Clinton to Pilot Grove

We left at 8 am from Clinton, after a good rest day. Our stomachs were full of food and juice and our bodies were well rested. We rode at an easy pace, drinking extra water. We were determined not to wear ourselves out as much as we had Saturday. We succeeded!

We rode 65 miles from Clinton to Pilot Grove, and with stops included it took about 12 hours. Progress seem extra slow with our trailer. We’ve overpacked. The weather was similar to Saturday: very warm (high about 92) and humid, but also quite windy. In fact, we had a good tail wind pretty much the whole day, which was great. The day became overcast sometime after 4pm and helped us not be so hot  Beautiful ride, beautiful trail, thick green trees and forests, interspersed with pretty prairies and farms and small towns. Lots of historical signs and info along the way regarding the former MKT trail line, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and more. We passed the high point (in feet above sea level) of the Katy Trail, which is 900-something feet, which of course is kinda funny to Utahns who live at about 4000 feet.

We ate our healthy, yummy camp food and are sleeping in the city park of a small town called Pilot Grove. We have met lots of other nice bike travelers. In fact, two sets of them (riders we had met earlier in the day) were already at this city park to camp when we got here! We are slow compared to other cyclists. We brought a 4-person tent in this trip (where we usually bring a 2-person) and it feels extra spacious.

Day of rest in Clinton

Today we had a day of rest in Clinton. Our hotel is comfortable (air conditioning is magic). We mostly rested today. We were able to attend our home ward via zoom. It is wonderful to connect in that way when we can’t attend in person.

In the afternoon we spent some time with my (Pete’s) cousin Dan who is a life-flight helicopter pilot based out of Clinton. We were able to see his helicopter and meet his family. It was fun to talk to his girls and see them roll their eyes at him just like he used to roll his eyes at Uncle Tony.

We are dialing back our near-term ride plans to ensure we don’t get ourselves into the same exhausted spot we got ourselves into yesterday. Hopefully it will make a difference over the next few days as our bodies acclimate to our activity and the weather.

Lake Winnebago to Clinton

It is Sunday and we are resting in a hotel in Clinton, Missouri. Yesterday started with Pete going early morning water skiing with Zack, Mary, and Eliza. They live on a lake and ski many days a week during the warmer seasons. Both Zack and Eliza skied while Mary was the designated driver. They pulled me too. Like riding a bike, I could still manage to ski, but also like riding a bike after not riding for a long time, it wore me out fast. It seems that many of the muscles used for water skiing are different than the ones I regularly use. 

Thank you so much Mary, Zack, and girls for your hospitality and letting us stay with you.

We started our ride from their house around 10 AM. Because of some last minute changes our ride was beginning on Saturday instead of Monday and our planned first day ride was adding an extra 20 miles to get us to a better place to hunker down for Sunday.

We rode on rural surface streets from Mary and Zack’s house to the Rock Island Spur of the Katy Trail. It was beautiful and peaceful and a good reminder of why we loved living in this area 20 years ago. It was also immediately apparent that our packing was a bit heavier than any other ride we’ve been on. We may have overpacked quite a bit, as the miles were extra slow and extra hard. I found myself worrying early on: “at this rate we will not make it to Clinton until 7 or 8 pm.” Spoiler: we rolled in around 11… 

The Rock Island Spur is a beautiful section of the Katy Trail going from Lee’s Summit to Windsdor, where it intersects the Katy Trail proper. The inclines and declines are gentle, which is normal for a rail trail. However, we found the inclines more difficult as the day wore on. This was partly due to our load, the heat, and this being our first ride with this heavy configuration. 

The trail here is so peaceful, and it was surrounded by beautiful green trees and fields. Much of it is shaded, which is great in the heat of the day. Occasionally it passed near small towns. It is so great to ride with zero cars. A couple of hours into our ride another tandem recumbent bike rode up next to us! This type is bike is very unusual, and only a few other times have we encountered another. So we stopped and visited and exchanged stories with the riders. We also took photos.

Around 4 PM I started to feel the effects of the heat and our exertion and needed an extended rest under the bike (by extended rest I mean like an hour). Had we known the trail better we would have realized there was a good rest stop only another mile or so beyond where we stopped. We considered riding on the highway directly to Clinton at this point, but the shoulder was narrow and the traffic was such that we felt our safest option was the much longer route on the trail.

At this point progress was slow — about half of our normal pace. Eventually we made it to Windsdor where we bought some simple snacks at a gas station and then headed out on our final leg to Clinton. The sun went down and our riding conditions improved as far as temperature goes, but we were tired. We do have an excellent headlight, powered by our bike, so we could navigate the trail just fine. The comet temperature was very helpful. Another plus of riding in the dark, especially for Natalie, was that we got to see myriad dancing fireflies all along the trail. This is magical and reminds Natalie of her childhood in Massachusetts as well as of our years together in Virginia and Kansas. However, at this point we struggled to keep up much of a pace and arrived in Clinton quite late. Our last couple of miles were on small-town rural roads in Clinton, but we have a very bright red rear flashing light as well, and the few cars that were out thankfully gave us plenty of space.

We are safe but exhausted.

Day 0

We started our adventure by driving from Salt Lake to Kansas City, through Nebraska. The drive was happily uneventful. It’s a long drive, but we were able to do it all in one day. We didn’t arrive at Mary and Zack’s home until about 11pm, and then we visited with them for a bit before crashing. Natalie was thrilled that one firefly followed us into their house when we arrived! Mary caught it, and we tried to get a few pictures of it before she released it in their backyard.

Getting ready

This year, we ride from Kansas City to St. Louis. I’ve been spending extra time over the last few weeks getting ride miles in, but we are definitely not in the same shape we’ve been in for previous rides. We are leaving the day after high school lets out.

This year we will be hauling our trailer because we intend to camp far more nights than in the past. We will be riding on the Rock Island Trail and Katy Trail. Our plan is to ride about 600 miles across two weeks.

Last ride of the trip

Monday morning started with a drive from Harrison to Hamilton. It was tough leaving such a comfortable Airbnb, but it was also comfortable to travel so many miles in an air-conditioned vehicle. Our adventures teach us to appreciate our modern vehicular conveniences but also appreciate opportunities to travel in a slower, more immersive way. You experience a landscape differently at 10 mph with no glass isolating you from the sounds and smells. In any case, the Idaho panhandle and Montana are beautiful both on bike and in car.

As we drove to Hamilton, backtracking some of our route, it was cool to see how far we had biked. We also had some really great conversations with Page and Vance. Upon arriving in Hamilton we were excited to get riding again and we were also grateful to find the truck in good condition where we had left it two weeks earlier.

We got ready to ride and rode the Bitterroot Trail for 30 miles back towards Missoula, before turnng around and riding back toward Hamilton. We
rode from about 4:00 to 9:00 PM. It was pretty warm, and we had a head wind going north which turned into a tail wind going south as we returned to Hamilton. We enjoyed riding through pretty farmland, small towns, and mountain scenery. We were on a dedicated bike path the whole way but were close to a highway with some traffic and its associated noise. The route was part of the same trail we had done 2 weeks ago.

Total miles today were 63.5 and our whole trip total ended up at just under 730.

We found a hotel, cleaned up, soaked in the hot tub and pool, and went to sleep, happy and tired.

As we write this it is Tuesday and we are driving home. We are sad to see our adventure end but happy to think about the memories we created. We love seeing the world this way and enjoy this unique opportunity to accomplish something difficult together. It was also fun to share the last part of our trip with people we love.

A day of rest

Two gifts big rides give you are 1) the ability to sleep well and 2) the ability to eat a ton of food. We are taking advantage of both in Harrison on Sunday.

The Airbnb we are in is comfortable and peaceful. Because we had Vance and Page’s truck when we went shopping last night we were able to buy as much as we wanted without having to take into account how much we could load into our panniers — so we bought a lot. 

We woke up and drove to St. Maries where we went to church. It was wonderful to be in a familiar and friendly setting even though we didn’t know anyone. Several people ensured we felt welcome. It felt good to worship with them. Being able to drive the 30 miles to church again made us appreciate the conveniences of a vehicle. The distance and nature of the road were such that we couldn’t have attended in person without the truck.

Back at the Airbnb we cooked a large meal, ate, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. Vance and Page are exceptional communicators and have great insight into our world. It is fun to be doing this part of our journey together.

A big day

Saturday was a big ride day. We all slept well in Heyburn State Park. It was lightly raining through the night which created a peaceful atmosphere and kept the temperature just right. It stopped in time for our tents to partially dry prior to packing. The campground was much busier due to it being the weekend, but our site was surrounded by trees. We ate, walked by the lake, packed up, and hit the trail around 11 AM. We were riding the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes all day.

Our first stop was our Airbnb in Harrison where we dropped our panniers. We had a slight routing snafu which had us pushing our bikes up the steepest hills in Harrison only to find we were headed in the wrong direction. It built character.

On the way to our Airbnb we ran into another couple on a tandem recumbent and had a fun talk with them. We had caught a glimpse of them on Friday night. It is so rare to see a bike like ours! The couple’s ages were 68 and 74. We hope we are still biking like this when we are those ages. We’re planning on it!

We rode the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes uphill again, eventually making it to the end at Mullan in the evening. It was beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed sharing it with Page and Vance. Once more we felt so happy that former railways like this are being transformed into bike trails. Partway through we met another couple on a regular tandem, who had cycled across the US as well as many other places. Again — fun to talk with people who have similar interests and experiences. We also saw many beautiful and interesting birds, including a few great blue herons. What a fantastic feeling to have ridden the entire trail!

It was a great ride. The temperature had been perfect throughout the day, but as the sun went down we all quickly chilled and since we had left our panniers there was nothing we could do about it. Normally we would have had coats and pants we could put on to warm up.

We had a good dinner at a restaurant in Wallace and picked up Vance’s truck. We drove to a Walmart in Smelterville and bought supplies for the next two days, and then drove to Harrison. It was about midnight. We quickly unpacked, cleaned up, and went to bed.

Our Airbnb in Harrison is perfectly quaint, overlooking the lake. Just the right place to rest and relax. Our total mileage was 78 miles – mostly a slow uphill regaining much of the altitude we had lost on the previous 2 days.

Avery to Heyburn, the right way

We slept great in the Avery Hotel. We had plans to meet our shuttle at 4 PM so we had to leave around 10. I’ve grown to appreciate the times we are not tied to a schedule, but having a shuttle through the dangerous part of the ride is totally worth the inconvenience of a schedule.

Before we left we looked in a train museum and an old passenger car in Avery. One thing Page has helped us do better is to stop along the way to learn about the area and its history.

The ride to St Maries was the perfect temperature. We had enough cloud cover to keep the sun off but not so much as to bring rain. It was totally dry. The road follows the St Joe’s River the entire way. About 20 miles from St. Maries, we had lunch at a roadside cafe. Again, it was fun to slow down, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. 

We had one other brief stop along the way so Vance could go jump in the St Joe River to cool off. As it is snow melt, that did the trick. Shortly after lunch we exited the nice paved road and rode on the rail-grade dirt road into St Maries. It was rough washboard. We did it to avoid traffic, but perhaps we should have stuck with the asphalt.

We made it to our shuttle meet-up point early. I had been able to share our location with our driver so he was there waiting for us with a trailer he had rigged up specifically to haul our bikes. We grabbed supplies at the nearby store and drove to Harrison. Our driver was a retired principal and told us stories of the area for the entire drive. While I had resisted the shuttle idea, now in hindsight I have to admit it was the right choice and worked out perfectly.

After unloading, just as we were beginning the next segment of our ride, we saw another recumbent tandem similar to ours (but made by a different company). I wish we had been able to talk to them but they were riding in the opposite direction.

We rode the Trail of Coeur d’Alenes from Harrison to Plummer so that we could say we did the entire trail by the end of Saturday’s ride to Mullan. On the way back to our campsite at Heyburn State Park we encountered a moose on the trail. Page had just been chased by an angry mother moose the week before in Alaska and knew to be wary of the awkward, lanky, but big animal. Eventually it moved far enough off trail for us to ride by.

The campsite wasn’t as pretty as the previous two sites we used at Heyburn, but it was good enough. We cleaned up, showered, ate dinner, and went to bed.

It was a great day of just under 70 miles of riding.

Here are some photos from our ride.

Tandem tandems

We slept well in our hotel room in Wallace. It was a good night to be inside because it started raining early and continued to rain through the morning. It is one thing to sleep in a tent in the rain and entirely another thing to pack up a tent and all your gear  in the rain. Our hotel room helped us avoid this.

Vance and Page woke up early in Missoula and drove to Wallace to pick us up at the hotel at 9 AM in order to make the shuttle timing work. It is a little less fun to be on a schedule, but we had arranged with someone to help shuttle Vance’s truck to a safe location and needed to accommodate them driver’s schedule. We loaded our bike with theirs and drove to Lookout Pass (ski area) where we started our ride. The shuttle worked out perfectly and we were able to position the truck in a good place for us to recover on Saturday evening.

We introduced Vance and Page to Pete-style navigation by getting off route right at the beginning of our ride and had to go off-road over a rough 4-wheel drive road and up a steep embankment to get on route. It was great having four people to push the bike when we went up the embankment. Had it just been Natalie and I we might have had to unload the bike first.

The ride from then on was a beautiful mostly downhill trek on dirt roads. It was a bit cold but not a problem.  We rode a short segment of the Route of the Olympian out to the tunnel and trestle as an out-and·back and then started the Route of the Hiawatha. This time we spent more time reading the various signs along the trail and learning the history of the old rail line and the people who operated it. The railroad is an amazing engineering feat, but perhaps the most amazing aspect of it is the ingenuity and perseverance of the people who not only constructed it but kept it operational for so long.

Tonight we are in a hotel in Avery — the same one we stayed in last week. Last week we needed the shower because we were hot and sweaty. Tonight we needed it because we were a bit chilled (except for Vance — he is a human heater).

It has been great to ride with Vance and Page. We’ve done these adventures for several years now and could only share them with people through this travel journal. Now we get to share the experience first hand. It creates a few small logistical needs, but it’s overwhelmingly worth it to have people we love and enjoy with us.

Today we rode a little over 40 miles, mostly downhill. It was an enjoyable ride and both bikes worked well. Tomorrow is a bit longer and also involves a shuttle, as we head back to Heyburn State Park and are trying to skip the highway portion of the ride that had us on a small shoulder with logging trucks.

Here is a link to photos from the day.