Best kept secret state, just so you know. Oops, now it's not a secret. Missouri was a beautiful state with wonderful people. This past week was the one of my favorite weeks on the trip... because of the experiences and people. As I pushed my bicycle up the banked road from the ferry after it dropped me off on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, I looked back at the ferry carrying Jim and Maria, my incredibly generous hosts and now, friends. They took the quick ferry ride across with me and as it pulled away, I waved goodbye tearing up. I was emotional for many reasons. It's hard to get back on the bike and head east when you are loving a place and connecting so well with people you meet along the way. And, in my mind, the Mississippi River was always a milestone on my journey and I made it. Holy cow! I'm in Illinois today!
In March, my mom, Elin and Aunt Doris took a trip to Ecuador and met Maria and Jim on the tour. When my mom knew my route, she contacted them and lo and behold, they live 20 miles north of the Adventure Cycling Association's Trans-America route (which I'm on). Maria, having never met me, organized that canoe float trip I wrote about yesterday (she loves going, so I didn't have to twist her arm). After the epic float on the Current River, we drove with my gear in the back of the truck to her town (Sainte Genevieve) and attended a fun local concert. I spent yesterday morning in Station 2 Cafe catching up on emails and organizing things (including upcoming routes and places to stay) and catching up with a few people via phone. I walked back from the coffee shop to Maria and Jim's home and Bryan and Toby from the Sainte Genevieve Herald came over to interview me and take photos. Press! It was great since I'm at 56% of my fundraising goal and would love to continue to get the word out. I hope to inspire people to donate, move more, eat healthier and/or fulfill a lifelong dream. You know, nothing too difficult...
After the interview, I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with Maria on a walking tour of this quaint, historic town. Maria and Jim live in the historic district of Sainte Genevieve so everything is within walking distance. Ste. Gen is one of the oldest European settlements west of the Mississippi. We started at the Jacques Guibourd home, built in 1806. Ms. Thompson, our guide was fabulous! She spent over an hour on the tour and gave us many details about the people who lived in the home, its' construction and furniture displayed within the home (although not original to the home, era- appropriate). Since we spent so much time there, we only had a chance to peek into some of the other homes on the Historic Tour, however, it was worth getting so much history on the one house. Ste. Genevieve is know for a type of home built with vertical wooden posts, also called 'French Creole Colonial' in the late 1700's/early 1800's. They aren't called log cabins, even though they resemble log cabins since the logs are vertical rather than horizontal. I'll include some of the photos from our walking tour below. The oldest brick building west of the Mississippi is in Ste. Gen as is the oldest school. Many people have taken to restoring these buildings to preserve for others to enjoy and learn the history. We went down to the River so I could stick my foot in (see photo below) and that's when I decided to take the ferry across this morning.
After Maria's tour, we went to the Eagles Club, a membership-only bar for happy hour. It was great to meet more locals and their group of friends. After happy hour, we came home and Jim cooked his famous (and delicious) shrimp and pasta dinner. Dessert was homemade cake from the neighbor- yum! I was only at Maria and Jim's for two nights but over the course of this past week, friends and neighbors have brought them a berry pie, two pieces of cake, soup and I know Alice brought something else today, but I can't remember what. That's community, folks. That is the close-knit small town mentality that keeps people loving and living in small towns.
I had two options to cross the Mississippi River. Cycle south and cross the river on my bike into Chester IL, or cross in Ste. Gen with Maria and Jim and take the ferry. It was obvious to me... the ferry was the best choice! After crossing, I cycled 54 miles, including a short stop in Chester, home of Popeye. Popeye was created by Elzie Crisler, born in 1894 in Chester. In my photos from today, you'll see I biked along levee roads and through farmland. It was a beautiful, mellow day of riding. It hit me today how far I've come. I'm in Illinois!
Thanks again to Maria and Jim for hosting me and being such a significant part of Road to Rhode. Love to you both!