Archive for the ‘Bicycling’ Category

Ride to Cedar Lake

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Sunday ride to Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake

I recently read in Cape Girardeau History and Photos about Cedar Lake, and was surprised to learn that I’d lived within about 15 miles of it for 15 years, and had never even heard of it. So I drove my bike over to Maintz Wildlife Refuge today and rode some gravel roads down to Millersville. Sure enough, I was able to get a glimpse of the lake (above) from county road 481. One reason this lake hasn’t been developed is that you can’t see it from any paved road. Another is that it’s out by Millersville, and there just isn’t much going on there.

It was a lovely ride, though, and I’d like to see more of the lake. There’s a gravel road that crosses the dam at its south end, and I think goes up around the east side of the lake from there, but I took the barbed-wire fence and “no tresspassing- keep out” signs to indicate that people didn’t want me to ride over there. If I can get permission, I’ll try again later and see if I can take some more pics.

TDF/2 Stages 19 and 20: Shiloh

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Friday afternoon I drove to Savannah, Tennessee, to spend a couple of days at the Shiloh battlefield. It is my custom every summer to read about the Civil War — more than once I’ve read Shelby Foote’s three-volume history of the war, and I’ve read McPherson’s one-volume history as well. Hattaway and Jones’ How the North Won is a great military history of the war, and David Potter’s The Impending Crisis is the best history of the events leading up to it. This summer I focused on Shiloh, reading Cunningham’s Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, Daniel’s Shiloh: the battle that changed the Civil War, Sword’s Shiloh: Bloody April, and other works.

So I had been planning to make a visit to the Shiloh battlefield for some time, and this weekend turned out to be my best opportunity. Of course, it also turned out to be the hottest weather of the year for the area — high temp on Saturday was 99 degrees, with a heat index of 109. I got up at 5 AM to ride my 16 miles for the TDF/2 Stage 19. It’s pretty flat country, so it was an easy ride across the Tennessee River bridge, down toward the battlefield, and back to Savannah.

Tennessee River

I had originally planned to ride the LHT around the battlefield, carrying my cameras in the panniers, but the weather changed my mind. Instead I drove, carrying a cooler with Powerade in it and all my gear in the car. I used the excellent War College guide to the battlefield, following the book’s chronological tour of the first day’s action. After two months reading about it, it was very moving to see the actual locations. At times it was almost overwhelming to stand in the places I’d read about. The battlefield is phenomenally well marked; veterans erected markers at the sites of all the major actions only decades after it occurred, and there has been little development to encroach on it. Everywhere you look there is a tablet or monument commemorating an event that took minutes, or hours. Lives were lost and changed at a breathtaking rate in this place.

Shiloh - Cloud Field

Below is a view of Shiloh Branch. The Confederates came up this narrow little ravine and attacked Sherman and McClernand’s positions at Shiloh Church — it’s only a few hundred yards to the north. Accounts from just after the battle say that you could have walked anywhere in the area without touching the ground by stepping on bodies. I met a family with fishing poles and a cooler, going to spend the day in this shady spot. They had twin boys about 5 years old dressed in camo overalls, who were very curious what I was doing down by the creek.

Shiloh Branch

Late in the day (I spent 9 hours in the park) I wound up hearing a ranger give a tour of the National Cemetery at Pittsburg Landing, on the high ground where Grant’s forces spent the night of April 6 before pushing the Confederates back the next day. I was a little embarrassed to find myself getting choked up thinking about the young men who didn’t come back from this spot almost 150 years ago.

Shiloh National Cemetery

I rode the bike down again on Sunday morning and rode through the major roads of the battlefield. It was the last stage of the TDF/2, and instead of ending at the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, I found myself in this place where nobody really won. It did lead to Grant taking command of the Union armies, and Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas, the freeing of the slaves, and a fundamental change in the relationship between federal government and the states. For the people fighting, many of them teenage boys, it just demonstrated that war wasn’t going to be as glorious as they had thought. Iowa’s monument below shows Fame inscribing the names of those boys.

Shiloh - IA monument

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Last day in the mountains today, so I decided to tackle the worst that Cape County has to offer: the climb on Hwy OO into Burfordville, or the Col de Burfordville.

TDF/2 Stage 17

I got an early start — left the house about quarter to 6, and it was a beautiful clear morning.


All was well through Tilsit, although I did encounter a little unexpected gravel. I planned the route on, which doesn’t distinguish between pavement and the lack thereof. I should know better, but fortunately I was riding the Long Haul Trucker, so a little bit of gravel wasn’t an issue.

Woops.  Gravel.

I’ve ridden the Col de Burfordville several times before. Once it was with a whole group of people from Cape, most of whom had never been out there before. We’d come to another little hill on OO, and people would ask “Is this the hill?” I finally said “Look. When we see the hill, nobody will ask ‘Is this the hill?”. Okay? You’ll know.”

Col de Burfordville

Okay, it’s only a quarter mile or so of actual climb — hardly the Pyrenees. But parts of it are 20% grade, and you know you’re on a hill when you’re climbing it. This is my Tour face.

Climbing Col de Burfordville

I survived, and stopped at Bollinger Mill to rest. One of the guides there, Marie Aldridge, came out to say hello. We had a nice chat, and she filled my water bottle (which was something I was a bit worried about — next place is Millersville). She was very enthusiastic about making the park more welcoming for bikes, but I fear the only thing that would really help is getting a paved shoulder on highway 34, as not many people are going to ride in on OO.

Tomorrow is the last long stage — a flat one, and I’m going to avoid the hills too. Saturday is the time trial, and only about 18 miles for me, and Sunday the finish is about 30. I’ll be doing those in Tennessee, as I’m going to Shiloh!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Today I redid the TDF/2 Stage 2 route, only the other direction. It’s about the hilliest route I can manage starting from my house; as you can see from the elevation profile, it does have some ups and downs. Not the Pyrenees, I realize.

TDF/2 Stage 16 map

As the Tour/2 nears its end, the crowds are coming out in force. They’re posting signs with encouraging messages along the route, for instance.

Free dirt.

The scenery up here in the Cape-e-nees is breathtaking. It’s an area that is steeped in history. Here’s one of the many cathedrals that dot the landscape, again with a sign erected by the fans:

Cathedral in the Cape-e-nees

Soon the peloton is approaching the final, difficult climb up to the highest point in south Cape County, the Col de Crump. None of those sissy switchbacks that you see in France: the road just goes straight up the slope.

Part of the ascent to the Col de Crump

The fans have camped for days at the coveted spots right at the peak of the Col de Crump, where you can see their caravans and cars lining the road.

Tourists crowd the summit of the Col de Crump

After a thrilling descent (I hit 42.9 mph), the TdF/2 goes through scenic Burfordville, site of Bollinger mill, Bollinger mill and there we see one of the fans decked out in colorful native costume.

Cat at Bollinger mill

Tomorrow’s a rest day. Yay!

Col de Scopus

Monday, July 19th, 2010

In honor of the Pyrenees, I planned a ride with some hills today — down to Burfordville, then out UU to Scopus. Here’s the Col de Scopus, or one of them…


I never visit Scopus without taking at least one shot of the old Scopus school, which was built by the WPA in 1936. Very picturesque.

Scopus school

I went a little way south on B from Scopus, where I was rewarded with this work of public art. Everyone who has used a chainsaw has had the experience of getting it stuck so badly that you need another saw to get it out; this sculpture tells a story of an occasion when they ran out of saws, apparently.

Chainsaw sculpture

I turned around and went back north, and was about to leave Scopus entirely when I realized that the building on the corner was actually a store. I had to stop and visit, and that was definitely worthwhile. Not that the store had much (though they did have Powerade), but it is clearly the social center of Scopus.

Scopus -- Bridges' store

This is Laina, who doesn’t own the place “No, I just stay here. Six days a week.” She was very friendly, happy to have me take pics of the store, and told me to be sure to come back. Sometime when I’m not hurrying to avoid the heat or stormy weather, I’ll come back and see what the regulars can tell me about the schoolhouse.

Scopus -- Bridges' store

Finally, coming back on highway 72, I saw this produce stand. They had big cups of fresh blackberries for $2. Standing there eating fresh blackberries about 50 miles into my day’s ride was about as good as it gets. Of course, I had a blackberry seed stuck in my teeth for the last 20 miles, but it was worth it.

Honor system

59.8 miles today. Tomorrow 61.2, and then Wednesday is a rest day.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

More than halfway through today’s stage, I was starting to wonder what I would write about. It was uneventful, to say the least. Perhaps I could talk about the wonders of East Cape Girardeau?

East Cape Girardeau

I should know better than to tempt fate with such thoughts. “Too boring for you? Let me liven it up a bit, puny mortal!”

Ominous sky

About 15 miles from home, the sky ahead started to look very ominous. The wind, which had been from the south when I was headed that way, swung around to the north to be against me going home. I started looking for likely places to get shelter if things got bad. Just as I got over the hill on county road 621, it started to rain, and shortly after to thunder. I was almost to Bernie Dirnberger’s house, and there on his driveway was an invitingly open garage door. I made a quick decision; too quick, as it turns out, and I hit the gravel drive and went down. I limped to the garage, pulled the bike in, and the heavens opened.

Hiding in Bernie's garage

It was a small storm, and after about 15 minutes it had let up enough for me to get back on the road, slightly bloody, somewhat bowed, but unelectrocuted, which is what really counts.

Only 6 more stages. Next Sunday is the big finish.

TDF/2 Stage 13

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

60.8 miles today. I rode in to Cape via highway 177, and of course went by the Cape Rock overlook. When the river is high, Juden Creek backs up to make a flooded area. It makes me a bit homesick, as this is the kind of terrain I spent a lot of time in when I was growing up in Florida. Also reminds me of Pogo, especially since (though I’ve framed this pic to exclude it) there’s sadly a lot of trash strewn around.

Juden Creek is flooded

I went through Cape, and as I was heading for the bridge, I saw a cafe I’ve often passed: “Brenda’s Place”. I was hungry, so I stopped for breakfast. It was okay; I’d recommend the American fried potatoes, which are apparently fried round slices, rather than the hash browns, which were a rectangle that clearly had been frozen. The place is close to the River Campus — if I were a performing arts student, I’d be there a lot, I think.

Brenda's place

I headed over to East Cape, and got a few more pics of birds and lotus flowers over there — the American Egrets are out in force, roosting in trees and feeding in the shallow flooded fields. See my Flickr account, if anyone is interested. On the way back, this barge was passing under the bridge, and I had to capture a view of it.

TDF/2 Stage 13

A lovely morning, all around — scattered clouds so it wasn’t that hot, and a tailwind going home. Only 7 more stages to go.

TDF/2 Stage 12

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Back in stage 7, a woman on a bike passed me on highway C near Farrar. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes — her name is Carrie Walker, and she had just been up to Perryville, which is apparently a ride she makes frequently. She mentioned that she goes somewhere there for pie. I saw her again on stage 9, when we passed each other on 61. Today, she overtook me on 61 just outside of Uniontown, and we started riding together. I asked her where it was she went for pie in Perryville, and she said “The Park-Et! I’m headed there now — you should come with me.” So, I followed her to the Park-Et restaurant, right on 61 in Perryville.

Park-Et in Perryville

When we walked in, seems like half the people there greeted Carrie by name, and when we sat at the counter, the waitress already had her drink waiting for her. We were a bit early; they make pies fresh daily, and the only one that was ready was a peach cobbler. Not that I’m complaining. It was an excellent cobbler. A little sweet to my taste, but good fresh peaches, and the crust was flaky and crisp. The guy on the stool next to me said hi — turns out he remembered me from Stage 8, when I ate at Terri’s Country Cafe on KK. I’m feeling like it’s a small world of good cafes in Southeast Missouri.

Carrie headed east on highway M to go back on C; I continued north through Brewer in order to get my mileage. For the record, from home to the Park-Et is 25.7 miles. Now that Carrie has introduced me to everybody that works there, I need to visit again soon. Besides, the blackberry crumble pie didn’t come out of the oven until we were leaving today. I need to go back a little later in the morning next time.

TDF/2 Stage 11

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Another early start. On the road by 5:30 AM. It was foggy. So humid my glasses were fogging even at full speed. I decided to head down 177 toward P&G.

TDF/2 Stage 11

Still looking for the alps. How about this hill on County Road 607? After you climb this steep stretch and a bit more winding grade, there’s a nice slight downhill grade all the way to Highway V.

Another local alp

I wound up riding in to Cape and down to the transfer station, turned around and came back the same way. I finally had some competition briefly; on the way back north on 177, I passed a guy riding up a hill. He was maybe in his late 20s, riding with a helmet but no shirt, and a lot of muscles; I figure a triathlete. I guess I caught him while he was warming up.

When I pass someone on the road, I hate to have them overtake me afterward; it seems like I’m bragging and unable to live up to it or something. So I worked hard on the next couple of hills, hoping to lose him, but he kept showing up in the rear view mirror. When it became apparent that I wasn’t gaining, although I was definitely panting, I sat up and let him pass me. He was out of sight in a couple of minutes. So I guess I’m the lanterne rouge today. I’m consoling myself with the thought that I’m probably 30 years older than him.

The river is high, by the way. Here’s a shot of the fishing access at Red Star; the signs (and the restrooms) are out in the river now.
River is high

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Forecast today was for a 97 degree high, so I got off to an early start.
TDF/2 Stage 10

I had originally been thinking about riding to work, doing a little extra, and then riding home, but I wasn’t going to ride home in 97 degree weather. I just rode down to East Cape and back, and I was off the bike by 10:30.

Sure, I’m not doing the elevation that the TDF is, but you want alps? I got your alps right here:

TDF/2 Stage 10

It’s the big hill on Hwy Y. Must be HC.

Anyway, I did my miles, got home, and then went out for brunch with Robin at the Pie Bird Cafe in Fruitland. Their pies are almost as good as mine.