Anticipation of the first long ride of the year is that of a child who awaits Christmas morning, but the ride is here at last. There are those believe that we have lost our minds, but long distance biking is an addictive adventure. There is something inside me that only comes to life when I set out to test my skills, physical ability, and endurance. I will persevere. Even when I am chilled to the bone and muscles are sore, and legs heavy and lifeless, I will my body to push onward by force of will. I will succeed and love it!
We are a steadfast trio – my daughter, sister and I. Over the years many have ridden with us from time to time but it is we three amigos who return year after year.
This year we have planned a 120 mile ride beginning in our state capitol. We kicked off festivities with a lingering visit to Central Dairy. Maybe not the best fuel for our body but definitely nourishment for the soul. My waffle cone embellished with a hearty dollop of cookies and cream ice cream added just enough motivation to tackle the first leg of our journey into Rocheport.
We rode past a few favorite landmarks like the Claysville store, the Hartsburg Inn, and Missouri’s State Champion Burr Oak Tree.
We were introduced to the Claysville store at the conclusion of our first ride on the trail. This little establishment began as a family lemonade stand along the trail. It now boasts award winning pan-fried chicken and other country style offerings.
In Hartsburg, we fondly reminisce about our stay at the Hartsburg Inn last year. We had ridden the entire day in the rain. Even with raingear we were chilled to the bone. Damp in clothing and in spirit, we were welcomed most graciously by the innkeeper. The Hartsburg Inn was delightful in its cozy simplicity.
The state champion Bur Oak Tree is one of my favorite stops along the Katy Trail. This sprawling giant has stood witness to the passing of 360 years. Imagine the stories within this magnificent old tree.
We pedal on; share our own stories and laughter beneath the towering bluffs carved by the power of the mighty Missouri River. Turkey vultures soar silently just overhead, Squirrels scold, freeze, and then scatter left then right at our approach. The rich purples of the spiderwort demand that we stop for photographs.
We ride into Rocheport with a smile on our faces. Lodging with hosts, Brett and Tawnie Dufur was a wonderful experience. We spent the night in the Katy Boxcar, a quaintly renovated boxcar boasting every amenity a tired biker could ever need. We each enjoyed a warm shower and headed to the award winning Abigails. The rich aromas, eclectic furnishings, and unique entre offerings made this little bistro one that will definitely warrant a return visit in the near future.
Saturday morning dawned bright and cold, but the strong north winds from the day before had settled at last. We dressed in layers, straddled our bicycles and rode into the west…
to be continued
The week fades into the distance in the dust of this old red dirt road behind me. Redbud trees have already paraded their purple blossoms, bowing to the dogwoods that now decorate the emerging green hillsides. The humid breath of evening air belies this first day of April. I am a child again, on my bicycle, attacking the hills and flying with naïve delight into the shadows of the valleys.
The whole world catches fire with the setting sun. It is unusually warm. We turn from the country road and follow the brand new Crabtree Cove Trail that winds around the east shores of Stockton Lake. The trail leads you to the top of bluffs that cradle a flooded quarry. The view of the sunset from the rim demands that we stop and pay our respects.
This is a night for wild surprises and thrills. Riding in silence, you never know what you are going to see. My sister and I cross from the trail and emerge across the Stockton Lake Dam. I am so high above the Sac River below, I feel as if I can fly. Turkey vultures surprise me as they ride the thermals below and around me. I find myself riding alongside a handsome young red-headed specimen, attempting, without success to match the perfection of his grace.
There is no sound, but suddenly a flash of white catches my eye. A flock of 23 American White Pelicans fly directly overhead! In Missouri? These birds actually migrate through Missouri from the Gulf of Mexico each year. They are stoic sentinels stunning against the brilliant blue sky.
The sun dips further and I will need to rush home. I pull my eyes from the sky, place my feet upon the pedals and sigh with regret.
Do you ever yearn for a simpler time? Are you touched by a sense of nostalgia when you think of the peace and quiet of small town U.S.A? When you ride across Missouri on the Katy Trail you have an opportunity to truly experience a colorful slice of Americana. From Machen to the east to Clinton on the western side of Missouri there are 237 miles of trail for you to explore. Each mile is different from the last.
I have been fortunate to ride back and forth across our beautiful diverse state several times. In truth, I will never be the same. I laughed and cried and shared dreams with my family. I rubbed sore muscles, rode out storms, and met wonderful people along the way.
Whether packing across the state or taking a short leisurely ride with small children, there is something here for everyone. Discover the Katy Trail and you will discover yourself. Over the next few weeks I will share a few of my experiences along the trail.
There is no way to suppress my smile as I unstrap my bicycle from the car. A blue sky day such as this February afternoon is nothing less than a gift. The breezes that stir my hair are surprisingly gentle, unexpectedly warmed by the rays of a winter sun. Months have passed since I have taken off on this trail. It is with great delight that I push the first pedal forward followed by the other.
I have had the good fortune to follow the Katy Trail across our state and back again several times. There is something that is really satisfying about pedaling long distances; relying on my own muscles and determination, visiting small towns along the way. The Katy Trail truly highlights Midwestern Americana. Today I will not go far, maybe ten miles, but that’s okay.
Trees may still be gray and bare, silhouetted against the waning sun, but the world is alive. As of yet, there are no wildflowers, but still the warm breezes whisper a promise of spring. A Red-tailed hawk shrieks displeasure at my intrusion, circling behind me as I vacate its territory. The sound of fluttering feathers to the left of the trail captures my attention. A large flock of wild turkeys explode from the shadows of the woodland into an open field. Their iridescent feathers seem to capture the orange glow of the late evening sunshine. Life’s simple pleasures. Sighting these animals fill me with anticipation for the new season of new life, for adventures and discoveries along new trails as of yet not taken, of sharing laughter, and memories with family and friends.
With this blog, I hope to share some of these memories with you. Missouri is rich in bicycle trails and is steeped in nature and history. We will explore many bicycle trails that cross Missouri as well as to visit some of the places and people along the way. Life is about this journey we take. Strap on your helmet and shoes. Come discover these stories with me.
Lisa LaCombe is a bicycle enthusiast familiar with bicycle paths and trails across Missouri. She also is manager of Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs, Mo.