Backtracking On The Katy Trail

After our first day on the Katy Trail, Josh and I knew that if we were ever going to ride across the state of Missouri, we were really going to have to pick up the pace. The previous day we had traveled just over twenty miles, and it had taken us several hours – much longer than we originally estimated due to a late start, too many photo stops, and most of all, a wet and soggy trail.

So when we woke on our second day, we quickly packed up our gear and cycled out of Windsor, heading back in the direction we had come.

For three hours straight we did nothing but put our heads down and ride. Our goal for the day was to backtrack to Sedalia and then push on from there an additional forty miles to the city of New Franklin. But if we were ever going to get there, we needed to do some serious riding. And seeing how wet the trail was, we knew we had our work cut out for us.

The image below shows a trail crossing, where the Katy Trail jumps across a regular paved road. In the sand at the bottom of the trail you can see a number of twisted tire tracks, bending and sloping in every direction. I took the photo to illustrate just how difficult it was to cycle in a straight line and gain any sort of momentum on the trail.

It was on this day that I realized just how much I like hills. While they may be difficult to climb up at times, the advantage of a hill is that once you reach the top there is usually an opportunity to coast as you eventually hit the downhill. Here on the Katy Trail, however, where everything was flat (and the trail was near mud) there was no opportunity for coasting. I tried several times to stand and coast on my tiny red folding bike, but I’d only make it about fifteen feet before my tires would sink in to the soft earth and my self-powered vehicle was brought to a standstill.

After three hours of non-stop riding, we finally reached Sedalia. While we felt as though we had just completed a leg of the Tour de France, we had (in reality) covered slightly less than 22 miles. When we did the math, we were depressed to learn that we were averaging only seven miles per hour. At this rate, it would be nightfall before we reached New Franklin.

“And who knows how long it might take us to reach the east side of the state,” I thought to myself.

In Sedalia, we stopped and rested, ate some lunch and began to talk about our plans for the next few days.

We decided that we could reach New Franklin by nightfall, but we’d have little time to do anything else but ride, ride, ride.

Josh and I discussed it and we agreed that we wanted to do more in Missouri than just spend countless hours cycling the Katy Trail. I wanted to go slow; to stop and explore each of the tiny towns we came across; and really learn about the history of the trail and the surrounding areas. And we both agreed that we’d be unable to do that if we spent the next four days with our heads down, pushing our bikes through water, dirt and mud.

So after eating our lunch, discussing our options, and inquiring with the woman inside the Sedalia station, we decided to pack up the bikes and head back to Josh’s – with plans of returning to the Katy Trail in a day or two – after it stopped raining.

Our plan was to go back to Josh’s house, get showered up, and recoup. In the morning, depending on the weather, we would either 1) drive up to New Franklin and continue our journey from there… or 2) (in the case of an extreme downpour) explore some small Missouri towns in Josh’s car – thus enabling us to do the slow wandering historical stuff we both had dreamt about when we originally began our tour.

We were both bummed to have abandoned the route after just two days, but I was glad that we would now have the time to do other things. On the drive back to Josh’s we talked about our options and decided that there was still a lot to do. We’d get back on the Katy Trail at some point over the next couple days. But in the meantime… as the rain began to fall once again… we made other plans.

Stay tuned for the next post in my series of posts on Missouri and the famous Katy Trail. It may sound like the trip is over at this point, but we do hit the trail again… and there’s more stories to tell. So check back in a few days for more wet and soggy Mid-West adventures.

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