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2018: Cycling the Katy Trail

Marilyn Monson writes:

In October, three friends and I flew to Missouri to cycle on the Katy Trail. Two of us arrived several days early, which allowed time for visiting with family, for experiencing the stunning beauty of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and for becoming familiar with the charming town of St. Charles. 

Misouri Botanical Garden

The incredible Missouri Botanical Garden

The Katy Trail (one of America’s longest “rails-to-trails” projects) follows 240 miles of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad Corridor from St. Charles to Clinton.  We rode up to 188 miles of the trail.

I had NO idea what it would be like to ride on a gravel trail, and made many mistakes, so this trip was educational for me!  The bike I rented was a Fuji Crosstown 2.1 with upright positioning, wide tires, a wide saddle, and unsteady handlebars. 

On Sunday morning, the 35 cyclists touring with Road Scholar were shuttled from St. Charles to Sedalia, where we would start pedaling in order to take advantage of the prevailing winds. 

Clifton City

Stopping for a moment at the Clifton City kiosk, just east of Sedalia

On the way, we visited the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in the town of Fulton.  My knowledge of Winston Churchill was very limited, and I came away feeling impressed and inspired by his accomplishments and the way he lived his life.  We stopped for lunch at a winery in Holt Summit and later arrived in Sedalia.

Churchill Museum

The National Churchill Museum and a 17th century Christopher Wren designed church

On Monday morning, we started our cycling journey at Sedalia’s Katy Depot.  It was a beautiful sunny day with nary a cloud in the sky.  I requested that the wide saddle be exchanged for a narrow one, not realizing that gravel riding was so different from road biking.  Because of the difference in positioning, the narrow saddle was very uncomfortable, and I finally switched back to the wider saddle on Tuesday afternoon. Our destination was Boonville (35 miles).  The trail had some ruts and potholes, small sticks and some branches, and lots of leaves. One of the participants ran over two snakes.  Had trouble with the brakes because I was used to pulling on both brake levers, but riding on loose gravel requires that you modulate and differentiate between the front and rear brakes.

Small stream

One of the many small streams we crossed

On Tuesday, we pedaled from Boonville to Jefferson City (54 miles).  The trail was similar to what we cycled on the previous day, with many trees on either side, and the weather was incredibly beautiful, the sky a brilliant blue.  I was concerned about how wobbly the bike was, and didn’t learn till I came home that it needs to have some play in the handlebars in order to allow navigation though the gravel.  I didn’t feel confident about having the saddle raised, so I wasn’t able to ride with efficiency or comfort.  I decided I would NEVER again sign up for a gravel cycling tour!!!

Jefferson City

Jefferson City State Capitol Building

Our journey the next day took us from Jefferson City to Hermann (48 miles).  Most of the group chose to do a shorter ride in order to take a docent led tour of the Jefferson City Capitol building.  It was absolutely gorgeous, with many murals, carvings, statuary, and stained glass.  That day I had the saddle raised somewhat, a big improvement on the whole situation!  Another improvement was that I started riding with a fellow from Wisconsin, who pedals at about the same speed I do.  The trail was more open and straight, the “big sky” views were exceptional, and we began to see more fall color. 

Bluffs

View of the bluffs some distance from the trail

Bluffs

The bluffs up close

Hermann is a sweet little town, with charming, well-kept homes and interesting architecture.  We took an informative winery tour, and had six tastes of wine, as well as a delicious dinner.  We stayed at a number of lodgings, all owned by the same person, and all unique.

Hermann Homes

Charming homes in Hermann

Hermann City Hall

Hermann City Hall and Fire Department, organized in October, 1859

On Thursday, we pedaled from Hermann to Augusta (35 miles), and were shuttled to Washington for an overnight stay.  The most serene, relaxing, and truly amazing parts of the trail were the ones we rode on Thursday and Friday, from Hermann to St. Charles.  It was easy riding, and lovely views. 

Serene Trail

A serene part of the trail

Fall Color

Fall color

More Fall color

More fall color

We stopped for a snack at the Katy Bike Rental shop, and to peruse the inventory of jerseys.

Katy Trail Bike Rental

Katy Trail Bike Rental

We were shuttled back to Augusta to cycle the last leg to St. Charles (27 miles).  It was raining a bit at the start, but it quit soon after we began.  It was the first precipitation we experienced on the trip. 

Bike Art

Bike art

Vines and trees

Grape, trumphet &/or poison ivy vines hanging on the trees

 We had been warned before the trip that there could be a lot of humidity, but it never was a problem.  Cycling this part of the trail was very comfortable, except for a short distance where there were a few soupy, sticky ruts, which were precarious to maneuver through.  Once we arrived in St. Charles and turned in the bikes, we had a final lunch at the Bike Stop Café, and visited the fascinating Lewis and Clark Museum, which is located on the banks of the Missouri River where they began their journey. 

Missouri River

The wide Missouri

Missouri River

The Missouri River as seen from inside the Lewis and Clark Museum in St. Charles

Tour's end

Experiencing mixed emotions about seeing this bike tour end!

Later the participants and staff enjoyed a fine dinner, and we said our goodbyes to the very congenial people with whom we had spent the last week. The tour was a great combination of learning how to cycle on a gravel trail and historical education.  I realized I would indeed like to sign up for another gravel tour, and I JUST might do so in 2019!