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I Left My Legs at Home

I set out this afternoon to do what Bro Mark and I call the Uncle Gus route because it goes past a farm owned by a distant relative. It was a great day for a ride: temps were in the low 80s, the sky was overcast and the winds were mild (but increasing).

My mother lives on the top of a hill, so you start out fast until you hit a barricade at the curve at the bottom of the street where there is road construction. It’s paved, so you can dodge the barrier.

The first, gradual climb went OK. I thought that I may have remembered how to do this after all.

Muscle memory

The muscle memory was there, all right. My muscles remembered that they get REALLY tired doing this.

Nothing around here has just one name. Depending on who you talk to, the road I was on is called Old Jackson Road (unless you’re in Jackson, where it’s called Old Cape Road), or Three Mile Creek Road (remember Cape LaCroix Creek from yesterday? Same creek.) On the map, it’s CR 620. At one time, it was the Houck Railroad.

Big rock went boom

That brings us to this picture. Back in The Day, this was called the Houck Railroad Cut and was a path blasted through the limestone just big enough for a train to pass through. The railroad turned into a regular road and, in the 60s, my dad’s construction company was given the job to make the cut wider.

Someone misjudged the powder load and a huge boulder the size of a kitchen table was launched up, up, up until the law of gravity kicked in. It went right through the roof of a nearby house. No one was hurt, but it became part of family lore ever after.

The road has been widened again, so most folks who drive through there would never know to think of Louis Houck and his railroad.

What goes up comes down

If you check out the ride profile, you’ll see lots of pointy things. Those are hills. A lot of them are more than 12%.

It takes a lot longer to go UP those hills than it does to go down them. I stopped at the top of one of them to see that my GPS said I was at 524 feet above sea level. On the way down, I saw 37 mph on the speedometer. Unfortunately, when I finished coasting, I was at almost exactly 524 feet again and still had about another 150 feet of 12+% grade to climb.

A good time to take a picture

That’s when you decide to take a picture that sums up the way you feel.

This guy, along with his (her) brethren (sistern) flocked along the fence to gape at the strange guy gasping on the side of the CR 618. I’m assuming he, the deer, camel and other wildlife was part of 5H Ranch.

The next couple of hills weren’t fun. I decided that I must have left my legs in the luggage and I’d cut the ride short and pick a flatter route for my return.

A bridge I’d rather forget

Unlike most kids, I didn’t get my driver’s license on my 16th birthday. I opted to wait until the summer to go for it. Unfortunately, in order to qualify for discount on car insurance, I needed to go to driver’s ed, which wasn’t offered at that time of year.

Our friendly insurance agent said he’d accept ANY teacher who could show me how to keep the car out of the ditches and Ernie Chiles was elected. Ernie wasn’t but a handful of years older than me, but he WAS a teacher and he accepted the challenge.

We climbed into the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon, a land yacht of a car with huge flaring fenders in the front and fins in the back. It had everything except power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.

Ernie took me out in the country to gravel road CR 621, climbed out and said, “Have at it.”

What Ernie didn’t know was that about 150 yards down the road was this bridge, which was on more than a 90-degree turn and was covered with gravel. I couldn’t have been going more than about 15 mph, but that puppy went into a slide and bounced off the guard rail. I think Ernie and I would have been happier if we had broken through the rail and plunged over the side to our deaths.

I still slow down when I go across it, even on my bike.

9 comments to I Left My Legs at Home

  • Re those pointy things: For bicycles the saying is: “What goes down must come up.”

    Nice country, it looks like.

  • SLM

    Sorry I missed the ride, it is one of my favorites to ride with you when you make it back to Missouri.

    That being said, are you going to “talk” to your legs about riding Trail of Tears this year? The Uncle Gus ride is a cake walk compared to that one.

    Is the dent still in the bridge railing where you slammed the car into it? I took that same route years later when I had my permit and you KNOW I was retold the story as we approached said bridge. Luckily for me, I drove across it without hitting it. But then, you have the propensity to run off the road, as in the time you and I were riding together and you rode off the road and then tried to change history by saying I was the cause of it. IF there had been a bridge there that day…

  • kls

    There are a couple of hills IN Trail of Tears that are long and steep, particularly at the entrance of the park, but they’re mostly of the same category as the Uncle Gus route.

    Just before the start of the ride, I had a moment of dietary distress, so I think I may have been a little off my game. That’s one of the reasons I bailed early.

    Mother and I are going to do a scouting drive in the Benton / Sikeston /New Madrid area to see if there is a good route that would let us see some landmarks from the New Madrid Earthquake.

    If Highway 61 has shoulders, that would be a good ride.

    As far as the bridge, I looked at the guard rail and saw several dents, so I’m not the only person who had an OSH moment there.

  • kls

    Spokesrider,

    Yep, this is pretty country. Here’s the profile of a ride we call the Homecomers Route:

    http://ken.steinhoff.net/Homecomer_profile/homecomers%20profile.jpg

    You can see that it has lots of pointy things, too. Riding in this part of the country doesn’t have a lot of long climbs, just bunches and bunches of short, steep ones.

    Bro Mark and I decided to follow the ACA route from Cape to St. Louis one day when the temp AND the humidity were about 98.

    Not too far out of town we hit the beginning of the Ozarks.

    My mother called on my cell phone to say that the septic tank was clogged up and we needed to dig it up.

    I NEVER thought I’d see a day when digging up a septic tank was more fun that riding my bike.

  • Ken,
    That bridge has been replaced with a bigger, wider bridge and more land built up around the bridge to make it a safer turn.
    I just crossed it last Thursday and it is very nice.
    I hope you get a chance to see it when you’re in Cape again.

  • Don’t know where in the world the spidery-looking heart came from next to my name???? Or what it means, but I hope who ever put it there will take it off or explain to me the meaning of it!

    • If you don’t have a photo associated with your name, the program picks an image at random. I don’t know how to change it.

      Sometimes the random picks capture the personality of the poster. See SLM above. That’s Bro Mark. I think it nails him.

      You, for the record are NOT a spidery-looking heart.

    • I was driving out in the area with a friend’s mother this week and saw it.

      It’s wider, hits the road at a 90-degree angle and didn’t have gravel on it. Still, I crossed it with much trepidation.

  • […] more than plastic statues, particularly after I hit a bridge before I had driven 150 yards during Ernie Chiles’ attempt to teach me how to navigate the highways. They equipped the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon with some of the first […]