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.
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.
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.” 🙂
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!