Family and Friends

Our last day in the Kansas City are was a nice relaxing one. We woke up early and went water skiing with Zack, Mary, and Eliza. They are all amazing water skiers. It was beautiful glassy water and such a great way to start the morning. We ate breakfast, then headed over to visit with Dan, Hannah, and Jo. We loved visiting with them and getting to see their home. Dan was especially proud of his garage. He let me (Pete) try his motorized skateboard. Let’s just say that didn’t work out the first try very well. The board went fast, but my body stayed in the same place, with no feet. I hit the ground fast and hard, but fortunately with only a bruised ego. We went out to lunch with them and ordered our normal cycling portions. The gentleman behind the counter suggested perhaps we’d ordered too much food. When the plates arrived, we realized he was  correct. Luckily we still had our cycling stomachs and were able to polish off almost everything we ordered. In the afternoon we went to the home of our good friends, the Messners, visited with them through the evening, and stayed there overnight. It was so good to reconnect.

Today we are driving to meet Sam in Colorado Springs. There we will trade trucks. We’re getting the old GMC back, and Sam is getting the Honda. We are looking forward to some time with him before heading back to Utah. It will be nice to be home, and back to our normal lives, but we will miss this a lot. It is so nice to be able to focus on each other and spend time with each other without all of the normal distractions surrounding us. We’re not sure what our next bike adventure will be, but we already look forward to it!

Last Ride: Sedalia to Lake Winnebago

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.” 🙂

Hartsburg to Sedalia

Our sleepover in the Hartsburg Volunteer Park gazebo was noneventful. Thankfully it was a quiet night other than the coyotes howling and the dogs barking at them. There was a baseball game going on nearby, but it wasn’t a problem. 

It was a warm humid night and we both didn’t need sleeping bags until early morning. We had the whole park to ourselves, but that’s not saying much because the park was probably a quarter acre. However, it was nice not to have to share a quarter acre.

The park had flush toilets nearby, and given the amount of liquid we both drank before bed, we had a few trips to make during the night.

Between 4 and 5 AM the birds woke us up. It doesn’t help that Natalie‘s alarm clock at home is bird noises. I think we’ve trained our brains to wake up when we hear birds. But we were hoping to get an early start so waking up early fit into our plans. (And the birds’ singing was beautiful and peaceful.)

We ate breakfast of quinoa with raisins, granola, and oranges, then packed up and took off riding by 7:10 AM.

A little over an hour into a ride we met a bike tour guide at a trail head. He gave us much-needed chain lube. As we talked we found out he had hiked a 1000-mile trail starting in Florida with John, the guy we had ridden with a few days ago – the one who runs the KT Caboose trailside diner.

On each of our rides there have been people we have met that have helped us in different ways. It is one of the aspects of riding that we like.

We made it to Rocheport around 10:30 and again ate at the Meriwether Café. We started with breakfast, because after all it was 10:30. And then immediately upon finishing breakfast we ordered lunch and ate that too. A couple hours later we were in Boonville, and so Natalie had another lunch and I had another breakfast.

After Boonville, the ride involved more of a climb, as we left the Missouri River basin. It’s still trail grade but with steeper ups and downs, which of course takes more energy and slows us down for the up part. 

One other thing we have been eating on our ride over the last few days are big pickles. They come individually wrapped. I know it sounds gross, but we first drink the pickle juice. It’s like we’re drinking sea salt and vinegar, but our bodies are craving it. Then we share the big pickle. We have one left for tomorrow. When Connie saw the package originally, in a photo, she thought it was a pickle-flavored Capri Sun drink pouch. That is what it looks like.

Our ride today was hot and sunny. Around 5 PM  We arranged for a hotel in Sedalia. We made it there a little after 8 pm. Once again our ride lasted beyond 12 hours. By the end of our ride today, we were both feeling pretty tired. We rode about 76 miles. Since it is supposed to rain we were grateful we have a hotel room. It is amazing how much better one feels after a shower. I had hoped so much that this hotel had a hot tub. I soak so well. Unfortunately, once again I was foiled. No hot tub for me!

We ate a ton today. We kind of made up for yesterday where we didn’t have very many food options. Yesterday the only places we could get something were two small bars, and they didn’t have much in the line of food. So we mostly were nourished by trail snacks the entire day. Today however, we ate for both days. That’s kind of how these rides go, feast or famine . 

Critters we have seen: owl, fox, rock chucks, deer, butterflies, bigger bugs, more mosquitoes lately, red-tailed hawks, turtles, black snakes, rabbits, skunk  

And we have heard coyotes in the distance on the nights we’ve camped.

This is our last night on the trail ☹️☹️☹️

Our last ride day is tomorrow ☹️☹️☹️

Washington to Hartsburg

For some reason we woke up early and were ready to go by 7:30. We rode about a half hour on a busy road to get from Washington back to the trail, but thankfully there was a decent shoulder. Next time we do the Katy Trail we will only stay in places right on the trail because there are so many and it’s less stressful.

Our original plan was to ride 60 miles to the shelter we had stayed at on our trip east. By doing this we could break down our trip to Kansas City into four roughly 60-mile days. However, we got to the shelter by about 4 PM, decided we still had energy, and chose to continue. We rode until about 8 PM (85 miles total) and stopped in a little town called Hartsburg where we are camped in the city park. The city park is about the size of the lot in which our house sits. There is a gazebo right in the middle of the city park and because there is rain in the forecast tonight we chose to roll our bike up in the gazebo and set our tent up in the gazebo too. This will allow us to sleep without a rain fly, and have maximum ventilation. It will also make it easier to pack in the morning. It is a pain to pack a wet tent.

Overall the ride was very good. There was a lot of rain in the forecast, but it only rained lightly in the morning. We picked up our trailer about 30 miles into our ride. 

We are indebted to some nice barkeepers today. Not many places are open on Monday around here, but both in this town and in an earlier one we were able to get cold sodas, ice water, and a bite to eat, which were greatly appreciated. 

Tonight we clean up in a trailside bathroom. It was the lovely experience one would expect, but they had running water and we had a washcloth. It feels so much better to lay down when you are not caked with sunscreen and sweat.

Rest day in Washington

Our rest day in Washington has been wonderful. We woke up and made pancakes (to help Pete feel better about carrying pancake batter for the last 300 miles…). We walked 30 minutes to church. Luckily it was the 9 AM block, so we didn’t get too sweaty on the way there (but we did get a bit sweaty on the way back). We were impressed by how many kind people welcomed us, and meetings were good. It was nice to sit together the whole two hours. (We haven’t been able to do that for a few years due to Pete’s calling.) The rest of our day has been lazing around the house, eating, reading, and happily doing nothing.

In many ways it would’ve been nice to have arranged our days differently by banking miles Friday and Saturday, allowing us to make a little more progress toward getting back. However, we have to make trade-offs between having a sure place to stay and having some flexibility. As it sits now we have four roughly 60-mile days ahead of us. There are a few options to possibly bank miles on the first couple of days, but there isn’t an option to adjust the final day’s mileage.

If the weather is reasonable, this should be quite doable. If we get caught in a deluge of rain, then the miles will be slow and difficult. Our first goal is to make it back to the Katy Shelter in Tebbetts tomorrow night.

St. Charles to Washington

We slept great last night. In the morning we woke up and ate another big hotel breakfast. We were riding before 9 AM. There is something a little bit different about being on a trail that you are somewhat familiar with. The time seems to go slightly faster. 

One thing I did on this segment that I haven’t done before was to turn off my speedometer. Sometimes I get so focused on our progress and our speed and when we’re going to arrive that I fail to enjoy the journey. So to try to keep that out of my head, I just put my bike computer on map mode and removed all of the other statistics from the screen. I think it helped. I found myself far less worried about how fast we were going and instead mostly just observed nature as we rode. As we moved west, the city suburbs gave way to more rural small towns and farms. Since it is a Saturday, there were far more riders, runners, and walkers on the trail. A few cyclists rode along with us for a while now and then, curious about our bike and our travels. It is fun to be able to swap stories and experiences with the people we meet.

The weather was very nice today, with highs in the mid 80s and no rain. There was lots of shade on the trail as we rode. I had set up our stay for Saturday and Sunday nights before we started our ride. That removed flexibility from today. Had we not prearranged a place to stay, we probably would’ve tried to go further. But it was nice to not have to worry about finding accommodations. At a little before 2 PM we rode into Washington, Missouri, and found our Airbnb, which is an entire two-story house. It is 115 years old and wonderfully restored. It has air conditioning, but it is set up with airflow such that the air conditioning hasn’t been necessary so far. Plus, we’ve gotten used to being out in the weather, so being inside at 75° doesn’t feel hot anymore. I think we’ve acclimated.

After we unloaded our gear we rode about two more miles to go to a grocery store. Once again we purchased a lot. We brought two panniers this time and filled them both. It is mostly healthy food, and lots of stuff to drink. We find that on these long rides having fruit juice and flavored water makes a huge difference. The house also has a washing machine in the basement. And so we were able to do laundry. Our bike is in the basement next to the laundry machines.

We are excited for a day of rest tomorrow. Ideally we would’ve had another day or two to ride, as it looks like rainy weather is coming in Monday and possibly also Tuesday and Wednesday, and it would be nice to be further toward our destination prior to the rain hitting. But we will be fine.

Our stomachs are full, our legs are tired, and we are in a comfortable location together. Life is good.

St Charles to Machens, the terminus of the Katy Trail

We slept exceptionally well in our nice hotel. The complimentary breakfast was very good. It was a beautiful Friday morning to be back on the trail, with perfect weather.  We had only one light pannier and our snack “trunk.” We were riding by about 9 AM.

We rode almost 13 miles east, first through quaint old downtown St Charles, and then through more rural areas again. The trail conditions were great, and there were quite a few other riders, but it wasn’t at all crowded. When we reached the terminus at Machens (no real town nearby, just the little trailhead shelter and a pit toilet) we rang the bell hanging there and ate some snacks. The terminus is very near the Mississippi River, but there’s not a good way to ride to the river. The terminus is also one of the least scenic places on the trail, but it represents a solid accomplishment. Eventually another local couple rode up and we visited with them a bit before heading back west. We saw Tony one last time, as we were heading toward St Charles and he was nearing the terminus, the end of his adventure where his wife would pick him up. What a great trail friend. We’ll look for his YouTube channel, Blue Collar Backcountry, and watch a few of his adventures.

Overall trail note: we have seen a LOT of black snakes, turtles, squirrels, birds, and one tick. Knock on wood – not too many bugs. Mosquitos at times are a bit annoying, but not too bad overall.

As we finished our total of 27 miles for the day, arriving back in St Charles, we decided to celebrate accomplishing the eastern portion of our journey by eating at PF Chang’s. We had a huge long slow lunch, and drank lots of Diet Coke. Then we rode back to the hotel. We were cleaned up and relaxing by 4. 

Continuing west tomorrow! 

One thing we didn’t write about was meeting a gentleman named John on our ride yesterday. He is probably close to the age of some of our children. He moved to Missouri about a year ago from Pennsylvania and leased an old trailside building in which he runs a diner called the KT Caboose. He was delightful to talk to as we rode together for about 30 minutes to an hour. He was riding into the nearest town to buy food, which he would carry back to his restaurant on the trailer behind his bike. It doesn’t appear he has a car. He is just living simply. One of the things we’ve enjoyed about our rides is the people we meet. Most of them are just exploring the world like we are. But everyone has a unique story and sometimes we get a glimpse into those stories. Sometimes we refer to these people as our trail angels, because they make the ride so much better.

McKittrick to St Charles

We slept well in Joey’s Birdhouse B&B, and woke up to the beautiful songs of all the birds outside.

Breakfast was outstanding. It was served in an old mercantile building next door that they use for their kitchen and other things. We left our bike trailer in their barn so we could have a lighter load. So kind of them to let us do that.

The temperatures were just right and gratefully there was no rain. We felt good today. We had good trail food, so that likely helped.

We have to say again how much we love the fact that there are zero cars on this trail! For example, yesterday we were only on a road with cars for 100 yards, and that was just to be able to get to a grocery store. We have been leapfrogging our friend Tony this whole ride, and he has been having quite the adventures. The Missouri River is wide, and it’s cool to ride alongside it so much of the way.

We rode almost 63 miles. Without the trailer, our average speed was about 9.3 mph (about 1.5 mph faster than our other days with the trailer). That felt nice. Near the end of the ride, we could tell we were getting into the suburbs of the city. Most of our ride has been quite rural. We arrived in St. Charles around 5:30. We are staying in a nice hotel, but it required a significant hill climb. And, sadly, it does not have a hot tub. 

In other news, Natalie found a tick on Pete’s ankle! 

We had Subway for dinner. It was just right, and the weather was perfect for a little evening stroll.

At one point in today’s ride, we figured out we had overestimated the distance to the end, giving us a shorter ride tomorrow than expected. We will make it to the very eastern point of the trail tomorrow! And we will only have 26 miles of riding out and back, so it will be an easier day. Then we can rest up in this nice hotel again to begin our ride back to the beginning. Woohoo!

A few random thoughts:

It’s good to work on a hard project like this – a big accomplishment we can do together.

It’s fun to have time to zone out, fun to have time to just talk about whatever pops into our minds.

We love not knowing what time it is.

We love how different it is from our usual daily lives (not that those are bad, just that it’s fun to have variety and adventures).

It doesn’t have to be entirely perfect to be a good adventure and experience. We have lots of random things that don’t seem to work out the best, but we just figure out how to deal with them and move forward.

There are so many things that happen on these trips; we could write for an hour about each day.

Eleven servings of tater tots

We eat a lot on these rides. Dinner consisted of a bag of salad, 6-7 clementines, 2 bananas, 2 apples, 6 cookies, a medium bag of potato chips, a full bag of tater tots (11 servings), half a jar of pickles, half a watermelon (mostly Pete), a small bag of m&m’s, and about 100 ounces of juice and sparkling water. People often ask if we lose weight on these trips. The answer is no. An emphatic no.

Today we woke up in the bunkhouse to a massive rainstorm. (And there had been awesome thunder and lightning in the middle of the night. We’ve missed the Midwestern storms!) We had slept well and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to shower prior to going to bed. The bunkhouse was air-conditioned and smelled about like what you would expect from a bunkhouse full of multi-day cyclists and their gear but we definitely would stay in the bunkhouse again. A few of the people riding the trail decided to hunker down for a bit longer to wait out the weather, but we left in the rain with one other biker who is headed in the opposite direction. It’s a little bit of a leap of faith to leave a warm and dry building on your bike. We had good rain gear, but I soaked mine from the inside out with sweat, so I’m not sure it was doing a whole lotta good.

Early on we decided to shorten our day a bit and stay in a bed and breakfast. We saw it advertised on one of the bulletin boards along the trail. (There are relatively frequent Katy Trail trailhead areas, with very helpful and interesting bulletin boards, great maps and distance charts, and restrooms or pit toilets, and usually a water pump.) It was extra slow riding today. I spent half of the ride wondering if something was wrong with the bike because it was so hard to pedal. In the end, I think the slowness is because the trail is a little bit softer with all the water in it. We don’t generally leave tracks, and the trail is crushed gravel. But it seemed to roll extra slow today. Our average dropped from around 8 mph to around 6 mph. It was nice to know we weren’t going to have to do it for 12 hours.

After about six hours of riding we made it to our bed and breakfast, “Joey’s Birdhouse” in McKittrick, Missouri. The first order of business was riding back to a grocery store nearby to buy all the food we just posted above. Once we got it home to the B&B we showered and started a load of laundry. Then we ate, and ate, and ate. (Natalie’s note: this place and its host are as delightful as the name sounds! It is a fun little old – but nicely appointed – bedroom with a tiny but functional kitchen in back and a good bathroom with an old claw foot tub. Our host, Joey, in an artist and gardener and I love seeing all her projects and work around. She offered to let us do laundry, and she was so pleasant and helpful in many other ways. She even encouraged us to go pick fresh strawberries and honeyberries from her garden, which we did! I would love to stay here again.)

It is raining softly now as we get ready go to sleep. We are grateful that we are under a roof tonight.

Pilot Grove to the Turner Shelter

(Night of Mon 30 May to Tues 31 May) 

We chose our tent site in the city park based on the flatness of the ground. However, at about 10 pm we realized we should have paid better attention to where the park lights were. We had a bright light shining down on us that lit up our entire tent. We were already staked down and exhausted, so we decided to stay put. However, as we slept fitfully we eventually determined to move our tent during the middle of the night to a section in the park that was better shielded from light. I slept better but Natalie not so much. About 4 am she put in ear plugs and was able to fall asleep.

As we started our ride on Monday we met a retired fellow who does a YouTube channel — something like Bluecollar Biker. He passed us early on but was camped at the same location on Monday evening. We chatted with him quite a bit in the evening and in the morning. He is doing this trip with an inexpensive bike and camping to demonstrate how little money is required to do a ride like this. 

We left around 8 am and had a generally downhill rail-grade ride for about 20 miles. We are still rolling slowly but our bodies are starting to acclimate to our activity.

Ate our mid morning meal at a gas station in Boonville. About this point the trail joined

the Missouri River, and we will be alongside it near the river for the remainder of the trail headed east. 

We stopped for lunch at a trailside cafe in Rocheport. It was delightful. We joked about ending our trip there and just relaxing for the next week in an Airbnb. It was the type of town that made that tempting. This part of the trail was also exceptionally beautiful. 

Overall the day’s weather was overcast, which helped a lot with heat, and the high was only 80 instead of 92. We were on the leading edge of a storm system throughout the day. We could hear the thunder rumbling but only felt a few drops of rain. Our friends in KC were reporting heavy rain and our weather apps kept telling us that would be coming soon. We kept pushing, hoping to bank as many miles as we felt able to do. 

We eventually made it to a trail shelter called Turner bunkhouse in the small town of Tebbetts, Missouri. The main floor of the shelter has 11 bunkbeds (22 beds) and a similar number in the upstairs room. It is just one big room on the main floor. There were two kinds of beat down showers which were pure magic. We’ve already reached that point in our ride where accommodations like this can be appreciated in spite of their obvious flaws. Perhaps the best thing about the bunkhouse, besides the weather protection, is that it is air conditioned. It was very comfortable relative to a tent and we slept well.

There were 4 other people in the lower floor with us. One retired man who chose to sleep on the cement floor in the bike storage room so as not to bother others with good snoring. Two guys have been on a two month trip from Kansas City to Washington DC and back. They are probably in their late 20s or early 30s and basically quit their jobs (one has a job cooking somewhere and the other was in construction). The other person looks a bit older and mostly sleeps.

It may rain most of today and into tonight, but we are prepared with clothing and gear and will stop and shelter if we need to. We have ridden in rain many, many times on previous trips.