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Ride Report: Tips and Impressions from Two Californians

By Marty & Joe

From St. Charles to Clinton, May 29-June 4, 2005
If you don’t want to read all my comments below, perhaps you’ll want to glance at these four tips based on our very enjoyable experience:
1) It’s fun to adventure from east to west as Lewis and Clark did when they headed out; however, I recommend if you’re doing the whole trail that you start in Clinton. The stretch between Clinton and Sedalia is the straightest and has the least varied scenery, so I think it’s better to do that section when you’re fresh and the trail itself is novel.
2) If you plan to picnic, buy your lunch supplies at the first store you see, maybe even before you leave the town where you spent the night. The KATY goes through very rural countryside, and stores are limited. Towns are miniscule, many virtually abandoned after the floods of ’93 and ’95.
3) If you have a cell phone, definitely bring it. Although Cingular makes it almost impossible for a Verizon user to make calls in some parts of the trail, generally our cell phone was a tremendous convenience in calling ahead to reserve B & Bs.
4) The trail is level and easy to ride. The heat makes the biggest challenge, seconded by wind. Get up early and get started before that midwestern climate starts beating on you too much.

I found the bikekatytrail.com site so helpful that I want to “pay back” by sharing recommendations and cautionary notes based on my husband’s and my experience cycling the KATY May 29-June 4, 2005. The site has links and contact info for all the places I mention here. I wish you a great trip!

In St. Charles we give a thumbs-up to Geery’s B & B on North Fifth. The owner is the widow of one of the Lewis and Clark re-enactors, and she has great stories to share. She also agreed to keep our bike boxes and suitcases in her garage while we rode the trail.

In Defiance, the Katy Trail Bike Rentals Shop folks were very helpful, and other cyclists we met there were eager to chat and share tips about the trail. There’s a Ma and Pa café across the street where you can get pizza and sandwiches.

We spent a night at The Little House B & B in Marthasville. It’s very nice, but watch out! There was no functioning restaurant, and the ONLY place to get food was a gas station convenience store across the highway. We bought the best they had: four frozen Stouffer entrees that we microwaved. Another couple we met later had also stayed there but arrived after the convenience store had closed, so all they had for dinner was cereal provided by the B & B for breakfast. We learned a lesson – ALWAYS find out what the dinner options are before booking a place for the night.

Recommendation: If you like history, check out the Deutscheim tour in Hermann. For $2.50 each, in 90 minutes we learned a lot about the impact of German immigrants in the area. To gain access to Hermann via the bridge across the Missouri, we had to leave the trail and push our bikes up a highway embankment, but no big deal. The narrow bridge has no room for cyclists. When a motorcyclist came along, I “prayed” to him and gestured that he pull up next to us on the side of the road. I asked him if he’d escort us over the bridge, which he cheerfully did. I’d read that one needs to hire a shuttle to get across; I don’t think so. A little friendly resourcefulness worked fine for us. When we were ready to return to the trail, we happened to see an ambulance idling at the side of the main street in Hermann. We asked if they would escort us; they said they’d call the town cop to do so, and within minutes he was there with a smile. With lights flashing, he drove behind us to keep the cars from trying to pass. Pedaling over the Missouri was exhilarating!   
View from Les Bourgeios, Rocheport
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View from Les Bourgeios, Rocheport  

In Bluffton we stayed at Doug Rendleman’s B & B. It’s a semi-restored old farmhouse, and Doug is an informal host who cooks well. He described the place as having “no doilies,” and he has three rules: “No smoking, no meanness, and no messing with my record collection.” We found him and the other two guests to be very entertaining, and I’d recommend this stop if you don’t mind conditions that may not be as hygienic or deluxe as a Hilton, but it’s loaded with local color.
If you’re new to Missouri and want to learn about the state, I highly recommend visiting the State Capital. The bridge over the river there has a wide bike lane shared by cyclists going both directions. The traffic whizzed by, but cars stayed in their lanes and we in ours, so it was perfectly uneventful. The Capital tour was interesting, as were the varied displays, busts of notable Missourians, and outstanding murals. We stayed at the Jefferson Inn B & B. This was the first time we had a private bath attached to our room. The B & B has free internet access. This innkeeper, like the others we met, was happy to chat about the trail, its development, and her experiences with other riders. Even in the capital, restaurants are kind of rare. The innkeeper recommended two, but one was closed. The other (Madison Café) offered hearty fare, a non-smoking section, and reasonable prices.

Katy Trail Bed & Bikefest, Rocheport
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Katy Trail Bed & Bikefest, Rocheport  
   At Rocheport we stayed at the Dufurs’ Bed and Bikefest, the most reasonably priced of all of them and delightfully situated in the picturesque town. We sampled wine and enjoyed a fine meal at Les Bourgeois. This can be accessed from the trail itself via a steep 3/10 mile path that heads uphill from the KATY just east of Rocheport. However, a cyclist who looked like an Olympic athlete told us she found the trail very hard, so we opted for the gentler climb on the highway. It was easy and not far, maybe a half-mile east of Rocheport. This meal was the closest to gourmet of all the food we found in towns along the trail.

In Sedalia we stayed at Bothwell’s. It is a beautifully restored historic hotel, and it also has internet access. KATY trail riders get a 10% discount. The continental breakfast in the morning was disappointing, but I’d rather be in the historic part of town than in a motel just like any other on a highway.

From Sedalia we pedaled to Clinton, a ride that seemed long because we got a late start while waiting out tornado warnings. The tornadoes never materialized, fortunately, and this day – like all the others – provided lots of sunshine. This stretch of the trail is very straight, and the sun and wind joined forces to cause much sweat and more focus on the trail milage markers than we usually cared about. We did not find any B & B in Clinton, and upon the recommendation of a local, stayed at the brand new Hampton Inn. It was very inexpensive, the breakfast was fine, and David Lawson (Katy Trail Shuttle Service) picked us up promptly at 9 to drive us and our bikes back to Geery’s in St. Charles, a 3 ½ hour trip, for which we paid $250; it was the best deal we found for a shuttle. If we’d had a third or fourth cyclist to join us, we could have split the fee, but cyclists were rare on the Sedalia/Clinton stretch, and they were all going west to east.

We had a great time. Every morning began with, “It’s another beautiful day, let’s go riding!” and it ended with a glass of wine and pleasant anticipation of another day of simplicity and closeness to nature -- varied and beautiful birds, tortoises, snakes, deer, squirrels, and cyclists in all shapes, sizes and ages. I hope more trails like the KATY become available. In the mean time, happy cycling!
Snapping turtle
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Cardinal at Les Bourgeios, Rocheport
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"Cardinals and indigo buntings were the most common birds we saw on the trail, looking like ornaments decorating the trees"

Dust-T Plates Dusty Panniers
Good description of the trail Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge

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