April 12, 2007
| May 14, 2007
| June 3, 2007
| June 23, 2007
About me I lived in Boonville for a short while, before the casino and the new bridge, and before all 225 miles of the Katy Trail were connected. I walked on the trail several times a week, as much as an hour at a time, four seasons of a long year. The Katy was my sanctuary. Occasionally, I walked on the trail near Rocheport. I remember seeing the bluffs glow golden-orange as they reflected a spectacular late October sunset.
Ive lived most of my life in Missouri, and I think it is a gloriously beautiful state. Maybe, if I had not already seen for myself the beauty of rural Missouri, even the amazing photographs on the BikeKatyTrail.com website might not have led me to consider spending a vacation on the Katy Trail. But I have seen the Katy in person, and as I gaze at those poetic photos, the Katy beckons. So, this year, thanks to a windfall and the willingness of my husband Henry, we are planning a west-to-east, end-to-end, inn-to-inn, self-guided Katy Trail bicycle tour. We will get on the trail at Clinton on June 14, 2007.
I am not exactly in shape for this trip. Although I learned to ride a bike around age 7, I am essentially a non-athlete and a novice cyclist. I am an ordinary baby-boomer empty-nester and a born bookworm who makes some reasonable efforts toward maintaining fitness. I have a sedentary job, a basically sedentary lifestyle, and nearly 20 extra pounds. I have no bicycling friends to lean on for information or encouragement. Many people bike the Katy because they love cycling. Me, I love the Katy and I like cycling. My usual cardiovascular activity is fitness walking, but I dont have enough time to walk the Katy end-to-end. Ill do that after I retire.
Reasons for our trip Many friends and relatives have laughed out loud. When they finally caught their breath, they wheezed, Are you crazy? And then they resumed laughing. So why are we doing this? Well, I do need a vacation. And dont most people blow at least part of a windfall on a trip? Granted, more likely it would be a cruise to Alaska or the Caribbean, or a vacation to Hawaii or southern California. Nice places. Long flights. Everybody goes there, and almost everybody my age remains pretty much a spectator and comes home fatter than they were.
Maybe I have something to prove. Yes, I do: I am not old yet. My inner hippie nonconformist still questions authority and believes love is all you need and wants to blow up the TV. The Katy is my literal road less traveled, my off-the-beaten path. It is a place of extraordinary natural beauty, peacefulness, and genuine down-to-earth folks. Thank God it lacks mass appeal. Goodbye, city life! Katy Trail, we are there!
About my husband
Far more than the beauty of Missouri, I love my Henry. Henry is handsome, witty, adventurous, and consideratemy perfect travel partner. Both of us love the Missouri outdoors and find it relaxing; however, I need to be comfortable, to go at my own pace, and to feel safe but challenged. For Henry, a natural athlete, this sort of trip is a piece of cake. So he gets to carry the heavy stuff.
First off, I knew my cheapie bike would not do, and in January I began searching for a good touring bike. The search was way more challenging than expected, and quite a learning experience. First, touring bikes are not sexy (so, not common), and most bike shops emphasize road bikes or mountain bikes, unless you want to shop in Europe. Neither road nor mountain bikes are considered altogether suitable for the Katy (for distance riding, at least). Second, I am just over 52. My short inseam eliminates all U.S. standard-brand touring-style bikes (none of which offers women-specific features, anyway). Sorry, but I dont want to feel a tube in my crotch every time I dismount. This basic fact was beyond the comprehension of nearly every bike salesperson I met, and I visited the majority of bike shops in the greater K.C. area.
So, here is Daisys touring bicycle advice for short women, with a little advice for everyone. If you are petite like me, you have few options. Do not get a cruiser or anything referred to as a comfort bike just because the standover is low. Riding upright for long distances is terrible for your spine. A short woman should not get a mans bike. Cyclocross bikes are considered suitable for touring, but no major bike manufacturer makes a model just for women, so you cant get a good fit. The main problems with road bikes, even womens designs, are the skinny tires (easily punctured, unstable on gravel) and the inability to add racks or fenders. The main problems with mountain bikes are the very fat knobby tires (inefficient and slow), handlebars offering just one riding position (long rides necessitate a variety of positions), and the jarring ride. Conclusions for short women: 1. If you have lots of money and time, find a frame builder to make you a custom bicycle. 2. If you have more than a little money, (and this is easier than starting from scratch) get a Terry touring bicycle (find them online). 3. If you have some money, get a good quality hybrid made just for women and replace or add parts and accessories as needed. 4. If you already have a mountain bike you love, look into replacing the tires and seat and adding ergonomic grips and bar ends. Or look at recumbentssome folks swear by them.
Do your homework and study up on touring. Before you buy any bicycle, ask if it can take racks & fenders, and make sure it accepts medium-width tires. Even if you are not planning to camp, your bike has to be able to carry some gear. At the bike shop, insist on the features you want, and teach the young bike shop salesperson about the requirements of bicycle touring if necessary, not to mention the requirements of your unique body. Baby boomers, be ready for sticker shockanything under $1,000 is considered entry-level these days. Most bike shops will negotiate. If you plan to carry full gear for camping, get a good, strong frame. Feel free to ask for a catalogthey wont have all models in the shop. Then, make sure you can get comfortable on your bike. Warning: dont think the initial cost of the bike is all you will have to spend. Expect more costs for outfitting your bike for touring and then getting yourself some good personal gear.
So far, I am happy with my Trek 7.5 FX WSD (a hybrid), after replacing the seat, pedals, and tires; adding fenders, racks, lights, a mirror, ergonomic grips, bar ends, and several other miscellaneous accessories; replacing the handlebar stem (to fine tune the distance between the seat & handlebars); and making various fit adjustments such as seat and handlebar height. She only has about 50 miles on her at this writing. I chose her because the standover was low enough for me, the gears were low enough for touring (triple chainrings), the wheels could take 32c tires, and the women-specific features such as narrower handlebars and shorter cranks made comfort possible for my small body. By the way, I named her Murphy Blue. Finding her and outfitting her took a lot of research followed by a lot of workmost of the work done by my wonderful Henry. Now his pea-princess is ready to ride. Except for one more thingtraining.
Ive been out riding several times during the warm spell in late March, and based on those experiences, I estimate I will need about 6 weeks of steady training to become able to ride 30 40 miles on gravel for at least 2 days in a row. When I can do that, Ill say Im ready. Im only up to 13 miles in one day so far, with hills and some surfaces covered with gravel, some asphalt. In case you didnt know yet, gravel takes more effort to pedal on even when the trail is flat. In addition, getting used to riding with your weight properly distributed between your arms, seat, and feet, takes some practice but will make you able to ride longer in the end with less pain (so I am told). And riding on a flat surface means you have to remember to shift your position often.
For a test run, we plan to ride the 33-mile Prairie Spirit Trail between Welda and Ottawa, Kansas, by Memorial Day weekend. The plan is to ride with full gear from Welda to Ottawa on a Saturday, and back on Sunday.
About our planning
We might bike mornings or afternoons, eat picnic lunches or in diners, browse in shops, take naps, climb interesting hills, wade in streams, indulge in long discussions with new friends, watch the sun set and the full moon rise (I just checked, and the moon will be full around June 16) . . . who knows. My Henry is a wonderful easygoing and spontaneous guy. Isnt there a rule prohibiting clocks or calendars or electronic devices on the Katy? We booked our lodgings reluctantly, knowing the best places will be busy in June, but otherwise, the plan is just to relax and have a good time and let the Katy herself lead us.
Henry & Daisys Tour de Katy Itinerary
- Thursday, Day 1: Clinton to Sedalia
- Friday, Day 2: Sedalia to New Franklin
- Saturday, Day 3: New Franklin to Rocheport (short morning ride, river tour Saturday afternoon)
- Sunday, Day 4: Rocheport to Jefferson City
- Monday, Day 5: Jefferson City to McKittrick
- Tuesday, Day 6: McKittrick to Augusta
- Wednesday, Day 7: Augusta to St. Charles
- Thursday, Day 8: Shuttle back to Clinton
I studied the Katy Trail Guidebook
, the Missouri DNR Katy Trail website, BikeKatyTrail.com, and several other articles and sites on bicycling and bicycle touring. Then I established a budget and a timeframe, and I hashed out a plan. The timeframe mainly was based on when we could get away from our jobs, with fingers crossed that the mid-June weather wouldnt be too hot or too rainy. The other major timing constraint, of course, was the number of miles I hoped I could ride in a day. Our budget is more generous for comfortable B&Bs and more moderate for meals. I made our reservations very early to be sure to get the lodgings we wanted. I hired Creasons Shuttles for the ride home and was very happy when Gary Creason said that if any given day were very rainy, he would take us to our next stop. He would also be our way home in case of emergency during the tour.
We will ride roughly 40 miles per day, or less. We will depart from Clinton on a Thursday so we can be in Rocheport on Saturday for an afternoon Missouri River tour. Otherwise, I would have avoided staying in Rocheport because it is rather expensive. Also, a Saturday night in June will draw crowds of people from Columbia. However, Rocheport is beautiful, and Im hoping a little break from cycling with our one splurge on a nice dinner (reservation needed) will make the return to the trail on Sunday a bit easier.
Staying in St. Charles on a Wednesday means we will get to enjoy the free Music on Main Street before going home on Thursday. We chose to stay in McKittrick over Hermann because we have already seen Hermann many times. Ditto with choosing New Franklin over Boonville. Nonetheless, generally I tried to stay in or next to interesting towns so we would have something to do if we felt like it. Im not acquainted with Augusta, but as far as I can tell, they roll up the sidewalks on weeknights, so we may linger there Wednesday morning to visit a winery before starting the final 27 miles to St. Charles, where we will arrange to get a massage.
Hiring someone to move luggage for me daily is beyond my budget, so I have planned, with apprehension, to carry most of my gear on my bike. I will use trunk and seat bags and rear panniers. Henry will use front and rear panniers plus trunk and seat bags. He will carry the bike maintenance equipment. Im not even packing a tube of mascaranothing unnecessary. My major investment besides gear for the bike has been a to get prescription lenses put in a pair of Wylie-X sunglasses frames (motorcycle glasses) to keep dust and wind out of my myopic eyes. This was worth it. I bought a well-ventilated helmet with a visor, some high-quality padded shorts, cool max socks, moisture-wicking tops and sport bras, padded gloves, a rainproof jacket & pants, a rain cover for my helmet, and versatile thick-soled shoes with cycling-specific footbeds added (no cleats). Ill take one set of street clothes, a swimsuit to wear in hot tubs, and minimal toiletries. Most of our inns will have basic toiletries, anyway. The most essential toiletry is sunscreen.
April 12, 2007
| May 14, 2007
| June 3, 2007
| June 23, 2007
Let me say right off that a systematic training plan is not my style. Trainers want you to set specific goals and record every bit of effort and progress. They find this motivating. I do not. While I see the need to push myself and to keep an eye on the calendar, I still have other things to do besides ride my bicycle. This journal will not contain a log with dates and miles and so on. My measure of success is overall health and happiness, not miles covered.
Additionally, bicycling is not an end in itself, not something I love to do for its own sake. At the moment, it really makes me tired. This is my general training goal: to be able to enjoy biking about forty miles a day on the Katy. For this non-athlete, that means touring without excessive pain or fatigue. My one training objective is to ride thirty miles on a trail comparable to the Katy for two consecutive days, about two weeks before our tour, with gear. Our trip is one month out, and this objective is still beyond me.
The reality so far
The spring weather has not been cooperative for steady training. We had some positive rides during a warm spell in late March, and then April turned cold and May turned rainy. We are too sensible to train in the rain. We spent the first sunny weekend in weeks visiting my mother. In the past three weeks, I have averaged just over two rides per week, about one or two hours each (breaks included). My maximum distance remains about thirteen miles. This is with hills. I accept that my gains are not going to come in regular increments, but with the improved weather I at least expect to ride more often.
I will not train on roads because of near-blindness in my left eye. If I turn my head to look back over my left shoulder, I see nothing. My dear Henry, of course, doesnt really need to train at all, other than to become familiar with his new cyclocross bike. He has the stamina of a tri-athlete, the lungs of a mountain climber, and the reflexes of a fighter pilot. And the mind of a monk.
We are discovering the zen of bicycle touring. Its a mystical mix of the rich green woods, the vivid purple wildflowers, the glow of afternoon sunlight, the serenade of birdsongs, the crackling of our armadillo tires on the gravel, the great Missouri River flowing by, the fragrance of honeysuckle, the cadence of pedaling (I love circles), white-tailed rabbits, fluttering dragonflies, rocky hills, croaking frogs, and just being together. After returning home from a ride, we realize we have forgotten all about our jobs, the state of our checkbook, or how much housework was undone. Riding our bikes is being in the moment.
Our local trail starts less than a mile from our home and is partly paved, partly covered with small gravel. It runs along the edge of a state park, some of it between the Missouri River and lovely green bluffs. It is not level. Hills are pretty to look at, but I dislike riding them. They say that distance runners often train with sprints (intervals), so I extrapolate that these hills are preparing me for the Katy.
My lips are chapped and the back of my neck is sore. Do all bicycle tourists get chapped lips? I think my bicycle is close to being perfectly adjusted. The seat and handlebars are about equal height, but I may raise the handlebars slightly. My arms, butt, legs, and back are coping pretty well. Ive been fighting a persistent case of tendonitis in my left knee for about a year, but cycling doesnt seem to make it worse.
Almost twice a week Ive been doing crunches, girl pushups, back extensions, stationary lunges, and squats. And I do kegels, which I recommend to all women. For many years I stretched regularly, and I am probably more flexible than most women my age, but Ive been less consistent lately. I used to train with weights regularly but probably wont resume before our tour. On days when I dont need to rest and riding is not practical, I go for a long walk.
Some girl talk
For a girl, preparation for a tour requires a plan for maintaining her appearance. Bicycle touring is partially a social pursuit, after all. When I mentioned to someone that I would not even pack a tube of mascara, she said, Oh my gosh! You should get your lashes tinted before you go! I wont take her advice. I do care about maintaining a reasonably feminine appearance although I have few good hair days. But I like myself, and Henry thinks I am beautiful without makeup. He thinks I look feminine and sexy with a sweaty forehead and flushed cheeks after a hot bike ride, and that the self-respect seen in a commitment to staying active is more appealing than a made-up face and well coiffed hair.
Someone asked if I would get my hair cut short. The answer is no. Very short hair may be considered quick and easy, but it looks horrible when flattened by a helmet unless you have a small and gorgeously shaped head like Natalie Portman, and bangs are uncomfortable on a sweaty forehead. My current haircut is just above the shoulder, slightly layered, no bangs, and can be coaxed into a frizz-friendly sort of style just with fingers. After cycling with recent temperatures in the eighties, I definitely have had sweaty helmet hair. Henry could stick his head under a faucet to cool down and rinse off sweat and dust and be dry in minutes. Hmmm, come to think of it, so could I, except for the dry in minutes part. And come to think of it, riding with wet hair on a hot day might be a good way to feel cool. Ill just pack a small microfiber towel.
I love green tea in the morning. A green margarita in the evening is nice, too, but for the next month alcohol is going on my avoid list. One reason is for the calories, but the other is that avoiding alcohol improves my breathing during exercise. We will not make any major changes to our usual style of eating. We usually have breakfast and dinner at home. Our regular diet consists mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and chicken, beans, dark leafy greens, eggs, skim milk, nuts, and olive oil. We eat reasonable portions and limit red meat, refined sugar, simple starches, and refined flour, and we avoid trans fats. Our main indulgences are full-fat cheese, a little dark chocolate, and an occasional KC strip steak with a glass of red wine. For lunch at work, we often have Lean Cuisine, V-8 juice, and maybe some fruit or skim milk. In general, we enjoy food. I do not have a special diet for training since this is not about serious sports. For me, the main eating consideration for training is timing. I never ride hungry but make sure to fuel my workout. My preferred beverage for hydration is water.
April 12, 2007
| May 14, 2007
| June 3, 2007
| June 23, 2007
Training part two, for beginners only --
If you are already a regular touring cyclist, this part of my journal may not be interesting to you. I hope it will be beneficial to novice tourists and other adult non-athletes (especially over age 50) who want to bike the entire Katy. If you are not very fit, you do need a few months to prepare.
Week of May 6 late in the week, developed muscle spasms in the neck, probably from switching eyeglasses a few days, or from over-tightening my helmet. After a few rides around 8 miles each, had to rest a few days and take a muscle relaxant.
Week of May 14 nice weather, gaining some momentum and riding on consecutive days. Did a 14-mile ride May 17 but definitely over-trained; had trouble sleeping. How will I ever do a 30- or 40-mile ride, let alone on consecutive days? I am definitely behind in my training.
Downside of bicycle touring - getting struck by insects & small flying rocks & sticks, getting spider webs in the face, smelling dead animals, getting jolted by deep ruts in the trail, getting blown around by wind, swallowing or inhaling insects (hasnt happened to me yet, but I try to remember to cover my mouth when yawning), getting bitten or stung by insects, getting chapped lips or sunburn, getting tired & sore, falling, bugs in the eye (happened to Henry) . . . .
Week of May 21 I know that trainers recommend incremental 10% gains, but that assumes all you have to do is train, and you can schedule rides five or six days a week. Not possible for me.
So I have had to make a gain of at least 25 % to 30% on one day, then take a few rest days (mow the lawn, do the grocery shopping, etc.), and then repeat the new mileage total after resting. One more day off, and then I can go for a gain again. Maybe percentages arent so meaningful when starting at a low fitness level say, if 10% equals fewer than 2 miles! Ive been feeling discouraged and doubting my ability to get fit enough for riding 30+ miles. Revelation: our local trail is one 1 mile from our house and at the bottom of a big hill, so the ride home is almost all uphill. At the end of a ride, that last mile pushes my heart rate through the roof. I figured out that to increase my mileage, I could decrease intensity by putting my bike in the car and driving to the start of the trail, so I could skip riding the last uphill mile going home. On May 22, I extended my distance to 18 miles.
With fewer than 3 weeks to train, the pressure is on. No time to go with the flow nowI gave in and wrote a training schedule. Reached 22 miles May 24th, then 25 miles on a soft wet trail May 26th. Still could not follow my training schedule, though. Life and fatigue and weather wont let me. The good news is that I realized the trail I am training on is way more difficult than the Katythis is encouraging. If I could ride even 25 miles on 2 consecutive days, I would feel more confident. We had to cancel the practice ride planned for the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail.
Week of May 27 Rode 12 miles, now with lightly loaded panniers, on May 29; then 24 miles on May 31. Had to rest 2 days. Its definitely harder with gearmore effort, harder to stop, slightly less stable. Have abandoned most other exercise except an occasional walk-- no time or energy for it. Raised the handlebars slightly and moved the seat back slightly.
Week of June 3 Good news: Sunday, rode 30 miles with panniers, on a windy day and a trail soft from rain, then slept 9 hours. Knees ached a bit the next day. Have learned to bring snacks on longer rides. My time is pretty slow, but that is not important. Rested 3 days. My sympathetic supervisor approved my taking off early a few days from work for my final training rides. Rode a difficult 24 miles on a soft trail just after a rain on June 7, then 26 miles June 8. Slept 9 hours again the 8th and had to nap the next afternoon.
Despite all the physical discomfort (especially shoulders & neck), fatigue, and ongoing self doubt, a strange happiness accompanies all this. The muscles above my knees feel firm to the touch. Ive not met my training goal of 30 miles on 2 consecutive days, but I can only hope the hills and frequent near-mud on my local trail have compensated. I still have not become an athlete or anything close to it. I havent gotten skinny or lost any cellulite. But I havent canceled the tour. Now . . . how to get my stuff into two small panniers (will put front panniers on the rear wheels) and a small trunk bag. J
April 12, 2007
| May 14, 2007
| June 3, 2007
| June 23, 2007
Henry & Daisys Tour de Katy: The Tour
Wednesday, June 13
We drove down to Clinton Wednesday afternoon and checked in to the Hampton Inn, where we had a leisurely swim with the indoor pool all to ourselves. We visited the historic square and then enjoyed a tasty dinner at the El Camino Real Mexican restaurant. We went to bed early and were comfortable at the Hampton.
Thursday, June 14 Clinton to Sedalia, 37 miles
After a 6:00 a.m. breakfast, and by the time we had packed our gear, found the community center, and signed in to leave our car in their lot, it was about 8:30 when we ceremoniously placed our front wheels on the Katy Trail. At the last minute I had decided not to use my trunk bag because with it my bike seemed top heavy and hard to balance. I started on the trail with two small (front) panniers on rear racks of my hybrid bike, while Henry had two large panniers on rear racks of his cross bike, and front racks empty. He carried the bicycle maintenance gear. I had a small handlebar bag for my eyeglasses and a seat bag for my wallet, cell phone, and camera. We started east in a southerly breeze that gave some resistance but kept us from getting too hotthis section of the trail has very little shade. Temperatures reached the upper 80s.
For the first ten to fifteen miles, a delicious and intense floral-herbal scent perfumed the air. The prairie was gorgeous. The grasses along the Osage plains formed a fluid palette, from green to reddish brown to tan, rippling softly in the breeze. All along the trail it seemed nature was putting on a revue for our entertainment. It made me think of the old Mickey Rooney Judy Garland musicals from the 1930s, when the kids would say, Hey, lets put on a show! It was as if the birds said, Well sing for them, and the abundant flowers said, Okay, well dance. Vignettes would emerge one after another, always surprising us, as in the movies when you were pretty sure it was impossible for all those song and dance production numbers to take place on one little stage. Besides birds, we saw turtles, squirrels, rabbits, dragonflies, lizards, and one snake. The butterflies would fly along with us and sometimes ride on our bars or our jerseys.
We rested a while at Windsor and then stopped for lunch at Burfs Grill in Green Ridge (their fries are so-so, but their onion rings are yummy). Our server was a sight: a woman at least in her 50s wearing white hot pants and white fringed cowboy boots. The locals in the bar were friendly and chatty, and the streets in Green Ridge were dustier than the trail. The limey trail dust was already burning the skin on my face.
The last 10 miles into Sedalia seemed long and hot. The wind picked up, and I handed off my panniers to Henry. All day we made extra stops along the way as Henry made recordings of bird songs. The breaks were helpful for me. It was about 2:45 when we reached the Hotel Bothwell and settled in to a pretty corner room. When we turned on the shower, it took nearly 10 minutes to get hot water, but then I got scalded several times when folks in other rooms flushed. We liked the convenience of this hotel, but be careful in the shower! It was very satisfying to have finished our first day on the trail.
After a short stroll and a visit to the Pro-Velo Bicycle Shop, we ordered salads, wine, and one entree of vegetable polenta lasagna to share at the Ivory Grille. We got massages in the hotel at 8:00 and were asleep not long after.
Friday, June 15, Sedalia to Boonville, 37 miles
We left the Bothwell about 8:00 a.m., after a so-so breakfast. The Bothwell only provides Styrofoam bowls & plates. If you want to make instant oatmeal, you can either use a hot water pot, which doesnt quite do the job, or take your chances with Styrofoam in the microwave. Their fruit was frozen. Completely frozen.
Friday was hot and humid. We felt we were rolling faster because there was less wind, but in reality our time wasnt much better on day two. The inclines were tiresome, and once again, I eventually passed off my panniers to Henry. We tweaked my bicycle fit again this morning, and again a few days later, mainly trying to help my shoulders ache less.
The thick trees lining the trail formed a long green gothic arch. It seemed so much like a chapel that we stopped once to pray. We were glad for the shade on such a hot day, but we saw fewer blooms and less wildlifejust a snake, a turtle, and a few squirrels, rabbits, butterflies, and lizards. Once when I was gaining some momentum on a downhill stretch east of Sedalia, I nearly got run over by a sort of tractor with huge arms to the front that suddenly came barreling through a private farm crossing. Some of those openings are impossible to see before you are right on them, and this farmer was driving full speed ahead. That was the closest we got to a mishap for the entire tour. We never even had a flat tire.
We enjoyed a light lunch and conversation with Polly, her son, and other customers around 11:00 a.m. at Pollys Tea Room in Pilot Grove. The rest of the way into Boonville was tough for me. It was very hot, and much of the trail was slightly uphill. My shoulders ached any my saddle felt hard. By the time we reached Boonville, I felt exhausted. (I tried wearing my Louis Garneau shorts today, and they are not adequate for touring. Sugoi shorts are much better.) The DNR trail office in the depot there was closed, so we pedaled on to the Rivercene Inn by about 1:30, and they were nice enough to give us an early check in. We enjoyed the Rivercene because hostess Joanna is a delight, but the Inn is not in great condition, and the non-resident owners are so cheap you have to pay extra for a bottle of water. Henry used their hose to rinse the dust off our bikes. We cleaned ourselves up and took a nap. An old friend picked us up about 6:15 for dinner at Glenns Café in the Frederick Hotel. Feeling a need for red meat, I ordered the brisket, which turned out to be tough, but I loved their red beans. The company of friends made the evening wonderful, and the food brought back some energy.
Besides exhaustion, I had a few strange looking insect bites and some bruises on my left calf, from sudden stops I suppose. Even with the SPF 50 sport formula sunblock, I got an ugly sun rash on my thighs each day. We decided to withdraw from the river tour planned for Saturday, after the tour organizer rescheduled it at the last moment from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. I needed to sleep in Saturday morning. Allowing for slow pedaling plus the possibility of a flat, we doubted we could get to Rocheport by 10:30, and hurrying was out of the question. This was a disappointment, especially since our entire tour calendar revolved around the river tour. (He had offered to pick us up at the Rivercene, but we didnt want to give up cycling those miles.)
Getting a good nights sleep was easier said than done because of overexertion. Throughout the tour I was never sure how far I would be able to pedal each day, but with each day completed I continued hoping to be able to say I had ridden the whole trail.
Saturday, June 16, Boonville to Rocheport, 14 miles
We got away from the Rivercene before 9:00 a.m. and headed for Rocheport. My dear Henry took over carrying my panniers. The 14 miles from Boonville were mostly sunny and hot, and the path was rough and strewn with sticks, some thorny. We sang songs as we went by the Katy Roundhouse. Our pace was slow, and we were very glad to finally see the rail road tunnel. The morning light streaming through the trees was ethereal. We pedaled to the trailhead and then over to the bike shop and drank an iced tea. Dixie & Conrad at the Yates House allowed us to come in and change clothes and drop off our gear. We strolled around Rocheport and browsed the shops, got lunch at Amys Cookies, and walked to the Les Bourgeois A-frame (down the trail and up the hill). We had a glass of white wine and enjoyed the summer heat. Seriously we were truly enjoying being outside. It was a great day to go slow. We were surprised to find that most of the people were at Les Bourgeois, not in the old town of Rocheport.
The hike back down the hill was beautiful, but oh the mosquitoes! We checked in to the Yates House, rested, washed out a few things, and went to Abigails for dinner about 6:00. The food at Abigails was delicious and the ambience funky, and this turned out to be our favorite restaurant for the entire tour. I had lamb chops, Henry had mahi mahi, and the experience was relaxing and pleasant.
Sunday, June 17, Rocheport to N. Jefferson, 35 miles
The Yates House serves a gourmet breakfast at 9:00 a.m., period, and for this reason I cannot recommend it to through-cyclists. The part of the inn where we stayed is a comfortable, modern home in perfect condition, built to resemble an older home. I finally managed to sleep 8 hours there. We packed our gear before breakfast, and we enjoyed getting acquainted with another couple. Dixie served a starting dish she called French toast (I would not have recognized it as such) with ginger pears, and a main course of skewers with Italian sausage, pineapples, and red bell pepper, along with a tarragon & cheese soufflé.
We departed Rocheport by 10:00 a.m. The weather was still hotupper 80sbut less humid. The first 20 miles were mostly shady, and we had a light breeze. The most unusual wildlife we saw was a river otter just east of Rocheport. Other wildlife included a deer and a big black snake, and of course turtles, lizards, squirrels, and rabbits.
We visited the extraordinary Great Burr Oak, the hilarious Boathenge, and the intriguing Riverview Traders Store. The trail in these areasKatfish Katys, Coopers Landing, Easelywas still in rough shape from the spring floods. For some reason I had a little trouble this day with numb fingers and toes.
We rolled into Hartsburg and were turned away from Dotties Café at 1:45 p.m. (they advertise as being open until 2:00 p.m. on Sunday). We went over to the Summit Hill Winery instead, where we enjoyed the food and warm hospitality. If you like beans, try their trail mix with tortilla chips.
The last 10 miles became windy, sunny, hot, and long. We decided to upgrade to a Jacuzzi suite at the Cliff Manor Inn. Our host, Thom, picked us up at N. Jefferson as soon as we called and drove us into Jefferson City. He rinsed our bikes and put them away, and he even washed our water bottles and refilled them with cold water in the morning. We soaked in the Jacuzzi, washed some clothes, and eventually walked around the state capitol to have dinner at Arris Pizza. We got back to the inn about 8:00, called Henrys dad to wish him a happy Fathers Day, and were in bed by 9:00. We asked to have breakfast at 7:00 a.m. before our longest ride to Hermann on Monday. Fortunately, the forecast called for cooler temperatures.
Monday, June 18, N. Jefferson to McKittrick, 42 miles
We had a delicious breakfast of blueberry cheesecake pancakes and country ham. Thom drove us back to N. Jefferson, and we were rolling by about 8:45. It sprinkled lightly on and off, especially around Mokane. We were glad because the rain controlled the dust. The clouds and lower temperatures were welcome, but it was extremely humid. Much of the trail was shady, but we had to keep moving because of the numerous mosquitoes.
We saw another large snake and lots of lizards. We loved seeing dozens of tiny lizards scampering across the trail, suddenly popping out of the grass one at a time and dashing from one side to the other. The surprise made us laugh every time. Once we approached a squirrel apparently engrossed in a personal project near the center of the trail, and it did not budge. Wanting to be careful, Henry went ahead, yelled at it and slowed down. The squirrel ignored him. I approached very slowly and rang my bell. The squirrel finally started to move, but it zigged and zagged, causing both of us to nearly wobble off the trail while trying to avoid a collision with it.
We had a tasty lunch at the Riverside Bar & Grill in Portland. Their chicken strips actually were chicken tender filets (not the over processed stuff). Again, the locals were friendly, and we rested there nearly an hour.
We left Portland about 1:00, and briefly it seemed the rain had passed. Instead, we wound up leading some dark storm clouds. I gladly would have rested again at Rhineland, but by then we had to push to stay ahead of lightening and rain, and this on our longest riding day. We reached McKittrick about 3:30, and by 4:30 it was pouring.
Maggie and Eldon at Meyers Hilltop Farm received us like their relatives. This was our favorite inn. Before the rain came, Henry rinsed and dried the bikes, wiped the chains with WD-40, and stored them in a barn. We cleaned up and napped. The rain stopped, and they drove us into Hermann where we sampled some wine and had sauerbraten for dinner at Stone Hills Vintage Restaurant. Maggie & Eldon gave us a tour of town.
I was so tired I could feel my heart laboring each beat, and sleep was difficult.
Tuesday, June 19, McKittrick to Augusta, 35 miles
Before breakfast we sat on the front porch and watched the hummingbirds. Maggie made her famous buttermilk-oatmeal pancakes. We reluctantly left Meyers Hilltop Farm about 10:00 a.m., with sunny bright blue skies and temperatures below 80 degrees. We rolled slowly alongside the river and the bluffs. When the trail left the river, we were in the middle of tall dark green corn. All the colors were rich and intense. There were dragonflies with brilliant white bodies and black wings. Someone told us they saw some foxes, and Henry saw a turkey. I sometimes rode right behind Henry so he could draft me. I made up a song about my sore bottom. And we gave new meaning to phrase bottoms up whenever we approached a rough crossing.
At Treloar, no businesses appeared open. We reached Marthasville by 1:00, and it was practically a ghost town. Many storefronts were empty. We finally found a bar called Twin Gables for lunch, but we did not linger there for long. (The food was okay, but I wished we had gotten lunch earlier at Peers.) We rolled into Augusta about 3:00.
Gary & Corinne welcomed us to the Red Brick Inn. They were kind and hospitable, and we were comfortable. Corinne even did some laundry for us and gave us a dessert of fresh black raspberry cobbler.
The 35 miles today seemed light compared to 42 the day before. By now, my saddle was seeming uncomfortably soft, and my backside was more than sore. We cleaned up ourselves and our bikes and then walked around Augusta, visiting a few shops, sampling some wine, and getting sandwiches for dinner under a canopy at the Augusta Brewing Company (which wasnt serving their dinner menu that evening). After a soak in the Jacuzzi, we were asleep around 9:30.
Wednesday, June 20, Augusta to St. Charles, 27 miles
After a 7:00 a.m. breakfast of cream cheese-stuffed French toast, we got on the trail about 8:00 a.m. Temperatures were in the 70s, and the sky was hazy. Much of the way, the trail followed high bluffs on one side and the river on the other. We saw a big copperhead snake stretched out across the trail, and a turtle in the process of laying eggs on the edge of the trail. We saw lots of indigo buntings. At Defiance, we visited the Katy Bike Rental. The owner was so nicehe insisted we use the restrooms and fill our water bottles there. We bought a tee shirt and some ice cream and asked him to take our picture. The thought of cycling several miles off the trail to visit a museum was just too much, so we decided to head for St. Charles.
It was only on this section of the trail that we saw very many other riders. The area around Weldon Springs was beautiful, and we were doing well until the last 10 miles or so into St. Charles. Then the trail has less tree cover, we were riding into a strong wind, and the dust and noise were awful. The trail into St. Charles goes by several construction areas and busy roads. It was hard riding, and we just wanted it to be over. My shoulders were burning. It seemed so wrong that the final miles were so disagreeable.
We finally rolled into the St. Charles historic Main Street district at noon, and we found lunch at the Trailhead Brewery. After checking in to the Morgan Corner Bed & Breakfast, we cleaned up and walked back to town. We shopped for a gift for the neighbors who were looking after our cats, and we celebrated with a bottle of champagne at an outdoor café. The music on Main Street turned out to be a run-of-the-mill blues band, and we were too tired to stay and listen. We walked along the river, went back to the inn for a soak in the Jacuzzi, and turned in before dark.
We did it.
Thursday, June 21, Shuttle back to Clinton (about 4 hours to Clinton, and 2 hours to home)
I have to mention our ride home, Gary Creason, who was a hoot. We persuaded him not to give us lots of side trips on the way home. Nevertheless, he just couldnt leave out Cranes General Store at Williamsburg, along I-70. It is a fun place with lots of historical artifacts, but home was calling us. If you hire Creasons Shuttles, be assured he is dependable and would indeed rescue you during your tour if necessary, but his van is not air conditioned.
Thoughts after the tour -
About photography: We took fewer photos than expected because stopping to do anything was a bit of a production. The camera was kept in a plastic bag inside a pannier because of the dust. For each photo stop I had to remove my helmet and my wrap-around cycling glasses which would fog up if I wasnt rolling, and then get my eyeglasses out of a bike bag. We skipped some photo opportunities entirely in areas where the mosquitoes were thick.
About going rustic: We loved avoiding televisions, computers, cars, and the pace of modern lifea pace we maintain less hectically than many folks. I only wrote times in my journal in case it would help someone plan a tour. I did not wear a watch.
Disclosure: I managed the tendonitis in my knee by taking naproxen sodium twice a day starting a few days before the tour and continuing a few days after. After our tour, I did not get back on my bike for a few weeks. The skin on my face flaked for a week, and I had to treat some chaffing from my bicycle seat. Once back home, I slept 9 hours a day for a week. Plenty of body parts were sore.
Advice: If you are neither very young nor very fit, try for an average of 30 to 35 miles a day, but no more. One windy day could make even 30 miles seem endless. Never skip meals; bring snacks. If you want to enjoy any special sights along the way, reduce your planned mileage for the days you will visit them so you have enough energy to enjoy them. If you have your heart set on a certain site or attraction, find out in advance which days of the week it is open, but still be prepared for changes. It made no sense to us which weekdays certain places were closed. In the summer, insect repellant is just as important as sunscreen. If you are into B&Bs, those with resident hosts who do not have other jobs tend to offer the best hospitality. Wear good supportive padded shortsI liked the Sugoi Evolution short. Change into fresh dry clothes as soon as you finish riding for the day. Wear good padded gloves. Wear eye protection. Pay attention at all trail crossings, not just public roads. If you live in Missouri, consider riding sections of the trail over a series of weekends. Get a good travel buddy; you may cycle for a few hours without seeing anyone else. While preparing for and biking our Katy Trail tour, what one of us didnt think of, the other one did. Finally, as Winston Churchill said, never give up.
Conclusion: Our days on the trail felt full and peaceful, even though I sometimes was so weary and uncomfortable it became hard to enjoy the scenery, and everything did not turn out according to plan. The dirt and the sweat and the discomfort were small compared to the marvel of the trail, the satisfaction of achieving something challenging and rare, and the gift of sharing an outdoor Missouri journey with Henry. I will remember our tour like a fantastic epic adventure. The soreness went away. In the future, I would like to ride sections of the trail on a few fall weekends.
Thank you to the Ted Jones family, the Missouri DNR, Raymond the bikekatytrail.com webmaster, and everyone along the way. It was awesome.
p.s. Henry's favorite shorts were Cannondale mountain bike shorts.