Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Katy Trail: Pops, Bangs and Beauty

As avid bicyclists always seeking out new trails, the Katy Trail in central Missouri was on our list. So, as we continue south trying to stay ahead of the frost line, Sedalia, Missouri seemed like a good place to spend a few days...and try out the Katy!

Doug did the research and found that the Missouri State Fairgrounds had RV parking with full hook-ups for just $20 a night...right where we wanted to be and a bargain to boost! We had our pick of the huge camp area. After settling in, we walked over to talk with the only other camper in the area. John turned out to be a seasoned bike-camper on the Katy, and while sharing a beverage, we planned our trip with the benefit of his experience.

The Katy Trail, a 240 miles crushed gravel recreation path, opened in 1990 on the abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) railroad. We studied the trail map and learned that the section that follows the Missouri river is one of the more scenic sections. Our initial plan was to leave the Wildebeest parked in Sedalia, drive to Jefferson City and bike the 85 miles back to Sedalia. We would take our camping gear and some food, but planned to get most of our provisions from the stores and restaurants that were indicated on the trail map. Once we got back to Sedalia, we would take the Wildebeest back to retrieve the car and continue our southern trek.

Jefferson City seemed the "nerdly" place to start so that I could check another state capital off my list! 

We walked around downtown and admired the preservation of the historical buildings.

Two miles from the capitol is the North Jefferson Trail-head where we parked our car, unfolded our bikes and loaded the Burley trailer with our camping gear. 

The weather forecast called for continued sunshine and warm temps. Even though we were going to be "roughing it" over the next few days, the prospect of another "RVenture" had us both excited to start.

Eleven miles into our ride came the "pop"... Doug had a flat tire. When he examined the damage, he saw that his tire was in tough shape. He should have replaced it long before our Katy Trail ride, but he hoped that the glue and dollar bill tire "boot" would solve the problem for the time being. 

After that repair, our route closely followed the trail of Lewis and Clark at the start of their trek to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. The historical marker on the side of the trail made us realize that even they had a few problems on their route. 

Ready for your history lesson? On June 4, 1804, as they traveled west on the Missouri River (at about the same place where Doug had his flat tire), they got too close to shore and snapped their ship's mast on a tree thus losing their ability to steer the ship. They, like Doug, needed to come up with some creative fixes.

With Doug's fix holding, we enjoyed the next sixteen miles...breath-taking rock formations, the winding river, canopies of trees, huge corn fields and flood plains.

We were just coming into the town of McBaine when we heard a "bang". The dollar-bill boot did not hold. Doug had a big hole in his tire and would need to find a new tire...in the middle of nowhere. Being the excellent problem solver that he is, he determined that there was a campground and grocery store two miles ahead and bike shop just 6 miles past there. We would walk the bikes to the campground, replenish our calories with some treats at the grocery store, and he would ride my bike to the next town...with fingers crossed that the store be open and have his size tire!

When we got to Huntsdale, the Katfish Katy store was closed, but we were told that the campground was open. No caffeine or candy, but at least we would have a place to sleep.  Doug went on in search of a tire, and I enjoyed the wait talking with some other bikers on the trail. Two hours later...mission successful! Doug was able to get a tire. With the sun quickly setting, we set up camp on the banks of the Missouri River. Doug diverted a near disaster with a "hangry" wife by firing up his small backpacking stove. 

We dined on re-hydrated Mexican Rice and Beans. Sometimes it's not the food, but who you are with and where you are that makes it a magical dining experience!

The night was cold, the ground hard, the tent small...but falling asleep with sound of a river barge traveling up the river and coyotes yelping in the distance....beautiful!

In the morning, I packed up the campsite while Doug fixed his tire and yet another broken spoke. We had hoped that the Katfish Katy store would have some breakfast items, but since it was closed, we refueled with hot chocolate and a granola bar. 

Now came the decision: do we trust the fix on Doug's bike (his bike has been plagued with minor repair issues), and continue on knowing that the next food stop was 20 miles away, or head back to Jefferson City? Camping in a small tent had not been real comfortable...who would have thought that I'd get "spoiled" with my massively huge RV! There were not as many services along the trail as we are used to. We were getting low on provisions...we only had the dreaded "Shepherd's Pie" camper meal left, and Doug did not want to resort to eating that. We had seen that there were a few restaurants in Hartsburg when we passed through there yesterday, so we decided to head back.

Knowing that we only had 30 miles to cover, we took our time and stopped to enjoy the beauty of the trail. We stopped to admire the state champion Bur Oak tree rising majestically in a field just off the trail.

It is described as: "93 inches in diameter and around 90 feet tall with a crown spread of between 125 to 150 feet. The tree is estimated to be between 350 to 400 years old. It was already stretching skyward when Lewis and Clark passed by a few hundred feet to the south on the Missouri River"

A little further down the trail, Eagle Bluff Lookout promised a "strenuous climb" with a "spectacular view". As you may have guessed, it provided us with a "bird's eye" view of the river valley!

I must have been a pretty good sport up to this point, because Doug said that we needed to stop and get a picture of me by the creek named after me!

"BoatHenge" was an example of some of the un-natural, but still fun, views along the trail...

Along with the "Caboose" House complete with tracks!

We arrived in Hartsburg at noon, famished but excited with the prospect of "real" food from one of the town's three diners. My huge smile once again became a "hangry" scowl when we and about 15 other bikers found that all three of the town's diners were closed!!

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Doug fired up the stove once again, and we re-hydrated the "use only in time of extreme hangry-ness" meal. The Shepherd's Pie shaved off the hunger...but is not something that we would buy again.

But once again, the "beauty" of the Katy Trail came through as we visited with and shared stories with other bicyclists who share our passion for RVenture. 

Just as the day was getting hot, the North Jefferson trail-head sign greeted us!

We packed up our gear in the car as well as a fair amount of Katy Trail dust...and headed back to the comfort of a good meal and a warm shower in the Wildebeest.

As newbies of the Katy Trail, we learned that we needed to be a little better prepared for a multi-day bike-camping RVenture. But even during our short trek with its share of "pops" and "bangs", we also discovered the "beauty" of central Missouri that is known as the Katy Trail!

Until next time, enjoy the daily adventures in your life! 

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