Day 30 – Murphysboro IL to Farmington MO

Today, especially this afternoon, was just hard. Places to stay around here are a little few and far between so I had the option of a short day or a long one. I’m looking forward to getting to Bolivar and I took the long option. That put me in Farmington MO, instead of Chester IL where I had lunch. But it also meant I spent the afternoon heat climbing Missouri Ozark hills which were pretty tough. I achieved two big milestones; I made it across the Mississippi River and I get to sleep in my home state.

Nearing the Mississippi the “bottom land” gets really flat.
Those are bluffs in the distance. No doubt the river once ran where I’m standing and dropped all this soil here, and those bluffs would have been an island.
Half a tree – note powerline rant from yesterday.

The route this morning took me along the levees near the river. One of the things about traveling by bike is that you follow these little backroads where a lot of work is done, you see a lot of the basic infrastructure that supports us all. Today I saw all matter of raw materials transported by me on river barge, trains, and trucks. When’s the last time that you stood and watched a whole freight train go by? The shear volume of raw goods is kind of staggering.

Just before lunch I passed a big coal loading facility. They take coal from barges, load it on trucks, which then roll right through downtown Chester IL. So I had about 6 miles of bad shoulders and big coal trucks thundering by. Not fun. The drivers gave me lots of room when they could, but when 2 meet, its plain unnerving. Glad to be done with that. I did pick up a souvenir lump of coal. I think it’s actually the first time I’ve seen raw coal. It’s lighter than I expected, more like wood than a rock, which makes sense.

You’ll have to click to really see it – pano of this big coal operation.
Old school house just down the road from that big coal transport operation. I wonder how many times this school has been flooded? It’s behind a levee now but it wouldn’t have been when it was built.

I passed a closed factory this morning too that was falling down – they used to make aluminum siding and it reminded me of just how many closed factories I’ve seen, how many downtowns are vacant. I feel that one of the biggest impressions I’m getting from this trip is that I’m really concerned for our economy on a macro scale. It’s hard to talk to people about climate change when so many are struggling. It’s another one of those things that I “knew” before starting this trip, but I’m gaining a real appreciation for seeing it first hand. The communities that are thriving all have some real economic driver behind them, and a lot of our cities and rural areas don’t have that.

I keep thinking about the Amish and how prosperous their community seemed. They all make things and sell them to each other and to us. But so much of the things that we buy are factory-made overseas – we’re constantly shipping money out of the country. Makes me want to buy and Amish coffee table, instead of one at IKEA. But I won’t go on a total “America First” crusade – it’s our responsibility to make good quality stuff. I’ll buy an American car when they make one that’s worth the money (actually I have a deposit down for a Tesla 3, the cheap Tesla, made in America and coming out next year).

Chester IL’s claim to fame is that its the birthplace of Popeye’s author E.C. Segar. Apparently Popeye and Olive Oyl were based on real people he knew from Chester.


Missouri welcomes me. Well thank you, Mo.
Ok I’m going to stop taking these because the photo doesn’t do the hills justice. Steep!

The other thing that is hard to convey in pictures is just how lush and impenetrable the forests of southern Missouri are. I can’t imagine how Indians or early settlers got through.

Eat your heart out, Sonoma. Missouri has wine grapes too.

Big props to Farmington MO! The city is very interested in keeping their downtown vital, which it seems to be. they have even set up a hostel where I’m staying tonight that is just fantastic. It’s a cool loft space with laundry, wifi, a fridge, small kitchen, and bunks all for $20 a night. It’s called “Al’s Place” in honor of a Farmington cyclist who was a big supporter of the cycling community here.

5 thoughts on “Day 30 – Murphysboro IL to Farmington MO”

  1. Congratulations on reaching MO! Enjoying following your travels and photos (completely understand building photos… planner geeks come back from vacation with pictures of buildings, street furniture and interesting paving… as well as public art and transit). While you may not be having Scooby adventures travelling on your own steam to so many places is a great adventure.

  2. I saw a huge pack of cyclists coming towards me on my way home after work tonight. (20 at least) I thought of you and what you’re experiencing full-time, every day for a few months alone. Having the time to let your mind explore all the ideas that have occurred to you during your trip is something a lot of us don’t have. My thoughts are mostly about getting through my work day and then doing all the things at home with my kids that I need to do to keep a household running. You are really free right now. I envy that.

    I have exactly the same thoughts about power lines cut right through beautiful trees. When I see a gorgeous tree setback from the road, that happened to be lucky enough to sprout away from the power lines, it makes me feel sorry for the trees that had the misfortune to grow in the wrong place. Like kids in bad families.

    I’m glad you made it to Missouri. I hope the roads tomorrow are all flat, and lead you to more amazing thoughts.

  3. Jim,

    A couple of us were talking about you at the ASHRAE meeting in Long Beach, so I decided to check up on your blog: so fascinating!

    Being a biker, I can appreciate what you are doing by going cross country. It’s one of the bucket list items that I’ve been wanting to do since college.

    I would love to hear about the physiological (and even psychological) changes that you are encountering due to riding 70+ miles per day, every day. How do you replenish all those calories you are burning? Have you hit a “wall” yet where you simply cannot continue on certain days?

    Best of luck, and I look forward to reading about all your great adventures.

  4. I have been concerned about the hollowed out center of our country for a long time. So many people have grown up in small towns and move to a larger city often 0n s the coast. I know you are passing through many places that used to be prosperous small stsownss that are just hanging on.

  5. The numbers of closed factories are worrisome. I know they are there but don’t see them. You have a unique opportunity, passing through those states, to see them and the people they used to employ. Appreciate your insights.

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