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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Katy Trail, West to East, 2013

5/9-13/2013 250m
Enjoyed a chance to ride the Katy Trail, west to east, with friends. An excellent ride that I highly recommend.

work in progress

The logistics of a one-way ride are always a question. For this trip, we drove to the east end of the trail and parked at Lococo Bed and Breakfast in St. Charles, MO. Lococo provides a shuttle service for people who'll be staying there, so they put us and our gear into a mega-van and drove us out to the western end of the trail in Clinton, MO. (cost $270). Another option would have been riding Amtrak with our bikes as roll-on baggage west to Sedalia, which is almost the western end of the trail, and pedaling to the end. The shuttle service was very cool, Leo and Ronna Lococo are very nice people and very informative, and they set a postive tone for our first Missouri interaction.

We overnighted at the Hampton Inn, which was about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, and ate dinner at the adjacent Applebee's. They were both as expected.

Day1: Clinton Mo to Sedalia MO; 41 miles. We saw morning rain in the forecast and had to decide: sleep in and wait out the rain, or try to "outrace and/or embrace" the rain. At 0815 we departed the hotel. The trailhead had a restored caboose, one of many that we'd see. The trail surface was excellent, a sort of packed limestone that the locals call "chat". Shortly after we started we were riding in a gentle, warm rain.

We passed through Calhoun in the rain, and continued to Windsor where we stopped at Raymond's for lunch. We walked in soaking wet, and as we ate the rain stopped and the skies turned blue. Lunch was excellent, we all had variations of Rueben sandwiches and soup. Excellent lunch stop. We couldn't get a 3G signal so we asked where we might find some WiFi, and we ended up in the Henry County Library. It seems like they have a difficult process to get to use one of their public-access computers, but anybody can use their wifi signal so it was nice to update the weather forecast.

The skies had turned blue and dry but the trail was quite mushy so we lounged for +45 at the trailhead waiting for things to dry out a bit.

East of Bryson MO we crossed the highest point on the trail, and saw a formation of two A-10s in some sort of a manuevering area. Even though this was the high point on the trail, it felt like we were still climbing a bit for the next two days.

At Sedalia, we passed through the fairgrounds and then went across the town proper, and doglegged into downtown for the Hotel Bothwell. The downtown area was reminiscent of the town square in Back to the Future, and the Hotel Bothwell is a grand old hotel with a reputation of a haunted third floor. They're bike-friendly, you can keep your bike in your room or in a special basement bike-space. The rooms were about $85.

We ate dinner in the hotel's restaurant, and it's the kind of meal I dream of on bike trips - comfy quasi-formal dining room, classical music, salads, filet mignon, deserts, coffee, just the way dinner should be after a day on the bike.

Day 2: Sedalia MO to Boonville, 35 miles
Departed Sedalia without any hotel ghost experiences, which was OK with me. Saw two other groups of cyclists departing at about the same time, a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary and a three nurses on a buddy trip, just like we were. The hotel breakfast was OK. We encountered a major trailhead in Sedalia complete with a gift shop, mandatory shopping ensued.

After the Sedalia trailhead the trail takes to the street for a while, we got a bit cadywampus out of position and took a few minutes getting back on the right path. This day's itinerary has a long stretch between support opportunities, so we brewed our own Via coffee at the Clifton City trailhead. While we were drinking our coffee, we saw the 25th-anniversary couple blitzing along the trail eastbound and it surprised us because they'd departed before us; they explained that they'd made the wrong initial turn on the trail out of the hotel, and had gone 20 miles out of their way before getting turned eastbound. Ouch.

At Pilot Grove we stopped at Becky's Burgers and Cones for lunch, it has an excellent reputation and it was well deserved. A lot of these places that open for breakfast close at 1400, so there's a bit of ciphering to get to them while they're still open.

It seemed colder and more overcast when we came out from lunch, and we continued east to Boonville. Our Holiday Inn Express was just short of Boonville so we stopped just short of town.

After cleaning up we took a cab into town to have dinner at the Hotel Frederick, the restaurant is called Glenn's Cafe. It was excellent, very much an old-school dining room and seriously excellent food. I had a dish called "pastalaya", a variation on jumbalaya. They had a robust selection of beers and wine. Highly recommended.

After dinner we walked over to the casino, there's a tremendous discontinuity between the new money, ticky-tack faux-glitz of the casino and the old buildings along the rivers. The folks in the casino aren't quite the people of WalMart, but they don't seem like folks that have much money to lose. We got a ride from the casino back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 3, Boonville Mo to Jefferson City, 58 miles.
Today we exited Boonville and started riding along the Missouri River, and the nature of the geography completely changed. The first two days were prairies and farmland, and now we were riding along a waterway, or along the bottom land between the old railroad (now trail) and the Missouri River. After a while, the side of the trail away from the river was all cliffs rising up a hundred feet of so; it was a dramatic shift in landscapes.

It was very much like riding a GAP-type trail, in C&O type conditions down along the Potomac River. Trail conditions remained excellent.

Approaching Rocheport (on a Saturday) we encountered the only significant trail traffic we'd see until St. Charles, a lot of bicyclists out on the trail. In Rocheport we saw several bed and breakfasts, a trailside bike shop, and a great sandwich shop. This was a very effective stop and a great lunch shop.

We saw a lot of Boy Scouts on the trail. In Hartsburg we approached Dotty's Cafe for our second lunch and two cyclists coming out engaged us in conversation; when we got clear it was 2.15pm, and inevitably Dotty's closes at 2pm. Dotty saw what happened, came out, and made us welcome. We had blackberry cobbler and ice cream and they sure took good care of us, after hours and at the end of their day. +10 to Dotty's in Hartsburg, even if there's no H at the end of the town's name.

Dotty's Cafe, Katy Bike Trail, Hartsburg MO: ice cream, pie, lunch excellent!

In North Jefferson we needed to cross the Missouri River to get to our hotel, and the bridge across the river has been problematic in the various trip reports. We were pleased to see they've recently opened a new switchback ramp for bikes that leads to a new bike ramp on the bridge, it's a great piece of bike infrastructure.

Jefferson City, MO bike switchback ramp across Missouri River, bridge bicycle infrastructure

We stayed at the Baymont Suites in Jefferson City, they were excellent and once again very bike friendly. They said they're seeing a lot more bike business since the new switchback ramp was opened up. For dinner we walked to the nearby Arris Bistro, which was completely excellent. Wonderful service, great food. There's a TV in one of the rooms that they switched to the Penguins-Islanders playoff game at our request, we really appreciated that.

Day 4, Jefferson City to Peers, MO (69 miles)

This was to be our longest day of the week, and at our request the Baymont Suites opened up their breakfast room an hour earlier so that our group and another bike party could make an early start. (That's bike friendly!) It was an easy departure out of town. Being out so early, we saw two deer, and the nomination for SongOfTheDay was Morning Has Broken.

Later we saw a big rock that has withstood erosion and is used to mark the various floods. Apparently the M-KT railroad abandoned this line because of the continual flooding.

At 1130 (on Mother's Day) we rolled into the only place open in Portland, the Riverfront Bar and Grill. There's a great variation in these places, and I think you have to remember them for what they are. You can't walk into a bar at 1130 on Mother's Day and expect quiche loraine. But we got something to eat and moved along.

In Rhineland there was a fair amount of civilization and a few places to get something to eat but we pressed on. We had planned to stop and cross the river to see Hermann, but we adapted and skipped that town to save the five or six miles involved. Saw a "killdeer" protecting it's nest, that was pretty cool. A few miles short of Marthasville, we turned into Peers MO and the Concord Hill Bed and Breakfast, which was on the top of a fairly decent hill.

Since there's not any restaurant around, we'd asked the proprietors of Concord Hill to make a dinner for us and they really did well, a fancy salad and a pasta dish and some local wine. About half of their business comes from being in a Missouri Rhine Valley wine country bed-and-breakfast, and the other half of their business comes from Katy Trail bike trips looking for a B&B near Marthasville, Missouri.

Day 5, Peers MO to St. Charles 48 miles
This being our last day, and a shorter day, we took an unhurried start. Breakfast at 0830 and we departed at 10:00.

We stopped at the Defiance Roadhouse for lunch, very nice. Most restaurants are closed on Mondays, and the ones that were open were busier than usual.

We got into St. Charles on schedule, climbed up from the river to our B&B at Lococo House. The hosts couldn't have been more hospitable. They recommended Tony's for dinner (closed Monday!), so we ended up eating at Little Hills Restaurant. The next morning we departed and rejoined the rest of the world.

Not much to report on this leg; around St. Charles the trail became well-used and the surroundings were well-developed; they've done a really nice job of integrating the trail into the local parks.

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