Wednesday, May 21

 

Day 4 Start:  North Jefferson MM 143          43 Miles on the Katy Map

           End:    McKitterick MM 100 (Hermann) 47.7 Miles logged

 

Thom fixed a terrific breakfast for us that included Belgian waffles and more delicious melon and strawberries.  He really enjoys cooking and told us he has more than 20 menus, each with a letter designation.  We sampled menu “U.”

After loading our bikes, Thom drove us the five minutes to the trail head.  We thanked him for his hospitality, loaded up and bid Jefferson City goodbye.

 

Riders who travel east may find it a bit more difficult to find water stops on this part of the trail.  We were glad we had all packed extra water, although the temperatures were moderate, the sky was bluebird blue and a very light breeze kept us cool.  Perfect bike weather.

Several miles east of the North Jefferson trail head, riders on the trail and legislators at the Capitol (in the distance) are reminded that agriculture drives the Missouri economy. 

 

The trail parallels Highway 94 for nearly the rest of the way.  However, riders of the trail are never bothered by vehicular traffic unless they see a park ranger or Katy Trail State Park maintenance crews.

I did a double take when I rode past this truck parked just outside of Wainwright.  This was the first for me, a “mobile tattoo unit.”  Although you may not be able to see it, the truck advertises “private parties.”

 

Wainwright MM 137.6 offers no services.  At one time it was a small railroad town.  Now Main Street stops at a private drive.

 

Tebbetts MM 131 offers a convenience store on the west side of town, Missy’s Mart…”in a cow field near you” with very stale air inside, but we needed some supplies.

 

 

Jane cycles eastward after crossing Little Tavern Creek.  The Corp of Discovery visited the Tavern Cave and Creek, named by French trappers for whatever reason, on May 23, 1804.  Clark writes that they met some Osage women in this area.  I must be Osage somehow because I really love this part of the trail.

One of the earliest businesses in Bluffton was the Bluffton Winery.  Built in 1866, it thrived for several years, but fell victim to the “crash” in prices after the Civil War in 1871.  Wineries became an important part of the Missouri economy early in its history for two main reasons.  Good limestone rock under perfect soil makes for some great Norton and Cynthiana vines.  Caves in the bluffs provided temperature control for early winemakers.

 

Between Bluffton and Rhineland, Jack took a break, or maybe a full-fledged nap, on the warm planks of the Quick Creek bridge.  Now that’s a cycling oxymoron.

 

Rhineland MM 105 has been partially relocated and reborn since the 1993 flood.  Most of the town was underwater during this flood, so the trail was moved, with most of the town.  When the Katy Trail was initially proposed, not everyone was happy.  Several folks are still not happy.  Although the Rhinelanders are cordial, several signs on private property around Rhineland encourage riders not to stop or ask for help at their residences.

 

 

I thought this sign in Rhineland was more interesting.  The trail goes by the football field, and they obviously have rules about coolers and refunds.  Jane made sure she abided by the rules, although she did think she was due a refund.  Off to the left of the white building, I found the city park restrooms.  No trailhead exists in Rhineland.

 

McKittrick MM 100.8 is our jumping off place for the day on our way to accommodations across the river in Hermann.  McKittrick is a six road town on the north side of the river.  We weren’t feeling adventurous, so we didn’t scale the embankment west of the Highway 19 underpass tunnel and jump right on the highway to go to Hermann.  Oh no…we toured beautiful downtown McKittrick and did it right which required dropping down in granny gear for a pretty good hill.  After all that flat, I needed a good hill!  My riding partners might have disagreed on that.  The Highway 19 Bridge across the Missouri River is bike friendly with a separate lane and a divider from vehicular traffic.  After an impromptu tour of Hermann, we found our accommodations for the evening.

Because six wineries are located in and around Hermann, and it is about an hour from St. Louis, Hermann has more than 40 B&Bs to choose from.  It also boasts two huge celebrations a year that attract people for all over the U.S.:  Maifest and Oktoberfest.  Cyclists are wise to schedule extra time for Hermann as there are several historic places to visit on Market Street and on Main Street.  Hermann was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia in 1836. Members of the community established a joint-stock company in an effort to retain German customs and traditions rather than abandon the ways of the “Fatherland” to become Americanized.   They went so far as to advertise Hermann as the “German Athens of the West.”  As a consequence, German traditions are in force today in this community, and wine making (fortunately!) is one tradition they have continued to embrace.

 

Most of the B&Bs cater to the “romantic get-away” rather than Katy Trail bikers, but we found comfortable lodging at Birk’s Gasthaus.  This B&B is a restored mansion built in 1886 for the prosperous Herzog family.  It changed hands between the time I made reservations and our arrival which caused some confusion regarding our reservations, and our rooms were not ready.  However, the new proprietor, Elle, is planning to do some additional renovation and restoration which the house needs.  She graciously did some laundry for us, made dinner reservations for us and was a cordial host.  They also conduct Murder Mystery weekends. 

 

Stone Hill Winery has been in business for 160 years.  Their wines are excellent and the food at The Vintage Restaurant follows the German tradition.  Bikers have excellent choice in establishments because that night we ran into the Warrensburg group and the Sierra Club group at the restaurant.  We enjoyed sauerbraten, schweinshaxe and a terrific Hermannsberger red, thanks to the generosity of Jane’s mom and dad, Belle and Jack, who were following our progress via phone back in Oklahoma. 

 

We hadn’t quite finished the wine from dinner, so our nice waitress packaged it for us to make it legal to carry it back to the B&B.  As we walked the five blocks back, we started singing rounds and other songs we learned as kids.  We even got some smiles from the neighbors.  They must see cyclists wander back from Stone Hill with their conspicuous bag in hand frequently.  We borrowed some glasses from Elle and enjoyed the rest of the wine on the porch.  It was a great evening all the way around.

 

Thursday, May 22

Day 5 Start:          Hermann  (McKittrick MM 100.8) 37 Miles on Katy Map

           End:  Augusta MM 66                           38.1 Actual Miles loged 

 

We started our day with a great breakfast at Birk’s and enjoyed chatting with the other guests who included nurses who inspect and evaluate long-term care facilities for the state of Missouri and a mom and her two daughters from Nebraska on a get-away vacation.  One of the great things about B&Bs is meeting new people!

         

I wish I could say the weather was as nice as the breakfast conversation.  We donned our raingear before we headed out as a light mist was falling.  In the two miles we traveled from Hermann to the trailhead it became apparent that today was going not going to be fun.  We were going to pay for those gorgeous days we’d had up to this point.

 

The trail is very scenic in this area, but when it is raining and cold, one doesn’t pay much mind to nature.  We passed through Case MM 96.9 and Gore MM 93.8, Bernheimer MM 89, none of which have restrooms or water.  The farther we went toward Treloar 84.4, our next trailhead rest stop, the worse the rain came down.  We saw the Elderhostel group sag wagon pick up their riders on Highway 94.  We also heard a fair amount of thunder.  We all wished we were Elderhosteling at that point. 

 

Water resistant rain gear takes on a whole new meaning when the resistance breaks down.  First upper legs and thighs get wet, next the feet, then the hands and gloves get soggy.  Remember the “don’t touch the tent when it’s raining or it will leak” rule from the camping experiences?  Same applies to cycling rain gear.  The body parts in constant contact are the body parts that get wet.  Depending on the wind, the back can get really wet.  But today, our backs only got dirty because the wind shifted overnight and we encountered an east headwind.  I lived in Missouri for 22 years and knew that an east wind is NOT a good sign. 

Pedaling in rain tests a cyclist’s constitution, but when the ride isn’t supported, there’s really no choice but to keep going.  When the Katy gets wet, she’s not a friendly trail.  The normally pleasant surface because sloppy, soggy and sometimes downright slick.  It takes more effort to pedal through the limestone slurry, especially when the bike has 20 extra pounds.  When I was struggling, I was reminded several times of the persistence of the Corp of Discovery, as they paddled the river in the rain, sometimes 19 miles a day only to have very soggy accommodations at the end of the day.  I had it so much easier than they did. I knew if we made it to Augusta, a warm shower and a soft, dry bed was waiting.

At one point Rebecca found this oasis of dry ground, the Riverfront Boat Club right next to the river.  Even though the sign warned it was Private Property, we were not deterred in seeking a bit of dry shelter. 

Rebecca models the Katy Trail attached to her clothes, bags and bike. 

Jane was hoping to drip dry, but her efforts were not rewarded.

The stretch between Hermann to Treloar (16 miles) is the longest stretch without water or restroom on the trail.  It seemed even longer that day for all of us.

Treloar MM 84.4 has restrooms and the Treloar Bar & Grill.  We met the Elderhostel group here picking up additional riders.  They had enjoyed lunch here.  The owner had held a party the previous night for his daughter and her classmates who had just graduated from high school, and he tried to give us a helium balloon as a souvenir.  We graciously declined.

 

On this day, Jack met with some physical difficulty.  By the time we got to Treloar, he was shaking from the cold.  Hot tea helped at the Treloar Bar and Grill, where the kind folks there offered to take him up the road, but just like the explorers of earlier days, he was determined to make it.  And slowly but surely, he did make it to Augusta.  However, he had to admit that for his physical safety, his ride was over.  Suffering from the cold and wet, the toll of the headwind and some physical problems that had us all pretty worried, Jack packed it in.  But the Elderhostel folks came to the rescue.  And how it transpired was a lesson in the warmth and generosity of Small Town America and the Brotherhood of Bikers.

 

Jane was invited to a Sierra Club lecture given by Augusta historian, Dr. Anita Mallinckrodt that evening.  Jane mentioned Jack’s situation, and Anita called her good friend, the Elderhostel tour leader, Don Lewis. She arranged to have Jack ride the Elderhostel sag the next day.  Lo and behold, he made a new friend on the ride, a fellow physician from Billings, MT.  According to Jack, they enthusiastically talked “shop” most of the day and also enjoyed a tour of Daniel Boone’s home.  He had more stories to tell us the next evening.  And I think Rebecca, Jane and I were a bit envious that he got to go on the tour.

 

The rain tried to let up for awhile after we left Treloar as we headed toward Peers MM 80.1 and it did stop for awhile, but the trail was sufficiently wet that the pedaling was still not easy.  

Near Marthasville MM 77.7 I stopped to take a photo of the tracks left by bikers ahead of me and the daisies that bloom in abundance all along the trail.  Most of the time it was raining too hard to remove the camera from its dry home in my handlebar bag.  Marthasville has a full rest area, a cute town with B&B’s, places to eat and a conveniently located bank.  We saw the storm clouds building behind us and thought better of hanging around.

 

As we approached Dutzow MM 74, we could hear the thunder behind us…and now we could see lightning.  I hate lightning, but I hate it worse on a bike in an open area where I’m the highest point.  So I pedaled faster.  Jane and I caught up with the Warrensburg group at the Dutzow trailhead, and just in the nick of time.  Not a minute after we arrived, the Missouri heavens opened and we shared our meager trailhead shelter with six other brave souls in the pouring rain.  In Missouri parlance, we encountered a “toad strangler.” 

 

The Warrensburg pedalers said that the Dutzow Deli & Restaurant which was just a parking lot away has great sandwiches and some really good German beer.  Oh, I was so close, and yet so far away!  For 20 minutes I thought about all the liquid refreshment possibilities in a distance so close I could hurl a bottle cap onto their very dry porch (with nice wicker furniture) while the sky gushed H2O.  But when the rain stopped, we jumped on those bikes and headed for Augusta as fast as the east headwind would allow…which wasn’t very fast at all.  Our average moving speed that day was slightly over 6 miles per hour.  Pitiful! 

 

We also passed the turnoff for the Blumenhof Winery.  Again, the weather kept me from making a stop.  Riders also pass by the Labadie Power Plant owned by Ameren.

 

Augusta MM 66 should have been called “Atlasta.”   I was very glad to see the trail head.  Everyone was behind me at this point as I had been trying to catch up to the Warrensburg group.   I knew that there were some hills to the B&B and I wasn’t sure where it was exactly, so I ventured up a steep hill on Public Street.  I think I actually called it something else and said something like, “This isn’t fair!” as I was climbing, but three blocks up a 1/1 hill and two blocks to the right, I found refuge.  There was Augusta’s White House Restaurant where I found out about dinner possibilities.  The man at the bar called Jan, who manages River Witch Cabin, and in a flash she came down and opened up her “wine room” for us.  She welcomed us with complimentary cheese, crackers, Augusta Winery wine, water.  When Jane made it in 10 minutes later, we must have been a sight.  We were dirty and wet, but Jan didn’t seem to mind.  She was great!  And I was feeling better about life after wine and cheese.   I love Small Town America. 

The 1860 cabin we stayed in was actually two cabins joined together.  They originally were located outside of Augusta, but they were moved into town and restored.  Jan gave us the grand tour, made us feel at home, told us where to hose off our bikes and just generally treated us like family.   We all agreed that our evening at the cabin was our favorite night on the road because it was so cozy.  Note the “secure” bike parking to the left on the porch.  No one even locks their doors in Augusta, according to Jan.  The owner, Kathryn, also stopped by to chat.  She heard we were coming and wanted our honest opinion of the accommodations.  We were able to provide a glowing report.  The cabin has two king beds and three double beds and could sleep 10 bikers.  It is perfect Katy Trail destination. 

Rebecca and I ate early at the White House Restaurant and were joined by Jane after she attended Anita’s lecture, which she enjoyed very much.  Then the rest of the Sierra Club came in for dinner.  The food and drink were great, and we definitely enjoyed the rest after a hard day.  Rebecca took soup back to Jack, and it seemed to revive him. We spent the rest of the evening in our cabin’s living room, polishing off the wine, telling stories and enjoying the fact we all made it on a tough cycling day. 

Friday, May 23

Day 6    Start: Augusta MM                        29 Miles on the Katy Map

             End: St. Charles MM                    29 Miles logged.

 

 

Guests at the River Witch Cabins enjoy breakfast at the White House Restaurant, and it was supreme:  stuffed French toast, eggs benedict, sausage, fruit. 

 

No rain today, but clouds and plenty of that east headwind again.  We were all glad that we had less than 30 miles left.  Although I was happy that the trail end was at hand, I was also sad that the trip was soon to be completed.  And we all noticed something very interesting.  The closer we got to the “city,” the less friendly our fellow trail users were.  Some of the folks we met headed west looked downright unhappy.  As we reached the trail’s end, we also traveled back into reality.  As Jane said two days after we got home, “Life was much simpler on the trail.”

 

 

 

Before bikers get to Matson, they pass this wonderfully water carved bluff.  I got under the first tier of the bluff for scale.  You can barely see me, it’s that BIG!

 

Matson MM 61 is a sleepy, but cute little town with a restroom at the trailhead. Trail users can visit the Daniel Boone Judgment Tree, or reasonable facsimile since the real thing is long gone.  Daniel was a trusted frontiersman.  So trusted, that he held “court” under a tree near this site to settle disputes that occurred among early settlers.  Two trees later, you can still read about him, his family, and his importance in the settlement of the area.

 

 

 

Defiance MM 59.  Defiance gets its name because it built a substantial railroad depot much to Matson’s opposition.  And today it thrives with several places to eat. The Katy Bike Rental sells snacks across the footbridge.

 

From Weldon Springs MM 56 on to St. Charles, the terrain varies between primitive and populated. 

 

 

 

There’s even a rather substantial swamp on the south side of the trail full of duck weed, ducks, blue herons and other evidence of wild life. 

Plenty of places like this one provide trail users between Weldon Springs and St. Charles a place to rest.  This is a very popular and highly traveled portion of the Katy as city dwellers seek some solace.  A small cave behind the bench offers a home to critters to be sure.

 

Many of the benches have been placed in memoriam.  This one for “Courtney Sweeney, a daughter, a sister and a friend.”  And because of the chain beside the flowers, maybe a girl who loved bicycles. 

This is the final “depot” rest stop/trailhead before St. Charles.  In keeping with tradition on the rest of the trail, we decided to stop.

 

Between Green Bottom Road MM 45.7 and St. Charles we met some people from South Carolina.  They were traveling the trail covering about 20 miles a day.  We stopped to look at a white peacock, an animal I didn’t know existed.  The stopped to look too and we chatted for awhile.  We saw them again in St. Charles and congratulated them on finishing their journey.

 

 

Rebecca and Jane stop to look at the Page Street Bridge (Highway 364) that crosses the Missouri.  A bike friendly trail leads up to the bridge for those who want to cross the Missouri one last time.  Note the water level marks on the bridge support. 

 

Although the trail still hugs the river here, it circles around the newly constructed St. Charles Family Arena and a sand plant.  Big boats dredge the river from the plant as far up as the Page Street Bridge and offload the sand here for a concrete plant. 

 

 

The concrete structure with the roof is where cyclists go under the sand conveyor belt. 

Then the trail leads to the Ameristar Casino (yet another chance to donate to the State of Missouri) and for the final time, under I-70.  From there, the end of the trail is in sight.  St. Charles has built a wonderful riverside park with a very nice depot and band shell.

And here we are in St. Charles MM 39.5, six days and 240 miles later.  We still liked each other, and we were still smiling.  And we were talking about where we wanted to go next! 

 

The grins got bigger when we treated ourselves to a celebratory lunch at the Little Hills Restaurant and Winery in historic downtown St. Charles where a bit of the bubbly was ordered and consumed.  That evening we caught up with Jack and ate at the Magpie Restaurant in historic St. Charles.  The lady at the St. Charles Visitors Center didn’t steer us wrong on either restaurant selection.  As a matter of fact, we saw her at the Magpie.  She even recognized us after we cleaned up and looked human again. 

 

Our day was complete when we found the Main Street Bookstore with a friendly owner and some really great books. 

 

“Superlatives of Trip” Answers

 

Where was your most favorite place to stay?

 

Jack’s vote went to Birk’s Gasthaus in Hermann.

Rebecca liked the River Witch Cabin in Augusta, and I sided with her vote. 

Jane chose Cliff Manor in Jefferson City.

 

What was your favorite food?

 

Jack, Rebecca and I all chose The Vintage Restaurant in Hermann.  Long live the Germans, their food and wine.

Jane, on the other hand, went Celtic on us and chose Paddy Malone’s in Jefferson City.  She loved the atmosphere.

None of us chose trail mix!

 

What was the thing that surprised you most about the Katy?

 

Jack and Rebecca both marveled at the diversity of “flora and fauna” (Jack’s words).   They had not expected to see so much wildlife and primitive areas. 

 

Jane said that she was surprised by the management and maintenance of the trail.  “It is in excellent riding condition,” was her response.

 

I was surprised at how much I really like the western part of the trail.  Much is written about the more spectacular parts that I had already ridden, but the area around Sedalia is great.

 

But the thing that surprised me most is that I can’t simply cross “doing the Katy” off my “bucket list” and move on.  I definitely want to do it again and maybe again.  The beauty of the trail, the power of the Missouri River, the sculpted limestone bluffs and the importance of the history of the Trail can’t help but impress the Katy Trail traveler.  Mix impressive scenery with great traveling companions, the hospitality of Missouri folks and the fellowship of other cyclists from all over the country, and the recipe is one that requires repeating.  

 

And hopefully, we will.

 

 

 

 

 

 In Tebbetts, the folks at the post office are very friendly.  I peeked in the bike hostel there while Rebecca mailed some postcards.  The hostel was locked, but I’ve read several reports on the Katy Trail website that indicate it is a good stop if riders need a free place to stay and are packing their own sleeping stuff.

 

 

Mokane MM 125 has restrooms but no water at the trail head, although the store may be open.  If you have your fishing pole, you can access the river just west of Mokane where my dad and I used to launch his boat to try our luck with Missouri River catfish.

 

Steedman MM 121 does not have a trailhead.

 

 

But at MM 120, riders always stop for Standing Rock.  The cliffs are very high here, probably 200 feet, but the rock did not fall from the cliff.  This part of the rock is resistant to the erosive efforts of water and wind.  And because of that, there are high water marks on the rock from 1912, 1935, 1943, 1944, and 1993.

Portland MM 116 was our lunch stop for the day.  We were all hungry and didn’t want to eat trail mix again for lunch. The Riverfront Bar and Grill, which is visible from the trail, is the local place for lunch and a game of pool.  It’s been underwater several times, so there’s not a square corner or straight line in the building, and its pretty dark inside, but they sure serve a mean tenderloin sandwich.  When we arrived, the Sierra Club tour which consisted of 13 riders and a tour guide were just finishing.  Because the owner was busy with the grill, the Sierra Club group leader, Paul Minkus, took our order.  Bicyclists share a fair amount of brother and sisterhood, but the trail creates an ever stronger sense of camaraderie which is probably the reason it is so much fun.

 

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