Saturday, July 5, 2008

St Charles, Missouri to Chester, Illinois

I'm ashamed to say that I've just taken my first ride of the year. I've been so busy with a new job and moving to another state that I haven't really got to ride. I've always thought that the excuse of no money and no time rang a little false but I'm finding out that adult responsibilities do intrude into my Peter Pan riding land. As I headed out from our new house in St Charles, Missouri on I-270 around the southern end of the St Louis area all the emotion of a motorcycle ride came back over me. I don't know what chemical response it triggers but it goes right to the pleasure center of my brain.

I left this morning at 9:30 and jumped on I-70 to I-270. I usually try to avoid the interstates when I can but I had a specific goal in mind and the freeway offered the most direct route. After about 30 miles I took exit 6 at Columbia, Illinois and headed south on IL 3. I picked a road that I was hoping ran close with the Mississippi River. IL 3 doesn't, which actually worked out to my advantage. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that the Mississippi has been flooding the mid-west for the better part of the summer. As I got to Evansville I saw evidence of the Kaskaskia River over flowing it's banks. I was starting to worry that I may have to turn around. I decided to press on. It was a 76 mile trip from Columbia to Chester, Illinois. The road is what I see every time I ride in the areas along the Mississippi. There were miles of farmland with corn, no hills and straight roads to the horizon. While it wasn't the most scenic or challenging road I've ever been on it was a good one to blow the riding cobwebs out on. I got to Chester to be greeted by a sign proclaiming it the birthplace of Popeye, the sailor. The downtown was full of Popeye shops and signs. I wanted to save exploring Popeye's history for another day. After a burrito at the Hardee's/Red Burrito, I turned onto IL 150 heading west and crossed the River Bridge into Missouri. Illinois 150 turns into Missouri 51 and I followed that to route H. I started up State Route 61 which is very much like my old stomping grounds SR 40, the old national highway. 61 runs closer to the Mississippi and as a result I saw a lot more flooding. In St Mary a large portion of 61 was under water. As far as I could tell no homes were affected which I was thankful for. A sign proclaimed the route opened to local traffic only. Since there wasn't an alternative but to go back I made my way through town and pressed on.

Route 61 was an improvement on IL 3 but just barely. There were more hills and a few turns but for the most part I didn't get to use the sidewall of my tires except the few times I got on or off the freeway. There is some pretty scenery and there are few places on my "next time" list. And unlike the Illinois side the secondary roads are paved. I'm not sure about the Illinois side of this trip but I will be revisiting the south eastern portion of Missouri again. And let's be honest, I'll visit Chester again, at least to visit the Popeye museum.

The last portion of the ride consisted of me getting on and off of I-55. Like 40 and I-70, SR 61 and I-55 parallel and overlap one another. I was torn by my desire to get off the bike (I haven't built up the rider's butt yet) and see the back roads. I finally hit I-270 again and made a beeline for home, weaving through some thick traffic. I was disappointed to note that I was 5 miles short of an even 200 mile trip. Maybe next time.

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