We had arrived at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri at 1 p.m. on July 17th. There were paralleled lines of well-wishers, a canopy of balloons, photographers, a band… friends, family, and our grandchildren.
It was a homecoming such as sailors returning from a long voyage at sea might have enjoyed in the days of the wooden tall-rigger ships.
We paused in Kansas City for 3 days. It wasn’t long enough to feel at home, but long enough to regenerate pangs of separation when we left on July 20th. Our grind continued as the next major destination was St. Louis, Missouri. We rode 70 miles to Clinton, Missouri where we spent the night and picked up the west terminus of the “KATY Trail”.
My nephew, Philip, continued with us until Jefferson City, Missouri.
The “KATY” is a rails to trails conservancy project that was initiated by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway’s 1986 abandonment of a large segment of its right-of-way. Segments of the line were susceptible to periodic flooding that rendered portions along the Missouri River unusable.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources purchased the KATY right-of-way in 1990. By the time of our 2010 crossing 240 miles of the completed Trail continuously connected Clinton to St. Charles, Missouri, mostly following the Missouri River.
The KATY is officially a Missouri State Park. It is the longest developed rail-trail in the United States, featuring 4 restored train depots and 26 trailheads. The hard packed limestone “chat” is suitable for all types of bicycles.
The virtues of the KATY are that it is relatively flat, there are regularly spaced rest stops with toilet facilities, and it is devoid of motorized traffic. However, those virtues come at a price: the limestone “chat” is a coarse sand-like mixture that is like concrete when dry, but spongy when damp.
When wet, it sticks to the wheels of one’s bicycle only to be thrown back upon the rider’s legs and bicycle components. When dry, the dust generated by the bicycle’s passage seems to mimic the exhaust of a steam locomotive.
As luck would have it we had rain the first day and steam room like heat and humidity the rest of the passage. We were treated to the entire spectrum of the KATY Trail experience, swarms of insects included.
At a park in St. Charles, Missouri we were joined by scores of cyclists who rode with us into St. Louis.
We were housed at the Manresa Urban Retreat Center for two nights, enjoying a “rest day” that included cycling to some of the sights of St. Louis.
Special was Father Matt’s celebration of Mass at St. Matthew’s Church, an inner-city parish where he was once pastor.
The grind, now turning south, would continue along another storied river.