Thursday, July 9, 2009
Day 33 - Kirksville, MO to Quincy, IL
"Ol' man river, Dat ol' man river, He mus' know sumpin', But don't say nuthin', He jes' keeps rollin', He keeps on rollin' along." —Ol' Man River, Showboat, 1927
Today, we cross the Mississippi, leave Missouri, and enter the Land of Lincoln: Illinois. Missouri had a few more rollers and climbs for us before she released her grip on us. A few of the cyclists were glad to leave Missouri. I, however, loved it. We rolled out of Kirksville, MO under an overcast sky and fog. It was humid and the wetness of the humidity was collecting on our glasses and skin. It was too warm for a jacket, so we just got a little damp. By mid-morning, the fog had lifted.
Early in the ride, we passed a farm. A man was out front working on something. Across the road, was his wife mowing the lawn on a riding lawn mower. They are likely Mennonite and she was wearing her traditional dress and bonnet. I did a double-take then quickly snagged a photo of her behind my back when we passed.
Our first SAG stop was in Barring, MO. At one time, this was probably a lovely town. But, like most of these old, small towns, the main street had a series of once-elegant brick buildings now boarded up and abandoned. The Barring Exchange Bank featured two classical columns in front of the two story facade. The Hotel Barring was a two-story red brick edifice that now featured broken windows, boarded up entrances, and probably plenty of available rooms.
After leaving the SAG stop, I noticed I was feeling pretty fresh and my legs were strong. I decided to hammer. Not because I needed to get anywhere fast or to prove anything to anyone... I just felt like hammering. So, I raced past a handful of riders and began mashing big gears up the rollers, racing down the other side, and cruising up the next one. I passed farms with combines ready for harvesting the fields, farmers driving their tractor pulling huge rolls of hay, a few Amish farmers in horse-drawn open buggies, and another unique combination of county route signs: the intersection of County Routes "M" and "E." (It's all about "ME"!)
Around mile 60, I was caught by Roger and Zero. I rode with them a few miles until we spotted another cyclist. We played the "Which cyclist is that up ahead" Game. Roger guessed Dan. I guessed Steve. It was Steve. The four of us rode into Canton, MO which sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. Primo Subs was the restaurant of choice. We found it easily. There were already four bikes parked outside. We were joined shortly by another six riders. While there, Andrew, a reporter from Canton's newspaper, the Press-News Journal, (I guess they couldn't decide on a name, so they chose three. Maybe "Press-News Journal Tribune Register Reporter Times" was too long?) was there interviewing our cyclists. We enjoyed talking about the ride, why we were doing it, and aspects of life on the road. Check their website later this week and there should be a story about us. After lunch, we headed down to the riverbank.
The Mississippi River in Canton isn't as wide as I expected. It's probably not more than a quarter of a mile wide. (It's widest section is near Grand Rapids, MN where it's 7 miles wide.) We crossed the river via the Canton Ferry—a tugboat and barge combination that can carry 6-10 vehicles. On the other side was Illinois. No sign. No "Welcome to the Land of Lincoln" billboard. Just a dirt road. Nevertheless, it was momentous. We were no longer in the West. We were now "East of the Mississippi."
For the next 13 miles, we rode on pancake flat river floodplain. I passed homes on stilts which would suggest flooding wasn't an "if" but a "when." In Quincy, we stopped at the riverfront and gazed up at the two bridges crossing the Mississippi River. We climbed a short distance up from the water into the city center. Quincy, IL is a city of 40,000+ and was founded in 1818. What quickly stands out is the attractive, historical brick buildings downtown and elegant, stately mansions. It was refreshing to ride along Maine Street under tall shade trees passing restored home after home. Historians and architecture buffs would love this neighborhood. As we rode through downtown, a local woman stopped us. She introduced herself as a local cyclist, Deb Esneault, and asked us about our ride. She even invited us on a local club ride this evening. Right... we just rode nearly 100 miles. Think we'll pass. Nice gesture though!
Before arriving at our hotel, we made one final stop. Frozen Mocha. Mmmmm. Exactly what I needed to end this long but wonderful day of riding. Tomorrow, we'll head to the home of Lincoln: Springfield, IL. It will be another long day—106 miles. Just an indicator of some of our big-mile days in the week ahead.
For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100360
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 2,482
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 3,493 ft.
Max Elev: 998 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 12%