My first day in Illinois was spent going off my regular route to Garden of the Gods which had breathtaking views and rock formations created by millions of years of nature’s weathering forces. It was well worth the extra 15 miles to go off course. Unfortunately, the next two days in Illinois I spent in on and off torrential downpours. Despite the rain, highlights included riding along the Mississippi River Levee Road with all of the coal terminals and flour mills. And who could forget a visit to Chester, Illinois, home of the creator of Popeye, where I sought out all 18 statues of the Popeye characters. After leaving Chester, I crossed the Mississippi River to Missouri. Unfortunately, upon my arrival in Missouri the first night, I realized my bike had failed at the attachment point of the carrier on both sides with holes in the bike frame. I spent a day looking for a replacement bike and parts with no luck due to Covid. I ended up going to a radiator shop where I had the bike welded and repaired. My travels through Missouri took me through Mark Twain national forest and the Ozarks Riverfront trail with it’s endless state parks. One of the state parks I visited was Elephant Rocks, giant boulders formed from 1 1/2 billion year old granite. Another favorite was Johnson’s Shut-In’s State Park with beautiful rock formations and rapids. One of my favorite towns was Eminemce, a small town full of river activities on the Jack’s Fork River where it happened to be the 52nd annual horse trail event with over 2000 horses along the river. The heat was brutal for several days in Missouri and I was rescued from the heat on one occasion by a perfect stranger I met in a convenience store who offered me up their missionary apartment in their church which I attended the following day and was blessed with prayers and the warmest welcome from the entire congregation. Missouri will be remembered for it’s beautiful state parks, Popeye, welcoming people, and rolling hills of the Ozarks.
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