This article was originally published in our June 2021 issue. 

I have been on every Big BAM (Bicycle Across Missouri) ride since 2015.

Full disclosure: Missouri Life started the ride. I claim to be working during the ride, checking the customer experience, but what I’m really doing is having fun. Four things about the ride especially appeal to me and draw me back year after year.

First, the adventure of the ride: We ride through charming small towns, full of friendly people, and beautiful countryside. We go slow enough on bikes to appreciate the picturesque farms, shady woodlands, and pastoral countryside, especially the shady woodlands. In my mind’s eye, I recall one hot day, when a half-dozen of us sweaty bikers were resting peacefully under some tall red cedars casting dense shade onto a freshly mown roadside easement. Of all the traveling I’ve done, I find bicycling the most interesting way to tour.

Second, the achievement of doing the ride is satisfying, even if I don’t ride every day or have to catch the SAG wagon. SAG stands for support and gear, and we have a saying, “No shame in SAG.” You might think I would have completed at least one BAM, but oh no, something has always interfered. The first year, from Rock Port to Canton, when I was trained and really ready to go, a flood prohibited all of us from riding into Canton the last day. We instead arrived by yellow school bus. Still, all any of us in that first year have to say is “those hills,” and we grin. We did it!

The second year, from St. Joseph to Hannibal, I overheated one day and thought best to lay out the next. The third year, Weston to Louisiana, my husband Greg over-fajita’d, as he calls it, and I thought best to stick with him the next day. The fourth year, I’d had foot surgery and could go only a short way each day on the remarkable route on old Route 66, from Joplin to Eureka. The fifth year, a loop ride starting and ending in Columbia, I’d been on my bicycle exactly once before the event. While Rebecca French Smith, another editor here, and I did the first sixty-something miles of the first day, I chose to SAG or do shorter days after that—a worrisome but appealing precedent. Moberly was a favorite stop because of the friendly people, who cooked biscuits and gravy for us for a free breakfast.

Third, there’s the camaraderie of the cyclists. You can’t stop for a drink of water or a short break without a passing cyclist asking if you’re alright. Cyclists seem to be willing to do anything to take care of each other, or animals. I’ve seen other cyclists helping change strangers’ tires, giving away their inner tube, sharing snacks to give someone an energy boost, rescuing abandoned wild kittens, and more. We don’t all know each other’s names, but it’s a rolling, caring community.

Fourth, at the end of the day, there are bands and beer. We’ve earned one of both!

So yes, I’m trying to train for this year’s five-day ride, from June 13–18, including the pre-ride night. In the past, I’ve found if I can do twenty miles or so a couple of times a week on the Katy Trail, I can do BAM, even at my grand age.

I’m particularly looking forward to this year, our first time in southeast Missouri, where French, German, and Scots-Irish culture and legacies collide with the best parts of a southern sensibility. We plan to ride (or SAG some) from Poplar Bluff to Ste. Genevieve, from flat Delta lands brimming with cotton and rice, to the majestic beauty of the Ozarks, where we’ll be mainly riding gently rolling ridge roads, although we are also promised a few real hills as well as some wineries along our route. I’m looking forward to seeing the oldest building in Missouri on our route, the Louis Bolduc house in Ste. Genevieve, and revisiting Sikeston, Cape Girardeau, Perryville, and Farmington, our other overnight towns.

You’re invited to ride with me. I’ll be at the back of the pack. Join us for a day or two or the whole ride.


Photos // Notley Hawkins, Greg Wood