Friday, June 19, 2009

The Ozarks

Day 1: Chicago – Perryville MO (415 miles)

Days 1 & 2 route

We left Chicago on Saturday, June 13th, at about 8:30 am. The plan for the first day was rather simple - jump on I-355/I-55 and ride to St. Louis and then continue south to Farmington. Other than some light drizzle in the morning the weather cooperated, and Howard and I arrived in Farmington at about 5 pm.

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Although we planned to stay on schedule, we decided not to book hotels in advance. Big mistake. There were no vacancies in Farmington. With some help from a clerk at one of the hotels, we found a room in Perryville, 42 miles from Farmington. On a positive side, the ride through historic French settlements on MO 32 turned out to be the best ride of the day.

After some consideration, we decided to book a room for the next day. It turned out to be a smart move. Thayer, our next destination, had only one hotel, and there were no vacancies. For whatever reason the rate at a motel we called next was almost twice as high.

We ended up booking a room in West Plains, about 20 miles from Thayer.

Day 2: Perryville MO – West Plains MO (295 miles)

The weather forecast was absolutely horrible - storms, rain, and possibly even hail. Howard and I prepared for the worst. But along our route I guess they didn’t know about the forecast, so the weather was actually very pleasant.

The route included 4 scenic roads: Ancient Rocks, Meramec Hills, Two Rivers, and Springs and Rivers.

Ancient Rocks is a 40-mile ride we jumped on in Arcadia, a town south of Pilot Knob Mountain, and rode all the way to Potosi. Historic Belleview Valley and Arcadia Valley are known as one of the most scenic cultural landscapes in the Ozarks.

We were supposed to ride Meramec Hills route from Onondaga Cave State Park to Steelville, but road construction on Hwy 8 forced us to take Hwy 185 to Sullivan, and then ride south to Cuba.

In Cuba we found ourselves on Washington Street, which was part of  historic Route 66, and couldn’t resist this photo opportunity.

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Hwy 19 from Salem to Alton travels across a broad, gently rolling upland plains that is part of the Salem Plateau. The plateau is deeply dissected by rugged hills whose steep slopes drain into spring-fed streams.

The road south of Winona leaves the ridges and travels across slopes of hills, following the contour of the land. The road is like a rollercoaster going up and down the drainages. The road is hugged by the towering trees and flowering shrubs.

Somewhere north of Alton we stopped for a short rest as well as to take a closer look at the antique Case tractors, but had to cut it short due to a couple of dogs that were expressing little friendliness.

My TomTom GPS with its TeleAtlas maps failed us twice that day. First, it wanted us to take a gravel road, and then it couldn’t find the hotel. Fortunately Howard’s Garmin, which had much better Navteq maps, didn’t have those problem.

Day 3: West Plaines MO – Little Rock AR (280 miles)

Days 3 & 4 route

We almost missed the turn to Hwy PP, which was the beginning of a 58-mile drive called Old Mill Run that proceeded through scenic hills and valleys visiting glades, historic old water mills, springs, and clear-flowing streams along the way.

The first mill close to the road was Hodgson Mill. It was built in 1894 and remained in operation until 1977. According to the Missouri Department of Tourism, this mill is the most photographed mill in the state. The spring that used to power this mill flows 24 million gallons of water per day.

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There’s a gift shop inside the mill with antiques, Ozark crafts, books, and more.

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We continued south on Hwy 5 and soon reached Mountain Home, the start of another scenic drive called Two Mountains, traveling south to the river hills of the White River, and ending at Mountain View.

White River and its tributaries have been carving into this region of the Ozarks uplift for more than one hundred million years, exposing prominent dolomite cliffs, sandstone outcrops, rugged wooded hills, and canyon like valleys.

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It was getting hot. At one point I saw a thermometer showing 94F. Howard was coping with the heat by soaking his skull cap in water, and I was poring water on my t-shirt under the jacket. This was helping somewhat until we got stuck behind a logging truck. I envied riders wearing t-shirts and shorts. But you either ATGATT or you don’t. Howard and I do, and we continued our trip in full gear.

When we saw an opportunity to pass this damn truck, I pushed the power button on my bike (an equivalent of downshifting) and was in front of it in I think just two seconds. I don’t know what Howard pushed (he was ahead of me), but he performed the same maneuver even faster.

A short rest after crossing Arkansas river.

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Day 4: Little Rock AR – Springfield MO (300 miles)

Eastern Ouachitas is a 75-mile drive from Little Rock along the eastern edge of the Ouachita Mountains to the Arkansas River valley and Holla Bend National Wildfire Refuge.

Pictures below were taken from the Petit Jean Mountain. Petit Jean was said to have lived during the French exploration of the New World. There’s of course a legend and a gravesite of Petit Jean.

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Hwy 154 took us to Scenic 7 Byway North, which is considered to be one of the nation’s most scenic drives. Byway ended in Harrison, and in less than an hour we were near Branson, enjoying the view of Château on the Lake overseeing Table Rock Lake.

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Days 5 & 6: Springfield MO – Chicago (600 miles)

Days 5 & 6 route

The fifth day route included two more scenic drives – Lake of the Ozarks and Missouri Rhineland, a 50-mile drive beginning at historic Hermann and traveling through the German-settled Missouri River alley and hills to Busch Conservation Area.

The main attraction of the last day was a 160-foot long wind turbine propeller blade. We saw several trucks caring turbines and propeller blades.

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