Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Katy with Companion
My dad and I were lucky enough to have an old friend to stay with in the KC area before striking out on day one. While in town, we had to try some of KC's famous barbecue. I gave it an A, but not an A+.
We wouldn't make it to the Katy Trail until day three. There's a jogging path in downtown KC that can take you through most of town, but we abandoned it after a while due to frequent patches of sticky mud. Once you get to the stadia, there's a trail leading directly out of their parking lot, which is intended to eventually hook up with the Katy Trail. We were able to take it most of the way to our destination on day one. On day two, we had to take side roads until we got to Pleasant Hill, where the same trail resumes and takes you all the way to the Katy.
Our first night was my dad's first WarmShowers experience, and Denise and Mark set the bar very high. Both of them have ridden the Katy Trail about 10 times, and frequently go on group rides, often organizing them themselves. They gave us plenty of invaluable advice for the days to come, as well as good beer, wine, and a satisfying meal.
Mark rode out with us the next morning until we made it back onto the Rock Island spur. The quality of the trail can hardly be understated. I've ridden paved roads in worse condition. Flat, smooth, shaded, quiet. The way bike riding should always be.
For the next few days, we kept leapfrogging one guy from Chicago and a group of three from Kansas City. Tom, from the group of three, was particularly gregarious. Most of the rest were more reserved, but still friendly. The other two members of the group were a father-in-law and son-in-law who work together in a bike shop. They appeared to be new to touring, but the Chicagoan was rather experienced. A lot of his gear was purple.
It wasn't until Columbia that my dad and I stayed with another host. In between, we rented a cabin and got a hotel room. Don and Shelley, our hosts in Columbia, didn't actually live at the house where we stayed. Instead, he had an apartment in town, while he rebuilt this house he had recently bought. The house was unlivable at the moment, and according to Don, he'd have it ready in September. In the meantime, there was a cabin out back by a pond, and my dad and I would sleep there. Only after making s'mores at a campfire by the pond, of course.
The following night, we had a similar arrangement, this time a rental, but still a cabin outside of town with a friendly host. Before heading there, we stopped into Jefferson City to sample more of the barbecue Missouri has to offer. Much like the one in Kansas City, it got an A, but not an A+.
Columbia, Jefferson City, and the next day's destination, Hermann, we're all picturesque cities in which I could see myself living. As we walked through Hermann to get to lunch, I kept going on and on about how much I liked the quaint downtown neighborhood.
"You like small towns, don't you?" my dad remarked.
"It's not so much that I like small towns, but that I like walkable neighborhoods."
Columbia is a college town, Jefferson City is the capital, meaning it has a long history, and Herman is an old town settled by Germans. As a result, All of them have a pedestrian-friendly city center. I've always liked college towns, because they're usually pretty, there's always something going on, they're bike and pedestrian friendly, and the folks that live there are generally smart. Jefferson City and Hermann essentially had the same thing going on, for different reasons.
Part of the reason Americans romanticize college, Europe, and Disneyworld is because those are the only places Americans have experienced walkable cities with adequate public transportation. Many of us don't realize how much we give up with our car-centric cities. Without a car, your cut off from literally everything. You can't even get something to eat, or leave the house at all, without the aid of 3,000 pounds of machinery. And what if you don't have a car, or can't drive? Then what? It doesn't have to be this way. With better city planning, it could feel like we're spending our whole lives on a trip to Paris. Or Disneyworld, if you prefer.
Our hosts and home Herman were another WarmShowers couple, Lee and Kylie, whose height difference is even greater than my brother and I. They two of them have three kids, but we only really got to know one of them, Julie, who just graduated high school and was starting summer college classes the very next day. We hadn't expected it, but Lee and Kylie cooked both dinner and breakfast for us, after we'd already had a satisfying German lunch. We left Hermann very full.
It had sprinkled on us a few times before, but our last day on the Katy Trail was the first with significant rain. It only lasted 30 minutes, but it was enough to get us, and the trail, completely soaked. As the Katy Trail is made out of crushed limestone, it never got sloppy or sticky, just slippery. As it stopped raining, we met a young woman touring the Katy Trail by herself. She reminded me of Copperhead. That's a compliment.
My dad had been having about one flat per day since we started, and on this day, when we were trying to get in early, he had three. Once we got off the trail and into town, we each bought a tube and threw out our old ones.
It was sunny by the time we got into town, and we were dry by the time we arrived at our host. My dad had known Debbie and Bill from when they'd lived in Plano, but I couldn't remember them. I must have met them at least once. They moved to Missouri when I was only nine. Friendly people, great company. Debbie told me she knew a lot of people in New England that might be able to help me while I was there. No where they lived was directly on my route, but I kept it in mind. You never know.
It was a short day into St. Louis, so we got a late start. After seeing the Gateway Arch, we still had about four hours to kill until our host would get off work. We have peddled around downtown, stopping to look at every monument we could find, as well as the public library. And stopped for barbecue, of course. For the third time in a row, A, but not A+. In Kansas City, burnt ends are the star of the show, but it would appear that as you go farther east, the spotlight shifts onto the ribs. They were the best thing in both Jefferson City and St. Louis.
Amanda and her son Alex live in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown St. Louis, which made sleeping arrangements a little tight, but comfortable enough. The Thai place we went for dinner may have been the best food we'd had so far, including all the barbecue.
In the morning, I had to attend a 4-hour video conference for work. Amanda didn't have Wi-Fi in her apartment, so I had to go to a Starbucks in a hotel lobby across the street. My dad's train didn't leave for Kansas City until 4:00, so he sat with me. He was almost as bored as I was. The national Blues Museum was only a block away, and my dad would have loved it, but it didn't open until noon. He wound up not being able to go. Then he went to the train station and waited for the train to arrive for a few hours, then sat on a train for several more hours. His day may have been the most boring day in history.
We hugged and parted on the streets of St. Louis, him headed to the train station, me headed across the Mississippi. The Eastern states awaited.
from Eastern States