KATY Trail Ride 2003
by Ann & Fred Abeles

Editor's note: Of all the interesting people I have met during my 3 years participating in the Katy Trail Ride, Ann and Fred from Frederick, MD are among the most inspiring. It was a pleasure and inspiration to see a couple so happy to just be bicycling together. This may have been their first multi day group ride, but was certainly not their first long journey together by bicycle. Check out their story about cycling down the Danube River.  They are also big fans of the C&O Canal and the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) which will eventually connect with the C&O to provide a 300+ mile greenway from PA to DC.

This past summer we decided we were finally ready to try a multi day group ride.
 We picked the June 23 –27, KATY Trail ride because it was on a rail/trail, our favorite kind of trail.  The 225-mile trail, a state park, follows the corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad from Clinton to St. Charles, MO. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri State Parks Foundation sponsor this trail ride.  It is a popular ride and is limited to about 350 riders. 

 The registration was $210 per person and included parking at St. Charles or Clinton, breakfasts and dinners for 5 days (except the last day which included lunch instead of dinner) as well as SAG stops every 10 miles with water, bananas and various other snacks, gear shuttles to each campground, and campgrounds for each night.  The shuttle and gear transportation before or after the tour was an additional $40 per person. 
As this year’s ride started in Clinton, MO, we opted to drive to St. Charles, park our car and take the shuttle buses to Clinton.  The organizers had arranged special parking at the trailhead in St. Charles.  The buses were luxurious, air-conditioned motor coaches.  A crew carefully loaded all the bicycles, including a large number of recumbents and tandems, into large moving vans.  It was quite a sight to watch all the loading preparations for over 200 people with gear and bicycles.    Finally we got underway, heading west.  Our coaches stopped for lunch in Columbia and then delivered us in Clinton about 3:30.  The next hour was spent finding our things and getting registered.  Most of the participants were planning to camp each day so there was a lot of gear to be sorted out.  Soon the area around the Convention Center looked like a tent city.   As we didn’t have any camping gear, Fred and I were among the 50 or so that decided to stay at hotels along the way.  After finding our luggage and locking up our bikes, we boarded the shuttle to our hotel.

We were up at 5 the next morning in order to catch the 6 AM shuttle back to the Convention Center for breakfast and the start of the ride.  After greetings from various officials, most of the riders gathered at the trailhead for a group photo and then started north on the trail.  After a little while the pack of riders thinned out and we all rode along comfortably.  The SAG stops were very well stocked with food and port-a-potties were available at every stop.  The first day’s ride was only about 40 miles to Sedalia.  The tent city was in Liberty Park, a few blocks from the town center.  We stayed at the Hotel Bothwell, a beautifully restored “commercial” hotel from the era of the railroads in Sedalia.  The Bothwell caters to bicyclists and has special packages and bike storage (www.hotelbothwell.com).  Dinner was in the air-conditioned multipurpose building at the park.  After dinner we were treated to a one-man minstrel show, typical of what might have been available when Lewis and Clark made their historic journey through Missouri.
Day 2, Tuesday, also started at 5 with breakfast at 6.  The pancake man treated us to pancakes while demonstrating his skill at (accurately) flipping pancakes to individuals all over the room.  As I can’t catch, I hid but Fred successfully caught his share and we enjoyed breakfast.  The ride Tuesday included a gentle but long, 11-mile uphill grade from Pilot Grove to Booneville. 
The KATY depot in Booneville has been restored and houses a museum as well as the Chamber of Commerce.  A caboose from the MKT is also available for visitors.  A paved section of trail took us around the casino and over to the new bridge across the Missouri to New Franklin.  The next 10 miles were through open farmland with little shade.  Unfortunately, the sun was now strong and my thermometer in the shade under my bag was registering 102 F!  Most of the riders took frequent breaks and a lot of water was consumed.  We were all happy to reach the Rocheport tunnel and the shade along the riverbank.  At Rocheport, the campground for the night was up a steep hill at Les Bourgeois Winery.  However, as Fred and I were staying at the Yates House B&B (www.yateshouse.com) in town, we headed over there first.  We must have looked awful when we arrived dripping with sweat on the doorstep.  The beautiful, cool house was an oasis.  As we decided we were too hot to bike up the hill to the winery, we asked our hostess if we could lock up our bikes before coming in to settle into our rooms.  As we were walking our bikes around to the garage, the valve of my rear tube gave out with a terrific blast.  So, first we had to repair the tire before we could retreat to our room, bathe and take a nap.  Fifty miles was plenty for us that day. Later we took the shuttle up the hill to the winery and had a delicious meal high on the bluff overlooking the Missouri.  That night we slept like babies in our huge bed.
Wednesday morning we skipped the communal breakfast to enjoy a gourmet breakfast at Yates House.  Stuffed and pampered, we headed onto the trail about 9; well after the tent city crowd was on their way.  By 11 the temperature was again in the 90’s and when we reached the halfway point at Claysville, I was overheated.  We cooled off drinking lemonade and having lunch in the tiny store/café.  The afternoon was cooler because some showers had moved in as we headed on to Mokane.  The tent city was a couple of miles off the trail (and uphill) at a school so there were shuttle buses and vans to carry riders and their bikes up to the school.  However, it took a while to get everything moved so it was about 4 when we checked in.  We secured our bikes, found our luggage and boarded the shuttle to the hotels.  That evening, from our snug hotel room, we watched several bands of severe thunderstorms move through the area.  We were worried about the tenters.

Thursday morning our shuttle bus had to drive along a badly flooded road in order to bring us back to the tent city.  There, things were in disarray. 

 The storms had caught many of the campers unprepared. Most people had soaked gear and flattened tents.  It also was very difficult to get the kitchen crew in to the school, as so many roads were flooded so breakfast was running late.  Apparently some miscommunication had occurred so that people were not warned to take down their tents and take shelter in the school until it was too late and the storm was already upon them.  In the morning, the ride organizers arranged for many people and their gear to be shuttled to the next stop so they could use the laundries to clean and dry their gear.  The park service also had to send crews ahead on the trail to check for washouts and remove fallen trees.  We had breakfast, mounted our bikes and headed downhill in a cool, misty rain.  As the crushed limestone trail surface was now soaked and soft, it was more work to ride and we soon warmed up.   There were not many places to buy lunch along this part of the trail so we took advantage of food at the sag stops and rode 52 miles to Marthasville.  There we had an excellent lunch at Loretta’s Place.  They had a huge buffet lunch all ready for the enormous crowd of bikers.  After lunch we had only another 10 miles to ride to Augusta, the town for the final tent city.  However, the park for the campground was up another long, steep hill and we could feel the extra weight of our big lunch as we pedaled up.

After dinner we headed further up the hill to the Legion Park for the final night’s program, awards and bluegrass music.  A father and his two young daughters, who rode a tandem pulling a tag-a-long, were the stars of the ride.  They called themselves the Leapfrog Team because they would pass everyone and then spend an extra long time at each SAG stop.  Dad’s shirt said “main engine” while the girls wore shirts saying “turbocharger” and “after burner”.  The oldest rider on the trip was 79 and the youngest, just 4.
On our final day, we had only about 30 miles to go from Augusta to St. Charles so the ride was leisurely.  We enjoyed the scenery and spent more time visiting at the SAG stops as everyone would be heading off once we reached St. Charles.   Near Defiance we stopped at a nice bike shop on the trail.  The owner has purchased several unique bicycles for handicapped persons and lends them free-of-charge to those who 
need them.  I’m sorry I neglected to record his name in my diary.

We arrived in Frontier Park, downtown St. Charles just before noon.  We checked in and then put our gear and bikes away before picking up our picnic lunch.  We sat in the park along the Missouri eating our lunch and watching more riders come in while others said farewell to their new friends.  This is a ride I would definitely do again.  If you want to see lots of pictures and read more about it check out the web site at www.katytrailstatepark.com and click on the KATY 2003 circle.