This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Old home, old friends and the Katy Trail

It was time to hit the road again.  I had planned to visit  Kansas City for a conference, but the conference was cancelled at the last minute.  That didn't really matter much, it was chance to return after...well a long time and enjoy the city where I went to college and lived for 12 years.  
Once again I got an incredible bargain from Air BB.  
Staying at Leib Dodell's beautiful home one block south of the Country Club plaza was a real treat.  
He and his two beautiful dogs were wonderful hosts and companions.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt getting from the train station to my lodgings at the Country Club Plaza.  Everything seemed to be where I left it.  The temperatures in KC were raging.  The nominal temps were pushing 100 in the late afternoon and real heat was on the pavement.  On Friday, I cooled off by spending siesta time at the Nelson-Atkins art gallery.  There is a world class collection of paintings and sculptures including one of Rodin's monumental bronze, The Thinker.
Although Rodin cast several monumental versions like the one in KC, the original was a miniature part of a bronze relief in a door with the The Thinker pondering  the 
 struggles of humanity at the Gates of Hell.
Times are better now.  
The big guy looks over an expansive lawn supervising 
a giant bad-mitten match.  The world is improving.
Later that evening I went out to Westport Square for a burger and beer.
I stumbled across a few friends.  Nobody I knew before, but the monthly 
gathering of a Critical Mass Ride.
Hell, I had nothing else to do.  I joined in as 2-300 people took over the streets of  Westport in an organized (but somewhat inebriated) column of riders.  We progressed down Nichols boulevard, through the Country Club Plaza stopping traffic in our wake as streams of pedestrians cheered. We meandered through the busy Plaza area through  Brookside  until reaching
the inevitable rest stop at the famous rose garden in Loose Park.  Circling through the Chinese arches full of blossoming roses  we looked like a swarm of drunken bees before several took a ceremonial dip in the fountain at the center of the garden.  PBR was passed around and a whole lot of hilarity  continued to complete a 23 mile circuit back to Westport Square.
Saturday was another quiet  day re-exploring the footsteps of my college days.   I manged to meet a college buddy of mine who  was still in town.  Since our days in the English Dept at UMKC,Stanley E. Banks developed the life of a professional poet with his lovely wife Janet.  We had a great time catching up and the was conversation was so enjoyable I never experienced an awkward silence to fill by getting a photo of us together.  Another time, until then, follow this link.
Sunday morning.  (Dum, Dum go the drums in the background)  My host was fretting over my not being acclimated to the heat.  I decided to leave before 6AM, to escape the KC river valley before the city awakes.  It kinda worked.  The hills travelling away from KC are challenging and getting out of the city was slower than planned.  Despite that, I was only a little behind schedule when I reached HWY 50 on the outskirts of Lee's Summit.   50 is a federal highway, straight and boring, but the hills are graded down and there is a paved 8 ft shoulder making it fairly safe and easy to crank out some mileage.  I  nearly reached Warrensburg on schedule when storms hit.  In this part of the country rain is always accompanied by lightning and thunder.  It's best to run and hide.  I did and ambled into Knob Noster campground in the late afternoon, it all worked out, but I was dying to find the trail in Sedalia, and some shade.
Things were still hot on Monday.  The rain from Sunday afternoon and evening left a dense fog hanging low so I waited until late morning for better visibility.  Half the day was taken on the final 15-20 miles getting to Sedalia for lunch where I got on the Katy Trail.
There I was welcomed by shade and relief from the bubbling asphalt popping under my tires.
There are a couple of nice things about rail trails; shade and the reduction of hills.  In the mid 1800's it was discovered that 2.5% grades were the most a train can effectively combat.  
So you know you never have more than that to deal with, but those grades can go on for miles, and miles and miles.  The ride from Sedalia to Pilot Grove is one of those rides. The reward at the end is a city park where free camping is permitted along with the use of toilets two shelters with electricity and (gasp) the municipal pool where $3 will get you a shower as well as relief from the heat.
It's the Hilton of stealth camping if I ever saw it.
That's where I ran into James Gasko.  A few years ago, he had an argument with his boss, which led to him quitting his job, which led to a disagreement with his girlfriend, which led him to taking early retirement from a construction union.  Being a lifetime bike fanatic, he's been  living on his pension while traveling around the country with his aging beagle ever since.   He said he works at bike shops now and then in his travels, but in the past 4 years hasn't found a reason to quit moving.
On up the trail to Boonevile I intersected and crossed the Missouri River.
Booneville is famous for it's first settler, the legendary Dan'l Boone
and became the starting point for many westward expeditions. Those routes lead to Kansas City and diverge into the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails.
Along the route many of the events are archived with interpretive plaques.
Of course the most famous would be the Lewis and Clark expedition enfranchised by President Jefferson.  They navigated the Missouri in their exploration of the western plains.  I knew that, you knew that, but what didn't occur to me was the current they were battling the entire time.  On most occasions they were barely able to gain 20 miles against the river that drains most of the western continent.  I thought I got tired!  I'm a wuss.
Continuing along the river, the trail is relatively flat and easy and cuts through some
 magnificent bluffs, cliffs and rock formations.
Facilities along the trail are frequent and pleasant.  In Hartsburg, I was invited to camp in the backyard of the Globe Hotel.  It's a small BB which only charged me $25 for the use of the backyard
as well as the shower, indoor facilities and a sit down, 
gourmet breakfast with other trail riders.
There was friendly camaraderie and swapping of tales from a roomful
who travel by bike on a regular basis
Unlike any other trail I have seen,  most of the trail heads have Fixstation bike repair stands.
That's a handy thing, even if it was just to tweak the headset adjustment.
Unfortunately water was not as common as advertised.
Even though the heat had abated somewhat, we still need water 
and it was not as common as advertised on the trail signs.
Note to self: Camelbak!
There were notable formations along the trail and beautiful vistas.
This is not a fallen rock, but a huge granite outcropping which had ignored erosion

while the river carved out this spectacular valley.
It rained off and on for a day or two.  
Just some mild showers on the outskirts of passing storms.
I met many other travelers and stopped to chat with each of them.
Some traveled light and fast and others were en-route across the country.
These were just misplaced.
A cow and her two bull calves were wandering the trail.
In the distance I thought they were dogs, then realized they were too big and slow,
 then hoped to God they weren't bears.   Momma was smart.
She took to the woods, bleating for the calves to follow.
They had no idea what I was and backed up, putting me between them and their mother.
They got confused and I was too.  I know they weren't bears, but they are big, dumb and panicky.
I don't do big dumb and panicky.  I decided to get off the bike and walk it into the woods on the opposite side from the mother.  They finally developed the courage to follow her.
Speaking of needing a drink.  
The towns around there may not have water but they all seem to have bars. 
 I ran into Jason (I think!) and Blake who were from St. Louis.  
They look a little blurry because they were 
working their way from tavern to tavern 
on their first overnight bike expedition.  
They picked a good venue and were having a great time
 making all the mistakes one makes on their first REAL bike ride.
They'll be back for more.
Overall the trail is one of the best trail experiences I have had.  There should be more water available at the trailheads, and after a couple of days I ran out of cash.  In all the little towns since Booneville there was not an ATM to be found.  Not only that, all the little mom and pop retailers treat debit cards as credit and are not prepared to give out cash. That was a real pain in the neck.
Note to self:  Camelbak and Cash.
I was glad to reach St. Charles. 
 It's just 25 miles north of downtown St. Louis and is a charming little tourist trap
 which fills up nightly with people going from bar to boutique 
spending money on unnecessary stuff they can't find elsewhere.
Most of the buildings in the tourist section date back to the early 1800's.   There are no camping facilities there.  The town does advertise camping available on the trailhead postings along the way.   At the end of the day, I found a quiet place on the river at the very end of their park system.  It was no problem, nobody came or went except one friendly guy with a handful of fishing gear.
Leaving in the morning was easy.  It was Saturday.  .
My train didn't leave until Sunday morning.
I had all day to negotiate 25 miles of paths and routes through the St. Louis area.
It's a good thing, because it rained all day.  Sometimes it fell in bucketfuls
which forced me to lounge in neighborhood coffee shops along the way.
All in all it wasn't a bad commute.
I meandered through town all day, taking my time in the rain.
It was a good thing I was on time,  
Like KC, St. Louis is built on a river valley at the junction between two of the biggest rivers on the continent.  I sorta forgot that there has to be a lot of dirt keeping those two rivers apart.
That's right, big tall hunks of dirt with climbs reaching 20% grades in some places.
It was best to use up the day,
lunching in several places along the way
before crashing out at a hotel near the Amtrak station.


  1. Hey Marc, you get around! I dig your blog. I felt the experience. As always, I wish you the very best of everything! Please keep moving and enjoying life! We'll see you next time. Stan Banks

  2. What a great adventure! I love the story about "big, dumb, and panicky."

    1. That was definitely among the more unusual moments I have had on the road.

  3. Fantastic story, Marc. Keep 'em coming.