A couple of years ago, I wrote about planning a bike ride from Cape to New Madrid to check out geologic features associated with the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-12.
My story caught the eye of bicycle tourist and blogger, John Gorentz. John, AKA Spokesrider, does a blog that’s on my daily must-read list. Here’s his self-description: The Spokesrider lives in southwest Michigan. He goes on bicycling expeditions to places where he can say, “Black Hawk Slept Here.” But that phrase gets interpreted very broadly. Almost any excuse to ride to a place of settlement-era history will do.”
After he started reading this blog, he became intrigued with the idea of riding his bike from his home in Battle Creek, MI, through Cape and down to New Madrid, where he would look for evidence of the big quake.
Spokesriders at Broadway Books & Roasting
John called from Broadway Books and Roasting, a coffee shop at 605 Broadway, to say that he and his wife Myra had made it to Cape. I told him to stay put.
John had written in his blog that his last leg, which put him into the Anna area, was “probably the most difficult one I have ever had going into the wind,” so he was looking for a rest day. I volunteered to play tour guide.
First stop: The Southeast Missourian
Common Pleas Courthouse
Along the riverfront
Of course, we stopped at the Mississippi River, where they marveled at the lines marking the height of the river over the years. Myra had grown up at the headwaters of the Mississippi, but our river is nothing like the small stream at its origin. (I did warn him that he was standing in the middle of real, live railroad tracks.)
Mississippi River Bridge
We compared notes about bridges we’ve ridden over, and I lamented that I had never ridden over the old bridge because of the bad condition of the expansion joints. That led us to the overlook at the site of the old bridge, where we watched half a dozen women fill up buckets with pecans that had blown off the River Campus trees the night before. I’m surprised the university hasn’t used that as a revenue source.
John was fascinated by the idea that the Mississippi River used to flow down the lowlands through Advance and Arkansas, with the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers being as far south as Natchez, MS, instead of Cairo, IL.
Thebes Gap and the Thebes Courthouse
That prompted him to say, “I’ve always wondered about the Thebes Gap…” Off we went to Thebes, where we inspected the railroad bridge and the Thebes Courthouse. Myra scared up a rattlesnake that disappeared into a gap in the foundation.
Ohio River at Cairo
John and Myra had read an account I had run across about a pair of college girls who took to the road on bikes in 1944 to see the country. At one point in their saga, the girls signed onto riverboat in Cairo. Since we were already in Thebes, our next stop was Cairo, so they could see what the river was like there.
I told them that I was glad I had documented much of what Cairo looked like while there was still a Cairo. “Three whole blocks of buildings I shot less than a year ago are gone today,” I explained.
You can’t get any more south in Illinois than Fort Defiance, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet at the tip of the state. Two fishermen were fishing for bass right where the waters mingle. The Ohio is on the left, being held back by the slightly higher waters of the Mississippi on the right.
Schindler’s Tavern and Bologna Burgers
John and I discussed how he was going to get from Cape to New Madrid. His maps had him routed on the Mississippi River Trail down 74 to 25 at Dutchtown, then south to Chaffee on 77, where he would pick up State Highway A through New Hamburg and onto Highway 61 north of Benton.
“I’m not crazy about that route” I said. “Mother and I made a pilgrimage to Schindler’s Tavern in New Hamburg the other afternoon to try their famous Bologna Burgers. I commented then that it would be a fun road to ride if there was no traffic, but I didn’t like the fact that the sight lines were bad. If someone popped over a hill or around curve, they wouldn’t see you until the last second or after they heard the thud.”
I showed him the roads and we decided that it might not be as bad as I thought. If you picked a time of day when commuters weren’t trying to get to school or work, it might be okay, particularly since this is harvest season and people might be extra careful because of farm machinery on the road.
Nash Rd was an alternative
Since John is used to riding on gravel roads, I suggested that he could go south on 25 out of Dutchtown until just past the new Bloymeyer roundabout, where he could catch Nash Rd. east. From there, he could tie in with State Highway M and jump onto Highway 61 at Scott City.
It looked like that would save him some miles and time and keep him off the hilly and twisty Highway A. I’m waiting to read his ride report to see if thinks he would rather have stopped for a Bologna Burger.
Since we were out west, we ended up at the Gordonville Grill for dinner. John and I asked our waitress, Sam, to show us that the catfish we ordered truly were “famous” like the menu said. When she kept telling us that the printer was slow and that she’d have to mail us the proof, I handed her a CapeCentralHigh.com business card. She reached into her order pad and said, “I already have one from one of your other visits.”
“You must have read the review I did on the Grill, then. Did I tell any lies?” I asked her.
“You could have mentioned that the waitresses were cute,” she said.
For the record, Sam, a junior at SEMO, who has been working at the restaurant for 2-1/2 years, is cute, friendly, a good sport and kept our drink glasses filled. She has not, however, proven that our catfish were “famous.”
[Note to the Chamber of Commerce types: John and Myra Gorentz were two visitors to Cape Girardeau who came to town from Michigan because of stories they had read on PalmBeachBikeTours and CapeCentralHigh.]
SPOKESRIDER UPDATE SPOKESRIDER UPDATE
You’ve read my version of Mr. and Mrs. Spokesriders’ visit to the Cape area here. John has written his impressions on his blog.
(I should set this in red type because I’m blushing from all the nice things he said.)