Bike route crosses northern Missouri, starting in Hannibal.
A new cross-state bike route, extending from Hannibal to St. Joseph, is gaining recognition after details of the course were posted recently on the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation’s (MBPF) Web site.
“It’s already creating a little bit of a stir, a little bit of a buzz,” said Megan Rapp, assistant director and group sales manager of the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau and a member of the Missouri Highway 36 Heritage Alliance. “People are excited about having new biking opportunities not only in Missouri, but northern Missouri.”
The Alliance began working earlier this year with cyclist and author Dave Fiedler to develop a 260-mile bicycle touring route that parallels U.S. 36.
“We were talking about it in February, March, April. They actually did the route this summer,” said Rapp. “He (Fiedler) did the research to ensure the route was safe and doable.”
Because not everyone is up to a 260-mile bike ride, the course has been divided into segments - Hannibal to Macon, 73 miles; Macon to Chillicothe, 79 miles (an 88-mile alternate route is also available); and Chillicothe to St. Joseph, 84 miles.
“It’s chopped up so you can do as much or as little as you want,” said Rapp. “You don’t have to be a serious biker to do parts of it.”
Maps of each segment are posted on the MBPF’s Web site - http://mobikefed.org/. Along with the route, the maps include detailed information regarding the route’s steepness.
While called the Highway 36 Bicycle Route, the course utilizes roadways that run parallel to the four-lane highway.
“You’re on scenic roads and go through towns with a lot of attractions,” said Rapp, noting that U.S. 36’s moniker is “The Way of American Genius” because of the famous individuals whose roots can be traced to communities located along it. “It’s not only the chance to get out and have a great bike ride, it’s also a chance to get out and learn some history of the area.”
The new route is already prompting lofty comparisons, according to Rapp.
“I was very surprised that people have already started likening it to the Katy Trail,” she said, referring to the 238-mile state park that extends through central Missouri from Machens, just north of St. Louis, to Clinton. “Being compared to it is quite an honor. That’s a well-loved trail and bike enthusiasts love to bike that trail. Being on par with that would be very exciting and it would bring a lot of people to northern Missouri.”
Even though Hannibal is the eastern point of the trail, Rapp believes it will attract bike riders to America’s Hometown.
“I think we’ll see even more cyclists out and about and taking in our attractions as well as the natural beauty we have in Hannibal,” she said. “We’ve actually already gotten questions about where you can park your car (in Hannibal) from people wanting to do the ride over a weekend.”
Rapp believes a ride on the U.S. 36 route will be an eye-opening experience.
“No matter where you choose on the route you’re going to be pretty impressed at the sites you’re going to be able to see up here in northern Missouri,” she said. “People take for granted the natural beauty and all the things there are to do along Highway 36. Getting out and seeing it on a bicycle will open your eyes and make you appreciate it a little more.”