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Ride Report: Hot Days and Comfortable Nights

By Sarah McGregor
Denver, Colorado

From Clinton to St. Charles, June, 2005
Polly’s Tea Room was one of many highlights of our Katy bike trip in June. Polly/Pauline is hospitable, her little café in Pilot Grove, right on the trail, is sweet, and her customers lovely. They looked to be in their 70’s, all friends of Pauline who offered her friendly advice for the betterment of the café and spoke with some serious Missouri accents, the same accent my grandfather Norwood, who left Jefferson City for Colorado in 1925, had. Sigh. It was wonderful.

My sweetie, Pete, and I bicycled the Katy from Clinton to St Charles in six days in June. We had cycled other rail trails—the Mickelson in South Dakota (don’t miss it!) and the Paul Bunyan in Minnesota—and because the Katy is the longest rail trail and my daughter and family live in Missouri, we decided to give it a try. Bicycling without traffic is the way to go—it’s relaxing and safe, you see the sights up close while tooling along at ten miles per hour and you have a chance to meet other like-minded folks as well as the locals. The Katy is a real asset for the state of Missouri. We met lots of people like Polly, including some innkeepers who bought us dinner to make up for a little miscommunication, saw turtles, cardinals (a treat for us westerners—we don’t have cardinals), wild turkeys, bobwhites, a deer and even an opossum (first time we’d ever seen one) and generally had a good time. Folks were friendly, accommodations comfy and the scenery beautifully verdant. We drank some fine Missouri wine and even heard some real Missouri music at Cooper’s Landing on a Sunday afternoon. We also got really hot, a fact that significantly added to our appreciation of showers and a clean bed at the end of the day. We were glad we had planned to stay in B&B’s (and one fantastic suite in Boonville called RiverView; check it out) and motels. Princess and Prince that we are, we were somewhat appalled when asked if we had camped out on the trip. No, cycling and sweating all day are enough tribulation for us; we like comfort in the evening.

If you’re planning a trip, check out the town-by-town information, great trip reports and comment forum on the website. They provide a wealth of useful information and advice. Not wanting to duplicate what’s already been said, I’ll summarize some points I think would be helpful.

First, equipment: the hybrid or “comfort” bikes we used were perfect—they have padded ergonomic saddles and shock absorbers under the seats and on the front forks. Tires are 700 X 35 c filled with “Tru Goo”. We really, really hate getting flats and the goo or something similar works well for preventing them. I also bought some Bontrager tires that have a Kevlar ridge down the middle. (Kevlar’s the stuff they use to make bullet-proof vests; a long-time bicycle commuter, I figure if my tires are bullet-proof that should be sufficient.) We have rear racks with two panniers each. The panniers are equipped with waterproof covers in case of rain—very nice—and are plenty adequate for a non-camping trip. Don’t use a backpack; the added weight is hard on your back and puts added, very unwelcome pressure on your derriere and other parts that come in contact with the saddle. Clipless pedals or toeclips with regular shoes improve your pedaling efficiency. It’s fun to have a cycling computer to keep track of speed and mileage. Padded shorts are uncomfortable for other uses, but very helpful for a long bike ride.

Second, speaking from our experience enduring Missouri heat in June, we would recommend taking the trip in spring or fall if at all possible. If you have to go in the summer, get a very early daily start, say 6:30 AM or earlier, to beat that miserable humid heat, and rest in the middle of the day.

Lodging along the trail was quite adequate and even fabulous in some cases (RiverView Suites in Boonville was absolutely first-rate, Cinagro Farms in Dutzow very nice). We booked in advance, but I’m almost certain that it’s not necessary as long as no festivals are going on. We had to stay out on the edge of town in Sedalia because of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. As far as daily distances, we’re in our 50’s, I’m an experienced cyclist but Pete not so much and we would be comfortable riding 50 miles per day or even a little more. And, although at first glance elevation change may appear negligible, west to east is best because it is downhill. If you have a speedometer, you can see the difference the downhills make in your speed. Especially good places to stop for the night based on available lodging, sights and activities are Sedalia, Rocheport, Boonville, Jefferson City, and Hermann. Augusta is also lovely, but only 26 miles from St. Charles.

Be sure to take some snacks with you. Some of the towns, such as Rocheport and Augusta, have really embraced the trail and have lots of services, but in other towns, particularly on the eastern end of the trail, shops and eateries may be closed some days. Restaurants along the trail are fairly pedestrian, but adequate. Try to eat at Les Bourgeois in Rocheport. It has excellent gourmet food, good wine and a world-class view of the Missouri from the bluff where it’s situated.

Thank you, Missouri, many, many thanks to Ray, the webmaster of www.bikekatytrail.com, a wonderful website, and to Brent Dufur, author of the Katy Guidebook, an invaluable resource, and to all the wonderful people who made and are making the Katy possible.

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