David Freeze Day 13: Days Like These Feel Good
Posted at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, August 14, 2022
Editor’s note: David Freeze cycles along the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa, to New Orleans. Contact him at [email protected]
My mind had several scenarios going on last night that were preventing sleep from being the best. I was excited for what the day might bring to New Madrid, Missouri. The receptionist at the Super Eight in Sikeston told me not to miss the town or the museum. I still wasn’t sure whether to take 61 south or use I-55, which is obviously much faster due to the quality and width of the surface in the breakdown lane. Determined to make it a good day, I used I-55 except for the route between the freeway and downtown New Madrid.
A brisk 22 mile ride brought me to the waterfront and just before the museum opened at 9am. The Mississippi River was especially beautiful in the morning sun from a viewing area which makes viewing the river even better. Instead of a wall, New Madrid has a levee, dirt piled up to a high flood stage, then stabilized by grass and, in this case, a pedestrian/vehicle road.
New Madrid is a beautiful little town of over 3,000 people. In 1811, one of the most powerful earthquakes in the world to date occurred with all sorts of wild claims about what happened that day and the next. New Madrid sits on a fault line that spawned earthquakes the following year and 5 to 25 per year since. One claim was that the Mississippi River was flowing in reverse during this time, which scientists believe parts of it suffered upheavals and actually changed the course of the flow for a day or two.
Equally interesting to me was a Civil War battle that took 20,000 Union forces to overtake New Madrid and its two forts. One was on Island No. 10, which has since been washed away by the ever-changing Mississippi. These events ultimately helped Union forces control the river.
I took about an hour to visit the New Madrid Historical Museum. Administrator Jeff Grunwald was the perfect host. My bike was a popular topic of conversation while I was in town.
I left New Madrid for a 50 mile drive that included US 61 and then more I-55. I passed Portageville, the soybean capital of the world, but not much else on another day of perfect weather. A tailwind and low humidity with the mid 80s for a high.
A little fun was yet to come as I had called and left my name last night for a room at the Super Eight Motel in Blytheville, after the success of the previous two nights. I found the motel near my exit on I-55 and drove to the door. Nothing looked good, the door was locked and a lot of unusual characters were hanging around. I called the Quality Inn, Days Inn and America’s Best Value Inn and got the perfect room for a great price from Dana at ABVI. And for the first time on the trip, I’ll have a real breakfast included. Complete with eggs! I really enjoyed talking with Dana about the difficulties of finding a good motel on the fly and her interest in cycling.
Another interesting tidbit of the day included my anticipation of crossing Arkansas and if I could continue on the highway. With only 5 miles left of Blytheville, I crossed the state line and kept pedaling, maybe a little faster. I stopped at the Arkansas Visitor Center and spoke to the attendant who said, “Yes, I was never told you couldn’t.
Blytheville is one of those freeway exits that has it all. Dana told me there was a Waffle House, but I found one that was actually called Waffle Inn and was not open tonight for some reason. I stuck to the Impossible veggie burger and ice cream from Burger King. Then I went to the nearest convenience store and struck up a conversation with Jaimee Williams about the bike ride. I loved his upbeat attitude and appreciation for what I had done on this and previous trips. It was great talking with Jeff, Dana and Jaimee today, all positive and fun and the best thing about these bike adventures. Good people continually cross my path.
Pretty much all I have planned for tomorrow is that I’ll probably head to West Memphis, which is still in Arkansas, and see if I can cross the river and go down the Mississippi side for one moment. It’s still up in the air but the Arkansas side only visits the river once more until that side crosses into Louisiana.
After 79 miles today, I am less than 500 miles from New Orleans. Highlights still to come include crossing the river near Memphis and visits to Vicksburg, Natchez, Baton Rouge and arriving in New Orleans. I consider this a very good day and hope you enjoyed reading about it! See you here tomorrow!