Mr. & Mrs. Spokesrider Visit Cape

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.

The New Madrid Fault Finders Guide

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

I pointed out The Southeast Missourian building on our way to the riverfront. “That’s where you used to work, right? I want to get a photo of you there.” I agreed to, only if he let me shoot him.

Common Pleas Courthouse

While we were parked next to The Missourian, we strolled over to the Common Pleas Courthouse, where he shot some pictures of downtown.

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.

We stopped at Fort D, cruised down past what used to be Smelterville, then stopped for them to look at the cement plant quarry.

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.

Fort Defiance

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.

Gordonville Grill

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 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.]


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.)

16 Replies to “Mr. & Mrs. Spokesrider Visit Cape”

  1. I enjoyed the pictures and the account of each pictures. Since I have been away from Cape for some years, it is nice to see some of the places that bring back memories! Thank You!

  2. What a great story and how kind of you and your wife to show this couple around our area. Bless you guys!

    1. Wife Lila dodged the bullet on this one. She flew back to West Palm Beach earlier in the week to see if the house was still there, if there were cat skeletons on the front porch and to go to work.

      She learned after the last trips back to Cape that I always end up staying a couple of weeks past our planned departure time, so she bought a return plane ticket in advance.

      It’s always great when you meet virtual friends like John and Myra in the Real World. I’ve known John for years from his postings on bike touring lists and from his blog. We’ve exchanged emails, but assumed that we’d never meet in person.

      Since I didn’t know what he looked like, there was a little confusion when I pulled up at Broadway Books & Roasting. There was a man and a woman with a bike standing next to them on the porch.

      “John?” I asked quizzically, since he looked much younger than I would have expected.

      “Nope, not John,” he answered.

      “That’s too bad,” I said, as I walked past him. “I owe John some money and I came to pay off.”

  3. I have made the trip down old 61 highway many times through New Madrid since my “Bride” of 61 years lived in Marston, just south of Naw Madrid and still enjoy traveling that route once in awhile for old memories sake, and still love it.Those trips to see my future bride were before I-55 was built.

    1. When we were motoring down S. Sprigg past the SEMO Stone quarry, I told John that he was making his trip about 50 years too late.

      If he had been here 50 years ago, I could have taken him into the Viaduct for a piece of pie, then he would have been able to turn left at the stop sign and go straight down Highway 61 instead of having to go west to Dutchtown to go south.

      The Interstate is great for cars, but it plays havoc with bike travelers. Mark Boyd, another cycling virtual friend of mine opted to ride the shoulder on I-55 from Cape to Scott City, figuring the time saving was worth the chance of getting stopped.

      Out west there aren’t any reasonable alternatives, bikes are allowed to ride the Interstate. (I’d almost make that same argument for Cape / Sikeston.)

      Cyclists don’t like Interstates because they’re boring, the constant noise of high-speed traffic is maddening and because they get lots of flats from the small wires that break off truck steel-belted tires.

  4. Janet, you’re right. It was very good of Ken to do that. And it was good of his family to let him do it.

    Ken, I made it to benton just now, where I had a hot dog and fried pickles. We stayed in Cape G last night out on the west end of town. So I took a different route out of town, but did use that gravel shortcut you found for me. Very nice riding and scenery today.

    I’ll post the exact route later. Thanks again for everything, including the nice article.

    1. John, if you didn’t recognize her name from an earlier post, Janet is the Cape County Recorder of Deeds.

      When you do something good or bad, she writes in down in your permanent record.

      You want to stay on the right side of her, St. Peter and Santa Claus.

  5. Ken,

    I finished the ride just after sunset, limping into New Madrid on a back tire that needed air every couple of miles. Unless I discover a math mistake somewhere, it amounted to a ride of 655 miles. There were 11 days of riding and two rest days, including that very enjoyable one with you in Cape Girardeau. And you are absolutely right about your blog bringing us here. The idea of Cape Girardeau and New Madrid as a vacation destination would never have occurred to us if it hadn’t been for the fascinating photos and writeups you’ve put here. Now we’ll do a couple more days of sightseeing, probably without getting the bicycle involved.

  6. I enjoyed your article and the great photo,s. Cape is a great place to visit and explore.
    I noticed your notation of Thebes in Southern, Illinois.
    We just had a great second annual Tour de Shawnee starting from Olive Branch east of Thebes and we would love to have you consider joining us next year.


  7. Ken,

    The invitation is always open, but the fact that you and your life partner have enjoyed this area means a lot!
    My husband and I came down here from Waukesha, County Wisconsin in 1978. This has been HOME ever since that time.
    One piece of information I would like to share, the Illinois govenor Quinn did get a “Move To The Left” law passed. It means that Illinois drivers when approaching bicycle riders from the rear must move to the left, just as they must for emergency vehicles etc.

    Cheers from Karnak Illinois
    Tunnel Hill Bicycle trail.

    1. Wife Lila and I grew up in Cape, so it’s always been home to us. In the last year or so, she’s enjoyed connecting with friends she hasn’t seen since high school days.

      When her first Social Security checks started coming in, she decided to earmark them for trips back to Cape. She flies in for quick visits every couple of months. I come less frequently and stay for several weeks at a time.

      Glad to hear about the Move to the Left Law. I hope it works better than the law in FL that gives us three feet. Overall, though, I’ve found drivers around here to be much more civilized than Florida drivers.

  8. Ken,
    You missed a very INTERESTING store, gas station and DELICIOUS eating establishment just across the street from Schlindler’s Tavern called KERN’S GROCERY & GAS STATION ( I think ). Anyway, the gas pumps work even tho’ they don’t appear to and inside, the grocery shelves seem to be stocked with some of the oldest merchandise in Missouri! BUT, further back past the groceries and meat case is a buffet of some of the MOST DELICIOUS FOOD you’ll ever put into your mouth!!! I also got a kick out of Mr. Kern who sometimes leaves a pile of money at the front counter for people to make their OWN CHANGE to pay for their lunch! He’s quite a character. His son is a good friend of ours which is how we became acquainted with the place. STOP BY THE NEXT TIME YOU’RE DOWN THAT WAY. YOU WON’T REGRET IT!

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