Dave's Cross Country Bike Tour 2004
Notes from Winnie about seeing Dave (7/23-27):
Roughly 45 members of the Schenck clan have started meeting
annually on the Black River in the Ozarks for some down-home
fun and a lazy float trip in the height of the Missouri
summer. This year’s plans came together with one oddity:
one member was supposed to arrive by bicycle.
As most of you know, Dave is the third oldest of 10
children. All are married and have 2 to 5 kids (except us).
Some of those “kids” are parents now (or expecting).
So when you bring them all together, it’s quite a crowd.
We took a whole row of campsites and everyone was arriving
Friday evening. Dave got a hold of his brother Kevin by
cell phone at about 5:45 PM to say he was at a pay phone in
Eminence. After consulting a map, we figured that was still
about 50 miles away. He’d told Kevin about the storms all
day and two flat tires. “If I’m not there by dark, come
get me,” were Dave’s parting words. Kev said, “He
sounded beat.” I calculated that even on flat terrain it
would take him 3 hours, way past dark. And the Ozarks are
anything but flat. So we hopped in Kevin’s truck and off
we went to fetch him so he wouldn’t miss any of the fun.
We took provisions: cold beers on ice in the cooler, a soapy
washcloth and towel to freshen up, and Morgan- Kevin’s
pint-sized son, who would not be left behind on such an
important mission to find and retrieve Uncle Dave.
We wondered if Dave would mind us cutting his ride short.
We strategized about how to convince him to come with us,
earlier than instructed. After all, he wasn’t too proud
to take a bus. He’d hitched a ride in a truck once
before. We could offer to take his packs so he could ride
faster and lighter. No, he should get on board and come
back with us. Would he resist? Wasn’t the family
gathering his mid-trip goal?
After looking out for him for miles as we neared Owl’s
Bend, suddenly there he was, pedaling away. We honked and
before we could turn the truck around, he was off the bike,
breaking down his flag and getting ready to hoist the
recumbent into the truck bed. Kevin and I looked at each
other, “Think he’s glad to see us?”
So that’s how we got him to the campsite. We put the back
gate down and handed him a beer. Easy. As we headed back,
Dave estimated he couldn’t have made it by midnight even
on fresh legs. The hills were killers. For those who know
where we live, think of riding County Route 8 back and forth
all day long. Ozark hills are worse- steeper, wooded,
curvy, hardly any visibility, not much shoulder to ride on.
It’s beautiful, but hard to ride. “Harder than the
Rockies,” Dave keeps saying.
He was the center of attention all weekend, especially in
the eyes of his nieces and nephews. Everyone wanted to hear
stories… and feed him. Dave is a little leaner. He
figures he’s been burning 4-5,000 calories a day and he
eats 4 large meals. I only noticed it in his neck (you’re
showing some wrinkles, old man) and his arms. His arms were
so lean you could see the definition of every muscle down to
the channels the veins lie in. And so tan- at least where
he got sun. His feet are lily white up to his biker socks.
His body is white from his farmer-tan chest, with thin lines
where the chain of his St Christopher’s medal hangs down,
to the stark lines on his upper thighs where his bike shorts
end. He even has tan lines where his helmet straps fork
down along his jaw line on either side. His hair is wavy
and longer than I’ve seen it in years (that means I can
actually get a hold of some of it). Otherwise, he looked
pretty much the same on the outside.
Inside, he’s clearly more relaxed and centered. He laughs
more easily, sleeps harder, and is filled with delight and
awe at everything in nature. He claims to be more assertive
(since we didn’t have any major disagreements, I haven’t
tested that one yet). He said this trip has changed
him in a few, good ways. Well, Dave, if you’re happy with
it, that’s good enough for me.
We woke up Saturday morning to the smell of brewing coffee
and biscuits and sausage gravy- the family’s favorite
breakfast. It was overcast and cool all morning, finally
warming into the low 70’s for the float trip. We filled 6
rubber rafts and as many inner tubes. We carried countless
coolers, lots of snacks, trash bags to “carry it out”
like good campers, and dry clothes in water-tight bags.
Everyone swam at some point (by choice or good-natured
encouragement- some would call it force). They looked for
snakes and called Dave for potential sightings. And, since
we not only had Dave but also Dave’s luck, it sprinkled a
We got back to camp that evening and built fires to cook on.
Lots of delicious veggies from people’s gardens, fresh
fruit, and many types of grilled meat (for those that enjoy
that kind of thing… and this family does!). Then, it
poured rain. Dave’s karma had taken over. The storms
that had plagued him the whole trip stayed with us through
breaking camp the next day as the temperature dropped.
That night, back in Ste. Genevieve, Dave’s home town, we
organized an impromptu send off dinner at the local Mexican
restaurant- El Torero. They had promised to give Dave a
free meal if he really did this cross-country bike trip.
They were true to their word and 29 of us tagged along to
watch him feast, and enjoy some good eats ourselves! The
food was fabulous and the staff- always hospitable and
especially animated with Spanish-speaking guests- joked
around, posed for pictures, and made it a memorable evening.
That night and early the next morning, Dave got to visit
more with his Mom and Dad and siblings who stopped by the
house. Then we went down to see Dave off at the Ste. Gen
Mississippi River ferry crossing. $2 for bicycles, $3 for
motorcycles, $8 for cars. A reporter from the Ste. Genevieve
Herald got there in time for an interview and some pictures
of the town’s newest famous local son.
Once Dave left, my day just got started, as I searched for
hours on line and by phone for a kevlar tire and tube for
his rear wheel. He’d been putting patches over patches
that morning. It was pretty pathetic. I also had to shop
for food, and get his extra gear and our camping gear ready
for that night when we’d meet up in Illinois. I finally
found what Dave needed at Sunset Cyclery in St. Louis- the
last place I called in all of Eastern Missouri and
Southwestern Illinois. They were great, and like all
cyclists, wanted to hear about Dave’s trip and see the
pictures and maps.
We camped on the southeastern edge of Lake Carlyle.
Rattlesnake country (but we didn’t see any). It was a
beautiful site on a bluff with a private path to the water
below and a steady breeze to chase the bugs away. Dave
rolled in after I got camp set up. Blue skies all day but a
headwind just to remind him who’s in charge. A little
tired, clearly happy for the company. For dinner we made a
gourmet calzone in the Bakepacker (a kind of steam oven for
campers), accompanied by a fresh tossed salad and
mint-chocolate brownies. Thanks to Dave’s sister-in-law
Tonya, we slept under fresh flannel sheets and quilts, on
real pillows, instead of nylon sleeping bags with rolls of
lumpy clothing under your head. Camping luxury.
There was a great blue heron fishing on the point of the
bay, silhouetted against the sunrise when we got out of our
tent the next morning. I had a plane to catch two hours
away through rush hour traffic and he had a new tire to
mount and miles to go. I wished I could have followed him
and set up camp at the next destination, but this is his
trip to do alone (mostly). Now, if only the storms hold