SEA TO SHINING SEA: Nearing the Missouri River mouth
ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI — DAYS 54, 55, 56 - July 6, 7 and 8 Traveling a little faster than the mighty Missouri.
At some points, like from the bridge at Jefferson City - capitol of the state - we see the wide and shallow Missouri from bank to bank. Other days, we catch glimpses of the silvery river through the trees. And then at other times, the river is beyond the fertile bottom land that nurtures solid crops of wheat, beans and corn without irrigation.
The Missouri, at 2,000 or so miles long, drains an enormous amount of this nation before it empties into the Mississippi just above St. Louis. Its steady eight miles of current presses eastward from its headwaters way back in the Rockies. From time to time - like back in 1993 - flood waters swell the Missouri way beyond its banks taking out homes, crops, roads and anything else that sweeping waters can carry.
One of the interpretive signs along the Katy Trail said early settlers found the land of central Missouri so fertile, and the climate so favorable for growing, they claimed you could plant a crow bar in the evening and it would begin sprouting ten-penny nails by morning.
Our pedaling the last two days has taken us through a region heavily influenced by the German immigrants who settled here. We've passed through beer gardens and towns with names like Rhineland, Hermann, Peers and Dutzow. In Hermann, we ate brats and kraut and warm potato salad. Two days ago on Saturday, we passed the largest group of Amish young people - girls with hair up and flowing calico dresses, boys trim in blue shirts, black pants and black, flat-rimmed hats - that we had ever seen. Dozens of them with a group, pedaling on the trail. Girls outnumbered boys by at least four to one. Lots of German roots in that group as well.
The town of Hamburg is no longer on the map. One local said the government took it over in World War II because it wanted to make bombs there. "Google Hamburg, Missouri and you'll find out the rest of the story," he said.
We passed a grandfather and grandson who pedaled out of Rehoboth Beach four weeks ago, headed west on a bonding adventure. Good intelligence. They took the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath route to Cumberland, Maryland and then jumped on the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh, making their way to St. Louis. "Go to Google maps and follow the routes suggested in bicycle mode. Working like a charm. It puts us on bicycle trails nearly every day and less-traveled roads. Make sure you cross the Ohio River in Stubenville, Ohio."
St. Charles is where Lewis and Clark did much of the staging for their Corps of Discovery westward expedition in 1804. The Katy Trail includes excellent interpretive signs chronicling their journey.
That's all for now. Sorry I haven't been here for a few days. Internet connections are spotty at best and the weather has taken a decided turn toward heat and humidity. By the end of the day, I have little patience for slow to nonexistent internet so I have to wait for places like St. Charles where the signals are stronger.
Heading into St. Louis tomorrow. We've covered 244 miles over the last four days - all on the Katy Trail. Our bikes are coated with the white powdery dust from the crushed limestone surface. Becky particularly likes the effect created on her legs by sun tan lotion and trail dust.
The muddy Mississippi beckons but she prefers a shower.
Tomorrow we'll pedal into St. Louis and maybe catch a Cardinals game before Googling our way across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio to Pittsburgh.
(Total miles pedaled since we left Astoria, Oregon on May 14: 2,142.)
PPS - More photos tomorrow. I'm learning there's WiFi and then there's WIFI. In St. Louis I expect to find Super WIFI.
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