Sunday, August 8, 2010

Great River Ride – Day 4

We awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of thunder and rain lashing against our window.


Neither of us have had as good a rest this trip as last night. It was nice; no drunks, fisherman, slamming doors, or screaming kids. We nearly missed breakfast at the hotel. The night clerk told us it ended at 10:30, but apparently it was at 10am. We arrived at 9:58am and they were already taking everything away. We managed to grab a few things and went back up to our room. Sometime just before noon the rain stopped and we decided to head out. Even though we finally got a good night sleep, we were moving slowly. We had only planned on 200 miles today, so no need to rush. A strong wind blew the rain and the clouds away.

We put on our raingear since there was a lot of rain on the road and we didn’t want the rest of our gear getting wet. It was also a bit chilly in the mid 60s and the rain suits kept us warm. We stopped at the visitor center in Dubuque to get a new map since ours was taped to the bedroom door at home. I ran into the same woman who I met last year!

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Last year my wife and I visited Dubuque, and the worker at the visitor center (forgot her name) told us about the Great River Road and gave us a map (now taped to the bedroom door). That map planted the seed for the trip we are on now. It was great to meet her again and thank her for the idea. She also gave me another map! We took 52 south out of Dubuque hoping for some great scenery. We weren’t disappointed. It was great for fifty miles or so.

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South of Bellevue the riverside became very industrial and I wished I had tried the IL side. The river is so wide at this point. There are islands in the middle big enough for a 600 person town. Sabula, IA is Iowa’s only island town. It’s in the middle of the Mississippi River! Two days ago I was able to walk across the river, and now I wouldn’t even be able to swim it. Amazing!

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The afternoon got very hot and muggy. A number of the bank signs over a 100 mile area all said 91-94F. It wasn’t very comfortable, but the mesh gear made it bearable. We stopped frequently and rested in the shade.

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At one point, I even took a short nap. Riding in the heat is exhausting. We were on top of a hill overlooking the river and the breeze felt great.


It was also lucky to end up on that hill. We saw these two signs that explained the history of the Great River Road.


The first one is just a quote from Mark Twain about how great the view is from the hill. It is good. The second is the important one. It says:

“Great River Road

Charles H. Young for Muscatine devoted most of his life to the establishment of the Great River Road.

In 1916, the idea of a scenic highway was conceived and an organization formed. Charles Young became a director. A commission was organized in 1938 to plan a Mississippi River Parkway. Young was one of the Iowa members. In 1955, he became “Pilot” of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, and was active in its efforts until his death in 1969.

The vision Young had included signs with pilot wheel symbols marking highways from Manitoba to Mississippi. The green and white pilot wheel makers can now be followed from Kenora, Ontario, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the longest parkway in the world, a 5,600 mile panorama full of historical lore.

Iowa Department of Transportation 1978”

Finding this sign today was very meaningful after meeting the woman in the visitor center. Both of the two people that made this trip possible in one day.

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With all of the industry there were some really unpleasant smells. I was secretly wishing for the sun baked manure smell of Wisconsin back instead. It was so bad in southern Buffalo we held our breath. I don’t know what they were making or processing, but it smelled terrible.

Too much of this:


and too many of these:


We got a bit of a shock just north of Burlington when one of my favorite signs appeared: “Pavement Ends”! The gravel was in much better shape than those a few days ago in Minnesota, and we were able to ride along at 30mph. It still required all of my concentration though. At one point, I saw my wife waving, but I never saw at what. She said she was waving back at a farmer in a field. I never saw him; I was very focused on the road. I enjoyed it this time.  I wonder how much more we’ll run into.

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Overall, the scenery today wasn’t nearly as good as the previous two days once we reached about the middle of Iowa. Next time, I’ll take the Illinois side. Lots of bridges today as well. Here are three; I didn’t capture all of them.

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We rode 216 miles today from Dubuque, IA to Fort Madison, IA. Tomorrow, we will be entering MO and the plan is to make it to St. Louis. I heard they have a heat warning there. 111F was the heat index today. My current high riding temp is 97F from 2009 in the Nevada desert near the Hover Dam. Tomorrow should be interesting.

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  1. I'm afraid you guys are going to have to get used to the heat Chris. It has been the hottest July on record here in my part of Alabama. Last year was one of the coolest! It even snowed A LOT this past winter. (I think I brought the cold weather when I moved from northern NY). We are also very dry here where I live. I hope you are able to stay as cool as you can. I know my new motto is "It's not too hot to ride, it's just too hot to stop riding!" I love your photos on here and love to look at them big on Flicker. Darn those gravel roads!! I wonder if the smell is from Paper Mills? Up in NY we lived a few miles away from a town on the Black River that had a small paper mill and wow what a stink!!! Makes me wonder if you will be smelling that much of the way. I hope not!!
    Hi to Vicky...your wife is Vicky right?
    Ride Safe!

  2. Same story here in Missouri. This week is the hottest week of the year. The good thing is they lowered the forecast from over 100 degrees every day to about 98! Stay cool..

  3. It was already 82F here in St. Louis when I rode to work this morning at 0700. You definitely picked a hot day to pass through. I think riding in hot and humid is the biggest challenge of all the seasons.

    As the natives all say: Keep moving and drink lots of water.


  4. Eve: We are adjusting. It has also been quite hot in MN all summer too. Just not quite 100F :) Yes, stopping is tough with the heat. When we stopped for lunch, we just walked in with all our gear on, and then took the time to take it off in the AC. Same for going back out. No need to start sweating while putting on gloves and helmet. :)

    Bash3r: dang, I was hoping to break my record temp. I suppose there is still LA and MI for that!

    Keith: 82F at 0700 is a bit warm. :) Extreme heat and cold are both challenging. Machines and people start getting strange in either case.

  5. I just found your blog through REDLEG'S blog, I am a fan of motorcycle travel blogs...and this is not only an informative ride log, but fun to read too. I'm now a "follower"!

  6. Chris,
    It is noon here in St. Louis. It is 92F and a heat index of 105. I'm sending you cool thoughts.

    And, yes I agree about both cold and hot temperatures being a challenge, but 9F was a much more pleasant of a ride than the heat of last week. It's probably the Michigander in me. This is really sucky snowmobile weather :-)

    I trust you're taking care.


  7. Keith: I need to revise my previous statement slightly. Having done both -11F and 103F on a motorcycle. -11F is much harder. If you keep moving when it's 103F, you stay cool. Stop and you get hot. When it's -11F and you keep going, you get colder and colder.

    Thanks for the cool thoughts. I just sent a wave in your direction. Tomorrow morning, we'll visit the arch and wave again. :)

  8. Cheesie: Thanks and welcome Cheesie!

  9. Trust you to like the sign that says "Pavement Ends"! I hate those signs!

  10. Gary: I normally love the "pavement ends" signs. I have not been enjoying them on this trip however. I hope I don't see anymore until I'm on a different bike.

  11. Chessie: I'm sorry! I just realized I mistyped your name on my response above!

  12. Chris, that's OK! I see it often, it makes me smile! I've made the typo myself! I realize all is as it is, and life has a way of giving us smiles if we just take things easy!

    Thanks, btw...for stopping by my place, and for the kind words and compliment... I'm following this blog and your trip with lust... wishing I was you... heat, rain, all of it...only makes for the most memorable trip.

  13. Chessie: I'm glad you're enjoying the posts. The interactions with the comments are making it more fun for us. I am enjoying every part of the trip, what could be better than riding everyday with my wife? No schedules or clocks. It's great! The heat, rain, etc all do make the trip more memorable. I remember the crazy rain storm from last year between colorado springs and denver quite clearly. :)