Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Week Five & Six

St. Louis...11 days to Kansas City (4 off-days visiting family)

499 miles...18,860 feet climb
2485 miles total...97145 feet climb total (nearly half way)
...speed and time against miles and obstructions, hope against ignorance... (The River Horse, William Least-Heat Moon)

It is well to be calm; to be hopeful is still better; but to understand is best of all, for understanding is the universal and perfect remedy. (Eddy, modified)

By the way...I also frequently post a daily photo on Facebook Robbie Sweetser if you want to follow more timely on route.


Leaving my family in St. Louis, I ride the Katy Trail leaving off to ride into Jefferson City and find Central Dairy ice cream that Gabe, Sandy, and Hannah told me about. Saturday early afternoon sitting on the sidewalk bench eating good, local made ice cream on a summer day. Good times. The elderly gentlemen sharing my bench notices my bike and shares his stories of his own bike adventures in days gone by. By 2:00 I need to get on the road. Upon leaving, this man states he will be attending church soon and asks if he can offer prayers for my safety. "Absolutely, I need all the care possible."

Moonrise over Missouri

Numerous occasions during my travels, at restaurants, at diners, at campgrounds, at stores, at road side encounters, when there has been a chance to describe what I'm doing and where I'm going I have been blessed for safety and guidance. These have been sincere and heartfelt...and appreciated. I have been more blessed during six weeks than any other time I can remember.

On Katy Trail
Katy Trail Shelter $5 w/ AC
Trade in for a new ride?

I must leave the ice cream behind. I am planning to camp this night at Lake of the Ozarks 60 miles yet down the road. I am leaving the level trail of the Katy to venture into the unrelenting hills of Missouri's Ozarks. These are continuously rolling hills with steep ascents and descents. During the next two days as I ride 100 miles I will climb over 8,000 feet in an area that is only approximately 1200 feet above sea level.

The central area of Missouri that I ride through is vast open fields with few trees, resembling an African savannah. I pass few food crops. Grass production seems prevalent. I see more horses than even passed in the bluegrass fields of Kentucky.

Missouri from Katy Trail
Missouri savannah

A weakness of GoogleMaps appears at end of day. The charted route leaves the double-lined road indicating "paved" and enters a single-lined road that may be (and frequently is) gravel. This road is labeled "State Park Road" and I figure this is the appropriate route to the Lake of the Ozarks State Park I seek. Six miles along an undulating, loose gravel road is difficult requiring rigid steering to keep the front wheel from turning broadside in loose gravel patches. I must even brake when descending due to possible gravel pools that might accumulate at the dips. The heavily weighted rear wheel slips and slides as I bounce down the road. Water board ruts definitely keep me alert. And then there are the several loose dogs residing on this little trafficked back road. Fortunately as I stop and discuss with them that they need to go home, they honor their masters boundary and remember they aren't supposed to eat humans.

With only an hour of daylight remaining the gravel road intersects with another GoogleMap single-lined road that is actually the main state park PAVED road. I make it to camp with enough time to set camp, shower, and eat in the dark by light of the bike head light. The heat of the day is still high making it difficult to fall asleep. I leave early in the cooler Sunday morning and take the much better paved road to exit the park. I didn't even have the gumption to ride down and visit the lake. I knew there would still be many more hills to climb.

Road to camp...lined with cedars...outside of Lebanon...get it?

There is a summer camp for Christian Science kids outside Lebanon. I have posted ahead to request the chance to share a few days of summer camp. I loved summer camp. I think that's one reason I ride a's like being at camp; get up in the morning, undertake activities and explore your surroundings, eat, play with your friends, listen to the night crickets and watch lightning bugs. Many camp parents spend time at camp undertaking camp duties such as cooking, housecleaning, maintenance to lessen the costs. I enlist with the maintenance crew and install signage on a trail. Before the heavy grunt work begins on laying up a new rock wall, I must vacate my air-conditioned quarters for another person scheduled to arrive.

Blackie and me just hanging out
Hay season is just completing
The day I leave camp turns out to be the hottest of the ride. The peak temperature as I enter Route 66 is 97 degrees in the shade...103 on pavement. I duck inside for an hour to have a cold drink and chill in AC.

Old sign on nation's first national paved road
How much is your gas now?

It should go without stating that if you contemplate a long distance bike ride you must be comfortable riding with car and truck traffic. There will be numerous times that any route must be on trafficked roads of either four-lane affairs that aren't really that bad since there is a separate lane for passing, to curvy rural roads that will test your skill in holding a straight line when you hear the deep rumbling of a rearward approaching vehicle. Local bicyclists along the way have commented on their aversion to riding the local roads due to bad driving habits of their neighbors and the joy-driving antics of young males. I'm not certain if this is just a normal fear of sharing the road with 5,000 pounds of speeding metal. My experience in an accumulative ten states is, with extremely rare exceptions, all car, truck, and semi traffic have given more than enough space as they pass. Even on the four-lane highways where I am riding four feet to the right of the fog line, traffic will pull over into the far lane when passing. Old men in pickups pulling RVs are an exception to this. And weekend guys (what's with men anyway?) pulling their fishing boats, ski boats, jet skis, and ATVs are in too much of a hurry to waste time on this little ole bike slowly climbing up some unrelenting hill to postpone even by one minute their constitutional right to time on the water. But seriously, I must express gratitude to the overwhelming courtesy that all drivers have exhibited on this journey. Perhaps from the approaching distance my rig looks like a wide-bodied cow loose on the road with an Amish safety triangle hanging from its butt and they just don't know what to expect, so best steer clear.

Highway 13 from Bolivar to Clinton, and 7 toward Pleasant Hill are four-lane state "interstate style" limited access roadways with wide shoulders. These shoulders are interestingly free of debris. There are separate signs indicating bikes and Amish buggies "Share the Road." Since many locals own and ride horses I surmise that few throw out bottles to splatter on the shoulder since this would not be good for horses hooves. And too, the Amish buggie wheel tracks that I am riding in may tend to clear the way. Except for a two mile stretch eight miles south of Clinton, where the shoulder turns to asphalt and degenerates into an evil mess that wants to tumble my rig into the pits and bounce me under the semi wheels whizzing by at 70 mph, it's a peasant route that circumvents the Missouri gravel that awaits out there. However, I can only gaze in the 30 degree cone of vision that allows me to keep an eye on the pavement ahead since there are still the common hazards of rubber bungee straps, normal bungee cords, clamps, delicate electrical components that cars apparently don't need to operate, a pair of scissors, rocks, occasional demised turtles, and more armadillos than I can count. This is worth it for I can cruise at a sustained 14-22 mph and reach my maximum daily average of 13.8 mph over the two days ride of 175 miles.

Did I mention that I don't like road construction detours? There is never a clue how far out of the way a detour may go or where it might go. I usually ride around the closed road signs to see if I can cheat across the closure. Sometimes that is impossible as the bridge over the deep steam is really gone. A time in Pennsylvania, I rode past the barriers and up to what was obviously a construction work in progress to replace a flood wrecked bridge. In the off hours I would have no problem walking across the boards laid across the concrete formwork that the workers were using to get from one side to the other. The job foreman thought otherwise, "Absolutely not!" The signed detour was eight miles back. I turned around to the nearest side road and when a red pickup approached with a (should we say genetically narrow family past) driver who confirmed the side road did come out on the other side of the construction, I started off on what was later confirmed by the next town men outside my breakfast stop..."Oh, you went up Goat Hill!" This was the only time to date that I dropped into my smallest chain ring and still had to zig zag up portions of this unimaginably steep pavement that someone creatively considered a road.

Four guys and a bike in Springfield

For the bicycle traveler...

  • St. Louis by car to Augusta, MO B&B on Katy Trail, Tebbetts Turner Katy Trail Shelter (67 miles at only 318 feet of climb), shelter stay @ $5.
  • Tebbetts, Katy Trail, Jefferson City, Highway 54 (not cool but does have wide shoulders), Mt. Carmel Toad, Tuscimbia, Pea Ridge Road (gravel!), Highway JJ, Highway C, Bromley, St. Park Road (gravel! Six miles), Lake of the Ozarks SP, camp no fee.
  • Note: a local eventually told me that Missouri state lettered routes are typically paved. But I also learn that lettered routes may not be continuous and while there may be a local road that carries on, it may not go where you planned.
  • Lake of the Ozarks SP, Highway 42, Highway C, State Road E, Highway 5, Lebanon, side trip to CedarS Camp for kids, cabin living.
  • CedarS Camp, Lebanon, State Highway W, Phillipsburg, State Highway CC, Conway, Niangua (the hottest single time at 97 degrees in the shade), Tracks Road, Marshfield, Old Route 66, Strafford, Springfield, hotel with Dad and brother.
  • Springfield, Frisco Highline Trail, Bolivar, Highway 13, Osceola, city RV camp, no fee.
  • Osceola, Highway 13 (wide, good shoulders shared with Amish buggies; maintain 14-22 mph; two mile bad section eight miles south of Clinton), Clinton, Highway 7, Creighton (road paving underway---exit), Gregg Road, Grant Road, State Highway N, SW Co Highway ZZ, La Tour, unnumbered road west, State Highway M, Gunn City, Dillon Road, Sraesburg, Highway 58, Pleasant Hill, city lakeside park, camp no fee.
  • Pleasant Hill, Highway 7, Highway 150, SW Ward Road Greenway, SW 3rd St, NW View High Dr, E 109 St, James Reed Rd, E 87th St, Oldham Rd, Swope Park, Gregory Blvd, Elmwood Ave, Mall Dr, Swope Parkway, Kansas City, WarmShowers host.
Frisco Highline Trail


  1. Those saddlebags look older than we are....

  2. They're on loan from Rich. I have put more wear on them than he ever did. Skidding down into the clay pits Roger lead me through in West Virginia in an attempt to find an overgrown want-to-be trail hasn't helped.

  3. So fun to read about your travels! The kids ask daily about where your are and what you and Blackie are getting into. Emma keeps asking if you have dipped your tire yet. I told her about how you started by touching on ocean and will end up touching another one. She must think you are a very fast biker :) Have fun and stay safe!


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