Mayhem in Missouri


The remainder of our time in Illinois was uneventful.  We even had a brisk tailwind, which was a welcome change.  In Alton, IL, we crossed over the Mississippi into Missouri, where we discovered that much of our route was underwater.  Welcome to Missouri!

A flooded river on our route; notice the partially submerged bathroom building

We rode through one short section, getting our feet wet. As we continued, we were blocked by a quarter of a mile stretch of road covered by who knows how much water. We considered going for it but realized that would have been foolhardy; we didn’t want to become a statistic.  At the edge of the water was the West Alton Bar and Grill. There was a pickup truck in the parking lot so we went in to see if we could hitch a ride. The first two women we asked said they didn’t know anyone who would do it. Then Cindy, the mother of one of the women, arrived and offered to take us.  Her daughter protested heavily, but Cindy stood her ground, telling her daughter to “Get over it”.  We loaded our gear in her truck and headed out.  As we made our way through the water, it became obvious that attempting it on a bike would not have been wise.  There were more flooded sections, beyond the first – many of them deep enough that the truck had difficulty maintaining traction.  Cindy was our angel of the day!

Typical Missouri radar view

We made it to the Katy Trail, a rail-to-trail path that that runs along the Missouri River. Severe thunderstorms were expected later in the day, but for now, the riding was good.  We reserved a cabin in the Klondike County Campground and headed out. As we approached our destination, the sky became dark and ominous, with lightning and thunder the last few miles.  We rode as fast as we could, making it to the bath house just as the sky opened.  Bill turned on the light, only to have the power go out thirty seconds later.  We sat in the dark, as the wind and rain pummeled the building.

A very tired Jeff on a picnic bench

After things settled down, we located our cabin and found downed trees and limbs scattered everywhere. A tree had come down in front of our cabin crushing the picnic table. It was only then that we fully appreciated how serious a situation it would have been had we not made it to the campsite in time. A tornado had touched down close to where we had been. Lesson learned!


The next day we got back on the Katy Trail, only to discover that it was impassable due to dozens of downed trees. We retraced our steps and took the road to bypass the blocked trail, stopping for the evening to camp in Marthasville at the baseball fields. We watched a couple of games and turned in for the night under a large pavilion. The forecast called for storms again. We awoke to a moderate storm around midnight that passed quickly. At 2:30 in the morning, all hell broke loose; heavy winds and horizontal rain drove us into the bathroom — a familiar refuge for us.


In the morning we heard that a tornado had caused major damage to the west of us.  Of course, severe weather was expected for the next couple of days. Not surprisingly, large sections of the Katy Trail were impassable and closed due to flooding and tornado damage. We spoke with a ranger who strongly discouraged us from attempting the roads that circumvented the Katy Trail. Our only option was to get a ride past the damage. We stopped for lunch and were fortunate to find someone willing to drive us the eighty miles to Boonville and the end of our time on the Katy Trail.

Even Bill’s not making it past this one.
Game over on the Katy Trail

We made our way to Kansas City, arriving a day early for my chemo appointment at the UK Cancer Center — the next adventure.


Asian tourists posing for a picture on Bill’s bike

For those of you who are interested in the statistics of our ride to date, we have traveled 1,381 miles, peddled for 140 hours and 21 minutes and climbed 39,806 feet.


On the Road Again


On Tuesday morning, after four long days killing time in the Franklin Motel 6, we checked out and raced over to the Gray Goat bike shop to await delivery of Bill’s replacement rim. The rim arrived and Brandon, the mechanic, quickly got to work on it. By 2:30, the deed was done. Thank you, Brandon! We headed out to the Johnson County Fairgrounds Campground for the night, happy to be back on the road. We were reminded of the Willie Nelson song On the Road Again.

“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Brandon building Bill’s wheel
Now that’s a catastrophic failure!

The weather was good, and we had a couple of nice campsites and cycling days. Near the end of our time in Indiana, we camped at a county park east of Terre Haute. After riding the four miles into town, eating and doing our laundry, we checked the weather and received the tough news. A tornado warning and storms with tennis ball sized hail were forecasted. We quickly rode back to camp just as the rain, thunder, and lightning started. Sirens were blaring, warning of the imminent threat. Having no shelter other than our tents, we decided to wait it out in the campground bathhouse.  Interestingly, all the campsites we’ve stayed in recently have a designated storm shelter, often the bathhouse or laundry room.  That’s a statement!  Fortunately, the storm passed quickly, with no hail or tornados, and we got on with our night.  The next morning, we broke camp early and crossed the border into Illinois. We’ve made it to the Central time zone!

It looked like it was going to miss us … but it didn’t!

Our first night in Illinois was in the town of Casey whose slogan is Small Town Big Things — home to the world’s largest rocking chair, wind chimes, pencil and golf tee, among others.  They also had the nosiest Campground of our trip to date; it was a quarter mile from the interstate with incessant truck traffic all night.  To add insult to injury, there was a bright streetlight directly over our tents, making it tough to recognize daylight as it arrived.


Yup, they sure are big

We couldn’t wait to get out of that campground – until we got on the road and discovered that we were riding into a 20-30 mph headwind!  It was exhausting and slow going.  Much of the time, we struggled to maintain 6 mph, and that’s with no hills!  I was not feeling well, so we decided to get a room in Effingham and have our bikes checked at the local bike shop. Surprisingly, my chain that was new at the start of the trip already needed to be replaced. The strong 30 mph headwinds continued the following day.  Some days are easier than others; it’s all part of the package.

Have we crossed into another country?


Indiana welcomed us with a gloomy forecast of thunderstorms and high winds, steering us towards a well-deserved rest day.  It had been eight days since our last one, and we were ready; it felt great to rest our weary bones.

Sign coming into Shelbyville

The next morning was chilly but dry, so we bundled up and continued on our way.  At our first rest stop, we were treated to free coffee at a convenience store.  We thanked them and continued on to Shelbyville, where we had a hearty pasta lunch at Pasqhetti’s Italian Restaurant and talked with some of the wait staff who were curious about our trip. After a delicious meal, our waitress, Michelle, informed us that it was on the house!  The day was shaping up to be a good one. We stopped at the local bike shop and met Tim, the owner. He was friendly and loaned us his pump to top off the air in our tires. We headed on, fueled up and feeling good.

After about six miles, I noticed that Bill was no longer behind me. Just as I pulled over to wait for him, my phone rang.  It was Bill; he was having a mechanical problem with his rear wheel. The rear rim was split. It’s an unusual failure, one I’ve never seen before in all my years of cycling.  We can only assume it’s a defective rim.

This doesn’t look good

Fortunately, we weren’t far from civilization; the next town was eleven miles down the road.  We considered our options — hitchhiking, Uber, walking — and finally decided to ride very slowly to the bike shop in Franklin, IN.  Bill’s bike has a Rohloff hub, making it impossible for him to buy a standard pre-made wheel.  A new wheel would need to be built around his hub.  Long story short, he had to order a new rim and spokes, and they won’t arrive until Tuesday.  Then the wheel has to be built.  Our best case scenario is getting back on the road on Wednesday.  The delay also puts us behind schedule for my May 22nd chemo appointment in Kanas City.  No one said this was going to be easy.

Our hotel vending machines – with some humor

The next challenge, what to do in Franklin for four days.  We’re aching to be back on our bikes.

Where we’d like to be
Where we are:  view from our hotel

Into the Hills


We finished the GAP trail and headed onward to the Montour and Panhandle trails, our gateway to West Virginia. Amenities were sparse in the early part of the trail, forcing us to stealth camp our first night in West Virginia.  That’s the term for camping without a legitimate campsite.  Sometimes there’s just no choice.

Stealth Campsite
A cold morning.  It was 31 degrees.
Historic trivia along the path

We skulked out of camp early the next morning and headed over the two-mile climb down to the Ohio River where we stopped at a cafe for breakfast.  To our dismay, we discovered that Cafés in WV are gambling establishments with poker machines and no food.  Now we know!


With not much food in our bellies, we continued down the bike path to Wheeling, WV where the absence of people immediately struck us. It felt as though we were in a post-apocalyptic town. Despite that, a rest day was in order, and Wheeling WV was the place.  We booked a room in the once grand McClure Hotel where presidents have stayed.  The locals told us about the town’s history over a few beers.  It turns out that Wheeling was once a vibrant town before its industry fell on hard times — not an uncommon story.

Drying out at the McClure Hotel
Historic Bridge at Wheeling, WV
Jeff in front of Zanesville Courthouse

After our much-needed rest day, we left Wheeling and started climbing the tough, steep hills of eastern Ohio. Did I mention more rain? The forecast called for days of rain, yet we managed to dodge most of it.  Just as we rolled into our home for the night in Senecaville Lake Marina Campground, the rains moved in.  Fortunately, we were nice and dry under a covered restaurant deck, enjoying dinner and beer.  When it was time to pay the check, our server told us that our bill was paid!  Apparently, a nearby table overheard us talking about our adventure, picked up our tab and left without saying a thing.  We couldn’t even thank them.

We got a great view as well as a free dinner!

The steep hills continued – so steep that we had to walk our bikes up the steepest portions of a few climbs. As the hills became less steep, the rain became more steady. There’s always something when you’re bike touring.  As we sat in a restaurant, on the verge of hypothermia, contemplating a wet Campground, we decided to rent a small cabin at Buckeye Lake.  Good call!  We blasted all three heaters until the chill was gone. The weather was good for the next few days, so we put in some long days and took advantage of Ohio’s very nice state parks — Deer Creek, Caesar’s Creek and Hueston Woods. We woke up on Wednesday morning and crossed the state line into Indiana! Goodbye Ohio.

KOA Kozy Kabin – Note the pooling water around it!



Heaven on Earth is private — Figures!