I recently pedaled 687miles/1099kms of the MIssissippi River Trail(MRT)/Great River Road in Missouri, Illinois & Keokuk, Iowa, in two phases: 10-16JUN2013 & 25JUN-02JUL2013. My purpose was two-fold: 1) completing a perimeter of Missouri pedal that I had started 30 years years ago, and 2) evaluating the designated bike route for effective/efficient pedaling by an actual bicyclist. I have to return to complete the former, but the latter was extremely beneficial. I have posted the map on my Facebook page, along with extensive pix, and have made numerous Tweats; please friend & follow me. My starting point was AftonMO, which is South County St. Louis. The MRT(as it is called in MO) is also known as US61 when pedaling South and frequently signed "MRT"; it is a heavily trafficed multi-lane road until South of FestusMO. From that point to MO177, it is difficult because of little or no shoulder but the terrain is not too bad. At FruitlandMO, I followed the MRT/MO177; it has a broad but badly broken up shoulder. The MRT through Trail of Tears State Park was closed due to high(Mississippi River) water, but I successfully pedaled into Cape GirardeauMO (close to where I had suspended my perimeter pedal 30 years ago!). The cable stayed Emerson suspension bridge across the Mississippi River is stunning & very bike-friendly, as was IL146 & IL3 North--until WareIL. North of that junction, IL3 becomes similar to the MRT in that it has little/no shoulder albeit flat--until ChesterIL(home of Popeye the Sailor Man; I got my spinach in a Subway sandwich!), when I encountered some of the most challenging hillwork I've ever known. Once North of that outstanding community, the terrain became rolling and flat. My dictate was to stay on IL3, uncertain if the Great River Road closer to the Mississippi River may or may not be flooded, and ended the first phase of my evaluation tour with a glorious pedal West across the famous Eads Bridge into St. Louis City, 16JUN2013. However, that day was a near-death experience; at the junction of IL3 with I-255 a sign was posted prohibiting bicycles/pedestrians/etc. That was not deadly, but the sign placement was such that once seen, there is NO ALTERNATIVE. Of course I continued pedaling North, which doesn't really bother me as interstates have broad shoulders, just have to watch for debris. My near death experience came in E. St. Louis, where I see the sign again, but NOT ALTERNATIVE is available; no problem, I continue pedaling on the shoulder--sharing the road with I-44, 55, 64, 70. Then, construction eliminated the shoulder and I had to take the right lane of 2 lanes. Thank goodness it was a drenching downpour and other road users were going slow (exceptionally slow behind me!); it was also Father's Day; or maybe my NAVY sticker on my large flag helped save my life. Actually, the motorists were extremely respectful, courteous, and knew how to share the road.
On the second phase of my evaluation biketour, I pedaled Broadway to the Arch, then followed the St. Louis ring trail, occasionally posted MRT, and eventually crossed the Mississippi River Eastbound on the Chain-of-Rocks Bridge (original US66). In IL, I took a very decent levee trail most of the way North to HartfordIL, where I resumed pedaling an now-excellent IL3 because of gates on the levee trail which made pushing my bike through double-gates excessively difficult. North of Alton, my route included IL3/IL109/US67/IL96 & IL108, crossing the Mississippi River Westbound on US136 at Hamilton into KeokukIA. From there, I pedaled South on an excellent US61 to narrow MO168 into Hannibal. From there, I pedaled MO79 South to Louisiana, very very difficult because the road is not only narrow, but the ascents are extremely difficult. In fact, I turned West on a fine US54 to the great US61 South back to MO94 East/MO364 across the Missouri River into St. Louis to conclude my evaluation pedal. I notified authorities, only IL Governor Pat Quinn responded, the IL DOT posts online recommendations of bicycle routes. Unfortunately, I use hard-copy state road maps, and IL DOES NOT contain that information!