25 feet. That's how deep underwater we'd be on these roads after the nearby rivers flooded their banks following three days of continuous, relentless rain.
Even some of the towering levees we rode on top of are facing the threat of being submerged as the Meramec River looks set to rise more than 36 feet over just a few days to a new record. And yet the holiday weekend in Saint Louis started so pleasantly, with little hint of what was to come...
As we headed home for a quick holiday visit Mike at Big Shark Bicycle Company was gracious enough to get us rolling on some borrowed steeds. Hitting the bike on Christmas Day the weather was beautiful and our coordinated socks were entirely appropriate for the season.
We started the day in the Maryland Heights neighborhood of Saint Louis, exploring one of the large county parks before heading toward the Missouri River for a quick detour along the Katy Trail, a 240-mile rail trail that crosses nearly the horizontal length of the state. Much bikepacking brainstorming ensued as we retired home for some grub and R&R.
However with a bleak forecast over the next few days we cut the relaxation short to head back out on the bike for Christmas Day ride number two. This time we hit the Meramec Greenway, a newish trail running alongside the baseball and soccer fields I grew up playing on as a kid (when they weren't under floodwaters) with various sections of trail on top of the levees built to protect the nearby neighborhood of Valley Park which sadly is now under mandatory evacuation.
It's hard to imagine what it must look like today - as we traversed the 40 foot tall levees the skies were blue and clear and the river wasn't even visible through nearby tree cover. We rode until the darkness encroached and even got my parents out on a section of off-road trail for the first time. This led to an extended discussion of the merits of cyclocross bikes (my dad is apparently a strong believer in n+1) as we watched the sunset from the banks of the Meramec with little concept for just how much would change over the next five or six days.
The rains that started the following day left the rest of the weekend a wash as far as bikes are concerned. So we kept busy with excessive eating, including at the historic Soulard Farmer's Market (we didn't sample the 'coon'), while touring some of the sights of Saint Louis - even if there were mostly enshrouded in cloud cover. Now that we're back in New York City we can only hope that the levees hold and life along the river in Saint Louis gets back to normal as quickly as possible.
Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/