Katy Trail 2012, Day Four (Washington to Machens)

October 28, 2012

Day 1 (Clinton to Boonville) is posted here.
Day 2 (Boonville to Jefferson City) is posted here.
Day 3 (Jefferson City to Washington) is posted here.

We woke up around 7 AM and starting getting ready for our final day on the Katy Trail. A few times towards the end of day three I’d said to Mr. V, “You know, it’s all too easy to take this for granted, and I am very sure I’ll miss this when it’s over.” Here at the start of day 4, even with 50 miles left to go, I already was saddened that the adventure was coming to a close.

Above: Right out of the gate, weather was a question mark for the day. Weather.com’s hour by hour forecast showed us having a high probability of going through some rain anywhere around 10 AM to noon. We’d each packed a poncho like this one, which to this point we hadn’t needed; now, making final prep this morning in the hotel, I moved mine to the top of the “clothes” pannier.

Above: A last quick look back at the room. My panniers and helmet lying on the bed.

Above: Our bikes waiting patiently outside the hotel for the same guy to pick us up who’d dropped us off the night before. This morning we had the Super 8 complimentary breakfast, and again wiped down and re-oiled our chains.

Above: Katy Trail 2012, day 4. 190 miles down, 50 to go.

Note that it was actually warm enough this morning that we were both rocking the short-sleeved shirts. Very pleasant morning.

Above: I distinctly remember this point near the start of this morning’s ride. I was trying to purposefully soak it all in and internalize the great times I’d had the past few days. I was all too aware that with the short day today, and a likely tailwind at our backs, we’d be in Machens before we knew it and this trip I’d had in my blood for a year would, very strangely, be over.

We reached Augusta, about 8 miles from the Dutzow trailhead that was our starting point after the taxi dropoff.

One thing we noticed right off the bat this morning was that we were seeing many more folks on the trail than the first few days. This was partially attributable to getting closer to St. Charles; partially attributable to going through wine country which attracts a lot of riders on the trail; but mostly, I suspect, because it was the weekend – Saturday. The majority of riders (and a number of joggers and walkers) we encountered were headed from east to west, but a fair number were also going in our direction. We had some pleasant conversations with cyclists at several consecutive trailheads along the way. Spoke with several folks who were also doing the full trail, mostly in 5 or 6 days. Very nice folks on the whole.

We reached the Matson trailhead, passing many cyclists on the way and speaking with several of them.

Above: You don’t see this every day. This was right at the Matson trailhead. When we first arrived, there were only 3-4 of them, all in varying superhero costumes. But within 2 minutes of our arrival, a good half dozen more arrived from the east. They were all touring wine country, each of them dressed in a superhero theme. Pretty cool. They asked Mr. V to take their picture with their camera, and graciously posed for me to take theirs for the blog. Guys, if you’re reading this somewhere, good work!!

Above: The Daniel Boone Judgment Tree Memorial, just across from the Matrson trailhead.

Above: We stopped at Terry & Kathy’s bar & grill in Defiance, MO for lunch. A nice enough little bar & grill just off the trail. I once again had a bacon cheeseburger, with fries and a lemonade that was to kill for. We ate on the deck outside and could literally watch several feet away as folks flew by on the trail, with some getting off here to eat where we were or a nearby place.

Above: The very-well-graffiti’d wall of the men’s room.

About three miles past Defiance, we reached Weldon Spring.

We reached Greens Bottom trailhead. I don’t retain particularly warm memories for this portion of the ride, because at this trailhead we encountered a group of boisterous and downright profane “young uns” who were notably more interested in where they could acquire more alcohol than in any of the natural and historic interest around them. Plus the restroom at Greens Bottom was, no exaggeration, probably the most disgusting restroom I’ve ever been in in my life. If the human feces out in the open and the nauseating smell attracting hundreds of nasty little bugs didn’t get you, then the overpowering smell of bleach – so potent you could smell it from several feet away before you even opened the restroom door – probably would. This was the one and ONLY black eye on what was an amazing four days.

The ride was nearing an end. I’d been getting texts from friends over the past few hours asking where exactly we were; they were asking in regards to the weather, which it appears we always just slightly outran. The impression I got from friends’ texts and talking to them later is that the weather (lots of rain) was following us up the trail but always just behind.

It seemed pretty clear now, with trailside info-boards referring to St. Charles, that we were going to avoid rain altogether. Mr. V and I found it funny that the very near-term forecasts (only 6 hours into the future!) of two reliable weather forecasting services could be so divergent. We were both glad Accuweather had won that particular battle.

The tailwind we’d been expecting did show up, however. It was the strongest wind of the entire four days, and happily, it was at our backs (or a cross-tailwind) for 90% of the time. With the benefit of that, plus trying to outrun the rain, plus targeting a rendezvous with Mrs. V who was going to drive to Machens from KC to pick us up, we were making fast time on the bike.

We set a 4:15 pickup time with Mrs. V. Machens as the end of the trail just dumps you out in the middle of nowhere, so Mr. V put a premium on our arriving ahead of Mrs. V so that we could guide her in, versus the possibility of her just wandering around unsure if she’d reached the destination or not.

Above: As we neared St. Charles, the old railroad tracks began to reappear alongside the trail. Another (and among the last) of the familiar echoes of the past. It was interesting to me to note how nature is gradually reclaiming it for her own – plants growing in among the slats and filling out. Very interesting commentary on the impermanence of even extraordinary things.

At St. Charles we encountered the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center just before the trailhead. Following are several pictures from this interesting little area.

We left this cool little place and proceeded to the actual St. Charles trailhead.

Above: Pushing back from St. Charles bound for Machens. Roughly ~225 miles were down, 12.6 to go. With the looming rendezvous time with Mrs. V, Mr. V and I more-or-less sprinted to the finish – which was exhilarating and fun. In the process, however, I took note a few times that I really liked this last 12 miles, a feeling Mr. V shared. The first mile or two after St. Charles was pretty drab, but after that, the final 10 or so into Machens were pretty cool. One thing I liked about it is that it seemed to me to have a quite different flavor from any of the previous 225 miles. Factoring in that this Machens extension has been open only 18 months, with St. Charles previously being the end of “what was known”, this final stretch struck me as maybe like some amazing previously-unheard little passage of music in some recently-unearthed demo version of an old favorite song – new, different, and yet the same.

Above: About 3 miles west of Machens is the last (very small) trailhead prior to the end. Black Walnut. Snapped a couple pictures and hopped back on the bikes for the final run.

Above: We started 4 days earlier at Clinton, the western terminus of the Katy Trail State Park. Now at 4:15 PM on Saturday, we’d arrived in Machens, the eastern terminus.

Above: Our “triumphant” picture. We did it!!

Mrs. V’s van is visible in the background. The timing literally could not have been better. Just through that guardrail you emerge onto a gravelly, rocky road. You go a very short distance – 1/8th of a mile maybe – and turn right onto another road. This other road is where many Katy travelers who are fortunate enough to have a pick-up in Machens, arrange to meet them.

There was another group waiting at this same place for their pick-up also. It was uncanny: they had left Clinton a day earlier than we had – Tuesday – and been traveling to Machens. We evidently had been gaining slightly on them throughout the week but never saw them – not even on the final 10, 15, 20 miles into Machens – until this pickup point. And yet, their ride came down the road to meet them literally 30 seconds ahead of Mrs. V’s van who was on the way to meet us. And all of this occurred within less than 2 minutes of us arriving at the pickup point. It was like a scripted ending.

And a heartfelt THANK YOU! to Mrs. V for picking us up out there.

Above: A last look back at the Machens trailhead from “the other side”. A goal a year in the making had come to pass. I felt exhilaration, excitement, fatigue (not much), triumph, wistfulness, sadness – you name it, a Rubik’s Cube of emotions. One thing I knew for sure – I had had an amazing time; the Katy Trail had surpassed every expectation I had; and I already could not WAIT to do it again.

Mr. V was of the same accord. We’ve already begun plotting for our 2013 encore. Tentatively planning to do it around the same period in October.

Thanks for reading.

7 Responses to “Katy Trail 2012, Day Four (Washington to Machens)”

  1. Barrie Wright, PA. said

    Thank you for writing so clearly and in a dignified, gentlemanly way. I enjoyed the good heads-up you have provided to those who might make the trip on day. Enjoy your repeat journey and let us know how that went [without rain too?]

  2. Dave in Indy said

    Very nice job! Thanks. My grandmother lived her last twenty years in Clinton. Dad and I would walk up to the tracks and watch the very small (in terms of car count) MKT trains chug toward Sedalia, in the late 70’s.

  3. Shirley Cramer said

    I am about to bike a portion of the Katy Trail for the first time and so enjoyed your blog and gleaned a lot of helpful information. Thank you!

  4. Thank you Shirley, for saying so (and Dave & Barrie also). Shirley, hope you have as much fun on the trail as I did; I’m sure you will! We had a blast and cannot wait to return.

    • Shirley Cramer said

      I will just be riding out and back from various points and will not be able to ride the entire trail; however, I had not planned to bike Boonville to McBaine but, after reading your remarks, will definitely ride that portion of the trail. I so appreciate people who are willing to share their knowledge about trails.

  5. Jim Bangs said

    Bill, Great ride report. Thanks for all the info and insight. I will be riding the KATY with a buddy for the MO state parks supported ride June 2014 and I am reading ride reports to get ready for that ride. I hope that they allow us the time for exploring the RR and Lewis and Clark history of the trail like you guys did.
    I am also driving into the area a few days before the ride, (from Colorado) and was going to get a couple of days riding the Prairie Spirit trail and Flint Hills trail. Right in your area. I was planning to make Ottawa my base and roam out of there for a few days before driving over to Clinton. Any thoughts/suggestions on rides for these two trails?
    Thanks, Jim

  6. Jim – thanks for the kind words. You will LOVE the Katy trail, I’m quite sure.

    My buddy and I also did the ride this year, which I just made a (brief) post about today. Much longer writeup coming in future, with pictures & video snippets too.

    Prairie Spirit and Flint Hills trails – second home to me 🙂 I dunno if you’ve checked out other posts on my blog, but if not, you might do so, I have some fairly decent writeups about those trails, especially the PST. I dunno how much mileage you’re comfortable riding in a day, but one thing I enjoy doing from time to time is riding the PST to Iola, overnighting there, then returning the next day. It would be about 50 miles each day, and you could if you wanted tack on more by continuing to the “new” end of the trail, in Humboldt, which would add about 20 miles roundtrip. Plus there’s the 17 (now it might be closer to 20) contiguous miles of the Flint Hills trail here in Ottawa to Osawatomie. These two trails essentially “connect” here in town – they don’t literally connect but they’re separated by a mile or less of pavement. So you can chain one to the other.

    I dunno how much you have read up on the Flint Hills trail but they recently received a large grant to finally complete that trail (hat tip my friend Randy R at kansascyclist.com). I point this out because they’ve stated a fairly aggressive planned timeline to TOTALLY complete that trail, which they hope to have done as early as (from memory) Novemberish 2014. So by June, my assumption (and hope) is a lot of work will have been completed, such that you’d be able to connect a much longer corridor of the FHNT to the Prairie Spirit. *I* certainly am very excited about that, myself. When fully complete, the FHNT will be about (again from memory) 117ish miles long and be one of the longest rail-trails in the country. I’m fortunate that living in Ottawa, I will live only about 18-20ish miles from one terminus of that trail (Osawatomie). You could chain together quite an epic ride to go from the far terminus of the FHNT, take it into Ottawa, say, hop off that trail (with 20 miles of it remaining), connect to the PS Trail, and take that 50-60 more miles to Iola or Humboldt. A good 160ish miles one way.

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