May 2nd--2004 Story by Mark Sampson
Tony Koenan--Union, Missouri--our ride organizer and leader.
This is a 300 mile single day trip thru the backroads of Missouri in which we rode over 5 very old swinging bridges. There were 4 KLR650's--2 DR650's--1 BMWF650 and 1 Honda XR650L for the ride. We all agreed Tony laid out one of the best rides we had ever been on as the scenery, route and weather was great. It had rained a lot before the ride and there was no dust on the gravel roads and it made all the low water crossings interesting.
Riders would show up at Tony's house Saturday afternoon--as Tony was so gracious to put all of us dirty bike riders up for the night in his brand new house, and his good buddy Jim would fix the best bowl of chili we ever had--later that evening------well---it was a "gas gas gas".
I have blacked out the images of the participants of this demonstration of front wheel braking on a freshly sealed concrete floor to save the rider (and MSF instuctor) a lot of embarrassment. I had never seen or met this guy before----so he knew nothing of the speed at which the "BigDogAdventure" camera crew could whip out a Nikon 4300 Coolpix digital camera.
Jay was the last to arrive----it was dark--raining--cold and nasty. Me and Kenny knew Jay would not woos out. Jay had to work late fixing Harleys at Dales Harley Davidson in Mt. Vernon, Illinois---I guess nobody there took him up on his offer to go riding ??? Don't understand that !!!
Jim had a nice warm cozy brand new house--but for some reason we all hung out in the cold garage--why ???--because we are motorcyclists that's why. We kicked tires for hours in the garage and oggled Tony's matching pair of like new Honda Pacific Coasts--a his and a hers. Speaking of her---Tony's wife went to visit her mom as she wasn't puttin' up with all our nonsense--so us guys had the house all to ourselves.
Jim Kempf--left--our cook.
Jim made the best pot of chile we ever had. It was so good after riding all day in the cold rain. Jim rides a KLR650 and has painted it up all white--really fixed up nice. Tony's wife had left us some sort of desert--which was really great--and I made a pig of myself and went back for seconds.
Sunday morning we left Tony's as the sun was coming up and it was a very chilly 40°. Most of us had heated clothing and I had to stop once and add my heated gloves as my hands got numb pretty quick. We road for 2 hrs. and got a great breakfast at Margies in Belle, Missouri.
After breakfast we rode some great backroads and came to our first swinging bridge. This is the Buetcher bridge in Miller County Missouri on the Tavern Creek SW of St. Anthony. It was built in 1910 and is 43 meters across. Tragically, in 2000 a highway worker was killed on this bridge as he drove his fully loaded dump truck over this bridge and the planks fell thru---he was trapped in his truck and drowned.
Buetcher Bridge N38°08.461' W92°17.828'
We are going to go over 5 swinging bridges today and all were built by Joe Dice. Joe built 30 swingng bridges but only 6 or 7 remain. None have collapsed--they were just replaced by a more modern bridge.
All the bridges were built very similar and all have cables just like the one in the picture. A bunch of straight large gauge wires banded together that have stood the test of time for almost 100 years.
Tony was having to give this youngster a little pep talk as he just couldn't seem to keep up. "Whats the matter boy---your air cleaner plugged up---brakes sticking" ???
Jeff Williams (left)---was a little apprehensive about being stuck riding behind behind 3 old farts and having to poke along all day eating their dust while his White Brothers exhaust, souped up Motard XL650L breathed down their necks.
Next thing you know--oh Jeff is giving it hell trying to pace Tony, Jack and Jim. Actually I was the slow one of the bunch---or is it I'm just in "Scenery" mode---no I think I'm just slow.
Later in the day I came to a sharp deep gravel corner and noticed that someone overcooked the corner bigtime and went out across the ditch and into the weeds---don't know how the "Big Dog" camera crew missed that one!! Found out later it was Jeff having too much fun.
Jeff was a great riding partner and his job keeps him from getting out much--but I think after this ride he'll try to go with us more often.
Here I am dragging up the rear again. Better get both hand on them handlebars you ole' fart. I'm really not sure which bridge this is. Almost looks like I'm in the jungle here.
Kilethermes Swinging Bridge
When we crossed these bridges the planks would really rumble and the bridge would sway and shake. It's amazing they are still standing. This bridge also spans Tavern Creek and is just about 3 miles North of the Buetcher bridge.
Here is Jay rumbling across the bridge on his BMW F650.
Tony liked to jump up and down on the bridge and get it really rocking and rolling---a wild and crazy guy that Tony.
All the bridges we crossed sported a great view of the creeks and the Missouri Ozarks.
Can you see in this picture the new cable that was put beside the old cable. The old cable was in pretty bad shape. I'm afraid some politician is going to have these demolished someday--I was so glad to see them before anymore disappear.
Kenny Gibbons waded the wet brush and got a great shot of Jeff on the bridge. All the bridges were just one lane wide and were in very remote areas. We only came upon 3 vehicles all day while we were on the backroads.
Joe Dice the builder of these wonderful feats of engineering was no engineer at all. He just had a lot of common sense and was not an educated man. He built these for the state of Missouri and when they finally asked him to make a blue print of the stuctures for bidding purposes he was put out of business, as Joe had no experience in blue printing or engineering. It was said he would stretch a string across the river and build the structure from the string--Joe drug the heavy cables across the river with a team of horses. It took him about 3 months to build one---amazing.
There are few guys in this world that can smile like that while fixing a flat. They pulled a one inch nail out of the tire. Kenny had a new tube---Jay had some of those nifty motion pro tire irons and a hand pump, so it was no problem.
I'm trying to come up with a caption for this one--but can only laugh !!! (I sure hope Tony is laughing too)
Where did those plyers come from ??
Who would take such a picture ??
Ahh--hah !!! Caught yah---Kenny has become part of the "Big Dog" camera crew.
Spring is nice--everything is a beautiful bright green--and after all the rain it just brightened it up a little more.
Grand Auglaize swinging bridge
The grand daddy of them all. This bridges was built in 1920 and is 152.4 meters across the Grand Auglaize river.
The Grand Auglaize is bowed up in the middle and when you approach it you can't see if someone is coming from the other side--somebody has to back up if you meet in the middle.
Jeff Williams--Jay Grafton
My favorite picture---looks like there in some exotic, remote, foreign third world country to me--woops, the power line gave it away !!
Mill Creek swinging bridge
This little bridge was built in 1910 also and spans Mill creek and is 41.1 meters long. It is just around the corner from the Grand Auglaize to the Northeast.
Jack Gindra riding one of those new fancy smancy pretty red KLR's seemed to have a saddlebag full of these signs. Since I was dragging up the rear--we thought it was a good idea to warn people.
Kemna Swinging Bridge
Built in 1910--its spans Tavern Creek also and is 50.9 meters long.
Jeez--get that ugly green bike out of the way so we can see the bridge !!
Well it was getting about 2 in the afternoon and there was guite a bit of rumbling and grumbling going on at the back of the pack---not from me tho :) Kenny was about to pass out from hunger. His stomach was growling almost as loud as his snoring. By the way---he slept in the garage at Tony's so the rest of us could sleep--thanks Kenny !!
Tony made our day---the Hideaway in Persing, Missouri---population---well---uh---I didn't see anybody !! But if you want a great steak, chicken or whatever--- get on over to the Hideaway. It's only closed on Mondays.
I'm not sure Pershing is on the map--it's here:
This place use to be a John Deere dealer--but is now a great little bar and grill. There was a big tall brick chimney in the middle of the floor--I'm sure there had to have been an old pot bellied stove in there at one time.
Hey look at all those horsies tied up outside!
Time for some more ridin' --yee-haw!!
Am I back in Mexico or what !! Luckily I was carrying the bike lift in my saddlebags. We tried to patch it--but "Big Dogs" patch kit was kind of old---so Jay whips out a 19" tube for the 18 inch wheel--that ought to get him home.
All the while Jeff is fixing his flat---notice how he kept his backside to the bushes.
Jack Gindra (left) is giving poor ole Jeff a hand when he needs it.
Jeff and Don didin't stay at Tony's Saturday night--they left Mexico, Missouri Sunday morning and met us at the breakfast stop. They was shivering when they rolled in-we all were. Pretty tough riders.
After fixing the flat--we sort of headed back towards Tony's in Union and some broke off from us to head on home.
Me and Jay finally broke off and decided to head South and cross into Illinois crossing the Mississippi in Chester. I am terrified of riding in St. Louis--and riding in the rain in the dark----so we rode in the rain in the dark all the way home so as to skip St. Louis.
On the way we passed this spring. The spring is actually on the porch of what looks like a house--it's not. The spring flows into the building and the building is flooded with the spring water.
It's located on highway CC about 2 miles Southeast of Washington State Park in Missouri.
Thanks Tony for such a great time!! We were all amazed at how well Tony knew all these backroads--he had a GPS which I mounted up for him right before we left--but he didn't know how to use it yet. He made a thousand turns and never made a wrong one. We were going to do a ferry crossing near the Hideaway restaurant--but it was closed down for some reason, and Tony just routed us right around it with no problem. When Tony does another ride, I will drop what I am doing an join in the fun.
Swinging Bridges Ride
Back to Marks Homepage--BigDogAdventures.com