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