September 7, 2006

Cook Gets Back on Motorcycle To Tour Missouri’s County Seats

The secret to being a good cowboy is the ability to get back on the horse after it has thrown you. The same probably could be said about motorcycle riders. Of course no one would have blamed John Cook if he gave up the sport after suffering serious injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Yet few were surprised to see John diligently completing his recovery and quickly finding himself right back on a motorcycle. This is the same John Cook that rode his Gold Wing motorcycle to 49 of the 50 state capitals in the United States, covering more than 23,000 miles during the adventure that took nearly two years to complete.

But faced with the leg and hip injuries even John wasn’t certain he would be able to pick up where he left off.

Cook did make one adjustment, replacing the Gold Wing with a smaller two-cylinder Silver Wing bike. After a few test rides around town, Cook decided to really see what he was made of.

“I need to see if it (the bike) and I were really going to be compatible so I took off across the north part of the state,” Cook said.

The two worked so well together that John rode for two days, April 16 and 17, covering 641 miles. He headed west from Memphis all the way to the Nebraska stateline and then back east across the state’s second tier of northern counties, ending up in Monticello in Lewis County on the Illinois side before turning north to catch Kahoka and back into Memphis.

This would prove to be the first step in yet another noteworthy motorcycle adventure for the Memphis store owner.

“I had thought about doing this for a year or two,” Cook said. “When everything went well that first time out I decided it was time for me to travel across Missouri and see all of the 114 county courthouses.”

A couple weeks later John departed on a more ambitious leg of the adventure. He took off from Memphis on May 1st. He started in Macon and went west, hitting the remaining northwest county seats north of the Missouri River. Feeling the call of the road, Cook didn’t stop there. He turned south and hit Independence as he started down the west border counties. When he hit Pineville, the state’s southwest corner, he turned east and took in all of the south border counties.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Memphis biker. Mother Nature gave him a scare as he ran into a tornado in the Popular Bluff area.

“I made about a three-hour delay when the weather got really bad down there,” Cook said. “After it cleared up a bit, I went on to Kennett in the Boothill. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, cause it was pretty scary, but I made it.”

Cook escaped from the Boothill unscathed and headed back north through the eastern border counties.

When he finally reentered Memphis on May 5th he had covered 1,538 miles and had visited county seats #22 through #60.

“Everyone wants to know which one is the best,” Cook said. “There are absolutely no two alike. Carthage was really outstanding, made of solid granite it looked like a castle and was very large. St. Charles is also impressive.”

With these images in his mind, Cook started out on leg three of the journey on May 28th. He left Memphis and headed south to Shelbyville and started down the second tier of counties on the east side of the state. He made the U-shaped trip around the south and west part of the state in three days, touring 33 county seats ending up in Fayette. He had 93 county courthouses down, and just 21 to go. This leg put another 1,280 miles on the bike’s odometer.

The adventure concluded with a three-day outing July 9-11. Cook opened up the final leg of the adventure in Huntsville in Randolph County. Cook traveled throughout the center of the state and culminated the 1,087 mile jaunt in Jefferson City.

“Without taking the time to do this, I never would have seen all of these wonderful places,” Cook said. “I’m just like everyone else, I had been through a lot of these places, but only stopped long enough to see the sign pointing me on to my destination. This time I took it all in. It is surprising the variety of terrain there is across the state. It is truly a beautiful state and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Another interesting aspect Cook noticed while touring Missouri’s county seats, was how divided the state was during the Civil War. He found plenty of history on the War Between the States while making stops at the county seats. He noted that his stay at Neosho, which was Missouri’s Confederate state capital during the conflict, taught him a lot about Missouri’s role in the war.

“I got down to some of these places in the south and was feeling like a Yankee for sure,” Cook said. “There were lots of plaques and statues for soldiers that took part in the war.”

What’s next for Cook?

“I’ve had the question asked of me about 1,000 times,” Cook replied. “I’ve got some ideas. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with something.”

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