Monthly Archives: October 2012

Happy Halloween!


Here are a few shots from a visit last week to Illinois and my hometown, Alton, on the Mississippi River:

Skeleton rider, State Street, Alton, Ill., 2012

Skeleton riders, State Street, Alton, Ill., 2012

Three pumpkins, Eckert’s Farm, Grafton, Ill., 2012

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Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, Travels

Riding the Great River Road


“[T]he great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-long tide along, shining in the sun …”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883, Chapter 4

ALTON, Ill. — The Great River Road, to my mind, is one of the nation’s most majestic long-haul thoroughfares.
It’s not an interstate
like, say, I-55, which bisects the nation from Chicago to New Orleans with a single numerical designation. It’s a collection of state, county and local roads that track the serpentine course of the Mississippi River as it flows from the heart of a continent to the sea.
The Great River Road runs about 2,340 miles from the source of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, La., about 76 miles southeast of New Orleans.
It passes through 10 states that border the great river: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. From Hastings, Minn., south to Gretna, La., the Great River Road runs along both banks of the Mississippi River.
The road is designated by a green-and-white sign showing a steamboat inside a river pilot’s wheel, usually with the name of the state.
I was born and grew up in Alton, Ill., smack dab in the middle of an area where three mighty rivers converge. Alton, a small town with a rich history, is on the Mississippi just upstream from the confluence of the Missouri River and just downriver from the confluence with the Illinois.
The Great River Road passes right through my hometown, and the section running upriver from Alton to Grafton, along Illinois 100, is one of the road’s most magnificent.
Limestone bluffs tower above the road on the Illinois side. Across the river, on the Missouri side, is a vast flood plain that was ground zero during the great flood of 1993, when water from nearly half of the nation, carried by the Missouri and the Illinois and their tributaries, converged near the small farming town of West Alton, Mo., and inundated some of the most fertile farm land in America.
I had a chance in 1996 to ride my bike along a big chunk of the Great River Road, about 740 miles from Minneapolis to St. Louis. But my favorite part — and I’m probably partial because it’s my home turf — is the one between Alton and Grafton.
During a visit to Alton last week, I got in a 40.41-mile bike ride from my sister’s house in Alton to Grafton and back. It was cold and windy, but the sun shone brightly and it was an altogether glorious day to be on a bike.
Here are a few photos shot along the river:

The Mississippi River above Alton, Ill.

The Great River Road along the Mississippi River above Alton, Ill.

At the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers at Grafton, Ill.

Suspension cables, Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River at Alton, Ill.

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Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, History, Travels

Masters of the craft


A custom bicycle show is akin to an art exhibit.
Masters of their genre
showcase their latest work. Some of the creations might tend to the avant-garde. Others are in the style of the classics.
Some of the best custom bike builders from Texas and beyond — and, make no mistake, they are artists — will be displaying their work Oct. 27-28 in Dallas at the fifth annual Texas Custom Bicycle Show.

Front view of a Gallus track bike built by Jeremy Shlachter

The show, at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St., in the city’s Deep Ellum nightlife district, will include road, mountain, city and track bikes, built in steel, titanium and carbon. The doors will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
“There will be builders, illustrators, T-shirts and other entertaining bicycle-related diversions TBA,” says the online info for the show.
The aim of the event is to “promote the fine work of custom bicycle builders, foster a deeper understanding of the bicycle, and increase the desire of everyone to get out and ride, especially on a beautiful, custom, handmade bicycle.”
Among the exhibitors will be friend and neighbor Jeremy Shlachter of Fort Worth, owner of Gallus Cycles. The name for Jeremy’s line of bikes, Gallus, comes from his days as a bicycle messenger in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Gallus,” he says, is Glaswegian slang for “bad ass.”

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Filed under Cool stuff, Products, Urban cycling

A photo that I had to share


Several of my bicycling friends carry cameras with them and post their photos on Facebook and Instagram.

Dave Hickey

Here’s one that I particularly liked. It was shot by Dave Hickey on Sunday, a day of drizzling rain that kept many cyclists from riding, at least in the morning.
That’s the skyline of downtown Fort Worth in the background and one of Dave’s many bikes in the foreground.
It was such beautifully composed photo that I felt compelled to share it.

Photo by Dave Hickey, Sept. 30, 2012

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