Oakland to Chicago Ė Ottawa, KS to Florissant, MO


Denis Kertz, ©2001




Day 42: 10/12/2001, Friday - Ottawa, KS to Harrisonville, MO (pop 7,683) [60.2]

I was up a little earlier than normal, not having slept particularly well, and I ate at the Country Kitchen.I often find these restaurant chains offer bland and over priced choices but the skillet with pancakes was pretty good.The weather prediction was not encouraging with showers likely in the afternoon and almost certainly at night.I headed out just before 9:00, heading north a couple of miles through downtown Ottawa and then picked up 68 east to my destination, Harrisonville, Mo.

It was quite overcast in the low 50s.The route resumed the long rollers I had yesterday.Again, a couple times I broke the 20 mph barrier.It was 35 miles to Louisburg, population 1,964, the last town before the state line.As I traveled I occasionally felt some fine mist.When I reached Louisburg the misting increased and I considered whether I should stay or continue the 21 miles to Harrisonville.However, the decision was easy, as Louisburg had no motel even though it was at the junction of US 69 and 68.

So I grabbed a quick sandwich and pushed on.In 4 miles I crossed into Missouri where 68 turned into Highway 2.I had hoped that my home state would shower delights on a favorite son but 2 was a mess.The almost non-existent shoulder was cracked and virtually unusable.Then 2 jogged north for a short distance and when it turned east again I was hit with my friend, the headwind.Fortunately the headwind was short-lived and not an issue.

2 was reasonably flat and I made good time.As I neared Harrisonville the weather seemed to improve a little as the overcast lessened a bit.When I hit town at 2:30 I took the southern route through town but didnít find the services I expected.After inquiry I found I had to head north where I found the motels.I found a motel a little off the main business route for $32.

After I cleaned up I walked to another buffet restaurant I found while looking at a different motel.Another filling meal for $7.27.Afterwards, the sun was shining and it was clearing up, no doubt because I took my rain gear with me when I walked to the restaurant.

Day 43: 10/13/2001, Saturday - Harrisonville, MO to Sedalia, MO (pop 19,800) [81.3]

When I signed into the motel yesterday the proprietor told me they served breakfast from 6-9:00 so I checked it out and it was hardly anything.So I walked back to the buffet place since they had a buffet breakfast on the weekend.

Afterwards I checked the weather on TWC.It had rained overnight and it was heavy overcast with possible rain through early afternoon.So I packed up and hoped for the best.I left shortly after 9:00 and headed south on 2 through town and then east on 2.There was initial climbing to get out of town and then it was rollers.On one of the rollers I broke 30 mph, the first time since the Rockies.

My destination for the day was Sedalia, home of the Missouri state fair.I stayed on 2 rather than trying some back roads to head to Sedalia more directly.This gave me some possible bailout options if rain developed.

As I moved out the rollers became steeper.I might have needed my granny except the climbs were short enough I could build up speed on the downhill and power up the hill without bothering to shift chainrings.After I passed the junction with 13 the rollers eased up quite a bit.

Early in the ride I couldnít help but notice I was moving pretty well and I was shocked to discover my friend the headwind had abandoned me in favor of a tailwind.It was a modest 5 mph but considering the typical 5+ mph headwind the net effect was at least 10 mph.

Around 1:00 after 54 miles, I pulled into Windsor.I was surprised to see a sign for the Katy Trail State Park.The Katy Trail is a hiking/biking trail of fine crushed rock that runs to St. Charles on the western edge of St. Louis.I knew about the Katy Trail but thought it began in Sedalia.Instead it starts in Clinton, about 16 miles southwest of Windsor.While I checked out the route display, another guy was taking pictures of the area.He appeared to be thrilled to have a Real Cyclist with a real touring bike in the pictures.

Before continuing, I rode downtown to check out the library, which was small and had no Internet access.After that I noticed a Subway so I stopped for a sandwich.There were several people ahead of me so I waited in line.There was a mother with a couple of youngsters who couldnít make up their mind what they wanted on their sandwich.Then when the woman had to pay she didnít have the necessary change so she had to walk out to her car to get it.

I figured that was the long wait with only two young women ahead of me.Then I noticed one had a piece of paper that turned out to be an order list and the other woman ordered 3 subs.At that point I lost my patience and walked out.I rode to a Caseyís where I got my sandwich in 30 seconds.

Around 2:30 I set off on the Katy Trail that conveniently went directly northeast to Sedalia as opposed to the right angle approaches the regular roads would have required.The trail was cool as I had it to myself except for a couple of cyclists.There was no traffic to contend with and it was very peaceful and quiet, a relaxing ride.The only thing that would have been better would have been a paved trail.The packed trail was fine but not as smooth as pavement and it was a little soft in a few spots, probably due to recent rains.For the most part, trees bordered the trail on both sides and fallen leaves covered much of the trail.Occasionally the trail broke into the clear giving nice views as it cut between farm fields.A nice relaxing way to ride into Sedalia.

In Sedalia I rode into town to a railroad station where I wanted to check the trail map.There I ran into 3 kids, two 7-year old twins and their 13-year-old brother on their bikes.They were fascinated with all of my gear and especially with my helmet mounted rear view mirror that I claimed prevented anyone from sneaking up on me from behind.They asked endless questions and I assured them I had everything I needed to stay anywhere.When they asked where I was staying, I asked if I could stay with them but they said they were already too crowded at home.Then they wanted me to stay at the station and one of the twins kept blocking my way with her bike.Eventually I had to do some dodging and sprinting to get away or I would still be there.

It took me a while to get my bearings even with the Sedalia city map in my state map.First I found Broadway (US 50) and headed east but found there werenít any motels.So I headed west and then south on US 65 where I found a motel for $34.After checking in I ate at a Chinese buffet a short walk from the motel.After having gone over 5 weeks without a buffet, I now couldnít eat any place except at a buffet.

Day 44: 10/14/2001, Sunday - Sedalia, MO to Cooper's Landing, MO (pop 0) [71.3]

I packed up to leave for breakfast and as soon as I was outside, locked out of the motel, it started raining.I looked up in the sky and there was a dark cloud above but it was moving east so the rain only lasted a few minutes.Then I rode a short distance to a Golden Corral with a breakfast buffet and filled up.

When I left I couldnít remember exactly where the Katy Trail ended in town so I had to hunt it down but that didnít take long.However, the train station was the end of the trail in town so I needed to find where it picked up on the east side.I found a small map on the bulletin board that seemed to indicate it was just 3 miles east on 3rd street but that wasnít the case as 3rd street dead-ended shortly.So I started heading north and found a sign for the trail direction.With just a little zigzagging I was back on the trail.

Actually the Katy Trail wasnít the most direct route to St. Louis, as it headed northeast to Booneville before heading southeast to Jeff City.US 50 went directly from Sedalia to Jeff City but I decided I wanted no more of US 50 so I chose to stay with the Katy Trail.Along the trail I found a sign giving the history of the trail.The Katy Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion of the MKT (Missouri, Kansas, Texas) railroad that ceased operation in 1986.This sign showed Sedalia and St. Charles as the end points so the Clinton extension was apparently relatively new.Knowing this was a rails-to-trails also told me there would be no significant grades and it would be pretty flat.

Like yesterday trees lined the trail for the most part.In many places the trees formed a canopy over the trail.At Pilot Grove I was lucky enough to find a map of the trail that was very helpful.I continued on to Booneville and rode into town where I found the library was closed on Sunday as I expected.I stopped at a Caseyís for refreshments and saw another cyclist nuking a burrito but I didnít need to as I was still powered by the breakfast buffet.

Continuing I rode across the Missouri River, on the Booneslick Bridge, that the trail would parallel to St. Charles.On the other side the trail opened up to views of farmland as it passed through Franklin and New Franklin.Franklin was a supply point for the Sante Fe Trail in the early 1800s until the Missouri flooded it and folks moved to higher ground, and naming the new town New Franklin.

Now that it was a pretty nice Sunday afternoon on a mid-October fall day I started seeing folks hiking and biking.This was especially true as I neared Rocheport that had bike rentals and a trailside cafť.It also didnít hurt that this section was particularly scenic as it was right along the river with high limestone cliffs on the north side of the trail.There was enough traffic that I could imagine a lot of traffic during the summer.

At one point there was an option to take another trail to Columbia and I gave some consideration to visiting my alma mater and a nephew and a niece currently in school there before continuing on.It was just a little late in the day to be able to make Columbia and hunt down my nephew/niece before darkness.

Near Easley I stopped at a place called Cooperís Landing (http://katytrail.net/cooperslanding) that had camping and a small store. I got a campsite for $5 and showers for $2 and later the owner, Mike, fixed me a chicken meal that was very appreciated since there wasnít much food left in his store at the end of the season.

When I first stopped at this place I met Jim, working on his touring bike.Jim was from Kansas City and wrapping up his summer/fall cycling after riding the Transamerica Trail from Portland to Virginia with an Adventure Cycling group.After Virginia, Jim turned around and rode solo back to here where he was hanging out for a few days.We had a lengthy discussion about touring that lasted well into the evening and also involved Mike, the owner.

Now that my travel plans were pretty concrete, I called my brother Andy to warn him of my impending St. Louis arrival and asked for email directions to his and my other brother Edís home.

Day 45: 10/15/2001, Monday - Cooper's Landing, MO to Hermann, MO (pop 2,754) [66.9]

I didnít wake up until 7:45 because I didnít get to bed until 11:00.It was overcast and Jim told me the forecast was for heavy rain.I went inside the store and Mike showed me the weather radar picture.It showed a problem over the Kansas City area but not yet in Columbia.

I was offered a cup of coffee but I declined in order to get on the road and, hopefully, outrun the rain.Fortunately, Mike let me use his PC to check my email and I got directions from Ed to his home in Ballwin so I didnít have to worry about finding Internet access along the way.

I was on the road by 9:00 in the overcast cool day.I passed several camping places as I left.As I passed through towns I looked for a grocery store so I could replenish my food supply but didnít find any.In Hartsburg I discovered I had just missed the Fall Pumpkin Festival by a day but I did find a bike store/cafť that promised breakfast.Unfortunately, it only had simple food so I had coffee and a muffin.

I didnít linger over ďbreakfastĒ so I could keep moving.I assumed it was going to rain and the farther down the road I was when it did the better.When I passed through North Jefferson I could see the state capital in Jeff City across the river.

At one point I came upon 3 dogs that looked like beagles.They seemed content to let me pass until one started barking and then they all had to join in with one giving a half-hearted chase.Later I encountered another beagle but he apparently thought I was after him and he started running down the trail ahead of me.Every few steps he would turn his head back and bark at me.For some reason I just wasnít scared and rather amused until he turned off onto a side road.

Not long after Jeff City it started an occasional light drizzle.Just when I thought it would turn bad it would ease up.This went on for a while and then it started a consistent drizzle so I put on my rain gear for the first time of the trip.The drizzle picked up and became a fair rain with some wind.I still had almost 2 hours to reach Hermann, the next place with a motel.I made up my mind I was not stopping until then even though I hadnít eaten since breakfast, and not a particularly large breakfast of cereal and a bagel.

My toes and fingers were uncovered but they didnít feel that bad although I knew I couldnít go forever in this rain with some wind and cool temperature of about 50 Ė a recipe for hypothermia.I saw a restaurant in Rhineland but I passed it up and continued.At McKittrich I left the trail to pick up 19 so I could head into Hermann, another 2 miles but made easier by what was now a tailwind as I headed south across the river.The bridge over the Missouri was a narrow two-lane bridge so I had to pretty much take my whole lane.However, a posted sign warned trucks over 21 tons to limit their speed to 15 mph so I pretended I was a 21 ton truck and kept my speed under 15 mph.Somehow I think the cars behind me didnít begrudge my taking the lane under the miserable conditions.

As soon as I crossed the river there was a motel on my right.I continued a little further through downtown where there were restaurants.Then I turned around and got a room at the motel for $27.However, my hands were so stiff from the chill and my iron grip on my handlebars that I had trouble getting my gloves off.Once I had my gloves off, I had trouble filling out my address and signing my name.

The motel was rather decrepit even by my standards but it had a hot shower and I was soon back to normal.After waiting a while hoping the rain would ease, I put my rain gear on and walked downtown in the light rain to find food.Hermann is famous for its German heritage but most of the restaurants were closed on Mondays so I ate pizza at a bar.The pizza was OK and I chatted with a local at the bar.He guessed I was a cyclist but couldnít believe I was traveling alone.He was also somewhat inebriated and rather boring so I didnít stay very long.

Day 46: 10/16/2001, Tuesday - Hermann, MO to Ballwin, MO (pop 21,816) [65.3]

When I got up it was a much nicer day with the sun in the sky if a bit chilly.I walked downtown to the bar where I ate last night because it also served breakfast.I had pancakes and bacon that was pretty good.

Around 9:00 I left and crossed back over the bridge and stopped at a grocery store to pick up some food.I started out on 94 to avoid climbing the hill to McKittrick to get back on the Katy Trail.I rode a mile or so on 94 until a side road took me back to the trail.

Although it was cool and I wore socks and gloves, the riding was fine with some tailwind.After 10 miles the trail was right next to the river for a few miles and there were some nice views of the river.It was also nice not having to rush to the next town to escape rain.My goal for the day was to get to Highway 40 early enough so I would avoid rush hour navigating my way to Ballwin.

Officially I needed to exit the Katy at Weldon Spring to 94, which would take me to Highway 40 and a bridge across the Missouri.Practically, I figured I could continue past Weldon Spring and finagle a way on to Highway 40 when it crossed the Katy.I was glad I continued on the trail past Weldon Spring as the next few miles were very scenic with high bluffs on my left and a marshy tree area on my right.Too late, it finally occurred to me just before Highway 40 that it was going to have to be above the bluffs and high above the Katy Trail.

And sure enough, I came upon the bridge and it was 100-200í above the trail.I stopped two cyclists coming from the opposite direction but they knew of no way to get to the bridge aside from backtracking.Just past the bridge I found an opening in a fence along the trail and started to push my bike through the opening along an obvious footpath up the hill.However, the path was too steep and muddy so I backtracked to the other side of the bridge and found a rough rocky road on private land that gave me hope.It was too rough to ride so I pushed my bike along the road and up a pretty steep hill.At the top I was above the bridge but following the road brought me down the hill right to the bridge.This private, no trespassing road probably saved me 10 miles of backtracking.

So I got across the river and followed my brotherís directions to Ballwin.I stopped at a convenience store at one point because I was uncertain about the directions and a woman inside asked ďarenít you coldĒ and I said ďno, but I may be lost.ĒSo I got good directions to Baxter Road and had no trouble making it to my brotherís house.

There I met Ed and Jean and then they surprised me with the appearance of my older sister, Dorothy, who was unexpectedly there.We spent the evening getting caught up on news and talking on the phone with my brother Andy to devise a route to his house for tomorrow.

Day 47: 10/17/2001, Wednesday - Ballwin, MO to Florissant, MO (pop 51,206) [27.4]

I was the first one up so I spent some time doing email.When everyone finally got up we had breakfast with coffee and conversation.Shortly before 11:00, I packed up, said my goodbyes, and was off.

I retraced my route back to Baxter Road and headed east on Clayton Road to 141.141 was a busy, 4-lane road but it had a wide shoulder and the only problem was being careful at the entrance/exit ramps.At Olive it was a short jog to pick up Creve Coeur Mill Road and then Earth City Expressway.These roads often had no shoulder but traffic was light and not a problem.Then I had a short climb and picked up Riverview Estates that took me to Howdershell and to my brotherís house.

I was the first one home but I had the key code to get in the house through the garage and cleaned up and waited for the others to arrive from work and school.Today was Jillís birthday so we went out to celebrate and ate at a nearby sports bar/grill.Afterwards Jill gave me suggestions on how to head out in the morning to get across the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers at Alton.




Copyright Denis Kertz, 2001. All rights reserved.