Browsed by
Category: MRT2012

Day 27 and Onward – Postscript to the Ride

Day 27 and Onward – Postscript to the Ride

After riding about 1,400 miles this summer, I returned home to my wife and, a week later, we took a ride on our tandem. While riding in a peloton, we crashed and my wife broke her pelvis, just 3 miles from our house. Ironic. That was a month ago. She is healing and eager to get back on the saddle, literally, and start riding again. Me too! I miss the long tandem routes on Sunday mornings.

After the New Orleans to Minneapolis ride I was burned out on posting to the website. Being on sabbatical meant that I was supposed to be taking a break from work and it felt like work to write, so I stopped. I have a handful of emails about the promised “summary” article on the route and whatnot, so here it is! I actually wrote the following for “CrazyGuyOnABike.com” and am posting it here, in two parts, with a review of the trail and a review of our decision to use old mountain bikes for touring.

I am writing a newsletter to those who follow our ministry – look for it soon. If you signed up to get updates on the bike tour, now would probably be a good time to unsubscribe. If you don’t, you will get my blog posts, which are often about the global Christian movement.

Part 1 – A Review of the MRT: A Review of the MRT

First, a few caveats. I am not a long time bicycle touring expert. I toured many years ago and only recently did the MRT. My sons and I rode the MRT in part because we didn’t have the time to pedal the TransAmerica (that’s one advantage the MRT does have over other cross-America routes – it’s shorter). So, as you read this review, keep in mind that it is not the review of a pro. Also, we didn’t stick to the MRT the entire ride. We cut corners here and there and made the tour “our own” instead of just taking the route when it didn’t suit us (more on that later).

My view is that the MRT is an unevenly supported bike route. In the south it leaves a lot to be desired. In the north, it is awesome. In defense of the MRT, it is self-described as a developing route. That’s a pretty fair assessment. Also keep in mind that the MRT has different routes. For example, you have to choose between biking through Missouri or Illinois (or switch back and forth like we did a few times). Nobody really biked the whole of the MRT without really working at it.

We biked the MRT in the summer of 2012. This ended up being the hottest summer on record and we were in the middle of it. This can’t be held against the MRT as it was an unusual weather pattern but be forewarned that midsummer will be hot.

We also biked from south to north. We had gotten advice that the winds tend to blow out of the south and we would have easier “sailing.” This was, I believe in retrospect, an assumption born from our lack of touring experience. When you ride 1,400 miles you are going to get winds from all directions. As it turned out, most of the days that we rode gave us headwinds. So, I don’t think I would base my route choice or direction so much on the wind in the future.

We used the “Mississippi River Trail Guidebook,” by Bob Robinson. If you are used to the Adventure Cycling maps the guidebook will disappoint. It’s not really meant to be the same sort of guide. As we started out, we were sticking to the guidebook verbatim and it wasn’t until about 10 days in that we realized we needed to think broader. We took a “WarmShowers.org” host in Memphis and he turned out to be a former Adventure Cycling tour leader and contributor to some of their guides. As we discussed this with him, we decided to purchase a regular map and supplement the guidebook which turned out to be a much better approach. Robinson’s guide is the best (and only) guidebook out there so don’t skip it – you will need it. However, understand that it is a “guide” only and you might want other resources.

The beginning of the MRT (south to north) is interesting, flat, and fun. As you wind through New Orleans you are struck with how cool it is to be riding in a bike lane through this historic city. Once you leave the urban sector you will find yourself riding on top of the river levee and it’s pretty spectacular. As you move further north is where some of the consternation sets in. The services become few and far between. We rode a couple of days for more distance than we wanted to since the next camping site or hotel was just that far off. There were three of us and we were hesitant to stealth camp. Water was usually available (as well as food) but the lodging options were sparse and they got sparser.

The philosophy behind the MRT is to keep you as close to the river as possible. This makes for some route choices that are rather indirect since the river winds around quite a bit. By forging our own trail on some days we avoided a bit of the winding. Keep in mind that once you get off the top of the levee you will not be able to see much of the river. If I had to guess, I would estimate that you only see the river about 20 percent of the ride and most of that is in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

As we moved past Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi we began to have better luck with places to stay. The roads in these lower states that make up the MRT are actually very acceptable for cycling. There aren’t too many “rumble strips” and the terrain is generally flat. We began to hit some hills in Tennessee, but even there this is not a mountain climber’s route. The issue for us is that the camping options are few and far between until you get further north.

The Natchez Trail is a part of the MRT in Tennessee and it is an awesome ride – I highly recommend it. When heading from the south to the north, you will begin to encounter a few small climbs at this point. Nothing major, but this is a change from the previous, mostly flat, trail up to this point.

As we moved through Kentucky we decided to go with the Illinois side of the MRT, at least until St. Louis. We were warned by quite a few people to avoid Cairo, IL, because of crime. We decided to stop early on a Saturday so that we could go through Cairo early Sunday morning, when most criminals are nursing hangovers. The bridge into Cairo was pretty lousy, but we spread out and took the whole lane much to the chagrin of a large truck. Cairo was sleepy and quiet.

The Illinois MRT is a bit hillier. We wanted to stay overnight in Chester. We found that, leading up to this little city that is on both the MRT and the TransAmerica, the traffic conditions are terrible for bikers. There were more trucks per minutes than you can imagine. We happened to pass through when a coal barge was unloading south of town. The large trucks, heavy with coal and not wanting to slow down at all, barreled past us at high speed, just inches away on a road with a minimal shoulder. I heard that Chester is a favorite spot for cyclists. It’s not for me. I consider this stretch of road the worst we encountered.

North of Chester the MRT follows the river and we had one of the sweetest rides of the trip. As you bike you pass by large underground caverns and the cool air comes out to refresh you. We also were riding in the morning and the levee and bluffs provided nice shade. This was incredible biking.

We camped a night in East St. Louis. We were told to avoid it, but after seeing how tame Cairo was wanted to test the waters. No problems for us. We stayed at a little RV park that had a pool and the water was refreshing. The next day we pedaled across the river in St. Louis and met up with some friends. From there we headed north on the Missouri side until we could cross back into Illinois. The Missouri side has its share of rumble strips and about 6-10 inch shoulders. We also heard that the Illinois side was flatter and, since we had learned to avoid climbing, we scurried back into Illinois. I understand that we missed out on some beautiful trails around St. Louis. Oh well – you can’t do it all!

Iowa was also nice. At this point we made a decision to leave the MRT and shoot straight north toward the Wisconsin border to rejoin the trail there. The terrain was now rolling hills with long descents and long climbs. We achieved our highest point on the trip in Iowa of all places – 1,280 feet. On that day we probably gained and lost 400 – 600 feet in elevation about a half dozen times. It was a tough day but a good day. The campground that night (it was 105 degrees that day) had a river! It was very refreshing to lay in the river and let the water wash away the road weariness.

We took the Cassville Ferry into Wisconsin. The last descent into the river valley went on forever. It was exhilarating! We had planned on two other ferry crossings but had the misfortune of seeing both of them closed on the days we intended to cross so it was fun to finally experience the crossing from a seated position.

Wisconsin’s MRT route is gorgeous. You really see a lot of the river and the terrain is varied (some hills, but not bad at all). The camping sites are plentiful and we availed ourselves of a community pool once that we happened to see as we pedaled through town. The eating options abound and we had not difficulty in route planning from this point forward.

We crossed into Minnesota at La Crescent. Once again the road conditions were excellent. There was one little strip of dedicated “bicycle trail” which was closed due to flooding so we took the road. There was another strip of dedicated trail a bit later in the day that could have used some maintenance. Other than that, the Minnesota roads were the best we encountered.

One night we camped in a dedicated bicycle campground. You rode in, registered yourself (the fee was $12), and had water and an outhouse. The sites were nestled in the trees (although they were pretty close to the highway so a bit noisy at night). I hope this idea catches on elsewhere – it seems like a pretty inexpensive way for these sorts of services to be offered.

The most beautiful part of the ride for us was around Lake Pepin. The water is blue and the surrounding hills were covered in lush green trees. There are lots of services along the way and you have plenty of space to ride on the shoulder. We ended in Minneapolis. The trails here are known across the country so I won’t go into the details but suffice it to say that they are top notch. We had lunch around the University of Minnesota and were in the northern suburbs (where my parents live and where we were finishing up) an hour later. I have heard that going north is even better so I hope to come back and finish that off with my wife sometime on our tandem.

Employees from the Minnesota Department of Transportation had been following our trip blog and they emailed me with tips and requested feedback. The bar has been set pretty high by the state of Minnesota when it come to being bicycle-friendly. Good luck to you other states on matching it!

Before we went on this tour somebody said that they were glad that the MRT was “not their first tour.” I tend to agree with this. The maps and support that you can get from Adventure Cycling routes are better. There were days when we road further than we wanted to because there was no lodging. Other days we had to shorten things up a bit. As this route grows and develops I hope that it can became a premier route. I would challenge Adventure Cycling to consider taking it on as a challenge to map it well and encourage its use.

Part 2 – Old Mountain Bikes as Touring Bikes

Bikes. Incredible machines, capable of turning an ordinary person into an overland animal of awesome distance and speed. Most touring bicyclists spare no expense in purchasing and outfitting their trusty steed. On a recent tour from New Orleans to Minneapolis, roughly following the Mississippi River Trail, my two boys and I took a road less traveled: we used old Huffy bikes that were 25 years old. Good idea? Let me tell you about our experience.

First, we decided to go with cheap bikes because there were three of us and they are college boys. I wasn’t able to spring for all of us to get new bikes and decided that where one goes, all go. So I began scouring the Internet and found a site which talks about “cheap touring bikes.” Old Huffy bikes were made of steel. Heavy, yes, but also a good material for a touring bike.

I paid $40, $50, and $70 dollars for the three bikes. There was a local guy that bought and sold bikes and he listed his info on Craigslist. They were in pretty good shape but needed some work. I stripped them, painted them all black, and rebuilt them. I upgraded 1 of the front derailleurs, and 2 of the rear ones. All of the bikes got new (cheap) SRAM indexed shifters, and cables all around. We went with the original brakes and seats. I put on butterfly handlebars. For racks I purchased cheapos off ebay. One set didn’t arrive until a few days before the tour and it wasn’t as sturdy as the other two (more on that later). For panniers we used Nashbar’s waterproof bags and we all got inexpensive handlebar “boxes” as well. All bikes got Kenda K838 Slick Wire Bead Bicycle Tires and a set of “Stop Flats.”

The total spent on all three bikes was just under $1,200. I mean “TOTAL” – including some tents, a wet bag, sleeping bag insert, blow up mattress (I actually used my Thermarest which I already had), and other assorted items.

So, off we went, down the road on the first day. Twenty minutes in we had our first mechanical breakdown. My son, Josh, had attached the rear pannier in the wrong place and somehow the clip had grabbed a hold of the retaining washer that held the rear stack of gears in place. It unscrewed and all of the gears were loose! Ok, so that’s not so much a problem related to the bike, but keep in mind that these bikes were not intended to carry panniers and Josh had the aforementioned rack, which had no good spot for clipping on the bags. Well, that was an easy fix and off we went.

Despite having gone on a couple of shake down rides, Josh’s shifter was easily finding gears on the rear hub. Upon further examination I realized that the 7 speed indexed shifters were not working with the six gears in back too well! Whoa… how did I install a 7-speed shifter on this bike? I don’t know, but I did. I ordered the shifters together with the set on another bike, but they were different and I never checked them. We had this problem for about three days until we found a bike shop that gave us (as in “here, no charge”) a different hub.

A little more than a week into the ride that same bike, Josh’s, lost the “tang” on the one-piece crank set. An old, single-piece crank has a small arm (the “tang”) between the gear set and the arm of the crank on the right hand side. The tang is what pushes the gear around in circles. If you ever see one you will be amazed that it could break – it’s a large weld point of between two ½ inch pieces of steel. Never, in my wildest dream, did I think that this part would fail. I had a pipe clamp in my trusty bag of spare parts. That got us by for about ten miles until we got to a bike shop and another new “used” part.

As we biked on, the derailleur hanger on Joshua’s bike began to become problematic. It seems funny to describe it this way, but it was like it was getting “soft” as we biked on. I was very careful to monitor this as we rode.

Another problem with this particular bike was that it kept popping spokes. By the time we finished it had broken seven spokes in total. My bike broke one spoke. Fortunately, I had all the tools along necessary to change these out.

Remember that cheap rear rack I mentioned? About halfway through the month-long tour it started to “cavitate” with the pedal cadence. This made the bike feel mushy while riding. On long down hills I could see it vibrating a bit adding to my consternation about the already too-high speed we were enjoying. That same bike also had a number of flat tires. One might conclude that the wheel was somehow messing up the tires, but I inspected the wheels and would testify that they were not the cause. All the punctures were on the face of the tire! I can only rack it up to either the bicyclist or a mystical cloud of doom. Now, at this point, you should be asking yourself about the other two bikes. They performed very well. The only thing that broke on the other two bikes (actually, all three) was that the chains broke. That’s right: all three bikes experienced broken chains. I am not sure why, except that these bikes were heavy. In every case we were hill climbing when the breaks happened. Fortunately, I had a spare chain with me and we purchased a replacement ahead of the next breakdown.

The major lessons for me were:

  1. One must replace ALL of the old components (derailleurs, chains, shifters, everything) on an old bike. This makes the price of a Nova Safari start to look pretty good.
  2. Long tours require better bikes. We spent a fair amount of time and energy fixing things and keeping them up and running.
  3. One can look like a bike god by carrying lots of extra components. My kids couldn’t believe it when I pulled out the pipe clamp, for example. When I changed out the chains they were equally impressed.
  4. Contrary to Internet advice, components for these older bikes are not readily available anymore. We could not count on the average local bike store’s inventory as these are essentially antiques.
  5. Two of the bikes worked pretty well but the third bike didn’t. If I had to repeat this endeavor, I would check out each bike very carefully. I think the “mass production” of working on three bikes simultaneously worked against me.
  6. The route we took is a relatively flat one. I hate to think what would have happened to us had we gone up against a few serious mountain passes. It would be particularly dangerous on the descents where speeds climb and brakes get hot.

SO…. Would I do it again? Hmmm, that’s a tough question to answer. I think I would do it on a tour of 7-10 days. If an expensive bike is an obstacle to going (which it was in our case) then plan local tours until you can upgrade. We biked just over 1,400 miles and these bikes, while the did it, were not really up to the job.

There is a good reason that touring bikes have the components and features that they have. I would recommend getting something designed for the task as it will bring greater enjoyment to your tour “over the long haul.”

2.8 miles from our final destination at the end of the tour, Josh’s rear hub locked up. We stopped and I took it apart to find the bearings virtually smashed together. I stripped out the bearing on both sides and put the hub back together. Josh finished the ride on a scraping axle – a fitting end to the tour considering what we had experienced with this bike over the previous 27 days.

Day 26 – The Finish Line

Day 26 – The Finish Line

This morning we got up early in Hastings, MN. We set out on the local trail system and got lost! We found ourselves on Highway 55, pedaling alongside the very fast moving rush hour traffic of the Twin Cities. The plus side of this venture was that we “cut” the corner of our proposed ride and saved a few miles in transit.

When we finally got to a real bike trail, we were down close to the river and crossed over on the bridge close to the airport. The view was spectacular – I know this photo will look strange on the website, but here it is…

20120712-175406.jpg

It’s hard to tell in the little photo, but you can see downtown St. Paul on the right, and Minneapolis on the left, with the mighty Mississippi below.

The trails along the river were very nice. We biked along Fort Snelling and in and out of the woods for a while.

20120712-183055.jpg

From there we shot up toward the University of Minnesota. We met up with Mark, the boys’ cousin, who works at the school he attends in the lab. Jimmy Johns had $1 subs, so we spent the big bucks and had a great lunch together.

20120712-183249.jpg

After lunch we started for our final destination. My parents live in Spring Lake Park, which is about 7-8 miles north of Minneapolis. We pedaled along East River Road and reminisced about various sights along the way. About 3 miles out… Joshua’s axle locks up!

A bearing went out and it totally froze.

20120712-183610.jpg

We took it apart, cleaned out the various pieces, and put things back together. He was making a pretty good scraping sound, but we decided that the bearing-less axle might go three miles, so on we went.

At 1:05 PM CST, we drove up and into the driveway of my parents home. The AC was on, the drinks were cool, and it’s great to be done!! I am proud of these two young men.

20120712-183835.jpg

Stay tuned for a wrap-up in the next few days…

Day 25 – Beautiful Lake Pepin

Day 25 – Beautiful Lake Pepin

This morning as we got underway Joshua got another flat. It would be the first of three on that bike. It’s really strange – all three have the same tires, the same puncture protector, and the same tubes. At the end of the tire change he mounted up and took off only to crunch the rear derailure in the spokes, breaking a spoke and mangling the derailure. When I first saw it I thought, “We’re done riding.” Forty five minutes later, though, we were back on the road.

Today’s ride was spectacular. We switched from roads to bike trails and the shoulders were always generous and the trails well groomed. This ride took us alongside Lake Pepin.

20120711-201537.jpg

If you live in Minnesota and haven’t spent time here, you are doing yourself a disservice. It’s beautiful. In Minnesota lore, Lake Pepin is the birthplace of water skiing.

We stopped in Red Wing for lunch at a McDonalds and soon after veered off to find a bike trail. We were met with signs declaring that the trail was closed due to flooding and that being on it “would be considered trespassing.” They got my attention at “flooding” and the sign seemed a little heavy handed. In any case, we jumped back on 61 and headed north, meeting up with the Mississippi River Trail a bit later.

20120711-202657.jpg

There was a big hill going back out toward the river and we climbed (ok, I admit it, we walked a bit) back up to some pretty good altitude.

So, tonight we are in Hastings. Tomorrow we conquer the city and will hopefully end up at my parent’s home in the northeast suburbs. That is IF Joshua’s bike can take another fifty miles.

By the way, I have been emailed by folks from MnDOT about the trail and our observations. The care that they show about the MRT is impressive and can be seen as you bike. The fact that they want more information even much more so. Go Minnesota!

Distance Today: 52 Miles
Total Distance: 1,322 (approximate)

Day 24 – Land of Sky Blue Waters

Day 24 – Land of Sky Blue Waters

You can make all the “cold Minneso-da” jokes you want to make but you can’t argue with this: Minnesota (and the land across the river – Wisconsin) is a beautiful state.

20120710-180711.jpg

We woke up in the bike camp this morning. I had a pretty rough night’s sleep. I was coughing all night and the highway was pretty close to the camping site so there were big trucks coming through all night.

The ride was about 50 miles today and we were bucking strong headwinds most of the way. Fortunately, the road was flat and the views were stunning.

20120710-182721.jpg

Tonight we are holed up in Wabasha, where the movie “Grumpy Old Men” was filmed. Tomorrow we are in Hastings, if all goes according to plan.

Day 23 – Minnesota!

Day 23 – Minnesota!

I couldn’t post this last night since we were out of cell phone range.

After I posted last night we had a visitor come by! My brother drove down from the Twin Cities to bring us a bike (which we opted not to take – it’s complicated with bags and all) and a barley pop. It was a reminder to us that we are getting ever closer to the Twin Cities (we are going to finish the ride at my parents house in Spring Lake Park, just north of Minneapolis). Thanks Jim!!

Today’s ride was by far the prettiest ride yet.

20120710-172143.jpg

The pictures, taken with my phone while pedaling, don’t do justice to the beauty of the river at this point in the ride. The brown sludge that we say down south has given way to a dark blue that is just gorgeous. Eagles swirl in the air above and the road conditions are markedly better.

We stopped a few times along the way to read some historical markers. Many wars were fought along the river as the settlers drove the Indians out. One wonders how a different outcome could have happened. It seems that every placard announces the destruction of one tribe, chief, or band.

20120710-172457.jpg

We made incredible time considering that we were riding into a straight north wind. It was tiring and the elder of the trio was feeling the strength of a bad cold virus. I hope the boys don’t get this as I need them to pull me along. Most touring bicyclists plan “days off” to recover but we have ridden every day. I think the tolls is starting to take me down a bit.

20120710-173010.jpg

At about 2:00 in the afternoon we crossed the bridge from La Crosse, WI, to La Crescent, MN. That’s right, we are in the Motherland. It’s hard to believe after passing through so many states.

The state of MN has a great system of bike trails and services. After a 70+ mile ride (we went off the trail to purchase some food) we found the “bikers camp” on Hwy 61. This is a special five site camp just for bike campers. It’s self-service which means you register and pay on your own. We setup camp and had dinner.

I had put Joshua in charge of buying groceries. I am not sure I will repeat this. He purchased eight very thick hot dogs, buns, and had a handful of ketchup packets from McDonalds. Now, it was food, and I was hungry, but I am not sure I have ever seen hotdog meat so utterly processed and so utterly thick. I sliced mine into halves and had “two for the price of one.” With young men it’s all about the volume. No onions, mustard, or other complicating factors. I guess that keeps the weight down!

Day 22 – In and out of the valley

Day 22 – In and out of the valley

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, a runny nose, and swollen eyes. My chest hurts deep down when I breathe. The little bag of wonder drugs that has ridden along this past month finally came out and we started from Nelson Dewey State Park at about 7:45 which is pretty late for us.

20120708-174457.jpg

The day started rather rudely with a 400 foot climb out of the river valley up onto the bluff. Oh, and then back down again, and then up again. We had planned a short day today and it turns out that this was providence as the ride was tougher than we had anticipated.

20120708-174626.jpg

We are beginning to feel the anticipating of finishing. We are still some days off but when we look at the map it’s pretty amazing how far we have come. I think there will be a real sense of accomplishment when we finally show up.

Tonight is laundry at a hotel night! YAY! As you go further north you find that hotels are a bit more expensive so this really feels like we are splurging.

We decided we needed a calorie bomb so we treated ourselves to Wisconsin’s version of California’s In’n Out Burger: Culvers. I think I had about a 4,000 calorie burger, followed up a by frozen custard (and the cheese curds were great). I am not going to tell you what the boys ate – let’s just say we ate a lot. I think I have lost about 15 pounds, but that’s just a guess.

20120708-175211.jpg

Day 21 – Cheeseheads

Day 21 – Cheeseheads

This morning we got up in Cascade, IA, with plans to enter Wisconsin. Of all the days on the bike thus far, today was certainly our most “athletic.” We climbed to our highest overall altitude, 1,225 feet, but we gained and lost that altitude numerous times. So we did a LOT of climbing. This was the first day where we didn’t walk the bikes much – we just went down into the “granny gears” and went forth.

20120708-174007.jpg

We passed through Dyersville, IA, today, passed by the film site for “Field of Dreams,” and had lunch while we were there.

20120708-174055.jpg

From there we headed further north and that’s when the “big climbs” came. One after another, climbing, climbing, only to drop a few hundred feet and climb again. Finally, we headed down the hill for good and dropped 550 feet in one long, incredible downhill. It was pretty epic.

We got onto a dirt road and met the “Cassville Ferry.” This is a car ferry which can hold about eight to ten cars. Only two made the trip with us. It was hot, but it was very nice to sit and watch the whole process from a relaxed (non-pedaling) perch.

20120708-174142.jpg

20120708-174219.jpg

In Cassville we stopped for a burger at the “Town Pump.” They had cards and a cribbage board, so I got one more chance to teach David who the boss is.

As we pedaled through the town we came across the community pool. Since it was early in the day and we had only three miles left in the day we decided to take a swim for a few hours. It’s always interested when word filters out that we are biking from New Orleans to Minneapolis – people have lots of questions.

Tonight we are in Nelson Dewey State Park, up on top of a bluff, overlooking the Mississippi from the Wisconsin side of the river. That means we have only one more state to put behind us. We are looking at being done in 6-7 days at the pace we are going.

20120708-174305.jpg

PS No “mechanicals” today.

Day 20 – Momma said there would be days like this

Day 20 – Momma said there would be days like this

Today was, for me, the hardest day on the bike. We got a late start (the hotel we stayed in last night served a later breakfast than most) and weren’t on the road until about 7:30. Right off the bat we started hitting the hills.

Most folks think of Iowa as a very flat place and I am sure it is in places. We started today at about 300 feet in elevation and almost broke 1,000 about three times. There are not mountains here but the farmland is rolling and the climbs sometimes lasted 30 minutes or more. We would climb a few hundred feet and the drop into a valley only to have to regain all that altitude. Some of the climbs were more than a mile in length – we didn’t expect it!

20120706-193808.jpg

I should have taken pictures of the climbs but didn’t – I was too whupped to whip out the camera.

The heat index today in Tipton, where we arrived for lunch at Caseys, was 116 degrees. We ordered a pizza and ate it while sitting on the hot cement in front of the gas station.

20120706-194310.jpg

A “mechanical” is what bike tourers call a mechanical breakdown. Today we had five of these and there was no shade available to hide under. We had two broken spokes (Josh and I), two flat tires (Josh and I), and “the weak one” had a strange rear axle seize up. We had to remove the hubs to fix the spokes and I think I messed up the axle when I did that. In any case, I had to remove all the guts and rebuild the bearing clusters – thank God for spare parts once again! Pray that these bikes make it. After the tour I will be posting my thoughts on using rebuilt mountain bikes for touring.

At one point I snapped at Dave and Josh in anger – there was no call for it and I was very shamed by my behavior. Tempers were short all around and we were working hard all day. It was just plain tough.

We arrived at Riverview Ridge Campground and found a wonderful little river which we all enjoyed. We let the water run over our aching muscles and spent the time talking about the day and recalibrating our relationships. It was a wonderful memory that I would not trade for anything. In years to come we might forget the hard day of work on the bike but we won’t forget the fun of lounging in the babbling water as we sifted rocks and watched birds and fish go by. The picture below is the view form our picnic table at the campsite.

20120706-195556.jpg

The good news is that we logged 76 miles. We cut straight north from Muscatine, leaving the Mississippi River Trail for two days, which will save us one entire day on the trip (not to mention the hills around Dubuque). While the day was hot and hard, Iowa is beautiful and lush with agricultural riches.

Tomorrow we are planning a shorter ride and a ferry across the Mississippi. If all goes according to plan we will cross into Wisconsin sometime in the afternoon.

Day 19 – Fast Blast to Muscatine

Day 19 – Fast Blast to Muscatine

We took off this morning after a nice hotel breakfast (waffles!) and hit the road at 6:30 AM. We generally fall asleep a bit earlier than we do in our “civilian life” and we were plenty rested after the shorter day yesterday.

As we climbed out of Burlington on our way to Muscatine David spotted a wallet on the road. Inside was the license, credit cards, social security card, and other items. We stopped to call the police and waited a few minutes for them to show up. An older gentleman riding a recumbent bicycle and pulling a trailer passed us by. We would meet up with him later on in the day at a water break.

20120705-181426.jpg

We cut inland a bit today, avoiding the official Mississippi River Trail and cutting some time considering the heat. The heat index rose to about 115 degrees this afternoon.

20120705-181555.jpg

It was the flattest day of biking yet. Up until our mid-morning break the road was excellent with a dedicated shoulder and smooth surface. We pulled into a gas station for water and a quick snack at about 10:00 AM. When we got back out to the bikes, Joshua’s had a flat. That makes about 6-7 flats and all but two of them on the same bike.

This picture if from from Muscatine, where we waited for the train a few times this afternoon.

20120705-183658.jpg

Dave and Josh are very different traveling companions. Josh is slow and steady, never complaining despite having to ride the “weak one” each day (I rode it for a while, but it’s smaller and fits him better than mine does). David, on the other hand, likes speed and is rather hard to follow at times. He is always great to put up front when we need a little extra speed. In the picture below you can see how happy they were when we made to our air conditioned hotel this afternoon.

20120705-184035.jpg

Day 18 – Happy Hot 4th from IOWA!

Day 18 – Happy Hot 4th from IOWA!

This morning we woke up a bit later than usual knowing that we were doing to take a shorter ride. The humidity had picked up overnight and I was sweating before we had our morning oatmeal.

Today’s route took up past Nauvoo, IL, where there is a lot of Mormon history. We passed the large Mormon temple as we climbed uphill.

20120704-180806.jpg

There was much more riding alongside the river today. It was beautiful, but a bit hilly in places. The image below is just before getting to Nauvoo.

20120704-180904.jpg

We crossed over into Iowa on a drawbridge across the Mississippi. We decided that it was time for “second breakfast” and found a small diner called “Wallyburgers.” They were ready to make hamburgers at 10:00 AM – that’s my kind of place.

20120704-181307.jpg

Tonight finds us in the Quality Inn, at Burlington, IA. This is the first Quality Inn we have found that has no washer and dryer, so we haven’t been able to do any washing. We had dinner at a Chinese buffet to celebrate American Independence (kind of ironic, considering they now own us) and are going to watch a movie tonight.

The “weak one” had a flat tire today.

Tomorrow’s heat index is anticipated to hit 115 degrees. That is dangerously hot for us. I am considering another hotel tomorrow night. Our plan was to camp cheaply and these hotel stays are killing the budget. Oh well – not much else we can do at this point.

Today’s Mileage: 39
Total Mileage: 939