Hank – Judy fixed us a great breakfast to start our day. We really appreciated everything she did for us. We said goodbye to her and Heinzig and headed on out. (Judy says Heinzig is a Heinz 57 mix of breeds and she really didn’t use lot of imagination in naming him.) We talked about routes with Judith this morning. The route she recommended and the route recommended by Google maps were a no-go. Both had roads closed due to flooding. We needed to get across the Diversion Channel, a waterway used to divert water from the lowlands to the Mississippi River. That meant riding on Interstate 55 for about four miles.
About a mile away from I-55 my back tire picked up a heavy duty staple. That’s my first flat since Texas. I think it’s my fourth flat overall but I can’t be sure. While I swapped out the tube a gentleman stopped to check on us. Calvin Brennan chatted with us for a bit. And it was another small world moment. He knows Judy. They get together to play dulcimers. I wish I knew she played. I would have loved to hear her.
Back on the road and we got on the interstate. Both Judy and Calvin told us we’d probably get stopped by the police but we chanced it anyway. We had to get across the high water. When we got to the channel I saw the bridge over it was maybe 100 yards long. But we rode past water for two miles. I could tell when we passed over the canal because it was neatly lined with trees off into the distance. And all I could see was two lines of trees sticking out of the water.
We got off the freeway after that and continued south on US Hwy 61. After our first 21 miles we had flat land ahead of us. Kathy said she’d like to make it to New Madrid, Missouri, which would make for a 58-mile day. It was warm and humid so we took frequent breaks.
Along the way we noticed a few metal forks and spoons on the shoulder of the road. We joked that there must be silverware trucks that lose some of their contents much like trucks hauling cranberries or corn do.
I called the New Madrid Police Department and asked if there was a place we could camp overnight. A police lieutenant told me that camping was prohibited by city ordinance but they allow “people like us,” i.e., bike tourers, to camp at Cottonwood Park next to the Mississippi River Observation Deck on the south side of town. He said he’d tell the late shift about us and they’ll probably stop and check on us. I thanked him very much.
We arrived in New Madrid a little before 6:00 pm. We stopped at a supermarket and got a gallon of water and some food. Then we rolled to Cottonwood Park. The sign for the park was way out in the water. The Mississippi River is very high right now so the park is underwater. But there’s just enough mostly flat ground to put our tent on. It was 85 degrees and we were already sweaty from the ride. When we got in our tent it was like sitting in a sauna even though the rain fly was mostly off. There wasn’t much of a breeze so we sat in our own sweat while waiting for the sun to go down and the temp to drop. But the bugs stayed outside the tent. Nobody wanted to boil water for dinner just yet.
Once the sun went behind the embankment above us we were much more comfortable.
Kathy’s dinner was a bust thanks to me. I was draining her noodles for Mac ‘n’ Cheese when the lid slipped and I dumped them out on the ground. I felt awful because she was hot, tired, and hungry and was really looking forward to it. Sadly she had to settle for teriyaki chicken, which she kind of pecked at. I killed the evening for us. Both of us were near tears.
Barges ran up and down the river all night. After their deep thrumming engines passed by the waves from their wakes lapped against the shoreline. The engine noise I could’ve done without but the water sounds were relaxing.
Kathy – Judy made us a wonderful breakfast. We had a few hours to chat with her and learn more about her daughter and four grandchildren. She also talked about her many bike tours around the world. She completed her last 100-mile bike ride just two years ago. This is one spunky 81 year old lady, we can only hope to be so active in another 20 or so years. Before we arrived at her home yesterday she got in a ten mile bike ride, went to the eye doctor, did some shopping and running errands for a few hours, mowed her lawn, visited with us, and then went to see the Broadway play “Rent” last night. She didn’t enjoy the play that much. She said the music was too loud and she had to stiff Kleenex into her ears for most of it. 😂 Judy got home at 10:30 pm last night and was up by 5:30 am washing laundry (and hanging it on the clothesline) and making us breakfast. Once we left she was going to do some work around the house, have lunch with a friend, and then host three more bicycle tourers for the night. This is one busy lady.
Judy is also renovating her early 1900’s home…herself. Yes, she does all the carpentry work and any other details with the remodel. The only thing she doesn’t do is “plumbing and electrical work.” The rooms she has completed already are beautifully restored and furnished with early 1900’s decor. We felt a little lazy after listening to Judy’s cycling stories, community involvement and her busy daily lifestyle routines. It was great to meet Judy and we are very appreciative for her kindness in hosting us. What a gem!
We rode 58 miles today in sunny 87 degree weather. The humidity pushed our temps up into the low 90’s. We had a 10 mph headwind which we didn’t mind (until the last few miles 😓) because it helped cool us off. We climbed up and down the first 21 miles then it was happy, happy, joy time as we hit flatland! 🎉
Our plan was to do 46 miles, but we decided things were going well, so we added 12 more miles and camped in New Madrid, Missouri. We kept joking back and forth as we rode to keep our spirits up in the heat. I was excited to camp along the Mississippi River in New Madrid. I grew up swimming in the Muddy Mississippi River in Southern Illinois (just across from St. Louis Missouri). I’m sure I have lots of toxic chemicals from that river in my body just waiting to sprout out some sort of illness as I get older. 😏 Anyway, it wasn’t the most picture perfect place that I was imagining. Once we arrived we saw the campground sign – surrounded by the Mississippi River. We saw lots of flooding riding today and the Mighty Mississippi has taken over the park here too. It was just a matter of finding a somewhat flat area to set the tent up on in the small space available between the water and the levy.
We quickly got the tent set up since the bugs were out and licking their lips once they saw us. No ticks this time, but lots of chiggers and mosquitoes. They managed to nibble a bit on both Hank and I. It was hot. We literally just laid in the tent (to avoid more bug bites) for 1.5 hours just sweating up a storm. We were both tired after 58 miles of riding in hot temps and hungry, but neither of us wanted to do anything. Once the sun went down and it started to cool somewhat (the low tonight is only 65 degrees) we had our baby wipe baths and changed into clean clothes.
Other than breakfast at Judy’s house this morning we really didn’t eat any other meals today. We pushed the fluids but only had a few snacks throughout the day. No restaurants were available so we stopped by a grocery store as we arrived into town. No deli or fresh stuff in the store. For some reason I had a strong craving for Macaroni and Cheese. This is really crazy because I only eat the stuff maybe once a year. Regardless, I got a box of the really cheesy stuff and decided I would have it for dinner rather than the routine dehydrated meals. Treating myself after the ride. 😄
Because it was so hot we didn’t cook until it ‘cooled off’ to the mid 70’s around 8:15 pm. I was really looking forward to the mac and cheese. Unfortunately, Hank dropped the noodles all over the grass while trying to drain them. He felt bad for me, and I felt really bad for him as I know he didn’t mean it. We are both hot, tired, starving and trying not to cry. I’m almost crying now just writing about it. Hank eventually ate his dehydrated meal and boiled some more water so I could now have a dehydrated meal also. I managed to get about eight bites in and couldn’t even eat.
It was a long days ride and we were both so hot and tired. This small little insignificant thing managed to suck the remaining life out of us for the day. I love Hank so much and know it was a hard day for him too. In our almost 40 years together (we will be celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary next month) I have only seen this man cry about ten times. I felt so sorry for him. We talked briefly, kissed goodnight and said our I love you’s. We then laid on our sleeping mats trying to rest next to the hot, humid and bug infested Mississippi River. Not how I envisioned our evening but that’s what we got today. Hoping for a better day tomorrow. 💗💗💗
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