There were 13 of us on the weekend bike retreat, ranging in age from 16 to 60-something. The collective biking experience would have been impressive had we added it up. Some had been cycling for decades. My own five years ranked somewhere near the bottom. And while most of us had at least seen each other at church, only a few knew a few well. But we would get to know each other a little better. As Todd, our trip leader, pointed out, “You can sit in a Sunday School class with other men and get to know them on one level, but nothing like you will over two days on a bike.”
Todd was right.
We left New Franklin, Missouri about 8:15 Saturday morning. Ron and Dennis drove the RV and the SUV, to give Todd and David, the assistant leader, some time on the bike. Todd and David would end up doing most of the driving, but Ron and Dennis graciously helped out.
Todd had the trip well planned out. We each were given two laminated cards to stick in our jersey pockets. One detailed each stop, the mileage between stops, the cumulative mileage, and where the RV and the SUV would be waiting. The other listed our cell phone numbers, important because we would generally not be riding as a group but extended out along the trail, riding at whatever pace worked best.
The Saturday ride would be the longest of the weekend. Starting out, we had a choice: start at New Franklin, or ride with the RV and truck and start at Rocheport 10 miles away. All it took was two or three people to say they were starting from New Franklin. All the rest of us said we’d do that, too. We’re guys.
The weather looked threatening but soon cleared up, staying overcast for almost three hours and helping keep the temperature cool. And we rode, through the tunnel at Rocheport, through stations named Huntsdale, McBaine, Providence and Easley, having a rest stop at Hartsburg (34 miles) and stopping for lunch at North Jefferson, right across the Missouri River from Jefferson City, the state capital. (It’s kind of cool to be riding along the trail and suddenly see the capital rising above the trees.)
After a rest stop at Tebbetts station, we encountered the single worst stretch of trail during the whole trip. For the six miles stretching from Steedman to Portland, large chunks of the trail were washed out, rutted, and full of holes. Because of the shadows from the overarching trees, sometimes you’d see what was coming, and sometimes you had to deal with it immediately, because it was a foot in front of you. I finally learned to follow the north side of the trail, where you at least have six or eight inches of intact ground. After the rest stop at Portland (72 miles from the start) and then Rhineland (83 miles), it was on to Hermann.
We had to leave the trail and take the spur into Hermann, across the Missouri River (there’s a great new bridge there with a dedicated biking/pedestrian lane protected by a concrete wall). We stopped at 93 miles from our start New Franklin. I've never biked that far at one time before.
We camped in Hermann City Park, took showers and then went to The Cottage for dinner – international style and home-style food in the hills above the town (we did home-style). This being Hermann, town of many wineries, I had a glass of Hermannhoff Chambourcin. With fried chicken. I'm not a wine expert. But the wine was good. So was the chicken.
Getting ready for bed, I looked at my watch – 9:23 p.m. I looked at my watch again, and it was 5:55 a.m.
NEXT: The final leg of the trip, and a crash.