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)

Deprivation, Quarantine, and Coping – circa 1940-1954

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The following message was written by Phil’s mother, Laura Shoffner, on March 25, 2020 and sent to all of her grandchildren in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Laura is a long-time English teacher in both public and private schools as well as a published author.

My precious grandchildren, I write the following with the hope that you will take from it strength, resilience, and hope in these strange times in which you find yourselves.  Yours has been a generation of abundance, independence, and, dare I say it, instant gratification.  To be faced suddenly with the lack of taken-for-granted creature comforts, restriction, and social distancing must be not only weird, but scary.  From earliest childhood I have been blessed with a vivid memory of my formative years.  What I share with you here is based on my recollections of years of my life when hardship, doing without, and, yes, fear were “normal.”  May you take from it the knowledge that, clichéd as it might be, “This, too, shall pass.”

In 1941 my parents built a new home in Johnson County, KS, the site chosen primarily because of the excellent independent K-8 grade school, Westwood View.  For this move to be financially viable, my family had for a time lived with my maternal grandparents.  In 1939 all of us moved to a rental home on The Paseo in Kansas City, and my parents took in a boarder, as well.  By these sacrifices, my parents were able to realize their dream of their own home.  Still, for the first year we had the same boarder, and my recently widowed grandmother lived with us.  How thrilled my parents must have been to find optimism after the dark days of the Great Depression.

That idealism was shattered by the events of Dec. 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was in kindergarten and could hardly understand my father’s relief that he had just a week prior purchased a new green Nash, a car that somehow made it through until new cars were once again produced around 1947.  Posters demonizing the Nazis and “Japs,” as we called them, filled us with concern as did the bomb drills we had in school.  Nelle Word, whom we called Nay and had been a long-time boarder with my grandparents when my mother was growing up, now had no place to live since she had to return from her job on Oahu. My parents invited her into our home.

Because everything was geared toward the war effort, rationing was put in place.  A short list of our “deprivations” included strict rationing for sugar, chocolate, rubber, gasoline, leather, cooking oil, heating oil, chewing gum, meat, and other groceries.  Each adult had a ration book with stamps (coupons) entitling them to obtain certain goods.  Here are some of my memories about rationing.

We made oleo margarine by kneading a yellow food coloring button into a Crisco-like substance. When we kids outgrew our shoes, ration stamps had to be found for new ones.  Later in life, I understood more about the cracked leather slippers my grandmother wore most of the time; clearly she had forfeited her new shoes so we kids could be shod.  The pediatrician made house calls when we were sick because only doctors and other essential providers had sufficient gasoline and rubber stamps to get around town.  Remember, cars back then had rubber tires aired up frequently.  Because of reduced driving, all of us had to use public transportation except in rare instances.  Mother could make a meatloaf last for two meals for six or seven of us, and prune whip was a frequent “dessert.”  I remember Nay making cookies using turkey fat because we had no shortening. During the war, there were no Country Club Plaza Christmas lights.  Our Yuletide gifts would seem ludicrous to you now, but even the smallest “surprise” was a delight.  Long distance phone calls were outrageously expensive, so in that way we, too, were isolated from family who lived elsewhere.  Letter writing, however, was a godsend, helping folks to keep in touch.

Looming over all of these measures was the concern for our fighting forces and fear that one day we might be invaded.  Movies often were propaganda-based, and our only lifeline to what was happening other than the radio was the newsreel at the beginning of each film.

My father was in an essential business, and while he didn’t have to go to war, he worked day and night for war-related engineering construction projects.  I can still see his drooping shoulders and red-rimmed eyes.

At school we kids could “escape” into a school full of creative and dedicated teachers who made our days fly by.  To help with the war effort, we collected old newspapers in our little red wagons.  We would pile them, grade by grade, in the school yard in an attempt to win that month’s prize for the largest collection.  All tin cans used at home were saved, stomped on to flatten them, and taken to the occasional “scrap” drives at the school.

When we had childhood diseases—mumps, chicken pox, measles, scarlet fever, etc.—the family was quarantined.  On the front door would be a large sign that said “Quarantine” in red letters.  Shortly after WWII, there were several polio “scares” during which swimming pools closed and few attended movie theaters.  In 1952 when my brother Chuck came down with polio, we were quarantined for three weeks.  I was a junior in high school, and my friends would shove my homework into our mail slot.

Small pleasures included the carton (not pack, mind you, but CARTON) of Juicy Fruit gum my Navy cousin gave me from the PX, being able to lick the bowl of brownies my mother had made (after scrimping on coupons) to send her brother in New York City, and the thrill of my very own Hershey bar when chocolate was again more widely available after the war. 

So here I sit at eight-three seeing and hearing echoes of that long ago time when our country sacrificed and “went without.”  Now, as then, we can do this.  We must do this!  And on the other side, may we be better people for the sacrifice.

The Art of Marriage – On Our 30th Anniversary

Today, Lailan and I are fortunate enough to celebrate thirty years of marriage. And I couldn’t be more blessed. I have the notes from the toast my maternal grandfather, Philip Schuyler Lyon (Papoe), gave at our rehearsal dinner. I thought it would be interesting to read back through his words, and I believe he summed up his five-page toast in one simple sentence when he concluded with “to meet her (Lailan) is to love her.” He simply and accurately captured everything you need to know. Continue reading

When They Say, “I Do”

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Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Ricketts!

Spring is definitely in the air, and I don’t know about you, but it seems as though more and more of our nieces, nephews, and friends’ children are getting married. It’s a wonderful thing, and yet mind boggling all at the same time!  It’s crazy to think we have children old enough to now be getting married! Weren’t our kids just starting kindergarten? Time sure does march along, and our kids are now starting to make nests of their own.

I have always loved weddings – so full of love, joy, and excitement for the future. I started singing in weddings when I was in high school. It was a great source of income for me as a high schooler.  I loved experiencing different wedding ceremonies, music, and song selections. Over the years I have continued as the wedding singer for family and friends’ weddings. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had transitioned now to singing in weddings of kids our own kids’ ages! How can this be?

I have a binder full of wedding songs that I have sung and collected over the years, but I love asking brides and grooms to choose song(s) that really speak to them and will hopefully hold a special place in their hearts in the years ahead. To this day, I still look back on the song my sister sang at our wedding, “One Hand, One Heart” from Westside Story.

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“One Hand, One Heart” thirty years ago

I had always loved the song and knew that one day I wanted it sung at my wedding. Thankfully, Phil agreed! To this day, I would choose that song again to be sung at our wedding because it really spoke to me and still does to this day. Being “one” in a marriage, like a solid team, was really important to both Phil and me and so the song, “One Hand, One Heart” was perfect for us. I have thought of that song over the years as a sort of mission statement for our marriage.

I recently I sang for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. When the bride asked me to sing, I immediately encouraged her to take time to choose a song that had real meaning for her and her future husband. I always try to encourage those getting married to take time to think about their song choices. The piece this couple chose to be sung during the lighting of the Unity Candle was, “When I Say I Do” by Matthew West. While rehearsing the song in the weeks prior to the wedding, I found myself soaking up and so appreciating the lyrics of this song. I would actually tear up at times practicing the song as waves of emotion came over me as I saw this young couple in my mind up at the altar saying their wedding vows. The song also caused me to reflect back on the vows I took with Phil almost thirty years ago. And then, too, it struck me  that our boys could possibly be exchanging vows with their future brides someday soon! I found myself completely awed by this thought.  Wow!  Below are a few of the lyrics from this beautiful and powerful song, When I Say I Do.”

You see the these hands you hold,
Will always hold you up,
When the strength you have,
Just ain’t strong enough

And what tomorrow brings,
Only time will tell.
But I will stand by you, 
In sickness and in health.

Take my hand,
And take this ring
And know that I will always love you,
Through anything

And now for better or for worse,
Are so much more than only words,
And I pray every day will be the proof.
That I mean what I say when I say ‘I do.’

The lyrics of this song so reinforce the glory, sanctity, and profundity of marriage vows for me. I hope this couple will look back on their song choice and be reminded of the vows they made to each other, and that the lyrics will give them strength when times get tough.

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The bride and groom celebrating “I do.”

Again, it’s so hard to believe that one day our boys too could possibly be marrying. Nervously, I often wonder, have Phil and I prepared them enough for marriage? Should we be guiding them more, counseling them more? Do they know what marriage is all about? Will they be good, kind, loving, faithful spouses?  And, will they “mean what they say, when they say, ‘I do.” I can only pray they will.  Thank you, Katelyn and Matthew Ricketts for sharing this song with me and all those who attended your wedding.

And so, as many of us enter into the phase of our children saying, “I do,” I send blessings and best wishes for happy, strong, loving, faith-filled, and vibrant marriages for all our newlyweds and future newlyweds.

 

End-of-Life Planning for Aging Parents

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In the past week alone, several of our friends have lost a parent. We even had one friend a few months ago lose both her parents in a tragic accident.  There have been some beautiful tributes and even social media posts sharing absolutely priceless photos and videos. As our friends faced the difficult task of planning memorial services, we learned that some of the parents communicated specific funeral wishes, while others did not. We realize this topic is highly personal and there’s certainly no judgement here, but it did get us thinking about how to have that conversation with parents. It’s hard enough thinking about end of life for ourselves, let alone broaching the subject with someone we love.   Continue reading

Kendra’s Legacy – Why Flu Shots Matter

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Kendra Mann-O’Brien was 35 years old when she contracted the flu on or about March 1, 2012. A month later, she was no longer alive, leaving behind a loving husband and two small children.  Continue reading

Empty Nest Marriage Tips From Ghandi – Guess We Should Listen!

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The Today Show, and author Bela Ghandi, published a short article a couple of days ago on some common challenges married couples are likely to face when all of the kids have left the nest. Our mission is to “think beyond the nest,” so it only makes sense for us to share these great tips. You can link to the actual article here, but here are their tips with a few of our comments added for a bit of extra flavor! Continue reading

Teen/Young Adult Suicide – There’s Always Hope

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Unfortunately, suicide and teen/young adult suicide in particular, is a topic we are experiencing and seeing the effects of way too frequently. Our hope with this post is to do just that – offer a bit of hope and highlight a few organizations that are trying to do something to help save lives.  We encourage you to stick with this post. While it might be a bit lengthy, we want to provide at least a few resources and ways to help.

First, while we’re guessing anyone reading this has been affected by suicide one way or the other. So, while you might have highly personal experience with mental health and suicide, we did want to share a few statistics though to help demonstrate the severity and importance of this issue:

  • There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds.
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
  • Suicide among males is 4x’s higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. (CDC)
  • 7 in 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
  • 12.7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20-24 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. (CDC)
  • 55% of college undergrads reported having suicidal thoughts at some point during their college years.

Continue reading

BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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Thank you to all who shared great comments for Think Beyond the Nest. Yes, we certainly are in a unique stage of life!   I know many of us are at the point in our lives where our parents are getting up there in years and may need some extra assistance – a natural part of life.   Phil and I have aging parents as well.

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Phil’s step-mom and Dad. Golfing!

My dad passed away ten years ago. My 91 year-old mother is in a skilled nursing facility in Hawaii and is immobile and nonverbal after years of suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I feel as though I have already lost my mom. It’s been tough to experience her decline, especially long distance, but she chose this facility years ago and clearly expressed a desire to stay in Hawaii. Because she made this clear and cognitive choice and made it known to her children, I feel so good knowing that is where and how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. Continue reading

The Easter Bunny – Then and Now

Easter PhotoI hope you had a wonderful and blessed Easter. We certainly had a nest-full with our oldest bringing home three friends with him from Fort Riley (Army base) to spend the weekend and to celebrate Easter. A one-year old German shepherd was also along for the visit! One of the things we wanted to do with his friends was to take them down to our famous Country Club Plaza here in Kansas City to see the ceramic, life-sized bunnies that have displayed every Easter season back to 1922. As I was thinking about the Plaza bunnies, I remembered a photo of our boys that we had taken many years ago with “Bryan,” one of the guy bunnies. I recall that being important at the time.  Anyway, I thought how fun would it be to find that photo and have the boys recreate the exact same scene with the same bunny sixteen years later? To my delight, our boys were willing to help go along with this marvelous plan. There was no whining or complaining about it at all. And, the boys even seemed to have fun meticulously recreating the same pose. Oh the joys of adult children!:) I love that we can all have fun together – even if that means recreating silly Easter bunny photos!