For a good night’s sleep, I went directly to jail at Al’s Place
I didn’t expect to love these past five days of cycling in Missouri. But I did. The route took a turn for the scenic, with its lush Ozark Mountains and river vacation spots. Unlike Kansas, Missouri dealt me the kind of challenge I enjoy: rigorous hill-climbing.
Another unexpected delight of Missouri was the warm welcome I received in every town I stayed the night. Two of the towns offered camping in their parks, complete with access to showers. The town of Ellington has an indoor shelter for cyclists like me. The grand finale is Al’s Place, a jailhouse-turned-bike-hostel here in Farmington.
The Boutique Charm of Farmington, Missouri
Strolling the main street of Farmington, I was drawn into its boutique style. I passed several clothing boutiques, a cute home decor shop, a wedding dress shop, a music shop, a coffee shop, two salons, a spa, a bakery and two chic restaurants.
Wait, what? A thriving historical downtown? This was something new in the rural Midwest, where all the small towns I’ve passed through have languishing main streets. It’s refreshing to be somewhere that hasn’t been taken over by dollar store and fast food franchises.
It almost feels like a resort town, minus the resorts. I soaked in the cuteness.
Stay at Al’s Place, the Historical Jailhouse
I’d heard about the bike hostel in Farmington through the grapevine several states ago. So I made it a point to land there for a night. As the route map instructed, I called the town’s police department to get the code to the door.
I followed the address to a historical-looking building, then followed a sign that said “Al’s Place” up the stairs. When I unlocked the doors, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The place looks like an upscale urban loft, with patches of exposed brick, leather couches and framed bicycle jerseys.
The signs outside reveal the building’s history. Built in 1875, it was operational as a jail until the early 2000s. There was even a legendary jailbreak back in 1932.
Nowadays, the jailhouse has been lovingly repurposed for cycle tourists. For a $20 suggested donation, you get access to a bunk with fresh linens, a shower, a cozy kitchen and living room, Wi-Fi, and the desktop computer I’m using to write this post. Laundry is $3 extra.
Missouri Towns Make Special Lodging Arrangements for Cyclists
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been floored by a Missouri town’s generous provisions for the cyclists who pass through on this famous route. Missouri opens its arms wider than any state yet. Most towns allow camping in their parks. Also, its highway signage even designate the roads as a U.S. Bicycle Route, with clear ‘76’ signs just for us.
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Here’s a list of the towns I stayed in, and the welcoming hospitality that the town provides for those who are traveling by bicycle:
Golden City: Town park allows camping under its pavilion, and the town will unlock an adjacent shower for cyclists to use. Also, the restaurant Cooky’s is famous for its homemade pie.
Ash Grove: Town has a house that they’ve designated as a cyclist shelter and is very eager to attract more overnighters. I didn’t get to stay here, but I’ll help spread the word.
Fair Grove: Town park allows camping and has a pavilion, and the town will unlock an adjacent shower for cyclists to use. Inquire at the Kum & Go.
Houston: Town park allows camping and access to the community swimming pool when it’s open. I camped in the wrong park and the pool was closed, so Houston wasn’t my favorite.
Ellington: Town has a shelter behind its park pavilion; call the phone number listed for the code. This was a great relief after park camping — it offers a shower, A/C, and cots. There’s a 24/7 laundromat down the street, and be sure to get breakfast at the Vintage Cafe.
Farmington: Al’s Place bike hostel, suggested donation $20.
StephenAugust 7, 2019 at 8:26 am
Al’s Place might mean a reroute for me! What a fab hostel!
Jennifer HamelmanAugust 7, 2019 at 2:56 pm
This is Jenn at Adventure Cycling. I’m so enjoying your thoughtful posts about your TransAm trip.
I’ve got a couple of quick questions for you.
1. While we have all of those locations called out on our map, none of them currently carry the Cyclists Only Camping label. Would you say ANYONE is allowed to camp in these parks or should we be giving them the distinction of Cyclists Only.
2. In Houston we don’t have a specific location for the park, only the name Westside Park. Do you happen to know the crossroads of the correct park? (Or even the incorrect one and we can eliminate that as a location.)
Thanks for any feedback you’ve got on these. I hope the rest of your trip is fabulous!
cynthiaAugust 9, 2019 at 1:46 am
1) In Golden City and Fair Grove, I think anyone can camp in the park, but I doubt they would unlock the shower for you unless you have the helmet hair and crazy tan lines of a cyclist. So that could warrant a “cyclists only” designation.
2) For Houston, the only way I could find the right park was by searching “swimming pool” in Google maps. So it’s here, toward the middle of town
The wrong one is just off the highway and therefore very noisy.
Hope that helps!