Your cycling tour through the Mississippi River valley states of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee,
and Kentucky begins and ends at the YMCA in Sikeston, Missouri and will take you along
 the following route to these welcoming overnight communities:

Ride the Fault Line 2014 daily itinerary

Day 1-YMCA of Sikeston to Campbell, Missouri Community Center 58 miles

Today we embark on the first and what could be the most challenging day of the tour.  The route travels almost completely to the south and slightly west, meaning if there is going to be a headwind issue during the week, today is the day!  So riders are encouraged to leave as early as possible after breakfast, since whatever wind there is almost always gets stronger as the day progresses.  We’re beginning our week’s adventure headed south out of Sikeston.  Just after we cross under U.S. highway 60, we’ll pass the SEMO Cycles bike shop, which will be open early in case you may need some last minute bike “tweaks” or cycling-specific supplies. 

At the 10 mile mark, our first rest/water stop of the day will be found in the Matthews City Park.  Afterward, the route continues on through wide expanses of farmland and passes by the D & L One-Stop C-store in the village of Parma, open early this Sunday just for your beverage/food/rest room needs.  From there, it’s on to Malden, where several fast food places will be available for rest rooms and a mid-morning snack.  Heading west out of Malden, we’ll soon encounter our first small stretch of rolling hills as we pass through one of Missouri’s largest peach orchards.  When the route once again flattens out, it means we’ll soon arrive at our first overnight location, the Campbell Community Center/Park. 

Day 2-Campbell Community Center to Paragould, Arkansas Community Center 68 miles

Leaving Campbell we cross the St. Francis River into Arkansas, and in about 15 miles we’ll be at our first rest/water stop for the day in the community of Piggott.  Passing by the courthouse square, we’ll soon arrive at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, operated by Arkansas State University.  Here, famed writer Ernest Hemingway lived during the late 1920’s and 30’s with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, whose family had moved to Piggott in the early 1900’s.  Hemingway wrote portions of his novel “A Farewell to Arms” in a converted barn/studio.  RTFL cyclists will be able to tour the home/museum.

Also available for tours, the adjacent Karl & Matilda Pfeiffer Museum exhibits a large collection of minerals and was a location for the 1957 Elia Kazan movie, “A Face in the Crowd”, featuring actors Lee Remick, Patricia Neal and Andy Griffith in his first dramatic role.  The movie premiered in Piggott in May 1957.

Leaving Piggott the route follows U.S. highway 62 west for several rolling miles, arriving at our next rest stop in McDougal.  From here the road flattens out and turns south on the Crowley's Ridge Parkway toward the small but welcoming hamlet of Knob, where the community center will be staffed with locals anxious to meet and refresh you!  Be sure to grab a snack or two since we’ll immediately start doing some hill climbing as we leave Knob, headed for our Monday night stop in Paragould. 

The most populous of all the communities on our tour, Paragould has graciously extended us the use of their wonderful community recreation center building and grounds.  Here riders will have access to both indoor and outdoor pools, showers, and the gym for sleeping, as well as a shuttle to take you to the Crowley’s Ridge State Park, which offers swimming, kayaking, and pedal boats, among other attractions.  An extensive choice of local restaurants for dinner and a free concert in the historic restored Collins theatre downtown cap off the evening.

Day 3- Paragould Community Center to Caruthersville, Missouri Recreation Center 67 miles

After your hearty breakfast served by the local Kiwanis Club, we have another fairly long trip on tap for today, but any wind should be at your back as we ride due east!  About seven miles into the route, you’ll pass by the vintage George Ray Dragstrip.  Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is the oldest continuously operating dragstrip in the U.S., having hosted its first race in 1961.

Our first rest/water stop will be at the Christ United Methodist Church on the east edge of Paragould.  Soon after that, riders will pass by a convenience store just after crossing back into Missouri.  From there, our next point of interest and water stop will be the small farming community of Hornersville, where Betty’s Café will be open for cyclists who feel the need for a little mid-morning refreshment.  Betty’s was a popular stop on our 2013 tour, as Ms. Betty has great food, an outgoing personality, and a wealth of fascinating stories to tell!

Leaving Hornersville, we press onward and about four miles north, cross over a closely spaced series of five drainage canals.  These are the “floodway ditches”, a key component of the drainage system that, just about 100 years ago, turned the vast area of land you are riding through from an unusable swamp into some of the most productive farmland on earth.  It also made possible the very flat routes you are riding on the first days of this tour.  Continuing east, our next rest/water stop will be at the Deering, Missouri post office.  Five miles further on, we’ll pass through the optimistically named but tiny hamlet of Braggadocio. If he’s not closed for lunch, the postmaster there will be happy to stamp your postcard with his original Braggadocio cancellation stamp, and the city limits signs make a good “photo op”.   The route crosses over Interstates 55 and 155, and we arrive at our next overnight stop at the Caruthersville Recreation Center.  Here you’ll have access to another indoor pool, and time to visit the Mississippi riverfront and local riverboat casino.

Day 4-Caruthersville Recreation Center to Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee 55 miles

We begin our ride today with a short trip to the Caruthersville American Legion hall for breakfast, then head south for a rare opportunity-cycling on a section of Interstate highway.  Normally bicycles are forbidden from use on the Interstate system, but since the I-155/U.S. 412 bridge is the only crossing of the Mississippi River between Cairo, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee, we were able to obtain special permission to cycle across the bridge this morning.  From the interchange on the south side of Caruthersville to the point where we exit in Tennessee is about 7 miles.  There is a wide shoulder for you to ride on, but to increase the feeling and margin of safety even further, we have also made arrangements to have the eastbound right lane of the bridge closed from 6 AM until 9 AM this morning. CAUTION!  At the point on the bridge where the overhead superstructure begins, there is a steel drainage grate to cross.  Since the bridge was not built to accommodate bicycle traffic, this grate is NOT bicycle friendly.  Observe the signage; dismount your bike and walk across the grate.  It’s a good place to stop for a “photo op” anyway.  THEN, on your way down the eastern half of the bridge, beware-there is another identical grate on the eastern end of the structure-so BE ALERT and walk your bike across this grate as well.     

Once across the Mississippi, we’ll follow a loop that will take us back under the bridge parallel to the river, passing a grain shipping terminal which will be the location of the first rest/water stop of the day.   The route travels along the Great River Road for some distance, before heading east through the small town of Bogota.  Tour participants then turn north and traverse along the west Tennessee foothills, eventually reaching the village of Samburg, where the volunteer fire department will be hosting our final rest/water stop of the day.  Cyclists next ride along the shores of Reelfoot Lake, a year-round sportsman’s paradise, as you will see from the many cabins you will be passing by.  Formed by land subsidence that occurred 200 years ago during the great New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12, the lake is famed for its fishing, hunting, and wintertime bald eagle watching opportunities.  Activities here will include boat tours of the lake led by state park naturalists, with the opportunity to see some bald eagles along the way, and an evening presentation on and exhibition of some of the area’s birds of prey.  Our overnight campsite will be at the Reelfoot Lake state park, with indoor camping facilities courtesy of the adjacent Reelfoot Lake National Guard armory.

Day 5-Reelfoot Lake State Park to Fulton County High School, Hickman, Kentucky 62 miles

We begin the fifth day of our four state tour with a stop at the Lakeview Dining room for your included breakfast buffet.  Afterward, we’ll pass the Carl Perkins boyhood home, and continue to Ridgely, where today’s first water/rest stop will be at Fast Mac’s “Our Place” restaurant.  As with Ms. Betty on Tuesday, Mac is quite the personality and will be glad you stopped in to see him!

From there we continue through more of the Mississippi river bottomlands.  Before long we’ll find ourselves in Tiptonville, for our second rest/water stop availability of the day.  Just down the block from the rest stop is a fascinating museum with artifacts from the civil war and intervening years of life along the river.  Next it’s back north through more river bottoms where the route passes by the Civil War “Battle of Island #10” marker.  In about 7- 8 miles, we’ll cross the state line into Kentucky, and shortly thereafter have our final water/rest stop courtesy of the Midway Baptist Church.  Our overnight destination of Fulton County High School in Hickman is our next stop.

Day 6-Fulton County High School to New Madrid, Missouri elementary school,  50 miles

We start Friday off with a short trip of about five miles through the heart of Hickman, to the eastern landing of the Dorena-Hickman riverboat ferry.  Over 50 years ago, prior to the construction of the I-155 bridge at Caruthersville, which we crossed Wednesday morning, there were as many as five or six ferries operating at various points along this stretch of the river.  Now this is the only one that remains.  The ferry can safely carry 150 cyclists per trip.  So as you can see it will require multiple trips to get all our riders and vehicles across.  Each round trip takes about 45-50 minutes.  Upon landing back in Missouri, the route will take you by the Big Oak Tree state park.  The park is home to many large trees, some record holders.  This will be the first water/rest stop of the morning.  From Big Oak Tree, the route travels along portions of the Mississippi River Trail through the community of East Prairie.  Here you’ll pass a city park offering a water/rest room opportunity.  Cycling through town, we’ll turn south toward New Madrid, home to our ride’s most impressive collection of historic places.  For a good portion of the distance you will be riding on top of a river levee, which will give you commanding views of the countryside for many miles in all directions.  Imagine what the area looked like back in the day of the great earthquakes of 1811-12, and on into the early 1900’s, before the swamps were drained, trees harvested, and farmland created.  Just before the entrance to the levee road, New Madrid County Jaycees will be hosting your final water/rest stop of the day.  Upon arrival in New Madrid, you’ll pass by the Hunter-Dawson home state historic site.  This is a restored 1850s era home, complete with many of the original furnishings.  Staff will give tours until 4 PM for those cyclists who are interested in more details.

Before long, you’ll be in historic downtown New Madrid, by far the oldest community on our tour this week.  Continue less than a block westward from Hunter-Dawson, then turn south on Main Street.  On the way you’ll pass the historic yellow brick A. B. Hunter home, built in the early 1900’s. 

Once downtown, take the time to look through the museum, have a tour of the restored Higgerson one-room school house, and ride down the riverfront.  Here, you can visit the beer-wine garden set up for our riders on the impressive river observation deck.  Depending on schedules, there may even be one of the modern day paddlewheel steamboats docked along the riverfront.  Live musical entertainment is planned for you during the evening meal.  The New Madrid County school district will be our camping hosts for the evening.

Day 7-New Madrid elementary school-return to YMCA of Sikeston, Missouri, 30 miles

Departing New Madrid, we’ll be passing by more farmland, and eventually the Interstate 55/State Highway 80 intersection.  Located here is a large truck stop which will serve as our water/rest room facility this morning. From there it’s slightly east then north until we arrive back in Sikeston and pass by the Veteran’s Park near the airport.  During World War II this was the site of a training base for aviation cadets, and now hosts a ceremony honoring veterans of all wars each Memorial Day.  We’ll wind through the sports/recreation complex, and very shortly return to our starting point at the YMCA.  Showers will be available for you here so that you may freshen up before beginning your drive home.

   

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