May 31: Hannibal, MO to Keokuk, IA 68.5 Miles
The sky looked threatening as we rose and began pulling our "stuff" together. The black thunderheads in the distance were beginning to move in an easterly direction. Sitting on the west side of the Mississippi put us in perfect position to get hit -- big time. The air temperature was warm enough to not want to put on all the rain gear, so most of the group chose to just brave it and ride away!!
The route today was to be relatively flat first starting on the Missouri side of the river and then about thirty miles out cross over into Illinois until Iowa loomed in the distance, in which we would cross the mighty river once again and settle into Keokuk. The best laid plans are always open to adjustment.
The route did start in Missouri as planned and the roadway was relatively flat -- we were following Route 61 which is a freeway complete with semis, vans, cars, and construction!!! We found a small stretch where there was a frontage road, but predominately it was "hang on to your handlebars, stay out of the mud, and don't let those semis intimidate you" time!!! There is nothing like looking in your rear view mirror and realizing that the loud noise behind you is a fully loaded semi in a big hurry to get to town!!! Actually, semis are wonderful -- they understand the road and how to avoid running a little cyclist off the road. Cars, vans and an occasional motorcycles don't.
The day was to be a nice gentle ride north -- a ferry ride -- a backroad -- cows, corn and us!! Well, not to happen. Seems that the coast guard wanted to inspect the ferry and picked today to do it. No problem for someone in a car -- a bicyclist -- that is a different story. The coast guard needs all day so the ferry is shut down. Detour is required. Back out on Route 61 and the semis, vans, cars and motorcyclists. Staying on the Missouri side we were forced into freeway construction, detours, traffic racing at 65 mph to get where they were suppose to be several hours earlier. Several of the group said no to the ride and decided to get "vaned" in from a park just down the road from the ferry. The rest of us sucked it in and bit our lips and said, "Let's do it!! What can a semi do to scare us??" 40 Miles later we crossed the Iowa/Missouri state line and sailed into our hotel in Keokuk, IA covered with road dust, but in one piece. The route actually turned out to be mostly freeway, which allows for a paved shoulder to ride on. The biggest plus or minus is the breeze that the semi creates as it passes. It can push you faster down the road or give you a major wall to hit.
"Okay, Where is the Road? How Many More Miles?