Katy Trail Bike Tour: Epilogue

After getting cleaned up last night, I had a great night’s sleep in my own bed.  I’m sure everyone can relate to the comfort of climbing in your own bed after a long journey.  It just feels like home.  Throughout our journey, we had very great accommodations from the various churches and Deacon’s houses we visited.  But there is still nothing quite like being at home.

The Katy Trail has a bit of a mystique about it.  Most people who enjoy bike touring have it on their bucket list.  It is kinda like a baseball fan wanting to go to Wrigley or Fenway.  The Katy opened in 1990 and was one of the earliest successful rails-to-trails projects, and arguably one of the most successful in garnering interest.  It is the longest single contiguous rail-trail, although I would say that the combination of the Great Allegheny Passage + C&O Canal makes for a longer continuous off-road ride at about 330 miles.

For me, part of the enjoyment of the tour is the getting ready: the research, reading, watching videos, finding blogs, and talking to people who have already ridden the path.  It was harder than I expected to find out a lot about the towns along the path.  After riding it, I think that is because many are closed up old towns, whose soul lies in the past.  The best book I was able to find was “The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook” (10th ed.) by Brett Dufur.  It was last published in 2013 and could use some minor updates, but overall was a good resource.  I do recommend this book if you’re considering riding the Katy.  Dufur’s book has a small chapter on each of the little towns and areas along the way with history and some details about services.  Some of the services information is no longer up-to-date.

Riding the Katy was a very good experience.  We were able to ride all the way from Machens (the farthest east end) to Clinton (the farthest west end) with only about 3 miles of road riding around the town of Sedalia.  That’s 240 miles with 26 trailheads, wandering through the beautiful prairie and countryside of Missouri.

The scenery along the Katy is pretty.  I expected to see much more of the Missouri River – but we really didn’t see much of it.  The Katy and Missouri are relatively near each other from the Eastern end all the way to Boonville, before parting and going different directions.  But even on the eastern part of the trail, the Missouri was often a few hundred yards or more away.  So when we did get a nice view of the Missouri, it was a welcome sight.

I was a little surprised about how much of the trail was out in the open.  Much of the trail is shaded by a semi-mature canopy of trees.  I’d guess about 50-60% of the total trail has trees lining it.  During the early morning or late afternoon, the trees would do a good job of providing shade, however when the sun was directly over head, most of the canopy wasn’t thick enough to provide much shade.

In the prairie areas, there was little-to-no shade at all.  During mid day, we found ourselves picking the left or right side of the trail depending on if there were any trees at all next to the path, just hoping to get a few seconds of shade here and there.

I found the farm country between St. Charles and Jefferson City to be pretty… but a bit repetitive after a while.  The trail is incredibly flat all the way from Machens to Boonville, which doesn’t allow for you to break the monotony by standing out of the saddle for a climb, or coasting down a grade.  It is just a continuous beat of putting one pedal in front of the other until  you reach your destination.  Personally, I like a little bit of variety in my ride to help make the miles pass.

The prairie between Sedalia and Clinton was my favorite of the farm areas, though.  It was very windy up there, but the wind seemed to make the fields come alive, like watching the ocean on a beach.  The waves of air would ripple across the grain or corn, causing them to dance in rhythm.

The western section between Boonville and Clinton provided the most diverse scenery and riding.  There is very little flat riding, only gentle grades, typically about 1-2%.  There are larger sections of tree canopy and more interesting rock formations along the sides of the trail.  Also, the trail is more compacted and solid here.  The surface was mostly older, so it is less dusty and took less pedal power to keep the wheels moving.

I didn’t see very many remnants of the railroad on the trail.  Very few fixtures from the past are still along the sides.  This is the only one I recall – I may have missed others.

We didn’t really find very many places along the trail we would have liked to explore.  Certainly there were the bigger towns like St. Charles, Jefferson City, Hermann, Sedalia, Boonville, and Clinton.  But one thing Joe and I have enjoyed on other trails is the experience of going into smaller towns along the way and meeting the people there.  There is something quite beautiful about the culture of small town America.  Sadly, most of the little towns we passed through appeared to be closed up – storefronts all vacant and very few people to be seen anywhere.

The one town I would like to go back to is Rocheport.  The area near Rocheport has amazing bluffs next to the trail.  The town itself is well maintained, with many nicely restored older homes.  Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures of the town to share.

Jefferson City (aka “Jeff City”) was a very developed town, as you would probably have assumed.  Since it is the state capitol, there is a decent economy, lots of restaurants, three bike shops, and so on.  If you’re going to ride the Katy, I recommend an over-night in Jeff City.

 

Overall, the trail did provide some really nice scenery, and it was really nice to get away from busy roads.

As usual, however, it is the many people we meet along the way that really makes bike touring so memorable.  So many people took such good care of us.  Before this trip, we knew none of them.  For the most part, we just called them a few weeks ago and asked if they’d help us find a place to rest – and remarkably, we were able to find housing at every stop.  At every stop, no exceptions, we found friendly people who went out of their way to get to know us and help us out.  We shared meals, prayer time, and stories with total strangers, and by the end of our short visits, we have new friends.

We certainly had our share of challenges along the way.  Joe had a series of flats, most probably caused by having lighter-weight tires.  I had one flat as well, caused by a very sharp pebble on the path.  Then there was the heat, very strong and continuous headwinds from Sedalia to Clinton, and one day for each of us where our bodies just didn’t feel up to the challenge.  But Joe and I helped each other through,  My advice: be well prepared for basic repairs and carry a couple of extra tubes.  It’s much better to be putting your tube patches on in the evening after the ride than taking the time out in the hot sun to set a patch.

As I’ve noted a few times, this is the dustiest trail I’ve ever ridden anywhere.  The eastern half had a lot of fresh gravel on it, and I could see a ‘rooster tail’ of dust kicking off of Joe’s tires whenever he was in front of me.  The dust is so fine that it gets on everything and inside your bags.  If you are carrying clothes, food, or electronics, I strongly recommend putting them inside plastic bags, inside your panniers.

Before and after pictures of rinsing my bike off in St. Charles at the end of the ride:

 

I really enjoyed seeing another state by bike.  The Katy gives a really nice way to enjoy Missouri.  I’ve driven across a few times, but the bike takes you through parts of the country that most people would not see unless they were local residents.

And that’s what bike touring is all about for me: seeing the country at a slower pace, meeting great people, and enjoying the time away.

 

Here are a few tidbits of advice if you’re contemplating a ride on the Katy:

  • Use the widest tires your frame can fit.  You won’t likely need any aggressive tread, but you will want thick rubber.  The extra weight will be worth it in flat protection.
  • Carry 2 extra tubes and a patch kit.  You’ll likely need it.
  • Take 3-4 water bottles, especially if it will be hot.  There are very few opportunities to get water on the eastern half of the trail.  The western half seemed much better for water.
  • Carry one meal worth of food and if you’re traveling on a Monday, check for restaurants ahead of time.  There are long stretches without any opportunity for food.
  • Pick your milage carefully.  We pushed 70+ mile days for some segments.  That’s probably a bit too much for most riders.  The surface is pretty slow, so I would probably recommend 45-55 mile days, if possible.
  • Take lots of sunscreen.  Use it.

 

Overall, the Katy was a very nice ride.  I’ve checked it off my bucket list.  I’m not necessarily feeling like I will want to repeat the Katy unless there was a group of friends or some special event to draw me.  The Katy is definitely nice, but not at the top of my list of favorite trails.  It needs more small-town charm along the way, and a few more opportunities to explore.  If I were to recommend a part of the Katy, I think my favorite part is the area between Boonville and Clinton.  A nice 2-3 day ride out/back along that section would be a great long-weekend ride.

 

Here are some interesting statistics about our adventure.  Remember that we cut off part of the round-trip by hopping from Sedalia to Hermann by Amtrak during our return:

  • Total Miles by bike: 384
  • Total Calories burned: 13,400 (approximately)
  • Number of full pedal rotations: 156,968 (or 313,936 left + right strokes)
  • 30 Hours, 52 Minutes of time in the saddle.
  • Gallons of water/tea/gatorade consumed: I have no idea.  Lots and lots.
  • Flat Tires: Joe 4, Matt 1
  • Number of Honey Stinger waffles consumed by me: 11.  Yum.
  • Number of meals that included french fries: zero (but don’t ask about bacon, I lost track)
  • Number of days of rain: zero

 

 

With that, this brings to an end the 2017 Katy Trail tour for Joe and me.  I have appreciated the prayers, texts, messages, and emails of support while we were gone.  Thank you.

Peace!
– Deacon Matt

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Katy Day 7 – Heading East, Rhineland to St. Charles (69 miles) – and HOME!

We set out early again today, getting a quick breakfast before hitting the road.  We expected the ride to be 65-70 miles , so it was going to be a long day.  Since it was going to be a hot day, we wanted to get as many miles in as possible early in the day.

Before leaving the rectory of the Church of the Risen Savior in Rhineland, this picture caught my eye.  I’m assuming it was put together by one of their quilters.  “Along the way take time to smell the flowers”.  Pretty good advice.

Setting out, it was already a bit warm and humid at 6:45AM.  As we got onto our bikes, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

We made pretty good progress, but the Katy trail is really bumpy through this section.  There have been a lot of trail repairs due to recent washouts.  The new gravel is very soft, with lots of hard bumps.

The Missouri is still running high and fast.  We got close to the river on a few occasions today.

After slogging through miles of rough patches and loose gravel, I was getting a bit tired of the bumping and high-resistance of this section of the trail.  The trail crossed MO route 95 and we took that opportunity to depart from the trail and ride about 13 miles on route 95.  Being on the surface street allowed us to ride a little faster, and definitely much more smoothly.  When we approached Marthaville, we stopped at a gas station to get some gatorade and rejoin the Katy.

Our first destination today was Dutzow, about 30 miles into the ride, and only about 3 miles past Marthasville.  On Mondays, many restaurants on the trail are closed, but the Dutzow Cafe was open for breakfast hours, and we knew we would need a real meal to fuel our ride.

The Cafe has good food and is located right on the trail.  Inside, we ran into a group of cyclists from the Chicago area.  I talked with them and found out that they all lived in the northwest suburbs very close to where I used to live in Algonquin, Il.

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The next several miles were mostly in the open, going through farm land.  We still didn’t have any cloud cover and the sun was starting to bring on the heat.

The Katy is, by far, the dustiest trail I have ever ridden.  The western half was fairly dusty, but the eastern end is over-the-top dusty.  My bike, water bottles, panniers, and my body were all coated in a fine layer of limestone dust.  You could feel the grit between your teeth.  There was really no escaping the dust.

A few more miles brought us to St. Charles, our destination.  We took a picture by the Louis & Clark monument.

By the time we finished today you couldn’t even read the bike decals on my bike, not to mention that I was covered from head-to-toe in grit, especially my legs.


Right behind the monument was a water fountain that also had a spigot attached.  The spigot had really strong water pressure, which was fantastic for washing ourselves and our bikes.  The cool water felt amazing, and so did getting rid of the bugs, dust, and sunblock.  Here’s the “after” picture of rinsing the Katy off of my bike:

Joe was really tired today.  He decided that if he could power though, he’d get some ice cream when we got to St. Charles.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the ice cream shop had some non-dairy frozen treats that I could eat!  Yum.

Before leaving St. Charles, Joe wanted to find a book for each of his kids.  We rode up into town, bouncing along the brick-paved street, looking for a book store.  We found it easily and I waited outside while Joe shopped for his kids.

With books in hand, we pushed up the hill to St. Peter Catholic Church, where we had parked our car last week.  We changed out of our biking gear, loaded up our bikes, and got on the road.  We had a very easy, albeit long, ride back home.

Tomorrow I’ll assemble some final thoughts about riding the Katy.  But for now, my own bed awaits.

Peace!

– Deacon Matt

Katy Day 6 – Heading East, Clinton to Sedalia (44 miles): Bikes, trains, and automobiles 

Today we started our journey back towards our car, which is about 240 miles away. Originally we had intended to ride back the entire way by bike, with a side trip into Columbia MO.  After looking at the high temps for the next few days, we elected to use Amtrak to cut about 110 miles out of the middle of the return trip.

Step one of our journey is to get from Clinton to Sedalia, about 40 miles by bike.  Step two is to take the train from Sedalia to Hermann, plus cycle a few miles to Rhineland for our overnight tonight.  Step three will be tomorrow, to ride the remaining 65-70 miles back to St. Charles, where we left our car.

Step one: complete. We had an uneventful and pleasant ride back to Sedalia, arriving before lunch.

Since we are backtracking over familiar territory, I did not take many new pictures of today’s ride.

We took a little more leisurely pace today since we only had around 40 miles to go.  We ate first breakfast before leaving Clinton, and making our way to Pilot Grove.


I was able to stop and soak up the scenery today. Yesterday, we had such strong headwinds that I had to keep my head down and tucked, concentrating on keeping my pedals going forward.  Today, since we came back the opposite direction, the winds helped us out and I could actually look up and enjoy the prairie and forest canopied areas.

The picture below doesn’t really do this view justice. To my left, there are waves of green corn growing and blowing in the wind. To the right is a huge field of golden wheat, blowing like waves on the ocean.  The wind was very strong and gusty, and the fields danced like a melody.  It really is a beauty to behold.  Notice also – no clouds to be found anywhere, nor any shade.


Our next stop was second breakfast.  We had spotted this restaurant in Green Ridge yesterday.  There were quite a few trucks parked outside – that said to me that the locals must approve.  It did not disappoint.  I had a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, and hashbrowns.  Well prepared and the service was so friendly.  I would absolutely come back here again.

We finally arrived in Sedalia around lunch time with plenty of time to spare for our 5:20PM train.  We spent a little time riding around Sedalia, making sure we knew where the Amtrak station was for later.  We ran into this nice lady and her daughter.  She is an organic farmer nearby and her daughter was heading back to Kansas City for college.  We had a very nice conversation for a few minutes before departing and looking for a little bit of lunch.

Most of Sedalia was closed up for Sunday, but Joe did find this sports bar that was open, so we went by to have a beer and some snacks to tide us over for a while.  We had about 5 hours to kill, so we decided a little time in an air conditioned restaurant was a good start.

We were pretty sure we would not have any opportunity to grab dinner tonight since the only restaruant in Rhineland is not open on Sunday late evening.  So we cycled into downtown Sedalia and went to Subway to get a couple of sandwiches to eat later on the train.  We killed a little more time at Subway while I tried to teach Joe a little about how to play cribbage.

The tiny Amtrak terminal has a cooled waiting area, so we pedaled back there to wait for the train.  Joe tried to nap, unsuccessfully.

It may be hard to see in the pictures, but my bike is completely covered in limestone dust.  Every nook and cranny, every chain link, and even every smooth surface has a fine grey powder stuck to it.  It is amazing how much dust comes off of this trail.  I try to clean the chain each day, but I am quite certain that the oil and limestone dust is making a very nice abrasive that is going all around the drivetrain each pedal stroke.

As we were waiting for the train, I received a text that the train was delayed.  Then a little while later, another delay.  Suddenly, our step two plan needed some tweaking.  We did eventually get on the train, however instead of having an hour of sunlight to ride back to Rhineland from the Hermann Amtrak drop-off, we would not have any sunlight left.  Our arrival time was just about sun-down.  I did not bring my bike headlight with me on this trip because I didn’t think I would need it.  Note to self – always bring the headlight, even though it is heavy.

Dial back a few days ago when we were in Rhineland…  We had an enjoyable evening with Deacon Joe and his wife Elaine.  When they dropped us off that evening, Elaine handed me a piece of paper with her number on it and said that if we ever needed anything to give her a call.  Why did she do that – what were the chances we would ever cross paths again?  God moment.

This evening, I used her number and asked Elaine if they would be able to give us a ride from Hermann to Rhineland.  They graciously said yes and picked us up right at the train.  A few minutes later, they dropped us off at Risen Savior church in Rhineland.

We quickly set about getting showered (yay, really needed it!), laundry done (yay, also really needed it!), and then updating the blog.
Tomorrow, we have about 65 +/- miles to go to get back to our car in St. Charles.  It is supposed to be a hot day, so we will be getting out early to beat as much of the heat as possible.  Tomorrow’s miles are very open in the sun, so we are hoping to cover a lot of path as quickly as we can.

Next Stop: St. Charles, then to home!  I’m really looking forward to hopefully sleeping in my own bed tomorrow.  We’ve gotten used to lots of unexpected surprises on this trip, but with God’s grace, we’ve managed pretty well.  Thank you for all of the prayers and support!

Peace,

Dcn. Matt

Katy Trail Day 5 – Boonville to Clinton (78 miles). No flats and definitely not flat!  Plenty of Wind Power, too!

We knew that today was going to be a long ride, so we got up early and had a quick breakfast at the rectory before hitting the trail.  We said goodbye to Fr. Basil before leaving.  I truly hope to cross his path again soon – he is the kind of priest that exudes joy.  I am certain that if more of our priests were like him, we would have many more young men discerning vocations.

Up to this point, the Katy has been meandering through the flood plains of the Missouri River.    From Boonville on, the Katy runs in a different direction.  The first 165 miles have been very flat, you could even say monotonous.  Today’s ride was not flat – these last 78 miles were nearly all up or down hill with very little flat.  The Katy is still a railroad grade, so the hills and climbs were all less than 3%, but there sure was a lot of gentle climbing, starting immediately as we left Boonville.  For anyone who has ridden the Great Allegheny Passage’s climb from Cumberland to Frostburg, today reminded me of that kind of climb all day.

The cool temperatures were really comfortable for the first 40 miles of today’s ride.  The afternoon was a bit toasty, but the beginning of the ride was really great.  All-in-all, very good weather today.

The Katy passes through a few small farming communities and small farm towns in this section.  Unlike the eastern end, I found this last 80 miles to be more varied and interesting scenery.  We rode long grades up into forested sections, took a few downhillls among interesting rock formations, and had a lot of canopied path.



We made pretty good time to Sedalia, although we didn’t really set any speed records.  We took a fairly relaxed pace going up the hills, opting for low gears.



On a couple of my past bike adventures, I’ve had to “face the demons” as I say. There are some days that your body decides that it does not want to undertake the challenge that lies ahead. You start to doubt your ability and training and wonder if you will be able to make it to the end of the day’s ride. I faced a little of that on day 2 of this ride – and during that day, Joe pulled me along. Today was Joe’s turn to face the demons.

Some place around Pilot Grove, Joe began having a little difficulty keeping up on the hills. By the time we reached the outskirts of Sedalia, I knew he was probably “bonking” – a problem where your blood sugar and/or water are out of balance from not drinking or eating enough. I gave him some nuts and made him drink a bunch of water. We arrived at the old Sedalia train station and he was a little better.

We went to Subway for lunch and we each ate a large sandwich and a couple of large cups of drinks.  That did the trick.  Joe came back to life!  Although his muscles were a little tired, his mental state improved 100%.  From Sedalia on, we were having a lot more fun.  And that’s a good thing because from there on, we encountered very stiff and relentless headwinds on top of the constant climbing!  We had nearly 45 miles of headwinds today.  We just geared down a click and took it one pedal stroke at a time.

The highest point of the Katy reaches 955 feet.  It was very hot and windy up there.  You can see that the trail seems to go on forever up there in the open!

Shortly after taking these pictures, we resumed our trip towards the end at Clinton.  However, after we had gotten back on our bikes and put our cameras away, a couple of A10  Warthog airplanes came swooping over our heads and turned back to where they came from.  The sound was amazing.  I did catch some footage with my sport camera on video, but I can’t upload it here until I get to a computer back home.


The next town we arrived at was Windsor, Mo.  This town purchased a caboose to put at their trailhead.  As they were restoring the car by stripping the paint, they discovered that under the outer layer, there was a paint job from the Spirit of 76 train that was used during the Bicentennial of 1976.  They then restored it to that condition.  Neat story!


We met this nice couple from Ithaca NY as they were making their way east on the Katy.  They had parked their car in St. Charles and had a shuttle service drop them off on the west side to pedal back east.  Her name was Elaine, I think.  I don’t remember his name – he hardly said a word.

We kept pedaling on to get to Clinton.  We had arranged to get to 5PM mass there.

We eventually arrived at Clinton!  This is the Western end of the Katy, so we can now say we’ve gone the whole length of the trail.

We had just a couple of miles of surface streets to get to the church.  We made it with about 40 minutes to spare.  We were introduced to Father Jim and Deacon Steve.  Deacon Steve and his wife, and another Deacon took us out for dinner after mass.  We had a nice conversation and got to know each other a bit.  It was a nice way to see downtown Clinton, too.

Clinton has a really  classic town square with the courthouse in the middle and shops all around it.  I love these kinds of towns!

As I write, I’m waiting for our laundry to dry, then it is time for bed.

Tomorrow is a 45-50 mile day, starting by riding back to Sedalia, catching the 5:20PM train to Hermann, then a few more miles from Hermann to Rhineland to stay for the night.  Looking forward to a more relaxed day.  We should have some time to explore Sedalia a little, take our time, and enjoy the scenery.  I’m also really hoping that those crazy winds from the west that pushed against us today keep up again so that we will have tailwinds on our way back tomorrow!

Until Tomorrow, Peace!

Katy Trail Day 4 – Jefferson City to Boonville (55 miles)

This morning we bid a farewell to St. Joseph Catheral in Jefferson City.  We left around morning rush hour, but the traffic was pretty well behaved around cyclists.  After stopping for a quick breakfast, we were back underway.

The Katy is on the other side of the Missouri River from Jefferson City, so we had to cross back over the bridge.  There is a square spiral ramp that takes you back down from the bridge deck to the ground below where the spur trail joins to take you back to the Katy.  That’s Joe on his bike in the picture below.  What I didn’t realize is that the reason he was going so low down the ramp is that he had yet another flat tire, a mere 3 miles from our start, and only 5 miles from getting brand new tires.

As he patiently took his wheel apart, Joe discovered that this flat was not a puncture like his previous ones, but was caused by the rim-tape of his wheel being shifted off its intended place and exposing the sharp edges of the holes where the spokes are.  So as he was riding, the sharp edge of the wheel cut into his tube.  Joe painstakingly removed the tape, put it back into in the right place, and put a new tube in.  About 35 minutes later we were back underway.  I could empathize with Joe’s frustration as he was putting everything back together.  We said a prayer for a smoother day and began plugging along.

Much like yesterday, much of the trail is along farm lands.  I am a little surprised at how infrequently we are close to the Missouri River.  We are definitely in the flood plain, but the river is far away to the south for much of the ride.  In the picture below, the river is far beyond the trees on the left side of the picture.  Being in the flood plain is what has made this such fertile farmland.  Over the millennia, the various floods of the river have left behind silt and organic material that has made this soil so rich.

We’ve seen some wildlife on the trail.  Not nearly as much as I had expected, but a few critters have shared our ride.  Yesterday, we saw several deer.  Today, I think I ran over a medium sized black snake that darted out as we were cruising along.  We’ve also seen a few turtles.  I stopped to get a picture of this cute little guy.  He’s a bit camera shy.

As we got closer to Hartsburg, you begin to see bluffs: cliffs of rock that are nearly straight up and fairly tall.  It is really hard to take a picture of them to give you any idea of scale.


The Katy shares its route with part of the Lewis and Clark expedition’s route.  At many of the trailheads you can find tidbits about their journey.

Around lunch time, we finally reached Rocheport.  This is probably the nicest small town we have seen along the entire Katy.  There are lots of nicely restored old homes, a quaint small shopping area, and a couple of places to eat.  We decided to stop for lunch at the General Store. 

The General Store isn’t really much of a store, but had a nice menu of sandwiches and such.  I decided that a PB&J sandwich was really a good idea, with a slice of apple pie.  You can tell from the picture which item was the main course.

After lunch we had about 12 more miles to go to get to Boonville and the temperatures were getting pretty hot.  We pressed on, but stopped at this iconic caboose not too far from Boonville.  When I was a kid, we used to see trains come through a town near where we lived and they’d stop traffic to let the train pass.  I remember always watching for the cabooses.  It was like the train wasn’t complete without a caboose.  That would be like a dog without a tail.  Eventually the cabooses stopped being part of the trains, but I still really enjoy seeing them – it reminds me of that time of being a kid.

Less than a mile after seeing the caboose, I heard a strange ticking and hissing noise coming from my front tire.  I knew what it was and quickly found one of the few precious patches of shade under a tree adjacent to the trail.  There was a sharp stone sticking out of the bottom of my tire.  When I pulled it out, the tire quickly hissed out all of the air.  The Katy trail had finally claimed one of my tires as its victim.  I decided to save that pesky little stone as a souvenir.  We had the tube changed in record time, after all, we’ve had lots of practice lately.

Getting into Boonville requires crossing a tall bridge over the Missouri.  From this point forward, the Katy and the Missouri diverge to go their own separate ways.  We put it into low gear and ground the pedals to climb up and over the long bridge into town.

Before heading to our home for the night, we decided to swing by the Boonville station.  They have a caboose out front that you can look in the windows of.

The station was a bit underwhelming.  There is a small bike shop inside, but not much else that would be interesting to a touring cyclist.

Next priority was to find Sts. Peter and Paul church.  A few short blocks from the trailhead, we arrived and took our things to our rooms.  Father Basil welcomed us to his home.  After a much needed shower, we settled in and did some work to prepare our return trip once we reach the trail end at Clinton.

The weather forecast continues to show very hot temperatures, so we will be picking up an Amtrak train to cut off about 110 miles and 1.5 days of cycling on the return.  Once we get to Clinton, we will cycle back to Sedalia, catch the train to Hermann, and then cycle to St. Charles from there.  We’ll still have about 108 miles of the return trip to cycle back to our car, but we will have one less day of scorching 96-97° heat.

Father Basil is from Nigeria and a wonderful young priest.  He also is a very good cook, apparently.  He was at the beginning stages of making tomato sauce (he said stew) from raw fresh tomatoes.  It smelled awfully good!


Smelling Father’s sauce cooking made us hungry, so we set out for some dinner.  We decided that Mexican food sounded good.  And it tasted good, too!


Boonville has some really nice older homes, so we grabbed a couple of pictures as we walked to dinner.


Tomorrow is our longest day of the tour at 73 miles.  On paved surface, this wouldn’t be too bad, but this surface is slow and the temps are supposed to be high.  So we’ll be up and out early, chugging along down the trail.  Assuming all goes well, we will complete the full length and reach the end of the Katy by late afternoon tomorrow!

Peace!

Katy Trail Day 3 – Rhineland into Jefferson City (45 miles)

We both slept pretty well last night, and it was an early rise to try to get out before it got too warm.  We stopped but the Trailside Cafe (again) for breakfast.  Good food and reasonably priced.

There are constant reminders of the flooding that happens along this corridor of the Missouri River. Flood markings, signs, and the frequent notes about the “1993 flood” are on most of the informational signs at the various trailheads.

The town we stayed in last night, Rhineland, was one of the biggest flooded areas in 1993.  Inside the Trailside there were pictures of the flooding.  This town doesn’t seem that close to the river, but the volume of water that flowed over the banks must have been enormous.  Rhineland had been subjected to several floods in the past, and the 1993 flood kicked off a major change.

Shortly after the ’93 flood, the entire town, except for one single family, picked up their houses and moved to the hilltop above the existing town.  A lottery was held to choose the new plots of land for each family.  Then their houses were moved or new ones built.  In their new location, they are no longer subject to the massive power of the Missouri River’s floods.

After finishing our breakfast, our next stop was to make our way steadily westbound, heading for Jefferson City.  We passed through several tiny towns and just a few trailheads.  This part of the trail continues to be pretty sparse.  The scenery is pretty, but not much else to see along here.  Even the small towns are mostly closed up without services.

One neat tidbit was this single rock that was right next to the trail.  Geologists say that it was left from erosion over time.


After many miles of forest and farmland, we finally arrived at North Jefferson – a trailhead on the northern side of the Missouri River.  Jefferson City, the state Capitol, is 3 miles south, across a bridge over the river.

We departed the Katy and took the trail up to the huge bridge over the river. To get on to the bridge, you have to ride up a climbing set of ramps that brings you from the ground to the bridge deck-level that is several stories above the ground. Once up at the top, you are on a dedicated bike/pedestrian bridge lane separated from the very busy traffic. The view from up there was pretty nice.


Exiting the bridge, you end up on the east side of Jefferson City.  This town clearly embraces the bicycle culture and bike tourism.  Good bike lanes and courteous drivers were everywhere we looked.


We had arrived around lunch time, but we also wanted to find Joe some new tires.  We found 3 bicycle shops on the map and chose one near the Capitol Building.

We were very successful.  The guys at Red Wheel Bikes took good care of Joe.  We got him some new and thicker tires to carry us the rest of the way.  Joe says that when he felt the difference between the older and newer tires with his fingers, he could tell that these would be much more robust.


Our next stop was some lunch.  Deacon Joe had recommended a little restaurant near the Cathedral.  To get there, we headed back about 2 miles east of the Capitol, climbing nearly all the way.   With lunch taken care of, we continued a little farther up the hill until we arrived at the Cathedral.

Msgr. Kurwicki met us and showed us to our rooms in the rectory.  The rectory used to be a Carmelite women’s monastery.  The parish purchased it a few years ago and did a very nice but modest restoration.  It is a very comfortable place to stay.


After getting cleaned up, we took an Uber down into town – we did not want to ride any further today.  We found a sports bar for dinner.

Today happens to be Joe’s birthday, so we had a nice celebration with a steak and beer.


We took a good long time to eat dinner and talk before heading out.  There was a outdoor concert going on when we left, so we wandered about for a while before Ubering back to the Cathedral.

This is the first time either of us had used Uber. It was pretty easy and efficient.  I’d use them again, for sure.

Upon return to the rectory, we started researching some alternate plans for what to do once we reach the western end of the trail.  As we looked at the weather forecast, they are now predicting 95+ degree temperatures for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  One really hot day isn’t too bad, but three in a row, combined with long days, seems a bit daunting.

So we are considering taking a train back part of the way to cut off about 1 1/2 days of riding on the return.  With the added bonus that neither of us has ridden Amtrak before, we get a little bit of an adventure added.  We’re going to sleep on that plan and decide tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow is a long day, so it is time for bed.

Peace!

Katy Trail Day 2 – Flat and Flats from St. Charles to Rhineland (68 miles)

Today started with a nice breakfast send off from Deacon Larry and his wife Mary.  They were amazingly wonderful hosts.  Dcn. Larry likes to come out to Kentucky to Gethsemane Abbey for retreats – so maybe we can convince him to head our way before/after so that we can return the hospitality.

The weather for today looked to be a great forecast.  Doesn’t get much nicer than a cool start and highs in the upper 70s or lower 80s.  (But note the forecast for later in the week when we are making our way back – 95 degrees.)


At the St. Charles trailhead, they have a couple of cabooses, so it seemed like a good place to get our start-of-day obligatory picture.


Today’s trip was about 68 miles.  We had originally planned a few extra miles of side-trip into Hermann, but decided later to hold off on the extra trip.

Throughout the 68 miles, the entire trail is very flat.  The Katy is a crushed limestone surface and pretty well maintained.  We rode over a few minor washout repairs, but no major trail ruts or problems.  The trail is fairly smooth, but the buzz of the gravel is a constant companion, and the surface doesn’t allow you to coast much.  So although it is very flat, you are constantly working to keep the pedals turning.

We were told to expect nearly all shaded area today.  I would say we were about 70% shaded and 30% very direct sun.  Parts of the trail are canopied with trees, but there are very long stretches where you are adjacent to, or down the middle of farm land with absolutely no cover at all.

On the east end of the Katy, most of the trail is close to the Missouri River.  Sometimes, it is only a few feet, and other times you are a few hundred yards.

We saw several places where these murals up to draw attention to the construction of the Katy through the land trust.

Throughout nearly our entire ride today we kept crossing paths with a guy named Doug.  He is in the green shirt blow.  He is from Juno Alaska and flew in with his bike to ride the Katy.  We talked a bit and he seemed pretty nice.  We didn’t get a chance to exchange contact info.

Today did bring a few challenges, too.  Yesterday, Joe had a flat on his rear tire.  Today he had a flat on the rear tire, and another on the front.  The second flat happened less than a mile from our destination.  It looks like the tires he chose just aren’t up to the challenge of the tiny and jagged rocks of the Katy.  His first flat today took a little time to repair, and by the second one, we decided that we need to find him some new tires.  So when we get to Jefferson City tomorrow, we will be heading to the bike shop to find something that is a little more suited to the trail.


After the second flat repair today, we finally arrived at our home for tonight: Church of the Risen Savior in Rhineland.  It is right across the street from a huge corn field.

We were greeted by the parish secretary who showed us around and got us situated.  One neat thing that I’ve not seen at a parish before: a quilting ministry.  As we arrived, the quilters were just wrapping up.  They meet and work on hand-crafted and pieced quilts that are then auctioned off as fundraisers for various ministries and needs.

One of the quilters, Maxine, came out and talked to us about the Katy.  She is a trail volunteer who used to like to ride the trail.


After getting cleaned up, we went to 6PM mass.  Right after mass, the assisting deacon and his wife offered to take us over to the (as in the only) restaurant in Rhineland: the Trailside.  Jerry and Elaine grew up in this area and have lived here for many years.   Over dinner, they told us a bit about themselves, their grown kids and their families.

For me, dinner consisted of fried chicken.  Yum.        It was pretty tasty!


After dinner, they offered to drive us around a bit, including taking us to Hermann – the town we elected not to ride into.  It was a wonderful tour and great dinner.

While in Hermann, they took us by St. George’s.  It is a really beautiful church with great stained glass depicting the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.


So now our laundry is washed and we’re about ready to call it a night.  Tomorrow will be shorter day – probably around 40-45 miles into Jefferson City.  We are hoping for a respite from the flat tires, too.

Until tomorrow, good night!

Peace.

Katy Trail Day 1 – An easy start (25 miles)

Today was an early day.  We began by leaving Lexington very early and driving out to St. Charles, Missouri to begin our week-long adventure on the Katy trail.  After a mostly non-eventful ride, we finally saw the iconic St. Louis arch off in there distance, which meant that our first destination was pretty close.  A little while later, we arrived in the town of St. Charles.

I had read a little about St. Charles, but I still don’t really know much about this neat town.  The old main street is brick-paved and really fascinating.  Lots of old buildings that now house small shops and restaurants.  I wish we had another day just to wander the streets here.

The Katy starts a few miles east of St. Charles, but there isn’t much at all to see or places to stop between here and the eastern end.  So we began our trip by leaving our car at one of the parishes in St. Charles and riding our bikes out to the east end in Machens, MO – about 25 miles round trip.

The ride eastward was fairly uneventful.  The trail is a nice crushed limestone surface.  Not as smooth as pavement, and a bit harder to pedal, but all-in-all, a good riding surface.

Missouri has had a lot of rain this season, and the river had reached flood stage not too long ago.  I had read on the state web site that there was a closure a few miles east of St. Charles.  We found the closure, but chose to continue on because we wanted to see the entire Katy trail.  The wash-out area was pretty rough with mud and ruts.  It took some careful riding to navigate, but we managed to do it OK both directions.

Eventually we reached the eastern end of the Katy in Machens.  The trail abruptly ends here.  Aside from a latrine and the trailhead map, there is nothing here.  No water or parking lot.  We stopped for a photo opportunity, and then turned our way back to St. Charles for the evening.

On our way out to Machens, the winds were fairly strong and in our face.  We could see the occasional flag that was blowing straight out, and the prairie grasses were all bending towards us.  The nice thing was that the headwinds became tailwinds as we turned back to St. Charles.

Shortly after turning back, Joe had a flat tire.  It wasn’t obvious where it was leaking and it was a slow leak.  So we stopped about every 2-3 miles to pump his tire back up and nurse it along the 12 miles to St. Charles.  When we returned, we were able to find a bike shop to change out his tube at the Bike Stop Cafe.

After the delay, we quickly packed up our things and made our way to our hosts for the night.  Deacon Larry and his wife Mary prepared a nice dinner of pasta and we spent the entire evening talking, sharing ministry stories, and laughing a lot.  A really nice glass of red wine completed the evening.  Once again, as I often point out, the fellowship we have on these biking adventures is great.  I had never met Deacon Larry before, but over some pasta and wine, we become family.


It is time for bed.  We have a long day tomorrow in the saddle – probably about 75 miles.  We’re hoping for no more flat tires and definitely more tail winds to help speed us along.

Next stop: Rhineland, MO.

Peace!

– Dcn. Matt

7 Days to go, then off to bike the KATY!

This year, Joe and I have decided to ride the KATY Trail.  The Katy (short for “Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad”, MKT, or now just KT/Katy) is a 240 mile long off-road trail that runs from Machens, MO (near St. Louis) to Clinton, MO (about 45 miles SE of Kansas City).  240 miles is not a real long distance for bike touring, so we’ve decided to leave our car at the east end of the trail, ride all the way to Clinton, and then all the way back.  We will be making a side trip or two, including into Jefferson City and into Columbia.  We figure we will end up around 500+ miles for the trip.

The Katy has been on our bucket-list of rides for a while.  I’ve talked to several others who have biked the Katy, and it sounds really nice.  It hugs the Missouri River and passes through many small towns that grew up along the railroad.  It is also a large part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, so we hope to get a little education along the way.

We drive out next Tuesday and begin our journey with a short day of riding on our arrival.

As usual, I will be blogging about our adventures, people we meet, the towns, and of course whatever we find to eat.  I found a really neat full-sized, very lightweight, keyboard that folds up into a tiny package, and then unfolds so you can type on it.  It is Bluetooth and can connect to my iPhone.   I am going to carry it with me and use it for blogging this time.  Typing a long blog using my thumbs on my phone takes a lot of patience, so I think the extra few ounces of weight will be worth it.

We hope you’ll follow our journey and perhaps find a laugh or two with us!

A couple of good resources for the KATY:

Missouri State Parks: Katy Trail State Park  and  www.bikekatytrail.com

Peace!

– Deacon Matt

Wrap up: 2016 Ohio to Erie / Ohio Bike Route 1

It’s been a few days since I returned home from our tour across Ohio.  It’s a bit hard to believe it’s over already.  The five days in the saddle went by very quickly, and now it’s in the memory books.

One nice part about this trip was that neither Joe or I had any familiarity with most of the route, it gave us some new things to see.

The past few bike tours I’ve done have been on dedicated bike trails.  I like bike trails because they tend to be safer since they’re away from traffic.  They also offer shade from the sun, and often meander through neat little towns.  The Ohio to Erie route does have lots of miles on dedicated trail, but it has a variety of riding conditions.  If you’re looking for a typical rail-trail ride, the Ohio to Erie won’t exactly fit that model.

Many people I talked to wondered why we chose Ohio.  The prevailing opinion was “it doesn’t have much to see.”  I have to disagree.  We found it to be a very pretty state for a long ride.  Sure, there was a lot of farm land.  But seeing the Amish farming their land, the various crops, and the blue skies was very peaceful.  We went through downtown Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  We got a taste of a little of everything you could want.  We didn’t linger long in any one place because we were bound to a schedule, but if you could afford the time to meander a bit, there were lots of options on spending your time.

The Ohio to Erie route is also marked as Ohio Bike Route 1.  It isn’t a single trail or road, it is a collection of trails, city streets, and country roads that can carry you across the state.  You have to be pretty careful about following maps and watching for turns.  Most were pretty easy to spot, but we did miss a couple of them along the way.  In most places, they’re pretty far apart, so if you miss a turn, it could be a while before you notice.  Fortunately, we didn’t get too far off track.

IMG_8292

From a difficulty perspective, I would rate this route as intermediate for both navigating, and for the physical challenge.  The route requires city smarts for navigating on city roads in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati.  None of the city riding was super challenging, but if you’re not comfortable riding amongst pedestrians and cars, I would recommend trying to time your city routes during less busy traffic times.

There was about 50 miles of country road riding on the route.  Most of it was very tame and beautiful.  Some rolling hills and the traffic seemed very light.  However, the 14 miles between Killbuck and Gann were a little more than “rolling” hills.  After looking at the data on maps when I got home, the grade didn’t quite look as bad as I had expected.  The average grade of the worst part was about 8.5% for .5 miles.  On a bike loaded with an extra 20-25 lbs. of gear, plus a gallon of water, on a hot and sunny day, those miles provided some challenge.  Perhaps on a cooler day with fewer miles on my legs, it wouldn’t have seemed so bad.

The road conditions varied from city streets with potholes and grates, to crushed limestone of the Ohio & Erie canal, paved bike trails, and quiet country roads.  I would recommend a bike with 36mm or larger tires, mostly because of the crushed stone sections, especially if you have any rain.  Unlike most other rail-trails, there are really long sections of paved path.  For example, our last two days of riding were entirely on paved path or road.  That makes it easier to cover longer distances.

We were pleasantly surprised at how many of the small towns we went through had sufficient services for food and water.  When we laid out our travel plan, we didn’t know enough about these little towns.  On one hand, that made for some fun discovery periods.  On the other hand, it would have been nice to plan a little more time to spend in a few places.

We chose to do this tour in 5 riding days.  In part because of the time we had to spend, and partially because we didn’t see too many ways to split into 6 days with lodging.  The result was that we had 4 days over 70 miles, and one day around 60 miles.  Our legs seemed to survive the miles pretty well due to the good weather and good riding surfaces.  But we only had a little time for smelling the roses along the way, too.  It’s a tough tradeoff to make.  What I can say is that the 5 day plan worked pretty well for lodging.

Overall, this was a very fun tour.  If you’re up for a little more challenge than the average rail-trail, this might be a good route to try.  Great scenery, nice towns, wonderful people, and enough stops along the way to be self-supported.

You can find more information about the Ohio to Erie route at: http://www.ohiotoerietrail.org/

#OH2Erie

I’m not sure what the next bike tour might be for me.  I might look at some familiar territory, or look for another new route to try.  We’ll have to see.  If anyone has any suggestions for a 350-450 mile self-supported bike route, let me know!  I’m hopeful that a great adventure will arise for some time in 2017.

Until then…

Peace.

 

Day 5 – Ohio to Erie ride: Journey Complete! Xenia to Cincinnati OH / Newport KY, and the Covington Cathedral (71 miles)

Last night was a very enjoyable evening.  Our AirBnB hosts, Barak and Victoria were wonderful hosts.  We shared pizza, delicious ice cream with peaches, and best of all, good conversation.  I love how we gathered around their family table and became family for an evening.  Before this trip, I sort of wondered what would inspire someone to become an AirBnB host, but after doing two of them, I now know why: to get to know other people.  Wouldn’t the world be such a much better place if we were able to invite strangers to dinner more often!

After finishing up our laundry and some great conversation, I finally turned into bed around 9 or 9:30PM.  At that time, the various weather forecasts for the morning ranged from storms to no-rain.  We decided that if it was raining, we’d try to leave later, but if it was not, we wanted to get going early.

 

I haven’t had a really good, deep night’s sleep the entire trip.  But last night, I fell asleep almost instantly and enjoyed a great rest.  I woke up a few minutes before my alarm and felt great.  After my morning prayer hours, I pulled up the forecast.  The question was: “Am I going to get a little more sleep, or were we going to get going on our way?”

The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, and My-Cast finally got their act together and gave a similar forecast.  No rain forecasted.  Moderately high temperatures for later in the day.  It was time to get going so we could avoid most of the hottest part of the day.

Victoria had prepared a nice breakfast, and I cooked up a double-batch of oatmeal to add some calories to get the day going.  Breakfast conversation was as delightful as the discussions we’d had the previous evening.  Once again, fellowship comes up as one of the best parts of bike touring.  But with a very long day ahead, we had to get going.  We bid Barak and Victoria good bye and were on the road by 7:00AM.

Today’s trip took us across a lot of familiar territory along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.  I have ridden the entire length of the Little Miami many times, in fact, Joe and I rode a 100+ mile century ride here just a couple of weeks ago.  It is one of my favorite places in all of the country to ride.  The trail is nicely canopied by trees for most of the length, providing a respite from the sun.  There are enough small towns and trail heads to get water and food.  The path is completely off road, safe from traffic.  And the surface is paved and well maintained.  If you like rail-trail riding, this is one of the best.

As we started today, we didn’t need any jackets or arm warmers.  It was already warm and very humid at 7AM.  Within a mile or two, we were both feeling pretty sticky.  Whenever we would stop to take a picture, our glasses would instantly fog up.  On the huge plus side, the clouds formed a nice cover for us all day long.

Sunrise was pretty early, but we didn’t really see much of the sun for a while.  The trail goes through a lot of rural farm land, and provides some great views.  A few times, we pulled over just to take in the views.  Sure it is just farm land, but when mixed with sunshine, fog, and the quietness of a morning, it is a beautiful combination.

The first 60 miles went by incredibly quickly.  Our legs felt pretty good, we had several fun discussions, and the familiarity of the trail made time pass fast.  Before we knew it, we had passed Spring Valley, Morrow, South Lebanon, and decided to stop in Loveland for a quick bite to eat.  We arrived far ahead of schedule – most of the restaurants weren’t open for lunch yet.  We stopped at the deli and looked for something quick to take and eat.  Joe settled in on some pasta salad, and I had a good sized scoop of tuna salad.  We just needed a few more calories to power our way home.

We had originally figured it would take us until 2-3PM to complete our ride, but knew that we were running far ahead of schedule.  So I called Stephanie to give her a heads’ up to meet us earlier than we had originally planned.  In some ways, you don’t want to rush, but on the last day of the tour, we were both really looking forward to getting to the end.

Our next stop was to get near the south end of the Little Miami trail.  Unfortunately, the Little Miami doesn’t get into downtown quite yet.  They added a few more miles this year, but there isn’t a good way to get from the south end trail-head over to downtown.  So instead, we had to exit near Newtown and begin surface streets to get to the river front.

Both Joe and I really prefer to stay away from busy streets, so we were pretty tuned-in to watching for cars in every direction.  We exited the trail at Wooster Pike, following the road into Mariemont, through Fairfax, and other roads down towards Lunken Airport.  Some of the roads were a little narrow for my taste, so we used sidewalks for some parts.  (Note, that’s probably illegal, but I prefer my safety)

Next stop was Lunken Airport – the old airport for the Cincinnati area before the Northern Kentucky airport was built.  Lunken was opened in 1925 and was the largest airport in the world at the time.  Today, it is primarily used for private aircraft.  The airport grounds now includes some bike trails on the east and west edges.  We jumped on one of the Lunken trails for a short stint before picking up the Ohio River Trail near the river front.

The Ohio River Trail runs for about 2 miles from Lunken Airport towards downtown.  It winds through some parks and gave us our first views of Downtown.

At the end of the Ohio River Trail, we moved to the bike lane on Riverside Drive for the next 3 miles.  It has a nice bike lane and felt pretty comfortable, except for when large dump trucks whizzed by.  We made quick time heading towards the city.

Along the way, we both noticed how nicely Cincinnati has been redeveloping the east riverfront.  Lots of nicer row-style homes were being built, and it had a bit of a “hip” feeling to the area.

Once we reached the Berry International Friendship Park, we moved back to trails along the river front.  These trails delivered us nicely to the Yeatman’s Cove park.  We stumbled across this statue of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.  Hey, it’s a giant guy with an axe!  We didn’t take the time to read the plaque, but hey, when there’s a statue that looks like something out of the original “Clash of the Titans” or “Jason and the Argonauts”, you should definitely get your picture taken.

A short trip up around the corner took us across the pedestrian bridge and out of Ohio.  We had officially ridden across the entire state now!  Yeah!

We found the sign on the bridge somewhat humorous – it challenges people to take the “Get Moving Challenge”.  Yeah, that’s what we need – to get moving.

We had decided that the Newport Aquarium would be a great place to meet Stephanie.  So we wound our way across and to the front entrance of Newport on the Levee.  I called Stephanie who was still a few minutes away.  Joe and I took advantage of the water feature-fountain in front to put some cool water on our faces.  It felt pretty good.

We had decided ahead of time that if we weren’t completely exhausted, we would ride our bikes to the Cathedral of the Covington Diocese, about 2 miles away, and finish by entering the Holy Door there.  So since Stephanie was a little behind, we called and had her re-route and meet us there.

Getting there sounded pretty easy, but turned out to be a bit of a challenge to get to the right roads.  We had to seek out a path to cross back over the levee and get to the Riverboat Row road behind the Aquarium.  It took a while, but we finally got to the Cathedral and met Stephanie.

The Cathedral is magnificent.  I don’t have any pictures that do it justice.  What I can tell you is that if you are traveling anywhere nearby, you owe it to yourself to stop by and see the beauty of this church.  The tremendous art and scripture stories in the stained glass is stunning.

A few minutes later, we packed up the bikes and headed back to Lexington.  We made a quick dinner stop and then drove home, dropping off Joe along the way.

This trip was really a great adventure.  It was different than other tours I’ve done: we didn’t really know much about the route, and there were many more road-miles than we typically do.  And as always, even though it was a great trip, it is also really great to get home.

Thanks for all of the prayers, emails, text messages, and so on that carried us through the journey.

After I have a chance to stop and think a bit, I will have one more blog entry summarizing some of my overall thoughts about the Ohio to Erie Trail in a day or two.

But for now … a much needed rest in my own bed.  Yay.

Peace!

Day 4 – Ohio to Erie ride: Columbus to Xenia OH (58 miles)

Today was our shortest ride for the tour.  The weather forecast indicated that it would be a hot day without any clouds, and it definitely was both.

Father Ron made us a yummy breakfast, essentially an omelette-in-a-mug, to get us started.  He took very good care of us during our brief stay.

We said goodbye to Father Ron at St. Agnes around 7:00AM and carefully tracked our way to the Camp Chase trail head.  However, just as we were getting close, a smell hit both Joe and I.  It wasn’t just any smell… It was the kind of smell that draws you in, leading you by some subconscious impulsive desire that must be satisfied.  Yes, it was freshly made donuts.

Again, I am supposed to be avoiding wheat, and I haven’t had a donut in about a year.  But… There must be some sort of pheromone thing in the donuts at this place.  Joe and each had a donut and split a third.  Awesomeness.


It was comical trying to order these three donuts.  The nice young lady behind the counter wanted to put them into a styrofoam box.  I explained that I didn’t need the box.  She got out smaller styrofoam containers.  I told her they were going to be eaten very quickly.  She seemed perplexed as to what to do with this strange request.  So I grabbed some napkins and said “just put them here”.  She begrudgingly handed over the chocolate-cake glazed wonders.  And within two minutes, they were gone.

My wife says we talk too much about food on our bike trips… So I guess I’ll just move along here.

We jumped onto the Camp Chase trail.  This is a very smoothly paved trail that runs next to some rail lines.  It was already warm enough that we didn’t need any arm warmers or jackets, and you could feel the humidity in the air.  Several miles later, we arrived at the Batelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Once inside the park, there are a couple of ways you can go.  One path takes you through the woods, while the other is nearly all on a paved surface.  There is a short section that goes off-road into the woods next to the Big Darby Creek.  We stopped to grab a couple of pictures and continued on.


After leaving the park, we followed the Roberts Pass trail for about 7 miles into the town of London.  This was another case where the maps didn’t indicate how large the town was.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice little town.  Knowing that we had many miles to go in very hot weather, we went in search of water to refill our bottles, and stopped at a convenience store.  A large bottle of Gatorade, and three refills of icy cold water later, we were back on our way.

Just outside of town, we found the northern trailhead for the Prarie Grass Trail.  I stopped to adjust my rear brake mount, and as I was working on my bike, two young ladies zipped by and said hello as they passed.  More about them in a moment…

The Prarie Grass Trail is a well maintained and paved trail that is ~25 miles long and runs all the way into Xenia Station.  It is not very shady – it doesn’t have the canopied tree lining that some of the older trails do.  The sun was pretty hot and the headwinds picked up.  Watching the grasses and trees alongside the trail, we could see that the wind was pretty directly in our face, and pretty strong.

We reached South Charleston and needed to refill water again.  This is a really wonderful little town.  We took a leisurely tour of their downtown and made our way toward the trailhead.  As we were turning onto the street near the trailhead, we saw a group of cyclists who were wearing the same jersies as the two young women we’d seen earlier.  They all convened in the park next to the trail, eating lunch.

It turns out that this is a group of 29 young college students and recent grads who are cycling across the US to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing.  One of the kids lives in Lexington KY as well, and had just graduated from the University of Kentucky.  They started in Providence RI and were heading to the Northwest coast.  We chatted for a few minutes and wished them well.


With the sun high over head, we pressed on to Xenia.  The winds kept pushing against us, but we were anxious to arrive.  We passed through Cedarville, topping off water and getting a quick snack, then continued to Xenia Station.  From this point on, most of the rest of the trip is in very familiar territory along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.


We arrived too early to check into our AirBnB, so we rode north of town a short way to find our lunch / early dinner.  We decided on Frisch’s, and had a nice meal.  The best part was that the air conditioning was cranked up high.  It felt good to get chilled down.  We took our time eating and relaxing a bit in the cool comfort of the restaurant.  By the time we left, we both were a bit uncomfortably cold.  That was great.

Our final stop for the day was the AirBnB.  We took a relaxed pace for about another 3 miles to get there.  A very thorough showering was in order to get off the mix of dirt, tiny bugs, and sunscreen.  It always feels soooo good to scrub down after a long day on the bike.

It is only 4:30 now, and I am already feeling like it must be close to bed time. Yawn. It will be work to stay awake.  Must…do…laundry.

Tomorrow is the last day of our tour.  We ride into Cincinnati, and cross over the Ohio River into Kentucky.  We will meet my wife there and head home.  It looks like about another 70 mile day.

Weather tomorrow looks to be pretty warm, and potentially a little stormy.  We are hoping to get an early start and beat the heat.

We’d appreciate prayers for good weather and safety.  Thanks in advance.

Peace!

Day 3 – Ohio to Erie ride: Howard to Columbus OH (73 miles)

It has been a pretty good day.  On the up side, the ride was beautiful and we finished ahead of schedule.  On the down side, my previously trusty Garmin Edge 605 stopped being trusty today.  (Insert Kenny Rodgers Randy VanWarmer tune “you left me, just when I needed you most” softly playing in the background, or Bones saying “She’s dead, Jim”)

Editorial update: I have not idea who Randy VanWarmer is, but I had incorrectly attributed this tune to Kenny Rodgers.  Perhaps Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” would have been a better choice, anyway.

We got up before dawn and quickly packed up our belongings, hoping to get out around 6:30 today.  We were treated to a super delicious breakfast at Dave’s place.  Dave and his wife raise chickens on their farm, and we had delicious fresh eggs.  They tasted awesome.  But the best part of breakfast wasn’t what filled our stomachs, it was what filled our souls.

As we were saying grace over our breakfast, Dave paused at the doorway.  When we finished, he sat down to join us and said “I had a feeling you were some good Catholic boys.”  We had an awesome conversation over breakfast about his faith journey.  I won’t even attempt to describe it here – partially because it was a personal conversation, and partially because I couldn’t do it justice in a short blog posting.  Our discussion put us about 30 minutes later on our start, and I am so glad we took the time to listen.  It was well worth it!


We stepped outside and Joe played one last game of fetch with Diamond.  What a great dog.

As we packed up our things onto our bikes, Dave came out to see us off and prayed with us before we departed.  He gave us a hug and asked us to come back again for a longer visit.  Once again, we have been blessed by the people we come into contact with on these bike trips.


About 7:10am we finally hit the road.  The temps were nicely chilly and the air felt great as it blew over our faces.  The first few miles were a bit more challenging than they were supposed to be.  Our legs seemed to be saying “not today.”  We had a hard time getting to a steady speed for a while.  I think it was a combination of physical fatigue and that this part of the Kokosing trail apparently has a slight grade up.

About 7 miles later we reached Mount Vernon. My (no longer) trusty Garmin 605 said “low battery”.  What?  I just charged you last night! I bypassed the message and hoped for the best.  It sporadically worked for a while.

In Mount Vernon, we eventually found our way to the Heart of Ohio trail.  This runs for about 13 miles to Centerburg OH.  It was a pretty uneventful section… Until near the end.  We were stopped waiting to cross some traffic and I was using one hand to eat an energy bar and one hand on the bike.  The bike nearly tipped over and the pedal caught the back of my calf.  Nothing serious, just a nuisance scrape, but enough to remind me to be more careful.

After topping off our water, and putting some neosporin on my freshly minted flesh-wound, we set our sites on the town of Sunbury about 15 miles away along country roads.

The road route to Sunbury was beautiful. Gorgeous blue skies, the moon was still up most of the morning, and farm land as far as the eye can see, bedecked with green leaves of corn, golden yellows of wheat (I think), and many other colors. The roads were gently rolling without any of the nasty climbs of yesterday.

When we reached Sunbury, we didn’t know what to expect.  We thought it might be just a little blip on the map.  What we found was a very neat little town square with a lively atmosphere.  If you plan on heading this way, make sure to spend a little time there to soak up the town.

Sunbury was also the sight of second breakfast or early lunch, depending on how you view the world. I decided to hedge my bets and get a sandwich and home fries to cover both bases.  The Sunbury Grill was a great choice – it is the kind of place my Dad taught me to love many years ago when we would go for breakfast together.


While there, once again some bike touring fellowship spontaneously appeared.  We sat at the food counter and the guy next to me struck up a nice conversation with us.  His name is Earl.


After Sunbury, we had just a few miles on Old Route 3 C until the town of Galena.  From there, we met up with the Hoover Scenic Trail and then the Genoa Trail for about 6 miles.

The Genoa trail ends at Maxtown Road, also known as Polaris Parkway, north of Columbus.  We had scoped out our own route into downtown Columbus, using the Alum Creek Trail, which starts here at Maxtown road.

At this point is where my GPS finally just gave up the ghost.  I couldn’t coax it to do anything.  I had become pretty comfortable knowing that I could glance down and see that we were still on (or off!) the planned routes that I had downloaded into it. It had served us quite well over the past few days and caught a couple of missed turns.  Sigh.  Oh well, at least we had some maps to use.

The Alum Creek Trail goes roughly north/south and we took it for ~12 miles to the I670 connector trail, which is a pretty rough paved trail adjoining I670 until you get dumped out into downtown Columbus.

We were making very good time today, so we decided to stop at the Columbus Cathedral and enter through that Holy Door too.  We arrived at a time when a wedding party was getting their pictures taken, so I quickly went in, passed though, and left, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Hence, no pictures of the inside of the Cathedral.


We continued west, using sidewalks to navigate until we reached the Scioto Greenway trail on the south side of Columbus.  Without the GPS, we had to be a little more discerning about where to turn to find our next set of roads.


We eventually found the Hilltop Connector and wound along some city streets to our evening destination: St. Agnes church.  We arrived around 3:00PM and found a cool respite from the heat in the church.


Father Ron arrived a little later and greeted us.  He introduced us to his great little dog, Chase as well.


We got a very much needed shower and shave, then joined him at mass.

After mass, we made BLTs, heavy on the “B”, strawberries, and an Italian lemon ice for dessert.  Some great conversation over dinner made it a wonderful meal.  Once again, bike touring fellowship is so spectacular.


So now, it is time to head to bed. We want to get out early again tomorrow to beat the mid day heat.  We only have about 55-60 miles tomorrow, so we want to get done quickly and rest up.

Until tomorrow, Peace!

PS: yes, I am doing this whole blog from my trusty iPhone… So please forgive my typos.

Day 2 – Ohio to Erie ride: Massillon to Howard OH (72 miles)

This morning started a little later than we had intended.  We took a leisurely pace getting going and had breakfast at the Hampton Inn before departing.

We crossed over the bridge and found the beginning of the Sippo Valley Trail pretty easily. The trail was a mix of paved and crushed limestone.  It was a fairly easy ride to Dalton.  Once in Dalton, we left the trails behind and began an 18 mile trek on country roads towards Fredricksburg.  The roads had plenty of gently rolling hills and very beautiful farmland. We saw many Amish farms and the people working them by hand. 

We stopped in Fredricksburg for lunch and to get some Gatorade.  There was this awesome little store there. The people really friendly and made us feel at home.


Across the street was a pizza place. It looked like our best option for getting a decent meal.  I’m not supposed to be eating wheat or dairy, but I ordered a pizza anyway. It was fairly tasty.  We struck up a conversation with two gentlemen who were at the table next to us.  They happened to both be named Ruben.


After finishing the pizza, we got out and found our way to the Holmes County Trail nearby. It was a nicely maintained trail. In this area, we saw far more Amish buggies on the trail than cyclists.  By this time, the weather was becoming pretty warm. It wasn’t too bad in the shade, but the sun was hot.  Around 4 miles later we arrived in the small town of Killbuck.  We stopped for some ice cream, a cool place to sit, and to fill our water bottles back up.  That turned out to be a good thing… We weren’t really mentally prepared for what was next.


Just outside of Killbuck, we had to again use some country roads to the next town. The maps we had said “there is a climb from SR520 to CR6” and that the next section had “significant hills”.  Both were understatements.  What followed was about 14 miles of the most difficult riding I have ever done.  The first climb on CR6 didn’t look too bad at first. But it kept going and going.  Every time you thought you saw the top, you’d turn a corner and see even more and steeper road ahead.

The CR6/CR25 stretch continued to challenge us over and over with one long steep descent/climb after another.  It was mentally exhausting to climb up to the top and then see another even taller hill just up the road.  We drank so much water trying to stay hydrated.  I was very thankful we had topped off all the bottles before leaving Killbuck.

Little by little we chipped away at the miles and reached route 62 near Brinkhaven.  Then it was nearly all downhill on a heavily trafficked road for a couple of miles.  I was going much faster than I am comfortable with, especially on unfamiliar roads.  Thanks for my guardian angel’s company on that stretch!

After the descent we continued another 2-3 miles and joined the Mohican Valley Trail.  If you are going North to South like we are, watch carefully for the Ohio Bike Route 1 turn signs.  We missed the sign, but my Garmin alerted me to being off route a few hundred yards later.

The Mohican Valley trail is mostly paved, although it did have some rough patches.  The highlight of this trail is the “Bridge of Dreams”.  This is the longest covered bridge in Ohio.  We caught a few pictures before continuing on.


Once on the Mohican Valley trail, we only had about 4-5 miles to our dinner stop in Danville. We stopped at The Hangout.  We each got a small(ish) steak and baked potato.  It was really yummy.  We had to kill some time before we could check into our AirBnB in Howard.  The Hangout was a good choice for that.

Leaving Danville, we picked up the Kokosing Gap Trail.  This is a really nicely paved trail that took us about a mile from our AirBnB stop.

Our accommodations here are really nice. Our host, Dave, has made us feel very at home in their restored farm house.  So, our laundry is now drying, we have showered, and it is getting very close to being bed time.

Tomorrow looks to be pretty toasty and we need to get to the SW side of Colubus before mass at 4:30.  So, it will be an early-to-bed and early rise tomorrow!

Peace.

Day 1: Ohio to Erie ride – Cleveland to Massillon OH (71 miles)

We started our adventure with a nice breakfast at Alex and Lauren’s place.  We started a little later to allow the rush hour traffic to wind down.  Stephanie dropped us off at the Rock and Roll hall of fame and we grabbed a few pictures.  We saw a sign that said “bike tours start here”… Seemed like a great opportunity.


I gave Steph a hug and kiss goodbye as we departed southbound.  We went a few blocks south on the sidewalks of 9th street and stopped at the Cathedral to pass through the Holy Door.


As we left the Cathedral, the rain started.  It was a misty and cold rain that would be our constant companion for the next several hours.  We zig-zagged across city streets towards our next stop. We missed one turn and probably went about 1/2 mile out of our way and had to backtrack.

A few miles later, we made a small detour to visit the house from “A Christmas Story”.  We didn’t tour the house, just took a couple of pictures and resumed our trip.


A few miles later we finally reached the trailhead of the Ohio & Erie Canal.  This is a canal that carried cargo and passengers between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.  It ceased operations in 1912, but the former towpath has been turned into a hiker/biker trail.  Most of the surface was crushed limestone, with a few patches of pavement.  Even with the rain, it was pretty decent. It seems to drain well and the puddling wasn’t too bad.

We had an uneventful, albeit wet, trip down to Akron. There was a detour north of Akron that had probably a 10%+ grade to bypass a construction zone.  It was a little challenging, but we survived.


Upon arrival in Akron, we found that the path we were supposed to take was closed because of a parade to celebrate the Cavelier’s championship. The traffic control guy pretty rudely just told us to go a different way.  We had no idea where we were supposed to go.  We went into the city and were about to start looking for maps when a guy came up and offered to lead us to the canal.  We took him up on the offer and he took us over to the baseball stadium and the canal.  The normal canal path also had some detours.  It took a little discerning to figure out the right way to go:


We had quite a long way to go still.  We continued down the canal path.  The scenery was beautiful and the wildlife was plentiful. 


It took longer than we expected to get to Massillon.  The trail was slow and we started getting tired.  Finally, we arrived at our hotel close to 7PM.  A much needed shower and some wings for dinner finished off the evening.

Tomorrow’s weather looks pretty good.  It will be another 70 mile day, so we are hoping to get started much earlier and finish earlier.  We don’t really have any city riding or navigation tomorrow, so that should help as well.

Time for a much needed sleep!

Peace!