We are a couple of geezer-jocks, 57 and 66 years old, who set out on October 16th, 2006 to bike and camp the Katy. We have done several multi-day trips over the past few years, with this one being the first where we carried camping gear. We planned on taking about five days for the Katy but ended up having to abort the trip after two, the reason for which will be seen later.
We left the car at Lococo House in St. Charles on the 16th, with plans to stay a night there on our return. Rhona and Leo shuttled us all the way to the Clinton trailhead in their roomy, well-provisioned van. The cost was $240, well worth the price because it is a long drive, they provided a secure place to leave the car for several days and they are located just a couple of blocks from the end of the trail. We didnt eat many of the vans provisions because Rhona ensured that we were well fed even before starting out. We arrived in Clinton in the early afternoon and pushed off around 2:30. I was riding a Schwinn hybrid with all my gear packed on the bike and Jim was pulling a BOB trailer. The adrenaline rush of finally being on the trail helped us to move right along, with the temperature in the low to mid 60s. The trail can be a little soft in places between Sedalia and Clinton. We were told that this is the newer section of the trail and isnt as compacted as the older part. Also, be aware of ruts running parallel to the trail. They arent much wider than a bike tire. The trail is generally flat and in many places stretches straight ahead to the horizon. There are subtle long inclines and declines, however, which are more noticeable when you carry the loads we had.
|Camp in Green Ridge - click photo to enlarge
After 25 miles we came to Green Ridge, a tiny town (like most towns along the trail) that was listed in the Katy Trail Guide as having camping available. That proved to not be the case but fortunately the local policeman was sitting in his car by the town park as we rode in. He gave us permission to stay in the park for the night. Later he came back to get our names so the night shift wouldnt be suspicious. The parks bathrooms were locked so when nature called we had the choice of visiting the mini-mart (Caseys) across the street or walking about 200 yards to the trailhead where a bathroom with sink (cold water only) and toilet were available for trail users.
The next morning we ate breakfast at Burfs Bar and Grill, located behind the community center across the street from the park. The pair of ladies serving breakfast were very friendly and the food was good. Then we climbed on the bikes in a cool and misty 59 degrees expecting 70 degree weather later and a chance of rain. That morning temperature turned out to be the high for the day.
The trail to Sedalia is largely through farmland, with an occasional canopy of trees. Sedalia has a very nice museum at the old railroad depot, providing a nice break from the days ride. We also went in to warm up as the temperature was slipping back and we had encountered some wind and mist on the way in. The trail winds through the streets of Sedalia then heads back out into the countryside. Unfortunately the weather continued to deteriorate. As we approached Boonville the temperature was down to 44 with some gusty winds and we found ourselves more tired from hauling our loads than we expected to be.
A few miles before reaching the train station in Boonville (see photo in Dufurs book in the Boonville section) we saw a concentration of markers of orange tape plus a stick clearly pointing to a trail heading off to the right. There was no indication of what this was for and I feared that it might be a detour around a major obstacle up ahead. I called Missouri state parks and the Katy Trail phone numbers but they couldnt tell me what was going on. We learned later that the turn is a shortcut to Boonvilles concentration of motels, eliminating an arduous uphill ride of several miles from the train station. We would gladly have taken it, given our physical condition, if we had known where the trail led. Instead, we decided to push on.
I was starting to feel chilled so we knew we wanted four walls for sleeping instead of a tent. We continued to the end of the trail in Boonville and immediately started inquiring about lodging. The motels were way out of the way and the B&Bs were full. Even the casino was sold out that night. We were becoming more concerned when the driver of the casinos shuttle mentioned that she could take us to one of the local motels on her route to pick up gamblers. But we couldnt take the bikes. Again we got lucky and the security guy at the hotel allowed us to lock the bikes in the bike rack right in front of the casino. We loaded our gear in the van and headed off to what was one of the most eagerly anticipated nights in a warm motel that Ive ever had. The next few days weather reports called for more cold plus rain on what was scheduled to be the final day of our trip. We reminded ourselves that this trip was intended to be fun and not a survival challenge so we decided to cancel the last days of our venture. Leo shuttled us back to St. Charles the next day.
Our plan now is to return in mid-April for another biking-camping trip, starting in Boonville and riding only 35 to 45 miles a day to St. Charles. I hope to have a report with a happier ending at that time.
Part 2 - Return of the Geezers