Mo’ Money, Mo’ssouri
I thought I’d finish documenting my trip while I’m still thinking of it. As anyone who once read my posts knows, I’m alive and finished touring many months ago. I didn’t get even close to touring to Arizona, but my wallet and body are far better for it.
Moving from Illinois to Missourri meant crossing the Mississippi River, which frankly is intensely gigantic. You could barely see the ground on the other side of the river; it seemed almost a wide lake than a river.
Traveling through Missouri meant being able to utilize the Katy Trail , which ran from Machens to Clinton and followed the Missouri River for 2/3rds the way across the state. Initially I had wanted to take a southern route through Missouri, and see tornado-stricken Joplin, but avoiding the Ozarks, and hopping on a 237 mile bike-only trail was far more appealing. Recent rainstorms had dumped shit-tons of water everywhere, as the water along the road almost flooded the way across. I started to see fish roadkill washed up on the road
By the time I started the actual trail, I was baking in the Missouri heat, so I stopped for ice cream and doused myself with ice water. As I got farther along the trail, I regretted this decision because the humidity and the shade from the trees made me feel sticky all over. It felt like being in a swamp, and I had no desire to camp next to the river with the humidity and insects. At one of the towns along the trail, I started calling up some of the lodging ads on one of the bulletin boards. The problem is that motels did not exist here, only bed and breakfasts, charging $120/night. I called up a couple of B&B’s anyway, and was able to sweet talk my way into a room for $40.
The caretaker, Maggie, was willing to rent me the loft bedroom since the main room was being occupied by another cyclist. When I arrived, dinner, beer and a pair of fresh beds awaited me. The other dude who was staying there was quite possibly the most boastful person I’ve met. A self-made businessman who worked his way up from being a farmboy seemed to know everything about ethics, morality, business, muscle cars, and grass-fed beef. I humored him.
The next day started uneventful. I met a Canadian couple who were riding towards Astoria, Astoria, or Astoria at a rest-stop. I forgot to ask which state. I asked them where they were planning to stay that night and mentioned a Bike Hostel in Tebbetts for $6 a night. I was thrilled to find cheap indoor housing. It sounded like bike touring Mecca to me after spending so much on lodging thus far.
I stopped off in Hermann for some lunch and had locked my bike to a gutter line outside while I ate and browsed le Internetz. After repeatedly refreshing weather.com, I was convinced that it was going to start pouring. And pour it did. As it turns out, parking your bike next to a gutter is not the brightest idea if you did not want to get your bike soaking wet. Eventually, I gave up on waiting for the rain to let up and I decided to just go for it and start riding. The rain mixed with the crushed limestone to create a miserable riding experience. It wasn’t quite as thick as mud, but because the stones were so small, they would still get kicked up everywhere and stick. Thank god for my rear fender, as the drivetrain was caked in mud, but for the most part my bags were clean.
By the time I got to the hostel, the rain had started to let up. I was greeted by a brother and sister pair from St. Louis who were riding westward towards Colorado. His ultimate goal was to work in a weed dispensary. Dude was missing one of his front teeth and was riding a single speed mountain bike with what looked to be BMX gearing. She was on a junky walmart dual-suspension mountain bike. To say I was skeptical of their journey would be an understatement.
Next to the hostel was a bar owned by a local named Jim. He had recently closed his bar, but would was keeping it open for travelers along the Katy Trail. He invited us in for some beer and frozen pizza gratis. As I talked to him, Jim revealed that he was shutting down the bar because he was getting fed up with the townies and locals and would rather cater to travelers passing through. One of his stories involved an 18-year old whiskey-drinking bike hippie from Oregon who loved to ride around on the back of his Harley. Dude was super nice, but also a creepy, dirty old man.
Because of the intense storms the week before, a section of the trail was completely flooded and closed off. At the stop before the detour, I ran into a group of bike tourists coming from San Francisco. I was pretty stoked, as this was the first group of legit heavy duty bike tourers I had seen on this trip. They were heading the opposite direction from me and were dripping wet from head to toe. Apparently they had decided to ride through the flooded section. Their recommendation was to just skip it and take the detour. I took their advice. We traded some stories, and one guy recommended I get myself some bear mace as it had saved him from some rottweilers. Another guy mentioned a “bike touring utopia” in Boulder, CO, where there was a lady who owned a cooperative where cyclo-tourists would live and work for weeks at a time.
That night, I ended up camping a the “roundhouse” which was right off the trail. I met a single bike-tourer from Columbia (the city, not the country), who rides about 1/3rd the trail on the weekend, and then heads over to the gambling boat in Boonetown at night. He had a distinct southern accent that sounded a little bit like Bobby Boucher. He said that he used to ride the entire trail without stopping, but the last time he had to stop at a laundromat at 3 am to take a nap. He also explained that as an old man, he had to pee in the middle of the night, which is why he had one water bottle marked clearly with a ‘P’
Also at the camp was a pair of younger guys from Kansas City who had driven out for the weekend to do half the trail, which explained why they were going the same direction as me. Turns out one of the guys was a marketer for Garmin’s fitness division. Therefore, he had the fanciest bike-gps-computer-thingy in the world.
I was determined to finish the trail by the end of the following day, so I started the day by hauling ass. I stopped for breakfast at the gambling boat for the breakfast buffet and to lose $20 at the slots. In the mid afternoon, I was starting to roll downhill pretty quickly. It was only a matter of time before I flatted the back tire with so much debris on the road at this speed. Amazingly, this was my first and only flat tire on the tour.
After fixing my flat, I started cranking again, but it was starting to get hella hot, and the shade from the trees was getting to be less and less. At one of the pit-stops along the way, I bought some ice-cold gatorade and soda from a entrepreneurial 7-year old girl. As I stopped to slake my thirst, the Garmin boys pulled up to the same rest-stop. Apparently, they had seen me fixing my flat, but I had passed them again without realizing it. Since this was the first time, I had run into people heading the same direction as me and weren’t over 50, I decided I’d just ride with these guys for awhile. We rode together until Windsor, MO, where they had stopped to camp for the night, I was determined however to make it to the end of the trail by nightfall. Thankfully, the rest of the trail was a slight decline, so I was able to kick it into the big ring and grind the rest of the way to Clinton.