The Katy Trail – Hartsburg to Rhineland

Bicycle Trip People
On my recent bicycle journey from Kansas to Annapolis, I met quite a few really interesting folks. I’m doing a series of posts on these wonderful and interesting people, and this is an installment in that series. While there are others I met along the way as well, these are the ones who I was able to spend enough time with to get a feel for their story.

Game Day
I think I passed the “high point” of the Katy Trail yesterday sometime, but who would know, since the whole thing is so flat! This section from Hartsburg to Marthasville is right in the middle of the trail, not really close to any large cities. This would be the section of the trail I’d expect to be used the least, and feel the most remote.

But this doesn’t pan out to be the case. It’s a Friday, so maybe the the traffic on the trail is a little higher than on a normal weekday, but I wouldn’t think that’d be much of an influence. I think the Katy Trail just sees a whole lot of use, all week long.

As was the case yesterday, I run into several “end to end” bikers – folks who are riding one end of the trail to the other. The most common approach seems to be that folks make a week out of the trip, making something like 50 miles a day. Camping seems pretty common, though the B&B route is followed by a lot of folks as well. I see small groups, couples on tandems, couples on separate bikes, just about any combination of folks you could imagine. Old folks, young folks… The diversity of folks who are using this great resource is impressive.

At one point yesterday – as I was waiting for a ride to a bike shop to fix a chain and spoke problem – I talked to a couple gals from Georgia who spent vacations traveling to different rail-trails around the country. Among the rail-trail enthusiast crowd, the Katy is a very big deal, and Janice and Susan have looked forward to this trip for a long time. They’re from eastern Tennessee, and we chat for 10 or 15 minutes there along the trail. They’re probably something close to my age – just a couple gals who enjoy riding their bikes, and look for ways to combine vacation time with spending time enjoying beautiful places like the Katy.

Then, yesterday, while I was at Pro-Velo bike shop in Sedalia getting my bike fixed I met a couple really interesting folks. Ebby is the bike shop owner there, and did a tremendous job of putting my bike back in order after it fell victim to one of the few maladies I can’t fix on the trail – broken spokes on the drive side of my back wheel. Ebby and I talked a good bit while he worked on my bike, and found we had quite a few common ties in Missouri, going back to days we both spent at Lake of the Ozarks. While we talked, Matthew came in, and I made another new friend. Matthew is one of Ebby’s regular customers, and had come in to shoot the breeze a bit. Turns out Matthew was headed out to Emporia, KS over the weekend to do an annual ride with a fella I know in Emporia who’s both a regular gravel-grinding bike nut AND a wonderful photographer. Eric Benjamin runs Adventure Monkey, and does an annual ride that takes participants for several days of riding on fun gravel roads in the Flint Hills, while also helping them become better photographers.

Here I am, in the middle of Missouri, getting my bike worked on in a little shop in a town I have no connection to, and I meet these two fellas. With one of them I share a common link to Lake of the Ozarks, and with the other we have a common friend out in Kansas. It just makes you wonder – if you stopped random people out on the street, how many times would you find common links and connections?

As I’m riding today, I spend some time talking to a group of four guys riding from St Louis, headed to watch college football. It’s September, and Mizzou has a home game tomorrow. These guys are all Mizzou grads, and are making a weekend out of the game, riding from their homes in St Louis out to Columbia to watch the game. As I write this, I’m having trouble remembering exactly what their logistics were, but I know it involved bike riding, beer drinking, male bonding, and college football. Yet another use of the Katy Trail I wouldn’t have expected…

My friends and I stop along the way at the Rendleman Home B&B, and talk to Doug, the proprietor. When I was setting up lodging and logistics for this trip, this was the logical stopping place for today, but a couple of the other B&B owners indicated they thought that this place was up for sale. Not wanting to end up without a place, I opted to stay at Rhineland – several miles further down the trail. We stop and chat with Doug though, just to get the lowdown. He has no idea why someone would have said that he wanted to sell – he’s been here a while and wants to stay. He says he had a van out front last spring with a for sale sign on it, and, well, we all know how rumors get started…

But Doug’s place looks like a great place to spend the night, and would have been perfect for me and my friends. Sounds like Doug and his friends make a habit of getting together and playing music there at his place – something we would have enjoyed tremendously! And, right from the horse’s mouth, it’s NOT for sale!

We end the day in Rhineland, staying at the Doll’s House B&B. Rhineland is an interesting place for many reasons, but the one that captures my attention is the fact that back in the early 90’s, when the Missouri River flooded, the town was one of many under water. You can still see the marks halfway up the first floor in a few places at the Doll House. After the flood, seems the town elders got together and decided to move the town up the hill. That’s right, just pick it up and move it up the hill.

Now, I’m sure there was significant federal assistance involved in the program, and maybe state money too, in order to get everyone to buy in to the idea. I never rode my bike up the hill to where the new town is – it’s off the highway and bike trail, and I’d have no reason to go there. The neat thing, though, is that the folks who owned the Doll House at the time decided they didn’t want to move. Seems they were the only people in town who chose to stay put.

This whole idea deserves a post all its own – this concept of moving a small town up the hill and away from the highway to avoid the river. For this post, I’ll just say it was a privilege and pleasure to stay in the one “hold-out”. The rooms were very neat, Amanda was an excellent hostess, and breakfast the next morning was truly outstanding!

For supper, we walk across the highway and have a heapin’ portion of small-town cooking at the Trailside Bar and Grill. Passable food that fills the belly. There’s a tractor pull the next day, and they’re getting the grounds all ready for it. There’s something fun about a tractor pull – hooking a chain up and givin’ er a go. In my opinion, a small-town pull is more fun than the big events in cities, where the monster tractors show up. A guy who takes a “stock” tractor, and just soups it up a bit to play at an event like this, now that’s a fun afternoon!

I take a walk around town before the sun sets, up behind the old Catholic church, and through the cemetery. It’s a beautiful evening, with a nice sunset developing. Enjoying the scenery, watching the guys set up for the small-town tractor pull, taking in the quiet sunset, reminds me just how lucky I am to be on this bike ride. I smile, and look forward to another day of bliss…