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Old 09-07-2009, 07:12 PM   #1
Joined: Jul 2009
Oddometer: 4
Mark Twain National Forest, SE Missouri, Aug 2009

This is my report of a trip that I took last week to Southeast Missouri. Compared to the epic adventures that have been described here on ADVrider, this was a modest little trip. I didn't span a continent, I didn't need to use my SPOT tracker, I just went to an adjoining state and rode around on some fun, twisty roads.

To me, though, this -WAS- an epic journey. I am 54 years old and this was my first ever solo, multi-day motorcycle trip. Back in 1984, I had a little Kawasaki CRS 305 that got me back and forth to work. When my first daughter was born, we quickly discovered that you cannot put an infant seat on a motorcycle, so the bike was traded in for a truck. Twenty-some years later the kids are gone to college and I'm thinking of motorcycles again. Pulled the trigger on an 09 Buell Ulysses XB12XT in March, and last week was finaly able to take my first "long" trip on it. Here are some pics:

Day 1

Armed with a map, a cheap non-water-proof Navigon GPS ($60 from TigerDirect), and a SPOT tracker,...

...and all packed up...

...I suited up,...

...waved good-bye to my long-suffering wife, and headed south from Hiawatha, Iowa.

The first stop we traditionally make is at the local Rest Area to make sure that luggage is still secure.

SE Iowa is mostly nondescript, gently rolling farmland. I stuck to the four-lane to chew up some miles. Stopped in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, for gas and some chocolate milk for breakfast.

Northern Missouri is flatter than Iowa. Pulled off at a roadside park in Missouri about 10:00 to keep the boredom yawns at bay.

Another gas stop at Hannibal, MO. Just south of Hannibal, I turned off of the 4-lane onto MO highway 19,...

...but MO-19 is table-flat until just north of Big Spring, MO, where you fall off of the northern plain into the Missouri River valley.

Crossing the newly opened Christopher ("Kit") Bond bridge over the Missouri River takes you to Hermann, MO,...

...known locally for it's wineries and Oktoberfest. It's a nice town, but I somehow feel that it is turning into a bit of a tourist trap where every possible building is enlisted to be part of the "history". Here I'm parked in front of the "Deutschheim State Historic Site"

Following 19 south of Hermann are some fun highways that were an good introduction to what I hoped would be much more interesting roads further south. Here are some of the vineyards south of Hermann:

The GPS refused to plot a course through appropriately named Bland, MO.

Once I got past Bland to Belle, MO, the GPS worked fine. Go figure. Here is the airport at Vichy, MO.

Stopped in Rolla, MO, for the night. Both my older daughter and I are graduates of UMR (University of Missouri - Rolla) now renamed MST (Missouri University of Science and Technology). Walked around campus a bit...

...and came upon some medievalists engaged in a melee. Why didn't they do this kind of stuff when I was a student here?

This is the Student Design center where students design and build vehicles for various national competitions. In the foreground, supported by the pink foam blocks, is a concrete canoe. Behind it is the solar powered car. Since it's number (42) is in red, this is probably Solar Miner V from 2005. For more info see:
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Old 09-07-2009, 07:16 PM   #2
Not afraid
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Joined: Aug 2008
Location: N.W. Arkansas
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I have long wanted to visit this national forest after reading about it years ago.

keep it coming!
Smoke em if you got em, and drink your glasses to the bottom...-Will Whitmore
Charter member: T.O. club.
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Old 09-07-2009, 07:35 PM   #3
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Location: Fourth Chickasaw Bluffs
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Too bad they demolished the old bridge over the Missouri but Hwy 19 justs gets better and better the further south you go. Nice report.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:11 PM   #4
Joined: Jul 2009
Oddometer: 4
Day 2

Day 2

The day dawned clear, cool, with mists in the valleys...

All packed up just after sunrise, ready for Day 2:

Here is my intended route for the day:

A misty morning in mid-Missouri:

Good roads, little traffic and the promise of fun ahead...

My intended playground...

This is what I've been dreaming of all summer...


Better! And the best was yet to come later.

Stopped for gas at The Yacht Club in Lesterville, MO, population 689.

They had four gas pumps, but only one worked. The proprietor was very friendly and very interested in the Uly.

The fire lookout tower on Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest elevation in Missouri. Even though the tower was closed (lots of rain this summer, very low fire danger) I climbed up as far as my acrophobia would let me. Got as far as the 5th landing before the shakes started and I had to go back down.

Nobody was around, it was quiet and peaceful.

Twisties! They weren't kidding about the speed, either. There was a bit of gravel/sand on some of the curves which made them tricky.

Stopped for some scenery.

This is the parking lot for the normally packed Johnson Shut-in State Park. With schools already in session and the cool weather, the place was nearly deserted.

From when I visited this place as boy, I remember a single-track dirt path to the river. Now it's paved, which is cool since it gives the wheelchair-bound a way to experience this wonderful place.

Lawyers rule.

As I remember, most of Missouri bedrock is limestone. Here, though, is the debris from ancient volcanoes.

The new large building at the entrance to the park. I didn't go in, I was ready to be back on the road.

The optimistic promise of the open road. Who knows what surprises lie beyond the next curve?...

A hydration stop just outside Viburnum, MO.

Washington State Park and the Big River, MO. When we were kids we would climb up the dirt bank and get it wet and slippery, then slide or jump into the river.

The Big River

Good camouflage, eh?

Petroglyphs carved into the rock by ancient native americans.

Almost at my parents' house. Stopped outside Festus, MO, and picked up a tank bag to help protect the camera. The forecast for Saturday is rain.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:45 PM   #5
Joined: Jul 2009
Oddometer: 4
Day 3 and 4

Day 3

Festus, MO. Helped Mom and Dad cut down some yews that had grown too big...

...and visited the newly opened Festus Public Library. My wife is a library director, this was an opportunity to troll for good ideas for her new building.

Installed the new Cortech tank bag.

Day 4

Storms rolled in about 3:00 AM. Radar and WX channel claimed that north of St. Louis all would be clear. Waited for the rain to nearly stop. Mind you, this is only the 2nd time I've ridden in rain. About to head off into the light rain...

...which immediately got harder 5 blocks later when I stopped for gas.

Stopped at Bowles Rd and 141 to wait for the downpour to let up...

...and underneath this overpass...

...and in this grocery store lot.

Finally, the rain lessened a bit (temporarily) by the time I got to Troy, MO.

Louisiana, MO. The view from the park of the turnstile drawbridge over the Mississippi RIver.

Another view from the Louisiana, MO, park. Didn't stay here long beause it was still raining and there wasn't much shelter.

The road to a scenic view just outside Louisiana, MO.

Just outside Hannibal on MO-79. The last of the wet, yet fun roads. I didn't get any sunshine until I reached Canton, Mo. From there, it's just a long drive back to Hiawatha.

Back home, again.

This was a great trip and I heartily recommend the Mark Twain Forest as a fun ride. Now that I've done my first trip, I finally feel comfortable ordering some ADV stickers for the Uly.

1. GPS receiver routing is not perfect and needs to be used in conjunction with good maps and common sense.

2. I need a shorter windshield. My wife likes the tall Parabellum windshield as it keeps the wind buffetting down for her when we ride 2-up. But the tall shield doesn't allow enough airflow on my helmet visor to keep it clear during rain.

3. The Buell Uly XB12XT is an awesome machine.

MOST FUN SEGMENT: Missouri highway 49 from Black, MO to Viburnum, MO.

MOST SCENIC SEGMENT: Missouri highway 79 from Louisiana, MO to Hannibal, MO.
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:37 AM   #6
pick, grin, repeat
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Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Edge of the glacier
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Black, MO


Nice pix and thanks for the report! You went right past my driveway on 49 between Black and Hwy. 32, about 2 miles north of the junction of J and 49. on the middle fork of the Black River. Johnson Shut-Ins are on the east fork, just a hike over Goggins Mt. from our place.

Some of you may know that the Shut-Ins were devastated by the collapse of the Taum Sauk reservoir in Dec. 2005. The park super, Jerry Toops, and his family were swept away when their house was destroyed in the 5:00 a.m. deluge, but all survived. Had this catastrophe occurred in peak camping season in July, hundreds of people would surely have been killed by the avalanche of mud, rocks and trees that swept down the mountainside. The park and the Shut-Ins have been largely repaired and restored and the campground reconstructed upstream of its old location. The caldera (the volcanic formation Len showed) has been cleared of rocks and debris and is pretty much back to its old self, with hundreds of clear pools of water, one spilling into the next over rocks smoothed by millenia of Black River, some pools shallow and just right for sitting under a little waterfall, some with mysterious depths and hidden underwater chambers, but all connected by channels of flowing clear spring water that tumble you across smooth granite and leave you laughing and only slightly bruised!

That looks like Dillard Hill in your "The optimistic promise of the open road" picture. The right turn at Black is just beyond that curve, if my recognition is on. However, if you instead continue west on J when 49 turns north (your 'G' waypoint), there is a nice 40-mile loop up the Brushy Creek valley, through Oates, right on KK back north to 32, south on 49 back to Black. Great hills, twisties, and low traffic except for on 32 during weekdays, when the mine trucks are about. I often ride my bicycle on this loop.

I went to school in Lesterville as a 4th-grader. My brother graduated from Lesterville High. We still have 40 acres on the Black, and another 10 near Oates. We're from St. Louis (I live in Lawrence, KS, now), but our mom moved down to Black in the 1970s as part of a hippy-dippy commune experiment after my folks split up. No phone, electricity, or running water. Great adventure for a 9-year-old, but I'm definitely a city person 35 years later.

I took the RT down there last month (the day after I got it!), but there are lots of forest roads awaiting some more adventurous vehicles! Thanks again for your report, Len!

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Old 09-09-2009, 11:25 AM   #7
ow, my balls!
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Joined: Mar 2007
Location: Alaska
Oddometer: 5,301
Good to see some pics of the homeland. I grew up there but have'nt been back for 20 years. Great roads, great dirt bike trails, and some fun canoeing in that neck of the woods.
Riding the Americas: No Fumar Español

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Old 07-29-2011, 10:01 PM   #8
or not...
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Joined: Aug 2010
Location: St. Louis
Oddometer: 15
Headed there myself....

Bringing bike to same area this week....I searched this site for "Lesterville" and came across your report....been going to Black River Lodge for 42 years (since I was two) and have always wanted to bring a bike there....thanks.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:52 PM   #9
Jamie Z
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Joined: Oct 2006
Location: on Walkabout
Oddometer: 7,827
I'm planning to ride up through Johnson's Shut-Ins sometime soon, and your report came up in my search. Nice pictures! I hope the park isn't too busy. Like you mention, it's apparently a very busy park.

I'm the Tent Space Guy Sign up to host fellow travelers here.

Budget Travel the Jamie Z Way
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