Tag Archives: bike trips

Le P’tit Train du Nord-Day 6 (Sainte-Adele to Mont Tremblant)

16 Jul

 

 

A peek out the balcony door told us it was raining this morning.  To the right of the photo is a mountain in the distance, and it was covered with mist, obscuring the summit.  We got ready, went down to breakfast and hoped the skies would clear by the time we were ready to ride.

We had a special server this morning.  The daughter of the innkeeper was helping her mom today, and as she placed our food before us, she said very sweetly, “Bon Apetit!”

 

We finished breakfast packed up our gear and headed out.  The rain had stopped and the skies were soon clear.  Even though we had begun our trip back to the truck, covering territory already seen, I still took lots of pictures.  There were too many beautiful sights to capture them on the first time through. I took some repeat photos for sure, but I took more photos of scenes I hadn’t captured on the way down.  We allowed ourselves a little more time to explore the areas right off the trail.  In several places, there were pathways or footbridges down to the water level or across a stream.  We took the time to explore those today, seeing the beautiful scenery from a different vantage point.

 

 

 

I noticed more wild blueberries today, though they aren’t quite ripe yet, more wild raspberries which are ripe, so I ate a few, and lots of wild asparagus. As we neared the town of Val-David, we met another couple at one of the depot stops and they told us there was a big farmer’s market at Val-David today with it being Saturday.

We pedaled into Val-David right around lunch time stored our bikes in front of the depot and walked to the farmer’s market in town.  There was such a variety of produce, meats, and cheeses.

 

After walking up and down each row of vendors, we decided to buy some things for our lunch. We bought a smoked French baguette, a pint of fresh raspberries, a chunk of locally made cheese, Jimmy bought some kind of homemade sausage on a stick (which he made into a hotdog by putting it in the baguette) a 3 pack of cocoa balls, and some kind of green drink that the vendor assured would rejuvenate our tired legs and allow us to ride several more miles.  It contained honey, bananas, and spirulina (which I just Googled and found out is seaweed? I had no idea…guess that explains the green color). It was really good. We paid for our selections and took them to a picnic table in a shady spot in front of the depot.

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All of the makings for a fine picnic

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Beautiful fresh raspberries

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Jimmy made a hotdog and I made a cheese sandwich

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Back onto the bikes to pedal the rest of the way to Mont Tremblant, where we will stay tonight. The temperature was warmer today than it has been, around 78 or 80 degrees, but still very nice with low humidity, but we were ready for a break and a cold drink.  We came into a little town with a trailside cafe.  We sat out on the deck, overlooking the bike trail, and the server asked us what we would like to order.  He spoke English very well and immediately switched from French to English once he knew who he was dealing with.  We asked about the cold drinks, not really settling on anything in particular.  Jimmy jokingly asked if they happened to have brewed iced tea. (What is called iced tea in Canada is either a very fruity sweet drink with maybe a little herbal tea, or it’s a can of iced tea that’s about half lemonade and very sweet).  He said, “iced tea? No we do not have iced tea. ” He said, “are you Americans?!”  We said yes, and he said, “I always forget that about Americans.  When I go there and I drink the tea, I say to myself, what is this?  No sugar?” (Obviously he hasn’t drank iced tea in the South)

But he continued, “You know what?  I think I can make you some tea.  I’m going to try it OK?”  He said, “I will infuse some tea, I will use a little lemon, and I will bring you some ice.” We said sure, that would be great.  He left and was busy with a couple of other tables but every time he passed our table, he would say, just a minute, it’s almost done.

Before long, he brought out a tray with a pitcher of tea, two glasses of ice with straws, and presented it with a flourish.

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It was delicious and so refreshing with the ice and lemon.  It wasn’t American style tea, I’m pretty sure he used an herbal tea, but we couldn’t have been happier, and he was quite proud of himself as well. He said that was the first time he’d made tea, and he might suggest to his boss that they add it to the menu…for the Americans!

We finished up our mileage (around 31 miles today) with the boost from the ice cold tea, and arrived at our B and B, a beautiful place in the woods where we have a view of deer feeding out of a trough the innkeeper fills with corn.

We are out of town by a few miles, so we used a taxi to get to a restaurant in town, called C’est la Vie.  We were seated outdoors on the deck and presented with menus.  Our server told us they are known for their hot stone cooking, so we had to give that a try.  He explained that we would choose our meat and that it would be brought out raw with a lava stone slab heated to 600 degrees F.  Why not? It was a lot of fun and the server gave us pointers on how to properly cook the meat.  The stone remained very hot throughout the meal.  He recommended that we sear the steak on each side for one minute, then move it off the stone onto the wood and, then cut off bite sized pieces and cook them individually to the desired doneness.  Surprisingly, they cooked very quickly.  Also served with the meal was a selection of cooked vegetables hot enough to eat, or they could be caramelized  on the stone with the meat.

 

It was very entertaining and absolutely delicious.  I asked the server if this was a technique specific to this area, and he said no, to Europe, but specifically Germany. Lol! The meal included dessert and French pressed coffee (of course!).  Tiramisu for Jimmy and sugar tart for me.  I asked the server to describe sugar tart, and he said it is the most famous dessert of the region, he said it is like a brown sugar pie, so I had to try it.  Both were served with a ground cherry on top, something I’d never tried before, but had seen earlier at the farmer’s market.  He said ground cherries grow in abundance in the area. They were really good. Perfect ending to a lovely day on Le P’tit Train du Nord. (The Little Train of the North)

 

Trails and Beaver Tails (Day 5; Sainte-Adele to Saint-Jerome and back)

15 Jul

Sadly, we only have two days of riding/trail exploring left. Today’s ride covered the remaining segment of trail we hadn’t seen yet. Tomorrow we will begin our two day trek back to the truck. Today’s route took us from Sainte-Adele, where we stayed at Auberge de la Gare B and B, to Saint-Jerome, where we ate lunch, then headed back to the B and B. It was a 42 mile round trip.

Breakfast was delicious.  We were given a choice of French Toast or Belgian Waffles.  We both went with the waffles! They were served with a yogurt, granola, fruit parfait and a strawberry smoothie.

The day was sunny and clear and we found ourselves stopping quite often for photos.  The scenery here is just too much for our eyes to take in.  One of the great things about the Le P’tit Train Du Nord linear parc is that it travels along lakes, rushing streams, and rivers for much of its length.  There’s no shortage of photo opportunities as you can see from the pictures below.

I was excited to spot wild blueberries alongside the trail, just beginning to ripen.  More food for the bears!

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We stopped along the trail at a couple of the restored depots for a water break.  One was housing a display of artwork by local artists, and we talked to the artist for a few minutes as we looked at their paintings.  The other depot still looked very much the way it did in the early part of the last century, and two gentlemen were staffing a little kitchen offering muffins and coffee for a small donation.  It is fortunate that the old train stations have been saved.  They are certainly an asset to the trail users and to the communities.

As we travelled south, we got closer and closer to Montreal.  The trail left the pristine wilderness and entered a more urban area.

Our goal was to reach Saint-Jerome, about as close to Montreal as we cared to go on bike. The old train depot in Saint-Jerome still stands, a lovely stone building, and it, like all the others we’ve seen, has been restored and repurposed as a tourist info center.  The planters in front of the station were full of beautiful flowers, including black petunias.

We ate at a cafe with outdoor seating right across from the train station.  We both ordered the lunch special, which included a sandwich, soup, and drink.  I ordered my first soft drink on this trip, and it was brought out in a can with a tiny bit of ice in the glass, as is common in Europe.

After lunch, we headed back away from Montreal and toward our B and B.  Since we were at this B and B for two nights, we were able to leave some of our gear there.  We were about half way back to the B and B when we decided we needed an ice cream break.  We stopped at one of the old depots, and asked the gentleman staffing it if he knew of a place to get ice cream.  He pointed us to a building right around the corner. I took a picture of this sign hanging in the depot, that visitors of any language could understand!

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The menu at the ice cream shop, was entirely in French of course, but we were thankful that every menu item had pictures.  I really liked the picture of the fresh strawberry sundae! Fresh locally grown strawberries are in season here, and they are appearing on menus while they’re available.

We made it back to the B and B, rested up a bit, got cleaned up and starting thinking about food again.  Since we had already done the fondue thing offered at the B and B last night, we decided we wanted something different tonight.  The only problem was, this B and B is a bit of a way from town, and the road into town is not suitable for bikes.  The owner offered to arrange a taxi to take us to dinner, and Jimmy did an online search and found a place he thought we’d like.

The taxi ride was fast! Though we were just a few miles from the restaurant, he got us there in record time.  We were seated at the restaurant by Max.  He was extremely nice and asked where we were from, was this our first time here, etc.  He told us the restaurant occupies an old building that used to belong to one of the early settlers of the town.  It served as a home from 1880 until the young chef (25 years old at the time) purchased it and opened up the restaurant.  When Max found out we were from Kentucky, he told us his favorite basketball team was UK, that certainly made us like him that much more!

The menu was extensive and he took a great deal of time translating it into English, and explaining how the chef would prepare each item.  We’ve seen some very uncommon entrees listed on the menus in Canada. Probably common for here, but not common in the States.  And we’ve tried some of them, Jimmy ate wild boar on our first night here, but I’m not as adventurous when it comes to some of the wild game that is common here.

Max described an item that caught my interest as “Beaver Tail”.  He said it has a chewy crusty bread base, topped with prosciutto, thinly sliced beets, etc.  He said it is almost like a pizza. That sounded good to me, as long as it wasn’t actually beaver tail.  When he came back around, after giving us a few minutes to make up our minds, I just had to double check.  Jimmy placed his order of poutine (the chef’s special creation using sweet potatoes and a variety of seafood) and I really wanted the pizza, but not if it was on a beaver tail!!  When he looked to me for my order, I said, “I’d really like to try the beet and prosciutto pizza, but it’s not really a beaver tail is it?”  Max smiled and said, “Ma’am, if I served you a beaver tail, you’d be chewing until 11:00 pm, and then you would give up and say, oh, well…”. He said, “it is not really a beaver tail, it just has the shape of a beaver tail because of the crusty bread”. We all three enjoyed a good laugh out of that.  The food was delicious and it was very reasonable for the chef inspired menu. We enjoyed every bite, down to the dessert and cafe au lait!  Another even faster taxi ride back to the B and B concluded our day. Jusqu’a demain! (Until tomorrow)

The Heavens Declare His Glory (day 4: Mont-Tremblant to Sainte-Adele)

14 Jul

Today, we saw a return to gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine.  It felt great after the drizzly morning we had on the trail yesterday.  We were seated for breakfast and Jean-Claude, the owner of the inn, set steaming cups of coffee in front of us.  He then brought the cream and sugar right out, and sat it in front of Jimmy.  The little container that held the sugar appeared to be little crumbles of a natural brown sugar.  Fancy!

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Jimmy was preparing to add cream and sugar to his coffee when he asked me, “are you sure that’s sugar?”  I said, “Of course it’s sugar, what else could it be?”  He reached for it, and I thought maybe I should taste it first just to be on the safe side.  I took a little pinch of the granular stuff in my fingers and tasted it.  It was definitely not sugar, but I had no idea what it was.  It tasted like meat, which is NOT what I was expecting.  I stopped Jimmy from stirring it into his coffee, thank you very much, and as we sat there wondering (and chuckling) Jean-Claude came back out with a basket of bread.  He said, “I forgot the bread!” He explained that his wife had prepared a traditional dish of tourtiere for us to try.  He said it is a mixture of meats and seasonings and is somewhat similar to pate.  He said it was very good, and she made it herself from scratch. We thought it was good too, but I’m sure it was much better spread on the fresh French bread than it would have been stirred into hot coffee!

Our breakfast plates followed, we were given a choice of two different entrees and we wanted to try both!

I am not sure how I will return to a life where a gorgeous plate of breakfast is not placed in front of me each morning! Jimmy had French toast with fruit, I had something Jean-Claude described as ciabatta topped with egg, cheese, and veggies.

The section of trail we tackled today was a somewhat shorter distance (33 miles) but had the highest change of elevation on the trail. Also today, wae passed the half-way point of the trip.  We’ve logged 150 miles at this point, and should be at about 250-260 miles by the end of the week. The trail surface changed from asphalt to a crushed hard-pack pea-gravel, still a good surface but a little more effort required to pedal.

The gorgeous scenery we experienced kept us distracted from the feeling of fatigue in our legs. A verse of scripture kept coming to my mind today; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”. Psalm 91:1. Boy is that ever true in this place! Words cannot adequately describe the beauty we saw today. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

For lunch, we stopped at a charming place right beside the bike trail in the little town of Saint-Faustian-Lac-Carre’, called La Stazione (the station).  We were seated on the deck in the warm sunshine and greeted by a sweet lady that brought us water (I don’t even try with the iced tea anymore, it’s not gonna happen here) and handed us menus.  We looked at the menu, using Google translate to decipher the words.  When she returned, she smiled sweetly and said in English, “How is your French?”  “Terrible!” I answered.  (Why not cut straight to the chase! Any bit of  confidence I gained preparing for this trip with Duolingo is gone!) She laughed and said, “ok then, so do you have questions about the menu?”  We did, and she answered them all, explaining different menu items and options for us to consider.  Jimmy settled on a pizza and I had soup and salad.  The soup du jour (of the day) was wonton of all things, and it was delicious.  The spinach salad was a work of art!

As we were waiting for our food, another couple pulled off the bike trail to eat, and stopped at our table to chat for awhile.  We enjoyed getting to know them as we waited. They were on holiday from New Zealand, and were interested in learning about the States and we about New Zealand.  We may have to plan a bike trip to their country after that conversation!

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Back on the trail for more of God’s handiwork! More photos below, no words needed.

I pulled to the side of a bridge to take a photo and struck up a conversation with a lady doing the same.  I asked her if she often rode the trail, telling her how much we were enjoying it.  She said, ” I get to ride it every day, it’s my job.” I said that it sounds like a dream job to me and she agreed, she said,” I can hardly believe it myself!” She is a riding trail ranger, carrying some first aid supplies, knowledge of the trail, and eager to lend assistance if needed.

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As we neared Sainte Agathe Des Monts, we spotted another restored train station and decided to take a peek inside. These old stations are treasures, each one offering a glimpse of days gone by and offering clean restrooms, a place to refill water bottles, and purchase food and snacks.  We sat on the front porch in big comfortable chairs and ate ice cream, watching the bikers and walkers go by.

We reached our B and B in St. Adele and checked in.  Very common with B and B’s here, is that a number of them offer an evening meal to the guests.  That has been very nice to not have to get back out and find dinner after a long day on the trail.

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The owner of the B and B explained that she offers a French fondue dinnner, and gave us a card to make our selections as to soup, meat and dessert.  We thought it might be fun, and it was! She had a table ready for us when we went down to the dining room and there was another couple already seated at the next table doing the same fondue meal.  They were very personable, and were from Ontario riding the trail for the first time as well. We enjoyed our dinner and getting to know them. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

Bonjour Canada!

10 Jul

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Today, after a two day drive, we finally get to hop on the bikes!  A trip to Canada to tackle Le P’tit Train du Nord has been something we’ve daydreamed about for a long time.  And it’s finally here! The P’tit train du Nord (the little train of the North) is a converted rails to trails, 200 kilometers long (124 miles).  It is rated as one of the best bicycle trails in North America. The old railway bed that the trail was built upon, was closed in the late 1980’s.  The trail is relatively flat, which is quite impressive considering that it winds its way through the Laurentian Mountains, but more on the trail later…

We left home a little before 4:00 am and made it all the way to Hamilton, Ontario, crossing the border in Detroit.  The border crossing was easy.  It only took about twenty minutes to move ahead in the car lane until it was our turn to speak to the officer.  We passed him our passports, he asked where we were from and why we were coming to Canada.  We answered satisfactorily and he barely made eye contact with us before clearing us to pass.  We were warned by one of the workers at the Michigan welcome center that the crossing back into the US will not be as easy.  She said, we’ve had some trouble in the US, Canada has not…

Our first night was spent in Hamilton, Ontario.  We checked in to our B and B and the innkeeper made reservations for our dinner while we unloaded our bags and stored our bikes in the walk-in basement.  Hamilton is on the Niagara escarpment and is home to 100 waterfalls!  We were able to enjoy one of them. The restaurant where we ate dinner was a converted historic mill built right beside a large stream with a tall waterfall running right along side it.  The mill was a beautiful ivy covered building, reminiscent of  one you might see in England.

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We enjoyed a delicious breakfast the next morning, prepared by the innkeeper,  and we were ready to go. We left Hamilton, drove through Toronto then Ottawa, and finally left the main highway for a little two-lane country road that brought us to tonight’s destination.

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We are staying in a B and B called Auberge Le Sainte-Boheme.  We had no trouble whatsoever while we were in Ontario.  In fact, when we crossed the border, the first thing we saw was a McDonald’s and a Dollar Tree.  All of the road signs were in English and French.  You would have a hard time knowing you were out of the US based on the businesses in the area. But when we crossed into Quebec, it was a different story.  All the road signs are in French and very few of the businesses have English wording. We have not become very adept at converting kilometers per hour to miles per hour, but Jimmy is getting quicker.

Lunch was a welcome break from the driving when we found a place beside the river and were able to be seated outdoors.  The temperature is a delightful 75 degrees with no humidity! We noticed poutine on the menu, and had to order this Canadian staple! Poutine consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy.  It was actually delicious.  Not a combination I would have thought of, but it worked!

Back on the road for more driving after lunch, then we finally arrived.  We pulled into the B and B, got out of the car and found the entrance to the inn.  The entry way opened into a small dining room where several people were enjoying the evening meal.

The server looked in our direction, acknowledged us, then said something very rapidly in French as she walked our way.  She stopped in front of me and said another rapid French phrase that seemed to end in a question.  I froze like a deer in the headlights.  All of my French words and phrases were gone!  And at that moment, it seemed everyone in the restaurant, paused, mid-bite, with food on their forks to listen to the exchange that was to follow.  Jimmy (always to my rescue) stepped up beside me and boldly said, “Hello, we are here to check in”.  (He didn’t even try one French word!) The hostess  said something else very rapidly in French, then turned and walked away.  She came back with the owner (we learned later).  He came straight to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Do you speak French?”  I shook my head no, with a very sorry look on my face. He said, “Well I do not speak English, so we have a problem.”  (Bear in mind, this was all spoken in English, lol) He then cracked a big smile, and in broken English, welcomed us and took us upstairs to show us our room.  At that point, those in the dining room were able to resume their meal.

We were given a cozy little room with a tiny balcony overlooking the front of the property and a postage stamp sized bathroom but there is something so charming about this place!  It’s an old farmhouse built in the early 1900’s.  Michel, the owner, told us to come down for dinner whenever we were ready.

When we went down for dinner, the lady that had greeted us, and by now knew we didn’t know a lick of French, pointed to a table for two, indicating that we should sit there. She came out with the menus (which were completely in French) spoke some French words to us and left.  I used the Google translate app on my phone and we tried our best to decipher each menu item.  This took quite a bit of time.  She came back, tried to talk to us in French again, realized it was futile and left, saying the word “chef “as she went. I knew that word, so there was hope!

A young man in a chef’s uniform came out to the table and said, “I understand we have a little translation problem”.  I smiled and said, “we have a big translation problem”.  He smiled and said, “No, we will call it a little problem.”  He then started at the top of the menu, pronounced every menu item in French, then in near perfect English, explained in great detail, what each meant, even going as far as to tell us how they would prepare it in the kitchen.  He took a great deal of time with us and it made our meal that much more enjoyable having been fully informed of everything we were about to eat.

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The menu offering on weekends is a multi-course meal, so when the waitress returned to take our order, she looked at me to go first.  Since the chef had pronounced everything in French, then explained what it meant in English, I decided the courteous thing to do was to at least take a stab at the French pronunciations .  I wanted her to know that I respected the French language, so as I pointed to each course on the menu, I did my very best at pronouncing as I went.  I’ll be honest, she seemed to have a bit of trouble understanding me.  She even chuckled and corrected me more than once.  How much easier could I make it?  I was pointing directly at the words I was pronouncing?  Jimmy on the other hand, didn’t even put forth much effort at all.  He didn’t point to any words.  His menu choices sounded like this, “Caesar” (that means he wants the Caesar salad), “Hot” (that means he wants the soup that is hot, not the cold one I ordered when she corrected my pronunciation of  froide, which does not rhyme with Sigmund Freud, it means cold and is pronounced “fwah”. ) When he got to the entree choice, he simply said “Pork”.  Nothing French sounding about that, yet she smiled and nodded approvingly, and appeared to appreciate someone who didn’t, try to fake it.  To me, he was beginning to sound like Briscoe Darling on the Andy Griffith Show, when he was eating dinner and was letting Aunt Bea know they were running low on food, Meat!, Taters!. Good grief!  The last choice he had to make was dessert.  We had the choice of Creme Brûlée, Citron (lemon) tart, or fruit.  He says, “Pie” and bingo, she smiles and says Merci.  By golly, she brought him the tart when he ordered pie!

It was a delicious meal, and after we were all done, the English speaking chef came back out and we enjoyed talking to him for quite some time. He told us he had worked at the inn for 15 years, having first been a plumber, then an electrician!  But he loves what he’s doing now, and it shows in the quality of the food.  It was a good day, and we are looking forward to the next.  Au Revoir! (Good bye!)

 

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 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…