Last summer we did a ride that took us right past the old Phenix Marble Quarry, and for some reason we didn’t take the time to stop and check it out. I’ve been wanting to go back, and when Mike and I started talking about riding on Saturday, it seemed like a reasonable destination. I figured it would be somewhere between 35-40 miles if we started from Elwood (turned out to be 39), and with a great looking afternoon on tap, we agreed to do it.
I invited Chad, but he warned me on Friday he was running 12 miles in the morning as part of his marathon plan and wasn’t sure he was up to it. I was surprised when I got a text from him around noon declaring, “I’m in!”. I think I kind of lied to him when I assured him, “It’s flat as a pancake out there”. Well, it is if you stay south of Highway 160, but on the north side toward Phenix and Walnut Grove, it does get pretty hilly.
He did awesome, though. We could all tell he was pretty shot at the end of 39 miles, but we kept feeding him and encouraging him along the way and he finished just fine, although I worry his wife may never let him ride with us again! I know for certain he will never trust my opinions on what is “flat as a pancake” anymore!
Shortly after crossing 160 near Ash Grove, I had a flat on my worn-out rear tire. I’ve got the replacement for it in the garage but didn’t see a huge hurry in putting it on. I may have paid the price for my procrastination, although I suspect the rock I pulled out would have played havoc with any tire.
While we were replacing the tube in the drive of a farmhouse, Josh came down to visit. He was quite enamored with our bikes and peppered us with questions the entire time. Mike somehow convinced him he couldn’t live without my old tube to make slingshots out of, so I didn’t have to carry it back with us! Thanks Josh!
There are the remnants of an old town around the Phenix Quarry, with the most notable structures being the old lime kilns at the entrance. After the marble in the quarry played out, operations converted to mining limestone. The kilns were used to “cook” the limestone so it would break down quicker when it was spread on the ground as a nutrient.
Chad and I weren’t sure what Mike was trying to do, but he couldn’t resist trying to climb up one of the kilns. Needless to say, cycling shoes don’t make the best climbing shoes, although we did manage to get him back down to the ground without a major accident.
The old factory building has been converted to something of a workshop for the current operation. From what we could tell, they were manufacturing some marble pieces from what were probably scraps still lying around and fabricating paving stones from the limestone.
Mike really wanted to go pose under the saw blade, but we convinced him that it might not be a good idea. There were a couple of guys around picking up and burning brush, and we were blatantly ignoring the various “keep out” signs around so I didn’t want to go wandering inside the building.
There were several old structures further back on the property that I would like to have poked around and it would have been cool to explore the quarry itself, but as I said, we were obviously trespassing.
From Phenix, we turned back towards Ash Grove, and began a four mile slog uphill into the wind. I really found it kind of fun, but I had only run 5 miles in the morning. We stopped at the c-store to chow down on Honey Stingers and Snickers before heading for the cars at a pace meant to conserve as much energy as we could heading into the wind.
As we pulled into the parking lot back at Elwood, Kevin and Terri pulled in behind us. They’re good friends from church, avid golfers, and while we had been out playing with our bikes, they had been out golfing. They saw our cars and stopped to say hello!
The day was getting rather short by the time I got home, but it had been a fun one, full of exploration and riding. Good times!
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