Date: Oct. 12, 2009
From: Ferguson, Missouri (Northern Suburb of St. Louis)
To: Waterloo, Illinois (First day in our 8th state!)
Route: Back roads out of Ferguson with Blue and Craig and then the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) down to St. Louis. We were briefly on Route 66 and on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge we crossed briefly into Illinois and then went back to Missouri and on the MRT. We crossed back into Illinois at the McKinley Bridge into East St. Louis, Illinois.
Miles Today: 60 miles
TOTAL MILES: 2,427 MILES
Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph
Weather: Drizzle in the morning and cold with brief glimpses of the sun throughout the day
License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn)
Broken Spokes: 2
We sadly said goodbye to new friends Blue and Craig but said hello to a new state and at the end of the day met Larry and JoAnn who gave us much needed directions and treated us to dinner at Applebees.
We suited up in rain gear for the morning drizzle but it was never more than a drizzle all day. I was still happy to have my rain gear on for warmth and the booties kept my feet warm and dry and free of road spray. Blue and Craig led us out of Ferguson and down to the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) for our ride to St. Louis. We really had a great time riding with them.
We took a little detour and rode out onto the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge on Route 66. Midway on the bridge we crossed over into Illinois but went back to Missouri to catch the MRT down to St. Louis. At the bridge we saw signs telling us that a section of the MRT was closed due to repairs, but we decided to brave ahead and hope that we could make our way around. When we came to the closed portion Craig rode ahead and the construction workers told him to come on through. We navigated some really muddy washed out trail and then got to a point where we had to cross a rough, muddy, rocky area and push the bike up a steep grassy hill to get to level ground. The adventure didn't stop there as we had to take all the panniers and trailer off the bike so we could carry everything over a couple of sets of active railroad tracks. I was thankful Craig was there to help. We got through no worse for wear, except for some really muddy tires, and were back on the beautiful MRT all the way to St. Louis.
While riding along the Mississippi we gave Gregory a spelling lesson and he was "speed spelling" M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I in no time. We actually had to tell him to take a break after a while. Blue and I tried to sing to Gregory today but he wasn't having it. He kept telling us to stop. Can you imagine? I actually thought we were pretty good. Well, I know Blue is good, I just fake it. Ha!
When we got to our turnoff point we all decided we should extend our visit just a little longer by going another mile along the bike route into St. Louis to lunch at their favorite Irish Pub and Restaurant, Tigin. The food was fabulous and by going into the city we got some great views of the Arch and rode along the riverfront where we could see some barges and riverboats. We also came through a very industrial area so Gregory got to see them loading barges using conveyor belts and saw cranes with magnets and "claws" working the salvage yards. They were loading the crushed cars, etc. into a grinder and it was spitting out the debris. Gregory thought this section was a bit fishy smelling (and plugged his nose) but it didn't take long to get through it.
Blue and Craig rode out of their way to take us all the way across the McKinley bridge to our jumping off point in East St. Louis, Illinois. We stopped on the bridge and celebrated our 8th state with lots of pictures. It was hard to say goodbye and I made Blue promise not to cry so that I wouldn't. We put Gregory in the middle of a massive group hug then blew them kisses as we pedaled away into unsure territory.
I say unsure territory because we had a very rough map quest to get through the next bit. We started by headed down the railroad tracks in the direction we needed to go but had a train stopped on the tracks right where we needed to cross. Fortunately, a fellow on a tractor came by and told us we should go back to the highway intersection and loop back around that way. The area we came through was a bit rough and we were advised to get on through this area without stopping. We were told East St. Louis was not a place you wanted to get lost. So, what did we do...we got lost. Well, we thought we were going to be taking Tenth St. but it was a One Way in the wrong direction. We went down a few streets and had to back track to Ninth. To make a long story short we ended up going several miles out of our way before we could get back on Highway 3. It was all a little unsettling but we made it through and after a cold drink and a snack at a convenience store, and stopping at another convenience store to get an Illinois map (the first store was out), we were finally ready to pedal the last 20+ miles. Mind you this was around 3:30 or 4:00P.M!
Gregory was doing much better after the break and fortunately we got good directions for staying on Old Highway 3, a frontage road, so we could avoid the main Highway 3 traffic. We did come to an intersection where we weren't sure if we had to get back on the main highway and after getting bad advice from a sophomore riding his bike home from drama class (he told us to get on the highway) we were happy to meet Larry and JoAnn. They pulled up while Mike was calling to make motel reservations and Gregory and I crossed over to talk to them. Gregory and I chatted with JoAnn while Larry gave Mike excellent directions and saved us from getting on the highway too early and where it is prohibited.
We gave JoAnn our blog, thanked them and said goodbye only to have them flag us down about a mile down the road. JoAnn informed us that it was her birthday and that for her birthday she wanted to treat us to Applebees. We asked if they were going to join us but they had family to meet in St. Louis for a birthday dinner. They went about 14 miles out of their way to drive the 7 miles down to Waterloo and back and leave a gift certificate for us at the restaurant. They gave us a hearty honk and a wave as they passed us on the opposite side of the highway. What a wonderful gesture that really brightened our spirits and helped us get through those last hilly 7 miles, at dusk, in rush hour traffic. Thank you Larry and JoAnn and a very happy birthday to you JoAnn!
We dropped our bags at the Super 8 around 6:00P.M. and headed down the road another mile and a half (still in our bike clothes) to Applebees. The digital billboard by the motel said 57 degrees. It was much chillier than that on the way home and it was dark. We are not in the habit of riding at night and were very happy that we just bought a Planet Bike Superflash blinkie light at REI in St. Louis. Dinner was delicious and we settled down in our motel room with full bellies and felt almost human again after hot showers. It was a long day but we are happy that we came this far and that after tomorrow's ride we will be back on our Adventure Cycling TransAmerica Trail.