The Not so Dangerous
Dangers of Biking Across Missouri
From Clinton to St.
October 10-14 2005
Father: David (age
70), a builder living in Alabama
Daughter: Jennifer (age 28), a recent chemistry graduate
from University of Washington
Neither of us physically prepared for this bike trip. I hadn’t been on a bike for a year due to
knee surgery after a rugby injury, but I am an athlete and do exercise
regularly. My dad had attempted a bike
trip in June from Colorado to Indiana, but the altitude, the heat, and the
headwinds caused the trip to only last for about 10 days into the middle of
We both had 21-speed mountain bikes with 1 3/8” tires.
I carried two panniers, a bag at the handlebars, a sleeping
bag and ground cover, and one water bottle in a holder. My father carried two panniers, a bag on top
of the rack, a bag at the handlebars, and a sleeping bag and a ground cover,
plus two water bottles. We both carried
enough breakfast and lunch food for five days.
The rest of the gear was layers of clothes for cold mornings, hot days,
and potentially rainy rides, bike tools, and a first aid kit. We also carried a packet of information
about the towns, phone numbers for lodging and a cell phone (Cingular) to make
reservations while on the trail. We
didn’t want to make reservations beforehand since we weren’t sure of the
distances we would be able to travel each day and didn’t want to have a
stressful ride trying to make a destination that would be painful to attempt. We had rain in the forecast before the trip
and it is difficult to predict headwinds.
We brought the sleeping bags in case we couldn’t find a place to stay. We had heard rumors that the B&B’s were
booked in certain towns, and we also didn’t want to pay $150 for a room that
some B&B’s were quoting.
Day 1 From
Elkmont, Alabama to Clinton, Misourri
We woke up at 4 am to get on the road by 5 am to drive 6.5
hours to St. Charles, MO where we would leave our car. Several days before our bike trip we had
checked out Clinton, MO and St. Charles to try to figure out transportation and
where to leave our car. We heard that
going to St. Charles was downhill, so we decided to leave our car there and
ride our bikes from west to east. We
had not researched shuttle options, but found a bike store, Trailriders in
Clinton across from the Chamber of Commerce off the town square where the
owners offered to drive the 300 plus miles to St. Charles to pick us up and
bring our bikes and gear to Clinton.
We arrived early in St. Charles and looked for a safe place
to park our car. Along Riverside there
is free parking, but we were slightly afraid of getting towed. We called the St. Charles Police and asked
if it was safe for us to park our car in Public Parking for a week. They took down information about the car and
said they would watch it for us.
At 2 pm sharp our shuttle, the Trailriders from Clinton,
showed up with a lovely van, helped us pack up and drove us to our hotel, the
Best Western. It was an excellent shuttle
service. We were their first customers
and they hope to start a regular shuttle from Sedalia to Clinton. Later during our trip, we learned that
another option for doing a one-way trip would be riding Amtrak from St. Louis
to Sedalia where we would be able to hire the Trailriders to shuttle us to the
beginning of the Katy Trail.
Day 2 Clinton to
Pilot Grove (61 miles)
Waking up at 6 am, we had an early delicious breakfast
served by the hotel and got on the road around 7:30 am. The host of the hotel provided us with a map
and the safest route by road to the beginning of the Katy Trail. It was foggy and pretty cold. Dad was wearing pants and a jacket. I wore bike shorts and a long sleeve shirt
with a fleece vest but within fifteen minutes, I was hot.
We saw a lot of animals and not so many people. We met one person who had been on the trail
for 14 days walking, sometimes staying in a B&B, sometimes in a campground
if they would rent him a tent.
By 10 am, the sun was out and we were hot, shedding all of
our layers to the bare minimum. Water
was easily accessible at the trailheads that were about 10 miles apart. At the lovely Sedalia Depot, I bought
postcards. It is hard to find postcards
along the trail, but at each town there is a post office and mailbox. I brought my own postcards knowing that it
might be difficult to find some.
We ate about four times during the day with our own food
trying to keep up our energy since today was a long ride. We didn’t stop at any of the stores we saw
along the route. We had called mom around lunchtime to make reservations for us
in Pilot Grove. We had thought we would
be able to make it to the bigger city of Boonville, but by after lunch we were
beat, biking five miles and resting.
Dad said, “What sane person would ride this much?”
We arrived at the Flowers B&B around 4 pm. We had averaged about 10 mi/hr during the
day. A lovely hostess guided us to our
room which had a full size bed and a cot for me. She told us there was a bar that served food and a store around
the corner. Since we really don’t like
sandwiches and fries off of the grill, we went to the store and got beans and
cheese. We used the microwave at the
Three older men were also staying at the B&B. They were biking the trail round trip
commenting that they enjoy riding on pavement better than the hard-packed dusty
gravel. You can make better time and
see more things since long stretches of the Katy Trail are surrounded by trees
making it difficult to see the landscape.
Also, one of the guys with skinny tires had had 8 flat tires already.
Day 3 Pilot Grove
to Hartsburg (50 miles)
We again woke at 6 am and had a B&B breakfast of cereal,
fruit and juice at 6:30 am. We were on
the rode by 7:30 am. We decided it was
better to be cold in the mornings riding in the fog than arriving in the late
evening trying to find our way around in the dark in towns that close early.
By 10 am after riding about 20 miles, dad was beat. It was hot and we were peddling against
wind. We didn’t meet many people and
didn’t see as many animals; although, I almost ran over a snake. That scared me. Around 2 pm, we came to a crossroads in the trail, one path
leading to Columbia City, another path leading to Hartsburg. We sat on a bench and had to make a
decision. Do we want to go to Columbia,
the big college town with plenty of places to stay which is about 8.8 miles
away getting off the trail, or do we want to ride more of the trail, 16 miles
to Hartsburg where there might not be a place to stay? We called the Globe in Hartsburg but it was
booked. The hostess gave us another
number to the Hartsburg Inn where we reserved a room.
Arriving in Hartsburg around 4 pm to freshly baked chocolate
chip cookies, we unpacked our bags into a primitive B&B that had 2 twin
size beds and a queen size bed on concrete floors. The shower was awesome though, hot and strong. We then ate spaghetti at Dotty’s cafe, a big
restaurant filled with only us and two other groups. We heard one of the groups talking about not finding a place in
Hartsburg for the night. It sounded
like they were going to have to ride a pretty long distance to find a place to
stay and it was already getting late.
There wasn’t a store nearby.
I wrote postcards out on the porch of the B&B getting bit
by mosquitos the whole time.
Day 4 Hartsburg
to Rhineland (47 miles)
For breakfast, we cooked the provided oatmeal and popcorn in
the microwave that was also provided by the B&B. We also had orange juice and could have had coffee, tea, and hot
chocolate. Today’s ride was easier and
we were going pretty fast. The only
problem was trail washouts. Definitely,
along this part of the trail send your stronger bike first because the deep
ditches that come one after another surprise you and it is impossible to slow
down before hitting them. We heard
rumors that someone had broken several spokes.
We met a couple from Alaska during the ride and learned that
they were staying at the Doll House in Rhineland. We weren’t sure where we were going to stay. Hermann was an option except we would have
to call the police to escort us over the bridge. Mom was able to make reservations for us at the Doll House.
Other than the obstacles 10-20 tennis ball sized black
walnuts in certain spots and the bathtub ditches, we arrived quite early to
Rhineland around 2 pm. The lovely
hostess had 100 warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for us. The B&B is an amazing house built in the
1920’s and has comfortable huge beds and great places in the living room and
kitchen to just sit and talk, to read and write. Dad and I used the laundry to wash out our clothes. There was a bar with bar food across the
street, but dad asked the hostess if she was going to the store which was 5
miles away. She brought us back beans
and cheese for dinner.
Day 5 Rhineland
to St. Charles (66 miles)
A huge homemade breakfast with eggs, potatoes, cherry
pastry, a fruit plate, bacon was waiting for us at 7 am. Usually breakfast is served at 9 am, but we
requested an earlier breakfast. That
breakfast provided us a lot of energy.
We had asked mom the night before if she would be able to
find us a place to stay in between Rhineland and St. Charles, but it sounded
like it was going to cost over $100 or we would have to ride several miles off
of the trail to the freeway where we could find a hotel.
We were riding fast along this part of the trail getting as
fast as 16 mi/hr averaging around 12 mi/hr.
Either the breakfast fueled our speed, we were getting stronger, or the
trail was downhill. The trail was also
very busy. A lot of families and groups
of people were riding. The trailheads
didn’t have water, but I am sure you would be able to find water in the small
towns. Because we were going so fast,
we decided to ride the whole way into St. Charles.
We arrived around 3:30 pm and packed up our car to drive to
the hotel near I-70. We were given
coupons for a free buffet at the local casino.
We thought, “Wow, after such a long hot ride, a free buffet.” We went over around 6 pm and stood in a huge
line to fill out the paperwork to get the buffet and then stood in a huge line
in front of the restaurant where we were told it was too crowded and we
wouldn’t be able to get in until 9 pm.
That made dad mad and he went and talked to some people where we found
out that the $16 coupons could be used at any of the restaurants in the
casino. We went to each of them and
where some of them had hour waits while some of them had 15 minute waits. We finally got seated and ate until we were
refueld happy again.
Thunderstorms are not bikers’ friends, but at each trailhead
there is a covered patio where you could stay sheltered if bad weather did
Places to stay
Having a cell phone was very helpful. Also, there were quite a few campgrounds
scattered about. We were successful at
not having reservations, but if this week had been busier we might have been up
a creek without a paddle. The towns are
tiny and it would seem likely that they could fill up quite easily. Bring cash and checks. Not all of the places take credit cards.
If you like bar food, you probably can find food. We never went into any stores except for
one. Hours are funny in small
towns. I think it was good that we
brought our own food especially since you don’t want to be stranded somewhere
without any energy having to ride another 10 miles to see if maybe they might
have a store. I was looking forward to
a snow cone in Augusta, but the place was closed.
Water was easy the first day since it was available at the
trailheads. The last day especially
between Augusta and St. Charles are hard places to find water. The trailheads are not at little towns anymore,
but are parking lots that do not have water. If it is hot, I would consider carrying
more water or else you will have to go searching for it into the quiet towns
where the post office doesn’t open until 2 pm, restaurants only open sometimes
in the evening, stores are hard to find.
Watch out for snakes and turtles along the route as well as
black walnuts and trenches. I would not
suggest riding the trail at night. Get
an early start. One couple arrived at
the B&B around 9:30 pm. I bet they
were hungry and had been through some jaw breaking bumps.
I found the Katy Trail to be a safe way to travel across
Missouri without being worried about being hit by cars to see the landscape and
to feel the weather of the region.
There are lots of places to stop, lots of things to see and read. There are a few long stretches of just
riding like on a freeway, an easy road with trees blocking your view of
anything interesting. We were probably
a week or two too early for the fall colors which would have been amazing. The most interesting part of the trip was
meeting people, meeting the people traveling on the trail and meeting the
people feeding and providing places to stay for the bike riders. That was truly the best part!