Day 1-New Madrid, Missouri elementary school to Kennett, Missouri American Legion hall 60.5 miles
At the 15 mile mark, our first rest/water stop of the day will be found at the D & L One-Stop C-store in the village of Parma, open early this Sunday just for your beverage/food/rest room needs. Continuing due west, we pedal to Malden, where your water/rest room/snack needs will be met by C-stores and restaurants in this community. Leaving Malden, we turn briefly east then back south toward our final rest stop location in the tiny hamlet of Peach Orchard. Our first overnight stop is approximately 15 miles further on at the American Legion hall in Kennett-hometown of pop singer Sheryl Crow.
Day 2-Kennett, Missouri American Legion hall to Paragould, Arkansas Community Center 68 miles
Leaving Kennett we cross the St. Francis River into Arkansas, and in about 18 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 with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, whose family had moved to Piggott in the early 1900’s. Hemingway wrote several short stories as well as portions of his novel “A Farewell to Arms” in a converted barn/studio. During rest stop hours, 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 49 south, reaching the community of Rector which will host our 2nd stop of the morning. Grab a snack or two, refill your bottles and then continue south and west through Marmaduke toward the town of Lafe, our final stop of the day. Once again, a local C-store will serve your rest stop needs. In about 15 more miles, you'll reach Paragould, our destination for tonight.
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. A wine/beer patio in the afternoon/evening courtesy of "Skinny J's" restaurant downtown, an extensive choice of local restaurants for dinner, and a free bluegrass concert in the historic restored Collins theatre downtown round out your visit to the Greene county seat.
Day 3- Paragould Community Center to Caruthersville, Missouri Recreation Center 73.8 miles
After your hearty breakfast served by the local Kiwanis Club, we have 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 Arbyrd location of Black Gold Farms, producer of potatoes! Have some snacks, get your water bottle filled, and take a 10 minute tour to see newly harvested potatoes being processed for shipment. Riding east, take a few moments for a short side trip to Betty’s Café in Hornersville, open for cyclists who feel the need for a little mid-morning refreshment. Betty’s was a popular stop on our previous tours, as Ms. Betty, formerly a cook on a riverboat, has great food, an outgoing personality, and a wealth of fascinating stories to tell!
Passing 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. The postmaster here is expecting us and will be happy to stamp your postcard with an original Braggadocio cancellation stamp if you collect unique souvenirs. The city limits signs make a good “photo op”. The route next crosses over Interstates 55 and 155, and we arrive at our Tuesday 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. Offering a spectacular view of the Mississippi River, the casino's outdoor gazebo will be offering beer & wine for sale from 2-6 PM, with live music from 4-6. Free shuttle to/from the casino until midnight.
Day 4-Caruthersville Recreation Center to Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee 54.6 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. While we have had covers custom made for these grates, and they will be in place, caution is still the watchword. Be safe, slow down, ride between the orange marker flag and the bridge railing. If you have any doubt of your ability to cross safely, dismount and walk your bike across. 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 here 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, site of the morning's second rest stop. Tour participants then turn north and pass through "Cat Corner", where an authentic, ramshackle, country bar on the roadside still operates on the weekends. Take a look just off the route. Continue traversing the west Tennessee foothills, eventually reaching the village of Samburg, where tourism committee members will be hosting our final rest/water stop of the day. Those accepting the challenge of today's "hammerhead" option will split from the main group shortly after Cat Corner, and add about 45 miles to their day passing through the towns of Hornbeak and Troy before rejoining the main route at the Samburg rest stop. 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, from which our tour derives its name, 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 lodging will be at the Reelfoot Lake state park.
Day 5-Reelfoot Lake State Park to Fulton County High School, Hickman, Kentucky 63.9 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 around the corner from the rest stop in city hall 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, Hickman, Kentucky to YMCA of Sikeston, Missouri 60 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 100 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 40-45 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, past the community of East Prairie, pausing in the village of Anniston for our next water/snack break. We'll continue north towards Charleston, home to our ride’s most impressive collection of historic homes. Here the local historical society will be hosting our final rest stop of the day, and tours of a historic home will be offered. Leaving Charleston, we traverse more farmland until we arrive in Sikeston, where many activities are planned for your night's visit.
Day 7-YMCA of Sikeston, Missouri to New Madrid, Missouri elementary school 45 miles
Departing Sikeston, we’ll be passing the new eastern campus of Three Rivers College as we travel to the small town of Matthews, site of our first rest stop of the day. From there, you'll cycle on one of the flattest portions of our tour, before arriving at Kewanee for your second rest/water/snack opportunity. Continuing east, you'll experience the only "hill" of the day as you climb about .1 mile to the top of the Mississippi River levee. Here will be your final rest stop of the morning. For the next ten miles you will be riding on top of the 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. Before long, you'll wind up back at the New Madrid elementary school, where showers will be available so that you may freshen up before beginning your drive home. Thanks for "Riding the Fault Line" with us, and tell your friends about the great experience you had!