USBR66 Tour Recap

I never got around to writing up my experiences from riding US Bicycle Route 66 from Chicago to Joplin, but suffice it to say that it was a great experience.

Some bullet-point notes:

  • The Retrospec Amok worked well as a touring bike once again. Just a really comfortable ride.
  • Taking the Amtrak from Kansas City to Chicago was easy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, the train ran late, so we didn’t get out of the station in Chicago until nearly dark, necessitating a hotel stay.
  • The route out of Chicago was pretty pleasant, mostly bike paths and trails, a bit of on-road travel.
  • Illinois surprised me by feeling very much like Kansas — similar terrain and plant life.
  • Riding Route 66 was a mixed blessing. On the downside, the route was adjacent to interstate highways for much of the way, which was very annoying in terms of noise. On the plus side, services were plentiful, and cell service was good. History and kitsch was underwhelming.
  • We camped out every night except for Chicago, St. Louis, and Ash Grove MO. Mostly RV parks, which were OK. Some were on the expensive side, some were great values. In Ash Grove, we stayed in a cyclist hostel run by the city — an old home converted to sleeping quarters — which might have been the best lodging of the trip.
  • Getting through St. Louis was difficult. We had originally planned to ride through the city and camp on the southwestern edge, but that proved too much, so we ended up in a downtown hotel.
  • On Riverfront Trail in St. Louis, I had a lapse of attention, and crashed. There was, for unknown reasons, a speed bump on the trail. I was trying to read a sign, didn’t see the speed bump, and hit it unprepared at full speed. I went down hard. The bike wasn’t damaged too badly, but I apparently was hurt worse than I thought at the time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d fractured my elbow. So I rode the rest of the trip with a broken elbow, and didn’t seek medical attention until after I got home. A little crazy.
  • I enjoyed the ride through the Missouri Ozarks. Hills, yes, but very scenic.
  • I didn’t experience any close calls, unsafe passes, or road rage on the entire trip. The worst experience was when someone, who I assumed was a fellow cyclist, stood along the roadside in suburban St. Louis and yelled at us: “You can’t ride like that here. Drivers don’t understand. You’ll get run over.” We ignored him. We controlled the lane when needed. Drivers were fine. No one even honked. It helped, I think, that there were three of us riding together. A single cyclist would have felt more bullied by traffic, I expect.
  • That said, suburban St. Louis was the worst part of the route by far. Not overtly dangerous or hostile, but quite unpleasant. Surburbia tends to be that way.
  • We started off with four — me, Bill, Kimblerly, and Michelle — but Bill dropped out in Illinois due to health problems.
  • This was my first time using an Adventure Cycling route, and it was fine. I still think I prefer to roll my own route, though.
  • We only met up with three other riders on USBR66. Kind of surprising that there were so few.

A few photos from the trip:

Riding through downtown Chicago.
Visiting Lincoln IL.
At the state capital in Springfield IL.
Historic Route 66 somewhere in Illinois.
Crossing the car-free Chain of Rocks bridge over the Mississippi.
Missouri Rollers
Finishing this segment of USBR66 in Joplin MO.


DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.