KATY Trail 2020 – Phil and Kai’s Most Excellent Adventure

My son Kai and I finally rode the Katy Trail. Perhaps COVID and the change in “normal” activities finally pushed us into action, but after at least five years of saying “we should ride the entire Katy Trail someday,” we completed the 225-mile bike ride from Clinton to St. Charles, Missouri. We thought we’d share some of the highlights as well a few “pro tips” (haha) if any of you are thinking about taking on this most excellent adventure!

Highlight #1:  Great bonding time. I mean, what else can a parent ask for than four days of focused, quality time with one of your adult children. The posterior pain and sore quads have gone away, but the great memories will last forever.

Pro Tip #1: If you are thinking about riding sections of the Katy Trail, or perhaps the entire route, a great resource is bikekatytrail.com. This is a very utilitarian site that allows you to plan and stay current on all things Katy Trail. The “forum” section is very helpful for gaining up-to-date information on any trail detours (including the Salt Creek detour pictured below), lodging options, bike gear and many other topics.

Detour #1 – Bridge out just west of Rocheport. This is not the trail. A side detour down the levee and across the creek which was dry due to lack of rain.

Highlight #2: I know some of our followers have been to this restaurant, but for the weekend/Rocheport Katy Trail riders, Abigail’s in Rocheport is a must. Small and quaint, the food is absolutely amazing. Lailan and I had been here before for brunch (amazing quiche). Kai and I enjoyed a fantastic dinner – Kai devoured a pork chop marinated in jalapeno sauce with a peach glaze. I had the lobster ravioli. Oh, wait, did we share a slice of the chocolate peanut butter pie?

Pro Tip #2:  3.5 days was a bit aggressive (see our route/mileage below). Mostly due to the scarcity of lodging options between Rocheport and Hermann, we decided to ride the 77 miles between these two towns on day 3. That was a long day in the saddle, but I’d probably do it the same way again.

Highlight #3  Long live the small town dive bar. Not entirely by choice, but much to our relief and satisfaction, we experienced three pretty amazing dive bars along the way. The first was Chez When in downtown Sedalia.

One of Kai’s fraternity brothers is from Sedalia and lives there now. As our tour guide, he advised that a stop at Chez When was a must. Great conversation, an actual Miller High Life, and a strong collection of Elvis dolls made this a pretty special place. We left saying, “Chez What?” 

Day 2 took us through Pilot Grove, MO where we found a package store/bar & grill open for lunch.  Deon’s serves a mean cheeseburger and tots for the hungry cyclist. These guys clearly cater to a local crowd and the Katy Trail cyclist.

Deon’s in Pilot Grove, MO

The highlight of the dive bar tour, however, was the Mokane Bar and Grill in Mokane, MO on Day 3. Once we left Rocheport, the towns we passed were very small and nothing was open. We knew we’d be passing through Jeff City close to noon and we assumed there would at least be a Casey’s General Store or something within a visual sighting from the trail. But no.  It was another two miles into town and then two back to the trail. We decided to move on and “surely find something in the next town or two.” Little did we know we were in no man’s land as it relates to food. Around 2:00 PM we rolled into Mokane, MO. Much to our delight, the Mokane Bar & Grill appeared like an oasis in the desert. Another cheeseburger and tots later, we were fortified and back on the trail!

Maybe it’s because we were on a long bike ride, but Kai and I decided we would easily return to Deon’s and/or the Mokane B&G if we were ever back in the area.

Highlight #4: Even though it was our longest mileage day, the payoff was ending in Hermann, MO. We had all heard about Hermann for many years, but none of us had ever been there. Despite COVID, Hermann, settled by German immigrants in the mid 19th century, was in full swing with Oktoberfest. Lailan, and Kai’s wife Molly, met us there and we had a great evening together. We enjoyed a post-ride beer at the Tin Mill Brewery (where we ran into some good KC/church small group friends as well as some biking friends we had met back in Sedalia) and then we enjoyed a great dinner at the Fernweh Distilling Company. This was our first glimpse of Hermann and we hope to return soon (maybe by car or Amtrak!).

Pro Tip #3: – A common question is “what kind of bike do you need to ride the Katy Trail?” Well, we didn’t ride these bikes, but the Halloween spirit was sure “alive” and well just southwest of “Boo”nville:

Kai rode his Cannondale Quick hybrid bike. Yeah, it’s quick! I rode my Trek Checkpoint AL3 gravel bike (basically part road bike/part hybrid). We saw all types of bikes on the trail, but I’d say the main thing is to have slightly wider tires than most road bikes. While the trail is pretty smooth/packed limestone, there are short sections of looser gravel that are just easier to navigate with wider tires. We both have rear racks on our backs to carry our overnight gear. We also both have handlebar bags to carry tools/tubes/snacks/wallet. OK, now for our non-skeletal, real bikes:

Highlight #5:  Finish line with family at the end of the ride. As much fun as it was to spend four days on the trail with Kai, it was also pretty great riding into St. Charles and seeing the rest of our family there to greet us with big smiles and loud cheers. In the pouring rain nevertheless.

Pro Tip #4: Just do it. Whatever your adventure, quit talking about it and just do it! Would we do the Katy Trail again? Hell ya!  Feel free to reach out if you decide to ride the Katy Trail and we’ll be more than happy to help in any way we can!  

Route/Mileage:

Day 1 (half-day): Clinton to Sedalia (35.5 miles)

Day 2: Sedalia to Rocheport (50.5 miles)

Day 3: Rocheport to Hermann (77.5 miles)

Day 4: Hermann to St. Charles (61.5 miles)

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