I joined 6 friends from Virginia on May 7, 2019, to bike the 240-mile Katy Trail in central Missouri. Once the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, the abandoned line is now a Missouri state park stretching from near St. Louis in the east to the rolling hills of western central Missouri in the west.
The trail is surfaced with crushed limestone, which when rolled and tamped is a smooth, forgiving surface. When it’s wet, it’s a bit like wet sand: not a pleasant surface to push a bike across.
Our ride began at the eastern terminus, the tiny farm junction of Machens off Rt. 94, east of St. Charles, MO. Bob, Mac, and I unloaded our bikes with the help of friend Jeanine, and set off west with the sun at our back and the flood-stage Missouri River off to our left a mile or so.
Here are my notes from our first day’s trail log:
Started at Machens, about 0945. Mile Marker (MM) 26.9.
• Rough, loose gravel trail. Detour at MM 34 for 2 miles to MO Rt. 94. Easy ride on 94 to St. Charles and a return to the Katy. Courteous drivers on -94 gave us a wide berth.
• We took a break and met our four Richmond friends who would be cycling the trail with us at the Bike Stop Café in St. Charles on the Katy. What a friendly place for coffee or a bike tool or accessory. I should have stocked up on spare inner tubes.
• Stopped in Defiance, MO on the Katy for lunch at the Defiance Road House. Friendly people, good food, and great service at our outdoor tables from Jen.
• Near end of day, detoured through Klondike sand quarry park from about MM 64. Long climb up the bluffs, past a water-filled quarry, and then a big downhill to the Katy again.
• Rolled into Augusta at 3:45 pm and found, up a steep hill from the river, the Lindenhof Bed and Breakfast. Kathy Murphy was the masterful proprietor. Over at the the Red Brick Inn, we met Chris Cassidy and Peggy, his girlfriend. Another astronaut on the Katy? Small world!
- Augusta to Rhineland, after a fantastic breakfast in Augusta on Wed. morning at the Lindenhof: shirred eggs with cheese and spinach and sausage. Cinnamon roll with icing. Baked plums and yogurt, coffee, and OJ. Wow! I hope the day’s ride worked off the calories.
- Stopped in Treloar for lunch at the Treloar Bar and Grill. Photo by the giant corn cob. Steak sandwich with friendly service and great prices.
- Visited Daniel Boone’s gravesite outside town off Boone Monument Road.
- Pedaled into McKittrick after 35 miles, and said so long to Drums and Pentersons as they rode across the Missouri into Hermann. We rode on another 4.5 miles in a steady drizzle to Rhineland, pushing hard into the wind and making only 9 mph. Got in to the Doll House B&B just in time, ahead of steady rain. I was thoroughly damp, but not soaked. Ken and Melissa, owners, provided private rooms and bath within their cozy old farmhouse. Most of the town had moved up the bluff after the 1993 flood.
- Dinner was at The Corner Café, a tidy bar and grill with good BBQ sandwiches. Clean and friendly.
The pioneer and warrior died nearby and was originally buried here with wife Rebecca. Most evidence indicates the pair were moved to Kentucky later in the 1800s. This grave site and cemetery are about a quarter mile from the Katy Trail.
Day 3, Rhineland to Hartsburg, MO:
It had rained most of the evening before, but the day was dry at the start as we prepared to leave Rhineland after a good breakfast at The Doll House. Outside, I found I had a flat rear tire. First of three that day. But I got a new tube in and pumped the tire up with Ken’s compressor to get ready. Our four friends staying in Hermann rolled up about 9:30 am after a 6-mile warm-up. Then we were ready for our own 50-miler into Hartsburg that day.
My log entries for Day 3, Thursday, 5/9/19:
- I had a flat on the back tire to begin the day, and replaced the tube and pumped up tire with Ken’s shop compressor. Started from Rhineland when our party rode up from Hermann at 0930.
- Passing Portland I fixed another flat with a patch on the rear tire. I had no cell signal and couldn’t get through to those up front, so I got the patch going and was about to pump up the tire when Mac rode up; he had come back to help. He rode 4 extra miles as a result.
- Got third flat on front tire 1 mile east of Mokane. Used my hand pump to get myself into Mokane and lunch at the general store. Had a tuna sandwich and some marshmallow-and-cake snowballs (I deserved them) there while we fixed the flat with Mac’s tube. Bought air from gas station compressor across street.
- Had to make 2 detours onto Rt. 94 around a rockslide and water on the trail.
- A few miles out from Hartsburg, our partners peeled off to go into Jefferson City for the night. We rolled on and found Mile Marker 147, the halfway mark on our ride, about an hour short of finishing on Day 3 in Hartsburg.
- Cloudy in low 60s. Rode on to Hartsburg for total of 52 miles that day to Eber Haus B&B. Dinner at 35th on Main, a friendly cafe. Split a burger with Mac and Bob.
The quiet of this state park gave us an opportunity to ride up on a pair of bald eagles.
Day 4: Friday, May 10, 2019.
We spent the night at the Eber Haus Inn in Hartsburg, a very small river town (the river is a good mile away across its flood plain, but it used to flow at the front door.). It was chilly enough overnight to run the gas heater in our bunk room, but a great breakfast of egg, cheese, and ham frittata warmed us up. Thanks to Sarah over at the Inn. Our friends from Richmond were staying overnight in Jefferson City, so they began the day a good 9 miles behind us as we set out for Boonville on the south side of the Missouri, where the Katy diverges at last from the Missouri River. On the route for the day was Rocheport, where a tunnel took the railroad under the riverside bluffs; we hoped to be there for lunch.
Here’s my trail log for Day 4:
- Left after a good breakfast in our 5-bed, 1 bath inn. Had a ham and cheese frittata along with muffins and fruit.
- Dry and sunny and cool, in 50s with a bit of wind. Jacket and pants on in morning to stay warm. 35.5 miles to Boonville. No flats! Saw Lewis and Clark cave.
IMG_3130 (Movie of Lewis and Clark Cave)
- Made it to Rocheport for lunch at Merriweather’s café and bike shop. Had a gyro sandwich and replenished my CO2 cartridge supplies at bike shop. Our friends from Jefferson City caught up with us as we were leaving Rocheport after lunch.
- Sunny, partly cloudy, cool in upper 50s in afternoon.
- After lunch, made it to the Rocheport tunnel just west of town, blessedly without a detour. The crews were just opening the trail through the tunnel after crews cleared a rock slide. We were the first to go through that day.
- 12 more miles from there on into Boonville. Crossed big Boone’s Lick Bridge over the Missouri as we left Franklin to cross to the south bank. Met Linda Godwin (my STS-59 crewmate) at 3 pm at the Boonville depot. Left our bikes overnight with the chamber of commerce ladies in the depot, next to the Champion Bicycle shop.
Day 5: Boonville to Sedalia, MO. Saturday, May 11, 2019
Our weary cyclists spent the night at Linda’s home in nearby Columbia, enjoying a spicy Thai dinner and some great ice cream around the corner at Sparky’s ice cream parlor downtown. You can’t miss the eclectic art covering every inch of the walls.
The forecast called for a wet Saturday morning. It was raining at 7 am, so we waited at Linda’s house for dry weather to catch up with us. After making us a lazy, delicious breakfast, Linda drove us over to Boonville to meet up with our Richmond friends–Cathy, Bob, Jim, and Nanci–and our bikes. Andy at Champion Cycles sold us T-shirts and lent us a bike pump from his shop, which impressed us as a friendly and capable shop.
- We rolled out at 1115 am, after the rain stopped, heading up the long slope to Pilot Grove. Locals called this portion of the railway “Lard Hill,” because the story goes that after a trackside woman’s pig was killed by a train, and the Katy turned her claim down, she began greasing the rails nearby with pig fat. Enough locomotives became stuck on the uphill that the railroad finally settled. We found the uphill steady and endless, making only 8 mph on the grade.
- I had two flats before Pilot Grove on the Katy, both on the front tire. Had another after lunch on the way into Clifton City.
- The latter half of the ride–still uphill–was damp and cool. Perhaps the temp topped 60, but not by much.
- Because the Katy is closed off on the eastern side of town, we took a road detour into Sedalia of 2-3 miles on pavement. A relief, actually, to be off the soggy crushed limestone. By the time we reached town, those three flats had me ready for new tires. Cathy phoned around for a bike shop and worked a miracle: Ebby at Pro-Velo Cycles in downtown Sedalia sold me two new tires and installed them expertly, even after his normal shop hours. Great work.
- We rode another couple of miles to the hotel, and arrived at the Comfort Inn around 6:50 pm.
- Dinner at LeMaire’s Cajun Seafood, which served up some good gumbo and fried okra. Bought light gloves at Lowes, anticipating the cold ride the next morning. There’s also a Walmart about a quarter mile off. Mac grabbed some extra gloves for me, as I’d not bought enough for everyone. They were a finger-saver the next morning. On to our final day and the run into Clinton on the Katy’s western end.
Day 6 on the Katy Trail: Sunday, May 12, 2019
Temps had dropped into the low 50s with a trace of drizzle as we departed the Comfort Inn (Sedalia Station) on the west side of Sedalia. I was wearing rain pants, two jackets, and gloves. Here we are toasting our final launch. Bob Gleich surprised us with a bottle of champagne he’d carried over five days of the Katy Trail in his panniers.
- The ride from Sedalia to Clinton was about 36 miles. With the road detours leaving the hotel that morning (2+ miles uphill to the Katy), it was closing in on 40 miles.
- Set off in 50 degree cold with a sprinkle. I rode in rain pants, two jackets, and light gloves (thanks to Mac for buying them).
- Ride was mostly up hill despite cresting the highest point of 955’ MSL just east of Windsor. Even then the trail seemed at best, level, and often up hill, making only 8 mph of headway due to wind and soft trail surface.
- Stopped for coffee in Windsor at the Sidetrack café. Cup of coffee, $1. Service? You get what you pay for. They were swamped. We lit out for the trail after warming up with coffee.
- MM 229.1 at start, and then 264.6 at Clinton, at end.
- New tires did the trick: no flats! I rode at the rear most of the way; my tires felt too soft at 60 psi.
- At 1:15 pm, all 7 of us rolled into Clinton to the trail’s end, and there was Dave Browning waiting for us with his pickup. We loaded our bikes in his truck bed, and our 4 Richmond friends left on a van shuttle back to St. Charles for the night. We conquered the Katy!
We’d easily ridden 250 miles in 6 days. Only a couple of hours of steady drizzle hit us on the trail in all that time. But we had some chilly winds in our face, six flat tires for me, all outweighed by the beautiful scenery of Missouri, the rich history of the region, and the good company along the trail. See you down the road on two wheels.