Our Notebook

Category: Bicycling (Page 2 of 5)

Katy Trail – Day 4, Jefferson City to Hermann to Treloar

Relive ‘Katy Trail, Day 4’

The music comes later on!

The fourth day was much more interesting than the third. Our first stop after Jefferson City was Tebbetts, site of a popular hostel offering beds for $6 per night. Later, we met a group of elderly ladies who had spent the night there and had a wonderful time.

Turner Katy Trail Shelter

Jesse James supposedly lived here for several years. Enlarge this picture and read about “the singing outlaw.” When you see a picture like this, just click on it and you’ll be taken to the original on Flickr; you can click on the picture there to enlarge it.


As we continued towards Mokane and Portland, we crossed several “creeks,” many of which could carry more water than a river in Colorado.  Note the sign to the right of the bridge:


Looked  pretty ominous, so I stopped to take a picture


Eek!  A nuclear power plant?  In this bucolic wilderness?  Apparently so.  But if the sirens went off, indicating that there was a radiation leak, we’d be cooked, since our bikes didn’t have radios to listen to the emergency broadcasts, and we certainly couldn’t leave the area quickly enough.

Mokane and Portland, Missouri, certainly benefit from the employment, and the tax generated by the power plant. Their schools are among the best funded in the state. The trailhead was particularly nice.

The state parks department erected railroad-like mileage signs, which followed the original markings from St. Louis.  The actual trail ends north of St. Louis at Mile 26.9; we joined the trail at Windsor, 247.7  Mokane is 125.0. However, the last stretch from St. Charles (just north of the St. Louis airport) to Machens is apparently in poor condition with nothing to see, so we elected to stop in St. Charles, Milepost 40.


A few miles on, we passed a landmark Standing Rock, which marks the periodic floods that devastated the area and the railroad, and was the cause of the closure of the railroad in 1986.  This spot is nearly a mile from the river; it’s hard to believe that floods could have been this deadly.


We then passed through Portland, Missouri and around the town of Rhineland.  The latter is one of only two spots on the whole trail where it appears that someone snatched the right of way before it was purchased, so you have to go around town, behind a rodeo ground, then get back on the trail on a very busy road.  No reason to stop here.

But then there’s Hermann, which is across the river from McKittrick.

Cue the music.  This is the Beer Barrel Polka. Read on and you’ll discover why this selection, from the Varsity Polka Band, is so appropriate.


Georgia and Maggie were waiting for us, and took us the the AirBnB we had rented in the lovely, quaint town with a rich German heritage.  I found a great AirBnB in Hermann, and we stopped there for a minute before lunch:


There are many choices for German food and curios, and we picked a brewpub in an old flour mill near the Amtrak station.  The beer was cold and frosty, and the bratwurst was delicious.  Since we arrived there about 2 in the afternoon, it wasn’t crowded.


Then we decided to put on an additional 20 miles by riding to Treolar, so that the last day would be shorter.  Our friendly support staff took us back to the McKittrick and agreed to meet us at Treolar in a couple of hours.  I’ve never been so glad to see them as I was when they came to pick us up at Treolar.  It was hot.  It was dusty.  The beers and the bratwurst were leaden.  Really not the best idea. 

Katy Trail Day 5 – Treloar to St. Charles

Relive ‘Katy Trail, Day 5’

Meet me in St. Louis.

Judy Garland from the movie soundtrack.

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

Our last day was not long but it was eventful.  As we were unloading our bikes from the Treolar trailhead, a van pulled up with Illinois plates and out came four ladies of a certain age (our age or older, it looked).  Two took out some pretty good looking road bikes and tooled off.  We thought we could catch up with them easily, but after five miles were disabused of that idea.  Gene finally caught up with the slower of the two, who told him that she was celebrating her 80th birthday by riding the length of the trail the second time (the first had been to celebrate her 75th birthday).  Her companion, who disappeared like a shot after leaving Treolar, was a mere 73.  The other two ladies in the car were a friend, and the mother of the 73 year old lady. They were from downstate Illinois, regularly rode with a group of friends, and considered this a pleasant spring trip.  The four ladies met up at the next trailhead for tea and pastries.  That was inspiring.  But the bike repair shop owner in Sedalia told us that the oldest rider he’d heard about was 93 years old, an former bicycle racer, who completed the whole trail in 3 days.  It took us five.

I was surprised when what looked like a black tree limb started to slither across the trail.  It was about six inches in diameter, and perhaps 4 feet long.  Not wanting to find out more, I ran over and either killed or maimed what Gene told me later was a deadly water moccasin.

A couple of miles farther, Gene saw and photographed a copperhead sunning itself on the trail.


Onward.  Augusta has many interesting shops, galleries and restaurants to explore.


The trail signs included menus for some of the restaurants


and a sign at the trail invited you to explore more.


The trail then went through an area that was completely isolated from roads and improvements, or any sign of civilization.  The vegetation reminded me of photos of a tropical rain forest. 

Matson, Defiance, Weldon Spring passed by quickly.  We knew we were approaching St. Louis because the number of riders, joggers and walkers on the trail increased dramatically.  At Defiance, the water was off at the trailhead, but a few feet from the trail, we stopped at Terry & Kathy’s Tavern, and Kathy filled our water bottles with a smile. 

The area became more industrial, although since we were on a former railroad track, it was hard to tell where we were.  But the two road overpasses from St. Charles to St. Louis made it clear that we were nearly done.  Apparently, you can ride on one of them, but not the I-70 bridge.


Our adventure ended in St. Charles, at the Lewis & Clark Museum.  I noticed with interest that the parking lots had several trucks, busses and vans from the tour companies that provide Katy Trail shuttle services.  But the black skies to the southwest and the winds suggested that we ought to wait in the entrance for the museum.  Good idea; a rain – the first we’d encountered – hit a few minutes after we had arrived.


We put the bikes on the rack, gave a thumbs up, and our adventure was done.  There’s a story about the jersey I wore.  Ask me about it sometime.

Katy Trail Finish - St. Charles, Missouri

Katy Trail – Preparation and Planning

In June, 2017, we attended the memorial service for  Warren Humble, a good friend from Rifle.  At the service, his wife mentioned how much she and Warren had enjoyed their rail trail bike trips, starting with the Katy Trail in Missouri.  Gene Byrne, another friend from Rifle, and I talked about it later, and as it turns out, both of us wanted to ride the trail…so we talked over the winter and planned it. Our wives, Georgia and Maggie, agreed to accompany us and be our sag wagons.  We decided to meet up in Kansas City and ride at least some of the new Rock Island Spur to the Katy Trail to St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the trail won’t go all the way, but it is close. 

We decided that we were a bit beyond the camping stage, so I found several AirBnBs along the way, and we alternated them with hotels.

As one of the oldest and longest rail-trail conversions, there’s a lot of material available online and by mail on the Katy Trail.  Almost too much information. 


Books & Pamphlets

  1. The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook by Brett Dufur is invaluable.  It’s also well written and filled with useful information about the trail and your trip.  It cost about $20 and you can buy it through Amazon or directly from the publisher, http://www.pebblepublishing.com.  Make sure you get the most recent edition, which as of 2018 was the 10th.although the website still advertises the 10th Edition
  2. The Missouri State Parks maps of the Katy Trail and the Rock Island Spur.  These are free, and are the best parks maps I’ve ever seen, full of ideas and tips.  They’re available at each of the trailheads,


and you can request a copy by mail at  https://mostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park or by writing to Katy Trail State Park, 5901 South Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203.  Phone 573-449-7402.


  1. http://www.bikekatytrail.com/ has a wealth of information and advertisements including facilities available at each of the towns along the way.  The web style is 1995, and some of the information is outdated, but it’s still by far the best resource available online.  There is also an active message board of others who want to take the adventure.
  2. The Rails to Trails conservancy’s website, http://traillink.com, has maps, photos and reviews of the Katy Trail, the Rock Island Spur, and every other worthwhile bike trail in the US.  Consider joining the Conservancy.  It’s a ยง501(c)(3) charity, so your membership may be tax deductible. 
  3. Google and YouTube list hundreds of personal blogs like this one and videos of adventures along the trail. 
  4. The chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus of the towns along the route have websites of varying usefulness, and listings of hotels and traditional Bed & Breakfasts.
  5. The ubiquitous AirBnb has listings in many, but not all, of the towns along the route.  We were very pleased with the AirBnB in Hermann and Jefferson City.
  6. The Missouri State Parks website includes information on an annual supported trip along the trail.  If you want someone else to plan for you, and you enjoy camping with several hundred of your new friends, this is a good option. If you don’t, several companies offer shuttle and reservations for a semi-supported tour; I have heard good things about Independent Tourist.  The senior-oriented educational group Road Scholar (formerly known as Elder Hostel) also advertises Katy Trail adventures.


These are my subjective opinions.  Take them for whatever they’re worth.

  1. We went from west to east in 5 days.  It was just the right amount of time for the trip, and I’m glad we went in this direction since the winds and afternoon sun were favorable, and the trail got much more interesting the further east we went.  We went in early May, and the weather was perfect.  Until the last day, no thunderstorms.  We also didn’t see or hear of any tornadoes or flooding.  But it happens. Same, I understand, for the bugs. I wouldn’t want to go in the heat and humidity of July and August, but September and October sure look appealing.
  2. Bring sunscreen and insect repellent. 
  3. The Rock Island Spur is new, interesting and worth taking instead of the Katy Trail from Clinton to Windsor. 
  4. Our overnight stops weren’t chosen well; I didn’t read the fine print in the guidebook.  If we had it to do over again, I would stop at:
    1. Sedalia
    2. Rocheport
    3. Tebbetts
    4. McKittrick/Hermann
    5. St. Charles
  5. If we’d taken Amtrak to Sedalia, and were interested in a less ambitious schedule,  I would have stopped at:
    1. Rocheport
    2. Tebbetts
    3. McKittrick/Hermann
    4. Augusta
    5. St. Charles
  6. There are, shall we say, better overnight choices than McBaine/Columbia and Jefferson City.
  7. The old Sedalia depot, now a museum/gift shop/bike shop is worth an hour, and is a great place to buy souvenirs, jerseys and T shirts, but it closes at 4.  The museum in the Boonville chamber of commerce (located near the Boonville depot) is worth a stop to learn about Lewis & Clark.  You’ll see lots of interpretive signs about their expedition along the trail.

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Biking, 2017

My goal for 2017 was to bike more than 2,000 miles.  I thought it was pretty impressive, but as it turns out, many of my biking friends in the area consider 5,000 miles to be a more ambitious goal.  But then I’ve been biking seriously again only since my motorcycle crash.

Here’s my 2017 results:


I achieved my goal in late October, about a mile from our house. 


Later, my friend Allen and I rode the “Tour of the Moon”  over the Colorado National Monument.  I was wearing a jersey from a friend I discovered on Strava; he and his wife retired and live  in the French mountains; he was an architect and she was an educator.  He rides about as often as I do, although he’s faster.

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Here are some random scenes as I racked up the miles:

With Michael Starks along the Poudre Trail in Fort Collins

With Allen along the Rio Grande Trail from Glenwood Springs to AspenIMG_20170727_144755152
  Our favorite coffee stop, Bestslope Coffee in Fruita, Colorado
Ridgway, Colorado
Ridgway, Colorado
Other photos along the route:
Reeder Mesa

Illinois Prairie Path Sampler


The Illinois Prairie Path trail is probably the second rail-trail in the country, and was created on the right of way of the abandoned Chicago, Aurora and Elgin electric railroad.  The CA&E has a long history; it was built in 1902 and the railroad was abandoned in 1958. In 1963, the entire length was converted to a bike/pedestrian trail running from Chicago to the Fox River cities of Aurora and Elgin.

The CA&E ran from the Chicago loop, and my mother often took us to downtown Chicago on the train, not the car.  Riding the big third rail electric cars from Elmhurst to the city along the private right of way and on the L (elevated) tracks made a lasting impression on me.

In an unparalleled display of municipal short-sightedness, the railroad went bankrupt in 1957, and no government entity took it over.  A judge signed an order authorizing abandonment just before lunch, and all of the trains were recalled to Wheaton by noon, leaving many stranded – and angry and frustrated – commuters with no way to get home.  It made the front page of the Chicago papers.  I remember it.

The abandoned right of way was converted to a trail in 1963, so it’s actually been a trail almost as long as it was a railroad.  We had hoped to ride from Wheaton east at least to beyond Elmhurst, and perhaps beyond, but the 80% chance of precipitation proved too accurate.  Being obsessed with this ride, I forced my cousin Mike to ride in the rain a few miles from the Villa Park station to York Road, where we’d caught the train years ago. The station is located near the old Ovaltine factory:

CA&E Villa Park Station

(Thanks to Glen Brewer, whose web page has a lot more on the CA&E http://RailroadGloryDays.com/cae.)

The gray and gloomy day when we got there:

Only a few miles east we crossed York Road.  I recall that my dentist’s office was on the second floor of the building on the corner, above a drug store, and I could watch the trains roll by while getting my cavities filled.


It’s now an art gallery


It’s ironic that the adjoining property owners bitterly resisted the conversion of the right of way to a trail (they wanted the property to enlarge their back yards); the path has apparently substantially improved their property values, and the tiny WWII crackerbox houses along the way have been converted to Illinois McMansions.


So the Prairie Path remains on my list of must-ride trails. It is even possible to ride from Elmhurst to my cousin Bob’s house in Plainfield in less than 4 hours, almost entirely on bike trails. Next time ….

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