Ellington, MO – Vienna, IL

Day 61: (63 miles) We split a cliff bar and packed up hoping to hit the Vintage Café as Walt had recommended. We parted ways with the Canadians and wished them luck tackling those monster hills. That was when we found out the café was closed. Devastated, we decided to bike until we got too hungry or saw a place to stop. We passed the flooded supermarket, it was already crawling with workers trying to assist with clean up. The parking lot was full of various machines, freezers, and damaged goods most of which appeared destined for the numerous dumpsters throughout the parking lot. So shattering to see such devastation. On the other side of town, we found a gas station that was able to stay dry and was now serving as the interim market so we grabbed some coffee and breakfast sandwiches. The day was full of climbing again. Although most hills were not as steep, they were long and tiring. The humidity in MO caused us to sweat buckets. We passed beautiful rivers and fields of wild flowers. We made it to Farmington around dinner time and stayed at “Al’s Place Bicycle Inn” which was an old jail converted to a hostel. The upstairs had three bedrooms with bunk-beds (sleeps 14 at capacity), kitchen, bathroom, and living room. It was so amazing to walk into this gem. It was so well done and comfortable that we daydreamed of our house being of a similar set up and style. After stopping at the grocery store for some supplies, we made dinner and enjoyed our cushy digs. Surprisingly we had the whole place to ourselves so we watched a movie, did some laundry and relaxed.

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the Pins of Al’s Place!

Day 62: (70 miles) We ate our granola and yogurt for breakfast and then walked to an adorable coffee shop/bath soap store for our caffeine boost. We spent the next few hours trying to figure out how we would cross the mighty Mississippi. The route our map provided took us through Chester, but the bridge was closed due to flooding. The next closest option was a ferry 52 miles away in St. Genevieve. We called to make sure it was operating on a normal schedule and it a good thing we did, because the Ferry was not operating. The information clerk said the only two places to cross the river were in St. Louis (not really an option), or Cape Girardeau.  The second option was closest to staying on our route, but was still 70 miles away. We looked up a route through google maps and were almost ready to tackle the day, but remembered we wanted to have our bikes looked at before we left town. We called the local bike shop to see if they could slip us in for a quick tune up. LT had his appendix removed yesterday but STILL offered to look them over if we could get them up on the bike stand for him. He took care of us and we were on the road in no time. However, we had started late in the day so it was already time for lunch. We grabbed a bite and finally started out on our google directed route around 1:00pm. The first 30 miles were great! Back farm roads, little to no traffic, and minor inclines. Then we took a turn onto an unpaved county road and the struggle began. The road was rocky and soft which made pedaling extremely difficult and at times impossible. Luckily after about two miles we saw paved road. Unfortunately, this was only for half a mile, and then decision time came. Either we add some miles to our day and stay on busy paved roads or we attempt the another rocky county road. Chris looked over the county road and thought it in better shape than the last, so we went for it. Wrong move. The road ended up being in equally as bad condition, and ultimately impassable saddled so we walked a good majority of this section as well. To further clarify, these were not normal dirt roads, the base was not packed. The “gravel” was large lose chucks of rock that rolled easily under our narrow bike tires. It would be a feat for any pedal bike, other than a fat tire bike, to successfully travel these roads. To top it all off, it was the hottest part of the day. We still had 35 miles to go and it was almost dinner time. It was a trying day for both of us. We made it to Sedgewickville where there was pavement, but it again ended. This time, we turned around without hesitation to find a paved alternative. Along the way we stopped at the country store for a snack and some respite. It was already after 7:00pm and still 25 miles before we reached our destination. We found paved roads, but we were loosing daylight. We made it to highway 72 and found a grand shoulder! Why Google did not put us on this road to begin with was beyond either of us. It would have been a gorgeous farm road to see in the daylight. We did get to see the fireflies dancing and hear the crickets chirping as we pedaled through the darkness though. Before reaching our hotel for the night, we made one last stop. We found at a Dairy Queen for a second dinner and a frosty treat to ease the stress of the day and finally, at 11:00pm, we checked into our hotel, took a most needed shower and passed out!

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This was the ‘well kept’ part of the road…..

Day 63: (65 miles) We awoke after what felt like an extremely short night. We took our time getting ready since our warmshower host wouldn’t be available until 4:00pm. We checked out at 10:59am and hit the road. The first part of the day was spent on some great bike paths through the city that would eventually lead us to the bridge over the great Mississippi River. We had heard from a few people this bridge was better to cross as a cyclist than Chester and the five-foot shoulders proved that true. When we crossed she was muddy and raging. Knowing more rain was to come we were happy to be making our way across. Almost instantly after hitting Illinois soil, the terrain changed from the rolling hills of Mossouri to flat, flat land. It was a wonderful trade and we were knocking off the miles to our destination in Vienna. We stopped for lunch at a gas station in Tamms. We bought a cold beverage and enjoyed a quick respite in the A/C before sitting outside and making our PB&J. On we went but were quickly rerouted due to flooding. At this point, we really couldn’t wait to be back on a route where we could use our ACA maps. Google has led us astray too many times. Todays 50-mile day ended up turning into a 65-mile day, but we made it to Jon and Sharon’s home. Jon greeted us, happily snapped some photos and showed us to our room. They have a great setup downstairs with two beds and a bathroom. Jon introduced us to Sharon who was already prepping what smelled like an amazing meal. Being a cyclist too, Jon knew showers were priority so we became presentable and then joined them for dinner which included pasta, salad, and garlic bread- YUM! We learned that Jon has done some local touring, co-edits the crazy guy on a bike loaded bike column and does some work with ACA. In other words, Jon is very active and passionate about the touring community. They’ve been hosting cyclists for years, even before warmshowers existed and we also noticed they had hosted our friend Walt (from the B&B in Marshfield)! Sharon is retiring this winter and they both were looking forward to having more time to travel, more time with grandkids, and to just enjoy retired life in general. We chatted well past 10:00pm, until someone noticed the hour. Knowing we needed the rest, we all called it a night. We cozied up in our comfy beds and were out in no time.

The Mighty Mississippi!

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Some Cows cooling off…. in Chris’ words “beef stew anyone?!”
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The bike path we took in IL

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