Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Katy according to Danny ...

Riding the Katy Trail across Missouri had been a dream of ours since long before joining Peace Corps. The route sounded perfect; a rails-to-trails that travels through a mix of small towns and cities as well as farmland and wilderness, along the Missouri River for a good part. After spending a few minutes discussing whether this was the time to ride the trail, after all we were going to be so close to one of the trailheads,we could only find one problem and that was that we had ridden very little in the last three years. This was soon overcome as we realized that we could take our time riding the trail – our deadlines are of our own making. Of course, that wouldn't compensate for the wear and tear on our hands and rear ends - that would have to be time. 

The first challenge was to figure a way to get back to the start after finishing the ride. We went to a couple of bike shops and found that there were lots of shuttle services available. We called Debbie of Davidson Transport.  She was super responsive and we found ourselves and our gear (tandem and BoB trailer) transported to Saint Charles a few days later.

Our home-away-from-home was the wonderful Lococo B and B - an old St Charles home situated on the bluff, on top of a hill, about 12-15 blocks from the historic section of town. The homes were a mixture of the historic and the new modern replacements. 

 We stayed two nights in Saint Charles seeing the old downtown area and experiencing all of the the sights, smells and sounds.

 Daniel Boone was well known and liked in this area.  starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition
 the unique and the beautiful
 can you imagine coming to an old French settlement only to find Mexican bottled coke?

The second day in St Charles we rode to the start of the trail in Machens, which is no more than the Eastern terminus trailhead. 
along the way we experienced the first of many wondrous and enchanting vistas:  the hidden,  the informational (we stopped for every one of them along the route)  the scenic, the bypasses away from the traffic,  the open byways,  and the walled in, crunchy, leaf strewn, relaxing spaces,  the mighty Missouri,  the first of many refurbished 1800s homes (this one used to be a bar in the bottom and living quarters, rooms for rent in the top)
Eventually the trail will continue to connect into the River Road Bicycle Trail along the Mississippi in Illinois. Once at the trailhead, we both felt good and so decided to ride to a community named Portage Des Sioux for our first of many lunches in a biker bar, the only café in town, and, I might add, the best food to be found according to the locals. From here we rode a few more miles to the Mississippi to a monument to Mary who the locals believed saved their town area from a flood.
 and so begins our adventure; at the mighty Mississippi River.

After getting back to St Charles we found a combination bicycle and coffee shop. What could be better? They have only been in business for a couple of years but they have already outgrown their building and are moving. I guess this combination works for other customers as well.

Leaving St Charles after the harrowing ride down the hill from the B and B Bright and early the next morning, which is normally about 10:30 for us, after a wonderful nutritous breakfast
 we picked our way through the local Oktoberfest that was starting as we rode, no walked, through Frontier Park, the trailhead for St Charles
 we left St Charles headed for Klondike State Park just outside of Augusta. Our guidebook said that it was one of the nicest camping parks on the way. The author advised to make reservations for cabins, but said nothing about reservations for camping. I had the sense that it had some camping set aside for Katy trail cyclists or that there were no formal campsites. 
 the first of many,  the first trailhead outside of St Charles, also the first of many,  the bridges are all supported by informational signs as many are from the early 1900s and a coupe from the late 1880-90s, we are actually following the Lewis and Clark trail   at every trailhead there are informational signs on the area, the history and the Katy Trail as well as amenities to be found - sometimes lots, sometimes NONE.
When we arrived at the campground, we discovered that it was full. As it was getting late traveling further was not a good option. There were several groups of Boy Scouts and I approached one scoutmaster asking to share a campsite, and he said we could share their area. They were very nice and shared with us a Dutch Oven baked peach and a cherry cobbler that night and a egg, sausage and who knows what else casserole for breakfast. Yummmmmm  Troop 809, St Monica's, St Louis, MO

Our next overnight was going to be at Hermann, which is across the Missouri from the Katy Trail at McKittrick. First though, we passed through:

 many, many dicey (if you stayed on your bicycle, clipped in) road controls 

bikes of many shapes and types shared the trail as well as houses and restaurants, 

 some anticipated as a stop and alas, they were 

 closed and up for sale - nothing to drink here!

 but a convenient place to get a flat

all along the trail are many sponsored niches, some looking out over the vista and some looking towards the trail. A welcome respite if needing a break, a cool drink of water (some had water, most didn't) and a place to fix something

 the colors are starting to change from green to the warm and colorful fall colors.
Just as we stopped at the McKittrick trailhead, in order to figure out where to stay in Hermann, I saw a woman cleaning the restroom. I asked her if she knew of any places to stay. She pointed about a hundred yards away to Joey’s Birdhouse, her own bed and breakfast. When we said, yes, that we would stay, she replied, “I knew that this voluntary cleaning would eventually pay off.” As we were settling in she brought me beer and Shirley sparkling, tangy lemonade along with snacks. Later she made to-order, from scratch pizza and we shared it with her and her partner.  here we also met the first of some new friends who just could't help follow us along the trail.

 The German influence in this area is great, resulting in many Germanic looking buildings. One town even had Bavarian decorated buildings.

 Fun times

 a lot of photos were taken from my "Rear Admiral" position on the tandem, giving some interesting results

 the informational were often a mix of historical and general interest. This rock withstood the many floods and people started to measure the flood waters on the rock itself. 
  a combination name, for lack of anything better. Can you guess which stats gave this very small, once thriving community it's name?

Sign posts marked the miles, but not consistently. Often they were accompanied by other warning or "of interest" signs.

 Awww the colors, some alone, some all together and the longer we traveled, the more intense they became.

Tebbetts,our next stop brings us to our next overnighter. Our guidebook described Mrs. Turner as a small grocery store owner in Tebbetts who really liked cyclists. Mrs. Turner donated a building for cyclists to use as an overnight shelter and has since passed away.It has bunk beds, a self-service bike repair shop, showers with HOT water and a kitchen. When we got to the shelter it was locked, but a sign on the door directed us to a telephone pole where the key was hung.  anyone who can read would have a night's rest, if they only knew it. Not only that, it was on the honor system.
When we opened the door a sign asked us to send five dollars each to the Conservation Federation of Missouri in Jefferson City or to simply take it to the local post office in the morning. We shared the shelter that night with a group of six other cyclists from Kansas City.  a bank from times gone by, but look closely, can it be?  what could it be? aw shucks, it's closed!
as we left town we were given a courtesy - cute

We rode on to Jefferson City. Jefferson City is across from the Katy Trail on the opposite side of the Missouri River.  It is also the capital seat for Missouri.  We took a bike path into Jefferson City that circled like a corkscrew to connect to the bridge that crossed the river. fun to go up and to go down, and what a wonderful way to cross the river on a busy thoroughfare.  just wide enough for the bike to be ridden and if you met another cyclist, one of you had to stop and hug the wall. from the bridge, looking towards the capital
This was a short day, as we needed to do laundry and get supplies. We also learned while here, that the warm weather we had been enjoying was about to end. We decided that we needed to cover more miles per day to avoid being caught up in it and with this in mind, we mailed our camping gear home. Lightening our load would allow us to travel faster and it really did made a difference. I (Shirley) have one word for Jefferson City - HILLS!!!!!

Rocheport was to be our next stop. It was an interesting ride: houses of all shapes and sizes, vintage and refurbished, or not
Lunch at Dotty's.
 There were signs of the illusive beaver, but none more sad than this:   the boards are the recycled plastic bottle boards, not wood as he thought. He tried all over the bench.  We met a lot of riders on the trail this day, some single, some in groups, some in pelotons. Bikes of all shapes and categories.  At last we came upon a tail head, this one leading off to Columbia, and lo and behold, there was a check-in station.  It was the Tour de Ted - a fund-raising ride for cancer in honor of Edward 'Ted' Jones, the person responsible for getting the Katy Trail up and going. Some of the riders had begun their ride in Colorado City, Colorado.
 we've seen Stonehenge, Carhenge, and now Boathenge!
Sometimes, you just have to stop and smell the roses.
Rocheporte was a lovely river town full of shops and bed and breakfasts. Here we stayed in an expanded part of an old school house B and B where we were pretty much on our own. Dinner was a wonderful meal at a boutique restaurant, shoulder to shoulder with other diners. Here even the playground got into the spirit of things. 

The last day was our longest.  the one and only tunnel, just outside of Rocheporte  We had hoped to stop here to sightsee as well as in Columbia but the weather became the deciding factor as our ride came to an end.  The beginning of the Sate Fe Trail, some of which we followed farther west. Apparently the trailhead for the Santa Fe Trail moved further west as the eastern areas developed 
 more open fields and rolling hills than we had seen before. The fields were slowly turning yellow as the soybean crops were ripening.  a clay tile grain silo - once many, now a lone testament to days gone by.  Boonesville bridge soon to be broken down for progress.  Need we say anything more?  the old makes way for the new   of course the only blow out had to occur about 1/2 mile before a trailhead where there were seats. 
along the way were minute signs of the old railroad ...
We rode a little over fifty miles to Sedalia  where we stayed at an old hotel that had been redone. We got to Sedalia just as it was getting cold and windy. We had planned to go another thirty-five miles to Clinton, which is the terminus, but we clearly lacked the clothes.  We gave in and called Debbie and the next day she took us back to our RV, just outside of Clinton.

Although we had already rode part of the trail towards Clinton, the question remains, “Do we or don’t we, finish the last twenty-two miles at a later date?”

The trip was a success. We met lots of wonderful people; learned all about Missouri history; and most importantly, we had a great time.