Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
So It Begins
In a previous entry, I was mulling over which adventure to go on this summer. Australia? Southeast Asia? Pacific Crest Trail?
The decision has been made, and it's a little more grounded: I'll ride a bike from San Francisco, CA to St. Louis, MO. A coast-to-coast ride had appeal, but there simply isn't enough time. 14-week college summers, those were nice...
I'll be in Oakland for a wedding at the beginning of summer anyway, so this one makes a lot of sense. The ride should take 5-6 weeks, and with a little bit of luck, it's possible that there will be tailwind more often than not! From my experience, in summertime in the western states, the wind blows more often from the west than any other direction.
Best of all, it's cheap.
The ride will begin by dipping a wheel in the Pacific Ocean at Land's End Park, appropriately named for a terminus of a voyage. Sights along the way include Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Bryce Canyon, and Canyonlands National Park. Eventually I'll descend out of the mountains and onto the plains, crossing Colorado and Kansas, with stops in Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City. Then the route latches onto the famous Katy Trail in Missouri, with side trips to visit Jefferson City and Columbia along the way (can you tell I like state capitols and college campuses?).
Perhaps the biggest draw is the Katy Trail in Missouri. The Katy Trail is the United States' longest rails-to-trails project, a former railroad bed converted into a hiking/biking trail that runs 390 km through the center of Missouri, nearly border-to-border. In short, you can ride across almost an entire state without seeing a car. The surface is crushed limestone, well-kept enough that you could probably do the whole thing on a road bike if you didn't mind discomfort and knew what you were doing. A bike like Valeria, outfitted with slightly wider tires, is perfect.
The route concludes with a ride underneath the Gateway Arch, then a dip of the wheel in the Mississippi River, symbolically halfway across the United States. The other half can be completed another summer, picking up where I left off in St. Louis and concluding in, who knows, Acadia National Park? Seems like an fitting place to consider the "end" of the country. And it sounds inviting.
One of the biggest concerns is heat. This route spends a lot of time in the desert, and of course, it's summer. But it's been done before. This will be my fifth (and possibly final) bike tour through the western states in summer. What can I say? The east coast has too many people and not enough scenery. And from my experience, it rains all @#%&! summer. I'll always take warm, dry, and pretty over cold, wet, and noisy.
As always, I'm riding for a cause! Announcement soon to follow. Need to get a particular charity in the fold before donations can be set up. But as a teaser, it's one that's more grounded and close-to-home, and one fitting for a teacher that spends all summer having adventures. Stay tuned!
from Western States