On Saturday, Mike and I rode the MS Century route from Clever to Stotts City, by way of Aurora, Verona, Freistatt. We figured we might as well take advantage of freshly marked roads and printed maps to get out on some roads we’ve not ridden before.
We spent the biggest part of the day working our way up and down the edge of a storm line. Somehow or another, we managed to stay just north of the thing the entire ride. If we looked in one direction, we could see clear sky but when we looked the other way, it looked kind of nasty.
The first few miles took us to the southwest of Clever. That’s some pretty hilly country in that direction, but within about 10 miles, we had come out onto the relative flats as we headed toward Marionville.
We passed one house that was uniquely decorated. I was initially drawn to the old cruiser decorating the front porch, but when I got home and looked at the picture, I noticed the chair hanging on the wall. I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Have you?
I actually had to snap the picture and run, because we got the attention of the dogs in the yard. For some reason, this was the doggiest (is that a word?) ride we’ve had all year. We were constantly having to outrun them, although none were actually scary. Most were just giving us a good-natured chase, but it’s still annoying.
One of the disadvantages of riding the MS route was that they seemed to go out of their way to avoid towns. We knew going into the ride that we would need to carry food, but that would come to haunt us before the day was out. We stopped at around 25 miles to grab a snack from our pockets. At that point, were just a few miles from Verona, but didn’t realize it.
After passing through Verona, we got on a road where someone had named the hills on a training ride at some point. They’re marked with the same blue color that Mike used to pimp out his ride and kit!
As we headed up “granny hill”, we met a Mennonite mother and her brood on their way town. I gave them a wave, and the kids shyly grinned back at me but wouldn’t wave.
It was somewhere west of Verona that I noticed a pickup following kind of slowly. There was a turkey truck coming at us in the distance, but I thought he had plenty of time to get around if he had wanted to. When he finally did pass us, he gave us a big grin and a thumbs up! That was a nice treat.
We arrived at Friestatt with about 38 miles under our belt, and had yet to come within striking distance of a convenience store. We stopped at the Lutheran church to eat some more out of our pockets and rest our legs.
We amused ourselves by looking at some of the old headstones in the cemetery. All of the old ones are in German. At this point, we were feeling pretty good, but needed to find a rest room. Luckily, we found some outhouses at the Lions Club Ernte Fest grounds.
From Freistatt, we had a 20 mile loop that would cross over the interstate, go up to Stotts City, then come back around the highway. This was the official “century loop” of the MS ride. We knew we were low on water when we started the loop, and were hoping to find a c-store as we crossed over the interstate or in Stotts City. No such luck. The route took us over the interstate where the only business was a porn store so we kept riding. Stotts City is a dead little town that once thrived because of the lead and zinc mines that used to be there, but it and the entire area around it are pretty hardscrabble now.
After crossing back over the interstate for the return half of the century loop, we passed through some pretty dense woods. This half-mile section of road was absolutely beautiful riding, with a nice long downhill cruise. At this point I was really concerned because Mike was out of both food and water, and I was down to about a quarter bottle and one package of energy chews. Mike slowed down considerably in an attempt to conserve his strength.
As we hit the creek bottom and started up after leaving the woods, we encountered this little copperhead sunning himself on the road. He was just a little fella, but still capable of doing some damage if we annoyed him enough, so we left him be.
I was hoping that we could find a water spigot on the Ernte Fest grounds, and luckily we did. Now that our water situation was solved, we split my last package of energy chews before heading off toward Aurora where we planned to go off route long enough to get lunch. At that point, we had been riding for 60 miles, and knew we had another 15-18 miles to Aurora.
This was actually the prettiest portion of our ride. Shortly after leaving Freistatt, we dropped into a long valley and followed it for several miles. Mike eventually conjectured that we must be riding along the Spring River. By this time, he was running on fumes, so our pace dropped considerably as we rode along the creek.
We were within a few miles of the actual spring of the Spring River, so it’s more of a creek than a river. We had actually passed the spring earlier in the day as we approached Verona the first time. When I stopped to take the picture above, I had a fat-fingered moment and dropped my camera. It fell to the ground and tumbled about half-way down the embankment toward the creek! I was holding my breath, hoping it wouldn’t tumble into the water – I’ve got a history of dunking cameras, but this one lived to see another day.
The MS route markings made navigation of this route really easy. We only got confused once the entire day when we got off route in Freistatt. That one was a case of knowing where we wanted to go and just heading directly there instead of following the marked route. Doing so caused us to have to study the maps to figure out where to get back on.
Mike had been dreaming of Richards Hawgwild BBQ all morning, so that’s where we headed when we got to Aurora. I believe he’s adopted Pam’s attitude about riding. Ride to eat! As hungry as we both were, I think we could have eaten a hawg, and we did eat a lot. In fact, I should have stopped at one plate of dessert, because by the time I walked out, I was ready to puke.
What was I thinking? We still had about 23 miles to ride, and I was fighting nausea the entire time. I probably would have felt better if I could have thrown up, but that didn’t happen. As it was, I now had to take my turn struggling for the biggest part of the final leg. Around the time we hit 92 miles I started feeling a little better and we were able to pick up the pace a little bit for our final run to the truck.
We ended up finishing with a little flurry of speed, and reached the truck with 101 miles! This was Mike’s first century, and the first I’ve ridden in a couple of years.
The route itself was awesome riding. Traffic was non-existent, the scenery was pretty nice, the roads were mostly decent, and the weather cooperated. On the downside, the fact that the MS folks could do their own rest stops and therefore avoid towns makes this kind of hard to ride as an unsupported ride the way we did. There were only three places that we could have found a c-store within easy distance. Verona has at least one, around 29 miles into the ride, Aurora has several options about 76 miles in, and Marionville had options at around 85 miles. Those distances would have been a lot more manageable had we not added the 20 miles of the century loop and had just ridden the 80 mile option. As it was, we should have stopped and added to the store of food in our pockets when we passed through Verona. If we had done that, I think the rest of the day would have been a cinch.
Here’s the GPS track of the day.