We were ecstatic to be a part of the inaugural Big BAM (Bicycle Across Missouri) this year. For those that took part I'm sure that you saw the Walt's van and trailer at some point. Below is a summary of the week by Walt's Bike Shop/Logboat Brewing Co. rider, Michelle Windmoeller. Words by Michelle Windmoeller
Having experienced RAGBRAI a few times, I had an idea of what the Big BAM might be like. What I didn't expect was how well it would be organized for a first year event and how much the Missouri towns we visited would welcome us with such enthusiasm.
On Sunday morning, Steve, Abby and I hitched a ride in the Walt's van with Tyler, Cooper, and Captain Sketchy (Brian). Our trip to Rock Port started with darkening skies and high winds. By the time we reached Higginsville the driving rain and hail were coming down hard and, in hindsight, was a weather omen we were glad to ignore. Five days of riding lay ahead and we were more than ready to roll with whatever happened.
After a full meat-eating extravaganza at the Toot Toot buffet restaurant in Bethany, Mo, we reached the camping area in Rock Port and set up our first nights tents in 99.9% humidity. Luckily, we were next to a golf course and that meant a clubhouse. Now joined by Lawrence and Dana, we retreated to the air conditioning, a jukebox, and $2 beers with the duffers. We spent our evening entertaining the locals with our plans to ride all the way across the state (you're gonna do what?!) and our Beyonce inspired dance moves to Frank Sinatra songs.
The next morning we rolled out around 8am and stopped for breakfast and some coffee in the town of Tarkio. We'd only gone 8 miles, but...coffee. I shouldn't have to explain that. The people working at our breakfast stop were so happy to have us there. One lady kept talking about how much fun it was to have so many people and excitement in the town. After downing our coffee and some amazingly good donuts, we stopped at the Tarkio city park to take in The Flood Brothers for a bit. Another omen that we blithely ignored.
From there it was on to Burlington Junction for another round of food, drink, and music. Did I mention that we also had our own music? Lawrence put his Block Rocker in a Bob trailer and pulled it along as we rode the hills and valleys of Northern Missouri. That put a lot of smiles on faces as we rolled along.
It was a just a quick jaunt to Maryville after that and, with only 40 miles of riding, we’d had a good warm up for the week ahead.
The next day’s rollout had a bit of route confusion, but once on track, we had blue skies and minimal winds. There were several town stops that day and each one did everything they could to make us feel welcome. I should also mention how well the roads were patrolled by local and state police to make sure we were all safe. Having nearly 1,000 cyclist on the country roads was surely new to this area but we experienced no road rage or dangerously impatient drivers. I truly appreciated the many warning signs that the Big BAM and the state had put out to remind everyone to be safe.
After 60 miles of riding, we pulled into Albany and headed to the city park. Some nice shade trees for camping and a shuttle to a church supper were waiting for us. After filling up on spaghetti and homemade desserts, we took a quick tractor ride down to the music venue and the tractor driver let Abby take a turn at the wheel. That might have been the highlight of the week for her.
The next morning we woke to rain on the tents and everyone had eyes on the radar. A storm was coming through. Many people rolled out in it but we decided to hang out in the community center until it passed. Good choice by us. We had 20 miles of riding on wet roads to Bethany so our socks and bums got wet, but a breakfast stop at the Toot Toot (we do love that place) with lots of hot coffee and huge platters of food gave the sun time to come out and the rest of the day was bright and clear. From there we were on to Mount Moriah--which may be the smallest town with a city park I have ever seen--and then did some fast hills and valleys to Princeton. Listening to the song “Dag Nabbit” will be an enduring memory of that place.
We missed the turn off to Ravanna because Steve and I had decided from the beginning that we were going to race city limit signs for the duration of the ride. Not every town had a sign and in some places it wasn’t safe, but we ended the week with Steve winning 8-6-1. He has the sprinter legs, but I had some significant strategic victories along the way so we both feel good about the competition and it was a fun way to pass the miles. Anyway, the turn off was just past the sign and we were full tilt so blew by it before we knew what was up.
After a quick roadside stop near Lucerne, we pulled into a very wet Unionville—which had taken the brunt of the rain that day—and set up our tents…for the last time. The final band of the night had just taken the stage and finished two songs, when we got the warning that a heavy storm was on the way and we all need to proceed to shelter. At 10pm a group of about a hundred of us stayed in a scout building, while others were in various other buildings on the fairgrounds. Around 11:30 we were given an all clear to return to our tents; except some of us didn’t have tents to go back to. Ours had a pole snap and was full of water. Lawrence and Dana’s had ripped in two places and their bags were wet too. We did a quick scramble to gather up as much as we could and then headed back to the scout building where we “slept” that night with about a dozen other people.
The next morning we knew we just had to roll on. It was only a 40-mile day and we had friends in Kirksville that would let us crash on their floor. Time to have more fun!
Our city hosts that day were Martinstown and Novinger. Both had beer flowing and music playing so we had nothing to complain about. A flooding detour added some miles to the route but that only prolonged the enjoyment. The full sun and wet ground made for high humidity so by the time we pulled into Kirksville we were ready for air conditioning and a shower. Thanks goodness for our friends Carrie and Bryan Snyder that provided both.
After 220 miles of riding that week, we were all too happy to zone out in front of a TV for the afternoon and watch the inexplicably long and ridiculous Transformers 4. It was nearly (mercifully) over when we heard rumor that many roads were flooding in the area and there was no way to ride to Canton that were shorter than a hundred miles on highway roads. About an hour later it was confirmed; the Friday ride was cancelled.
The Big BAM did the best they could under the circumstances and quickly secured shuttles to get everyone to Canton the next day. We were lucky in that we got to borrow Carrie’s car around 9pm and drove to get our car that night. It was four hours round trip because of the flooded roads, but we made it back at 1am. The next morning we loaded up and drove back to Columbia. We were 80 miles short of our goal to ride across the state, but that only makes us look forward to next year even more. You’ll see us on the Big BAM in 2016 and we hope to see you there too.