About a week and a half has passed since logging last miles of the Katy Trail. I’ve had time to reflect on the ride as a whole and ponder details of the ride, some of which did not make it to this blog. A plethora of reasons can be inserted here as why entries were shorted details of riding America’s longest Rail to trail project. Reasons such as; lost drafts of blog entries, lack of time, not able to find my muse on this trail, and much more could be slotted into this category.
Before setting off on this adventure a friend suggested that when blogging this time, I should add in a bit more personal feeling than what I revealed during the Great Divide. With this in mind, the result was the entry Getting ready to ride the Katy . Being open about what brought me to this ride and my lack of enthusiasm upon starting, sparked a bit of concern from friends and family in text and other messages. After reassuring them I was fine, I decided to tone down the “feelings” part on subsequent entries a just a bit.
All in all it was good to be out on the trail, but I can’t quite say it was good to be doing it alone… Not at first. Day one and day two had me wishing for a riding partner. Weeks and days leading up to the ride I was asked if my son Matthew was riding too. Would have immensely loved it if him and my daughter Emily could have joined me for this ride. Talk about a father’s dream come true, but I respect they have interest that do not involve riding bike for miles upon miles, not to mention sleeping in a tent every night while doing so. A lonely feeling did hover over me the first couple of days, but the last two days allowed me to find my groove not only from a physical standpoint but a mental one too. Would come to embrace the alone time, riding my own ride, unencumbered.
Even with the flat easy trail, the adventure was not without moments of anxiety. The entire trail is a Missouri state park and camping is not allowed on the trail. The trail is also bordered by private land so camping in an area not designated for such is trespassing. Planning every overnight stop was fraught with anxiety. Night one I simply ran out of daylight and did ‘illegally’ camp in a park just off the trail a couple of miles outside Sedalia. Even though I was somewhat hidden, the fear of a flashlight illuminating my tent in the middle of the night, followed by the words “you can’t camp here”, was forever present until morning when everything would be packed away for another day of riding. Night two; upon discovering that Katfish Kate’s was closed, involved another round of high anxiety until finding myself rolling into Cooper’s Landing. Night three; after scraping the idea of camping at the pavilion in Mokane, as the sun was setting, put me on high anxiety yet AGAIN!!! until finding safe camping for the night further up the trail in Portland. The lesson I will take away from this aspect of the adventure is that faith combined with a good dose of effort will always result in matters working themselves out.
Once I was able to set up camp after a day of riding, it felt so good to be in what had become my shelter from the outside world for two months, the previous summer. My bike adventures have taken me across many different types of terrain, climates and conditions, but the inside of that ultralight tent, which isn’t much bigger than me, remains the same no matter where it’s set up. It’s home!
A nutritionist may argue heavily against what I’m about to say, but I can’t argue with results. When riding 7-8 hours a day sugar is my best friend! A typical day in my normal Clark Kent life I don’t consume much sugar and I’m certainly not a soda drinker, never touch the stuff. However as I learned through a cause and effect assessment, there is a direct relationship between the amount of sugar I consume to how well I can keep a steady pace. Now I’m not foolish enough to just consume sugary snacks all day and expect to perform. It’s more like my high protein/carb meals are chased with sugar loaded, cellophane wrapped, preservative encumbered, junk food. Took me about a day and a half to remember this little tidbit of trail factuality and yes it involves adding soda to my cyclist diet as well.
On Day 4, making my 80 mile push to St Charles, I stopped into a trail side restaurant to grab a soda. When I walked in the door there was a woman sitting at table with a computer and a pile of papers around her. Asked if they sold sodas to go. Even though she was working there she didn’t “work there”. Well they did indeed sell sodas to go and the woman I first spoke to worked for Pepsi. Joking with her after my little mix up of assuming she was the proprietor, I said well since you’re watching guess I’ll choose Pepsi over Coke. As I went to the counter to pay for my selection she went to her car to hook me up with some Pepsi swag for my decision. Score!
One element about this ride that I failed to mention so far in this blog is the portion of the trail that follows the Missouri river. First and foremost as any youngster learning U.S. history has come to know, Lewis and Clark traveled up the Missouri river starting in 1804 to explore and map the then newly acquired territory of the Louisiana Purchase. As I rode along the imposing bluffs that are nearly ever-present along this section of the Missouri river, I couldn’t help but ponder how the bluffs I’m looking at look exactly the same as when Lewis and Clark viewed them. The trail is very well signed with markers indicating where the expedition team stopped and camped on the banks of the Missouri. Unfortunately the team couldn’t take advantage of the Thai food at Cooper’s Landing like I did. Although maybe it’s good they didn’t… Having no place to resupply toilet paper.
The final miles into St. Charles simply flew by and even now seem like a blur. Traffic on the trail did increase the further east I rode and services such as convenience stores and restaurants, that I wished for the previous days, became more numerous too. I did fail to mention in the Day 4 post that even though St. Charles represented the end of the Katy for me, it does however continue on for an additional 12 miles to Machens. Never did have the intention of riding those final miles. Just didn’t see the point of riding those remaining miles only to turn around and ride back to St. Charles, simply for right to say I rode the “entire trail”. It was close enough for me.
The Katy trail guide-book was a good resource to have as it described the trail and every hamlet, town, outpost and outhouse along the route. In the book each stop is eloquently given its due with history of its existence and often describing the people who still hold onto the charm and rural way of life. It maybe did too good of a job because I was expecting a lot more from what actually exist. Reality is that most of the towns are now simply quaint collections of houses with possibly a church and postoffice to go with it. The truth is the railroad with its passenger service now decades gone, and the nearest highway often too far removed, many of these places simply cannot sustain any type of resources a traveler like myself could benefit. To sum it all up; I was expecting more availability along the route to purchase food. Was also hoping to find places of historical importance to explore and learn more about, beyond trail-side placards.
Thank you to all that followed this adventure and either left words of encouragement in the comments sections or sent personal text. Even if you didn’t respond directly, your visit to this site was counted and calculated in the site stats. Between the comments and seeing the high number of ‘clicks’ when I checked in, you all warmed my heart knowing I wasn’t alone at a moment when alone is not what I wanted to be.