For those of us who managed to tough out the Tulsa Tough this weekend, we all get awards.  Saturday’s ride was great….Sunday….well, we got all that Oklahoma can offer in the way of summer weather.  Hail, torrential rains which caused road flooding and tree damaging winds made for some interesting riding.  However, Jim Beach and his SAG teams did a great job keeping riders safe in really tough weather conditions.  The races were fun to watch, and we all ended up with an experience to tell. 

Here’s the first installment of several of our Katy Trail Report.  Four of us rode May 18 to 23rd. We had a great time and would like everyone to consider a trip on the Katy.  Hopefully the upcoming blog entries will help convince you of the fun that awaits.   I’m breaking it up into segments…so read what you like.  The first entry is about the Trail in general and the first day.  Stay tuned for a day-by-day description and photos.

Katy Trail 2008 Spring Bike Tour

 

 

 

The Katy Trail is the longest rails-to-trails project in the United States.  In 1986, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MK&T) Railroad no longer operated the rail line that had serviced four states for more than 100 years.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with the help and hard work of many trail advocates, secured the right-of-way. The construction of the recreational biking and hiking trail began.  Because the trail follows the Missouri River closely for more than half its distance, the flood of 1993 damaged much of the trail.  But in 1999, the trail was complete from its western terminus in Clinton to the eastern end in St. Charles.  The Katy Trail provides 225 miles of uninterrupted primitive, yet pastoral biker/hiker friendly trail.  And, expansions efforts are underway on both east and west ends of the trail in the hope that some day, the trail will span the entire width of the state of Missouri, starting at the Mississippi River on the east and ending at the Missouri in Kansas City.

 

I’ve dreamed of riding the Katy Trail from start to finish since it was completed in 1999.  My good friend Jane and two of her family members became the best travel companions one could ask for on this journey.  What follows is a description and some photos of our trek to help stimulate your interest in this wonderful trail, and hopefully help you plan your adventure.  We were prepared for the best and worst, got a little of both, but in the process, we met some of the nicest people and experienced all that is great about small town America.  And we spent six days doing something we love to do…ride bikes.   

 

Mark Twain wrote about seeking adventure in an essay called “Taming the Bicycle.”  As he was learning how to ride a “high wheel machine,” he wrote of his riding teacher:

 

 “Then he left me, and I started out alone to seek adventures. You don’t really have to seek them — that is nothing but a phrase — they come to you.”  

 

And find adventure…we did!

 

 

From left to right:  Rebecca, Jane, Jack and Leann at the beginning of our adventure at the Clinton trailhead

 

Our group of four consisted of Dr. Jack Standifer of Tuscon, the experienced biker among us, almost 80-years young, who has ridden RAGBRAI twice, Tour de Tuscon Century and spent enough time in the saddle to earn the respect of all of us.  His daughter Rebecca, a computer systems analyst, also from Tuscon, admitted that her longest distance training for the ride was approximately 30 miles.  She commutes to work several days a week 25 miles total per trip.  Dr. Jane Johansson, Rogers State University history professor from Pryor, OK, has been pleasure riding for several years and taken on tour distances in the local Dam J.A.M ride and the Sacred Heart ride in Shawnee.  Rounding out the four is me, Leann Burger, a recently retired higher education type also from Pryor, but a Show-Me State native.  Other than Jack, none of us had done an unsupported week-long tour.  But having ridden two days on the Katy before with Pryorites Bob and Cathy Webster, “doing the Katy” was on the “bucket list.” 

 

Our tour was self-contained.  We carried our own stuff in bike trunks, panniers and handbar bags.  We did not camp but rather elected to stay in historic hotels and B&Bs (we like warm water, soap and a comfy bed at the end of the day).  However, we met at least two groups that were camping.  We did not pack food, other than trail mix and other energy foods.  With some planning, dining options are fairly easy to find and water is available on the trail at some trailheads or small stores and restaurants either on or close to the trail. 

 

Our direction on the Katy was west to east which is the common way for bikers to travel because prevailing winds are usually from the west (although we had two days of east wind during and after a rain-filled front passed on the last two days).  The two larger tour-led groups and other smaller groups we met were also traveling west to east.

 

For a complete map of the Katy, use this link.

http://www.bikekatytrail.com/maps.asp

 

To chart our mileage, I used a Garmin GPS and the others used standard bike computers.  I also checked our moving averages and elevation changes, although the trail is well marked with mileage markers and informational material regarding the small “hills” or grades at the trailheads.  The mileage markers on the trail are consistent with those used on the original Katy Railroad.  Our mileage may be different than the trail mileage due to travel from trailheads to accommodations, a few side trips and becoming “termporarily disoriented” off the trail.

 

We biked six days on the trail which seems to be the standard among folks who are not in a hurry to bike the entire trail.  We usually left our accommodations between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. each day depending on how far we had to go and the extent of the wonderful breakfasts at the B&B.  Our shortest day was 29 miles and our longest was 51.  We arrived at our destinations anywhere between 2 and 5 p.m.  With a tailwind we made very good time on the fine ground gravel limestone surface, averaging 10 mph on fat tire bikes.  On our one day of rain, the trail became very soggy, sticky and slowed our pace significantly.  One group we met only traveled 20 miles per day and took 11 days to make the trip. 

Sunday, May 18

                                      

Day 1       Start:  Clinton MM 264.6     37.6 Miles on the Katy         

               End:    Sedalia MM 227         40.3 Actual Miles logged

 

Roger was our drop off, pick up person.  He was very kind to do this for us.  Otherwise we’d probably still be trying to hitch a ride.  He dropped us off at the trailhead in Clinton located near the Wagoner Sports Complex just off Highway 52 on the northeast edge of town, and we started our journey shortly around noon.

 

Jack got off to an interesting start by heading toward Clinton on the paved recreation path instead of away from Clinton.  We managed to gain his attention, so we all got headed the correct way.  And we found a geocache at the Clinton trailhead before setting up our gear on the bikes.  It’s hard to miss the MKT caboose which helps mark the trailhead.

 

The Katy heads northeasterly toward Calhoun which is approximately ten miles away.  It runs in and out of trees and takes trail riders through prairie, corn and bean fields, and grazing cattle as it parallels the Highway 52.  Farmers were very busy in the fields, either plowing and planting or applying herbicide.  The ride was very pleasant with wonderful temperatures and a strong westerly wind.  Admittedly, I was really excited about getting started, and the beginning of the ride was a bit of a blur until I got a rhythm.

Jane and Rebecca cross Sand Creek between Clinton and Calhoun.  More than 100 bridges provide crossings of creeks and rivers for trail users and this is an example of a bridge that incorporates the original Katy railroad structure.  Rebecca tried to record the sound that the boards on the bridge make when a bicycle crosses.  It’s pretty cool!  

Calhoun MM 255.5 is called Jug Town because of the clay deposits in this area and the pottery factories that existed long ago.  Not much left here, but restrooms and water are located at the trailhead. 

  

 

 

 

 

Windsor MM 248 is where the first Confederate flag was raised in Missouri.  So we had to have the historian in the photo.

The Spirit of ’76 Caboose at Windsor is located at the trailhead.   When the Katy discontinued the use of cabooses in the 70s, they were given to communities along the railroad.  Windsor thought it had caboose #130, as that was the number painted on the green caboose, but when they sandblasted it, they discovered they had Caboose #76 and is has been reconditioned and decorated to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial.  Casey’s General Store is located near the trailhead for those requiring provisions. 

 

Although the trail is relatively flat by road biking standards, it does have “grades.”  Most of those grades occur on the western part of the trail.  One of the interesting things we all noted was that we could instantly tell when we began going up a grade even though the trail looked pancake-flat.  Likewise, we coasted down grades when we expected to pedal.  This was a really fascinating phenomenon as our eyes were saying “this is flat” to our brains, but the bike and the level of exertion required were saying something else.  We especially noted this where the trail is lined on both sides by trees.  The lack of a horizon line disorients the biker a bit.  Like all bikers, we really relish those “wind behind your back, downgrade” experiences, but when we did reach the really flat parts after Rocheport, we longed for a “grade” or two to break up the monotony.  It was amazing that we all tended to complain about the “hills.”  However, if we encountered the same climb out road riding, we wouldn’t even notice it.   

 

The highest part of the trail is marked in the prairie between Windsor and Sedalia…near a remnant of a siding named Bryson. 

 

Rebecca and Jane stopped on the “grade” near the highest point sign. 

 Green Ridge MM 239 is the last trailhead before Sedalia.  However, we noticed as we passed by a group of houses at Camp Branch, MM 236, that several of the locals were enjoying the late afternoon in their backyard swing with their iced tea.  One couple waived enthusiastically as we rode past and we returned the gesture.  I was eyeballing their very tidy vegetable garden, and remembering how good my grandma’s garden wilted lettuce tasted. 

 

The honey locusts were in full bloom and very fragrant for most of the trip as were honeysuckle and other bloomers.   Too much of a good thing sometimes made us sneeze, but the most allergy-prone among us commented that she had less problems on the trip than she does at home.

 

Entering Sedalia, on the southwest side, we passed The Missouri State Fair Grounds, where the annual state fair is held every August.   If you are interested in railroading, you might check out the 1947 Merci Train car and Frisco Locomotive “Old Smokie.”  We didn’t stop because our legs were rebelling at this point. 

 

When the Trail finds its way to Sedalia, it runs diagonally through town.  I got lost trying to find the hotel.  Jack and Rebecca were ahead, and so as I was leading Jane astray I tacked on another three miles to the trip that day.  From the moaning and groaning that occurred that night, I think that Jane could have strangled me with a bungie cord at that point.

But before we found our hotel, we did manage to stop at the Katy Sedalia Depot MM 227 which houses the Railroad Heritage Museum.  It is closed on Sunday, so we only got to peek in the windows.  It is a beautiful old depot and worthy of a stop.  It was built in 1896 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places as are more than 20 structures in Sedalia. 

      The Sedalia Library     

Historic Downtown includes 106-108 E. Main where Scott Joplin played upstairs in the 400 Club, and the Scott Joplin Mural at 205 S. Ohio Ave.  The architecture styles include a real mix, Victorian, Classic Greek Revival, Romanesque Revival and Art Deco.  The Sedalia Chamber of Commerce has a great self-guided walking tour brochure. 

 

One of the buildings I definitely wanted to see is the Sedalia Carnegie Library.  It is two blocks from the Courthouse and our hotel.   The Sedalia Heritage Website describes it this way:  This impressive terra cotta and Carthage stone building is the Sedalia Public Library. It is Missouri’s first library west of the Mississippi to be built on a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. This Renaissance Revival building features a classical entry with its stately columns clearly resembling a Roman temple. The interior of this classic style structure is resplendent with marble and glass floors, open fireplaces and oak woodwork.  The library was dedicated in 1901.  I didn’t get to go in because it was closed on Sunday evening.  Three noteworthy churches are within two blocks of the library if you like diverse architecture or you are Catholic, Methodist or Episcopalian.

 

According to the Sedalia Heritage Website, the Hotel Bothwell where we stayed  is Sedalia’s tallest and was constructed during the years, 1925-27 by developer, philanthropist, John Homer Bothwell. “Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is an example of Classic Revival Architecture. Some of the Hotel’s more famous visitors have been Harry Truman, Bette Davis and Clint Eastwood.” The hotel was very comfortable.  We secured our bikes in the basement and went out in search of food.

The last thing one wants to do at the end of the day on the trail is get back on the bike in search of food.  So we walked three blocks north on Ohio to Broadway and found a Sedalia institution…Eddie’s Drive-in.  We had just missed about forty bikers (of the motorcycle persuasion) according to our kind waitress.  The roast beef dinners, burgers and Guberburgers were very good.  A Guberburger is a hamburger with peanut butter.  Sounds strange, but I had to try it…Rebecca had a bite and we agreed that it really is good. 

 

Because Jack had found the surface of the Katy Trail with his leg earlier in the day when he took a spill, we all determined that large bandages might be in order.  He needed to cover up those fresh scabs!  The grocery store, Woods,  across the street from Eddie’s fit the bill.  They had everything we needed including trail mix, the next day’s Gatorade, Aleve and Thera-Gesic.  Jane sported that lovely hint of wintergreen for the next several days, but she says it did the trick.  She did get a little under her bike shorts.  She reported a warmer than normal sensation.

 

We met five couples from Warrensburg that evening in the hotel lobby.  They were also riding the Katy to St. Charles.  We shared stories, trailhead rest stops and the Katy experience for the next six days.

 

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