Cherokee Pass to East Prairie MO

Cherokee Pass to Cape Girardeau MO, 56 miles.

Longhorn (Roach) Motel in Cherokee Pass. I’m not sure it was worth the $35, although the location was right & I got a much-needed shower, washed clothes & got the blog caught up via the hotel’s wifi.

Although the ACA Great Rivers South Map listed a plethora of grocery stores & restaurants along this section, most of them were closed. For good. I rolled 12 miles from the motel in search of breakfast. In retrospect, I probably should have eaten at the gas station Subway.

I reached a small market in Marquand that fortunately had a deli serving breakfast: a “half-order” of biscuits & gravy, 2 eggs, bacon & toast. Chased by a bacon-egg-cheese sandwich. With coffee. 32oz of coffee. Not great coffee, but coffee none the less. Fire in the belly finally lit, I rolled on in search of hills.

And hills did I find. (One of the locals I later spoke with considered the Ozarks tougher cycling than even the Rockies, because the Ozarks are relentless, never giving you a chance to recover from the steep climbs. He also pointed out that repeating a 300 foot climb (and immediately descending it) ten times contiguously is not only just as much climbing as a 3,000 foot mountain pass; you never get a chance to settle into a steady cadence.)

My only regret of the day is neither the hills, nor even the difficulty finding food establishments that hadn’t gone out of business, but that just as I was escaping a five-dog ambush, thanks to the owner’s intervention, I crested a hill and picked up enough speed I wasn’t able to stop at an open-for-business eating establishment that boasted homemade pie and cinnamon rolls by the time I saw it. Minimum calorie requirements having just been met (I may or may not have actually licked my plate of biscuits and gravy clean, but you won’t hear it from me), I was disinclined to stop, turn around and climb the hill. Even for pie. To the over-loaded touring cyclist, momentum is precious. <sigh> Such is life.

I didn’t see another open food establishment (grocery store or restaurant) until I reached the Gordonville Grille (in Gordonville, of course). It was 4pm, and the skies were threatening rain. I spied an RV park via Google Maps about 8 miles away. Given the choice of riding dry and having to cook in the rain, or eating at the restaurant and riding in the rain I chose the latter. Inside I found the 1/2# steak burger (came with bacon) &  Shlaflay  pale ale to my liking. The rain was light, almost refreshing. The final turn put me on “Kingshighway”, a $5 name for a high-speed suburban arterial road. Fortunately it had good shoulders.

Cape RV Campground was expensive, $21.60 for a tent site, but it did feature electric & water at each site, as well as two open wifi access points and nice showers. I set the tent up in the rain, and it continued to rain & thunder-storm all night.

Cape Girardeau, 17 miles

Cyclewerx Bike Shop

In the morning, rolling towards the river on Kingshighway, I passed Cyclewerx bike shop where I met John, the owner, & Kyle the  mechanic. They graciously spent almost an hour talking with me, recommending rides, routes and campgrounds. Unfortunately Fort Defiance State Park was closed due to being under water, and the bridge back into Missouri was closed due to construction, so I stuck around Cape Girardeau.

After getting groceries, my next priority was lunch. I found a conveniently placed diner style restaurant I’d never heard of, Huddle House (I later learned it’s a chain), and had their house triple cheeseburger & the world’s smallest piece of carrot cake. From there I followed Broadway to the river, and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the Cape Girardeau Wall of Fame.

Cape Girardeau Wall of Fame

From there I headed for “Trail of Tears” State Park, but it got both dark and cold before I got there, and so I found a place to camp out of the way.

Cape Girardeau to East Prairie MO, 60 miles

In the morning, I stopped at the “Cup ‘n’ Cork” coffee shop & wine bar for coffee & wifi. Just after finishing my blueberry scone, a gentleman walked in and asked about my touring bicycle. Turns out Rick was a kindered spirit, car-free and big into bicycle touring. I offered to buy him a cup of coffee to keep him around talking about touring tips he’d learned the over the years, but he bought me another cup instead. Somehow we got around to my plan to head for East Prairie for my General Delivery package from my folks, and Rick pointed out that, tomorrow being Vetran’s Day, I would have to catch the Post Office today or risk waiting till Monday. Armed with a few routing suggestions from Rick’s old bicycle commute, and an amazing tailwind, I made 30 of the 40 miles in just 90 minutes (20 MPH average pace)!

(BTW, Rick also recommended “Al’s Place” in Farmington MO and “Running Spring Hunting Lodge” in Everton MO as touring-cyclist friendly lodging places for future reference.)

 The last ten miles into East Prairie were a real grind; either the wind or the road had shifted and the wind was now in my face.

As I was unpacking my package, a well-dressed man came out of the Post Office and asked about my trip. He was Rob Barker, an attorney in town. He mentioned that a nearby church hosted cyclists during the annual Tour de Corn, and opened it’s Family Life Center (with showers and restrooms) to Tour de Corn cyclists. With a few well-placed phone calls then arranged for me to camp at the church. He recommended the warmer option of a nearby hotel, as well as two  restaurants in town.

After repacking the box I’d received from my folks with a few more things I decided I didn’t REALLY need to keep hauling up any more hills (my digital camera–the one on my phone is all I ever use, as well as a second set of SmartWool underclothes: t-shirt, boxers and medium-height pair of socks–I can only wear one set at a time, and unworn duplicates just take up space and are dead weight on hills), I headed for the church, and  found the Family Life Center and availed myself of a shower and shave. I discovered my bottle of dish soap had broken, spilling dishsoap all over the redundant containment device (zip-top sandwich baggie). Fortunately only a little had escaped the baggie. I’ll have to find a more robust dish soap bottle in the morning.

Then it was off to dinner at the Depot B-B-Q restaurant. The staff recommended their fish plate (like chicken “fingers” but fish), served with toast, fries and coleslaw. Very tasty. Locals started filtering in, and one of them, Jim, started asking about my trip. There’s something charming about small towns like that.

Having spent all day taking advantage of the (mostly) favorable wind, I had only snacked for lunch, and had my usual “power snack” of ice-cream sandwich and coffee in Charleston, so one dinner wasn’t enough. Round two was a patty melt (delicious!) and “cheese balls”, sort of like spicy cheese curds, served with ranch dressing. The combination worked well.

Banana Cream Cake

Given free wifi and coffee refills, I followed the above with a slice of banana cream cake. Think form of carrot-cake, but taste of banana bread. Wonder-twin powers activate. It was different but good, although I think I still prefer carrot cake. Rob Barker came in as I was working on the banana cream cake, and filled me in on local attractions and points of interest on my way south.

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6 Responses to Cherokee Pass to East Prairie MO

  1. Tamara B. says:

    Good for you! Just keep on chuggin’. You’re probably halfway through Tennessee as I write this.

  2. Tim Anderson says:

    Man, you’re really cruising! How’s the weather been temperature-wise for you? We just saw our first sporatic snow flakes here this week. Still looking good for your Thanksgiving destination? Any still-forming ideas for where you go after that?

    • Sean says:

      Thursday & Friday morning this week I had ice on the inside of the tent rain fly, but otherwise the weather had been generally amazing, with days in the 50’s – 60’s (and even a few touching 70F). There’s only been two days where I’ve ridden in the rain, usually it’s been overnight.

      Right now I’ve got about 520 miles to N’Orleans; I might just make it by Thanksgiving.

      After that I’m still thinking San Diego.

  3. Shaun says:

    I’m impressed by the friendliness and generosity of the people you’re meeting along the way. That’s terrific! A Disk Trucker would have afforded you the ability to easily stop for that pie and cinnamon roll (I was going to say “pie OR cinnamon roll” but then I caught myself). Just sayin’.

  4. Bill Connell says:

    I love reading your travelogue, thanks for keeping us up to date on your travels. I imagine you’re leaving a trail of diner owners talking about that skinny feller who could really pack it away. The local food and beer notes are good too, i like hearing about the local breweries, and little diners.

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