Day 38, July 11:  Sebree to Falls of Rough, KY, Rough River Lodge

We left the Sebree First Babtist Church well rested and fed and thoroughly enjoyed meeting such  wonderful people.  Thank you Violet to help make it all come together.  

We ate breakfast at the Sebree Dairy Mart.  It got an “A” for sanitation. 

Nice meal, but ever since we left California, every state we’ve biked through allows smoking in their restaurants.  This one was really smoky and felt “good” to get some heavy secondary smoke in before today’s ride. 

Just as the secondary smoke was clearing from our lungs, we saw “clean” coal power plant smoke stacks. 

We met 70 year old Art Knapp who was riding from the West to the East from Astoria, OR to Yorktown with no panniers as his wife was following him in an RV.  He said it was his dream to do this for 25 years and his wife, Nancy,  agreed to drive the RV as his present.  Art takes off uphill without panniers. 

Our first broadleaf tobacco fields. 

We got bananas at Doolin’s, but were bummed to miss the catfish and frog leg fry. 

A house along the way

Mark likes this fixer upper

A herd of cows runs along with us. 

Ever since we started the ride on June 4th thousands of cattle have watched us bike by.  About a 1/4 mile before we approach a herd about 80% watch our every move.  Their heads slowly turn as we ride by until we disappear.  Sometimes the herd will all at once run along the fence next to us.  They seem eerily to be watching us on some sort of higher level.  Not sure if this is why in some cultures cows are sacred.  

The owner of the gas station where we had lunch caught this catfish. No noodling here. He caught it on a rod. 

When I smoke pipe tobacco I like to mix the red with the blue.  I’ll try the gold with breakfast tomorrow….

Mark picked up a hitch hiker…

We bumped into Art again and met his wife.  We had no idea the RV was a private coach.  A hay truck hit her with a bale of hay earlier and she was a bit frazzled.  I can’t imagine driving a machine like that on these roads.  They are already talking about another trip and looking for like minded people and what a coincidence to meet people interested in biking who are also biking across the country….

Our destination: Rough River Dam State Resort Park.  Time for a swim after 70 miles of too much heat and humidity. 

I thought I’d walk the 1/4 mile to the beach bare footed.  I did and found out after 38 days of biking without much walking you develop serious city boy feet that are really sensitive.  I got blisters on the bottom of my feet.  That’s a serious biker tan.  

Day 37, July 10:  Elizabethtown, IL to Sebree, KY

We left the historic Rose Hotel after gorging on fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, toast, OJ and coffee.   Well fueled for our trip to Sebree and ferry across the Ohio River.  

Departing from the Rose Hotel

Just outside of Elizabethtown, a bike friendly home…

Where you catch the ferry to cross the Ohio River in Cave-In-Rock, IL.  A bike friendly town. 

On the way to the old pirate cave

About 100 yards into the cave.   Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer would have liked it here. 

Nice and cool in here

Waiting for the ferry

Welcome to Kentucky!

Excellent lunch in Clay at Jeri’s

We are staying at the First Baptist Church in Sebree tonight. The former Preacher’s wife, Violet, invited us to her house when we arrived and gave us iced tea and watermelon while she played cards with the new preacher’s 5 year old son.   tshe went through her freezer and refrigerator and gave us fresh peaches, frozen lazagna, frozen peach cobbler and garlic bread.  We then walked across the street to the church and more bikers were there. She went back to get more food for them.  Violet is one of the nicest people ever.  So sweet and loving.  She notice that I only had a silk sleeping liner and went back to get me sheets, pillow and a quilt.  

Outside Violet’s house after iced tea and cold watermelon.  She thought I looked really tired and told me she was going to make sure I had plenty of healthy food and a good night’s sleep.  

At the Church were three New Zealand guys in their mid 20s, one American in his 40s on a recombent bike and a New Zealand  couple, Gerard and Lynn in their 60s who have biked amongst other trips the entire west Coast of North, Central and South America; circumnavigated Australia which took them  6 years and and over 45,000 miles.   All going west to Astoria. 

Gerard and Lynn.  Lots of amazing cycling stories. 

A view of the church basement

Day 36, July 9, Carbondale to Elizabethtown, IL

Started off the day eating breakfast in our Super 8 Motel. We were on the road by 7:00 am.  It was cool for an hour and then the heat and humidity started to kick in. Went through a lovely forest in a state park for 20 miles called Devils Kitchen Lake.  Saw one car the entire time on a single lane paved road.  Also was nice to be in the shade of the trees.   What a difference that makes. 76 miles for the day.  

Devils Kitchen Lake


We stopped here for our lunch.  Ate and promptly fell asleep under the shade of this tree for a 30 minute power nap.  

Woke up and pedaled to our second lunch in Eddyville.  We really like eating and cooling off in the air conditioning and drinking massive amounts of water and ice tea and/or lemonade.  A good sandwich goes a long way.  

Another country.  

Cruising down to the Ohio River and Elizabethtown.  

Here’s the view from the Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown.  I love this hotel and town!  Right on the banks of the Ohio.   Very picturesque.  The Rose Hotel is the first and oldest hotel in Illinois.  The local managers (a family, just won the contract from the state to run the hotel) are so helpful and friendly.  60% of their business is from Cyclists. 

We spoke with a couple, Jan and Dwain, from Springfield, IL who recommended the outstanding catfish restaurant, E-Town River Restaurant.  They also love this area and filled us in on the local history and some of the sites to see in the area. Apparently this area during the Civil War and before made a lot of money capturing slaves in the Underground Railroad.  In ante-bellum Southern Illinois the Underground Railroad ran both ways. Both ran contrary to the law of the land, but while one was a righteous crusade, the other was for criminal profit.  Jan and Dwain invited us in the future to visit Springfield and the Lincoln Library.  

E-Town River Restaurant has the best fried catfish around.  In terms of fried fish if you know the Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville, Maine, the two get a tie for best fried fish.  Met a couple that was cruising their ketch from Mobile, Alabama to Cincinnati, OH.  Their cruise was taking them a lot longer than they thought because of the stiff current of the Ohio.  They can only make 60-80 miles per day. I told them they could try biking.  They smiled. 

Looking down river

The catfish disappeared 

The gazebo off of the Rose Hotel which is 50 feet above the Ohio was under water in the Spring of 2011!

Longtime guests at the hotel.  I hope they are not related to the dolls that we saw in the Prairie Doll Shop in Colorado.  

The night life in Elizabethtown 

Nice gardens

A large red harvest moon rose over the island across from us.  Unfortunately the iPhone photo didn’t show the color. 

Day 35, July 8: Farmington, MO to Carbondale, IL

We crossed the mighty Mississippi today and rode along the levee system in Illinois. 

96.2 miles

Some kind rolling hills in Eastern Missouri

Nice shade trees approaching the Mississippi 

A frequent view for the last 35 days…

Cheap corn. The owner of the store gave us some fresh blackberries she had just picked for her pie

Getting closer to the Mississippi.  We are on the levee system in Missouri. 

Chester is the home of the famous sailor, Popeye and lots of churches. 

Mark’s protection from the vicious Kentucky dogs we’ve been hearing for weeks now.     Note stick and fog horn that we got in Walmart back in Pittsburg, KS.  Hope we don’t have to use either.  So far saying no loudly and pedaling faster has worked. 

Mike’s security is a bit different.  Fog horn first and then pepper spray if not deterred. 

Biking along the banks of the Mississippi.  Since it was Saturday, there was hardly any traffic.  If it was a week day there would have been an endless line of gigantic trucks delivering coal to waiting barges.  We were glad to miss those.  

We waited for a freight train to get on the levee system in Illinois.  At first it looked like 30 miles of loose gravel, but the road was paved for the majority of the route. 

Lots of corn on either side of the levee 

An almost completely autonomous coal offloading and onloading facility for trains and barges.   In the last photo the trains go into the shack, the coal comes out the bottom of the car and a side engine advances the rail cars automatically one by one.  

We met Steven Blackwell, 18, just graduated from high school  is averaging 120 miles per day.  Is planning on making the trip in 35 days.  His parents and grandmother are supporting him in a sag wagon.  The mother ship gave us Gatorade and several bottles of water.  

Mark digs deep on the levee after refreshments. 

Our late lunch stop:   Bottoms Up Bar and Grill.  It was a well deserved break from the heat.  We were beginning to eat our lunch under a shade tree that we spotted for a mile or so and a guy and his son came up to us on his four wheeler and said if you go another 100 ft to the right at the intersection you can eat in my restaurant. 

Shade is sweet

We passed two bike shops in Carbondale and I asked Mark if he needed anything.  As soon as I said that I got my second flat.  A sharp mini steel arrowhead punctured my rear tire and Dave from the Phoenix Cycles fixed me up. 

Day 34, July 7: Ellington to Farmington, MO

Started out the day with a brief walk to the Vintage Market Cafe.  Anyone in the know in Ellington’ s population of 974 eats here.  There were several people in the cafe and as we were in our biking attire, the questions started pouring in.  What route are you on?  Going East or West?  We’re following Highway N mostly.   Those hills are a killer and should be illegal to drive on.  The good ol’ boys and gals told us not to follow our map and take Highway 21 all the way to Pilot Knob to avoid the step roller coaster hills with no shoulder on the road.  

Our mentors:  Dorothy and Janice and the rest of the gang. 

We took their advice and while we had good climbs, Highway 21 didn’t exceed a 10% grade and we actually followed a couple of rivers for a stretch as well as railroad tracks.    It was a most pleasant ride.  We ended up on a slightly longer route, but weren’t totally spent.  I think (I have no idea) if the highways are numbered in Missouri there are certain state requirements such as no grades to exceed 10% (which is still plenty steep) vs an alphabetic highway which was built the cheapest way possible and straight up and down.  

Downtown Ellington

Not sure what they meant by wide shoulder, but we’re sure Highway N was worse and probably a more narrow road. 

The Ozark Hills.  Beware: looks are deceiving 

For lunch we stopped at Rubles Meat Market — some of the finest rubbed barbecue around.  By the time I arrived, Mark had arranged for a sampling of the wings which were outrageous.  Then we went on a tour with the former owner and the new owner, Keith.  

Slow cooking the hogs. They roast over 40 a week in addition to beef and clicken. 

Mark and the former owner with all the barbecue secrets 

No, that’s not one of the bikers from yesterday. 

I wanted to ship some of these home, but they don’t ship.  People come from hundreds of miles for their products. 

If your thinking of a stocking stuffer…

A few wings for lunch


At Pilot Knob

The sunset outside of our Holiday Inn Express…

Crossing the Mississippi River tomorrow!

Day 33, July 6: Houston to Ellington, MO

Well the unrelenting steep Ozark hills (combined with too much mileage) got the best of us today.  We had to call it short today, so we ended up staying in Ellington, a total of 70 miles.  After 33 days we missed our goal of Pilot Knob for tonight.  So, we’ll be one day behind our official schedule going forward.  We’ll try and make up the distance. 

The steep grades here in Missouri are simply sick.  We even dread going down hill as the next 15% grade uphill is just around the corner.  

The grades, high humidity, and 90+ temps are Guinness Book of World Records material for sweat production.  

Mark snapped this photo of butterflies at one of our recovery breaks 

Mark’s friend, Jay Turner, who lives in Newton, MA and works in St. Louis at Wash U drove down from St. Louis to have dinner with us.  It was so nice of him to make the 2.5 hour drive and so much fun.  We had a St. Louis beers with him after dinner. 

Dinner with Jay at Checos Mexican restaurant. 

Will supplement this blog later

Day 32, July 5: Running Spring Farm, Everton to Houston, MO

The Boston Globe just ran a piece on our cross country journey.  Check it out at:

Also if you have not already given to the Alzheimer’s Association at: 


To Bikes Not Bombs at:

Please consider doing so.  

Well we were supposed to go 104 miles today, but I miscalculated the route and we went a bit further than expected.  My phone went dead and both of our GPS units retired early.  Ended up going about 121 miles.  The good news is that we had a tailwind and although we had a long way to go, it could have been worse.  The road gave me my first flat tire at 2,369 miles.  Took out a couple of thorns from my back tire and also pulled out a sharp tiny wire that was the culprit — probably from someone driving on their worn steel belted radials (make unknown) way beyond their expected life.  

The day started out misty and quite humid.  We were lucky in that it seemed it had rained quite hard in front of us all day.  The temps were generally in the range of 68 to 80 with high humidity and the sun was behind clouds most of the day.   The high humidity made for ideal sweat conditions chugging up those hills (described below), so we were drenched all day.  

The Ozark terrain consisted of an almost endless series of steep climbs and decently ranging in height from 100 to 400 ft all day.  It was like being on a rollercoaster.  The secret was to figure out the correct cycling rhythm in order to attempt to make it up to the top of the frequent 15% grades near summits before running out of speed and having to grind out the last 1/4 mile in our lowest gear to make it to the top.  What this meant for us was to pedal as fast as we could down hill and go through all of the gears and hopefully make it up at least 50% of the way up to the next hill before chugging up the remainder of the hill in our lowest gear.  However, you don’t  want to use up all of your energy going down hill as the last part of the up hill is the toughest and steepest and if you become too exhausted at the top you may not have enough mustard to pedal down hill to make it up the next hill.  It is a great feeling when you blast down one hill and have just enough momentum to get you to the top of the next hill.  

The Ozark hills varied in grade between about 6 and 15%. Our total ascent for the day was 7,815 feet for the day.  Basically, we climbed a lot of steep hills.  

We met quite a few bikers mostly going West on the TransAmerica Route.  Seven miles past Walnut Grove, we stopped to get some Gatorade and sandwiches made in a local store for lunch and we met Mike T. from Virginia who was biking from Astoria, OR to Yorktown as well. We biked with him for a while and at one point in one of the larger towns (Marshfield) at about mile 58 we pulled over at the Uptown Cafe and he decided to stay in Marshfield. He said the next town was too far.   We thought we could make it, but weren’t fully cognizant of our miscalculation at the time or maybe more correctly I wasn’t.  Hopefully we’ll see Mike again.  He’s quite the guy.  At 29 he’s completed the Appalachian Trail twice; once from the South and once from the North. 

Anyway, the Ozarks are incredibly beautiful. They remind me of Vermont but without the steeper mountains.  I was planning on describing them more, but my bed time is approaching…

Breakfast at the Copper Grill in Ash Grove, 11 miles East of Running Spring Farm. We met Jonathan here who was biking from Rhode Island to Astoria, OR.  He stayed at a local hostel supported by the town of Ash Grove.  Many of the towns along the bike route have free hostels supported by the towns in the area.  

Endless steep rolling hills

Rosene did her special magic with our  sandwiches 

More turtle rescue operations.  Mike from Virginia helped with this one. 

Yes, it is a flat.  At first I thought my wheel was loose. 

The culprit – a very sharp wire from a steel belted radial tire. 

Almost to Houston or so we thought…

More to come later…

Day 31, July 4: Pittsburgh, KS to Running Spring Farm, Everton, MO

Lots of rain today.  Took an easy morning Hoping for the rain to subside.  we finally left the hotel, picked up some sandwiches at Subway  and pedaled through Pittsburgh.  Past a coffee shop with some bikers that waved to us. Biked a few more blocks and decided to get some decent coffee and talk to the bikers.  Howard and Victoria  were from Melbourne, Australia. Had a nice chat with them and they told us about their dog strategy for Kentucky.  This is what everyone talks about. Before the coffee shop we picked up some fog horns at Walmart.  Need to get some pepper spray. 

Rain delayed start

Victoria and Howard

As for the ride, once we got going at close to 11:30 am we had ferocious headwinds and congratulated a few people going west with their strong tailwind.  

Another state.  We’re not in Kansas anymore. 

Ken and Joan from Mentor, OH. Going from Yorktown, VAc to Portland, OR

Born on the 4th of July.  Mark actually saw the birth. 

We started out in our rain gear, but quickly took that off as the rain turned to a light drizzle and it was just too hot to wear the rain gear.  Later in the day, I put the rain gear for short periods to warm up.  More to come on this blog

Day 30, July 3: Hesston to Pittsburgh, KS

123 miles!   Our longest day of the trip (hopefully).  The headwinds weren’t too bad.  The terrain consisted of broad rolling hills of grass and occasional fields of corn and soybean. Just outside of Girard, 14.5 miles west of Pittsburgh, we started getting shade from trees again. What a difference that makes.  

Our morning view of the prairie.  Our elevation is down to about 900 ft.  It seems so wasteful to lose all of the elevation as the Ozarks and Appalachians are coming up.  

I’d like more than 3 ft., especially from the large trucks, but the vast majority of drivers are very friendly and respectful. 

Serious beef country

Shipped this Lizard Lips T-shirt home.  The owner prepares delicious food for bikers for those in the know on the “TransAmerica Route.” We didn’t partake as we had a power breakfast in Hesston. When the owner bought the restaurant 20 years earlier, there were lizards covering the basement floor, thus the name.  The owner’s sister just died. She said we helped cheer her up. 
Mark finally followed the Yellow Brick Road. 

60 miles to lunch is the goal

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  One of my favorite birds on the trip.  Most prevalent in Southwestern and Central Kansas. They can hover and dart all about.    There are a lot of other birds I’d never seen before that were also very beautiful. 

An armadillo.  Armadillos were not present in Kansas ten years ago, but now they are halfway up Kansas as a consequence of global warming.  It seems as if one could do a study on roadkill, bird species and invasive species along our bike route for indications of species migration over time.  The top roadkill species in Kansas are armadillos, turtles, snakes, raccoons, opossums.

We were able to locate the wicked witches from the East and West after lunch in a Subway in Chanute. We liked the 55 degree air conditioning at first because it cooled us down and then we froze and were ready to face the heat again. 

A Lutheran church on the way to Girard

Mark powers into Girard. 

I didn’t know “noodling” was such a popular sport in Southeastern Kansas. The fisherman who owns this ranch likes to put the heads of his prized catches on his fence posts.  In case you didn’t know, “noodling” is when you stick your arm in a hole in the side of a river and hopefully a huge catfish is in the hole or cave and bites down on your arm. You then yank your arm out and hopefully you have a whopper of a fish!

100 miles down and 20 or so more to go

Trees again!

Purple Prairie Gay Feather 

Happy Birthday America

A special thanks to Roger Lomshek whose bike shop (Tailwind Cyclists) was closed in Pittsburgh, but offered to open it for is. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to connect as he is involved with a July 4th parade in the morning. 

Day 29, July 2: Hesston to Eureka, KS 

We got to Eureka!   87 miles. Needed a quick power nap before a dip in the pool at the Blue Stem Lodge.  The intent was to start the blog, but I didn’t get too far.  Note the iPhone in my hand…

Gas is cheap in Kansas

Breakfast at Sonic – the only place open with food at 6:00 am

44 oz of coffee is nothing but trouble…

Hesston is waking up. 

Newton, Kansas High School

High speed freight rail here

Many of our motorcycle friends past us today. Where are they going?

Another turtle

Early morning cowboys out on the plains

Most of the landscape has shifted to grass with a few cattle and occasional horse farm on broad rolling hills. 

We arrived in Cassody for lunch at 50 miles.  

Little did we know that the first Sunday of every month in Cassody bikers from hundreds of miles away come to listen to music, eat barbecue or buy a do rag. 

Our accomodations in Eureka, Blue Stem Lodge. 

Will finish this in the next few days.  Big day tomorrow.  Pittsburgh, KS 119.5 miles.