Tag Archives: Katy Trail

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…

 

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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 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…