Five Days on the Katy Trail -Day Five – Boonville to home

31 Jul

The Katy Trail adventure concludes today, but we still had a breakfast to eat, and we’d heard that it would be a memorable one.  Since we didn’t have a ride ahead of us, we were able to take it easy this morning and went downstairs to eat breakfast at 9:00 am.  The innkeeper had graciously offered to prepare it early, but since our shuttle from the Bike Stop Cafe in St. Charles wouldn’t arrive until 10:00 am, we knew the customary 9:00 am time would work just fine.

We sat down in the dining room (that we had all to ourselves) to a beautifully set table.  We are celebrating our 34th anniversary today, so this lovely atmosphere was a great way to begin!

We had banana nut muffins, juice and coffee, a pineapple boat that the innkeeper told us was their signature dish, and a veggie omelette.  It was delicious and Kriss was not only an excellent cook (she has written a cookbook) but also a very sweet hostess and we enjoyed getting to know her just a bit.

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She and her husband own the inn, and she told us they were hoping to relocate closer to family in Washington state.  Therefore, they had decided to give the inn away through an essay contest!  There is an entry fee to enter the contest, but ideally that fee will generate enough money to cover the purchase price so that they can buy a new inn.  We told her we’d come stay at her new inn once they got it up and running.  (www.highstreetvictorian.com)

Promptly at 10:00 am, we were picked up right at the door of the B&B by the shuttle service from the Bike Stop Cafe in St. Charles. (www.bikestopcafes.com)

Driving the shuttle was the owner himself.  He loaded and secured our bikes in the back of the van, then we stepped in and we were off.  We made good time and were safely returned to our truck.

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Since it was lunchtime, we walked down the brick streets in St. Charles and ate at an outdoor cafe.  Our adventure had officially concluded.  We biked a total of 182 miles. We had a great time, we challenged ourselves in more ways than one, we laughed until we hurt, and met some great people along the way.  Not one time did we cross paths with an unkind or grumpy person.  There’s something to be said for Midwest hospitality.  And there’s something to be said for the independent innkeepers and mom and pop businesses in little towns.  We did not stay at a chain hotel and we did not eat at a chain restaurant.  Not that we wouldn’t, but we surely enjoyed the uniqueness of the places we stayed and ate.

As we planned for this trip, there were two resources we really enjoyed using.  One was a blog called Naptime on the Katy Trail.  It chronicled the journey of a young couple and their toddler on the Katy Trail.  I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it if you are considering such a trip.  The other resource is a book called “The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook” by Brett Dufur.  Jimmy (the better researcher of the two of us) ordered it online, and it really is a complete guide.  We were very familiar with the trail and it helped us to not miss anything we wanted to see.  It also helped us map out our mileage based on places to lodge and places to eat (two very important components of any trip!)

Now back to the real world, but we’ll be daydreaming and thinking about the next adventure…

 

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day Four – Jefferson City to Boonville, MO

31 Jul

Our last morning to ride the trail began with another wonderful breakfast.  At the Cliff Manor Inn, we had the option of a 7:30 breakfast or a 9:00 am breakfast.  We chose the earlier time, as did the other two couples that were staying there the previous night.  They had driven in from Tucson and Omaha and were just beginning their Katy Trail adventure.  They were on a two week bike trip and were driving to different areas to ride.  Last week, they biked a trail through the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Hmm, something to think about for the future…   We chatted with them a bit about what we’d experienced and wished each other good rides for the day ahead.  Breakfast was cinnamon swirl french toast, ham and fruit.  The Cliff Manor Inn is owned by a man named Steve, and family members do the cooking on a rotating basis.  Sometimes it’s Steve, sometimes his wife, but today it was their son.  He did a great job and we were set for the day ahead.

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The mileage today would be our longest.  From Jefferson City to our next and final stop in Boonville, was about 52 miles.  The weather was even milder today.  I think the highs were in the upper 80s.  We grabbed our saddlebags, loaded our bikes and started off. The morning air was fresh and clean and I took lots of photos.  I love the look of the spiderwebs in the early morning sun!  As we left the Jefferson City spur, I thought it was neat to see the old rails still embedded in the pavement of the crossroad.  All the rail lines have been removed from the trail itself, guess these were stuck!

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Almost the entire route today was alongside the river.  We noticed several stands of cane or bamboo?  Not sure what it was, but it was dense in some sections. image We stopped near one of the Lewis and Clark expedition markers along the trail and chatted with an older gentleman named Charlie.  He had ridden his bike from near Hartsburg and was resting beside the river too.  He was very familiar with the trail and the area.  He told us that it was country music day at Dotty’s Cafe in Hartsburg, and that they were starting up at 9:00 am if we were interested.  He also said that Dotty’s has really good biscuits and gravy.  Too bad we’d already eaten.  We planned to stop at Hartsburg for a water break but decided to skip the country music. image So our next stop was Hartsburg, a charming little town.  A really helpful thing about the trailheads is that at each little town, it gives the history of the area, tells you what services are available, and tells you the points of interest ahead, whether you’re traveling east or west.

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I think Miss Dotty (of Dotty’s cafe) must be a nice lady, we saw this sign she had posted on the info board at the trailhead.

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As we traveled westward, we came upon a sight you just don’t see everyday.  The locals call it Boat Henge. Someone had the idea that the thing to do with boats no longer needed, was to plant them in the yard alongside the trail.  There were six of them in all, and someone had planted lillies around them.  It did make for an interesting conversation piece, and I could not resist the picture.

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We continued on from there and decided to eat lunch at Rocheport.  We passed an area right between the trail and the river called Cooper’s landing.  It consisted of a campground, a little store, bait shop, bicycle rental etc.  I think you could even pay for a hot shower.  The most unexpected thing about it though was the presence of Chim’s Thai Restaurant.  Very unexpected for this remote location in the middle of nowhere!  We passed on the Thai food and pedaled on toward Rocheport. image We had stayed the night in Rocheport on a previous trip to the Katy Trail and really liked the town.  It’s full of old buildings and nice people.  There were several options for lunch there, whether they are open or not depends on the day of the week and the business owner’s schedule.  The first place we tried, was a little trailside outdoor restaurant called the Mulberry Grill and Bakery.  It’s behind a man’s house and he has an outdoor brick pizza oven.  We thought a wood fired grilled pizza would be great! image But he was not open, so we pedaled a block off the trail and checked Main Street.We decided to eat at the General Store on Main Street.  It’s another family owned business and the owner seated us and told us the building was constructed in the 1800’s as a general store and pharmacy.  She went to the back and found an old picture taken inside the store a long time ago, showing women in long dresses and all kinds of medicines lining the shelves (the shelves behind where Jimmy is sitting).

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She gave us a history lesson on the old buildings in the town.   It turns out that members of her family owned a number of the buildings, because years ago, her  grandmother moved to town from California and bought up many of the old vacant buildings when no one else wanted them.  Members of her family have repurposed them, bringing new life back into the downtown area.

She ran the restaurant where we ate, her nephew was cooking our food, and her sister ran the antique shop right next door.  It was a fascinating glimpse into the town’s history. When the phone rang and her brother-in-law (who was standing right behind the counter) ignored it, she said, “my family drives me crazy!” Lol.  She excused herself and went to answer the phone, then brought back our food.  I ordered the broccoli and ham quiche, Jimmy ordered the hot ham and cheese. image There are many interesting sights on the trail around the Rocheport area.  We stopped at them all so I could take pictures.  Thankfully Jimmy is very patient with my endless photography!  We’ll be pedaling along at a good clip and I’ll see something I just have to capture!  He’s pretty good at stopping on a dime now, so I don’t miss that perfect shot.

The first thing we saw as we headed out of town toward Boonville, was the old railroad tunnel built in 1893.  A long bridge crosses a large creek that runs into the Missouri right as you head into the tunnel.  We watched some very big fish from the bridge.

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Another interesting thing we noticed as we headed into town, though very hard to see in the photo, were pictographs high upon the bluff.  These were first mentioned in journals in 1819 and were noted by early explorers that traveled through.  Interestingly though, these particular ones were not mentioned by Lewis and Clark, though others in the area were.  The Indians that lived here marked the bluffs in this way  They have faded over the years, but you might be able to spot the red markings on the face of the rock.  The symbol that is easiest to see is one that looks like a red Nike swish with a red dot over it in the left side of the picture.  A historical marker gives info about the Indians and the markings. imageAlso leading in to Rocheport is a cave where Lewis and Clark had camped.  It had a pretty good stream running out of it today, but also had higher ground on the side where they camped.  In their journals, they referred to the mosquitoes they encountered at every stop.  They traveled with mosquito netting to try to keep them off.  We were not bothered by mosquitoes while we were riding, but the minute we stopped, we were swarmed by them!  We traveled with Deep Woods Off wipes! (and I was very glad that Mr. Double Contingency had thought of that little detail!)  The cave is hard to see in this photo because of the dense foliage around it.

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We saw a few other small caves, some high up on the bluffs and some at trail level. image We had to pull off at this stone structure built right into the bluff.  I had read somewhere that it was used by the railroad during construction of the M-K-T line to store explosives. image We saw relics from the old rail lines all along the trail, the chiseled M-K-T logo in the face of the bluff was still visible to passers by.  Right below, was an iron pipe projecting from the limestone with a trickle of water.  Below the water drip was lush foliage all the way to the trail. imageimage

After lunch, we only had about 13 miles to go.  I saw a couple of interesting things alongside the trail, one was this glazed stone silo/building, and the other was something growing on the shoulder of the trail that looked like orange silly string.  It was some type of vining plant that I only saw in this one particular area.  I’ve never seen a totally orange vine before.

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Soon we saw the bridge that would take us over the Missouri River into Boonville, and our last night of our adventure.  I will have to admit, I was feeling a little sad knowing that this great trip was coming to an end.  We pedaled over the bridge and stopped for a photo at the peak.  In the distance over the river, you can see the old iron railroad bridge that was a lift bridge.  The center section could be raised and lowered to accomodate boat heights.  Sadly, it is set for removal and Boonville will lose that piece of railroad history. imageimage

Once again, our Bed and Breakfast for the night was at the base of the bridge and to the left.  We easily found the High Street Victorian Bed and Breakfast. (www.highstreetvictorian.com)

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We were greeted by our host, and she took us around back to the fenced in garden area where we secured our bikes, then we went inside.  The house was built in 1880 and the present owners had returned it to the style of the Victorian era.  For a period of time, it had been a restaurant, then the present owners bought it and turned it into the bed and breakfast.  All of the light fixtures are original to the house, and they had been gas, now transformed into electric.  The wood floors were cypress, which is unusual.  She said the wood had to be imported into this area because it did not grow here. She had us sign the guest book, then took us up to our room.  We’ve stayed in a variety of places on this trip, and this one was just as delightful as the others.  Our room was very Victorian and very comfortable. imageimage

We changed out of our bike clothes, got cleaned up and decided to walk around the historic district.  We had some time on our hands before our 6 p dinner reservation, and I thought it would be interesting to do the self-guided walking tour of the historic district.  We walked to the old train depot where the visitor’s center was located to get a map, but they were closed, so we just walked around, touring ourselves.

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Dinner was at the old Frederick Hotel, in the restaurant called The Fred.  It was just a couple of doors down from the B & B.  Built in 1905, it has served as a hotel, then a Greyhound bus station with restaurant, then a retirement home until 1994.  It sat empty for 10 years until the present owners bought it in 2004 and invested 4 million dollars in its renovation.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  It sits on the corner at the base of the bridge overlooking the river

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We enjoyed eating in the old dining room with the old wood floors, high tin ceilings and fans. image

Dinner was delicious.  We had a spaghetti squash fritter for an appetizer, I had chicken and he had steak.  Dessert was key lime pie for me and a chocolate bread pudding for him.

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Tomorrow  Boonville to home…

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day Three – Hermann to Jefferson City, MO

29 Jul

We slept very soundly in the peaceful Carriage House last night.  Mrs. Cady had graciously allowed us to pick the time we wanted breakfast served, so we chose 6:30 am.  I did not want to fight the heat we’d ridden in yesterday, so the plan was to get on the bikes early!  She had instructed us to walk over to the dining room at the appointed time, and to let ourselves in.  The Carriage House (www.cadyfolkart.com) has only the one guest room, so we were the only guests.  We stepped into a scene out of an English Pub.  You can certainly tell Mrs. Cady’s business is antiques.  She had a beautiful table set for the two of us, and we just stood there in wonder!  Plus as it turns out, she’s a top-notch cook!

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The food was exceptional and so much more than I could eat, though Jimmy managed just fine.  We enjoyed chatting with her and as we left, she told us she loved us!  Such a gracious and caring little lady!

After we said our goodbyes we loaded our bikes.  With one last look at the hill I fell up, we were on our way.

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It was a beautiful morning and the early start was a blessing.  We crossed the river on the bike bridge that I was too hot to photograph yesterday, and paused at the top of the bridge to look at the water and the surrounding scenery.

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Lots of little birds and animals were out early.  So many indigo buntings and goldfinch!  We saw several box turtles on the trail and a very indecisive squirrel that darted in front of my tire at the last minute and actually went between Jimmy’s two tires as he rode alongside me.  We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and marveled at God’s beautiful creation.

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Most of the route today ran right along the Missouri River.  We stopped for a water break and a restroom break at one of the old rail stops.  Most of these little trailheads have a restroom, kind of a permanent porta-potty.  The key is to hold your breath and don’t look down.  Some are worse than others, but the one today wasn’t bad at all.  Also, each trail head has a large map showing points of interest in each direction, and contain details about the Lewis and Clark expedition that travelled this same route.  We stopped to read all the Lewis and Clark markers along the trail, learning where their campsites were located and reading excerpts from the pages of their journals.  It is really interesting.

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After that water break, we had a few more miles until we stopped for lunch.  There are not many choices for food along the trail, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get.  Our hosts from the first night had told us of stopping in Mokane for a burger, and told us that Mokane was really all there was along that section of the trail.  So we pulled off the trail and headed through the little bitty town of Mokane.  I’ll have to be honest, the place looked a little sketchy at best.  It’s not the type of place we typically eat, but we really had no other options and with the calories we were burning, we were hungry!  It was still fairly early, so when we went in, we were the only ones there.  We found a table right beside a large industrial fan that quickly cooled us off, and the man working there brought us menus.  I’d say the place could get pretty lively after 5:00 pm, but it was very calm today.  Eventually two other guys came in and sat at the bar in front of the TV, but they were both drinking soda and waiting for a burger just as we were.

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We told our server Rick that we’d heard they had good burgers.  Jimmy said he wanted the biggest burger they had and I asked for the smallest.  Rick said there was no such thing as a small burger at their joint.  He said they buy their meat in 20 pound rolls and get 18 burgers per roll.  Jimmy was absolutely delighted to hear this, and asked Rick what he would recommend.  There were about 15 different burgers on the menu, but Rick said that Jimmy really needed the Mokane special; a burger pattie, topped with bacon, topped with pulled pork, topped with onion rings on a bun with a side of home fries.  I asked for a cheeseburger with a side of home fries.

Rick turned in our order, kept the iced tea and water flowing, and was soon back with the biggest burger I’ve ever seen.

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Oh my goodness it was good!  And the home fries were amazing!  He seemed absolutely delighted when I started taking pictures of our burgers.  I don’t think he’d ever seen anyone do that before.   He was so nice to us and made sure we had everything we needed, extra napkins, an extra plate, more refills.  He even saw our camelbacks sitting on the table, picked them up and said he’d take them back to the kitchen and pack them with ice and fill them with water.

It was the best experience I’ve had in a bar.  (Actually it’s the only experience I’ve ever had in a bar!)  It really is true, you meet nice people wherever you go.

We thanked him for the great burgers and hopped back on the bikes to continue on our way toward Jefferson City.   The weather was just gorgeous, and though it was probably near 90, the humidity was much lower and we had a good breeze all day.  We stopped on one of the many bridges that are on the trail, and talked for a few minutes to one of the trail maintenance guys.  We had come across a downed tree blocking the trail a few miles back, and we wanted him to know.  He thanked us and said he’d have someone out there right away.  Since the Katy Trail is one long skinny state park, it is patrolled by rangers and a maintenance crew.  He told us he is responsible for the section between Jefferson City and where we were then.  He was replacing slats on a bridge that had been knocked out by bow fishermen.  They had remove the slats in order to shoot fish from the bridge.  He was very nice and he and Jimmy talked about fishing for a bit, then we were on our way again.

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Here are few more photos from the ride after lunch.

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At the trailhead in the little village of Tebbets, we spotted the Turner Katy Trail Shelter.  I had read about this place, so we decided to take a water break at the picnic table in front.

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The shelter building was constructed in the late 1800’s and served as a general store, then a church.  In its  later years, it was owned by Mrs. Turner, who wanted to donate it to the Katy Trail for the use of anyone using the trail.  The sign on the door invites you in if you are needing a place of shelter.  It tells you that the key to the shelter is hanging on the utility pole right beside the building.  I found the key, and we let ourselves in to take a look around.  The bottom floor contains several bunks and a kitchen area stocked with the basics.  The top floor has a few more bunks and a ping pong table, etc.  If you spend the night, the cost is $5 (per Mrs. Turner’s wishes, she didn’t want people to have to pay more than they would at a campground) and it’s on the honor system.  You leave the $5 in an envelope.

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Mrs. Turner is gone now, but they had her picture hanging inside, and a group of volunteers works to keep the shelter up.  The sign on the back of the door as we were leaving, gave these instructions for departure; “turn off the lights, turn off the AC, and clean up after yourself because that’s what Mrs. Turner would have wanted.”

What a sweet gift to all the people that use the Katy Trail.

We travelled on and were soon within sight of Jefferson City, the capitol city of Missouri.  Jefferson City has outdone itself with the beautiful pedestrian/bike bridge that crosses the river to the city.  You navigate through a series of climbing, zig-zagging concrete paths to get up to the level of the bridge.  Once you are on the bridge, you are totally separated from the vehicle traffic and have a beautiful view of the river and the state capitol building perched high on the hill overlooking the river.

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We navigated the bridge with no trouble, and again we knew our Bed and Breakfast was just to the left of the bridge.  However, before I knew what was happening, Jimmy had whipped out his phone and pulled up Google maps.  Apparently he was afraid I was going to take him to the wrong place again, and he did not want to sit on another stranger’s deck.  We found it with no problem.  We are staying at Cliff Manor Inn (www.cliffmanorinn.com) The house was built in the 1860’s by a Federal judge named Krekel.  He was one of the last judges appointed by Abraham Lincoln and he was an abolitionist.  The places we’ve stayed each night have been very different from each other, but each charming.  This place is like staying in the home of your great grandmother.  It is so homey and old.  Our room has a handmade quilt on the bed and is nice and cozy.  We have a deck with a view of the capitol building and they provided the use of a shed where they locked our bikes up for the night.  Behind the inn we were able to view the bridge we’d just crossed on bike.

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We almost didn’t stay here because the bathroom for the room we are in is on another level, and it is a shared bathroom.   There is a half bath we can use at the end of our hallway on the first landing, but to get to the full bath, you have to go downstairs to the first floor. They do have suites with private baths, but those were already taken.  Apparently this is the only bed and breakfast in town, and within close proximity to the trail.  We figured we could manage for one night.  As it turns out, the room we were to share the bath with is unoccupied tonight, so no awkward bath sharing with strangers.

Once we got settled and got cleaned up, we walked the few blocks into the historic district for dinner.  Jefferson City is a beautiful city, and as neat as a pin.  We strolled along the park overlooking the river and enjoyed the beautiful views of the capitol building and the other old buildings and churches in the historic district.

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We ate dinner at the Grand Cafe and we both had steak.  It was very good and we were seated right by the window.  We shared a flourless chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert, then strolled back up to the inn.  We rode 48 miles total today (counting the spur over from the trail) and tomorrow, we head to Booneville.

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Tomorrow, Jefferson City to Booneville…

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day Two – Defiance to Hermann, MO

29 Jul

I sprang out of bed this morning right before dawn as quick as I could move.  Not because I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike, but because I had a leg cramp like I’ve never had before!  I guess I startled Jimmy with my quick jump out of bed because he rolled over and mumbled in a very sleepy voice, “What are you doing?”  I said “Leg cramp!” through my gritted teeth.  He said, “OK” and rolled back over.  My muscles were in protest, and I couldn’t really blame them.  But today was a new day and we had more mileage to cover.  Our hosts at the Inn at Defiance prepared an amazing breakfast for us. It was freshly prepared with locally sourced eggs and produce and it was delicious.  They prepared a fruit yogurt smoothie for “dessert” and we felt well fortified for the ride ahead.  They hugged us goodbye like we’d known them for ages and made us promise to come back.

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The day started off warm and only got hotter.  We took frequent water breaks and rested more than we had the previous day, but still, it was incredibly hot.  We noticed we didn’t see many other riders out today, possibly because most of the population has more sense than us?  The humidity was high with temps in the mid to upper 90s.  The heat index was up around 110 or so, and we felt every degree. The route today took us through beautiful farmland and tiny little towns.  We are seeing more of the tall limestone bluffs that border one side of the trail with the Missouri River on the other.  The trail meanders to and from the river.  The limestone bluffs are beautiful, and I finally got a good picture today of a small bluff that was clear of the canopy.  Most of the bluffs are in deep forest and it’s been hard to get a good photo.   Below are the pictures from the first half of our ride.

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We stopped for lunch at a little village named Dutzow and found a surprisingly good lunch at the Dutzow Deli.  Jeff and Chris (from the previous night’s B & B) had recommended it to us.  We have really enjoyed eating at the small mom and pop businesses so far.  I decided I’d give the Waldorf Spinach salad a try, and asked our waitress if it was good.  She replied, I have no idea, it’s not meat and potatoes.  I told her I’d let her know.  Jimmy ordered the triple meat deli sandwich and she bragged on him for ordering something so good.  She said she knew that one was good and she guaranteed he would like it.  We both really enjoyed our food and she even filled up our camelbacks with ice and water before we left.

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A funny thing happened right before we took off.  I decided I’d better stop in the restroom before we got back on the trail, and noticed there was a key to the restroom hanging at the end of the lunch counter.  It was on a piece of metal pipe about 8 inches long and hung on a magnet so anyone that needed to use it could easily find it (and I guess not steal it since it had the pipe attached).  Anyway, I grabbed the key, let myself into the restroom and slid the latch to lock the door. It was probably 100 degrees in there since they had diverted all of the AC to the restaurant in order to keep the customers cool, or it was not air-conditioned at all.  When I was done, I reached up to slide the latch back the other way and it would not budge no matter how hard I tried.   I leaned on the door putting as much force as I could with my shoulder, then I pulled on the door and tried sliding it with the tension off.  I worked and worked and put all of my strength into it but it would not move.  I figured Jimmy would come check on me eventually, but that might take awhile.  I thought about calling his cell phone, but I’d left mine on the table.  As I was standing there deciding how to get out, I looked down and noticed the 8-inch pipe hanging from the key in my hand.  It worked just perfectly to hammer the sliding latch out of its position so that I could open the door.  I wondered if anyone could hear it (Jimmy said he did but thought a construction crew was hammering) but I can tell you I was glad to get out of that hot bathroom! I made a quick exit and though it was hot outside, it still felt better than that bathroom!

We continued on in the heat and tried to cover the miles as quickly as possible to be able to get out of the heat.  Toward the end of the ride, there was less shade and things were really heating up.  All along the trail are benches, and we really needed a rest stop toward the end.  We rode and rode, but no bench.  Finally, we just had to stop in the last bit of shade before riding in the hot sunshine again.  There was no where to lean our bikes, so we just laid them down in the trail.  I stretched out for a little rest, and would have startled anyone that came upon me I’m sure.  But I didn’t care!

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The last 15 miles were brutal and when I saw the sign to the spur that would take us to Hermann, I seriously considered getting off the bike and kissing it!  But that would have taken way too much effort, so I kept peddling.

When we got into town, we knew the general vicinity of the bed and breakfast and knew it was right off the bridge where we crossed the Missouri River.  We’d been communicating back and forth with the owner and knew they ran an antique shop and had a detached building behind them that served as the Carriage House Bed and Breakfast.  We turned left at the base of the bridge and came to the antique shop right away!  Jimmy asked if I was sure this was the right place, and I said, “Of course it is, I recognize all of this from the website!”  (How dare he!)  The antique shop was housed in an older home and had a beautiful garden full of shade right beside it with a path that led back to a detached building.  The shop was closed, but I figured the inn owner lived in that house and ran the B and B from there.  There were some other homes close by, and obviously a very nice area of town.  We got off our bikes, removed our helmets and propped the bikes against the huge oak trees in the shady back yard. We’d been instructed to call the owner’s cell phone when we arrived and she’d send her daughter right over to let us in.  We sat down in the deep shade of the back porch in the two chairs that were there and I placed the call.  As the phone rang, I looked around and noticed a garden hose laying there beside me near a fountain.  I thought about turning it on and hosing myself off, (I was just so darn hot!) which I would do if it were going to take her long to get to us.  It was such a relief to finally be there…and I quickly reached the daughter by phone.  She asked me where we were, and I told her we were sitting in the shade on the back porch of her shop.  She replied just as sweetly as possibly could, “Ummm, Ma’am, I’m here now and I’m looking out the window to the back porch and you’re not there.” Oh my goodness!!  We were sitting in someone’s back yard enjoying their deck chairs and shade and thinking of turning on their water hose!  Jimmy was all relaxed beside me until he saw the look on my face as reality hit me.  As  I continued to listen to Gretchen on the other end of the line, I mouthed to Jimmy, We’re in the wrong place!  His eyebrows shot up and his eyes began to dart back and forth and he started saying, “What?  Are we in the wrong place?”  I nodded my head yes and we quickly retrieved our bikes and high-tailed it out of there! The innkeeper’s daughter, Gretchen stayed with us on the phone until we made it to her location.  It helped to have someone on the end of the line talking us through that crisis!  We were about a block and a half off in our calculations, but finally we saw Gretchen standing at the top of hill in the alleyway that lead to the Carriage House.  The hill was very steep, and I decided I wasn’t going to try to ride up that thing with my legs of jelly.  As I tried to get off of my bike, obviously my legs had had enough with the 45 mile ride in the searing heat.  My leg caught and the saddlebag tipped the bike to the point where I could not recover.  I fell down right there on the spot, with my bike and saddlebag right on top of me.  I was ok though, and the only result of that spectacle, was that my biker credibility rating went down quite a few notches.

I cannot begin to describe the Carriage House.  It is absolutely gorgeous and Mrs. Cady and Gretchen are some of the sweetest people we’ve ever met.  This place is an absolute jewel.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  If you are ever in Hermann, MO, you must stay there.  Mrs. Cady had texted first thing this morning, wishing us safe travels and telling us she’d have a special dessert in our fridge on our arrival.  We had the choice of a peanut butter parfait pie or a New York cheesecake with a chocolate ganache.  Both homemade.  I asked if we could have one of each?  She said of course you can my dear!  (I can’t tell you how often I thought of that pie as I pedaled toward Hermann!)

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We got cleaned up and out of our sweaty clothes and walked to find a place to eat.  No way was I getting back on that bike!  The only thing we could find within walking distance, and open on a Tuesday night, was a restuarant in a neat old building that used to be a Concert Hall.  Hermann is full of old buildings and steeped in German heritage.  It is a really charming town with an old world feel.

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We were seated right away, and as we waited for our server, I made a suggestion.  I said how about we hop on an Amtrak with our bikes in the morning, travel toward Jefferson City a ways, then get off and ride in the rest of the way?  I thought it was a brilliant idea after the grueling day I’d just spent on a bike.  He just threw his head back and laughed like I was the funniest person alive.  He thought I was kidding!  I was not, but let it drop.  Jimmy had the steak again and I had a grilled cheese.  I was just too hot to eat much, but he managed to eat just fine. The food was good and once again, the people were so gracious and friendly.

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When we got back to the Carriage House, we’d been instructed to contact Mrs. Cady and go over our breakfast options.  She had left us a 2 page menu of choices!  She wanted us to choose whatever we wanted.  She helped us navigate through all the choices, made note of what we wanted and how we wanted it cooked, and bid us a goodnight.  And of course we still had our homemade pies waiting for us courtesy of Mrs. Cady.  They were delicious!

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We didn’t have a bit of trouble sleeping, and it was lights out by 9:00 pm for us!

Tomorrow, Hermann to Jefferson City – 45 miles

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day One – Home to Defiance, MO

28 Jul

The first leg of our Katy Trail trip began in St. Charles, MO.  St. Charles is a cool little suburb of St. Louis with great historic district with little shops, restaurants, and old brick streets right near the Missouri River.  We’d arranged to leave our truck at the Bike Stop Cafe, which is located right on the trail across from Frontier Park and the old train depot that operated in St. Charles.  The Bike Stop Cafe also operates a shuttle service all along the trail, and we’ve arranged for them to pick us up at the end of the week and shuttle us (and our bikes) back to the truck.  The cafe has a great little lunch menu, and since we’d arrived in St. Charles at lunchtime, we enjoyed a nice lunch before we hit the trail.

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The temperature was 91 degrees when we got on our bikes around noon.  Our saddlebags were full with what we’d need for the week, and at first I was a little nervous about the extra weight of my bag.  I’d not ridden with a bag before this trip, and I estimate mine weighed at least 30 pounds or so.  I was afraid the bike would be harder to pedal but I really didn’t notice a difference.  What I did notice was that it was easier to lose the bike’s balance, especially when I stopped to take a photo and balanced the bike between my legs.  I had to be very careful to keep the bike upright, because when it began to lean, it was hard to recover.  At the end of the day, I dropped my bike while I was snapping a photo of the path off of the trail to our B & B.  But the saddlebag and all my stuff remained intact, and the only harm was to my dignity.

We saw some beautiful countryside today, and most of the trail was covered with a good deal of shade.  There was a constant breeze which really helped to keep us comfortable in the hot temperatures.  Our original plan for this first day was to be very conservative and ride just 20 miles to our first night in Defiance.  We were beginning our journey after lunch, in July, during the hottest part of the day and we figured that would be about all we could do.

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About 14 miles into that plan, I stopped to take a photo of the limestone bluffs, and a gentleman that was hiking with a tall shepherd’s hook (I’d passed him a short distance back) called out to me when he saw that I’d stopped and asked if I wanted to see a picture of a rattlesnake.  (Not especially, but I didn’t want to be rude)  I agreed and he approached with his cell phone in hand and found the picture of the timbler rattler he’d taken on the trail just a week ago.  It was huge!  And I very much hoped I didn’t see one today.  The “sheperd” then asked me where my accent was from.  I thought that was a funny way to ask, but I told him I was from Kentucky.  He was from Georgia but had relocated to the area and was a history buff.

By this time, Jimmy had doubled back to see what was taking me so long with the photo, and he got in on the history lesson as well.  The “shepherd” told us we were riding into Missouri’s wine country, and that all the vineyards we would pass were planted by German immigrants.  The soil and climate is very good for growing grapes.  He also said that few people realize that cuttings from the old Missouri vineyards are how the famous vineyards in California got their start.  And that even the grapes that grow in France today, suffered a severe blight decades ago, and had to be replanted from the hardy grape stock of the Germans in Missouri.

He was really interesting to talk to, and you could tell he loved to talk!  Before we parted ways, he told us two things;  one was to be careful on the trail ahead because it was heavily populated with snakes and that he’d even seen a bobcat or two on the trail.  Second, when he found out where we were headed for the night, he said we had to try the homemade rootbeer just a short distance past our destination. He bid us a safe trip and we were off.

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I don’t know if it was the heat or the fatigue, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those two things.  As I rode, I began to scrutinize every stick laying in the path to make sure it wasn’t a snake as I scanned the brush along the trail side for bobcats.  Plus I was suddenly very much craving a rootbeer!  It was hot, I was sweaty, and a rootbeer seemed the only solution, especially a homemade one!  When we got to our turn-off for Defiance, it was just 2 pm and we figured it was too early to check in to the B & B, so why not ride the extra little bit for a real homemade rootbeer.

So we did, but the “shepherd” had forgotten exactly how far that rootbeer was.  By the time we’d gotten the rootbeer and come back to the turn off to Defiance, we’d ridden an extra 15 miles, making for a 35 mile day.  But it was a really good rootbeer at a pretty little hillside spot overlooking the trail.

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His predication about the snakes was accurate though.  We were cruising back at about 12 miles an hour and Jimmy was looking down at his speedometer or something on his bike.  I saw a very large black snake in the trail but could not warn him in time, we were going too fast.  He ran over it with his bike (both tires!) but it crawled off so I guess it survived.

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When we arrived back at Defiance, we were greeted at The Inn at Defiance (www.thedefianceinn.com) by our sweet hosts, Jeff and Chris.  They absolutely exude hospitality and made us feel so welcome.  They told us they’d worried about us all afternoon in this heat, and gave us ice cold water bottles as soon as we came in to the wonderful AC!  They have thought of every little detail and comfort here!  They personally showed us around the entire inn, encouraging us to make ourselves right at home.  They were delighted that we were from Kentucky, because they’d never had guests from Kentucky before, so they invited us to walk up to the top floor library, where they had large maps of the US and the world mounted on the wall.  They wanted us to pin our location in Kentucky along with all the other pins that were already on the maps.  Jeff offered me a box of different colored pins, and I chose a blue pin for the Bluegrass state and UK.  Go Big Blue!  It was quite an honor and pretty cool to see all the pins from all over pinned to their map.  And while we got out of our sweaty clothes and got cleaned up, they waited for us in the sunroom with a tray of grapes, cheeses, and German meats.  As we enjoyed our snack and another bottle of water, they got out a map of the Katy trail and gave us some great tips on must see things along the trail as well as places to eat.  Chris and Jeff have ridden the trail since it opened 25 years ago and they were a great source of information.

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We talked to them for over an hour, then knew we better walk next door to dinner and let them get on with their evening.  They don’t live at the inn, but gave us their home and cell numbers in case we needed anything during the evening.  They also offered to come in early to prepare breakfast earlier, so that we could beat the heat as much as possible tomorrow, so we are really thankful for that!

The only restaurant open in this little town happens to be right next door.  So we walked down to Defiance Roadhouse, where the Monday night special was a strip steak.  Jimmy had the steak and I had the chicken caesar wrap.  After reading the signs posted all around the restaurant stating that “Absolutely No Glassware Used on the Weekends”, we were glad that we were there on a Monday night.  Not sure what happens on the weekends, but I don’t think I want to know!  The food was good though,and when we finished, we walked back up the little hill to our room, where we had chocolate chip cookies waiting for us as well as a sticky note on our door wishing us a good night.

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Tomorrow, Defiance to Hermann…

Five Days on the Katy Trail – Day 0 – Prep

26 Jul

We’ve day-dreamed about this trip ever since we first rode the Katy Trail a couple of years ago.  On that trip, we parked the truck, rode our bikes out a certain distance, rode back, stayed the night in the town where we’d parked, then drove to another location the next morning and did the same thing.  But as we explored the Katy Trail on that trip, we realized that because the Katy Trail is an old rail line, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T for short, further shortened to K-T “Katy”), it connects little towns all along it’s route.  The Katy Trail State Park is the longest rails-to-trails project in the U.S.  It is a beautiful route, following the Missouri River and weaving through some beautiful farmland and quaint little towns.  We thought it would be fun to see if we could pack everything we needed on our bikes, and ride the Katy Trail from little town to little town without having to double back to the truck at the end of each day.  There are many places to lodge, camp, or bunk for the night depending upon your desired luxury level.  And though we really enjoy camping in the fall and spring, we don’t enjoy it too much in the hot summer temperatures.  Plus camping would require even more gear, so we never considered that.

For this trip, we plotted our course, doing our best to judge the mileage that would be a comfortable distance for us to ride each day, and then began to research Bed and Breakfasts in the towns where we knew we’d be staying overnight.  The Katy Trail is 237 miles long and begins in Machens (near St. Louis) and ends in Clinton, MO.  The trail info we’ve read, claims that the whole thing can be ridden on a bicycle in 5 days.  I’m sure that is possible for some people, but probably not us.  We are your average mid-50 year olds with 6 kids (though the kids aren’t joining us on this one).  Our trip plans, were a little less ambitious.  We decided to travel from St. Charles to Booneville.  Though Machens is the Eastern most point of the trail, there are no facilities or services at that trailhead.  Many people consider St. Charles as the logical place to begin when traveling the trail from East to West.

There were a few unknowns in the planning, not the least of which was how our bodies would respond to consecutive days of riding with full saddlebags (we shall soon see…), and the unpredictability of the weather.  I’ve been praying alot about both, so I think it’ll be fine.  But even if we are delayed by body aches or weather, the distance is still reasonable (we hope!).  I’ve waffled back and forth between extreme confidence and total trepidation.  We’re no teenagers, but I’m confident we will do the best we can, enjoy being together, and encounter nice people and memorable experiences along the trail!  If we have to stop early and pack it in because of something unforeseen, well at least we tried and had fun doing it.

Now for the gear.  We both have racks on our bikes with saddlebags.  I’ve never used mine.  On our other bike trips, we’ve just piled the stuff we’ve carried with us into Hubby’s bag. But this trip would require both bags, and this is where we had a difference of opinion.  I was determined to pack light and just use the bag itself, not the panniers.  (Panniers are on the side of the bag and are stored in pockets that can be unzipped and hang down on each side of the bike tire from the rack, giving twice the storage).

I wanted to take my iPad, a small wireless keyboard, a card reader, and my camera so I could upload pictures and update my blog in the evenings when we arrived at the Bed and Breakfast.  But other than those accessories,  I was determined to keep it minimal, not thinking much about other things we would need.  But what I failed to recognize initially, was the fact that I’m married to Mr. Double Contingency.  Hubby works at a nuclear facility and Double Contingency is his middle name, (and he’s very good at it).  While I was thinking about packing a sleep shirt and 2 sets of bike clothing with fabrics that could be rinsed in the sink at night, he was thinking of the “what ifs”.  So the logistics portion of the trip was right in his area of expertise!  I wouldn’t recommend, nor attempt this trip without some serious consideration to all the “what ifs”.

The trail is in a largely rural area and cell reception can be spotty.  There’s not the option of riding back to the truck if something goes wrong.  His approach was well thought out and doable with a couple of good saddlebags. Everything we’ve read in preparation for this trip has been clear on the extras that need to be packed;  spare inner tubes, chain links, water, snacks, etc.  Careful planning makes for a successful trip!  He’s a great trip planner, and when we travel, he’s always the one that does the research, plots the course, picks the restaurants, and makes the reservations.  And I’ve never been disappointed!  Once I had all my stuff gathered, (it was a bigger pile than I anticipated) I unzipped my panniers and packed for the trip.

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And so the weeks of planning will pay off beginning tomorrow!

Tomorrow, St. Charles to Defiance…

 

Flourless Whole Meyer Lemon Cake

21 Mar

IMG_6430_1I’ve never seen a recipe that calls for whole lemons to be used, peel and all.  I was intrigued enough to give this one a try.  My hubby loves citrus desserts and this one is definitely citrusy!  (is that a word?)  The recipe calls for almond flour instead of regular flour and the result is a dense moist cake.  I stumbled across this recipe at theviewfromgreatisland.com.

Ingredients:

4 Meyer lemons (enough to yield 1 cup of puree)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

3 cups almond meal (also called almond flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)

Icing ingredients:

3 Tablespoon butter, room temperature

juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-inch spring form pan.  Wash the lemons and place them in a saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, lift them out of the water and place them on a plate or cutting board to cool.  When able to handle, cut in half and remove any seeds with a spoon.  Reserve any juices that run out.

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Place lemon halves, peel and all, in a food processor.  Pulse and scrape down sides of work bowl until lemons are completely pureed.  Fish out any seeds you missed before, there are usually one or two.

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Measure one cup of lemon puree and set aside.

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Cream the sugar and eggs together until light in color.  Add the lemon extract if using (I left it out because I didn’t have any).

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Fold in the almond flour, baking powder, and lemon puree.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

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Pour the batter into the greased spring-form pan and smooth the top.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the side of the pan and finish cooling.

Make the icing by beating all the ingredients together until smooth, then spread evenly on the top of the cake.

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Here’s the recipe with no photos:

Ingredients:

4 Meyer lemons (enough to yield 1 cup of puree)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

3 cups almond meal (also called almond flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)

Icing ingredients:

3 Tablespoon butter, room temperature

juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-inch spring form pan.  Wash the lemons and place them in a saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, lift them out of the water and place them on a plate or cutting board to cool.  When able to handle, cut in half and remove any seeds with a spoon.  Reserve any juices that run out.

Place lemon halves, peel and all, in a food processor.  Pulse and scrape down sides of work bowl until lemons are completely pureed.  Fish out any seeds you missed before, there are usually one or two.

Measure one cup of lemon puree and set aside

Cream the sugar and eggs together until light in color.  Add the lemon extract if using (I left it out because I didn’t have any).

Fold in the almond flour, baking powder, and lemon puree.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the greased spring-form pan and smooth the top.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the side of the pan and finish cooling.

Make the icing by beating all the ingredients together until smooth, then spread evenly on the top of the cake.

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