Note: We are writing this 2 days after doing the ride, but with the help of some notes Natalie took during the actual day.

It turns out it was a good thing that we stayed in a hotel. An intense storm came through during the night as evidenced by multiple trees down across the trail. The hotel wasn’t super nice, but it was air conditioned, we had showers, and there was a breakfast. The breakfast itself wasn’t great, but it was a good change from trail breakfast. We slept in a little bit and got out slightly later than the previous two days, leaving around 8:30 AM.

The last ride day of a multi-week trip like this is often full of mixed emotions. We’re sad to have the ride end, but we are also tired. The trail was a little bit wet from the storm the night before. This made the ground spongy. Even though we were exerting ourselves as hard as we could, sometimes on level ground, we still had to ride in our lower gears. It was slow hard progress. And we had a rough day ahead of us because we knew we had to do almost 80 miles. There weren’t any camping/lodging options after the first 20-mile segment. So we were committed to ride to Lake Winnebago, regardless of how many hours it took. 

This segment of the trail has more climbing than most of the rest of the ride. That, combined with the wet trail conditions and our tired legs, required  additional mental and physical effort. This was also a day where there were few places to purchase food along the way. We only found two gas stations in which we could buy Gatorade and some small snacks, but we were very grateful for those. So on the feast-or-famine scale, this day was a little bit more toward famine. Luckily we had trail snacks with us, and we had eaten enough the day before to compensate. Plus we ate our last pickle mid-ride. Pickle magic!

As mentioned previously, the storm that hit the night before had left many trees down across the trail. We went over some, under some, and around some. We decided that on our next trip will need to pack a chainsaw. Haha 

Even though the rain from the night before had made the trail wet, the weather was very good. It was overcast for most of the ride, and the temperature didn’t get above 80, which is better than the low 90s and hot sun we had the very first day of our ride.

A big chunk of the ride we did today, about 45 miles, is called The Rock Island Spur. It is a more recently developed connector from the Katy Trail to Kansas City, Missouri. It is beautiful, but it is not as flat as most of the Katy Trail. When we do this again we’ll start in Clinton instead. The Rock Island Spur would be a good section on a mountain bike or at least with less gear. Not that the trail is super rough, it’s just more up and down.

Critter notes: Pete saw a coyote casually cross the trail early in the ride. Natalie removed one big creepy tick that was crawling on her shin. We both saw many cute, slow, and shy turtles crossing the trail.

We left the Rock Island Spur in Pleasant Hill around dusk. We rode the final segment (about 8 miles) on mostly surface roads. Several times throughout the ride, I had suggested to Natalie that we should ride a segment on the roads. Natalie consistently voted for us to stay on the trail. Being on the road for this segment to Zack and Mary’s house reminded me that I should always listen to Natalie. The rail-grade trail is so nice because there are not as many hills up and down. As soon as we got off the trail and on to the roads, we encountered frequent short climbs followed by short-lived (albeit appreciated) descents. With 100 lbs of gear it was really hard to climb, especially at the end of such a long slow day. We were happy there weren’t too many cars, and it was fun to start to see a few fireflies.

We made it to Mary’s house around 9:30 PM. We were both exhausted, filthy, and stinky. Mary wisely encouraged us to jump into their lake, which was a perfect idea. Even Natalie, who was hesitant at first, agreed when she was in the water that it felt wonderful. The temperature was just right, and it felt good to start to get the sticky sunscreen and bug spray rinsed off our bodies. Mary and Zack have an outdoor shower with hot water for rinsing off after people swim in the lake. This felt like heaven. After that we soaked in their hot tub. Biking nearly 80 miles wasn’t the hardest thing I did all day – it was convincing myself to get out of the hot tub. We slept like rocks.

Our total mileage for the day was under 80 miles, but it felt like a lot more due to the trail conditions and slow pace. We rode for about 13 hours including our stops. 

Thinking back on the entire 600-mile ride, and despite the difficulties, we are excited to do the Katy Trail again. However, we will probably do it in shorter segments. While it is fun to get a lot accomplished by riding far, I think we will enjoy it more if we do not ride 12-hour days. (We always say this, and we always forget it.) There are some especially beautiful places in the middle of the ride when we could have slowed down and enjoyed it more. We also re-learned the lesson that we should carry less gear. Next time we will reduce our load enough that we can leave the trailer at home. We both agree the best thing about this ride is the absence of cars. The entire Katy Trail is dedicated to non-motorized travelers. It was amazing to be away from traffic for so much time. For much of the trail, beautiful tree cover provides great shade and scenery. We loved the small towns and farmland, especially in the middle segments. There is satisfaction in accomplishing something difficult together. We learned more about ourselves, and we grew closer as we worked together to make this happen. It was a great adventure!

Facilities P.S.: One nice thing about the Katy Trail is that approximately every 10-15 miles there are trailheads with pit toilets and even sometimes flush toilets. On the western half of the trail, many of these also have water either at a pump or inside the outhouse. Pete frequently used this water to soak his shirt and hat to keep cool. Additionally, there are many segments of the trail which, thanks to remoteness and tree cover, are private enough that we could stop and pee pretty much whenever we needed to. That is actually very helpful. Natalie decided that someday she should write a book about all our bike trips and call it “Oh, the Places I’ve Peed.” :-)

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