When it comes to finding a ride close to home , I can ’ t think of a better destination than this month ’ s adventure . If you are a seasoned rider of St . Louis , I ’ m sure you have made this trip . But each year there are always new riders wanting to learn where a great place would be to ride . For all the new riders , this journey is for you . That ’ s right , we ’ re heading up the Great River Road from Alton , to Grafton and beyond . Since many of you are already familiar with this section of road , our next ride is going to take us well beyond the frequently visited locations like Loading Dock and Hawg Pit BBQ . This time we are heading deep into Calhoun County , Illinois .
Calhoun County is located in northwest Illinois and is geologically unique to the state since the early ice age glaciers didn ’ t touch this land . Here you will find a more rugged terrain that is dissected by valleys rather than the generally flat terrain associated with the rest of Illinois . Calhoun County is also located at the tip of the peninsula formed by the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and is almost completely surrounded by water . Often referred to as the “ Kingdom ”, Calhoun County is sparsely populated with only 5 incorporated towns . Human habitation of Calhoun County dates back as far as the Early Archaic era ( 6400-3900 B . C . E .) and many have termed the area as the “ Nile of North America ”. Kampsville is centered in the heart of this remarkable archeological region and many archeologists and students from the Center for American Archeology spend their summers conducting digs and field work here . There are also many mounds dating from the Middle Woodland era ( 800-1200A . D .) that have been located in different parts of the county . The first permanent European settler was a French trapper named O ’ Neal who settled in Point Precinct ( the southern tip of Calhoun County ) in 1801 and lived in a cave until his death in 1842 . O ’ Neal was follow by other French trappers who started a colony above the Brussels Ferry but were driven out by floods in 1815 . After the War of 1812 , the government set aside the lands between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers for veterans and a rush of settlers began around 1823 . However , most of the land settled in Calhoun County was not by veterans , most of who sold their land to speculators , but by settlers who learned about the region . In 1825 the southern part of Pike County was cut off and made into a separate county . The new county was named after John C . Calhoun , a lawyer , politician , and statesman from South Carolina and Gilead was selected as the county seat . In 1847 the county seat was moved to Child ’ s Landing which is now known as Hardin . Now that we have the history of the region under our belt , let ’ s pull the bike out of the garage and take a ride .
The round trip distance for our next adventure comes in at just under 200 miles and will vary depending on your starting
point . We are going to start this ride at the intersections of Hwy 270 and Hwy 40 / 61 . Travel north on Hwy 270 for 20 miles until you reach MO 367 . Take the second exit for MO 367 and head north 10 miles until you reach Alton , Illinois . After crossing the Clark Bridge , turn left on IL 67 and head towards the Argosy Casino . At the Stop light in front of the casino , turn left on IL 100 , the Great River Road . Locals know these directions like the back of their hand but out of town visitors will want to know how to get here .
Once on IL 100 , the river road has to be the best stretch of scenic riding we have in the region . Continue west for 20 miles and you will be in Grafton . If you are new to the area , you have to stop in Grafton but for the rest of us , this is where the ride really begins . Continue north on IL 100 for another 15 miles until you reach Hardin , IL . Be sure to make a left turn where IL 100 intersects with IL 16 . If you find your getting low on fuel , be sure to gas up in Hardin . This will be your last chance for fuel for quite some distance . After crossing the Joe Page bridge in Hardin , turn right and continue north on IL 100 for about 5 miles until you reach the town of Michael , IL . Just past the city limit sign , turn left on Michael-Hamburg Road . This sign is easy to miss . If you come to Michael Tavern , you missed the turn or you could stop in at Michael Tavern and visit with the local ’ s for a bit . They will show you where the turn is . Michael- Hamburg Road is a 7 mile section of tree covered pavement connecting the Illinois River side to the Mississippi River side of Calhoun County . This hollow road will take you deep into the rolling hills of Calhoun County and will make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere which literally you are . The road will end at Hamburg , IL . This is a small quiet village with a population of just a few hundred folks and of course they have a biker friendly tavern here . Stop in and say “ hi ” to the fine folks at Boothy ’ s Palace Tavern . You can ’ t miss it . They have a bike on their roof . From Hamburg , IL , continue north and the road will become IL 96 at Mozier . Continue north on IL 96 through the towns of Belleview and Pleasant Hill until you reach the town of Atlas , IL . When you reach IL 54 , turn left and head west crossing the Mississippi River and into Louisiana , MO . Once you reach Louisiana , MO you can turn left and take the scenic route traveling south on MO 79 through the rolling hills and scenic overlooks . If time is not on your side and you are in a hurry to get back , continue west on MO 54 until you reach Hwy 61 . Turn left and travel south on Hwy 61 for a quick return route . I think you will find this to be an interesting twist to a ride many of us do already but with a few extra miles included .
Now remember , for your next new ride or your next new route , visit Doc ’ s Harley-Davidson where new adventures come alive every day .
Ride Safe , Doug
Thunder Roads Magazine 10