Katy Trail 2012, Day Two (Boonville to Jefferson City)

October 27, 2012

Day 1 (Clinton to Boonville) is posted here.

After a good long night’s sleep at the home of Mr. and Mrs. K in Boonville, Mr. V and I started stirring around 7:30 or so.  Mrs. K, continuing her spoiling of us, had the day prior prepared some french toast that needed only to be heated up in the microwave, and had all the fixins – syrup, powdered sugar, etc – to add.  Mr. V and I woke up to this (and myself with a cup of coffee), reviewing some final plans for the day’s miles while speaking with Mrs. K about the local area.

Finally around 8:20 or so, it was time to pack up and head out.  As with the day prior, where Mr. C dropped us off from the warm van into the chilly Clinton morning air, so it was this morning.  But the weather was favorable to our ride – each morning’s departure was to be a few degrees warmer than the prior morning.  Combined with the little bit later start this morning, today wasn’t all that bad.

Above:  Dawn breaks outside Mrs. K’s house, and with it the promise of another exciting day of discovery on the Katy Trail.

Above:  The trail had a large number of benches placed for riders to rest or simply to relax and enjoy a beautiful view.  Many of them were engraved with dedications, in most cases to a missed loved one.  Although I didn’t and don’t recognize any of the names, I thought it a fitting tribute to capture most of them for this blog, which I’ve done.  I didn’t get 100%, but I got a lot.

As mentioned in the day 1 post, Mr and Mrs K lived in Boonville just a couple miles ahead of the trailhead, so we didn’t reach that trailhead till today.  And an awesome place it was!  This along with Sedalia was easily my favorite trailhead-type stop of the trip, and I dare to speak for Mr. V in offering his concurrence.

This Boonville trailhead (actually just a little bit further east than the actual trailhead stops, above) also had a train car on a section of track – this one you could climb up in and look around – and it also had a small Katy Trail themed gift shop.

Above: We arrived just in time to see the trailhead/gift shop attendant attach and raise the flag for the morning.  Beautiful site which I was glad to capture.  I told her I’d done so, to make sure it was ok 🙂

Above: The train car at the Boonville depot.

The train car was just simply cool. It was like its own little mini-museum of railroad history. Mr. V and I were like little kids on an easter egg hunt, running around looking at the various cool stuff – old railroad tools, chairs you had to climb up a narrow little set of steps to sit in, all kinds of contemporaneous little bits of history.  We spent close to half an hour here before we even entered the gift shop.

Below follow several pictures from this cool place.

Above:  The car had a guest book you could sign with your hometown of origin.

Finally we entered the gift shop and had a look around.  Lots of cool stuff – I wanted to pick up one of just about everything!  In the end I picked up a couple of beautiful Boonville postcards, a Katy Trail sticker, and a nice Katy Trail shirt.

Above:  The gift shop had a map of the U.S. in which many pins were stuck by previous visitors, representing their city of origin.  I dutifully marked my hometown, Ottawa (Kansas), being the first to do so. 

The keeper of the shop, whose name I have alas forgotten (apologies!) was very informative as well as helpful to us.  We talked with her for a while about the trail, where we’d come from & were going, etc.  She and her husband had ridden on the trail previously and really enjoyed it.  She provided some specific assistance to us which would come in handy later in our story.  We were on the fence about our 3rd night’s stay in Washington – which isn’t on the trail directly but rather around 5 miles or so away.  We’d been debating whether to ride the bikes there from the trail or take a taxi.  Much online advice advocated the latter due to the bicycle-unfriendliness of the route.  This lady in Boonville strongly supported that and generously looked around finding a couple contact numbers for us for taxi services in that area.  This would later prove to be very useful to us.

She also educated us, as had Mrs. K to some degree, on the local infighting regarding the 408-foot long Katy lift-span bridge which lies on the trail.  Built in 1932 and at the time the longest lift-span bridge in the United States, this is a beautiful old bridge (several pics below here) which lies in the normal path of the trail but which for political and funding reasons is currently not available to trail travelers. The bridge is there but the accessways to it are removed.  She explained that in time the bridge likely WILL be available to trail riders, but it was likely to be years away.  Instead, while you can approach the bridge for pictures (which we did!) there’s a small detour around it to continue with the trail.

We thanked her for her time and help and the good info and got rolling again.

We’d made today a short day in order to allow us to spend a little extra time looking around, and we certainly took advantage in Boonville.  We stayed a good long while at the Boonville station/museum; then, after departing there, we rode into Boonville proper for a look around and photographed a few beautiful buildings.

At this point I can say that the favorite stretch on the trail of both myself and Mr. V was the roughly 25-mile stretch from about Boonville to around McBaine – which is the first 25 miles we covered here on day 2.  The landscape was incredibly beautiful, there were several interesting things to see along the trail both of architectural and natural origins, there was an amazing diversity of things to see and do and marvel at.  I can heartily say that if you could pick any 25 mile stretch of the Katy to ride, this is where you want to go.

This jibes well with everything I’d read online, mostly at bikekatytrail.com.  This is also my first time mentioning that site, but perhaps this late mention is an injustice.  Bikekatytrail.com was a completely invaluable resource in our preparations and pre-ride research.  It’s a labor of love which includes tons of info on the trail, towns along the trail, things to see and do, services available, you name it.  Indispensable if you plan to hike or bike on the Katy or if you are just interested to learn more.

Above:  At about milepost 189, these are the ruins of the Franklin Junction turntable.  My comments from day 1 about the “old decaying, abandoned ghosts of machinery and engineering that one encounters along the way” is certainly applicable here as well.  There is a sad kind of stoic beauty to this structure which I found very compelling.

Above:  At the “Katy Roundhouse”, a campgrounds on the trail just before the New Franklin trailhead.

Above:  I just found this interesting  🙂  It’s remarkable to think how different our modern life, filled with iPhones, 70-mph automobiles with air conditioning and heating, and wireless broadband internet is from the life our civilization, our species, lived not at all terribly long ago.

Above:  The New Franklin Viaduct.

Above: At milepost 184.5. The boards at the trailheads give us: “The town of Pearsons had at least one store during its heyday. Now, just this old clay-tile grain elevator remains, the only one along the Katy.” Once again – once-functional and now long-abandoned ghosts from the past lining the trail. Very cool.

Above:  The famed tunnel at Rocheport.  From the Katy Trail trailhead boards:  “Milepost 178.9 – This picturesque, cut-stone arched tunnel was built in 1892-93 and is 243 feet long.  It was the only tunnel on the MKT line” … “At milepost 178.9 is the one and only tunnel on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas line.  The blackened ceiling stands as a reminder of the trains that passed through this tunnel from 1893 to 1986.  The tunnel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”

Below follow several pictures we took at a beautiful conservation area beside the trail just past the stone tunnel.  This was an awesome place, with huge sprawling vistas, benches and chairs to sit, relax and contemplate, and stone steps winding up a hillside for higher and higher views.

We stayed here for several minutes admiring the beauty and capturing some pictures for the memory books.  About here, though, we began to feel the pinch of time.  While today was our short day, we’d set out somewhat later than usual and really taken our time at the various sites recapped here and, as evidenced by many of today’s pics, rain was a constant threat.  We’d scanned the weather forecast and it appeared that rain was likely to arrive in Jefferson City, our stop for the night, somewhere around 6-7 PM.  Accordingly we imposed on ourselves a requirement to arrive there by 5-6ish, which given the time we’d allowed ourselves at each of these cool places, meant that the tyranny of the clock pulled on us a little more strongly from here to day’s end.

We reached Rocheport trailhead.  Such was our casual pace (stopping frequently and staying a while at many places) since starting out for the day that we took a few HOURS to travel these ~15 miles!

Above:  We ate lunch at Rocheport Bike & BBQ.  You work up quite an appetite riding the bike dozens of miles; I am not a fan of beans but I put down a double side-order helping of them along with my pork sandwich!  Good food. This made 2 days in a row of BBQ for lunch; and Mr. V had actually had BBQ back in Overland Park on Tuesday, so needless to say he was BBQ’d out.

Above:  The Ted Jones tribute at about milepost 189.  The plaque, dated October 6th 1990, reads, “The Katy Trail State Park is in large measure the creation of the foresight, energy and generosity of Edward D. (Ted) Jones.”  Ted Jones recognized in the proposed abandonment of 200 miles of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad line between Sedalia and Machens, Missouri, the rare opportunity to create an extraordinary recreational trail winding through the lower Missouri River Valley, a place rich in history and natural beauty.  His generosity made possible the acquisition of the railroad corridor and provided the materials to construct the entire trail surface.  His tireless efforts went far to gain public support for the trail.  From inception to construction, Ted Jones guided the Katy Trail State Park into existence.  This trail, and the enjoyment and fulfillment it provides to all who use it, is respectfully dedicated to this exceptional citizen.”

I’ll second that!

Below: Ted and his wife Pat.

Above:  The railroad’s former explosives storage bunker.

Below are several pictures of the bluffs on which (in this stretch) remains of Native American pictographs are still visible on the limestone bluff.  The first picture illustrates some of the images that can (ostensibly) be made out – we were able to see a couple of these but not all of them.

Above:  Possibly my favorite picture of this trip.  When I think of encapsulating the grandeur of the trail and the attempt to sum up my memories of the trip in one single image, this is it.  Several points along the trail offered these stunning towering-bluff views to the north of the trail; and coupled with the fall foliage in many sections, it was extremely beautiful.

Above:  The state champion bur oak tree.  It has a 91-inch-diameter trunk (yes – 7.5 feet), is over three hundred years old (i.e. older than the United States itself…amazing), and survived the flood of 1993.  This thing was just unbelievably massive, as especially this picture shows. The Katy Trail runs within 1/4 mile of the tree.  Just as we arrived at the tree, a girl and her boyfriend who’d ridden in from Columbia, MO to take pictures also arrived.  She is the one in this picture; he took this photo, and the two of them took various of the photos that follow.  We returned the favor!

We reached the McBaine trailhead.

Above:  At milepost 154.6, just before Hartsburg, this is the “bottomland agriculture” information stop.

Above:  It wasn’t all fun and games 🙂  Actually, even though I look seriously ticked off in this picture, I didn’t feel that way during this entire trip, so I’m guessing I was just trying to determine if Mr. V was intending to take my picture or if I was blocking his shot of something else.  But it makes for an interesting legacy picture from the trip.

Following are many pictures we took of the natural beauty between McBaine and Hartsburg.

We reached the Hartsburg trailhead.

Above:  A train car visible from the Hartsburg trailhead.

By this point if not a little earlier, it was pretty clear we’d dodged the weather bullet.  The rain that seemed to be threatening our arrival in Jeff City wasn’t imminent.  We had about 10 miles to go to our final trailhead of the day, so roughly an hour on the bike plus time to look around, and we were feeling good that the weather was holding.

Above:  Located at the North Jefferson trailhead, the plaque reads: “Here at the North Jefferson Trail Head, on Sept. 29, 1996, the east and west sections of the Katy Trail were joined, forging the final link uniting St. Charles and Sedalia via Katy Trail State Park.”

Indeed, North Jefferson, just outside the Missouri capital of Jefferson City, lies at more or less the halfway point on the Katy Trail.  The mention of St. Charles is because until very recently, the easternmost terminus of the Katy Trail was St. Charles.  In March/April 2011, the roughly 12 mile extension to Machens was completed.

Above:  Info board about the Great Flood of 1993.  Located just outside the North Jefferson Trailead.

Above:  This innovative multi-level ramp takes cyclists (or pedestrians) up to a dedicated bicycle/pedestrian lane on the bridge into Jefferson City. This on-ramp was reached via a short, easy 5-minute ride from the trail.

Above:  The Jefferson City capitol building, from the bridge.

Above:  The dedicated lane on the bridge.  Very cool arrangement; very convenient means to transport us from the trail right into Jeff City.

Above:  We stayed at the Baymont in Jeff City.  They let us put our bikes in one of their (locked) conference rooms for the night.

Above:  We’d planned to just find a suitable place to eat dinner at Jeff City and hadn’t identified any particular place.  At the suggestion of the desk lady at the Baymont, we ate at Arris’ Pizza on High Street, a short (but hilly!  up two somewhat short steep hills) bike ride from the hotel.  Delicious pizza here!  Mr. V and I ordered a large meat lovers pizza (essentially – on their menu it’s called the Hercules) and, surprising even ourselves, put it down in no time.

We rode back to the hotel, watched some of the Vice-Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, and shut it down for the night.

Two days of riding down…roughly 120 miles of the 240 on the trail done.  Tomorrow (Friday) was going to be our longest-mileage day, at just over 70 miles.

Stay tuned for day 3!

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