Quick and Dirty: I departed on Labor Day at 7:45 AM from my house in St. Louis, caught the Katy Trail at mile marker (MM) 43, and over the next 7 days traveled the entire length of the trail, plus side excursions, to Clinton, MO at MM 264, turned around and returned to my home at 1:40 PM on Sunday. The total length of the trip was 548.4 miles covered in 7 days.
Pre-trip: Back in April I did a two day, 150-miler. I studied the Katy Trail on websites like www.bikekatytrail.com. A couple weeks before the trip I made another trial run by loading up my bike, riding 50 miles, camping in the backyard, and then going another 50 miles the following day. About that time I noticed cracks in the rear rim of my Trek 520. The shop ordered a replacement rim (on warranty) and rebuilt the wheel a few days before the trip. Then the crank came loose. That was fixed also.
My plan was to cruise along at an easy speed, take photos, make a few side trips, and camp out.
Day 1: I chickened out on the camping because of thunderstorms in the forecast. I called the night before and arranged a room at the Peers Store (MM 81). Departed at 7:45 AM. The day was warm and cloudy, with winds building up later in the day. I checked out Augusta, MO and found it very hilly with interesting old houses. Ate lunch at the Dutzow Deli. Made it to Peers by mid-afternoon to find a nice, clean room over the store. It was a little noisy with farm equipment and trucks, but a truly nice place.
Daily miles: 68.5 Total miles: 68.5
Day 2: Owner of the store gave me a couple free “breakfast sandwiches” and some milk before I left at 7:10. The day was going to be sunny with moderate temps. I tried to eat while watching the sunrise at the store, but the farm cats were very interested in my food. Stopped in Rhineland (MM 105) for a snack and talked to a cyclist from Florida who was happy to be missing the hurricane. Had a cheeseburger at a bar in Tebbets (MM 131). Made it to Wilton (MM 157) by 4:30 and checked into the Riverview Traders General Store. They had minimal supplies and a barebones camping area with a port-a-potty and use of the owner’s personal shower. Along the trail I saw 1 toad, 1 turtle, 3 harmless snakes, 1 million tiny lizards, and 1 billion annoying grasshoppers. During the night I heard coyotes, owls, and lots of other cries in the night that made me paranoid.
Daily miles: 78.7 Total miles: 147.2
Day 3: Didn’t sleep well. Need a better pillow setup. Also found a bolt missing from my rack. I scavenged one from a water bottle cage and all was well. Departed a little after 7 and continued up the trail towards McBaine (MM 169), where I caught the spur to Columbia, MO. A very nice trail that provided a welcome break to the straight-line monotony of the Katy Trail. I stopped at a convenience store in Columbia and had a fine breakfast of milk and donuts. The weather and the scenery was fantastic today. Blue skies, large birds circling overhead, flocks of turkey zipping down the trail ahead of me. At Boonville (MM 191) the trail crosses over the Missouri River. On the western end of the trail the changes in grade become more noticeable.
Unfortunately I had problems in Sedalia. The trail isn’t complete in Sedalia, requiring a trip onto side streets before picking up again at around MM 227. I finally made it to the state fairgrounds, where I assumed I would find camping facilities. A security officer escorted me to a vast, empty camping area, told me it would be $7, and then said the restrooms were locked for the night. I decided it wouldn’t be worth the risk of being arrested for “lewd conduct” and “despoiling state property” so I asked him for directions to my alternate plan: the Sunset Motel. It required riding along narrow, shoulderless roads. The locals seemed to know how to drive around cyclists though. I checked in, cleaned up, and went out for a fried catfish sandwich.
Daily miles: 97.6 Total miles: 244.8
Day 4: Slept well. Had a convenience store breakast and hit the road around 8:15 and headed for the end of the trail at Clinton (MM 264). Along the way I met a guy with a steel-framed, fixed-gear bike from Ibis. Had a chromed fork and L-shaped cranks that said “Brevettato” on them. He said the cranks were one of only a few in the US. Made it to Clinton, ate at the KFC, rolled around the town square, and went back to Sedalia. Saw more lizards and turtles. Ordered a pizza back at the motel and had a good night’s sleep.
Daily miles: 77.8 Total miles: 322.6
Day 5: Left at 7:15, ate at the convenience store, and headed east, planning to camp out at Wilton again. Along the way met Jim, Brad and Steve, three guys from Nebraska making a trip from Sedalia to Washington, MO, returning via Amtrak. They were traveling light and fast, so I let them go ahead after awhile. Had lunch at Abigail’s in Rocheport (MM 178). Crab salad on greens with mango, raspberry tea, and toasted almond pie. Very good. My legs felt heavy after lunch, so I pulled over and read for awhile (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). I changed my mind and stopped at Cooper’s Landing (MM 163) instead of Wilton to camp out. They were serving smoked ribs and had a great view of the river. I had a half-slab of ribs, pork-n-beans, and creamed cornbread (that’s what they called it). There was live music (mediocre), a clean shower, and the noise died down at a reasonable hour. I still hadn’t fixed my comfort issues, so I didn’t sleep well again. Today I had a brief standoff with some cows and saw one harmless snake.
Daily miles: 69.8 Total miles: 392.4
Day 6: Feeling a little tired, I departed at 7. It was getting a little warmer and I was eager to get home. Tried to get a room at Peers again, but they were booked. I hurried to get to Marthasville (MM 78) since I was uncertain of when they closed the community center. I got there to find they were running a “Mud Bog” fundraiser (trucks in a mud pit), and I could setup at 9 after they cleared out. I used the time to read more Cuckoo’s Nest and ride around town. At 9:40, people were still drinking and talking, so I put up my tent and tried to sleep. Quite a while later things got quiet. At least I had a shower.
Saw another snake and a turtle today. Also wading birds (egrets?), which were also common along the trail.
Daily miles: 89.2 Total miles: 481.6
Day 7: Actually slept well. Figured out how to bundle my clothes duffel more tightly and create a passable pillow. Left at 7. Ate lunch at Rhineland (MM 105). By the time I got off the trail at MM 43, my legs were dead. The slightest hill had me shifting into ridiculously low gears. I was so glad to get home that day. Arrived at 1:40.
Daily miles: 66.8 Total miles: 548.4
Average mph: 11.3
Typical gearing: 32x16-18, or 44x21-24 (to spread out the wear and tear) while on the trail. Some of the towns (like Augusta) had very steep little hills, requiring a 32x28-32.
Summary: Since this was mostly a test of my ability to plan and execute, I’d say it went well. I made it on schedule when I wanted to, could alter my plans due to need or want, and had few physical or mechanical problems. My backside was a little sore and my left hand was a little numb. The rear wheel, which had been rebuilt a few days before the start, developed a wobble on the last day. NO FLATS. Thank you Vittoria Randonneur tires!
No animal problems, except for spider webs along the way. And no people or traffic run-ins.
The Katy Trail had some maintenance problems between about MM 80 and MM 130. There were some deep ruts and washouts that would've destroyed a wheel or caused serious injury. It appears the state is working on it. A downed tree on Monday was gone by the following Saturday. The rest stops are consistently better in the west. You'll find flush toilets and sinks more often.
Next time I need to improve weight distribution on the bike, putting more on the front wheel. Find a better pillow. Bring along spare bolts. And use a better skin lotion for my backside.
I'll try to attach some photos in following posts.