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   A family bike trip  
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Trip Statistics
Trip Narrative


July 17 :   St. Peter to the Sakatah Trail in Elysian, MN ~25 miles :

Our goal: Let's get started even though it is already evening.  We set up camp (in the dark) along the Sakatah Trail .

Ready to roll!
July 18 :  Elysian to Cathy and Dan's house in Austin, MN ~70 miles

The challenges began:  looking for Faith's orthodontic retainer, flat tires, a broken spoke, and the race to the bike shop in Austin before it closed-just a few bumps on the eventful road still mostly before us!

The last (wondefully flat) stretch into Austin we were flying along on a paved highway shoulder, at least until we began dropping - Laura's only flat of the trip occurred just outside town and Halla had a flat a few minutes later.  Because the bike shop was about to close, Cathy came and "sagged" the two bikes in need of repair, and Laura warned the bike shop employees that more riders were on the way. We replenished our parts supply and enjoyed a good meal and a good night's sleep in real beds!

Time to get up and ride to Austin!


July 19:  To Charles City, IA  ~63 miles

After worship at Our Savior in Austin, a gentle tailwind pushed us south out of Austin.  Halla remarked:  "You know, my friends think biking ten miles is a lot, but really it doesn't feel like anything at all." A few hours later, we were pushing our bikes along what was marked as a bike trail on the map, but which is really a horse trail.  One mile felt like a lot on that one!  Once we finally escaped, we rolled on to Charles City to camp at the R campground.

But the map said this was a bike trail...


July 20:  To George Wyth Memorial State Park in Waterloo/Cedar Falls, IA ~63 miles

The first stretch southward out of Charles City headed us into the wind.  It also produced some muttering about Iowa not being flat.  We were rewarded for our effort by stretches of paved trail on either side of Waverly (albeit with a stretch of gravel shoulder in between).  Our lunch break (most days an  extended siesta with a large meal and a respite from the hottest part of the day) included our only swimming stop on the trip.  Isaac, Faith and Halla spent time in the Waverly public pool and on its water slides while Laura and Jim cooked lunch.

During the night in George Wyth Memorial State Park, Jim woke to a sound of a bicycle kickstand snapping into place. Bicycle thieves?  No, food robbers!  When he investigated, he found that a raccoon had been busy shredding our food bag when it tripped the kickstand alarm.

The next morning we wished we had gotten up earlier, as it started to rain before we took the tent down.

Rain, rain, go away,  come again some other bike trip....


July 21:  To Urbana, IA, on the Cedar Valley Trail ~50 miles

Our plan to buy breakfast fixings was stymied by the rain and our inability to find a grocery store, so we stopped at the Balkan Cafe for breakfast. Since it was Faith's baptism anniversary, it turned into a celebration.  But the vegetarian guest of honor didn't try the house specialty, "chevapi", a fried bread dish filled with sausages--she had scrambled eggs instead.  Note the flowers. Faith had spent our first few days decorating her bike with flowers from the road side, so she was delighted to discover that Laura had picked these without her noticing.

Happy baptism day to you, Faith...

Well fortified, we set out to follow the Cedar Valley Trail.  Or try, at least.  Neither our maps nor the trail signs indicated that the trail bridge across the Cedar River had been out for two years.  We muddled around and found another bridge to cross the river and tried the trail again.  The rain stopped and we had smooth riding until we encountered more bridges out on the trail due to flooding two years ago.  The result was a hard 6 mile gravel detour near La Porte City.

From there on the trail was crushed limestone instead of pavement. Perhaps due to lack of use because of the bridge problem, the trail was actually grass in places.  The rain had softened it, too, so it was slow going.

We dragged ourselves into Urbana, IA, and decided to camp in a city park by the trail.  The police didn't answer when called for permission (an officer called our cell phone in response to our message a day later!) and the neighbors said we could move into their backyard if the police kicked us out.  Conveniently, we could put our tent up in the picnic shelter, thus avoiding more wet gear when it rained again during the night.  



July 22:  To  Tipton, IA, via Cedar Rapids ~68 miles

The day began with about 25 more miles of mushy trail, then we moved on to the paved trails of Cedar Rapids. We took a couple of hours to do laundry at a laundromat, find a bike shop for a needed pedal replacement for Laura's bike, and make lunch at a park along the trail.  We left the Cedar Valley Trail in downtown Cedar Rapids.  Halla tried to leave her big toe there, too, when she caught it on a curb.  Fortunately, it wasn't broken and she recovered quickly.

Our first few miles coming out of the big city was an intense traffic experience, and included some significant hills before we rolled on to Mt. Vernon and Lisbon.  We rode another 6 miles on gravel roads to avoid some heavy traffic on Highway 30.  We pedaled into Tipton as it got dark and treated ourselves to some ice cream while getting directions to the city park.

While we were on the phone negotiating with the local police about where we could camp (absolutely not in the city park--the neighbors complain too much!), a curious Murry Mente stopped to offer first his front yard and then his game room for a night's lodging.   Thank you to the Mente family for their kindness to strangers.

Renee, Murry and Kenzie Mente (and Kooper, the dog) in an American Gothic pose!


July 23:  To Oakwood, IL via Davenport, IA and the Quad Cities ~52miles

The next morning a tailwind made our rolling ride into Davenport go quickly.  Our route took us right by the Greatest Grains grocery where we loaded up on snacks and lunch supplies.  We then headed down to the waterfront park on the Mississippi River for lunch.  Preparations for the Bix Beiderbecke jazz festival were underway, so we had our choice from a few hundred portable toilets.

Loading up the biking train at a supply stop

Our siesta included exploring a glass tower and skyway, and naps for the adults. We then crossed the big river into Illinois and headed (up!) out of the Mississippi River valley through Rock Island. We were beginning to ponder our usual evening question of "Where will we sleep tonight?", when Jim had a flat and discovered a broken spoke.   Deb Matthias stopped by on her evening bike ride and invited us to camp in her backyard.  She and her husband (who was off riding across Iowa as a part of RAGBRAI on a seat-less bicycle--another story altogther) are avid bicyclists as evidenced by the bicycle crank door handles in her house.
Over the river... Two states down, three to go.

Here we go again...


July 24:  To Toulon, IL via Bishop Hill, ~58 miles

Deb gave us great directions to Bishop Hill, once the site of a Swedish immigrant utopian community.  We explored some of the historical exhibits and did our usual long lunch in the park, including introducing the kids to a bike trekking meal Laura and Jim had invented long ago--curried gorp.  Th kids renamed it Bikers' Pilau.

Early evening found us in Toulon where the local police officer was fine with us camping in the city park.  He warned us, however, that stormy weather was expected after midnight, and said we could go into the post office lobby if needed.  As we were setting up our tent after a light supper, it seemed that the storm was going to arrive sooner.  Coming to the same conclusion, the police officer soon returned with the volunteer fire chief and an invitation to stay in the fire station.  So we took the tent down and moved to the break/meeting room of the fire station.  'Twas a nice place to be while 1.5 inches of rain fell amidst thunder and lightning.

Fine dining in Bishop Hill   And fine lodging in the Toulon Firehouse Inn.  


July 25:  To the Kentuckiana Campground south of Peoria, IL ~75 miles

The Illinois map showed a state trail just outside of Toulon, but when we checked it out in the morning we found it to be rain-softened like the crushed limestone trail in Iowa.  So we returned to the road where we could go 5 miles per hour faster with the same effort.  On our way into Peoria, we had our first crash when Faith's front wheel connected with Isaac's pannier and took them both down.  They survived with no damage to their bikes and minimal road rash on their bodies.  Whew!

Our lunch stop was at the Tower View Park in Peoria Heights with, what else, a tower.  After lunch, we were looking for the bike path down to the river but instead found Grand View Drive.  Its steep, scenic hairpin curves on the way down were almost too much for our brakes.  Then we had to hunt for a bridge across the Illinois River and from there a non-freeway road out of the valley.  At the top of the hill, we stopped at a gas station to find out about campgrounds.  Kentuckiana Campground was a bit far, but with our final destination in mind, it seemed like the place to stay. But Google Maps are sometimes wrong and we found ourselves where the campground was supposed to be, but wasn't.  Fortunately, we met someone who had encountered the same problem.  When he found the campground for real, he came back to give us directions.

We arrived at the campground during the evening Opry show, and had to move quietly past the audience to our campsite--about the only tent site in a city of RVs. We had not found a grocery store, however, so after our longest day of the trip, there was some grumbling over the meager rations of cereal for our evening meal.  What's an adventure without a little hardship?

Lunch at the base of the tower.

View of the Illinois River from the tower.



July 26:  To Le Roy, IL ~50miles

It was Sunday, so in the first town after Kentuckiana, Minier, we looked for a church.  Liberty Baptists were the late starters so we joined them for worship. 

After lunch in the city park , we headed west, keeping our route to the south of Bloomington/Normal, IL.  Sounds like a good description of this trip, doesn't it?--just a little south of normal.  We were aiming for Moraine View State Park, but when the last three towns before the park, Funks Grove, Randolph and Downs, all lacked grocery stores, we diverted to Le Roy.  Besides an IGA grocery, Le Roy had a small park about a mile outside of town which allowed camping.

While a good spot in many respects (despite the marginal toilet facilities), this park had raccoons.  One checked out the trash can near us shortly after we went to bed, but not to worry, we had hung our food from the rafters of the picnic shelter.  But as the night progressed, at least one raccoon kept returning and exploring our bikes.  Why?  Well, Halla hopes the raccoon liked the chewing gum it found in her front pack.

The Le Roy park shelter--site of the raccoon's Great Gum Raid.

DAY 10

July 27:  To Kickapoo State Park via Champaign, IL ~66miles

Although it is a major highway, US 150 out of Le Roy parallels Interstate 75, so traffic was light.  So we followed 150 into Champaign, albeit with another fall by Faith.  Again, we were fortunate that damages and injuries were minimal.  Champaign included a visit to a bike shop for a spare tube, a few more spare spokes, and a set of pedals for Isaac; lunch at Crystal Lake Park; and a laundry stop . 

By now we had the laundry drill down--roll up to the laundromat, dump all the dirty clothes out of the bags, run to the bathroom to change into clean clothes if you had any, quick get it all in the machines, start feeding quarters--and then take time to explain what was going on to the bug-eyed attendant while the machines did the workand the cell phones recharged.

We followed 150 out of Champaign to Kickapoo State Park near Danville.  This park had poles for keeping food out of reach of the raccoons, although we are puzzled as to why they had them at the RV sites and not the tent sites?  We paid for one of the electric sites just to get one of those valuable hooks.

Anti-raccoon equipment.

DAY 11

July 28:  To Ciinton, IN ~51 miles

Leaving Kickapoo State Park, we cut through the edge of Danville and took Grape Creek Road southwest out of town, down into a valley and up a really big hill.  Then we crossed into Indiana. While a four-lane highway, US 63 had nice wide shoulders, so we took it southward parallel to the Wabasha River. This was our hottest day yet, prompting some long naps after lunch in Cayuga.  By the time we resumed riding, storms were blowing up.  We sat out a short thunderstorm in a farm building, but otherwise missed the worst of the weather.

We entered Clinton, IN, near the city offices.  Inquiring there about campgrounds, it turned out we had asked the mayor.  He wasn't sure the campground south of town was open, and did not recommend the motel, but suggested we stay at a nearby bed and breakfast.  While it was mostly bed (breakfast requires reservations, it seems) the owner let us rent just one room with the kids sleeping on the floor and gave us a discount for the lack of breakfast.

Another state gone Would that it were true...

Bring Your Own Breakfast?

DAY 12

July 29:  To McCormick's Creek State Park near Spencer, IN ~63 miles

We continued on US 63 to Terre Haute (that name strikes fear into bikers with a little French language vocabulary), picking up a better Indiana map at the State Police headquarters.  A lot of good that did us.  Hwy 46 westward was good, with a 3 foot wide shoulder until our lunch stop in tiny Cory with a tiny park (but no public bathrooms in town according to the postmistress).  After that, the shoulder vanished, the traffic picked up, and the hills of southern Indiana began.  Inquiring about an alternate route, we learned a  bridge on that route was out.  With no choice we gritted our teeth and pedaled on.  The steady traffic was stressful and we were passed by one driver who deliberatly blew diesel exhaust in our faces.  When we reached Spencer, we were ready for an ice cream break (at 777 miles on Halla's cyclometer).

Refreshed and reenergized, we climbed the big hill to McCormicks' Creek State Park.  This was a beautiful place, but had an aggressive raccoon population.  Several started checking out our gear before we even got in the tent.  But with our food hanging from a rope, we passed the night without losses.

Welcome relief from battling traffic!

Combined clothesline and raccoon protection.


DAY 13

July 30:  To Spring Mill State Park near Mitchell, IN ~56 miles

When we started the next morning, Hwy 46 had a bit more shoulder, but when we got to Ellettsville (heading into Bloomington) it was like a strip mall with the traffic to match. Fortunately, there was a continuous sidewalk with the smoothest of curb cuts. Leery of warnings about heavy traffic on a narrow and winding Hwy 46 west of Bloomington, we instead turned south on US 37.  This was a four-lane with a wide shoulder like US 63, but noisier.  And it was another hot, humid day. We lunched in a church-owned picnic shelter near Harrodsburg.

After lunch, Jim had a difficult flat to repair.  A few miles later, he had to fix it again due to a defective tube.  By late afternoon, we were near Bedford and storms were threatening.  We pushed on to Spring Mill State Park, only encountering light rain.  Worse were the unavoidable rumble strips every few meters on the shoulder.  As we pitched our tent in the park, the rain picked up.  By the time we had taken welcome showers and gobbled down some cereal in the shelter (?!?) of a tree, it was raining much harder as we piled into the tent.  The rain stopped overnight, but we still had a lot of wet stuff to deal with come morning.

Road side repairs--no fun!

Drying out in the morning.


DAY 14

July 31:  To Louisville, KY ~65 miles

Our departure the next morning was delayed even further by flat tires on both of Faith's wheels.  They took several attempts to repair, so we were pretty frustrated when we finally got on the road after noon. The day improved:  the wind was at our back, the weather was cooler, and the hills were fewer.  For lunch we bought the ingredients for sub sandwiches which we put together in New Pekin.  Buoyed by good food and good riding conditions, we decided it was Kentucky or bust.  Soon we were flying down the road to Louisville. 

We crossed the Ohio River just at sunset and then had to face the consequences of our enthusiasm--camping in downtown Louisville was not an option.  We were stopped at a gas station getting ready to look for a motel when an alternative solution arose.  Forrest Curtis, who was pulling a pedicab (think rickshaw pulled by a mountain bike) asked if we were looking for a place to stay.  He and his partner, Beth Godschall, both avid cyclists, are part of a network called Warm Showers (warmshowers.org) through which cyclists at home offer hospitality to touring cyclists .  Forrest called Beth and she showed up with a seond pedicab.  In short order, we had directions and keys to their house.  They were going to continue their pedicab work into the wee hours of the morning while we enjoyed, yes, warm showers and a place to sleep at their house.  How's that for having your needs met just in time? 

Biking all day makes the food taste really good!

The Indiana-Kentucky border at sunset.


DAY 15

Aug 1:  To Frankfort, KY ~58 miles

We were finally in Kentucky, but we still had some hurdles to overcome.  Hwy 60 out of Loisville was hilly, but not too bad.  At some point, however, Faith started riding slowly and complaining of fatigue. This continued after our lunch break in Shelbyville and we were puzzled since all three kids had ridden well until now.   Finally we discovered that her rear brake was dragging severely.  No wonder!  But the faster pace didn't last as Isaac soon had a broken spoke. It could not be replaced with the tools at hand, so Jim and Isaac jury-rigged a repair.

While Jim was wrestling with this problem, Laura suggested that she check out a nearby campground.  Jim insisted that we should push on to see a friend in Frankfort.  He regretted that choice at sundown when we faced a gigantic hill en route to Andy McDonald's recently purchased farmstead near Frankfort.  Somewhere in our communication, we had missed the fact that Andy and Connie weren't living at their new place yet.  Andy responded to our distress, however, by delivering food (pizza, brownies and some wonderful fresh tomatoes) and sharing some late evening conversation. The next morning, we had a pleasant time with Connie, Andy, their daughter Ella, and Andy's nephews while learning about their plans for the farmstead.

"Old" McDonald's farm.

Breakfast (bread, boiled eggs & brownies!)

Thanks for the watermelon, Connie!

DAY 16

Aug 2:  To Richmond, KY ~57 miles

What a wonderful day!!  Andy gave us directions that got us out of Frankfort without going up and down any monster hills, and the Bluegrass Parkway (US 60) was relatively flat, running between posh horse stables and white-fenced pastures(as Isaac said, "It's so nice to have different views--I didn't realize I was tired of seeing corn and soybean fields.")  The wind pushed us to Lexington--or was it the caffeine from the unlimited refills of iced tea at Dairy Queen in Versailles?  Beth Rosdatter and her son Arlo brought refreshments and met us just off Man O'War Blvd for a short visit.  We then headed south to the Valley View Ferry.  After the 2 mile descent into the Kentucky River gorge, we were dreading the expected climb on the other side.  However, on the ferry we learned that our planned route climbed much more gradually.  The road followed a tributary and did not have any steep hils until just before we popped out on Barnes Mill Road near Richmond.  It also took us within two miles of our friends at the Curtis Pike commmunity, so we surprised them and camped there for the night.
Onto the ferry. Amenities include cold drinking water, flowers....

...and history.

DAY 17

Aug 3:  To Berea, KY ~20 miles

Well, what was left? The last 20 miles from Curtis Pike to Berea brought us into familiar territory and we arrived in Berea just after noon.
  • Thank you to so many people who answered our questions about lodging and roads.
  • Thank you to all the drivers who made room for us on the road or waited to pass until they were sure the road was clear.
  • Thanks, Murry and Renee, Deb, Beth and Forrest, for opening your doors to us.
  • Thanks, Andy and Connie, for the food and conversation.
  • Thank you, Mary Ann, Rob, and Margie, for welcoming us at Curtis Pike.
  • Thanks, George and Wendy, for hosting our long stay in Berea with a warm and generous spirit.
  • Thanks, Carol and Ed, for the loan of a car in Berea.
  • Thanks, Darrell and Janice, for hauling our bikes back to St. Peter.
  • Thanks, Dick, for the ride to Lexington to get our rental car for our trip home.
  • And thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.

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