Touring along the KATY Trail, and then some.

I’m going to take today off from riding. After six days in the saddle, averaging around eight hours a day of riding time, I need to just lounge around for a bit.

All winter long I pondered the idea of a self-supported week long tour of Missouri’s KATY Trail. Running from Clinton, in the west, to the St. Louis area on the eastern side of the state, at 240+ miles the KATY is the longest Rails-to-Trails program in the country. It transects the state from east to west, running through numerous small towns and the remnants of once thriving villages, many of which are now almost less than a memory. Built upon the rail bed of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, it crosses a diverse landscape, from forest to prairie, to farmland and wine country. Throughout a significant portion of the passage, one rides adjacent to the the Missouri River.

The trail crosses many small country highways and I couldn’t help but take the occasional turn to see what lie beyond the paved curve and over a few rolling hills. Plus, it felt wonderful to lower the rolling resistance of the trail and speed along the uneven tarmac, if only for a couple miles of exploration.

Although I’ve built up my 1985 Shogun 2000 as a randonneur, I wanted to give it a good workout as a touring bike. This meant that I had to retrofit my panniers to the front and rear racks – something that was accomplished more or less successfully. More or less.

My campsite in Portland, Missouri, along the Missouri River. Did I just hear someone playing "Dueling Banjos" in the distance?

Over the next couple of days I’ll be commenting upon my tour, from camping and overnight accommodations to cycling equipment and the experience of riding hard along a trail that by its very nature (soft chat) slows one down. I’ll share my impressions of places and people, including a good samaritan who came to my rescue only a couple of hours into my first morning. (Thanks, Bill from Chicago!) I’ll comment no more for now, but suffice it to say that if one plans to tour for several hundred miles, one should first ensure that one’s frame pump is securely fastened to the bike frame rather than left to bake in the back seat of an automobile some two hours to the west…


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