Black Friday Gravel Rally – Rolla-Style

Reported by Matt Hayes

Lisa and I were headed down to my Grandpa’s for Thanksgiving in Vienna, MO and towed our bikes along for a 30 mile gravel ride put together by Dan Fuhrman of Route 66 Bicycles. The ride was on Black Friday and the weather couldn’t have been any more mild for late November.

We rolled up to the tiny river town of Devil’s Elbow on the Big Piney and parked across from the Elbow Inn. The crusty old dive-bar exterior made it easy to discount as a “biker bar” but as I’m often told, looks are deceiving. More about Elbow later.
15 riders finished the 30 mile loop

The silo after dropping out of the Kaintuck trail

Precisely at 10am a group of 18 or so riders left Elbow to ride a 31 mile clockwise loop encompassing low-use pavement roads, gravel roads, ATV paths, part of the Kaintuck trail and narrow fireroads that were a hybrid between the look of ATVs-on-Kaintuck and the feel of horses-on-Kaintuck. The dirt portions were a bit wet but only two areas would be considered bog-like. Three tall, steep punches to the gut precisely at the beginning, middle and end-of-middle portions of the ride ensured that the secondary helpings of our everything-plus-turkey dinner would be purged one way or another.

It was refreshing to ride with complete strangers who quickly became two-wheeled friends. I’m great with faces and terrible at names so my internal naming system now includes “just back from germany guy”, “flower earrings gal” and “beer sales guy”. By no means am I being disrespectful, it’s just that I’m more of a landmark than street names kind of guy.

Rail trestle approaching Devil’s Elbow

The no-drop ride full of single speeders, a couple of cross bikes, (er, not recommended on this loop) mountain bikes, and a vintage Barracuda with hybrid tires rounded out the two-wheeled train.

Wrapping up our route was a beer-lunch-beer stop at the Elbow Inn. This river side establishment located on old Route 66 has been around since 1929 and is a piece of roadside Americana.  We all sat outside on their side patio with Boots the cat hanging out to say hi and get some quality laptime. The beef brisket sandwich was awesome and the no-charge PBR cans courtesy of “beer sales guy” were a definite plus. Be sure to look up at the ceiling for some bra-tastic interior decorating ideas. Next time you are around the region treat yourself to some Elbow.

The final mile into Devil’s Elbow along the Big Piney River

It’s a great change of pace to ride with strangers-turned-friends on gravel and trails never traversed in unseasonably warm weather. It’s all too easy to come up with excuses to not do something but I’m glad I took up Dan’s Facebook invite.

The Elbow Inn serves up terrific smoked BBQ, cheap beer and bar cats.

Gravel rides are the new ticket to staying in shape outdoors (keyword: outdoors) during the cold, wet, damp, bog months of Missouri’s wet season. Like I keep saying, I see a Surly Ogre (with fenders and drop bars) in my future.

Keep on keepin’ on.