||Katy Trail Resources|
As is most often the case at the start of my tours, I rode my loaded bike into work on Friday, and then rode downtown after work to catch the harbor shuttle to the airport - $10 but well worth it. When I checked in at TWA they didn't have any bike boxes and the fellow at the counter told me I didn't need one. However, when I went down to the baggage office to check the bike they asked me to go to Delta to see if they had one. I'm usually happy to box, but if they were willing to take it unboxed I wasn't about to go to another airline to see if I could buy a box from them.
We were on the runway about to takeoff when we got an announcement that a circuit-breaker kept popping and we were returning to the gate, followed by lots of sighs and some other reactions. A mechanic was summoned to analyze the problem and once the source was identified a search for a replacement part was made. The net result is that we left Boston three hours late. My major concern was that I was booked into the downtown youth hostel in St. Louis and this meant there was no way I could get there by the 10 PM office deadline.
Things didn't improve in St. Louis when I was tightening the allen bolt that secured the handlebar and it suddenly went from getting
Day 2 - 36 miles
In the morning I noticed that the rear tire was low so I started to pump it up. Unfortunately I had just lost the screw-on cap for the pump head on my Master-Blaster so only had a feeble mini-pump with me on the tour. I quickly discovered that the low air was caused by a cut right at the bottom of the valve stem, and the probably cause was that this was a Presta tube on a Schrader rim. I had the wheel replaced some months earlier and don't believe I had ever needed to pump the tire before andso hadn't noticed the wheel-tube mismatch. I put my spare tube in and added an extra valve bolt on the inside of the rim to help stabilize the valve stem. I had looked up bike shops in the yellow pages the previous night to get a new stem, so headed off for the Big Shark shop in University City on my way into downtown. I arrived just before they opened and got a new stem and had them put a Schrader tube on the rear. The other problem I was having is that that the Nimbus 38 tire on the rear was very loose on the rim and difficult to seat correctly. When I first rode away from the shop there was a very noticeable bump from the wheel being out of round and I went back to get it reseated. The tire still had a fair amount of rubber on it but in retrospect I should have replaced it then.
Day 3 - 35 miles
Riding through Forest Park I noticed an open gate to the zoo in front of me with no one staffing it. There were no signs prohibiting bikes and the temptation was too great so I pedaled right in at slow speed, passing several bear cages before the mounties told me I couldn't ride there. Continuing to the museum I was
Day 4 - 82 miles
You can probably guess by now what I awoke to. I was particularly irritated because unlike the past two days it was a beautiful sunny morning and I knew I had a long day ahead of me. I found the hole, which was small and interestingly enough about the same distance from the valve stem as the hole I patched the previous day, but in the other direction. I had inspected the outside of the tire and run my finger around the inside the previous day and not encountered anything, but decided it was time for a closer look.Looking carefully at the inside of the tire I spotted an extremely narrow, short piece of wire that was just barely protruding through the tread. I removed the offending wire, patched the tube, walked to the air pump, had a quick breakfast and finally set off. I had l
I took the train to North Hanley, where I had been told I might be able to put the bike on a bus heading in my direction. At that time of day the next bus was an hour away so I didn't hang around tofind out. I soon found myself on a fairly busy 4-lane road in a strip-mall area. I also noticed that my front tire was losing air, so I pumped it as much as I could with hopes of making it to St. Charles where I knew there were bike shops. I was looking around as I rode and happily spotted the Touring Cyclist, one of a chain of local shops. They had a 10-year old Expedition 35 tire which I put on
I had a quick lunch of chicken chile and bread at the St. Louis Bread Company in St. Charles and finally started riding on the Katy Trail just after noon, with 60 miles to my planned stopover in Hermann. The trail surface is ground limestone and generally fairly smooth and fast, although in some sections there are lots of loose stones and it gets somewhat more tricky. They hadn't had any serious rain since June and my bike and panniers quickly acquired a heavy patina of stone dust. I stopped in the town of Defiance for a quick bottle of juice and noticed a glassed-in display of four stuffed squirrels playing poker while seated at a table. I realize many would find this offensive and I did a little myself, but on the other hand it was so well done that it had a measure of folksy charm - or was it kitsch?
Day 5 - 55 miles Hermann to Jefferson City
Continuing on to Mokane, which appeared larger on the map and therefore meaning more choices, I looked in at a deli that made sandwiches but found it unappealing, largely because it appeared that everything came onWonder bread (fluffy white junk in my mother's parlance). The only other option was a bar (they often serve the only lunch in town in many of these small places) so I went there. After the burgers on the wall menu was listed ham and cheese, which I assumed would be grilled.
I stopped at the small general store in Tebbetts for a juice and thought the woman behind the counter seemed awfully old, and noticed she was using a walker. While I was in the store drinking the juice another biker came in and announced he was the grandson of someone who lived in the town. They got to talking and she said she was 95 years old! The store was in an old bank that had failed in the crash of '29 and apparently she had been working there ever since. She mentioned that she was listening to the scanner that morning and had heard than sun was giving way to clouds with chances of thunderstorms or a snow shower. I actually hoped for the former.
Day 6 - 65 miles Jefferson City to Boonville
I didn't like the prices on the hotel breakfast menu so rode to the Towne Grill, which was much more agreeable. The weather forecast the previous evening had showed mostly sun for the next four days, but the sky belied it being deeply overcast. I went into a store to buy some postcards and as I was leaving the clerk said, "have a nice day." It had a different tone to it than it does in Boston, and I told the store staff, "You know, I'm from Boston, and when people here say that you sound like you really mean it." I'm sure some of the people in Boston mean it also, but it just doesn't have the same sincere ring that I heard all across Missouri.
I stopped in Hartsburg for a hot chocolate since it was still pretty raw outside. This was one of the more developed towns along the trail, with a large bike shop next door to the café. I played "throw the stick" with a couple of kids and a dog in front of it for a while. In Wilton there were a couple of teepees and a funky-looking store that advertised herbs on their sign, so I stopped in for a brief visit.
I stopped for lunch in McBaine, noticing from the 'founded' sign that they would be celebrating their centennial in 5 days. I had a great burger in the "Country Club" there and after returning to the trail found it to be the most attractive section of the whole trip. You are generally riding right next to the river and there are massive sandstone bluffs on the other side of the trail. This section brings you close to Rocheport, which is undoubtedly the largest and most interesting town located right on the trail. I could tell when I was getting close because I saw two couples on what were obviously rental four-wheeled sideways tandem 'bikes'. I spent close to an hour wandering around town and talking with a fellow in a store where I finally found some rumored Katy Trail postcards to send to cycling friends. There are lots of very attractive brick buildings here, both commercial and houses.
Leaving Rocheport you ride through the only tunnel on the trail. After that was perhaps the most boring stretch I rode, with something like a five mile tangent, a slight bend and then another five mile tangent. In this section I saw a loaded tourer coming towards me from the west so I got my camera out to grab a slide of him as he rode by. He stopped so we chatted for a while. He had gone to some family function in Dallas and was riding back to the Dayton, Ohio area.
Since the trail crosses the Missouri at Boonville where it turns southwest (the trail not the river) for Sedalia, the new bridge there has a wide sidewalk to acommodate it. I immediately liked Boonville since it really had the feeling of a river town, with a long main street lined with handsome brick structures. There was a lot more traffic passing through than I had expected, including a lot of big rigs, but it turned out to be overflow caused by construction on the nearby I-70. My motel was a few miles out of town by the interstate and I had heard of one place closer to town, but didn't care for the looks of it and for the first time on the tour needed to use my granny to climb up out of town to my lodging. I had asked around about what dining options there were since I was considering eating in town before I went to the motel, but decided to head out there and then eat since otherwise I'd be riding out in the dark. I had a good cheap dinner at a large truck stop and then went to my motel.
Day 7 - 78 miles Boonville to Carrollton
When I was planning the tour my original thought was to follow the trail to its end and approach Kansas City from the southwest, but the roads didn't look promising on the map and a query on the list made a northern approach sound more bike-friendly. Spring street in Boonville led me to route # 41, which was easy riding with lightly rolling hills (none requiring the granny), good pavement and little traffic. I noticed the rear tire semed to be slowly losing air again, so I pumped it up hoping that would hold until I got to Marshall where I could use an air pump.
Route 41 turned due north here and I picked up a strong headwind. I had headwinds for a majority of the tour and I'd definitely recommend doing it in the other direction. At one point I saw ahead of me what looked like lots of birds circling over the road, but as I got closer I could see that it was small pieces of corn stalk whirling around in the wind. I saw a bunch of trucks and farm equipment parked in a field that had obviously just been cut down and noticed anoher group of stalks in a whirlwind slowly moving across the field. As it passed over an area you could see it suck up aditional material from the ground as it moved off. Even though it was a clear, sunny day this tornado-like effect caused me to quickly look at the sky with some anxiety. Does anyone on the list know what causes this? I've seen stuff caught in a more-or-less static whirlwind on a city streetcorner, but never anything like this in open country.
Rounding a corner shortly after leaving the small town of Miami I suddenly saw a large bridge in front of me, having forgotten that I was crossing the Missouri that day. This was an elegant, lacy-looking, pale blue truss bridge, easily the most attractive of the tour. I had a few miles of bottom-land riding until I climbed to the meet with route # 24 which would bring me into Carrollton. I had expected a gas station or store at the junction, but nothing was there. The rear tire was going soft again and I pumped again, determined that I'd rather deal with it in my motel room later that night. I was happy to see a sign announcing my motel only six miles away, but I hadn't passed any store since Marshall so pulled into a driveway to ask for some water since both my large bottles were now empty.
Day 8 - 80 miles Carrollton to Kansas City
Perhaps foolishly, I stayed up until 2 AM catching up on my journal and writing postcards. After I dressed I walked my bike to the air pump and it immediately deflated. When I brought just the tire back to try to see where the hole was the guy said, "that was fast." I told him I'd had lots of practice over the week. There was a 1/4" cut right next to the valve stem. I patchedit and inflated the tube to about 1.5" to make sure it would hold and then put it back in tire. It held to a certain point and then deflated, so I took it back out of the tire and noticed that the patch was a bit loose so added another one. I
I walked back to the motel and was greeted by the owner calling, "hello, Boston." In a timely manner he asked if there was anything he could do for me and in no time at all I discovered the last 27" tube amongst a wealth of 26" tubes and we were on our way back to the motel. I installed the new tube, brought the bike back to the air hose and finally had a functional mount. I rode back to the motel to get the panniers and ask if I could still find breakfast somewhere since it was getting close to 11 AM. He directed me to the Hitchin' Post and I encountered some of the friendliest folks (where are you from, where have you been, where are you going) I had met in a friendly week. One fellow even waited for me to come out after breakfast to take my photo and show me a photo of the grave of Jim, the Wonder Dog.
I figured Kansas City was about 60-70 miles and I'd be pushing dark again. The obvious roue was state 10 west to Narbonne and Hardin, then county J to my last crossing of the Missouri. This was about the most boring riding I had with the first 10 miles unvaryingly straight all the way to Narbonne. In Hardin I spoke with a teen-aged girl in a mini-store about routes and possibly staying north of the river on 210, but she said it was narrow with a fair amount of traffic. She warned me of the narrownes of the route 13 bridge I was heading for, but I told her I was well used to dealing with things like that.
The general store had home-made microwave burgers that were surprising good - if only she had a toaster for the bun. It was so good I ordered another and used the trampoline in the yard while I waited. I knew that 224 merged with route 24 just west of town and shortly after became 4 lanes, but she said it was a very quiet 4 lanes and the other option I was looking at was hillier and fairly busy. Going downhill on 24 just before it widened I was at the far right of the travel lane instead of on the paved shoulder because of some debris there that I wanted to avoid. The driver of a white Camareo with three guys in it leaned on the horn as he went by - the first time of the whole trip any driver had been less than courteous. Probably because of that I raised my arm in an Italian salute and the Camaro pulled over to the shoulder down the road and stopped. I had just finished thinking "here we go" when he just as quickly pulled out again and sped away, with me thinking one of his buddies had said something like "it's just some guy on a bike."
The four lanes seemed hardly justified as the traffic would just barely require two lanes, but this cahnges as I got closer to Independence. When the wide, paved shoulder was clean and smooth enough to ride on I would, otherwise I stayed on the far right of the road, moving over when traffic got dense.
Route 24 got to be very busy in a strip-mall area and I really wanted off it. State 291 took some of the traffic, but shortly afer I rode about a mile south to route 12 which I followed all the way to downtown, which I could finally see about 10 miles away from the top of a hill in Independence. On the other hand it was close to 7 PM and I stopped to mount the lights, turning on the rear flasher. I had a room booked in the Midtown Rodeway Inn, which was the closest to downtown reasonably priced place I could find.
Since I suspected I wouldn't feel like going back out for dinner after I checked in, I got a very nice chicken gyro with rice and Greek salad to go at a middle-eastern restaurant and a six-pack from a beer store that had the best selection I'd seen since Boston. There were perhaps two dozen micros that I'd never seen before and it was a very hard decision.
Day 9 - 18 miles Kansas City
Early in the morning I rode downtown and checked out some cheaper motels, but decided the area was just too questionable. Also, I wanted to be close to the Amtrak station for an early train Monday morning and I discovered that where I was I had an easy 10-minute downhill ride to the station. I had checked the bike shop listings in the yellow pages and found that Midwest Cyclery was only about a mile south I where I was staying, so headed there and very quickly I had a new rear shifter cable. I also picked up a Topeak Einstein while I was there. I wanted to visit the Nelson-Atkins art museum and stopped at the Country Club Plaza
Day 10 - 38 miles Kansas City
I had my seventh flat of the tour this morning and came close to not riding the rest of the day. However, I was very interested in seeing some of the railroad - industrial districts, so I talked myself into repairing it and setting out once again. I crossed the Kansas River into my third state of the tour although I didn't plan to stay there any longer than I had in Illinois. Coming back to Missouri I spent a couple of hours exploring the West Bottoms area where railroad tracks (or previous railroad racks) snake their way in alleys between brick buildings, with frequently complex street and structure arrangements. The sound of train air horns was almost constant in this area of Kansas City, a sound which stirs my spirit. Coming up from river level I rode through the developing River Market district and had a satisfying lunch at the like-named brewery. I rode some more through the downtown area and found that it is like many older cities with many of the buildings vacant, although seemingly less so than I found in St. Louis. I wound my way back to my lodgings and packed and got to bed early for my travel day in the morning.
Day 11 - 2 miles Kansas City - Boston
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