As the season changed yesterday from summer to fall, we set out to do something a little different on the tandem. By different, I mean we intentionally set off to ride some roads we had never been on before and go places we’ve rarely been by bike.
Our destination: Walnut Grove. Pam and I rode there once, several years ago, but for some reason, we simply never returned.
Mike and Max met us at the Highline Trail trailhead. The route I had mapped out started with an easy 4 mile jaunt up the trail before we hopped over to roads for the bulk of the morning.
It was kind of chilly when we hit the road, but with a bright sun shining, it didn’t take long to warm up. I dropped the arm warmers on the first decent sized hill, and we both stripped down when we got to Walnut Grove.
We enjoyed the trip between the trail and Walnut Grove because from the moment we got off the trail just south of Willard until we passed it again on the outskirts of Walnut Grove, we were on totally unknown roads. Navigation was courtesy of our friends at Google Maps, and they did a decent job of picking them, although they did have us zig-zagging back and forth quite a bit. Looking at the map, a couple of those might have been avoided, but for the most part, that was what was necessary to get through on the disjointed roads out in northern Greene County.
As we rode, we planned to pause and celebrate the passing of the season, but we messed up the time by a few minutes. We celebrated at 9:01 am, but later Max told us we should have celebrated at 9:18. The sad thing is that we were busy celebrating and missed a turn! If you look at the map closely, you can probably pick up where that was.
We stopped at the c-store in Walnut Grove, but as we did, we noticed what a cute little town it is. The building above is the old MFA mill which was visible to us from our rest stop.
While we were stopped, Max took the opportunity to bond with a farmer filling up his truck. You’ll notice he’s wearing a belt around his waist. That’s a small fanny pack, and he kept amazing us by the amount of food and snacks he kept pulling out of the thing. It was kind of like watching a magician pulling rabbits out of his hat, but he was well fueled all day!
From Walnut Grove, we rode south through the old community of Phenix toward Ash Grove. We really should have stopped to explore a bit, but we had the wind to our backs and were generally trending downhill! Phenix’s claim to fame is the old Phenix Marble quarry. Marble from this quarry was used to build the Missouri State Capitol, the New York Stock Exchange, San Francisco’s Russ Building, the Petroleum Securities building in Los Angeles, Kansas City’s Southwestern Bell Telephone Building, the Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, other well-known buildings across the United States. We could see the buildings and other structures of the old ghost town from the road and rode alongside the abandoned line of the Leaky Roof Rail Line. We enjoyed the craftsmanship of at least two rock bridges visible from the road.
We took another quick break in Ash Grove, although it was only about 9 miles between the two towns. We knew we had about 18 more to go, so it seemed the prudent thing to do before we headed out on very familiar roads for a short while.
Unfortunately, when we did, we lost our advantage from the wind, and we knew we would eventually have to ride into it for a few miles. It could have been worse, and it was such a nice day I don’t think anyone was complaining very much.
We rode past the conservation area and shooting range, putting us back on unfamiliar and hilly roads. We’ve figured out that it’s pretty rough country between Willard and Ash Grove if you get just a little bit south of Highway 160, and that’s where all the county roads go!
The upside of that, however, is that it’s pretty countryside!
We skirted past Willard to hit the trail exactly where we left it earlier in the day and headed back to the truck.
We pulled into the parking lot with 48 miles behind us. I really enjoyed getting out on new roads, and the weather couldn’t have been better. We didn’t go very fast, but we traveled well! You can see the full GPS track by clicking the map above.
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