We begin our week's adventure with a short two mile ride to the local Elks Lodge, where you'll partake of a bountiful breakfast buffet, rated best of the week by our 2015 cyclists. You'll then cycle west toward Crowley's Ridge, a group of small hills that rise from the surrounding farmland. Here one of our water stops will be graciously hosted by the Stars & Stripes military newspaper museum. Tours of the exhibits will be available. From there, you head south past the community of Dexter, and back into the flatlands that will lead you to your first overnight stop at the Malden High School. Numerous restaurants can provide lunch, while your included dinner will be served in the school cafeteria.
Day 2 Monday: Malden High School to Paragould, Arkansas Community Center 72 miles
After a hearty breakfast in the high school cafeteria, your route will take you southwesterly over a few small hills toward the small town of Campbell, site of the morning's first rest stop. Further on, after passing by the courthouse square in Piggott, we’ll arrive at rest stop two, 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 third stop of the day. Grab a snack or two, refill your bottles and then continue south to the Alexander Baptist Church, site of our fourth rest stop. Continuing south, the day's final rest stop will be found at the St. Francis water district building east of Paragould. Shortly thereafter, 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. A wine/beer patio in the afternoon/evening, featuring live music, is courtesy of "Skinny J's" restaurant downtown. The Chamber of Commerce is offering tours of the historic Greene County Courthouse as well as local agricultural operations. An extensive choice of local restaurants for dinner round out your visit to the Greene county seat.
Day 3 Tuesday: Paragould Community Center to Kennett, Missouri American Legion Hall 50 miles
After your hearty breakfast served by the local Kiwanis Club, we have a moderate length 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
Day 4 Wednesday: Kennett American Legion Hall to New Madrid, Missouri Elementary School 57 miles
Start your day off with a visit to the breakfast buffet at the Grecian steak house, then you're off on your way back north to the namesake community of our tour, New Madrid. Bean Cotton Company will serve as our first rest stop, with others at Casey's convenience store in Gideon, Miller's Store in Parma, and a final option at Casey's in Lilbourn. Along the way, put your new-found knowledge of farming techniques and equipment to use as you ride past the fields of crops. Our overnight destination is the New Madrid elementary school. While in New Madrid, be sure to bike or shuttle downtown and experience the earthquake history museum, the Higgerson one room schoolhouse, the adult beverage opportunity with views from the Mississippi River observation deck, and more! Your included meal this evening will be a spaghetti dinner prepared by the New Madrid Methodist Men's group.
Day 5 Thursday: New Madrid Elementary to Hickman, Kentucky Fulton County High School 28 miles
After breakfast at the elementary school, we'll ride past the Hunter-Dawson civil war era mansion and then travel along the top of the river levee for several miles. You'll get a commanding view of the area, and time to think about what you would have seen here some 100 years ago before the river was harnessed, the trees all harvested, and the swamps converted into farmland. Our first rest stop of the day will be at the Wallace Farm headquarters. This facility was completely rebuilt after the great floods of 2011, when the original structures were inundated by water more than 10 feet deep. We'll depart the rest stop headed for our first encounter with a river ferry crossing! Upon reaching the river, you can bide your time at rest stop two while awaiting the arrival of the ferry to take you across the river. Arriving in Kentucky, it's a short pedal around Hickman to the Fulton County High School east of town, your home for the next two nights. SInce it's such a short trip today, you still have time to ride the 30 mile loop to Union City, TN, and take in the sights at the new Discovery Park science center there. Or you can just relax at the campsite and explore the offerings of Hickman! Your evening meals here will be catered by Hub's restaurant. During your stay in Hickman, you'll also be able to tour the historic courthouse, including a trip all the way to the top to see the still functional 112 year old Seth Thomas clock. A visit to Kentucky Kernel Pecans is capped off with your being able to personally vacuum pack your own souvenir can of "munchin' pecans". Adult beverages will be offered each afternoon in the air conditioned confines of Hub's Restaurant, while for those with a sweet tooth, a local family offers a tour of their period home capped off with a sampling of homemade cakes! Don't eat or imbibe too much, though, as on Friday you have your choice of FOUR fascinating routes to explore.......
Day 6 Friday option 1: Union City Discovery Park loop 34 miles
After a breakfast buffet in the high school cafeteria, time to experience the route of your choice! If you did not do so on Thursday, you can 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 6 Friday option 2: Columbus-Belmont State Park loop 51 miles
An "out and back" route northward to one of Kentucky's most popular state historic sites, location of one of the earliest battles of the Civil War. 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 the huge anchor chain used to block boats travelling downriver as well as many other artifacts. Check out the spectacular view of the Mississippi River, highlighting the strategic significance of the site. For lunch, there is a snack bar in the park, or a restaurant you'll pass by in the tiny hamlet of Columbus. This route has a couple of moderate hills just outside the park entrance.
Day 6 Friday option 3: Reelfoot Lake loop 61 miles
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. Or have fun paddling through the cypress trees in a kayak! Ample choices for lunch along the route-Blue Bank restaurant and the Boathouse in Samburg both offer lakeside outdoor dining. Return to Hickman through the Samburg rest stop.
Day 6 Friday option 4: Reelfoot Lake century loop 100.2 miles
Back after a one year hiatus, our late-week century and hill option returns, even better than before! With only limited SAG support and recommended only for experienced cyclists, you'll follow the same route as option 3 for the first 40 miles, then turn south along the beautifully scenic South Bluff Road headed toward "Cat Corner" and then to your next water stop at the Elbridge water company. From there, it's on through moderate hills to Hornbeak city park, continuing to Troy where a convenience store offers a place to cool off and refresh yourself. Pedal back to Hickman through more modest hills. This route offers just over 2300 feet of climbing.
Day 7 Saturday: Fulton County High School to YMCA of Sikeston 63 miles
We start Saturday 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, 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