I took my first bike tour last week and it didn't go too well.
I decided a good first camping trip would be the KATY trail in Missouri from Sedalia to St. Charles.
The first day went fine. I parked my truck at the Lewis and Clark Museum in St. Charles. The locals said that was probably (not sure I like the word "probably") the safest place to leave it for an extended time. I talked to the police to make sure it was OK, and it was. Then I rode through the suburbs of St. Louis to Kirkwood to pick up the train to Sedalia. The ride was uneventful and was about 30 mi. It took me about 2.5 hours. The train was great as this line allows you to roll your bike on without having to dismantle anything. There is a $10 fee, and you should get a reservation because there is limited space. I know it's whimpy, but I paid the extra $15 for "business class." I sure enjoyed the extra space. The entire fare was $47. It's about $30 more if you wait till the last minute. It was explained to me that they have a certain number of seats at the lower price available for early reservation. The train to Sedalia was about 3.5 hours. When I got to Sedalia -- it was about 9:00 P.M. -- I stayed at the Bothwell Hotel, about a four block bike ride. This is an old hotel that's been remodeled, but still has the old world charm of an old hotel. They were very helpful. When they realized I had ridden my bike to the hotel, they gave me a $10 discount. (Let them know you're doing the KATY when you make a reservation) They also had me bring my bike right into the lobby and the gal behind the desk took it to the basement for safe keeping. It's a great place.
The day started out great. I had a complimentary continental breakfast at hotel, which included waffles. I rode to the trail head and found the old depot closed until 10:00 A.M. This was no problem as I had everything I needed and probably didn't need to spend any money anyway. I looked at the map at the interpretive center. It showed that I go to the right on the map. So, I took off on my first bike trip.
What does Charlie Brown say when he does something stupid -- AARRRRGH!! After about 4 km. I noticed I was looking at my shadow in front of me. I was heading West toward Clinton. Oh well, what's a little 8 km. warm-up ride in the morning to us bike campers?
After that inglorious beginning, everything was going well till I noticed a bit of a wobble as I was approaching Prarie Lick. I had broken a spoke on my back wheel. I know some of you are probably knocking yourself on the forehead thinking how stupid to be on a bike trip and not be able to change a spoke on a back tire, but, that's me. I called the bike shop in Boonville as it wasn't too far away. Chuck, of Chuck's Bike Shop, just had a knee operation and was in no shape to help. He was very helpful with his advice and said if I taped the spoke to the wheel I could probably make it to Rocheport. Probably, eh? So, I called the Trailside Cafe and Bike Shop in Rocheport. They said they closed at 6:00 P.M. I knew if I kept a steady pace I could be there by 5:30 P.M. I told them what my problem was and took off. It was an extra 30 km. or so to Rocheport that day. It ended up being 92 km. with my side trip in the morning. I've done many 100 km. days, but only one on my touring bike and never on crushed limestone or with a fully loaded bike. It was a challenge, but wasn't too bad. I did run into a number of very rough and washed out sections and one detour. I pulled in at 5:30 just in time to find out they were closing the cafe and the bike mechanic had gone home an hour or so earlier. Trail time seems to be like Mountain time, or Greece time as time doesn't mean the same as in most of my world. Since I like this type of culture, I didn't fret, I called the Bed and Bikefest B&B and stayed the night.
The next day, I went to the bike shop, had three broken spokes replaced, both wheels trued and brakes adjusted for a princely sum of $38. Off I went. The biggest problem I had now was being completely ahead of my schedule. I had planned on staying at campgrounds every 60 km or so. Because I had gone 92 km. the day before, it through my plans off. I like to camp and cook, but I'm not a stealth camper and wanted a shower and a bathroom. There were no campground that fit this bill on my new schedule. The day went well as I covered the 60 km. to Jefferson City. My plan was to cross the bridge and stay somewhere in Jefferson City. Although the bridge is daunting, it didn't seem impossible. There is a 6 ft., non protected, path on one side. This is a freeway and traffic zooms along at 70-75 MPH. A biker is faced with on-coming traffic either going or coming. However, the real problem, according to some local folks is once you're over the bridge, you are in city traffic that is a bit hostile (their word) to bikes. That plus the fact I had no idea where to go made me decide riding the 6 km. to Holt's Summit would be the prudent choice. The part about the word "Summit" flew over my head until I was faced with a climb up said "Summit."
I stayed at the America's Best Value Inn and it was a nice stay. Nice folks, clean room and not too expensive. Of course I, still, had not camped and used my brand new tent.
This day is when the trip came to an end. As I was going down the trail and I noticed a snake in the trail. As I approached I saw it was a copperhead and was coiled to attacked. I veered off the trail to miss it, went down a steep embankment into the swamp and smashed into a tree with my shoulder and side taking the brunt of the impact. (That story was the one concocted by one of the locals. He said to save my manhood I should use that story. What really happened was I went to the nearest grocery store to pick up some food for the day. On my way back I ran off the sidewalk, was thrown off my bike and landed on my shoulder. It really is tough getting old!) The initial diagnosis was a fractured rib and a torn rotator cuff. Later, ex-rays showed a ruptured shoulder tendon and bruised ribs. Whatever, I was in a whole lot of pain and had a hard time breathing and moving. I was able to get back to my truck in St. Charles by taking a shuttle with T. C. Bike tours out of St. Charles. Good folks and Rob, the driver, was very helpful. (Except for when he helped me in the van and closed the door on my shoulder.
) After that, I holed up in a motel for a couple of days with my arm propped up in the least painful position I could find.
After that, I went to my home town to spend mother's day with my mom, and then off to home in Northern Michigan. It's now three days later and I'm able to type.
Not a great beginning, eh! Would I do it again -- in a heart beat. My doctor tells me I might be able to ride again this weekend if I'm careful. He said as long as I don't lift anything and don't hit my shoulder again, it should, probably (there's that word again) heal itself. I bought a new tent for this trip and new cook wear. I hadn't bought any new camping gear in, at least, 10 yrs. and probably longer than that. So, I was looking forward to the camping. The camping gear never got unpacked. I've got a week long sea kayak trip planned for 3 weeks from now. I'm hoping I'll heal quickly enough for that and I'll finally be able to use the new camping equipment. I hope to reschedule the KATY trail trip for later in the year.
I always like to see what others use for equipment, so I'll list what I (tried to) use.
Bike - Trek FX 7.3 with bar ends attached
Panniers - Trek Interchange Lrg.-Rear, Sm. Front
Rear Rack - Trek Interchange
Front Rack - Jandd Extreme
Handlebar Bag - Topeak (small bag - really nice)
Rear Trunk - Trek Interchange
Saddle Bag - Lycene Large
Tent - Nemo Losi 2P
Cooking - GSI Pinnacle
Even though I didn't finish the trip, I felt very comfortable with this set up. During most of the ride I was on flat crushed limestone. I really didn't feel much difference with a loaded bike until I went up a hill. Then, it was apparent I had a load. Though my gearing was much better than my road bike, I can see the advantage of much lower gearing while on tour.
This post has gone on a bit more than I expected, but I'm sitting home, retired and with a sore wing, so what's a guy to do? Hope to out at again in a month or so.