Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: SW Washington, USA
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I'm not a local, so I can't tell you about Hwy 61.
But ACA has the Great Rivers
route that connects near St. Louis and goes south to intersect the TransAm (which goes into Chester). That might be a bit out of the way. But the ACA routes generally solve the problem of finding good cycling roads.
My choice (since I did it a couple months ago
) is to ride on the Illinois side: Bluff Rd (Hwy 6 then Hwy 7) along the Mississippi bottomland. It's totally completely entirely flat the whole way, if that sounds appealing. And a nice ride, hardly any traffic except for the St. Louis area. The 10 miles from St. Louis to the start of Bluff Rd (south of Dupo) is tough -- city traffic -- but past that it's perfect cycling. And getting through East St. Louis is not for faint of heart -- get advice from locals, or go in a group, or ride it early Sunday morning like we did.
There are some interesting sights along Bluff Rd: old settlements in Cahokia, Fort Chartres, the Pierre Menard Mansion, Fort Kaskaskia. Fort Kaskaskia State Park (a few miles north of Chester) has camping. There's no other place on that road to camp, except for Valmeyer, which has a city park on the route; it was deserted when we went through so camping was no problem. At Ellis Grove, stay on the old road to Fort Kaskaskia and Chester, don't ride on Hwy 3, it's murderous.