After itching to do a bike tour and researching several, I decided on this 4 state tour. I liked the format of doing out and back rides from three different locations. That meant not tearing down a campsite every morning and loading my bags on a truck to be transported to another site. And since we would be driving our personal vehicles to each site it also meant I would always have my vehicle with me. That worked out really well. I could take my outfit for the day to my tent and leave my bags in the car. So, instead of having a big mess in my tent I had a big mess in my car! And it freed me up to go out to eat wherever I wanted. Also, the cost of this ride was less than some others I was considering. As it turned out, I made a good choice. It was a very enjoyable ride.
Day One …. Today’s scheduled route was cancelled because the roads to the “Trail of Tears Park” were flooded. So, I took a short 15 mile ride thru the historic part of Cape Girardeau. Enjoyed seeing the levee wall which was doing its thing holding back the heavily flooded Mississippi River. My friend, Julie, lived in Cape Girardeau when in high school and has friends who still live there. They invited us to stay at their beautiful home for the two nights we were going to be in Cape. We took them up on the offer and enjoyed our time with them immensely.
Day Two …. We crossed the flooded Mississippi River into Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest for most of today’s ride. Several roads were closed because of the high water. Many people could reach their homes only by boat. We visited the historic “Thebes Courthouse” where Abraham Lincoln once visited and was rumored to have argued a court case there. It was a very interesting place. Our lunch stop was at the Horseshoe Lake Community Center in Olive Branch. We probably doubled the population of the town while we were there. There wasn’t much else to see on this 54 mile ride although the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi River was quite impressive.
Day Three …. The day started with breaking camp, driving our cars 84 miles from Cape Girardeau, MO to Hickman, KY and setting up camp at Fulton County HS. This was to be our home base for the next three nights. With a short 25 mile ride on schedule I decided to put it off until late afternoon and instead eat lunch and take the Ride’s organized tour around town. Our lunch choice was easy. Hickman only has two restaurants. Memaw’s Home Cooking is open from 11am until 2pm and HUB’s Restaurant and Bar is open from 2pm until 9pm. Following lunch, we began our tour by stopping by the small family run Kentucky Kernel Nut Company where I vacuumed packed and labeled my own personal can of cashews. Next, we walked across and down the street to the Coulson home where we met the very friendly and hospitable “Cake Lady”, Carol. She opened her lovely, historic home for the cyclists to enjoy and served lemonade and cake. Carol had baked many cakes of different flavors and they were exceptionally tasty. At least the six different kinds I tried were! Following my indulgence of cake, I waddled on down the street a couple blocks to the old courthouse where we were escorted up ladders to the top of the clock/bell tower. This clock is said to be the oldest operating mechanical clock in the country and has been ticking away for about 115 years. The big brass bell can be heard for miles away. After wrapping up our tour it was back to the campsite to get my bike and get out on the road for today’s ride. It was a fun day.
Day Four …. It was a rainy morning as we began our ride from Hickman, KY toward Tennessee. The rain was light and sporadic but still wet. But we continued to pedal our way to Union City and the amazing Discovery Park of America. We decided it would be wise to hang out here for awhile and see if the weather improved. We spent about two hours touring this wonderful museum and only saw a fraction of what all is available to see. The centerpiece of Discovery Park is Discovery Center, a 100,000-square-foot building showcasing ten exhibit galleries: Children’s Exploration, Energy, Enlightenment, Military, Native Americans, Natural History, Regional History, Science/Space/Technology and Transportation. I would have loved to extend my time at the DPA but today’s weather influenced my decision to cut the time of my visit. When the sun popped out and temps begin to warm a little, I decided to get back on the bike before the rain returned. I would recommend a visit to DPA if your ever near Union City. But not in wet bike clothes! A local music group provided some good entertainment in the gym (or should I say our bedroom) tonight. It was a fun time.
Day Five …. Today’s 51 mile ride was very nice. We headed north to Columbus Belmont State Park. With a great view of the river and because the flood had closed it to traffic, we had an excellent view of many barges parked along the banks of the river awaiting its reopening. This state park is rich in Confederate War history. There are old cannons, howitzers, many trenches and a museum to stimulate one’s mind on what it was like during those horrific times. This was a major area of conflict as the Confederates tried to stop the Union Army from advancing down the Mississippi River. We had a nice rest stop at Oakwood Church on the way back to camp before facing some strong head winds and very hot weather. When we arrived back at camp the sky was a deep blue with a bright shining sun and a temp of 93. This just made our group time in the shade and cold beers more relaxing and more enjoyable. It’s these little get-togethers with fellow bikers, following the day’s ride, where much of the fun and camaraderie takes place.
Day Six …. We started the day by loading our bikes and packing our cars for the short drive from Hickman, KY to Dyersburg, TN to set up our new home at the Dyersburg Fairgrounds. On our way out of town we made one more stop at Memaw’s for a hearty breakfast. Once arriving at our destination, we quickly changed into our bike clothes, grabbed our bikes and hit the road. With more rain on the horizon we had no time to waste. As we reached our first rest stop in downtown Newbern the light rain began to fall. But we convinced ourselves that riding in the rain was more fun than riding in the 93 degree heat of the day before. Peddling into the little town of Trimble we immediately spotted a potential lunch stop, the Bells and Whistles Diner. There was a small buffet which several chose but I opted for a thick, grilled bologna sandwich with some fried potatoes. Some of us chose take-out and walked up the street where we sat on the porch of the “Full Throttle Sloonshine Distillery” and enjoyed a little picnic. We had a great time at the distillery, just looking around, snapping a few photos, taking a tour and of course, sampling several of their classics. Some of us suspected our tour guide may have been sampling all morning! It seemed we left the distillery for the peddle home a much happier bunch of cyclists, even though we knew we would encounter more rain. Wanting to watch the Stanley Cup Finals we chose Mojo’s Sports Bar for dinner. The food was delicious, and we all had a great time. With about all the excitement we could stand for one day, we finally sacked out on the porch of the old Dyersburg train depot for a good night’s sleep. And whose idea was this?
Day Seven …. With another threat of heavy rain and a 63 mile ride scheduled for this last day, some of us decided a little cheating was appropriate. So, we drove about 10 miles out to the first rest stop and began our ride from there, essentially eliminating 20 miles of our out and back ride. Reelfoot Lake was our destination and we were determined to get there, even if it did rain. The ride was great, and we had a nice rest stop at Spicer Park where we took advantage of some nice photo opportunities. We then stopped and visited the Reelfoot State Park Museum which was nice. Had it not been for the gloomy weather forecast I probably would have spent much more time there either kayaking or canoeing on the lake for a couple of hours. But the rain was coming, and we needed to get back on our bikes. We did get wet, again, but nothing like the forecast predicted. We completed our 43 miles without getting totally drenched and decided we would meet for lunch before heading home in different directions. Neil’s Barbeque and Grill was a good choice. Then the sad time of the week was upon us. The time to say our good-byes. Until one has experienced it you can’t understand how attached you can become to people from other parts of the country whom you only met a few days earlier. But it happens on a bike ride. That is the fun of it and that is why we can’t wait until the next tour, wherever it may be. So, we say good-bye, give a hug, get in our cars and head home to Kentucky and Indiana and Missouri and Illinois and Pennsylvania and Tennessee. See ya on the road…