It Wasn’t 40 Days but It’s a Start

As promised, here’s a post-mortum on my grand adventure on 2 wheels from Jefferson City, MO to Saint Charles. It was definitely an interesting trip.  Some of it was about what I expected but there were some surprises too.

Kirkwood, MO Amtrak Station

I left Saint Louis (actually Kirkwood, a suburb) at 9:00 am Tuesday.  The ticket said 8:59, go figure.  Like they could really be that specific?  Anyway, the Amtrak train was the first surprise.  I haven’t been on a train since I was a teenager  so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  It was very nice.  The train itself was clean and pleasant.  There was a cafe car with drinks and snacks.  The seats are comfortable and the ride as smooth as glass.  It was a short two-hour ride.

One thing I remember from my last train ride to the state capitol, as a Cub Scout, was the steep hill from the Amtrak station to the capitol building.  It’s still there!  So I started my trip, at least the first two blocks, walking the bike.  I might mention that the weight of all the stuff I took

Missouri State Capitol

along made the bike very unstable.  Rather than roll backwards down the hill and into the Missouri River, I decided that it would be best to start my actual ride on level ground.  This part didn’t count anyway.  I zeroed my odometer when I was standing in front of the actual capitol.

0.00

After a very good cheeseburger at the Downtown Diner, the actual ride started a little after noon.

I ran into the first problem less than a mile into the ride.  The bike lane on the Missouri River bridge was closed.  Fortunately, the workers who had the lane closed were eating lunch and I was able to navigate around their giant crane, avoiding the life-threatening possibility of crossing the bridge in traffic.

Off to a great start

It’s a little over 2 miles from Jeff to the actual trail.  Once I got to the trail, I felt a lot like the Maytag repairman.  For the first 80 miles or so, I saw three people.  I saw two girls riding about ten minutes into the trail and one gentleman in a dress shirt riding a balloon-tired Schwinn on Wednesday, apparently a local.  Otherwise, it was just God, me, and the frogs.

Just me and the frogs

That was another strange thing.  I expected to see some wildlife, especially since there were no other people.  But the only animals I really saw were a lot of frogs hopping across the trail.

That first day was uneventful, except for breaking a spoke.  As per my master plan, or dumb luck with some help from the Holy Spirit, I made it to a small town called Bluffton around 4:00 where I planned to spend the night at the Steamboat Junction Campground.

Steamboat Junction Campground

Let me tell you about the Steamboat Junction Campground. First, it’s very nice.  Everything was clean, the sites were nice, and there wasn’t a soul in the place.  No other campers.  No owners.  Just me.  There’s a box where you put your camping fee.  There’s a refrigerator stocked with soda, water, and some snacks.  Again, you put your money in the slot.

I have to say, I’ve camped many a night in my life, but never completely alone.  Trust me, I was zipped up in my tent before it got dark.  It’s amazing how many noises there are in the woods when you’re the only one there.

Dinner Tuesday night was a celophane-wrapped sub sandwich from the honor-system fridge, some beef jerky, and a granola bar.

I survived the night, enjoyed more beef jerky and another granola bar for breakfast and headed out for day 2.

The highlight of day 2, at least the first half of day 2, was lunch in Hermann, MO.

Rivertown Restaurant, Hermann, MO

Hermann is a town of German heritage which is known for its wineries, about two miles off the Katy Trail.  Since it was before noon and since an unstable rider and an unstable ride is a bad combination, I settled for a barbecued pork steak, took some pictures, and was on my way.

The Katy Trail is a combination of wooded scenery, magnificent views of the Missouri River, sometimes just a few feet away, high bluffs, and a lot of small towns that have seen better days.  The trail is the former right-of-way of the MKT Railroad.  In the railroads’ hey day, small towns sprang up along its path.  When the railroad left, so did the people leaving in their wake some sad little towns.  I’m sure trail users generate a little revenue, mostly on the weekends, but there’s really not much going on there.

Missouri River

I had hoped I might be able to find a daily mass along the trail, but churches are few and far between.  So, the conversations I had with God were one-on-one.  But, you can’t look at a hundred-foot-high bluff that was carved by just water, or the mighty Missouri River making it’s way to it’s meeting with the Mississippi, to realize the might and power of God.  Then a butterfly landed on my hand at one point and stayed there for several minutes.  God’s existence is all around us in the biggest and the smallest things.

Jim's Bar & Grill, Tebbetts, MO

I had planned on spending Wednesday night in the town of Marthasville.  Unfortunately, the campground where I planned on staying is now an overgrown field.  Plan B was a nearby bed and breakfast.  Good news-it’s still open.  Bad news-there was no one there.

I stopped and enjoyed an ice cream sundae, the highlight of the second half of the day, sitting in the shade.  Lovely!

But time marches on, so I got out my trusty Katy Trail guide and saw that the next possible camping site was in Augusta, another eleven miles.  Oh well, more miles Wednesday meant fewer miles Thursday.

Klondike Park, Augusta, MO

Klondike Park in Augusta is a beautiful spot.  It’s a rarity in these parts, a campground in a county park.  Again, it was almost deserted.  There was another couple camped there, but I didn’t run into them until Thursday morning.  It was another honor-system facility with nice sites and an excellent shower/bathroom building right across the road from where I camped.

There wasn’t even a vending machine here so Wednesday dinner and Thursday breakfast were my new favorite beef jerky/granola bar combo plate, washed down with warm water.  Yum!  I may start a franchise.

Heading into the home stretch now with a short day thanks to my overly-long Wednesday ride of more than 55 miles (the longest I’ve ever ridden in one day), I was anxious to get this thing over with.  The only stop along the way was a biker bar (not the pedaling kind of biker, the Harley kind) in Defiance, where I enjoyed probably the best diet cola I’ve ever had along with a large ice water in the air conditioning.  The nice lady behind the bar filled my soda bottle with water and gave me a cup of ice for the final leg of the journey.

Defiance is the former home of Daniel Boone and a side trip was an option.  But, the air conditioned bar won out.  I can drive out to Defiance some other day.

As it turned out, Thursday was the hottest day of the trip and the stretch of the trail

The Home Stretch

from Defiance to Saint Charles is mostly in the sun, so in spite of being the shortest leg of the trip, the combination of the heat and my worn out body made it the toughest.  But the end was in sight and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish.

There were actually other people riding on this stretch of the trail.  In fact, I met two young men who were on their way from Cleveland, OH to California.  They were planning to average 100 miles per day.  Just what California needs, two more crazy people!  Seriously, I can’t imagine the conditioning and the stamina it must take to ride a bicycle that long and that far.

Just as I was beginning to feel pretty good about myself, these young men reminded me that we all do what’s within our capabilities and not to get an inflated ego over my “accomplishment”.  We don’t do anything by ourselves, whether it’s some kind of physical effort, mental effort, of spiritual effort.  I’ll never be able to do what those young guys are doing, mostly because I’m not young anymore.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did this week when I was their age either.  As my wife pointed out to me yesterday at breakfast, I’m no great physical specimen but I’m in better shape now than I was in my twenties.  We all have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Missouri's First Capitol (Notice bike in lower left corner)

End of the Trail

I’d say that’s the number one lesson I learned this week.  Here are the others, in no particular order.

1. ALWAYS CALL AHEAD. The campground that was open last year may be a vacant lot this year.

2. Everything weighs more than you think it does. Everything is farther than you think it is. Everything takes longer than you think it will.

3. Never, never, never take ice water for granted.


4. Everything is possible with God’s help.

If you’re interested, I’ve posted all my trip pix on my Facebook page.

There are a number of good resources if you’d like to consider a Katy Trail trip. Probably the most useful is RideKatyTrail.com. Brett Dufur’s Katy Trail Guide Book is also well worth looking into.

Final numbers

Day 1  38.0 miles, 3 hrs 22 min

Day 2  55.4 miles, 5 hrs 05 min

Day 3  30.0 miles 2 hrs 20 min

Total  122.4 miles  10 hrs 56 min

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