like 100%, so if the rain didn’t soak me my own sweat certainly would. Made great time riding in the big ring slamming down this awesome country gravel road, dodging massive puddles and trying to stay on a recent truck track to make sure I was on a good hard pack. Get off the line and suddenly you’re sinking in the saturated gravel. So we took 1200N, County Line Rd, to it’s end, then turned L on Symerton Rd and I rode on some nice gravel berm on that guy. Final approach to the rail trail was a R on W. Ballou Rd, where I again rode on some good berm all the way to the trailhead. Mission accomplished on bridging from the end of the North Judson rail trail in Indiana. 

Now at this time Judy was feeling pretty bad, having some nasty digestive issues, so she couldn't ride with me on the Wauponsee as we had planned. And quite honestly, the weather was still really foreboding and the trail was just soaking wet with massive puddling, so she definitely wouldn’t have like it. Anyway, we got her straight on where to go to meet me and I took off of the rail trail. Now this pup is about 23 miles long, and goes due north to just south of Joliet, IL. It nearly connects me with the 61-mile I & M Towpath trail that runs east-west, so it’s a nice line that keeps me on gravel for nearly 85 miles. 

As I said, the trail, which is all a fine limestone gravel, was just completely soaking wet with puddling everywhere. Got going at a pretty good clip, about 11-14mph, across this rain soaked trail. Despite having a nice rear clip-on fender, I was still catching all sorts of rooster tail along with a constant barrage of this fine gravel raining down on me from the front and rear tires. Within 20 min I had this gravel-mud everywhere. Yea, Judy would have detested this one! So I’m cruising along and begin to notice my effort increasing, kind of like my tires were really sinking in the lime-mud, and this gets me concerned - because that’s one of the signs of a flat. Stood up and bounded on the shocks to see if the tires were mushy and sure enough the front was looking deflated. Got off and checked the front - slow leaker. Now this is the same wheel that I had problems with back in Ohio when I had issues pulling the front wheel off to change the flat due to this new axel system where the whole axel pulls out. Problem was that I did not have a pair of pliers to help to twist off the axel because the twist-off slot was a bit mangled from the lock-up a week ago when I had to call my mechanic Steve. 

Had to ride it all the way to meet up with Judy in order to have all the tools necessary to get that damned wheel off. No other choice other than calling her and having her drive back to get me at the next available trailhead. So I just kept riding the son-of-a-gun until it was just about spent. Then I put 200 pumps of air back in and began counting the miles I’d get out of that air fill-up. At this point I was about 8 miles in and 10 miles from our designated support stop. Got the thing rock hard and began riding like nobody’s business. Hell, I was able to do about 13 mph riding it dang near flat, so when I got the air back in I was doing 15 mph and just trying to crush it. 

Ticked the miles off as it began raining again. Rode through these totally puddled out areas where I was throwing rooster tails 5 feet in the air trying to keep the speed up and get the miles in as fast as I could, not knowing if that slow leaker was going to morph into a full blown blow-out. Got one, two, three miles in and no problem. Put in another 3 miles and I was starting to feel the tire getting softer. Three more miles and it was a mushy doughnut with one mile to go. And I rode that turkey for the final mile at 14 mph doing all I could to make it to the van without doing the pumping routine again. Met up with Judy just as the heavens burst forth again. So we sat in the van as I ate lunch waiting for the rain to dissipate again. 

By this time I was just totally DONE with the rain. I had one gnarly bridge section to do to get myself on the I & M Towpath, and I really wanted to get this thing out of the way today and not have it hanging over my head for tomorrow - rain or no rain. Gave Judy directions to the I & M trailhead and had her take off and let me deal with the crapfest on my own. Again, the rain kind of backed off, so I put another top on after damn near ripping the thin, tight UnderArmor soaker off my back, put 70lbs of pressure in the front tire with the floor pump and got going on the gnarly section. Went R on the berm of this super busy Laraway Rd that goes by the Illinois Motor Speedway. I had a passable grass-gravel berm to ride on, and sometimes, with the traffic so freaking busy with big trucks, I rode way to the right on total grass just to be the hell out of the way. 

I mean what a difference, going from this little double track limestone trail out in the middle of IL farm country to this cluster*^&*%&$ of a road with truck traffic everywhere. Got to the Rt 53 intersection and Xed over to the other side of Laraway, and this is where it just got ugly. I mean there is this massive trucking depot just down the road a couple miles where trains bring in thousands of tractor trailers that get recouped back on semis. And all these bloody 18-wheelers are coming and going up and down this section of Laraway. Now I did have a gravel berm for 1/2 mile, and then there is an asphalt pedestrian trail alongside Laraway. But the grass berm on both sides of the pedestrian trail were super soaked. I mean just mudpits from all the rain. 

So I was churning through mud at times just about bending the crank arms to go 4 mph. It was pathetic as all these trucks were whizzing by me. They had to be shaking their heads at the fool out there riding in the muddy grass and through big puddles instead of riding on the day ped. trail. Passed Brandon Rd with just one more block to where I made my R turn onto Centerpoint Rd when I saw Judy coming back towards me, and I kind of did the both hands in the air thing where you’re saying: “Hey, what the hell?” She yelled at me to wait at the Centerpoint intersection. And that’s just what I did, fearing that something was up with my directions. Pulled in this construction entrance that was a pit of mud and gravel to wait for her. When she came back she informed me that Centerpoint was closed to the public and was now a private road. WTF????? I’d just reconned this a year ago and it was just fine. Today it’s closed off to public traffic. Now I knew that Brandon would still get us to the trailhead, so I loaded the bike in the van and we headed back up the road 2 miles to Brandon. This was indeed through, and we just applied what I’d already ridden to this and we were right back by the trailhead. No harm, no foul there. 

The eastern end of this I & M trail is in a really seedy part of town. It’s just an industrial hell on the south side of Joliet, and right along Rt 6 - GAR Highway. You have to X the Des Plains River to get to the trailhead, and of course it’s so high and turbulent from all the flooding that there was no chance in hell I could put in here with the canoe to X. So I take a penalty point on that one and rode across the drawbridge. I was hoping to get in another 10 miles, but with the drizzle, the puddling on this trail to, and with Judy not feeling well, I just decided to bag it and see what tomorrow brings. Couldn’t be a whole lot worse actually. Got in about 33 miles on a totally pissy day and we did see progress. I mean at least we’re seeing movement when we look at a map, so I guess that’s the “glass is half full” philosophy.  

Then there’s the age-old question: “Where to stay?” Now those of you who have not been to Joliet, IL….you ain’t missed nothin. It’s a dirty, nasty place, and where we were at, at the eastern-most trailhead of the I & M, it ranks right up there with the west side of Dayton, OH. So I got on my cell and began looking for a place to stay. And nearly every review I read of the local motel establishments was pretty negative. Some of the places sound downright scary based on those reviews. So today was a day where I opted to drive about 7 miles out the Heart of Darkness to find a suitable, more costly hotel where we’d feel safe. Ended up at a Best Western off of I-55. 

Got a room and then I spent another hour in the hotel parking lot changing that freaking front flat, and having the same amount of trouble getting the tire off the rim and then back on again as I had in Ohio. I swear I’ve NEVER had that much trouble getting a tire on and off a rim. Normally I can just use my thumbs to get a tire seated back on a rim. NOT this one. Hell, I have to use the tire irons like 4x to get that bugger back on - AND OFF! And each and every time I’m prying this tiny little bite of tire and nearly breaking the tire irons in half. Trouble with this is the potential to pinch the tube and then you’re *^*%$ yet again!! Anyway found this tiny piece of metal that had gone through the rim strip tube protector and gotten lodged in the tire. I THINK I got it out, and I’ll go back out to the van pretty soon here to check the tire just to feel good that it’s leak-free. I say I think, because I used a pair of tweezers to pull this little nothing out. Then I tried for 15 min to find if there was anything left in the tire or rim protector, but found nothing. With my run of luck as of late, there’s something still in there!

So that’s the scoop for today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit smoother with 61 miles of gravel trail ahead of us.


Thursday, June 11: Rain, Rain, and more Rain - that was the theme last evening out near Hebron, IN, where we stayed at a STUPOR 8! I mean it rain so hard you could just call it a whiteout - zero vision in front of you. The thunderstorms were so powerful and frequent that they temporarily knocked out the power in the motel, and blasted the cable out for the rest of the evening. I mean it was just a torrent of rain, with the parking lot looking like a small lake with 2-3 inches of water in it as the rain continued. We hit the hay at 9:30 just because we were so beat from the hot day and all the excitement. 

Got going in the morning on the bike where I left off yesterday, out on the west side of I-65 on 1200N. And I have to say that today was my smoothest day yet excepting for those day-long stints on established soft-surface trails like the C & O, the GAP and Northbend. The berm on these roads, when they’re not total gravel roads, is just awesome now. No more struggling at 4-6mph as I had in Ohio. On these pups out here I can crank it in the big ring at anywhere from 10-13mph. To me this is warp speed!

So let me go through the laundry list of roads I did today if you’re actually mapping this silly thing: In Indiana we went 1200N to L on 200E, to R on Rt 10 to R on Rt 41 to L on 241st Ave which turns into CR52 (3500N) when we Xed into Illinois, to L on CR13 (4000N), to L on CR13 again, to R on N. Vincennes Trail (CR14), to L on 5500N, to R on Rt 17, to L on 8000N, to R on 11000E, to L on 9000N through the town of Manteno and across I-57 to R on 1000E to L on 1200N (County Line Rd). There you have it for the day!

ALL of the aforementioned roads had fantastic gravel berms that are flush with the pavement - when there is pavement - and it made riding fast, easy and safe. Now I had said in earlier blogs that this recent spate of rain has nixed my being able to paddle the Kankakee River. This thing has got to be 15+ feet above flood level right now. I was forced to ride on the berm of Rt 41 north, to X the Kankakee, because Rt 41 is one of the only bridges in the county that is not actually flooded out by the river right now. And there was ZERO chance of me putting in a canoe to X the river when I got to it. When I crossed on the bridge the river was just 2 feet from the bottom of the bridge, and just to the east of the bridge is a RR trestle that spans the river, and it had water up over about 2 feet of bottom of the bridge with all this junk stuck on the other side like a massive debris dam. That was a hell of a sight. But there’s more, about a mile before I got to the bridge, to the south, the flood waters of the river had invaded small homes, covered access roads, and the water was right up to the berm I was riding on. It was an amazing sight to see. To my right was nothing but water covering woods, homes, roads…everything. 

Still pretty bummed that I won’t have the opportunity on this trip to do that canoe segment on the Kankakee, as this is supposed to be one of the more stunning rivers in this part of the country to paddle. So we Xed the river and then went west on this wonderful little farm road, 241st Ave. It could be considered asphalt, but heck, that’s for just about 8 feet of the road, right down the middle. For about 2-3 feet on both sides it’s just lime gravel and deteriorated asphalt gravel. And it was a very scenic and beautiful mt bike ride. This is where we crossed the IN/IL state line, getting six states down on this trip of 13 states. By this time the humidity was just out of sight. Temps were in the mid 80’s, and by the end of the day 89 degrees. Today I didn’t have that nice little headwind to cool me off. On this day there was little in the way of a breeze, thus I was just dripping water from the get-go.

We then took it north along this very active RR line I had looked at while doing recon, and today, having seen 5-6 trains on it in just about an hour as we paralleled it, I’m very happy NOT to have made that choice. This particular line consists of double tracks, and it has a double track on its east side on ballast that just went on and on and on. Looked like a good option a few years ago, but today, riding the fast and furious berms I’d been on, well that was not worth the potential hassles. Did a lunch stop just outside of the town of Grant Park, and then, trying to be as fast as possible to beat the rain and get out of the heat, I jumped back on the bike to bang out another several hours. 

Again, more fantastic berm on these little county farm roads. Said it a gazillion times, and I’ll say it again: I just love rinding through farm country. It’s peaceful. So this strint through IL is awesome thus far. There is near nothing in the way of traffic, and the people who you pass and you get passed by, they often give you a friendly wave. What a novel thing that is…to get a friendly wave rather than a middle finger salute! Feels so relaxing to be on this kind of terrain instead of getting my tush handed to me from bushwhacks and crapfests. This was my idea of American Dirt back when I kind of dreamed up the crazy scheme back in 2009. 

Now there was a little tenuous moment in the city of Manteno, where I opted to ride 9000N right though the city rather than go 2 miles north, and then a mile west and then 2 more miles south to avoid the place. I had to kind of zig zag through green spaces to actually get through there without doing a bunch of asphalt and concrete. The final stretch through town, I had to ride on devil strips, this because 9000N was the only way to get across I-57. So I did have to ride across a big concrete bridge across the interstate. After that it was like you’re right back in farmland. I mean there is just city and then boom…right back on the farm! 

The final stretch of the day was on 1200N, and it’s just bomber gravel road that’s about 1.5 lanes wide and it just goes straight as far as the eye can see. It’s a thing of beauty! Now don’t get me wrong, cycling in 90+ percent humidity in 89-degree heat is no picnic. By this time I was a soaking, dirty, muddy mess, coated with dead bugs that had gotten stuck to my soaking arms and legs, and I was sweating so profusely from the brow that my little washrag (I tuck this into my cycling shorts, up above the elastic around a leg) was totally saturated. But I was still able to enjoy the ride. Heck, I just LOVE cycling, so all that other stuff was just a minor irritant today. 

I’ve been wearing 3 pairs of cycling shorts…yea three pair at once. This because of 5-7 hrs of bumping and jostling all day long on non-smooth surfaces. I started having saddle sore issues way back in DE and MD, when I got raw spots on the old butt cheeks, just below my sit bones. I thought maybe a new saddle may do it, but then I began experimenting with multiple layers of cycling shorts. And thus far this has worked well. Now I still do apply the Vitamin A & D ointment each and every night before I go to bed. And I wash those freaking shorts in the shower every night as soon as we reach a camp site or motel. Let them air dry and they’re good the next morning. I do the same with my top and socks. But I do fear that I’ll be tossing all these guys out in the next couple weeks cuz they’re just getting destroyed by the constant sweating and washing. I do have plenty of “back-ups” packed away and ready to step up once my current kit fall apart into a bundle of rotten lycra! 

So I got in 50 miles for the day, and I think this is a PR, at least for a non-trail day. Honestly, I could have gone another 10-20 miles, but Judy was just totally cashed by the weather today, so we bagged it and got a cheap motel in Manteno so she could relax in the AC. She’s often doing more work than I, just trying to negotiate the roads, feed me, keep track of me, and endure hours of waiting in the heat and humidity. As I’ve said in the beginning, I don’t want this to become a horrible experience on her end, so compromises are a must with this trip. Right now, what with the severe thunderstorms each and every evening, and with the terrible heat and humidity each day, we’re not even going to talk about camping. Paying a few extra bucks for a motel with AC, showers and little fridge and microwave, that’s WAY more palatable than sleeping in a stuffy van and just sweating our buns off. Hopefully this weather pattern will change because we both love to camp and cook. 

I ended up about 10 miles west of Manteno, IL, out in the middle of corn country. My stop point was at the intersection of 1200N and 3500W. I’ll be going another 10 miles west to pick up the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, and then take that northwest up to the I & M Towpath Trail and then continue west across IL. 

Yup, things are actually getting easier. Late……Pete


Wednesday, June 10: Rained like heck last nigh, and then again this morning - WELL into the morning, so much that we had to delay our departure and just kind of sit it out. I became a “dopler weather groupie” for a good hour as I just updated kept refreshing the radar map every 10 minutes trying to see if it was even worth going out today. Must have been three thunder storms that moved through our area in North Judson from 7 AM until 10 AM. And funny thing was that this string of storms was about 30-50 miles long and about 20 miles wide and totally moving west to east in our direction. The rest of the state was totally clear. My first inclination before I pulled out the doppler weather map card was to just bag the day and re-up with the motel and just work for the day. But when I saw that this thing was very localized I though it may be good to sit and wait for a window. 

That window arrived right around 10:15 AM. We were totally packed so we just left the key by the tv and left straight away to the trailhead where I had finished yesterday. Took like 5 minutes to get there and then I was on the bike and rolling at 10:30 AM CST - we have picked up an hour since yesterday. So as I mentioned yesterday, with all the rain, my plan to paddle the Kankakee River was out the door. Sad part of that is that I’d been waiting for this paddle for 4 months, really looking forward to loading that foldable bike on board and doing this major 50+ mile paddle west into Illinois. The Kankakee is supposed to be a really famous river to paddle in these parts and it’s kind of one of those wild and protected river systems. 

The fellow in the room next to us last night, saw my canoe on top of the van this morning, and after I told him what I’d wanted to do, he that he had a service call out near the Kankakee yesterday, and the road was flooded over. Not only that, but he said there was just a ton of debris floating down the river and clogging up some of the RR and road overpasses causing even more flooding. Guess I was about a week too late for the river paddle idea. But as I’v mentioned in prior blogs, some of my segments and/or days entail 2-3 options for just that reason. This because I remember Xing the country back in 2011 and while riding on the Katy Trail in MO, there were severe flooding problems on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. So I kind of knew not to put all my eggs in one basket when I had paddling involved. 

With that said, today was option #2: berm and grave road riding. So we got it going with Judy doing the support by driving ahead of me with the laundry list of roads I’d be riding on and then directing me through the maze of turns we had in store. This is the list of roads we did (mostly for my clarification on the final itinerary): 

400W out of town, then L onto 500S, to dead end, to L on 1200W which turns into 600E, to R on 1350N, to R on 250E, to L on 1450N, to R on 180E, to L on 1500N, Xing Rt 49, to L on 100W, to R on 1300N, to L on 550W, to R on Rt 231 which turns into 15th St and then turns into 1200N, to L on 600E Xing I-65 onto 1200N again. 

Yea, that’s what I did. And this is an easy list of the road itinerary compared to what I have in store for me in KS. So anyway, what I tried to do was parallel this old feeder RR line that goes west to east for about 50 miles. The reason for this is to have that 3rd option for this segment. But the berm was just too good today that I didn’t even need to go to that feeder RR line card. Probably about one-third of the roads I listed above were gravel, and let me tell you, it felt sooooooo good to actually have more and more gravel roads on the radar now that I’m getting further west. Some of those roads listed above were just about turning to gravel in that the asphalt was just all that was left on the road down the middle. And then some of the roads were total asphalt but had some pretty good fine gravel or earthen berm. So I never had anything that I’d call insidious to ride on, or that gave me fits to try to balance on. 

So the riding today was TAME compared to the stuff I did yesterday. And I think this will be the trend now from Illinois westward. That last stretch from Monterey to North Judson, that could likely have been my last true grunt through gnarly topography. Now the weather today was the hottest and most humid to date. I mean it was just bloody smoking hot and humid. Temps went to near 90 degrees with 99% humidity. Luckily I had this 8 mph headwind out of the west that was like a fan blowing on me at all times. Judy even remarked at how much of a bummer it was that I had that headwind in my face all day, but I told her it actually felt good, and help to cool me off. The only time it really affected my riding was when I was riding a purely gravel section and doing over 12 mph, then the headwind was very challenging. But on the berminator sections where I was doing 7-9 mph, the headwind was just refreshing, and really didn’t affect my speed or effort. 

I had three actual support stops where I knocked down some Powerades, cokes, water, yogurt, and/or sandwiches. That strategy of taking in the 20 oz of electrolytes and coke/water every 1.5 hrs in addition to food really helped to keep me from getting the heat bonk and heat exhaustion. By the time we got done we had Xed I-65, and were about 8 miles from the IL/IN border. Could have probably have done it but with the temps, Judy was massively uncomfortable, and we had experienced another one of those incidents where I got out of sight from her, and she was just wigged from that. 

I rode with no pack today (and thus no cell phone), and had her just go up the road a piece at a time, this so I wouldn’t have the pack causing me to sweat my arse off even more than usual. Well, She did a wrong turn and I went straight on that “Rt 231 which turns into 15th St and then turns into 1200N” section. I rode miles down the road expecting to see her coming up behind me. But that never happened. So I rode back east up the road on the asphalt to see if maybe she was at that last intersection in Demotte where I last saw her. Just before I got there she came down the road west towards me. I loaded the bike in the van to have her take me back to where I left off and was lectured for that several miles on how I should have waited for her when I saw her go the other way at the intersection - this despite the fact that I never saw her parked on the wrong side of the intersection looking for me. Now I’m not going to go through all the details, but again, within that short conversation we came to the conclusion once more “Pete is an A-hole”. 

I think the heat, the humidity, the anxiety of both of us for that short 30 min of not knowing where the other was, that kind of put the a period on any more progress for the day. So we bagged it right smack dab at the Xing of I-65 and then got on the freeway north and got a Super 8 motel. And wouldn’t you know it we got a room, opened the door and the room was dirty. So Judy called and nicely asked the manager for a clean room. Then this old hag of a rude ass maid brought up a key for another room and really just handed it to us as if we were pains in the asses. Then we opened that room and it had no chair, no fridge, no microwave. So she called to see if we could get a chair for this chairless desk that was in the room. A different lady, the manager, told her there were no chairs available. That’s when I got pissed. I normally don’t make many waves - but NO GD CHAIR IN THE ROOM WHERE THERE’S A DESK?  I mean WTF?????? So I got out of the shower, dried off and went down to talk to the manager. Did a fair bit of loud, demonstrative talking to this chick at the desk as an elderly gentleman was checking in. The poor old guy looked bewildered as I was ranting on. She asked me to please wait till she checked in the elderly gentleman and she’d work something else out with me. 

Now the amazing part of all of this is that the chick was just totally unapologetic as I went through the whole list of their F-ups since we’d gotten there. And when I told her she didn’t even appear to give a shit whether we were going to be happy customers or alienated customers, she just stood there stone-faced. With that she gave us another room….WITH a chair - yea can you believe it, a chair in a room that has a desk - and a fridge and microwave in there to. Now we could have moved out and gone to the Comfort Inn next door, but I just wanted to relax and not go through the whole check-in process again. 

Anyway, THAT was the drama for the day - not American Dirt!


Tuesday, June 9: Definitely an “American Dirt” day with all the degradation!

Morning started from downtown Rochester at the end of the Nickel Plate Trail. Now at the end of this trail is this old, but active feeder line which is just the continuation of the same RR line. Now it looks more like a line to park RR cars on. And today, that was indeed the case. I couldn’t just ride on the thing as I’d planned cuz it was just one long line of tanker cars, so I had to ride berm for a block until the parked tankers ended. Then I jumped on and rode through downtown Rochester. In most of the downtown areas I was able to just ride on the right side of the tracks on the ballast, trying to look like some mt biker dude who didn’t want to ride on the road. And really this is not a RR where there are active traffic coming and going. So I got through town and then I knew I’d have to take a left when the tracks branched off…and be damned if I didn’t miss it. So I was just riding down the middle of the RR tracks on these bumpyier than hell ties, and it just kept going with my feet flying off the pedals constantly due to my wearing hiking shoes. Finally stopped, looked at my gps and found that I’d screwed up. So rather than ride all the way back to the Y, I rode to 200, did a right on berm and then got on Old Rt 31 and did a left on some great sandy berm. Took that back to the intersection with the right line. Got on this nice old ballast and took that for a stretch, and then I got on some parallel double track along the old RR grade. Called Judy and told her of my gaff, then continued on the double track. 

That ended at this abandoned RR station and some abandoned grain silos. From there were more parked tanker cars on the RR. Now I knew from recon that this line dead ended at New Rt 31, and that’s where I had to get to, so I just kind of rode in the weeds along the tanker cars. But the weeds gradually got thicker, and gnarlier and higher. I finally got to the point to where all of the above converged to the point to where I couldn't even ride. Had to get off and push. So I’m pushing away, using my bike as a bulldozer through all the vegetation and then I come to these thickets of prickers and wild rose bushed. And let me tell ya, these pups were like fortresses. So I had to crawl under the tankers and kind of drag my bike to the other side to have access to forward progress. This happened 2 more times for the same reason. 

Now these cars were NOT connected to an engine, this I knew from the fact that I rode by the start of the parked cars and I knew that the other end of the old RR line, I knew that was a dead end. So these guys were definitely parked. But I will say it’s an unsettling feeling crawling under those monsters with the RR wheels just feet away. Then there’s the getting the bike under the damned thing. Kind of had to drag it in stages, trying to keep it no higher than like 2.5 feet high. So I did this traversing to get by all the briar patches. And even when I did bypass them, I was still pushing the bike through small patches of prickers, nettles and rose bushes. I’d gotten myself in so far that I was committed - that’s about the time I thought I was a complete and utter idiot for doing what I was doing. I was just chest deep in shit for a half mile of bushwhacking. Then when I saw light at the end of the tunnel - the end of the line and the sounds of traffic on New Rt 31, I found that there was this barbed wire fence up. Had to lift the bike over that, then get me over that, then push the bike up this long and steep incline where at the top was the road.

In hindsight I could have done a berm ride in 1/8 the time on a parallel county road. I was just soaked from all the water on the plants from last night’s rain storming, and I had bugs, seed pods, burrs, prickers and all kinds of crap on me as I popped up on New Rt 31. Not only that but my legs were burning like they were on fire - that the result of all the nettles I’d wadded through. Must have looked like some vagrant popping up on the road! Went south on New 31 for a couple blocks and then went left on 100N to meet up with Judy. Got to the van and literally rung out my soaking socks, then changed to my cycling shoes - I was smart enough to wear my hiking shoes on that last section. So we started moving west on small county road berm. 

I’ve had to revamp my itinerary for today and the next several days to to the huge amount of rain this area has gotten in the last 2 days. All the streams, creeks, run…and RIVERS are just engorged with water, looking like wild angry rivers. So my plans to do some paddling with the bike on board, that’s out the door. There is no way in hell I’m putting that flat water boat in these flood waters. So I’m left with plan B: county road berm or active RR lines. I had to go with the county road berms. I would have paddled some of the Tippecanoe River today, but as I said these rivers are bubbling caldrons right now. So from 100 N we went onto 200W and then 200N and then left onto Olson Rd. The berms of these roads were great, to good, to fair, to poor, to rotten. So I had a great mix! Once on Olson the berm was actually pretty good So I could get in about 8-9 mph. 

Did a support stop in Leiters Ford, and the we were off on Olson Rd again to the town of Delong. Then we be bopped a bit doing a right on Rt 17 berm, left on 650N berm, right on 1100W and then left on 675 N. Took that last one to junction with this little Erie Monterey Trail. That was paved of course so I rode on berm yet again. Met Judy in the small town of Monterey for a final gameplay. I was to go off road the rest of the way so I needed to get Judy to the next available trailhead, the North Judson Trail. So I gave Judy the directions on where to meet me. 

Now what I’d been doing is following the same old abandoned RR grade that had the tanker cars parked on it. Some of it does not now exist, but there are sections here and there that you can still see the line and ballast, or even the ties and rail - and a lot of that is the proverbial jungle. But in Monterey, the little trail section is part of this abandoned line, and from Monterey to the North Judson Trail, I found from recon that it’s accessible to me biking it on a 29er. So I just went around this grain silo at the official end of the Monterey Trail and there was this double track that lined up perfectly with the Monterey Trail. Off I went and off Judy went. So this thing went from double track to single track, to bike hiking around deadfall and briar patches - shoot deja Vu! But then it took me out to this gravel road - 3-Mile Road, and I took this to the right and just rode like heck on a wonderful section of winding gravel road. 

This took me to where the old RR line went across a big abandoned RR trestle across the Tippecanoe River and back onto more abandoned line. But from here onward this stretch has signs posted calling this the Federal Rail Bank Trail. Now it’s just old ballast with hip high weeds growing on it, but it’s ridable, and it goes all the way to the end of the North Judson Trail - the very same RR line. This guy was a good 4 miles of bumpy, rugged, physical riding, but I was still able to get it rolling at 8-9 mph most of the time. Had to stop several times to carry the bike over deadfall, but by and large it was totally passable on a duel suspension mt bike - especially one like mine with 29x2.4 wheels. 

I knew I had to X 3 county roads and then my next would be Rt 35 where the North Judson Trail ends/begins. Last mile of the Federal Rail Bank was just tough as hell, a bumpy jolting ride, but made it out of the heart of darkness and landed at the North Judson Trail - as I watched Judy drive by in the van. As soon as I got to the trailhead I called her and told her where to come - and she passed it again, with me kind of yelling out to her in frustration as she passed. Well, I’d pretty much pissed her off with that rant - which she heard through the open window - so we were bickering once we got back. Not going to go over the whole “bicker fest” but we eventually got it ironed out once the day was over. Final conclusion was that Pete is an A-hole!! And I agreed!

Had one last segment for the day, this the North Judson Trail to the city of North Judson. And it was pretty weird, cuz the one side of the trail, my right side had this wonderful flat, hard packed gravel berm, and the other side was like 6-8 feet wide beach sand. I stayed obviously on the gravel and was able to keep it at 10-12 mph, a very, very quick pace. But it slowly that degraded for about 4 miles to where there was all this overhanging crap I had to contend with. Some places were just choked with vegetation, and when I did get the kahunas to go to the other side in the beach sand, I would sink in the sand and pedal at like 3-4 mph. It was just maddening. 

The last 4 miles were great when the gravel berm was on both sides. Made it to North Judson with 42 miles in for the day. Not only that but I think we can make IL tomorrow. So we got a little motel in North Judson where I could wash my still stinging legs and “debug” myself with a hot shower. Man I was just a mess from all the bushwhacking and ballast riding today. Weather takes a turn again for the next week, with rain in the forecast each and every day. I’d wanted to paddle at least 30 miles of the Kankakee River, but with the recent spell of heavy rains, that’ just not in the cards for this trip. I’ll look at some feeder lines that parallel the river into IL, and I’ll look at county road berm. Just too bad that the rain has coincided with this trip, but I have to adapt and make something work. Hell, I got this far, and by God I’ll get out of IN and into IL somehow, someway!


Monday, June 8: Man, it just rained and thundered and lighteninged  for hrs last night. Even had some tornado watches in the norther and southern sections of IN. Thankfully for us we didn’t experience the really dangerous weather. But the rain started around 8 PM last night and didn’t stop until about 6 AM this morning. Even unplugged my computer just to make sure it wouldn't experience a power surge with a lightening strike. 

When we got up, that rain had just tailed off, but wow, the skies looked like they could open up at any moment and just crush us with rain. Wind was still out of the southwest, and it was really gusting. It was one of those mornings where you think: “should I go out and take a chance in this, or just chill in the motel until it clears?” Well, I worked a bit longer taking the latter tact, but when nothing changed and the skies still looked grim, I decided that we just get it going and see what happens. Judy got me back to downtown Kokomo where I finished yesterday, and this was going to be interesting in that the Industrial Heritage Trail starts/ends where I ended yesterday. But my notes from past recon told me to just follow the old line and it would eventually turn into the Nickel Plate Trail. 

So I did a 2 block stint on pavement and followed the actual rails that were flush with Main St, and then it just opened up as old RR line. So I rode on the ballast of the old line all the way through the city. Hell, no harm no foul there considering the line is totally abandoned and is sandwiched between two rail trails. So I felt totally good riding this ballast through the center of the city. Then when I hit the north side of town I had to ride this mushy ballast with knee high weeds growing in it - the wetness the result of all the rain from last night. My feet were soaked within 10 pedal strokes into the weeks. Then the tracks are pulled out and it turns into this great double track - just the way it was two years ago when I did my recon here. It was wet, but hard packed and fast. Great to ride on! But….things have changed…because all of a sudden there was brand new asphalt, and it was like nearly 8 inches off of the old ballast. And amidst the old ballast were sticks and deadfall, and the ballast was disturbed from all the work to put in the asphalt trail, and finally there were a host of thigh high weeds growing on the newly tilled up ballast. God was I pissed. “How could they screw up my wonderful double track?” And I thought back to the  many times I rode the ballast of all these paved trails. “Like why mess this up with paving and fencing and all that?” “Can’t you just let it be and go with crushed limestone or cinder?” “Keep it simple and basic.” So all this was going through my head as I was bulldozing through that mess. 

So they’re gradually moving the paved part of the Nickel Plate Trail closer to downtown Kokomo. Before, two years ago, the actual paved trail didn’t start until the town of Cassville - some five miles from Kokomo. So there I was just trudging though this mess on the bike, going from a brisk 10 mph on the old double track to a pathetic and gnarly 4-5 mph on the newly stirred up ballast with pavement 8 inches above it. Then the paving disappeared as fast it it appeared and I was on double track again. And this happened a second time, with brand new pavement appearing. The second time it was there to stay all the way to Cassville. Met Judy there and just gave her directions to the city of Peru, and got it going again, with the skies still looking very, very threatening. Just didn’t want to loiter too long with the weather so unpredictable. 

So I got it rolling again, and the biggest problem was that even in Cassville where the paved trail officially started two years ago, well they replaced the old asphalt with new - 8 inches off of the ballast. And there I was again, riding that total shit ballast that had been dug up. Add all the rain and it was just like riding in sand. Then add all the new vegetation that’s taken roost on the newly stirred up berm and it made for a crapfest all the way around. And the other side, on my left? Well they put this really fine limestone crown on that side, and it was fresh and it was loose and it was just like quicksand what with the 2 inches of rain from last night. Ouch! And I began secretly praying that they didn’t do this to the whole freaking 40 miles of Nickel Plate Trail. THAT would be a knife in the heart for sure. Well, this went on for another 2 miles and then, the new pavement ended and we were back to the old pavement with the berm flush with the pavement and the berm was definitely the old berm I remembered from a couple years ago. 

BUT, (like how I just keep using the word BUT  as a prelude to more shit?) all that rain last night, it just did a number on the old berm. It felt a bit mushy, and that made for some damned hard riding. And I’ll tell you what, there was just water everywhere. At times, when I went though these little hamlets the ballast berm turns to grass, and that grass today was just a sponge. There were even sections where I was throwing rooster tails from front and back wheels. So all of this impacted my riding speed. That 9-12 mph stuff, that was out the window. Today, from Cassville to Peru it was more like 6-8 mph. And that’s even with a killer hard tailwind. Add in the terrible humidity and I was just dripping wet. 

I had hoped to make Peru in 1.5 hrs for that 13-mile section, but that was out the door. Now the berm from two years ago was usually great, about 1-2 feet wide, hard packed, flat and without all the overhanging junk. Today, well the rain really did a number on the hard pack thing, but there was more overhanging vegetation than I’d remembered. Well, things do indeed change. As I neared Peru, all these little feeder streams that drain into the Wabash River, they were raging torrents, like small rivers out of control. Farmer’s fields with flooded and the vegetation was just hanging low due to being water-logged. The RR bed was up above these little streams and I’ll tell ya what, they were just amazing to look at with their ferocity. Made me think that had I have been back in Ohio bushwhacking on the Moonville Trail, there’s no way I’d have been able to ford those streams. I’d be SOL. Finally got to Judy in Peru about 38 min slower than I’d predicted. And I was just soaked from sweating and from the wet conditions. Downed a quick turkey sandwich and an ice cold coke, went over directions with Jude about the next segment to Rochester, and then I got going again, still afraid that the weather would take a bad turn on me. What I forgot about was that I’d put my mt bike gloves on the hood of the van to try to dry off….and I forgot. So as I began riding down the trail it dawned on me, I did a quick 180 and missed Judy. I did find one glove on the main road, and rode a few hundred feet further but it was a lost cause. I pulled a “Pete” again!

Saved the one glove, God knows why. Like what was I going to do, do a Michael Jackson on the mt bike with one glove? Now to my surprise, the berm actually got much better on the Peru to Rochester portion. It was a harder pack, though still a bit soft from all the freaking rain. BUT (no downer with this BUT) I could indeed go faster, like 8-10 mph. It was still challenging, just not AS challenging as the previous section. Now the sun gradually appeared and that’s when the suffering began. I’m telling you the humidity today was just off the charts. I carry this little washcloth that I use for wiping my forehead, eye sockets, and temples, and today that pup was soaking wet all day long. Then I had this false flat, actually a non-false flat, as this thing looked like I couldn’t see over it for like 7-8 miles. Just kept going up little by little by little. Never seemed to reach the apex. And that cost me in energy for sure.

Felt the left knee today with all the over gear seated climbing on the false flat. I just wanted to finish this thing by the time I’d hit the 10-mile mark of this 21-mile segment. Damn was this a grind, even with the wind at my back it was tough. The un-firm ballast and the humidity were enough to have my crying UNCLE! Judy rode up from Rochester to meet up with me, and I’ll tell you, I just couldn’t even talk. I’d just listen to her chatting away. At least it took my mind off of the suffering. And I’d passed like 3-4 crews of guys getting downed trees off of the trail from last night’s storms. By the time I reached the last one I just couldn’t even say hello or thank you. I just tried not to crash into their truck as I rode by on the ballast. I mean it was like the mind starting to go thing. Judy had offered to carry my little daypack with my gear, but I declined, telling her to just keep taking to take my mind off of the riding. And that she did! By the time we were within 3 miles of the finish, she just couldn’t ride as slow as I was going - about 9 mph on the ballast - and kind of rode up ahead, yelling clear at road Xing’s. I had these visions of the ice cold Powerade in the van, of an ice cold coke, of ice cold water…OF STOPPING…during each of those final miles. Man I was wrecked at the end of this one. 

At the finish, in Rochester, I’d gotten in about 46 miles of ballast/junk/weeds/grass riding. Just torched! We ate at this mom and pop place in Rochester, and then retired to a motel. And the rain came back again, just creating white out conditions for nearly an hour.  I know they wanted rain out here, but I think this last 24 hrs has surpassed everything they wished for. This is flooding plain and simple. Which brings me to my next couple segments tomorrow. I had two options to get to the IL border: Berminator, RR line or canoe. With these water conditions I now have two options: Berinator and RR! We’ll see what happens.


Sunday, June 7: Enjoyed a wonderful evening last night in Tipton. Made it back to yesterday’s finish, which was about 5-6 miles south of Tipton. Continued on the berm of Rt 213 north towards Kokomo. And I think the cycling Gods were with me because the berm was ideal for gravel riding, about 1-2 feet wide, nice and flat and very hardpacked; and I had this monster tailwind that was just blowing like hell. Once I got warmed up I was smoking it at anywhere from 12-15 mph. In the first hour my average was 13.2 - PR for the trip by gosh! But by the time we had to do a left turn on Rt 26 west, the wind had changed a bit and suddenly I was battling a southwesterly that shut me down to 8 mph. Again good berm but that wind that was my friend only minutes earlier, soon became an angry adversary just working me. 

The humidity today was just stifling. Sweat was dripping down my sunglasses lenses and running into my eyes, not to mention that my Underarmor shirtsleeve shirt was just ringing wet with sweat. Now the stretch west on 26 was a tough enough, but then there had been some road work done here since I did this area’s recon 2 years ago, and that just totally rendered my Indiana Gazetteer obsolete. Had me me scratching my head as to how my old directions and cue sheet meshed with the current situation. Took me about 30 min to figure out that there was no longer a Rt 31, that had been replaced with a new freeway called I-31. This threw us for a loop because I needed to follow this old RR line that was located just before the 31 junction, but then there is this new I-31 - which I thought was the OLD 31!  

Finally figured out that old 31 was now called Rt 931 and it was just west of new 31. What’s more the RR line I was looking for, well that was still there, but it was west of the new freeway. Hell, do I have you confused? It sure confused me for a short time. When I finally figured it out I saw that the old RR was even worse now than it was 2 years ago. It was an absolute jungle, and I’d have to negotiate a host of berms to parallel it to an established trail. So we decided to just navigate Judy to this trailhead in downtown Kokomo, and then I’d ride backwards to connect to a point where we stopped south of the city while trying to figure out the old RR line. 

So we got Judy to the trailhead of this trail called the Industrial Heritage Trail, the same abandoned RR line I was looking at on the south side of the city. This I was hoping had been extended south, to meet up at old Rt 31, but it was not, thus….it was jungle for a good 2 past the Industrial Heritage Trail’s southern end point. Now the weather out here is pretty crazy today, with it being hot and humid for the better part of the day, and then this cold front is supposedly moving in with some pretty severe weather predicted for late in the day. Well, by the time I got going again from downtown Kokomo it looked like that front could be arriving early. The clouds were rolling in and the weather definitely felt like it was a changing. The Industrial Heritage Trail is short, like about 4 miles long north to south. And it’s totally paved…BUT there is the great berm along the old RR, which is still intact - ties and rails. So I just road right next to the RR line on its ballast with the paved trail on my left side. Did the whole thing at about 8 mph. Then the fun started when the trail ended and you’re left with this shroud of vegetation inside and overtop of the still-there RR tracks. 

I managed to ride on this single track inside the rails for a short stint, Xing a creek and then Xing Rt 931 (old Rt 31) but it was just a mess once across 931, with a massive bushwhack looking me in the face. And that’s where I kind of had ad-lib by going on berm and then along this farmer’s field where I rode just to the left of the field. This was all little cookie material where I was just spinning my brains out at like 4-5 mph through rough untilled farm field. But by gosh it got me to where Judy and I had left off. So deed done, as I connected this to downtown Kokomo and the start/finish of the Industrial Heritage Trail. 

I rode road and trail all the way back to downtown Kokomo, and that’s when the rain started. Now I was planning on getting back to Judy, and then taking the old RR grade north out of town to Cassville where the old RR again turns into another rail trail, the Nickel Plate Trail, and this goes for 40 miles to the northwest to the city of Rochester, IN. But by the time I got back to downtown Kokomo, the rain was light but steady. So we just decided to bag the day and stay at a motel there in Kokomo rather than tempt fate and get caught up in some thunder boomers. Ended up getting in like 27-30 miles of progress today, not what I’d wanted - was hoping to make Peru, IN today. But the weather is just to iffy. There are severe storm warnings out right now, so I feel ok going with the safe choice. I can still make up that 20 miles in the next couple of days. I do know this, that we can make it through Indiana in at the most, 3 more days - famous last words! Compared to our ordeals in Ohio (8 days to get across), this has been smooth sailing thus far. Just by doing the great berm today and yesterday rather than canoeing the White River, we picked up 2 days. That’s major! 

Sorry that’s there’s not much drama today, and definitely not much in the way of thrashing and bushwhacking. I see that my notes tell of the Nickel Plate Trail as having some great berm….but this was done on recon 2 years ago, so I’m hoping that nothing has changed for the worse. Stay tuned….


Saturday, June 6: Today was one of those days where I had a couple choices, a menu so to speak, and I based my choice on where I’m at in this thing, specifically TIME. So when I put together my cue sheet for the trip (itinerary of sorts for directions) I usually gave myself a couple options for certain segments. Today was one such day. I had really a couple choices or combination of choices. Now I needed to get to Kokomo, IN so I could reach another pretty good selection of rail trails, so I need a bridge from Muncie to Kokomo. Now I could paddle the White River for 46 miles and then get on an abandoned RR line, or on county road berm - the old RR line is a nasty, overgrown tangle of vegetation; Or I could just go on some county road bems. The longer choice, by far,  was the paddle and the RR bike-a-hike. And the more time conserving choice was the county road berm. At this stage in the game I’m like 7 days behind schedule. And that weighed heavily on my decision today - county road berm all the way!

I’d pick up 2 days by doing the berm, and quite honestly, it’s pretty damn good out here in the flats of IN with respect to grass/gravel berm. Compared to the hell I endured in Ohio, this is just caviar! So we needed a chance to kind of get back to putting this thing in a realistic time schedule. So We got going at the western end of the White River Trail in downtown Muncie today, this so I could navigate Judy there. Then I would ride to where I left off yesterday, ride back to today’s start, and then continue west on a series of county road berms towards Kokomo. I did the “back to yesterday’s end section” in American Dirt style, staying off the asphalt trail. 

And tell you what, this area is a big greenspace, and it had been flooded recently by the White River, thus - the grass was soft and there was a ton of junk along the berm on both sides of the trail. It was just a major tough time to ride on. Then, when the trail goes through this really upscale section where there’s nothing but asphalt, I Xed over to the Ball State U campus and rode this long levee parallel to the river for 2 miles then rejoined the trail back where I ended yesterday. Worked out ok, but took about 45 min to do those 5 little miles. Then I rode back on the asphalt to where we began this morning. Judy, meanwhile was just riding on the trail for an hour or two. I had given her directions, in addition to actually driving with her earlier on the first 4 miles of county road berm I would do just to make sure she was dialed in, so I continued past the end of the trail and onto River Rd. 

River Rd was a breeze and I zipped down that WAY faster than I could have paddled the White River, which runs parallel to River. Next up was a short stint on a local bike-hike trail, and then a long and very nice stint on CR600N, a county road that just sliced through pure farm country. LOVED IT! It’s just so peaceful out in this part of the US. The berm was usually good, sometimes bad, but I could always maintain at least 8 mph, and usually 10-12 mph. Now that’s about 3-4x faster than paddling, and I was cognizant of that each and every mile I pedaled west. Now our one snafu was when we came to a Road Closed sign, and rather than me go through and Judy go around, I went around with her, and that cost me a good 30 min, in addition to putting me on some Godawful berm, just highly angled weeds that were  crazy hard to ride on. But I got through that only because I was pissed off. 

On one section where they’d just cut the weeds on the berm, with the weeds all clumped up on the side of the asphalt, I couldn’t even delineate where the berm was and where the asphalt was. Caused me to have a very close near biff when my front wheel caught the lip of the asphalt and just began to twist to the left, bulldozing forward. The bike was going down to my left, and I guess out of instinct I disengaged my left foot and kind of stutter stepped for about 10 yrds trying to keep the bike and me from going down to the left - my bad knee side. Don’t know how but I saved it. 

Then, about 30 min later I noticed my rear end getting squirrely, and damned if it wasn’t a rear flat. That makes 2 flats in 3 days. So we had a long support stop with a flat fix. Turns out that my kevlar tube protector had put pressure on the tube and rubbed the tube raw in one area. Fixed that, with a TON of work to pull the tire and then reset the tire. 

Did a right on Rt 213 berm and just sailed north to just 2-3 miles south of Tipton. Called it a day there after loosing about an hour for that flat stop. My intent was to try to make Kokomo. But it just wasn’t in the cards today. Ended up with about 47 miles today - a massive, I mean massive day compared to most. Maybe I’m getting my legs back! I’d love to think we can make IL in the next 3 days. 

We got this little efficiency in the middle of Tipton, cooked dinner and then just sat out in front of our abode and watched life go on in the town of Tipton. I absolutely love small-town America. It’s so different when you get a local slice of life. No chain hotel/motels right off the interstates, no camping out in the middle of nowhere. I mean we’re just a block from main street. People were walking to and fro going into and out of town on a Saturday night. That’s one of the things I so love about riding across America, especially across rural America - because you see what this country really is about. I love the local flavor, the local accents, and the friendly people. It’s just very comforting.  

You pass all these little hamlets, and burgs, and towns and cities on the interstate and main roads so you never really SEE what it’s all about. These places are the heart and soul of the country, and I just love them. So on a warm, sunny summer evening, we spent a couple hrs this Saturday evening just sitting out in front of our efficiency watching life unfold in the Tipton, Indiana - anywhere USA! Hope you all have a wonderful Saturday evening.


Friday, June 5: All trail today, and I was in a really good surprise, followed by a really bad surprise. 

Got back on the Cardinal Greenway Rail Trail around 8:30 AM. And my first support stop would be Williamsburg, about 10-11 miles to the northwest. Now I was expecting the worst considering what I related to you yesterday at the end of the blog. To reiterate my notes from 2 years prior, they said, “BITCH, BITCH, BITCH is what this is going to be. The asphalt trail is awesome, BUT the berm is this thin strip of limestone atop RR ballast - both on a slant.” So I went into this thing fearing a lowly 3-5 mph ride fighting to keep the bike upright amidst the slanting gravel and ballast, not to mention fighting all the vegetation on the side of the berm that was extremely overhanging back when I did recon here.

Well, when I got going, starting down in the Whitewater River Gorge where I ended yesterday in downtown Richmond. So I took the trail and it was just everything my notes had detailed. I mean the berm was just nonexistent. Rather I was riding in this berm of weeds and nettles and just plain crap. And then there was the “Trail Closed” sign that I totally blew off. “By God this is American Dirt, and I’m coming through ya!” Well, it was indeed under construction, and I had to ride through all this overturned earth and past construction equipment and such. My only hope was that if I was hassled I’d just play the dumb bike rider from out of town card. But no one said a word. They just ignored me, so I rode on to where the other side of the trail was intact. Again, more crap. It was like riding through the woods, and within a half hour I was at the trail’s end? 

And that’s when it hit me….I didn’t look at my cue sheet in the morning and did the Whitewater River Gorge trail NOT the Cardinal Greenway Trail. God was I stupid! All I had to do was to give the cue sheet a quick glance and I’d have seen what the hell I needed to do. So I pedaled up this road hoping to junction with the right trail. No luck. And that’s when I saw a sherif going out to his car. Stopped and asked him if there was a shortcut on roads to get back to the right trailhead. The guy was so cool…and told me to just follow him back into town and he’d get me to the right spot. Did just that, blowing through stop signs and red lights as this guy was doing like 30-35 mph ahead of me. I didn’t figure he’d give me grief, and he didn’t even blink. We arrived at the right place, which was just up above where I started this morning????? 

Thanked him for the escort and then got going on the right trail, by this time some 45 min behind schedule. So I kind of applied what I’d done on the Whitewater River berm, to the first 2 miles on the Cardinal Greenway, doing this to make up for the near hour of getting nowhere. And once I did take to the berm, it really wasn’t that bad - by my standards I’m talking! But it looks as if within the last couple of year since I’d been there, that work had been done on the “berms from hell” that I’d written about in my notes. Looked to be fairly fresh limestone gravel poured on top of the old limestone gravel and RR ballast. And on this little 1.5 foot to 2 foot berm was a nice flat surface. The gravel was nicely hard packed and I could ride this thing at anywhere from 7-10 mph, which to me is like heaven. What’s more, all the branches and vegetation that was tucked right up on the berm two years ago…it had been cut back by what looked like a brush hog that chewed that junk up to a heigh of 6-7 feet. This was like manna from above. God, I was just elated. I just fully expected a total beatdown.

Now to be honest, I think only I could be happy about riding on this thing, because as Judy said, (she rode her bike today on the asphalt for about 2-3 hrs) “I tried to ride that shit for a minute and couldn’t stand it.” But to me, heck I wasn’t tramping through streams, and pushing the bike up embankments, and carrying it though brush and waist high vegetation, so I was pretty dang happy about the situation. The real issue was the amount of concentration I had to devote to holding a great line, like a line on about 1.5 feet of flat surface. Go too far to the right on one side or to the left on the other, and you wash the wheels down this 30-degree angle slope that’s was about 2-3 feet down to the gully. What’s more there was a very slight lip on the asphalt, so you couldn’t really overlap a lot on that side because the front wheel could kind of slip and then ditch you. 

It was way more of an upper body workout just trying to keep that front wheel tracking properly than it was a leg workout. And I did wash it a couple times, which involved even more upper body for control of the wash. But most of the time I was able to keep it going pretty darned fast for the conditions I was dealing with. I had envisioned a total cluster*&^&# of a day riding that horrible berm from two yrs ago and getting raked by all the overhanging branches.  Reached Williamsburg at nearly a 9 mph pace. Grabbed a quick coke and then got back at it to the next support stop, Losantville. I was riding so slow that Judy didn’t even want to ride with me. She just did her own thing cruising alone at about 13-15 mph. But the great berm situation continued still, so I could just keep it going, surpassing my time estimations that I had made last night. Made Losantville at just around a 9 mph pace. 

So when I pulled in to the trailhead there were like five cyclists talking to Judy. And they kind of clapped as I pulled in. And I recognized the guys when they went by me like I was standing still. And the guys had kind of looked back at me when they passed, probably wondering what the hell I was doing, doing this balancing act on a thin strip of gravel berm. So anyway, Judy had told them what I was doing and they were taking a break when I arrived. The one guy even said something about not understanding what I was doing riding that berm as I was. Well, they took off for Muncie and I grabbed some lunch. By this time the temp was a sizzling 86 degrees with some good humidity. 

Now my notes had said that the next section, about a 20 mile stretch to Muncie, was good, where the berm was wider and flatter. So I figured I’d gotten away with something when the ratty 25 mile section from Richmond to Losantville turned out to be pretty good. And the first 5 miles of the Muncie section was indeed flat and fast, so flat and fast that I could get in the big ring and crank out 12 mph. Did this until the berm seemed to be getting thinner, and higher up and pretty deteriorated. And be damned if the branches and vegetation were NOT trimmed and thinned like the prior segments. Got harder and harder to keep my line as the actual top of the berm narrowed down to 6 inches in places. But it was a progressive thing, where over the course of several miles I noticed it more and more until it was just a real chore to keep that front wheel tracking in a good line. 

Not to mention that I had to one hand it many a time to keep my right or left arm from getting scraped, stabbed, raked and torn by all the overhanging vegetation and branches. So on many stretches I was bringing my right arm in, Xing over my left, or visa versa, so as to not end up with big scratches on the arms and shoulders which were on the vegetation side. And oh yea, then there were the deer flies, who seem to sense when you’re vulnerable, and then bite the living hell out of you because you can’t do anything. And it just got progressively worse and worse. Looked as if my so called “good” area had deteriorated, and my so called “bad” area had been fixed. So I was back in the shit for the second half. The only good thing about all of this was that I was still able to maintain 7-9 mph. 

But then things really got worse, and the vegetation just turned into a tunnel about my head, doing all the scraping, stabbing, raking and thrashing that I had envisioned the night before. And my little gravel berm line was no more than 6 inches wide. Now it was really tough to keep that line. And the shoulders were starting to ache from all the bar steering and stabilizing stuff I’d been doing. And round about then I took a biff when my rear wheel washed and then my front wheel got cockeyed and kind of got caught between the asphalt trail and the gravel berm. The front wheel did this bulldozing thing and I ended up sliding on my left side for about 3 feet on the asphalt. Funny thing though, is that I was perfectly fine. Just sounded like hell with the left pedal scraping the asphalt as I slid. 

Now there is a horse trail on the side of the trail for about 4 miles, and I did try it, but wow, what a bloody mess. It was mud, deadfall, mosquitos and a host of other undesirable obstacles that made that option not even an option. So it was back to the tiny gravel berm in the tunnel of vegetation. There was one section that was just impossible to ride, so I just bike walked for about a quarter mile. Them by the time I got into the burbs of Muncie, the berm got a bit better - aka: Ridable. By the time I got to Judy I was just beat to a pulp from all the steering and concentrating stuff. But I did do 40 miles of balancing on gravel berm. And that I was pretty happy with. Actually feel like I got somewhere today despite the 10-mile beatdown at the end. We got a cheap motel in the city, did this AMAZING chinese buffet, and now we’re just chilling with some HBO. More fun tomorrow!!


Thursday, June 4: Again, not an early start - late morning of work. So I got going around 9:30 AM back where I left off yesterday in Trotwood. Again this is part of that vast rail trail system emanating out of Xenia. And this is the furthest northwest reaching trail. The first 7 miles was not as great as yesterday, but it was reasonable and enjoyable. Mornings are definitely my favorite time to ride. Just really peaceful, cool, and nary a person on the trail. Made pretty good time to the city of Brookfield. And that’s when I was given my gift for the day - a 1.5 foot wide hardpack gravel berm on both sides of the trail. They must have repaved this section since I did recon out here two yrs ago because my notes don’t say a word about that. Nonetheless, this little slice of heaven was just amazing to ride on. I was able to crank it out in the big ring at 10-12 mph. Felt like pure pleasure!

And this gravel berm continued all the way to the trails terminus in the hamlet of Verona. I did this 14-mile section in like 1:20 hrs. Felt like a freaking rocket ship. Surprised Judy by my speed. Did a quick coke and it was time to berminate. Now I had a two options. Follow pieces/parts of the old RR grade that continued west past Verona, or  do county road berms. Wasn’t really a tough choice - the old RR line is a total overgrown jungle in most places where it’s still intact, and then it’s farmers fields in other places with no trace. You can actually see the line of vegetation as it goes through fields, then it disappears, then it starts up again. My original intent was to take parallel county road berm that followed the northwestern trend of the RR line, and I didn’t really deviate from that plan. Just too much shit to hike through and then you have the trespassing issue to deal with.

GREAT choice to do county road berm. My first parallel to the RR line was Georgetown Verona Rd. And again, I was able to hammer it out in the big ring on this 2 foot strip of really fine hardpack gravel. As I whizzed along the RR line in places I could only imagine using a machete and chopping my way through that tangled jungle of vegetation like Stanley and Livingston fighting through the jungles of the Nile.  It changed to WiKel Rd, and again, this great little gravel berm. We were must making super time thus far…until I started to feel something wrong with my bike. Felt really sloppy and slow. I popped up on the asphalt to kind of bounce up and down to check the shocks and the tires. That’s when I saw that my front tire was just mush. Front flat! And what’s more I had nothing on me. We were just leapfrogging down the road and I stowed my pack with all the tire fixing gear in the van with Judy because we were passing one another about every two to three miles. 

No choice but to dismount and walk until I saw Judy, OR until she figured that something was wrong. Walked the bike for about 20 minutes until Judy drove back to check on me. By that point I was about 1/4 mile from the little town of Eldorado. So I told Judy to just flip it and I’d walk the rest of the way to Eldo to meet her in a place with a good parking area. Once I got there, in a great parking area next to the local grain collective I got to work. BUT this is one of those new fangled wheels, where the whole damned front axle pulls out. You have to disengage the quick release lever, then position the lever in a notch and actually unscrew the axle out of the wheel. Well, I’d never worked on one of these new systems, and wouldn’t you know it but the damned thing was welded into the wheel, not rusted per-say, but just super tight. Must have been all the water I’d been submerging the wheels in as I Xed God knows how many creeks over the past weeks. 

So what happened was that as I tried to twist the axel out counterclockwise, it began to crumple the edges of this notch. Trash that notch and you just trashed the whole axel assembly. At that point I was sweating bullets. Hell, we were out in the middle of nowheresville western Ohio. So I gave my mechanic and friend Steve Thomas a call, hoping he’d be available at the phone. Thank goodness he was (he’s on vacation in CA, but did indeed answer his cell) Told him of my dilemma. He suggested that the first thing I do was to lube the screw side of this axel system to try to get some of the lubricant to seep down into the threads, then turn the bike over and let the lubricant seep down for a while. Once I did that he suggested that I take some channel locks and GENTLY twist the locking mechanism counterclockwise to see if the axel moves a bit. So we waited about 15 min and then I did the deed. If that thing wouldn’t move, or if I crushed the mechanism, I was royally screwed. So I got a good bite without crumpling that cup, and gently applied some english. And be damned if it didn’t move. Then I was able to position the quick release lever in the notch and twist the axel out of the wheel. DONE. Steve…thanks a million!

Next step was to find the bugger who gave me the flat. Now I looked and looked but found nothing. And this is a problem because the tube was definitely punctured by something sharp. It was a very distinct pinhole in the tube. I went over that tire for 10 minutes and found nothing. Maybe it came out? So I patched to tube, and then as I was positioning the kevlar rimstrip back in I found this massive thorn. This thing was like a big ass thorn for sure, and it went right through the rimstrip. Then I lined that up with the tire and found the head of this thing still in one of the squares of tread, kind of at an angle so it was hard to see. So I pulled both sides out with pliers, put the tube back in, pumped up the tire, then put the wheel on and re-screwed the axel back into the wheel. But now I couldn’t get the quick release to tighten. 

By this time we were taking to a local trucker who had parked his truck in the lot we were in. And I was kind of showing him all this new and fancy technology. So in the midst of this I called Steve yet again, telling him about the quick release issue. He gave me a few more tips and I finally got that to work. GOD these new technologies can be a pain in the ass sometimes. So I got the thing back on, and rather than tighten with the quick release lever, I gently used to channel lock to tighten, this so I wouldn’t crumple that notch any more. By the time I was ready to roll we’d killed like 1:20 hrs on this damn flat. The trucker, a super friendly guy took me into the depot area and showed me a big county map of the roads we’d told him we were taking to New Paris. Looked good. 

We were off again, and once again all super great gravel berm, all the way into New Paris. Now there were a couple of spots where I could have ridden some ATC dbl track on the old RR grade, but the road berm was just way to good. Met Judy in New Paris. Now from this point I just had her drive into Indiana to the Cardinal Bike & Hike trail in downtown Richmond, IN. I had a section of RR ahead of me and there was nothing she could help with. Rode the old RR grade through New Paris as it was like some old dirt road, then got on berm of Rt 121 west and took that into IN. From there I went down a little road and just jumped on some active RR tracks that paralleled the abandoned RR line. Between the two is this dbl track that goes all the way into downtown Richmond. Got into the downtown with no hassles and then I see this Norfolk-Southern truck as I’m rambling down this ballast berm. “Time to get off that train!” Had to do a quick berminator session instead and took that down to the Whitewater River, then X’ed a hanging pedestrian bridge and bingo bango I was at the trailhead. Only got 32 miles in for the day due to the flat/mechanical issue, but nonetheless I’m happy with the day. 

This has easily surpassed what I did back in 2012 when I attempted the American Dirt trek. Back then I bagged it in Athens and began riding sections of asphalt in total frustration. This time, I can safely say that I’v maybe done a handful of 100-200 yard sections of asphalt since I we left Lewes, Delaware. Of course I’ve Xed thousands of asphalt X roads along the way, but honestly, this is insignificant compared to the big picture of making forward progress on soft surfaces only.  Tomorrow could be very tough. My notes say this about the first 10-20 miles of the Cardinal Greenway Railtrail: “BITCH, BITCH, BITCH is what this is going to be. The asphalt trail is awesome, BUT the berm is this thin strip of limestone atop RR ballast - both on a slant.” Well, let the smackdown begin again!


Wednesday, June 3: Guess I’ve sounded a lot like good old “Debbie Downer” as of late. And honestly, I’m not really complaining. I’m just trying to convey to everyone what this thing is really like. I mean I know what I’d signed up for and I knew it would be just hard as hell to complete. So I am NOT bitching. The difficulty of this, to me, is the satisfying part of enduring all this degradation - the “just being able to do it” thing. And I’d be lying if I came off with a “life is a bed or roses” attitude each and every day. I say this only because the last few posts, as I read back, really seem to portray this as a freaking nightmare each and every day. Yet I’m not going to lie to you and say all is great or all is bad. It is what it is. And each day things change. Shoot, I’ve Xed North America by bike 4 times thus far, this being my 5th, and I know from experience you’re going to get your ass kicked some days, and then on other days you’re just savoring the day, wishing it would never end. That’s the nature of doing something like this. 

Which brings me to today. That’s my theme: what a difference a day makes. Today put us at the 1 week mark since we started back up again. And though I’m a good week behind the overall schedule, a schedule I must have conceived of while on psychedelic drugs, I’m still optimistic about the future. Well, today was such a great day compared to…well…the last several days. So I got going just past 9 AM, and I had Judy take me back down to yesterday’s end point in Jamestown from our motel in Xenia. This section of trail is called the “Jamestown Connector” and it’s part of an extensive trail system that has its hub in Xenia. From Xenia trails branch off in a myriad of directions. I haven’t done the math, but I’d be willing to bet that there are several hundred miles worth of paved bike & hike trails that radiate out of Xenia. In my opinion, it’s one of the best trail systems in any state in the United States! Never done any of these trails…YOU don’t know what you’re missing. 

Got going west on the Jamestown Connector to Xenia, and I was just dreading the berm. That because of the Tri-County/Adena trail I was riding yesterday where the berm was just pure shit for half the length. But this trail system, wow, what a difference. First, the berm is grass that’s anywhere from 2-4 feet wide on each side. The asphalt trail is about as wide as a single lane highway road. BUT the big difference here is that the grassy berm is way more enjoyable to ride, despite the fact that it wasn’t intended to be ridden. And what I discovered within the first 5 minutes of riding is to “aim for the sweet spot.” That sweet spot is where the mower wheels have been for years and years and years, such that they have created this 1 foot wide “hardpack” track on each side of the grassy berm. Now you’d think that the best spot to ride on that grass berm would be right next to the asphalt. NOT. Nope, the sweet spot is about 2-3 feet to the right or left of the asphalt depending on which side you’re riding. And baby I caught on to this very quickly. 

And not only that, but I could follow that sweet spot by sighting up the grass berm. You can see the hardback tire tracks by looking for the higher grass that is pushed down by the mower tires for years of mowing. And let me tell you, just by getting on that sweet spot you pick up a mile per hour. You can feel it. You go from working hard and going slow, to working way less and going faster. It makes that much of a difference. 

It was this way on nearly all of each and every trail that is part of this trail system.  Now there were some areas where this did not hold true. But these areas were very few in the totality of the trail mileage. So I was just able to cruise on this first 12-mile section, doing it in 1.5 hrs - a gonzo 8 mph! For me this was like a watershed moment. It felt much easier than yesterday, and I was actually able to enjoy myself for a change. God was that nice. Judy was pumped that I made it so fast to Xenia. I knocked down a banana and a bagel, then briefed her on my next segment, from Xenia to the park along the Mad River in Eastern Dayton. This is about an 18-mile segment. Just to be safe, I told her it could take me about 3 hrs, that at yesterday’s abysmal 6 mph pacing. But I was secretly hoping that the great berm would continue to Dayton as it had to Xenia. 

Just a bit of background on the territory I’m riding through out here. The hills and rolling countryside of Southern Ohio are now long gone. From Jamestown onward you’re dealing with flat farmland and woodlands. To me this is just so tranquil to ride through. I love lonely farm country riding, and this part of Ohio is just that. You’ll pass little one lane county roads, and old farms with crops of corn and soy bean spanning out as far as the eye can see. In the morning, this is just amazing on a bike - on berm or asphalt - it’s just beautiful! Makes you really savor the moment, enjoy life and the beauty around you. Makes you feel alive. Ah, what a wonderful morning!

So the ride to Dayton on the Beaver Creek Trail is the above and more. Love it. The berm - same as the Jamestown Connector…awesome! I was just nailing it on that grassy berm riding the sweet spot. Now there were sections where the berm was narrowed down to about 2 feet on each side where there is fencing etc. And thank God I had Steve Thomas, my all-star bike mechanic, make those “sawed off handlebars” cuz there were times where my bar end was a mere inch away from fence or abutment. And you should have seen the looks I got riding on this thin strip of dirt or grass with my bars damn near touching the barrier People would do a head turn while riding, watching me kind of skim past these sections with the slimmest of margins of one side or the other. I almost felt like a circus act performing some stupid trick on a bike. Getting pretty damned good at this if I might pat myself on the back!

So I made amazing time on that second segment, doing it in 1:45 hrs, at that same 8 mph pacing. And shoot, I was actually feeling pretty good considering I wasn’t working my tail off to maintain a putrid 5 mph as I was yesterday. Judy made me a sandwich, and on this trip it’s ham, chicken, and/or turkey instead of the bologna that I’d been downing for my 2012 American Dirt attempt. She wants me to “eat better”, and I’m not going to argue with her. Knocked down a handful of fresh strawberries, a coke, water, and I was ready for the segment I’d been dreading for a couple of days now - riding through the ghettos of West Dayton. 

Hit the Mad River trail, a three mile trail that takes you into downtown Dayton, to a collection of more trails. Nice trail that takes you right down along the Mad River. Again, zero problem with the berm riding. So made it to downtown Dayton where that ended. Now I did opt to X over a bridge across the Miami river rather than take an hour to pull out the canoe, X the river, then re-lash the canoe to the van again. Yea, we’ll call this a cheat for sure as I rode across the bridge, then I got on this earthen levee and rode on that north along the Miami to the start of the Wolf Creek Trail. Got on the Wolf Creek and rode berm again. Ok, so this is the nasty section. 

So two years ago, Judy, Bill and myself did recon on this section and the Wolf Creek Trail ends in West Dayton, then goes on roads for like 5 miles west through some rather horrific neighborhoods before starting back up again in a little town called Trotwood. When we rode it two years ago it was just amazing. I mean people actually told us we were crazy for even riding in that area. We saw some really wild shit out there. And I just didn’t relish the idea or riding through that again. I mean it was truly scary, plain and simple. So I did some research on this and found a feeder RR line that deadened in Trotwood. All I had to do was get off the Wolf Creek Trail just before it came to a temporary end it the bowels of the bad area, and jump on the RR and take that through the mess. Essentially I’d be riding through the place through the back door instead of the front door as we had on the roads. I mean on the roads you’re just so “OUT THERE AND VISIBLE”. On the RR line, well there’s about 4 road Xings and you’re done. I was determined to do this on the RR and bridge the other side of the Wolf Creek Trail.

So as soon as I came to the RR overpass, I knew it was game on. Pushed the bike up onto the RR tracks, went to the right, Xed Wolf Creek on a RR trestle and then shifted to the middle ring…and just rode like hell! First road Xing, and a big one I just jumped it up, waited for traffic, then peddled like hell again down the middle of the RR. Second big road Xing, really big, and I was in the middle of the WRONG neighborhood, I hammered it, especially after hearing some dude yell “hey mother*^&*%&$” as I crossed the road. Then I came through this “projects”area, where there junk littered all over the place and strewn onto the RR line. Thankfully there was this 6 foot high fence between me on the RR and the projects. And just when I think I’m just about home free…I see this guy walking down the tracks. 

So I got off the tracks and looked to see if there were any parallel roads to get off on and ride berm around the dude. Nothing. I was smack dab in the projects. Ok, gut check, so I just continued riding, right down the middle of the tracks at the guy. He had one hand in his right pocket, and I’m thinking, “Jesus, this dude could roll me in a NY minute.” And we get closer and closer until we come face to face. Now the dude is tatted up to the max, and he just looks at me. Not sure if it was quizzical or sternly. I nod, like hey man, what’s happening. And I pass him. And I’m good. I keep going…until I see that there’s this vehicle on the RR. Too far away to know if it’s a locomotive, a maintenance vehicle or what, but something was on the RR line. Ok, second dilemma, do I get back on a road, or just bike the bullet and continue on the RR? Hell, I was a mile away from getting the heck out of there. So I think about the consequences…”shoot,” I think, “I’ll just tell them the truth, that I didn’t want to ride through that nasty section, which was the bike trail bypass, and I thought the RR was the safer option.” Yup, that was the truth all right. So I just kept riding, right up to the vehicle, then I got off the bike, expecting to have whoever was in the vehicle read me the riot act. Now the dude was backing this CSX RR pick-up truck in reverse on the rails, and he went right by me. Nothing said, nothing done. He was a maintenance guy greasing switches, and probably could give a shit less about me. so I just picked my bike back up, put it in the middle of the tracks again and rode like hell.

Made it to the end of the RR line, where it dead ended into this big factory. Then I jumped on some farm access roads to the right and took these through about a half mile of soy bean fields out to Trotwood Ave, Xed Trotwood and got back on the Wolf Creek Trail continuation, taking that to the town of Trotwood. Did it! But let me tell you, my heart was in Z5b for a couple of minutes during that ride! Now Judy had called me in the midst of all this. The first time I was just approaching the dude waking the tracks, and in that instance I didn’t answer, I just kept the train rolling. The second time she called I was just next to the CSX guy in the RR pick-up. I called her back when the guy went by me. She missed the road to meet up with me. And I was kind of on this adrenaline rush and told her I’d call her back when I got done. Just had to get the hell out of there. 

So when I got to the Trotwood trailhead, I gave her a call. She’d figured it out and eventually picked me up about 15 minutes later. Felt pretty relieved that this segment was in the books. How in God’s name they can actually route cyclists through that area on the main roads is beyond me. I was pretty wigged out just doing it on the RR line. It’s 3x the wig-out on roads! So we’re chilling tonight at a KOA about 8 miles north of Trotwood. I cooked some fish and veggies for dinner…and life is good. A beer or two was even better. All in all it was a super day, sprinkled with some tenuous moments. Tomorrow I hope to exit Ohio and move on into Indiana. American Dirt rolls on!


Tuesday, June 2: Another day, another ass kicking! Funny, but as I was riding along today, and as on almost every day, you have so much time to reflect and talk to yourself, and I was kind of talking out loud - just to myself mind you - about how some people take these wonderful bicycling vacations to like France, Italy… dada, dada, dada. And here I am, just doing this bloodletting damn near every day thus far, save for maybe a couple of nice days riding some real dbl track trails like the North Bend. And honestly, I was making myself laugh at what a freaking nutcase I am doing a whole summer of this self flagellation. Hell, maybe it was temporary insanity. 

Anyway, got going on another cold and steely grey day - June in Ohio?? I was wearing my bush pants again (this for the berm riding on the Adena aka Tri-County Trail) where I’m going through knee high shit on occasion on either side of the asphalt trail, and up top I had on a short sleeve Underarmor and a long sleeve polypro over that. Add some mt bike gloves and thick socks for the feel and I was set for a June day in Ohio. Got going from where I left off yesterday and downtown Frankfort. Now having done recon on this trail system I was well aware of the berm situations. Sometimes they are just great, and sometimes they’re pitiful, if not downright horrible. My notes for this section said something to the effect of pretty good sections and terrible sections. So I knew what lay in store for me.

Hit the trail at 9:30 AM again, and just like yesterday, I just had a lot of work to get done in the morning. I hate to just go straight to the ride when I have to get my work life straight first. That makes me feel very guilty all ride long. Now the first few miles were pretty darned good for berm riding anyway. And actually the best sections were those that were in the deep woodlands. For some reason the lime ballast and the black earthen soil form a pretty nice matrix that is like a hard-pack. But get into the farm areas and all of the sudden the farmer’s fields come right up to the trail, and the berm is soft and grassy or soft and weedy. But the farm sections are way less in frequency and volume than the woodlands section. 

So for this stretch, about 18.5 miles to the city of Washington Courthouse, I just went on my own with no support. Didn’t make sense from a logistical standpoint seeing that off of Rt 35, there were on two exits that went directly down to the railtrail. The first was just 3.5 miles to the west. The second was at about 16 miles. So rather than have Judy do a ton of backroad drive to actually meet me at a non-trailhead X road, I just decided to do it in one fell swoop. But remember now, my cruising speed on this junk is like 6-7 mph on a good day, and 4-5 mph when the terrain is crap. So I told Judy I’d meet her in W. Courthouse in three hours. Yea, three hours to go 18.5 miles. It’s just a whole different world going X-country at such a slow pace. But that’s what it is. If I tried to go any faster I’d just implode after 20 miles. 

And I know it won’t always be this way, it’s mainly through Ohio and Indiana, then things open up a bit in IL, and really pop in MO. So it’s just a matter of enduring the slow go for a few weeks. The first half of this thing, about 8-9 miles I was definitely going along at 7 mph, but then came the second half. And I’m not sure exactly when it came, but there was a for sure point where the easier berm riding went to hard berm riding. But suddenly my flat stretches turned into just ballast that was at a 20 or so degree angle, and it was completely unconsolidated so the wheels washed pretty easy with the slightest turn of the front wheel. That was agonizing, but then when it would turn to flat I was riding on this crappy weedy stuff that was just clumps that sent the front wheel in every which direction. Then there were other sections that looked as if I was riding on a bed of holly, but it was so soft I had to shift back down into the little cookie. 

Yea, the difference between going fast and working hard, and going slower and working even harder is the middle or little chain ring. Middle ring, faster but hard. Little ring is slower and harder. So the difference between the first half of this 18.5 miles and the second half was the difference between the middle ring and the little ring. I mean it was that pronounced. Can’t tell you how many times I washed those big, fat 2.4s on the angled ballast, and how many times I yelled *&^$^$ when I went from that to the holly fields or the big clumps of weeds. And they just went from one to the other non-stop. Move to the other side of the trail, same thing. But like a fool who cannot learn a lesson, I’d go from one side to the other like a dog chasing his tail. It was a pretty funny thing when I think back on it right now. Yea, “things always look better on the other side,” the mantra of a crazy man!

Well, the trail actually gets on roads for about 2.5 miles, and I was SO looking forward to doing road berm instead of the trail berm. Now to be honest, the old RR grade goes through this industrial park, the same one that the trail signs take you through on roads. And I could have opted for this and do it as a hike-a-bike - and a absolute crapfest to! So I went for what I though would be the most time efficient choice - road berm. And…IT was the same garbage as on the trail - grass that’s soft and slow. Just couldn’t win on this one. Got through that and back onto about a mile of trail to meet up with Judy and downtown Washington Courthouse. Man, I was just beat. 

Jude made me a super turkey/ham and cheese sandwich and a bag of fresh strawberries. Then it was on to the next segment, which had two options: first was to just ride berm of Old Rt 35 to Jamestown (where the easternmost part of an extensive railtrail system reaches), which was about 16 miles up the road west from Washington Courthouse, or the second option, follow a feeder line west to a point where this old B&O RR line went, and then joins up with the railtrail in Jamestown. That B&O line is so abandoned that it now has farm fields and such on it. There are places where it’s ridable dbl track, and then areas where I’d have to sight across a farmer’s field to find the exit point of the thing. And as yesterday, I just didn’t want any hassles with trespassing, so I decided to go with the berm riding on Old 35. Judy liked that idea because we could keep track of each other mush easier. 

So Old 35 it was to bridge up to the railtrail in Jamestown. And it must have been deja vu because the first half of this was just bomber, I mean BOMBER berm. It was like hard pack sand that I could crush out about 10mph on. Loved it! Then came the second half - at exactly the point where I left Fayette County and entered Green County. I mean there was a definitive line, because when I Xed I went from that great sandy berm to nothing but grass, sloping grass to boot. And when it wasn’t grass it was weeds, sloping weeds. And the road seemed to be elevated above the rest of the surroundings by about 4 feet. I mean this was just killer hard to ride on. So again, from the middle ring to the little ring, just spinning away at like 5 mph. After a few miles of that, temporary insanity kicked in. I mean combine aching legs, fried brain, cold weather, stiff headwind and worst of all…the dreaded BONK, and you’re a candidate for temporary insanity! Couple of times I was just livid, creeping along on the crest of this grassy slope. 

I stopped when I saw Judy in the van rather than waving her down the road again, and I kind of slinked in and told her I was wiped out…needed sugar, a big sugar fix. That’s when she gave me this amazing, spectacular, stupendous Amish carrot cake vanilla muffin she’d bought at this Amish country store back in Frankfort. It was just a gooey, oozy wonderful sugar rush. Calmed me down. Hence, I was able to ride those last several miles to Jamestown and the railtrail. I was done for the day with about 34-36 miles in. OUCH! But it is what it is. We got a motel in Xenia. Just too cold to camp tonight. Tomorrow I’m hoping we got west of Dayton using the railtrail network that spider-webs out of Xenia. So deal - riding berm of railtrail cuz the trails are all asphalt. Things get a little tricky outside of Dayton, but hey, that’s the nature of this endeavor right?


Monday, June 1: Lots of water today - and it wasn’t just the kind you paddle over! 

Got the ball rolling today a bit on the late side - about 9:30 AM - because I really needed to put in a longer morning with my work. It’s not all vacation out here as life does indeed have to get in the way more often than not. So we didn’t get me going on AD until I was able to get workouts done, emails sent out and correspondence finished. Now as I mentioned last night in the blog, I was kind of torn as to how to approach the next segment, from just west of Richmond Dale, through Chillicothe. My choices were riding on a pretty active RR line up to the outskirts of Chillicothe and then do either a truly gnarly hike-a-bike along the Scioto River to the norther outskirts or a paddle to the norther outskirts; OR just paddle the whole dag gone thing. 

My gut told me to really try to keep this thing on the legal side. And though I’ve been riding RR lines, these have almost exclusively been either abandoned or very, very slightly used - I call these very slightly used lines feeder lines because of their really light use. To do a 12 mile section of really damned live RR, I just don’t feel good about the ramifications of there. So with that being said I opted for the longest, yet the most legal option - to paddle the whole 12-14 mile stretch. My only downer for that choice is the amount of time I’d spend doing the paddle, because at this point I’m about a week off of schedule (who was the nitwit who came up with that ridiculous, unattainable timeline anyway?) and loosing a little bit of ground each and every day. As I told Judy last night - TIME is our greatest enemy at this point. So doing the paddle as opposed to the illegal bike would cost me a couple hrs at least. Nonetheless that’s a far sight better than have the Norfork-Southern on my ass for trespassing. 

So paddle it was, and a good one to, my longest of the trip at about 14+ river miles. And just to get it right I wanted to do it in reverse so #1 I could find a good put-in WITH Judy driving and me navigating so she wouldn’t get lost bum out, #2 so I could paddle with the current, and let me tell you, this little river isn’t a big quiet river like the Ohio and the Potomac, this pup has some current and some very light white water sections (I’d call it class .25 for you water junkies), and #3 I’d have the wind at my back. Wow, too many pluses here. We found a good put-in up in this park on the north side of town, and this is THE only put-in in the whole town!

Let me digress just a tad first before I go further into the paddle. Speaking of Chillicothe, I don’t feel good when I say this, and I’m not just trying to slam the place, but to me, it’s a pathetic little city, kind of dirty, old, run down, and filled with pot holed roads and decrepit housing developments. The industry is heavy and the pollution is thick. The people here are what most of the elite east and west coasters would call hillbillies. From what we’ve seen on the news, Chillicothe has a BIG drug problem, most notably meth and crack. Much of the crime down here revolves around those two cheap, additive drugs, and crime dominates the local news station. It’s a sad state of affairs down here in Chillicothe.  

So having Judy driving around here alone, that didn’t sit well with me. I definitely had to help her out in this place to find meeting and departing areas. Anyway, we found this one solitary put-in just beyond the levee and way the hell down this little dirt road way in back of the park area. I’m SO glad we did this together. Couldn’t have had her find this place on her own. Well, we got me situated with temps at nearly an all-time low of about 50-degree, and steely grey skies that looked like they’d burst open with rain at any minute. I was dressed with full bush pants, polypro top and gortex jacket. Got it rolling at just a tad after 9:30 AM. And as soon as I hit the river I could feel that current taking me to the southeast. I mean this was definitely a current compared to all the other rivers I’ve paddled thus far. I’d told Judy the paddle could take me 3 hrs, but man, with that current I was feeling greedy, thinking maybe I could do the thing in 2 hrs. 

I’d hit these little “mini” rapid sections, what I’d jokingly called Class .25 rapids at the beginning of this blog. I mean to any river runner, shit, they laugh at this. But to me, a cyclist dude, well, a couple of these pups gave me cause to use my full attention in order to NOT capsize the damned boat. I’d say this river is a tad bigger, like 2x, than the Cuyahoga, with nowhere near the deadfall. So I didn’t have all the lunkers you see on the Cuyahoga to worry about upending me. But it snaked around just like the crooked river itself. I passed beavers taking branches to their lairs, passed mother ducks with their cadre of ducklings right next to them, passed deer and geese, and I saw countless fish jumping out of the water and catching insects. It was kind of cool seeing life in a different way, off the bike and out in the middle of nowhere.

This took me under interstates, under county and state routes, and past farm fields and wooded highlands. It was relaxing and soothing at times - until I’d hit these little white water sections. Hell, I don’t even know if you COULD call it white water, maybe more like ACTIVE water. That’s when I had to really work on my steering to hold a straight line. That really brought me back to reality and needing to focus rather than paddle in a state of bliss. And out of all of these, there was only one where I kind of had the water really make me work to hold a good line, kind of made my heart do a quick tachycardia thing for about 10 seconds. Rain began about 1.5 hrs in and continued for about 20 min, very lightly though. It stopped but then started again at about the 2.5 hr mark. And yea, my thinking I’d do this in 2 hrs, that was out the door when I saw how long it took me to get to the Paint Creek junction. That’s when I knew I was in for at least the full 3 hrs. 

Managed to make the trek in exactly 3 hrs, but…nowhere to put-out with my canoe. Judy was waiting up past this Higby Road bridge, next to the RR tracks. But on her side was all private property. So I had to put-out in this farmers field on the other side of the bridge, then drag the canoe and full gear, including the folding bike, about 300 yards through this fallow soybean field up to this nice wide grassy berm on Higby Rd. This was a full-on workout for sure. Called Judy and told her I was about 400 yrds away. We got the canoe lashed and headed back to where we started so we could stop in the park and eat lunch before embarking on the next segment. So during the drive back the rain returned, and this time it was more of a soft drizzle. It lasted all the way through our lunch, maybe even getting a bit heavier. 

And there was the dilemma, do I continue and ride in the rain, or back it, or wait and hope the rain stops? Ah, questions, questions, questions. Well, in the interim I was able to get this little cabin at a campground about 15 miles west of Chillicothe, in the town of Frankfort, right along the next segment that I was planning on riding. So with that secured, I decided to just ride out on the bike-hike trail about 6 miles on the grassy berm, and then come back on the pavement. The trail, the Adena or Tri-County Trail, goes from Chillicothe to Washington Court House. It’s about 34 miles long east to west, and is paved…BUT it does have a grass/weed berm on each side. So this is my ticket west. Anyway I just had to get more done for the day, so even getting an hour of berm riding in IN THE RAIN, was better than nothing. Judy was parked in a nice safe parking area next to a public swimming pool and the park maintenance building, so we were good with her location. 

Dawned my gortex jacket again, wore the bush pants with a pair of cycling shorts underneath, put on my pack with a dry back inside containing my phone and electronic gear, and took off in a light rain. The first mile was just great, nice manicured grassy berm. Then the bottom fell out at mile 2, where the berm was more like woodland weeds, branches and rotten leaves. Got worse when I had to ride on fallow soy bean fields that were right up on the bike trail. By that time the light drizzle had turned into a full on rain, like an all-day soaker, white out, socked in mess. Yet that berm actually improved, to where I could hold a solid 7mph - yea sounds slow but to me that’s pretty good! So I kept rolling in the rain. 

Round about the one hour mark, I came to a trail sign, and found that I was 5.5 miles out of Chillicothe and 7.7 miles from Frankfort.  I got to thinking that now that I was soaked, I might as well just go that 7.5 miles rather than go back 5.5. So I called Judy, and thankfully she was game to just go for Frankfort without me navigation. I gave her the directions to the Frankfort trailhead, and that was it. Off I went and off when went. Got a call from her with me about 2 miles outside of town, telling me she was at the trailhead. All I needed to put it down and get that thing finished, completing 14 miles in exactly 2 hrs ride time. And man, as soon as I stopped I was cold and soaked to the bone. Temp couldn’t have been any higher than 52 degrees. 

We hit the campground and got in the cabin, cranked up this little gas furnace and here we sit warm and cozy. I’ve been able to dry off a good portion of my gear with the gas furnace. So today managed to get in 14+ miles of paddling and a 14 mile ride. Whoa…28 for the day. I’m crushing it! As I’ve been telling people, “this is going to be a grunt all the way through Illinois. My life gets easier once we hit the Katy Trail in MO. Until then, it’s slow going and tough days ahead. I can only look at it one day at a time, as cliche as it sounds, that’s the only way to approach something this long. See you tomorrow.