Family and Friends,
Jefferson City is situated at the midpoint of The Katy Trail and beginning there we rode the eastern half in five consecutive days of pedaling from two base camps. On day one, a cold headwind greeted us first thing and blew all day long. Good thing our previous riding had toned us up a bit.
Bucking a five-mile-an-hour headwind in chilly temperatures tested our mettle but we layered up and posted our longest day, a 32-miler, while pretty much freezing our butts off all day.
Everything about the trail was comfortable and familiar by now and we were feeling totally at home. There are no hills worth mentioning anywhere, so there’s none of the uphill stuff to make your legs burn and your lungs gasp for air. On the other hand, there’s no coasting–it’s all pedal all the time–but we’d definitely hit our pace and the trail continued to enchant.
The ride becomes one of those all-consuming adventures that throws the mundane affairs of life into suspension–travel at its best. Our favorite miles are in the protected conservation areas where the trail is a sheltered arcade penetrating quiet hardwood forests: Shafts of sunlight filtering through leafy woods; the canopy above our heads painted with the first touches of fall color; frisky squirrels scampering among russet fallen leaves on the verges of the old rail line; rustlings from off in the woods that suggest our passage is noted by watchful deer; swampy sloughs meandering away into the dim light; the bright songs of Carolina wrens and the raucous scoldings of blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers ringing on the still air; our tires humming over the trail surface. Each day is a feast for the senses made all the more satisfying by our steady, rhythmic pedaling. The miles continue to roll by and we feel strong and happy. At some point we realize that the ride has become more than just a physical undertaking. It has taken over our thoughts as well as our bodies and we begin to regret that it will have an end.
It isn’t possible to overstate what a gem The Katy Trail is and we commend the folks at Missouri State Parks for the fine job they’ve done with it. The whole thing is just so well thought out and executed. Throughout its 238 miles, the trail is smooth, well maintained and easy to follow. There are trailheads with those wonderful informative kiosks and restrooms every dozen or so miles. Its full length is completely off-road and the only “traffic” is other cyclists and the occasional walker. Where it parallels roads, there is almost always a screen of trees between trail and roadway to underscore the separation and lend a bit of seclusion. And, as we’ve said before, so much of the trail wends its separate way across the landscape. It truly is a back-world all its own, one we seldom shared with other cyclists even at this most popular time of year for the ride.
In three long days we rode 90 miles. From JC to Bluffton, the trail parallels MO-94 much of the way but in the last several miles the road and trail part company. The rest of the ride to Bluffton is one that will linger in our memories. So peaceful, so verdant, and in the late afternoon light, so beautiful. At tiny Portland we took a long break to enjoy the river view and, tired though we were at the end of our longest day, we were gliding those last few miles into camp. Barb and Roy Gokenbach (Note the corrected spelling. Apologies to them for our earlier goof.) arrived early next morning at our Bluffton camp to shuttle the truck ahead to Treloar and we were on the bikes soon after. A lighter headwind but still chilly and we were once again dressed more for snowshoeing than bicycling. We finished the day another 27 miles closer to trail’s end. Because of the logistical gymnastics necessary to set up the Treloar-Weldon Spring leg of the ride, we didn’t start riding until near noon on the third big day. The weather had gone from chilly to hot but we had a quartering tail wind and covered another 30 miles.
On our next to last day, we rode through one final conservation area as we closed in on St. Charles. Twinned overpasses of I-64 towering above the trail foretold our return to civilization before we threaded a toney subdivision, crossed beneath I-70’s spans and passed a riverside casino. Soon, a long row of venerable-looking brick buildings appeared ahead–St. Charles’s Frenchtown district, the historic core of this historic city. We stopped at the restored depot in Frontier Park before heading to a trailside watering hole for lunch and a cold beer. Then onward to the RV park right beside the trail at the north end of town where our rig awaited and hot showers were the first order of business.
With hot temperatures and strong winds in the forecast we were on the bikes early the next morning for the final leg of the trail.
The Katy Trail ends at Machens, once a whistle stop on the MKT 12 miles from St. Charles, now a soybean field. The northern outskirts of town soon gave way to broad farm fields and although the cliffs that had shouldered the trail for dozens of miles had fallen away, we were soon back among familiar gallery woods. A final river view at a bend in the trail, beyond which, as if to remind us of its importance to this journey, the Missouri had carved out a couple of house-sized potholes in the trail during last winter’s floods. For the only time on the trail we had to dismount and walk the bikes through the areas under repair. We dawdled along the final miles, stopped to enjoy the last trailhead kiosk at Black Walnut and rode on. Two miles more and the trail’s end appeared in a grove of trees just ahead. We coasted to a stop and our ride was done.
Our celebration at Machens, the end of Cheryl’s interesting ride. Our joy was tinged with bittersweet regret. The Katy really got under our skin.
Cheryl and Keith
P.S. Our good friend Gladie Palrang suggested the title for this e-mail when she pointed out that when we'd finished the ride we'd be KatyDid. And we are! Thanks, Gladie!