Baggin’ the Katy Trail – Day 3 – 4

bagger – In cycling terms; one who is self-contained, using panniers and other gear carrying bags on their bike to tour for multiple days. See also, bike touring.

Katy Trail, Missouri River

Tebbetts to Augusta (65+ miles) Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday morning brought us another beautiful day. We made some oatmeal and coffee for breakfast using the hostel’s microwave, packed up our gear and were on our way. NOTE: Nescafe’s single packets of coffee work great for bike camping. They’re lightweight and taste good.

Today’s destination was the Klondike Park campground near Augusta, Mo. Like I’ve said before, finding a place to camp on the Katy Trail is a challenge, there are more bed and breakfasts than campgrounds along the way. When I found Klondike Park in my research, it was an easy answer to our dilemma and looked like an interesting park to explore. I could only hope the weather would hold out for my last night in my failing tent.

Back on the saddle, my underside was not happy to be once again perched on that small piece of plastic I call a seat. But my bottom and I had no choice this far into the trip, and soon the excitement of exploring more undiscovered terrain would take my mind off any discomfort. Today was another high-mileage day so it was imperative to keep moving and get in those miles.

This stretch of the trail was fairly rural even though the map showed a number of towns marked on our route. Some of the “towns” were nothing more than those trusty green trail signs displaying the town name, a kiosk and a building or two. As I’ve said before, one shouldn’t rely on all the marked towns along the trail to have available restrooms, running water and food. (The Katy Trail website is a great resource to find out what the trail towns have to offer, as well as mileage and other trail information.)

We pedaled on until we used all our energy from breakfast and had to stop for some lunch in Rhineland.

What the? A stray trash can sits next to the trail. It probably landed here by flood waters. Brian J. photo.
Some towns along the Katy Trail are almost gone, but a few have historic buildings that still stand.

We found a bar and grill not far off the trail just north of highway 94 (the name escapes me.) The place was big with a bar running the length of the room on the left wall and a row of fridges holding beer, pop and a few grocery items lined the right wall. We found an empty table in the middle of the room and ordered some burgers, fries and large waters. The food was very cheap and very good. I left satisfied and refueled.

Riding out of Rhineland, the trail took us through landscapes of cornfields, pastureland, wooded sections and the Missouri River coming in and out of view.

The day was filled with lots of riding, rest stops and an increasingly cloudy sky. The gray nature of the cloud bank coming in from the west was worrying me, but we were able to stay ahead of it.

27 miles down the trail from our stop in Rhineland (and 53 miles in for the day – 11 to go) I was really starting to feel the fatigue. Luckily, we were approaching a town of some size, Marthasville,  where we found a well-stocked gas station for some needed energy. By this time the sky was getting even darker with cloud cover, so I asked a local if rain was in the forecast. I was answered with a definite, “yes.”

At the Marthasville gas station I was so run down and suffering from major muscle fatigue after over 50 miles of constant riding that I resorted to buying one of those gawd-awful energy drinks that have become so popular. This is my opinion of course. I’ve only tried a couple energy drinks that my friends have had and found that the amount of sweetness and even their smell is revolting to my tastes. But at this point I was desperate for a pick me up. I found the smallest can of Red Bull I could find, purchased it and immediately downed its contents. The flavor was what I’d remembered but it was tolerable since it was chilled and I needed its effects. And it worked, for a while at least. Brian also downed an energy drink – many more ounces than I had bought – and I could tell he had more spring in his pedal.

With the news of rain in the forecast and my level of tiredness, Brian and I discussed finding a cheap place to stay under a roof, be it a bed and breakfast or a motel. So we rode on towards the next town, Dutzow, to see what they had to offer. We also were entering Missouri’s wine country and as we rode closer to St. Charles the towns seemed more touristy and had more to offer.

In Dutzow, a cute little town with boutique-lined streets and cottage style homes, we rode around looking for a place to stay. We didn’t have any luck finding a motel but the blacktop roads were sure fun to ride on after days of crushed gravel. I felt like I was flying with ease on the curvy, rolling main street that ran through town.

It was seven miles more to get to our original destination of Augusta. We didn’t know how big the town would be so I suggested we find a place to get some provisions for the night. And by provisions I mean some locally-made wine.

Ironically, the restaurant we were standing in front of while making our plans sold what we were looking for. I went inside while Brian watched the bikes and asked the clerk what they suggested for a good Missouri wine. I purchased a bottle and we were on our way.

With a bottle of wine strapped to the bike we rolled into Augusta. We stopped at the town’s trail kiosk for a rest and further planning of our evening.

Augusta was hopping tonight. The town was within sight of the trail across a car-filled parking lot and up a hill, which was home to a fancy restaurant and bed and breakfasts. We figured this would be a fun little town to stay in and there were lots of options. We found a handy brochure at the kiosk listing Augusta’s B&Bs. We made a few phone calls and found it very expensive to stay here and that every place we contacted was already full for the night.

The area was buzzing with trail riders and visitors of the town. We ran into a couple that were locals and frequent Katy Trail riders. We got to talking about how much harder the trail was than we’d expected. He confirmed our observation saying he’d known of many visitors to the Katy who are surprised by its difficulty for a nearly flat trail.

We told them we planned to stay at Klondike Park for the night after failing to find an open room in Augusta. He was excited that we’d be staying at the park; apparently he was a big fan and said it was a scenic area to stay. He asked if we had reservations. We didn’t. I didn’t think it necessary being the end of September and I wanted to keep our itinerary flexible. He gave us directions to the park’s entrance, a mile or so out of town, and said to look for the steep drive leading up to the park. Brian was excited to hear of an upcoming hill to ride up, while I just wanted to get to our final destination and be done riding for the day.

We easily found the steep drive leading to Klondike Park. Brian excitedly muscled his way up the hill while I struggled with my lack of low gearing – and muscle – and ended up having to walk my bike up the last half of the drive.

The park was very pretty with lots of trees and interesting rock formations. It also was overrun with campers. After riding around the large park and not seeing a single open campsite, we called the local park ranger and asked if there was a place left for us to put up our tents. He informed us that the park was full and we’d have to find another place to camp outside the park. His only suggestion for us was to ride on to St. Charles. St. Charles! That was another 27 miles away and we were losing daylight, fast.

The Haunted Farm

As the park ranger was about to hang up I could hear another voice in the background, the ranger’s friend suggested we try a place called “My Grandpa’s Farm” a few miles down the trail. It wasn’t an official campground but the owners were known to let campers set up tents on their property. Whew! I could stand riding a couple more miles, definitely not 27. We rolled back down the steep drive squeezing hard on our brake levers to avoid flying off the winding road and were soon on the trail again. By this time we had to use our bike lights to light our way and we were starting to feel a few drops of rain fall from the sky.

We were told by the ranger to look for some large white barns on our left.

“My Grandpas Farm” – our impromptu campsite.
Whats the deal with this farm?

Needless to say, we found the place called “My Grandpa’s Farm.” We rolled down the drive and saw a light on in the hayloft of the nearest barn. We could hear ragtime music playing and voices chatting. We tried to get someone’s attention by shouting hello from outside but they couldn’t hear us over their music. While I waited with the bikes, Brian found his way into the barn and asked the folks inside if we could camp there for the night.

A man and a woman came down the stairs and said the owners of the farm were out for the night but that they allowed people to camp on the farm for $10 per person. That worked for us as our daylight was gone and it was starting to rain. The nice people showed us where to get some water and the way to the restroom. I have to mention here that the bathroom they showed us, in the barn, was the most disgusting I have ever seen. I don’t think it had been cleaned in years! I pretty much avoided using it, and when necessary, made sure to not touch anything. Other than the nasty bathroom there was plenty of room for us to put up our tents. There were even outdoor tables with attached umbrellas that we could get out of the rain under and cook our dinner using our camp stove.

While finishing up our dinner of mac and cheese, instant potatoes and thoroughly sampling the Missouri wine we’d purchased in Dutzow, a truck came down the driveway and stopped next to us. Two guys in their mid-20s stepped out of the truck, walked over to us and asked for someone named Jim. They both had been drinking and one of the guys was still working on a bottle of Corona. They said they had been to the farm a couple hours before and a guy named Jim had promised to give them a tour of the haunted farm after dark.

Haunted farm? What?

“My Grandpas Farm” near Augusta, Mo. is haunted?

We assumed the man we’d met on the farm was Jim. We took the guys over to his door and they gave it a knock. Jim answered, recognized the two guys and started in on telling us all about the place.

The barns on the property were supposedly haunted. Jim claimed he had heard and seen evidence of the ghosts while setting up sale items for an auction on the upper level of the main barn. He said he’d heard strange, unexplained noises. He also said some objects had mysteriously moved themselves across the room behind his back.

The two guys were eager to get inside the dark barn and check it out so Jim offered to take us all on a tour. I agreed since I’d never been on a haunted tour before and I don’t really believe in that stuff anyway. Brian agreed to come along, too.

Jim took us up into the unlit barn with a flashlight in-hand. We climbed the stairs to the loft where many random objects were laid out on tables ready for auction. Books, toys, mirrors, picture frames, furniture, etc. cluttered up the room. Jim further explained to us the strange noises he’d heard, objects that had moved themselves and a large cabinet that he claimed inexplicably had its door open one moment and shut the next. Someone suggested Jim turn off his flashlight so we could see how dark it got in the loft. It was pitch black with no lights. We hung out in the dark keeping silent for a few moments to see if we’d hear anything strange. Nothing happened.

The next part of the tour took us outside to the edge of the farm in a grassy field next to the second barn. Jim told us that the Boone family owned slaves on their property and when the slaves died, they buried them in shallow graves near the area where we were standing. Supposedly, there have been sightings of ghosts in that field. We saw none. One of the guys mentioned a news story he’d heard when the Missouri River flooded its banks in ’08, he said bodies were found floating in the water because the floods had washed out their graves. I’ll believe that story, but the ghosts stories I’ll stay skeptical.

Our tour ended with no sightings or indications of ghosts. Brian and I were plenty tired and crawled in our tents for a good night’s sleep.

Camping at My Grandpas Farm near Augusta, Mo.

It rained some during the night but not enough to cause me problems with my tent. We woke to the woman feeding chickens on the farm and to a gloomy, overcast sky.

We packed up our belongings and set out for the last leg of our trip on the Katy Trail.

DAY 4 – Back to the car.

On the last day of our trip we had overcast skies and bouts of spitting rain for most of the day. It was mostly uneventful. We rode to just outside of St. Charles to end our ride on the Katy Trail and routed ourselves back to Kirkwood. Near St. Charles the trail becomes paved, this was a nice change from the soggy, crushed limestone.

Finding our way back to the Kirkwood Amtrak station was no easy task. Navigatong through the city to get back to the car required frequent stops to check our map. Along the way we found unwanted hills we had to climb. Some of the streets had heavy traffic making riding less than enjoyable, but that only lasted for a few miles until we found a good route of side streets. By the time we got to Kirkwood the sky had cleared off and we had another beautiful day for the car ride home.

Even though the Katy Trail ended up being more challenging than expected, I was glad we did it. It’s a really nice trail going through some scenic countryside, cute little towns and is full of friendly people. The only thing I’d change is to ride fewer miles per day and spend a little more time in the wine country. Perhaps even splurge for a B&B or two.

– MICHELLE

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