Tag Archives: bike trips

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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.





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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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

Tomorrow, St. Charles to Defiance…