Day 21 - Ullin, IL (Amer. Best Value Inn) to Cape Girardeau, MO (H.I. Express) - Seeking A Bicycle Warrior's Death, Part II: The Great Rivers South - CycleBlaze

October 12, 2022

Day 21 - Ullin, IL (Amer. Best Value Inn) to Cape Girardeau, MO (H.I. Express)

Racing The Storm (Spoiler Alert; I Lost!) and Another Milestone Day

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Statistics, Useful & Otherwise;

Elevation Gained Today;   1,064 ft                        Cumulative;  40,694 ft

Roadkill Seen Today; possum(1), raccoon (1), skunk (1), turtle (1)                    Cumulative; Hawk (3), Raccoon(5), Possum (16),  Mouse (1), Squirrel (8),     Armadillo (5), Bird (1), Coyote (1), Deer (4), Snake (1), skunk (3), rabbit (1), turtle (1), unknown (6)

Found Money Today;   $ 0                               Cumulative; $0.45

Lodging Cost Today; $0 (points used)   Cumulative; $1,485.47

Bad Drivers Today;    0                                      Cumulative; 11

Dog Chases Today;    0                                     Cumulative; 15

Average Speed Today;   10.2 mph              Cumulative; 9.99 mph

Summary of Today's Ride;  Great ride to Missouri, then the heavens dumped on me!

The America's Best Value Inn only had a few guests last night.  It was nice that I was able to do laundry with no one else competing for the machines.  After yesterday's difficulty finding someone to even check me in, I didn't expect the hotel breakfast to be worth waiting for, and I made plans to leave early and eat elsewhere.  And so I rolled out shortly after 06:00 and headed a few miles down my path to the center of Ullin and Honey's Quick Stop.  I had called Honey's last night to verify they would be open and that they actually served a full breakfast menu.  The place is basically a convenience store but it operates as a small diner also. 

When I arrived there was a local police officer on site; it seems that someone stole $75 worth of gasoline.   Later a state police officer also arrived and they investigated the crime, primarily by interviewing the lady working the cash register who showed them some digital things on her store computer/cash register that she said constituted a crime.  It was all kind of weird - later I asked her how someone could steal gas these days when it required a credit card to operate the pumps, and she replied that she wasn't certain but that somehow things didn't add up.  So I don't know if I was on a crime scene or not, but I assured both of the officers that it couldn't have been me who committed the potential crime since I was on a bicycle.  At 06:30 in the morning I don't think either of them was amused.   Whatever, I had biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon and then I was off, anxious to put in miles and try to beat the storm to Cape Girardeau. I made good time across the bottom-lands and was feeling optimistic that I might stay dry today.  So far so good.

Moody Sky Ahead, Illinois Bottom-land
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Today I rode across flat farmland followed by short wooded hills, then the sequence repeated.  As I approached Tamms, a few drops of rain fell and then quit. So far so good.

Southern Illinois Has Some Hills, Trees Are Turning
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Leaving Tamms, I got into a very light sprinkle of rain.  It was so light that it wasn't even worth putting on my rain jacket.  It wasn't even hard enough to wet the road completely.  So far so good.

Barn Quilt Symbol Like The Ones I Have Seen In Kentucky
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West of Tamms on Grapevine Trail it began to rain consistently and the road finally got covered completely.  Okay, time for the rain jacket.  I put on  my trusty Showers Pass rain jacket with the optional hood that I wear underneath my helmet, then headed down the road.  The rain almost immediately ceased falling.  Okay I thought, this is going to be an on/off sprinkle thing, no big deal.  So far so good.

Roads Are Just Getting Wet
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I rolled upon an Illinois cemetery that was built like ones I have seen before in Kentucky, especially eastern Kentucky.  In hill country, many cemeteries are built on the hillside, even on steep hillsides.  The rain was hardly falling now.  So far so good.

Illinois Cemetery On A Hillside Reminds Me Of Eastern Kentucky
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Depending on how you want to count my "both ends to the middle" Transam journey that had a 7-week work gap in between the 2 halves, I have reached 1,000 miles on a tour either 3 or 4 times previously.  So today marked the 4th or 5th time I have gone on a tour and rolled past 1,000 miles.  It still feels like a big deal to me.  There is absolutely no guarantee I would have made it this far.    Somewhere west of the little village of Tamms, Illinois, not far from a nice farmhouse with a blue metal roof, Harvey and I reached the 1,000 mile mark on this journey.   The rain was nice enough to let up at this time.  So far so good.

1,000 Miles Is A Significant Milestone For Me On Any Journey
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Rolling through flat country again, there was just an occasional drop of rain.  Approaching McClure, IL,  I could see some dark and foreboding clouds ahead.  The picture below doesn't capture how dark the clouds were.  But I was rolling along well and not concerned with it because this was going to be a short day.  So far so good.

Storm Clouds Ahead, Will I Beat The Rain?
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Several buildings in McClure caught my attention and I stopped to photograph each of them.  I carry a camera with me on my bicycle journeys because I want to capture things that get my attention.  If stopping to take some quick photographs later causes me to get rained on more, so be it.  But for now the light rain has felt pretty good.  So far so good.

Old Barn in McClure, IL
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Regal Home in McClure, IL
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Quilt Symbol on Silo in McClure, IL
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I could see the Mississippi bridge tower supports for miles away, and watched as they slowly got bigger as I neared the bridge.  The rain had gotten steady, but it wasn't bad; it was the sort of rain that causes you to use your windshield wipers on the low intermittent setting. So far so good.

Approaching The River Bridge
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East Cape Girardeau is a village on the Illinois side of the river.  I rolled past a couple of strip clubs, and one had an interesting sign that blamed President Biden for their lack of dancers.  That's just weird from so many angles, I truly can't decipher the logic to even know if they mean it as a good or bad thing - but I think they mean that Biden has done something that is keeping the local young ladies from wanting to dance naked for money. Maybe. Whatever, my head is still spinning over that one. 

Just then I saw lightning flash from across the river.  But I didn't hear thunder, although the traffic noise could have muffled it.  I probably need to get on across the bridge. So far so good.

Blaming Biden For A Shortage Of Young Women Willing To Dance Naked?
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Mark HarrisOr maybe thanks to Biden more people are coming to the club and the girls are getting tired, so they need more girls to satisfy the growing (no pun intended) clientele. Probably not. Dang George, your weird thinking is messing up my thinking. Next thing I know I will be talking to my discs while golfing. Oh crap, I already do that. Nevermind.
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As I approached the bridge I was concerned about some flashing lights and orange barrels that indicated road construction.  I knew from Google Earth research that the bridge had a nice wide shoulder for me to cycle on, but the construction had narrowed it down to one lane for vehicles.  Rain had been falling steadily for a while now, but not heavily.  So far so good.

Approaching The Mississippi River Bridge
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The road construction turned out to be a favorable thing for me.  I just rolled between the orange cones and had the entire right lane and shoulder for myself.  Like most bridge shoulders, this one had a lot of debris in it, so it was very nice to have the whole right lane just for me!  I could see some construction trucks and equipment ahead, and at least one police unit with flashing lights.  Another flash of lightning tore through the sky ahead and I knew I should scoot on across. So far so good.

Construction Operations Gave Me Protected Passage In The Right Lane
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Whatever the construction operation was, it involved a crane being used to suspend men and equipment over the side of the bridge.  There were a dozen vehicles of workers and engineers and such parked near the peak of the bridge in the protected lane cordoned off by the orange cones, and there was a police officer on the scene to enforce good behavior from motorists and scallywags, and I cycled in the protected lane past each with a wave and occasional "good morning" to those out and about.  Most just nodded or looked at me with curiosity.  BTW, did you know that one definition of scallywag is "a white Southerner who collaborated with northern Republicans during Reconstruction, often for personal profit."  Hopefully none of these construction folks are true scallywags.  The rain continued falling steadily but not heavily, and as I neared the Missouri side I heard thunder for the first time.  I think it was there before but the traffic had drowned it out.  I had wanted to stop and take photos from the bridge, but it didn't seem wise to do so in the midst of the construction operations and in the vicinity of the police officer.  You aren't supposed to stop on the bridge and I felt fortunate just to be able to get across without interference. But once I cleared the construction folks (and the police officer) far enough that I knew I would make it to the other side, I made a very quick stop and grabbed this shot. The rain was falling steady now and I didn't want to open my handlebar bag any longer than the minimum necessary.  So far so good.

One Quick Photo From The Bridge, The River Wall Protects The Historic Area of Cape Girardeau
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Once across the bridge, I stopped at the Missouri sign for the glory photo. As I was setting up the little tripod for the DSLR on Harvey's saddle, the rain started coming down more intensely.  It made me laugh out loud - I'm almost there and now it's going to rain hard!  But I can handle a bit of hard rain, no big deal. So far so good.

I Made It To Missouri! (note to self; tuck jersey into shorts before next selfie)
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Cape Girardeau is a moderately large city (population 38,000), and I was concerned that the route through the town might have a lot of traffic, but it did not - most of it was quite pleasurable and relaxing.  The ACA maps are worth the cost because they do try to route you through populated areas using the best roads for bicycling.  They aren't always perfect, but I've followed them coast-to-coast twice now and I can speak from some experience and say that they're pretty good.   The rain was falling only moderately hard now and I was feeling good about cycling the last few miles to the hotel.  So far so good.

Nice Route Through Cape Girardeau
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Well, this certainly caught my eye; a courthouse named for Rush Limbaugh?  That didn't seem quite right - regardless how you may feel about the late Rush Limbaugh, it would seem hard to justify naming a courthouse in honor of a radio commentator.  When I later did my due diligence and research (you know that I go to a lot of effort to ensure that you, my readers, are fed only the real truth) I found that this courthouse wasn't named for the Rush Limbaugh we all knew as a conservative radio commentator, it was named for his grandfather!  If you wish to know more about this interesting little diddly, here you go --> Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr.  Wow, the things one can learn while pedaling a bicycle across the country.  My camera gear is water resistant and can handle a significant rain. The picture below is a bit soft in focus because rain has fallen on the lens.  It wasn't raining super hard, just enough to keep things wet. So far so good.

Rush Limbaugh Courthouse
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I came upon some local artwork, a bit of building graffiti.  "Unity In Our Community" is a slogan I can live with.  No change in the rain at this point. So far so good.

Local Artwork Adorns A Building Exterior
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As I cycled north on Independence Street, the rain picked up and then dumped heavily on me.  It quickly became a downpour that flooded the street and I found myself occasionally cycling through water that was several inches deep.   Conditions were very dark and I was thankful for my always-on dynohub powered lights.  Suddenly a bolt of lightning ripped across the sky and landed somewhere nearby - I could hear and smell it and I think I felt it but that may have just been an electrified jolt of fear! It was truly terrifying, and it was followed immediately by a thunderclap that was so loud the houses near me must have vibrated from the sound waves. I hunkered down on my handlebars as though I could duck and hide from the lightning. Yeah, I got to be honest here, that got my attention - let me say it again, it was downright petrifying!  I was in it now, but only a couple of miles from my hotel, so I pushed on.  There were several other lightning flashes that seemed to be right on top of me, and each was followed by a loud thunderclap.  And it was like someone was pouring a bottomless bucket of water on me.  Conditions were bad enough that most cars had pulled off the road, so that made it easier for me to proceed.  Hey, why should I stop - after all, Harvey is equipped with fenders, you know.  I was a little concerned about being struck by lightning, but I reasoned that Harvey's rubber tires kept us from being grounded and attracting lightning.  That may be irrational reasoning, but in the midst of Zeus flinging lightning bolts every which way it was the only comforting thought I had.  Zeus Thunderbolts   Things were no longer good, but I was too close to the hotel to be denied by even a horrific downpour.  However, when I topped a small steep hill I hit the brakes hard and gave this fellow all the room I could so he could get across the road without interference from me.  Thunderstorms are one thing, but I ain't gonna argue with no skunk!  Notice that the road has considerable water flowing across it.

I Gave This Skunk The Right Of Way As He Approached The Road
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I rolled up to the Holiday Inn Express at 10:15 am.  Believe it or not, I already knew that my room was ready for me.  I'm like a Super Grand Turtle member of the IHG hotel chain and today's room was no cost because I booked it using points.  I called at 07:23 this morning to remind them that I needed a ground floor room because I was on bicycle - I told them I would be arriving early and that I would like to leave my bicycle in the lobby and walk to the nearby Barnes and Noble and kill time until my room was ready.  They told me that I had a first floor room near an exit door to make it easy to bring my bicycle in, that it was already ready for me, and I could check in as soon as I arrived.  These folks appreciate me being an IHG loyalty member and go to great lengths to take care of me.  And did I mention that my room tonight was no cost to me? I'll get free cookies tonight and a full hot breakfast tomorrow morning.  So I'm pretty happy with that deal.

I was thoroughly soaked when I reached the hotel.  Once I got into the room I toweled everything off as best I could, then hung up my riding clothes near the air unit and left the fan running so they would dry.  I carry dirty clothes in a stuff bag that I use for laundry, but I didn't want to put them in there wet.  Tomorrow night's lodging has a free laundry and so does the night after.  I may do 2 days worth of laundry tomorrow night, or I may wait till the following night - to be honest, it depends on whether there is also laundry detergent available at tomorrow night's lodging.  I'm down to only 3 laundry pods left and I should be able to make those last for the rest of the trip if I space out my laundry days carefully.  Those are the kind of details you have to think about on a cycle tour that wouldn't normally be a concern.  I don't want to have to buy a box of 16 pods (and then carry them on the bike) just because I might need 1 or 2 more.  And I'm too cheap and environmentally sensitive to buy a box and just waste the bulk of them.   I suppose I could buy a box, keep just what I need, and give the rest away.  I did that on last year's Northern Tier adventure. Anyway, the point is that I'm being careful to ration my remaining pods.

Drying Today's Togs In The Hotel Room
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I walked over to the nearby mall and found the Barnes and Noble and set up in the Starbucks to work on this journal.  It was nice to chill out in a familiar environment with a caramel frappucino and pastry, and I typed most of today's entry while there. Today was Day 6 of an 8-day run.  Tomorrow will be the hardest day of this run; it's not a long mileage day, but it has about 3,500 feet of climbing with some 13% grades.  It's the steep grades that make it tough, and the Ozarks will present several challenging days for me.  But it's one day at a time for me, that's all I focus on because otherwise it becomes overwhelming.  So I'm going to start getting ready for tomorrow. 

I'm glad I rotated the tires.  From where I'm sitting now (back in my hotel room now) I can see one of the spots on the front tire where the flat protection layer is showing because the tread has worn through.  It's grown a little since I last examined the tires.  By rotating the tires I've given myself the best chance of making it to the finish on these tires.  I'm pretty confident they will hold up.   I have about 470 miles to go, so I have completed about 2/3 of the journey.  This last 1/3 will be the most challenging cause, you know, the Ozark mountains. There are 48 maps that comprise the Great Rivers South route, and tomorrow I will be starting Map 15 (reminder; I'm counting down to zero, so I've already ridden through 33 of the 48 maps).  Most of my lodging is either on the route or within a mile or so of it, except for the last night when I will divert off-route to Wapello, IA to get lodging. So that 470 miles may be a bit more, but probably less than 500 miles.  Time will tell. 

Arriving in Cape Girardeau brought back many memories.  In 1976 I was a young Geologist fresh out of college and working for the Little Rock District of the Army Corps of Engineers, and  I was assigned to a drill crew for a 6-month exploration program of the Mississippi River levees near Cape Girardeau.  I stayed in a Best Western motel for that 6-month period, only returning to Little Rock every couple of weeks for a weekend.  Wow, there are lots of stories I could tell, but the wife cautions me that I shouldn't tell some of them.  I remember going with the drill crew to a restaurant down near the river wall several times.  They served a drink that came out on fire (sugar cube with alcohol in it I think), and each time we went I would have one of those.   I remember nearly freezing to death as we drilled on top of the levees in the winter on snow-covered ground with nothing to stop the north wind from tearing through.  I remember seeing a wolf one morning on the way to the drill rig - he was all alone out in the middle of an open field, and he was BIG - wolves are big animals - and he looked terrifying.  He must have been hungry to be out in the open like that.   I had a bicycle back then - my first real adult bicycle, a Motobecane - and I rode it on the river roads north of Cape Girardeau on some weekends.  Back then it wasn't so easy to know where the best roads for cycling were to be found - what you did was go to a local bike shop and ask them, most of them had paper maps of local routes they would give you.

Drill Crew In Cold and Miserable Conditions Near Cape Girardeau in 1976
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Mark Harris1. I'm impressed you have access to these old photos and even more impressed you can find them.
2. Those look like miserable working conditions. Been there and done that and thankful that I will never have to do it again. Retirement is good.
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1 year ago
George HallMark - I have my photos in the "cloud" using Onedrive. They are sorted by year, and then by topic under that year, so If I can remember the year or guess close to it I can usually find the photo. I spent a considerable chunk of money having my old photos and slides digitized - I had something like 20,000 or so photos/slides to scan - I used a group called Scancafe to get that done. I originally did scanning myself, but got much better results with these guys since they use much more expensive equipment. When I was deployed to Germany in 2019 I spent at least 1 hour each night sorting and adding keywords to my photos. And I'm only up to 1991 so I have a long way to go - but my photo collection actually starts in 1850 with photos I have from both sides of the family.
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Me And My Motobecane
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There's one other memory that stands out, but the wife says I shouldn't mention it even though it's completely innocent.  It might have something to do with me being the only male in a hotel completely filled with freshman girls from Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO).  It may be that SEMO ran out of dormitory housing for students, and that freshmen were last priority for housing and got booted off campus into  hotels that the university contracted - and that freshmen girls were all sent to the Best Western motel where I was staying.  It may be that the Best Western was completely booked up with the SEMO girls and could no longer accept normal reservations for motel guests, but since I was already there on a 6-month arrangement I was the only "normal" motel guest.   Or who knows, maybe I'm just making this up, because that does sound pretty improbable, doesn't it?  At any rate the wife and I were married the following year and I completely forgot about that little story (what story?) until I realized I would be cycling through Cape Girardeau on this journey.

Just checked the weather for Marquand, MO for tomorrow. Low of 46, high of 68, with W winds switching to the NW in the afternoon.  Gee whiz, I'm traveling NW tomorrow; the cycling gods continue to laugh at me.

Things seem to happen fast when you move slow.  Every day on a bicycle tour is a very full day for me with the effort it takes to ride the distance and keep myself fed, clothes laundered, plan ahead for the next day and then find time to post to this journal.  I'm not complaining, I actually love it, but the states go by so quickly I can barely keep up with state appropriate songs.  So I just left Illinois and I'm trying to catch up on appropriate songs; hate me or forgive me, it is what it is.

I hope your life is such that someday you have some stories to tell - even though maybe you shouldn't.   I'm old enough that I don't worry about what others may think of my stories, they are what they are.  I'm just happy to still be around to tell them.  And I've got a lot more to tell, but first I'll have to check with the wife to see if they are appropriate.   Good night folks, I hope you dream whatever it is that makes you happy...

Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 1,026 miles (1,651 km)

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Rich FrasierSpeaking as another old guy, I love your stories! Keep 'em coming, appropriate or not.
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1 year ago
Jon WedgeworthI really like Cape Girardeau and the cable stayed bridge you drove over is beautiful. South of Cape is East Prairie and they have a bike ride event each year called Tour De Corn. That was my wife's first organized bike ride event. She chose it because it bragged of being pancake flat

Thankfully I have never been behind a drill rig in snow.
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George HallTo Jon WedgeworthJon, now you're really bringing back the memories. We were taking continuous splitspoon samples to a depth greater than 100 feet. As the Inspector I had to take the splitspoon, open it, take a jar sample, then clean up the spoon and reassemble it for the next use. There was no way to do this without my hands getting wet - and it was subfreezing weather - I had to then write down notes about the sample for the log, sometimes my fingers were so cold they could barely hold the pen. Every morning the rig pump lines were frozen and blowtorches were used to thaw them out - this often took an hour. Every afternoon we did our best to drain the lines of water so they wouldn't freeze overnight, but it never seemed to work. We were on top of levees and exposed to the wind. We got a "Chicago Tent" for the Failing 1500 drill rig that was made to provide shelter while leaving the back open so you could run out the drill rods, but the wind was so bad one night that it destroyed it. That winter was when I became a coffee drinker. Woody, the driller, informed me that it was the Geologist's job to fire up the Coleman stove and make coffee every morn at 09:00. I was so cold that winter that I would have drank hot motor oil - which is what the drill crew thought of my coffee, although they used more colorful language to describe it!
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