Your 7 day cycling tour through the four Mississippi River valley states of
 Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky
 begins and ends in New Madrid, Missouri and will take you along
 the following route to these welcoming overnight communities.......

Day 1-New Madrid, Missouri Elementary School to Kennett, Missouri American Legion Hall 57.5 miles

At the 15 mile mark, our first rest/water stop of the day will be found at Miller's Store in the village of Parma, open early this Sunday just for your beverage/food/rest room needs.  Continuing first west, then south, we pedal to Gideon, where your water/rest room/snack/needs will be met by Casey's General Store.  Next up is the tiny hamlet of Peach Orchard.  The Bean Cotton company is your host, and the owner, Barry Bean, is an avid racing cyclist!  He's looking forward to meeting you and offering an unique lunch experience if you can't wait until you arrive in Kennett.  This stop will also feature a fund-raiser for one of the local school clubs, so help them out if you can!  About 7 miles further on the Friendship cotton gin will host our final water stop of the day.  Our first overnight is in about 7 miles 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 66.4 miles

Leaving Kennett 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 courtesy of the Call's Chapel Church.  Seven miles further on, after passing by the courthouse square in Piggott, we’ll arrive at rest stop 2, 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 3rd stop of the morning.  Grab a snack or two, refill your bottles and then continue south and west to Marmaduke, where the local Quik-Stop is your mid-route meal opportunity. Leaving Marmaduke and pedaling south, a final water stop will be at the county water district building on the outskirts of Paragould.  In about seven more miles, you'll reach the Paragould Community Center, 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, featuring live music, is courtesy of "Skinny J's" restaurant downtown. An extensive choice of local restaurants for dinner round out your visit to the Greene county seat.

Day 3- Paragould Community Center to Caruthersville, Missouri Recreation Center 74.4 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 is a popular stop on our 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 Amoco station  Five miles further on, we’ll pass through the optimistically named but tiny hamlet of Braggadocio.  If you pass through during operating hours, the postmaster 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 Fulton County High School Hickman, KY 65.3 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, but please ride near the left edge adjacent to the roadway, as debris further over on the shoulder can give you a flat tire very easily.  To increase the feeling and margin of safety, we have 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 the grate 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 go SLOW and BE ALERT here as well.     

Once across the Mississippi, we take the first exit, turning left onto the Great River Road.  Your first rest stop of the day is just ahead.  Once refreshed, continue north for some distance before heading east through the small town of Bogota, where the community center is the site of the morning's second rest stop.  Tour participants then turn north and continue skirting the scenic west Tennessee foothills.  Cyclists next ride along the shores of Reelfoot Lake, a year-round sportsman's paradise, a fact confirmed by the many cabins you'll 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 bald eagle viewing opportunities.   Eventually you'll reach the village of Samburg, where tourism committee members will be hosting our next rest/water stop at Spicer Park on the shore of the lake.  Should you feel the need for more substantial food, there is a restaurant adjacent to the rest stop.  Those accepting the challenge of today's century option will split from the main group shortly after Bogota, and add additional mileage and climbing to their day, passing through the towns of Hornbeak and Troy before rejoining the main route at the Samburg rest stop.  Departing Samburg, the route turns northward again as it winds the final miles to the overnight site at Fulton County High School east of Hickman.

Day 5-option 1-Union City Discovery Park loop 33.7 miles

Travel a short 16 miles over some gently rolling hills to the brand-new Discovery Park in Union City.  Spend several hours exploring the exhibits on history, science, and technology.  Experience a simulation of the 1811-12 earthquakes from which our tour takes its name.  Immerse yourself in the underwater aquatic life of Reelfoot Lake at the aquarium.  Have lunch at the on-site restaurant.  Stop in at the "Libation Station" if you're in the mood.  Return to Hickman in time for the evening activities there.

Day 5-option 2-Reelfoot Lake State Park loop 61 miles

The longest of our 3 choices for the day, this 61 mile loop will take you past the Civil War "Battle of Island #10" marker, then around the entire periphery of Reelfoot Lake.  You'll be able to stop in at the visitor center, browse the exhibits on the great earthquakes and area wildlife, and if you wish, take an eagle-watching boat tour with a park naturalist.  Ample choices for lunch along the route.  Blue Bank restaurant and the Boathouse in Samburg both offer outdoor dining.  Return to Hickman through the Samburg rest stop.

Day 5-option 3-Columbus-Belmont State Park loop 50.5 miles

An "out and back" route northward to one of Kentucky's most popular state historic sites, location of one of the earliest Civil War battles.  Nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the West" for its location on the river bluffs, you'll be able to tour a museum, see trenches where the troops took cover, and examine many more artifacts.  Check out a spectacular view of the Mississippi River showing the strategic significance of the site.  For lunch, there is a snack bar in the park, or a restaurant on the route in the nearby hamlet of Columbus.  This route has the steepest hills of the three choices offered, mostly clustered right at the entrance to the park.  Retrace the outbound route to return to Hickman for the night's activities.

Day 6-Fulton County High School, Hickman, Kentucky to YMCA of Sikeston, Missouri 62.8 miles

We start Friday off with a short trip of about four miles to the eastern landing of the Dorena-Hickman riverboat ferry.  About halfway there we'll stop off at the West Hickman Baptist Church for breakfast.  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 35-40 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, and site of our third rest stop of the day.  Leaving Charleston, we traverse more farmland until we have our final rest stop at the Air Evac Lifeteam air ambulance base.  We arrive shortly after in Sikeston, where a beverage garden awaits to slake your thirst!

Day 7-YMCA of Sikeston, Missouri to New Madrid, Missouri elementary school 45.7 miles

On our way out of town, we’ll be passing the Sikeston Veteran's Park.  The park site and adjacent airport were home during World War II to one of the Army Air Corp's main pilot training schools.  You'll arrive shortly after at the Elk's Lodge, where you'll be served your final breakfast of the week.  Heading south out of town, in about 10 miles the community of Matthews offers its city park as your first rest stop.  There will be a final water stop in approximately 15 miles.  Before long, you'll be completing your 4 state adventure, as you arrive back at the New Madrid elementary school.  Thanks for "Riding the Fault Line" with us, and tell your friends about the great experience you had!

   

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