And then we’re done

Today we reached the end of the line in Machens, Missouri. No more Katy Trail. We rode the Katy from Clinton to Machens with a few detours in between. We had some great trail; we had some really rough trail. We had shade; we had sun (maybe too much sun). We saw towns that are no more; towns that are dying; towns that have found a way to thrive. We met some great people along the trail; we did not meet any not so great people along the trail. We had the pleasure of riding with and dining with three great guests of Timberline and 2 leaders. Overall….a very good trip.

General thoughts

  • Best city: St Charles. It was charming, a little touristy with a long downtown and the humans claimed amazing food.
  • Most unexpected: Kansas City. The humans really enjoyed there day and the bike infrastructure and the trail along the river was top notch
  • Least interesting trail section. Clinton to Sedalia. Flat farmland and really rough surface. But, start in Clinton so you really appreciate the rest of the trail.
  • Best trail segment. Ooo…hard to say, but several sections had trail with the river to the right and tall, interesting limestone cliffs to the left. Shady. Cool. Wildlife. Awesome.
  • Best Wine. Lost Creek Winery. Cycling friendly flight with one wine better than the other. Of course after climbing their 18% gradient driveway it darn well better have been good. I am a plodding Clydesdale, not a mountain goat.
  • Best Beer. Schlafly Brewing in St Charles. The Chai Stout was off the charts.
  • Tire size. I rode 35mm — the “light hiking shoe” of off road tires. We’re thinking of taking me down to some “trail runners” at 32mm for the next trip. We can get some comfy tires that will do well on road and light gravel and offer a little better protection against glass. Edwina’s “stiletto heel” tires at 25mm are not the choice for these trips, but her tires have better flat protection. Sigh….we want the best of both worlds.
  • Worst Climb. Yes, even on a trip as flat as the Katy. The Katy may be flat but it follows the river which means building your town up on the bluff and out of the flood plain. In Alton the brick road from the river read 25%…no, I did not carry the humans and their panniers to the top, I demanded they push me up.

Tonight we sleep in Alton, Illinois and will catch the Amtrak tomorrow at 7:30 to begin the train ride home. A transfer in Union Station in Chicago to the Hiawatha and we’ll be back in Milwaukee before nightfall. I am promised a new chain, a thorough wash and an overhaul before the next stop…Penn Station, NYC.

The Trail

Early in A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson talks about the hiker who overpacked and started throwing things from his pack as he hiked, tossing items out to the side of the trail. The Katy is definitely not the Appalachian Trail in terrain, nor difficulty, but one does find many things along the side of the trail: a spoon, some socks, apples, and cans of chickpeas. The spoon and socks were probably lost and will be missed, the apples we were told were just “too heavy” and the cans of chickpeas?!?!?!

Of the riders on the trail, there are 4 categories. There are the “through hikers” who carry camping equipment. Next up are the “hotel hikers” who are going from town to town staying in the many B&Bs. Then there are folk like us who are too lazy to carry their own bags and have van support and rest stops. And, finally, the “day hikers” who are doing an out-and-back for the day.

But, riding every day, you start to recognize riders. Conversations start one day and then you pick them up the next day. In our cohort of riders travelling the Katy, we have, of course, us riders with Timberline. But there is a second touring group that is making almost the same stops as us, both overnight and on the trail.

Then there is “Texas”, a couple from the Houston area who are just loving this “cool weather” (it is 90 and blazingly hot in the sun, btw, and anyone not from Houston is dripping wet). They are a happy couple and always fun to chat with.

Then we have groups of friends….well, they started as friends, but we’re not sure they’re going to end as friends. Three women from Ohio, one was really flagging coming into Boonville. She rolls into the museum parking lot convinced that the last stretch of trail was all up hill. Oops….that was Lard Hill, a 2% downward gradient. Can’t say she’s looking much better several days later but she perseveres.

There is a second group of three guys. One is very fit and very friendly. The other two….well…coming into Boonville, laden with panniers, one had front panniers and the other rear. They were a few miles behind their friend. One was trying to coast on the trail…ouch…this is limestone, coasting doesn’t happen. The next day we saw them take off. The fit guy now had his bikepacking setup as well as front and rear panniers while the two friends bike’s had none. We haven’t seen them since, but curious none the less.

And then there is the assortment of people of all shapes, sizes and ages. Everyone is chatty. Everyone has a story to tell. The Katy may be flat and some might think not challenging (they’d be wrong) but trail camaraderie is part of the experience.

Energizer Bunny

Eons ago the humans travelled with a woman they code named “Armpit Height”. She was a petite woman who, among other things, stated that you develop a very different perspective of the world when you live at armpit height. Cute as that story is, she called the humans “energizer bunnies”….always pedaling at a nice cadence…never coasting….every time she saw them, they were just pedaling away.

On the Katy, that is pretty much de rigueur. The humans are constantly pedaling; costing is never an option. Even when it is flat, you need to pedal. It is like climbing a mountain all day except that the incline is < 2% and you never get that mountaintop view. Still…yet another enjoyable day. Dead armadillos (not enjoyable, but different) and a goat pretending to be a mountain goat.

So, how do those energizer bunnies fuel? Not so well. Too many of the small towns have faded away; others don’t start opening for a couple of weeks. Grocery stores do not think about vegans, not even lactose intolerant folk (that vegans can use). It has been tough. Today’s lunch stop was good but no remotely vegan option besides French Fries. But, we are travelling with a group and those group leaders spoiled the humans rotten with hummus sandwiches…..Timberline is so cool.

But, what about me? Do I get care a feeding? Sigh….nope. I can live with the layers and layers of dust, but my chain…my life blood…it is just covered in limestone dust. A little lube, maybe? But, no. The human says it isn’t worth it….and I’ll get a new chain when we get home. Still…just a little lube?!?!?!

Missouri Nice

Everything is nice. The ride. The riders. The view. The road surface. The people you meet. All so very, very nice. One might say all rainbows and butterflies but since it doesn’t rain there are no rainbows just butterflies. Big butterflies, small butterflies…I mean even road apples have butterflies, not flies. Everything is just so nice.

But, seriously, great riding from Boonsville to Jefferson City. We road along limestone cliffs and alongside the Missouri. Great views. A little natural air conditioning from the river took the edge of the heat (and it is *hot*). Saw some new flowers. A great blue heron. A few turtles. Lots of indigo buntings. A western rat snake. Lots of little skink lizards that do the squirrel thing and charge across the trail aiming for your wheels. And, of course, squirrels that run across the trail…almost got one….not intentionally…but they can be so dumb.

Overall, another great lazy day along the Katy. Great travelling companions all enjoying the day.

These wheels are made for rolling…

…and they’ll roll right over you. And anything else that just happens to be in the way. At least mind did. The wheels on my other brother Clyde were not so strong and we got to change out the tire….probably the nicest tire change spot ever, tho…so lemonade out of that lemon.

Today’s riding took us north out of Sedalia to Boonville. We are currently in spittin’ distance of the “Big Muddy” (which, of course, here does refer to the Missouri, not the water in the sink when the humans go to wash out the limestone dust from their clothes…disgusting….but I digress). Yesterday’s riding was….uh…pedestrian…flat farmland after flat farmland…ooh, a little city…flat farmland…. I get that I’m a plodder, but 300 miles of looking at farmland was going to get pretty old.

Thankfully, today, Mother Nature was kind enough to provide us some lovely views. We had some smaller rivers (Lamine as in Rue de la Mine), some limestone cutouts, some gorgeous gorges off to the side and, of course those “killer” hills….I think one actually hit 2%!!!

More people on the trail today, as well. Yesterday was spookily quiet — it was a Sunday on a 3-day weekend, you’d’ve expected company, but maybe a half dozen bikes in 50 miles. Today…always another bike coming at you, passing or being passed. A lot of bikepacking types and a lot of very tired riders. We now suspect that people skip the Clinton to Sedalia segment because..well…flat farmland and just start in Sedalia. Sedalia sports an Amtrak station so it would make an easy starting spot.

But, if today is any indication of the rest of the trip? Bring it on. (well, except for another flat…that we would prefer to ignore)

Oh, Buttercup???

….tender, frou-frou, wobbly Edwina…suck it up, Buttercup, the trails belong to me!!!! This was a day I was built for. Crushed limestone…sure, even Edwina can handle limestone, but there was gravel, there was sand, there were bumps, big rocks and more. Exactly what a Clydesdale can handle…smooth out the ride and just do…the…job. Edwina, sorry, but you would have whined the whole time and probably tripped over those skinny little tires you wear while I just kept on carrying on. From now on, the trails belong to me…don’t even ask. Stick to the road.

What about the ride? Ah, it was a nice day of riding. Reclaimed rail bed from Clinton to Sedalia. Really can’t complain…ok….there is one complaint. I just had to put my tire down and tell the human, “NO!” No, I will not pose for another picture in front of another station sign. No, I will not pose for a picture at the high point of the Katy trail….a whopping 995′ above sea level on a day where the steepest gradient was 1.2%. No, I will not pose in front of an old train engine painted in some glaring colors for the kids. No…No….No…I am not a frou-frou bike. I am not Edwina who loves to pose and loves to check out the polish of her frame, her components and keeps her tires spotless. No. I. Will. Not. Pose. Geez…let’s just ride, OK?

Not a Commute

The human lied. The human said today would be a cross-town commute. Said it would be right up my alley….no gravel yet, but commuting was what I was made for. Potholes? Meh. Rough road? Bring it on. But….really…it was a pretty nice ride…well…except for that 13% grade with panniers heavier than when I had to haul the human’s 17″ “laptop” computer to and from work. Ooooffff…that was tough even for me. I thought the reason I got to come on this trip was for the gravel, but apparently, also for those heavy panniers. I’m promised they’re gone tomorrow and won’t be back until Saturday.

The ride today was from downtown Kansas City to the airport. We thought it would be busy but the infrastructure was awesome. We even had our own protected lane over the Missouri River. Very nice. Edwina tells horror stories about the scary ride after crossing the Mississippi and told me to be worried…but, nope….just nice riding on residential streets and in warehouse districts. Low traffic. And the segment on the bike trail was really nice…the human said it was almost nicer than Minnesota’s…I wouldn’t know.

Today was the first time I got to ride outside of the state of Wisconsin. So now I’ve ridden in 3 states..obviously, Wisconsin, but now Missouri and Kansas. Not bad for one day of riding. And tomorrow we head east on the Katy Trail.

Here’s riding in style from Kansas City to Clinton:

Waiting…just waiting

Yesterday we waited in Chicago…then waited on the train (check out our train digs below…pretty cool, eh?). Today, we waited in the hotel room.

I suppose sitting all day in a hotel room, 10 stories up with a view of the park beats sitting in the garage back home, but…gee….come all this way to sit and wait while the humans went out and played in Kansas City? They got to play while we looked out the window. Apparently they had a great time while we sat back in the hotel acting as a clothes rack. I’m beginning to understand some of Edwina’s whining….all work and no play?!?!?! Where is that gravel I’ve been promised?!??!

Tomorrow they promise me a ride across town. We’ll see. Better not be more waiting or…or….

Kansas City, Here I Come

That would be, Clyde, not that frou-frou bike Edwina. I, Clyde, am taking over the blog for this trip and Edwina can just suck it up and accept that for the next two weeks this is my blog, not hers. Phhhhtppp!

First, let me introduce myself. I am Clyde…as in Clydesdale. Like Edwina, I am a custom steel Waterford bike, but there the similarity ends. I was built for commuting and I am tough. No fancy-schmancy Waterford paint job. Nope. Powder-coated in a classic chai-tea color. No delicate 25cc tires either…35mm comfy Rene Herse gum walls. Gravel-ready. Rough road ready. With a smmmoooothhh ride. Add to that fenders and I, unlike that hoity-toity Edwina, am ready to ride me some gravel roads and limestone trails. And, that, friends is where we are headed.

Right now I’m cooling my tires in Chicago’s Union Station and soon, we will hop the train to Kansas City. I have never been on the train before. Edwina got to ride it once before to Denver, but then the riding was all road. Not this time. Edwina can’t handle this trip…she’d being having one princess meltdown after another…..”<whine /> the road is too bumpy…<whine/> the gravel too loose…. <whine /> is that mud?!?!?!?” If we let her on this trip, she would ghost you, dear friends, like she did in Mackinac Island…grrr…so she got a little bit of horse apple on her tires and had to spend the night al fresco. Big deal. But, gee, we never heard the end of her complaints about that night. So…no we left the drama queen at home.

But, me? I am getting to ride! As a commuter, I spent too many years going to work…home from work…to work…home from work…see the pattern? Bored already, too? Sometimes I got to take the long way home from work, but pretty much a limited set of scenery. So an offer to cross the state of Missouri…how could I turn it down?!?!?

Talk to ya in Kansas City!

Now, that’s a ride!

After that abysmal showing yester of a lousy 12 miles, today we rode! 75 miles up the Leelanau Peninsula. Sometimes on the east side; sometimes on the west…..which meant…hills to climb to get from one side to the other. Ups and smooth downs. Yeehaw! And the bestest part? No panniers! Woot! Instant weight loss!

And, another gorgeous day. The sand dunes on this side of the lake are impressive. And, apparently, unlike the Wisconsin side, not threatened. Heck…humans are encouraged to climb them here. Feels strange. Needless to say, Edwin and I decided that climbing large piles of sand was not in our best interest.

Tonight we sleep in Northport…that would be Northport, Michigan, of course, not Northport, Wisconsin. A much larger city. Can this weather hold? Or was our epic ride in the rain enough to keep us in good weather? Time will tell.