It’s Friday the 13th, I’m sitting in the bar of the Hotel Frederik in Boonville, Missouri enjoying a chocolate ale and a dozen excellent oysters on the half shell and waiting on what is purported to be an excellent burger. Friday the 13th, and Spring Break has begun. Friday the 13th and nothing has gone amiss, no black cats have crossed my path, no spilled salt ruining my day. I’m in Boonville, because on the morrow we’ll be leisurely riding a section of the KATY Trail. And tonight, the burger meets all expectations.
The morrow arrives, with a brisk wind coming off the Missouri River, a bit colder than anticipated but showing promise all the same – at least we hope so! As we walk across the road to the Main Street Diner it is abundantly clear that our shorts and t-shirts are enthusiastic, but ambitiously hopeful. Normally I would have brought leg and arm warmers, but in my enthusiasm to get out the door and on the road such things seem to have been overlooked. (Not to mention an extra tube or patch kit…!)
The hotel is a pleasant place; every visit is a step back in time, a stroll into a different and more civilized age. We’ve enjoyed the hospitality of this place before and will again. It’s tempting to stay in the comfort and warmth of the lobby, but the morning wains. It’s time to mount up, brave the wind, and cross the river.
We head east, toward Rocheport, a small river town with an excellent restaurant. The KATY Trail, normally a hard packed gravel path, is on this morning a road of quite loose sand. Our tires sink into the ground and it’s a lot like the effort of riding upon the beach. That’s OK though, because our journey is purposely slow, and we take many breaks along the way. This section of the trail runs alongside farmland and passes through a couple of conservation areas. At one stop, I pause to explore the masonry of an unusual grain storage structure.
The weather has been spectacular these past several days. Although the cross winds are fierce, the day continues to warm and we find it difficult to believe we have the trail entirely to ourselves. Crossing over Salt Creek the winds all but disappear as the fields give way to woods; the bluffs are effective wind breakers.
Looking closely among the dry leaves, fresh green is beginning to show.
Just outside Rocheport, the trail passes through a tunnel. At one time the bluffs that line the former railroad bed were adorned with petroglyphs. Further along, some are still visible but many were destroyed in this location when the tunnel was constructed in the early twentieth century.
Rocheport is a tiny hamlet of century-old homes and a block long business district. Abigail’s is one of the five or six places of business (Aside from numerous bed and breakfast operations), and is a favorite of ours. Frankly, I think we’ve probably dined there every time we’ve visited Rocheport. Always funky, and always esoteric, the food is makes these visits something worth looking forward to. The menu is on a single large chalk board, set upon an easel and brought from table to table. Today, our repast consists of an incredible seafood chowder, roasted vegetables and field greens, and hearty baked bread. It’s “Pi Day,” but as wonderful as it sounds we are too full to enjoy a slice of the berry pie.
I’ve brought my 1971 Raleigh International three-speed conversion today. With wider tires, it’s a good choice for the loose pack on the trail today. Recent precipitation has left the path with many ruts, which we are constantly dodging. After lunch, the sun begins to warm nicely. Turtles by the dozen are visible in every brook. Snakes, too, are enjoying the day and are stretched out across the trail. Owls hoot, bullfrogs sing – their noise is deafening in places, cardinals flit back and forth in front of us, and squirrels run beneath our tires in suicidal frenzy.
What a great Pi Day!