Port Byron, IL to Muscatine, IA – 50.5 Miles

…”We all have roadblocks. We all have challenges”.  -Tamron Hall

We originally planned to finish the trip self-contained after Nicky left us.  We’d only asked Jim if he would help us get back to Savanna the day after Labor Day, then keep our car at his place -and we’d handle the rest.  Today’s destination, Muscatine, was going to be our ending place for the MRT this year. Then we planned a last day of riding that was going to be cross-country from Muscatine back to Jim’s (about 30 miles).  With Jim’s input and offer to help more, we tweaked things.

Our new stopping town was Burlington, IA. We packed our panniers with everything we thought we’d need for the next two days.  Jim dropped us off at Port Byron, took our official departure picture and waved goodbye.

We were just about 15 miles north of Moline, IL, one of the Quad cities.  The Great River Bike Trail extends into Rock Island, IL, the second “Quad” on the Illinois side. So our plan was to stick with following the bike trail because we felt it would be the best workable way to get through the cities.

Leaving Port Byron:

At first the trail was pleasant enough, although still not in the best shape.

We passed through a campground along the river.

Looks like they rent out teepees (or someone camps with one?).

A bit further, a pretty park along the way:

And then – sigh –

This “road” was the bike trail.  As I’ve complained before, these towns provide no information as to how to get around the closed part.

We channeled my sister Jane and said… “We’ll see about that!”  (Which refers back to when Jane and I did the first 500 miles of the MRT and ran into construction -she always wanted to check it out for herself before figuring out how to go around it).

We pedaled a short distance beyond the machinery and realized it was not going to be possible to get through.  I jumped on my phone and the bike GPS to try to figure out a go-around.  I found a way to circle us back to the trail as quickly as possible after a couple of miles.

Now, instead of riding on a nice quiet trail along the levee looking at the river, we were riding through city traffic in dodgy looking neighborhoods.  We did find a gas station and stopped for a break, during which I looked at the maps again, confirming that we were on the right track.

We WERE on the right track…except…we found the trail again too soon. Still torn up.

Now we needed detour #2.  At this point, there was a road we could get to that paralleled the river.  I assumed we could follow it and we’d be able to keep and eye on the bike trail so we could get on it when we got beyond the construction.  Not so fast!  That road was also under construction.

We followed the DETOUR signs for car traffic, which led to lovely scenery like this:

And train crossings:

After several miles of this, we finally made it back to the bike path.  (HOORAY!)

We were finally on track again with a view.  The bike path was in better condition than previously too.

We rode by the dock for the Celebration Belle (sightseeing paddle wheeler).

We also rode by this rather large rat.  It is part of a protest situation between a local company and the union.

We just kept following the trail.

And then NOT AGAIN! 

This roadblock turned out to be helpful.  We needed to cross to the Iowa side over Centennial Bridge, which I hadn’t spotted.  It turns out that the overpass you can see in this picture is part of the bridge we needed.  We had to cross the street and find the pedestrian approach.

The pedestrian crossing was not too narrow, but it felt a bit claustrophobic on a bike. We caught up to a guy walking and pulling a wagon.  There wasn’t room to pass him and it would have been hard to ride as slow as a pedestrian.  Luckily, he looked over his shoulder and saw me and tucked himself in next to a bridge girder.  I thought he saw Mike behind me, but Mike said that the guy stepped out again…briefly.  Right at the other side when things widened out a bit and I felt a bit safer, I stopped to get a picture of Mike on the bridge. (Unfortunately, he’s in the shadows)

Looking back at the bridge after we crossed it.

On the Iowa side, there was a small park and it was time for a break.

After resting awhile, we followed the trail a bit further and came to a spot where there were public restrooms…so a second stop was in order!  It was while we were stopped there that I saw the first MRT sign we had seen since we started riding in Wisconsin.

Just past this… AGAIN?

Fortunately, this detour was just off to the right -dirt/gravel- in a loop connecting back to the pavement after maybe 50 feet.

We were quickly coming to the end of the bike trail through here.  The MRT routed us onto an island called Credit Island that appears to be a recreational spot.  We zipped through there on a nice road.

And then back to the “mainland” over a pedestrian/bicycle bridge, which was very nice.

Unfortunately, after that…things got gritty the rest of the way.  The route followed a riverside road that might’ve been flooded one time too many.  And …surprise…

Between this road and the highway (off to the right) are several gravel pit type companies.  There were big trucks and a LOT of dust in the air for several miles.  Eventually the MRT brought us to the highway we needed to be on, which gave us something new to worry about.  There was almost no shoulder, but what there was of it was heavily “rumble stripped” so we were back to riding on a no-shoulder highway for awhile.

A few miles further, we arrived in a small town called Buffalo exactly when we were ready for a break.  Another gas station stop.  While we were standing there finishing our drinks and enjoying some shade, I happened to say to Mike – “Take a picture of me.” (Which I don’t think to do very often)

Leaving Buffalo was a bit annoying because the bike GPS was acting like a car GPS and trying to “recalculate” when I knew we needed to continue on the highway, but wanted to be sure of my directions.  There were a few unnecessary turns and definitely some language on my part AND some grumpy complaining behind me on Mike’s part.  This only went on for a couple of blocks through town before we got on the straight and narrow.

For a very short while on the way out of Buffalo there was a bike trail.  If there ever needed to be a bike trail along a highway -that was the spot.  Unfortunately, our happiness at seeing the bike trail was very short lived.  It was less than a mile long.  I did get a picture of some sunflowers though!

Not far out of Buffalo, the MRT guide routed us off the highway onto a quieter road -at least for awhile.  We could have probably saved a couple of miles and definitely avoided a couple of hills if we’d stayed on the highway, but it really was nerve-wracking to ride as far over as possible and not hit the rumble strips.  So we went. On this “side trip” the guide mentioned an old mill and a state park along the way.

By then, we’d ridden about 35 miles with 15 to go.  We were at the point where we just wanted to just put the pedal to the medal and get done for the day.  That’s why I think we completely missed the historical site for the Pine Creek Grist Mill.  I was keeping an eye out for it too!  Turns out, the parking lot for it is almost directly across from a turn we needed to be sure to take, so our attention was focused in the opposite direction. Fortunately, thanks to Jim, we did stop there the next day by car – so I am putting the photos here, where they would have been if I’d seen it when we actually pedaled by it!

The man who built this mill first came to the area in 1833.  A mill wasn’t built on this site until some time in the 1830’s. As his business grew, he constructed the mill that still stands today in 1848.

The bridge was built in 1878 to help farmers bring their grain to the mill.

This is Pine Creek on the other side of the bridge.  It flows into the Mississippi just a couple of miles away.

When the MRT returned us to the highway, we had about 5 miles left to ride.  All of our attention was back on avoiding rumble strips and then just getting through some of the city streets to our hotel.  Nothing in particular caught my eye -so my camera stayed in my pocket for those miles.

We were very happy to see our hotel after a bit of a challenging day.  We checked in, showered, and then walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  It was nice to do nothing but relax for the rest of the evening.



Categories: MRT Bike Trip 2018 & 2022, Port Byron IL to Muscatine IA


2 replies

  1. I would have screamed Uncle at the 2nd detour. Not you guys. Again, great story telling. I was exhausted by the time you got to the hotel. That bed would have been my best friend..

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