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)

Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge

The Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge began earlier this year on a drive to St. Louis. We were with our son, Kai, and we were reminiscing about when the boys were young and how on every road trip they begged for an ice cream cone – especially when seeing a Dairy Queen sign. You don’t know how many DQ’s there are in the world until you travel with children!

Anyway, Lailan and I went on to tell Kai that some traditions never die! Even as empty nesters, we have found stopping for an ice cream cone while on a road trip makes for a pretty darn nice rest stop. It’s also our incentive to not pack the car full of junk food while we travel.

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Back to the Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge. On our drive with Kai, we explained how we often stop at McDonald’s for their $1.00 ice cream cone. Hard to beat in our humble opinion. But then Lailan happened to mention her best friend in Hawaii adamantly argues that Burger King has the best cone by far! So, right then and there the Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge was born. Somewhere between Kansas City and St. Louis, on that fateful day, we decided to taste test the McDonald’s and Burger King cones.

We decided the test should be not who has the best ice cream cone, but who has the best overall value cone. It’s a simple value equation. Taste + Availability + Size + T-Bills Required + Yummy Factor = Maximum Ice Cream Cone Value or TASTY Rating as we like to call it.

We began the search by setting the bar surprisingly high at…drum roll please…McDonald’s. Yup. Here’s our TASTY Rating:

McDONALD’S

Taste: Smooth, solid vanilla structure, creamy and downright yummy.

Availability: Duh, everywhere. Unless you get the “uh, we’re so sorry. Our ice cream machine is currently broken.” What?  Say it isn’t so!

mcdonalds-vanilla-ice-creamSize: 3” extension beyond top of cone. Can be inconsistent based on ice cream machine operator. Expert tip: egg them on, cheer them on, ask them to break their cone swirling personal best. It works!

T-Bills: $1.00 in most locations. We’ve occasionally found cones for $.50 and that always blows the MICCV out of the water.

Yummy Factor:  Super dee duper yummy. Very subjective rating system we have here!

Overall TASTY Rating:           9.0 on a scale of 10

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However, after sharing our McDonald’s success with our good friends in Hawaii (experts in all things shaved ice, ice cream, and ice in general), they vehemently argued that McDonald’s rival, Burger King, had the best ice cream cones. So, we excitedly took on the challenge, jumped in the car, and made our way to the nearest Burger King. Here’s our TASTY rating for the King:

BURGER KING

Taste: Smooth, creamy, but our sample tasted a little funky. I hesitate to describe it as sour, as that would be super gross, but it didn’t seem to match the McDonald’s cone.

Availability: Also found on every corner in America. We did come across “we’re sorry, we’ve been waiting for a part for two weeks,” at one BK location. So much for “just in time” logistics!

bk cone1

Size: 2-3” extension beyond top of cone. Slight “cone lean” to the side and that tends to lessen the enjoyment just a bit!

T-Bills: $1.00 in most locations.

Yummy Factor: Refreshing, slight hint of vanilla bean extract with a bouquet of crispy cone wafer flavoring.

Overall TASTY Rating: 8.0 on a scale of 10

With Summer 2018 just beginning, we all have time to scream for ice cream, and to find the highest TASTY Rating! Think Beyond the Nest has McDonald’s in the lead so far, but we’d love to hear from all of you. Let’s hear from DQ fans. Does Wendy’s Frosty qualify as a cone? What other cones rank high on the TASTY Rating? Check out our Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge Poll on our Facebook page.

Enjoy your summer and an occasional sweet treat along the way! Say yes to the ice cream test!

 

Pickleball Craze Hits the Empty Nest

IMG_3484The sport of pickleball has officially been in existence since 1965. But like many things that originated on the west coast, it took over fifty years for pickleball to find Phil and me. Now that we’ve given it a try, we have yet another activity to pursue in our empty nest years. 

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A Few Colorado Hikes – Now and Then

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When you live in Kansas, an obvious and popular summer vacation destination is Colorado – one state over and a straight shot on I-70. I mean that literally. You only need to turn your steering wheel twice. Once as you veer northwest past Oakley and then again as you turn left at Colby. OK, I’m already off topic.

We wanted to share just a couple of Colorado hikes we’ve been on recently, just in case you are headed that way this summer or if your future plans take you there. I (Phil) grew up going to Manitou Springs almost every summer and fell in love with Pikes Peak, the Barr Trail and the history in that area. As a teenager, I also spent a month at Cheley Colorado Camps just outside of Estes Park. We hiked/backpacked almost every trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. I will save that post for another day as you can certainly find multitudes of guides on hiking in the park. For a few years in college and immediately after, my Dad I took annual backpacking trips out to Colorado and I’m sharing one of those hikes below (Pawnee Peak). It was so good we did that one twice! Continue reading

Destination: Symphony In The (Flint) Hills

Symphony in the Hills

It’s Symphony In The Hills time of year here in this neck of the woods. Many of you have probably been. But since tickets usually sell out on the first day they become available, perhaps an equal number of you have not attended. It’s an amazing and incredibly unique experience. It sounds like a cliche, but believe us, there really is nothing like it. That’s mainly because there is nothing quite like the Flint Hills of Kansas.  The hills are simple, wide open and ever-changing in color.  The hills seem to tell a story of another time in their tranquility. Combine that with symphonic music (from the full Kansas City Symphony), colorful sunsets, stars, a cattle drive, and to Lailan’s delight – real cowboys – well, it makes for a truly memorable occasion.

 

While we can’t make the concert this year (it’s being held on June 10 near Junction City, KS), Lailan and I went last year to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Nothing says anniversary date like a night on the prairie, but remember what I said above?  Stars, music, sunset…and cowboys!   Enough about that!  I’m pretty bummed to miss this year as the special guest is Michael Martin Murphey – y’all know the song “Wildfire” from the mid-70’s.  “She ran calling, Wild….fire….!”  Yup. Love that song. Continue reading

How To Survive a Red-Eye Flight

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First, let’s assume you’re not flying first class.  If you are, congrats and read no more. If you happen to be a commoner like me, please read on.  As many of you know, for the past six years I have been making treks out to Hawaii to check on my mom who lives in a skilled nursing facility. When I first started making these trips, I would book the 6:00 am flight out of Hawaii that would get me home to Kansas City around 11:00 pm. I would essentially spend an entire waking day traveling! Eventually, I decided to give the red-eye flight a try! I found that not only did I have a whole day at home when I got back to Kansas City, but even better, I had an extra bonus day to be with my mom, and to enjoy Hawaii! Continue reading

Bicycling Built for Two

Prairie Star Bike Trail

Ever since I was a little kid riding my orange Schwinn Sting Ray with the classic banana seat, I’ve always loved getting out on a bike (I still call a bicycle a bike, even if that’s confusing to you Harley riders).  There’s nothing quite like a little speed, feeling the wind on your face, all generated by your own effort.

While I’ve been a road bike rider almost my entire life, Lailan and I have found more casual cycling is another fun and healthy thing to do together. It’s easier on the knees than running and rest stops seem to include some sort of liquid indulgence, because “we earned it!”  Right? Continue reading

St. Simon Island – A Little Slice of Heaven

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Lailan and I recently took a quick trip to St. Simon Island, GA. As much as we’d love to keep this place to ourselves, we are exploding with enthusiasm for the island and we just have to share our experience. We bid on this trip at a charity auction in KC and somehow won and now we’re really glad we did! Continue reading

Hiking in Kansas. Who Knew?

Konza Hike landscapeAfter almost thirty years of marriage to mountain and hiking lover, this beach girl has finally grown to appreciate the beauty and awesomeness of hiking. Since we don’t exactly live in typical hiking area (hello, Kansas!), Phil and I have opted to make the best of what we have by checking out hiking trails right here in our own backyard. Continue reading