A biking adventure on the Katy Trail

We’ve just returned from a six-day biking adventure on the Katy Trail in central Missouri. The Katy Trail State Park was opened in 1990 and is the longest continuous rail trail in the United States at 240 miles. It was built along the rail route of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, and was commonly called the Katy. The trail itself is crushed limestone, and after riding six days with no rain we found we were covered in a light coating of dust! Many miles of the trail follow the route of the Missouri River with large limestone bluffs towering above the river. We learned much about the history of the area via trail markers telling us of Lewis & Clark’s travels along this route, and information about Daniel Boone and his family who once lived in the region.

We took spur trails into Jefferson City and Hermann, giving us easy access to food and lodging. In other places, like Sedalia and St. Charles, the trail passed right through the commercial areas. We found old train depots and a multitude of bridges of various types. We rode along cornfields and under canopies of trees. We saw cardinals flying across the trail and turtles slowly working their way from one side to the other. With a light wind we could smell the honeysuckle blooming nearby. It’s a popular trail that is shared by cyclists, walkers, and even horses.

Like other cross-state rides we’ve done, it was the perfect way to see the countryside and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the area.

A trip south to escape our long winter

Our Northern winter keeps coming with record amounts of snowfall and colder days than usual. This year we decided to escape the cold and head south. The morning we left the temperature hovered in the teens with bright sunshine glistening off the frozen ice on the trees. Crossing from Minnesota into Iowa brought us less snow. By southern Missouri we found blooming daffodils, and by northeastern Texas we saw redbud trees in bloom. With each passing state the temperatures were warmer and our smiles were bigger.

We experienced spring thunderstorms with heavy rain, and even a tornado warning. We rode our bikes in warm sunshine and in blustery winds. We sat outside without heavy coats, hats and gloves. We watched the sun set over open water. We reveled in green grass and the flowers and trees. It was a welcome assault to our senses to be surrounded by the colors of spring and the sounds of birds.

Dogwood trees were in full bloom, their blossoms so delicate and bright. We were talking to another cyclist (also from the North) who couldn’t contain her excitement over seeing tulips in bloom. That sent us on a driving trip to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We spent two hours soaking up the colors of tulip blooms – every color imaginable! We would pinch ourselves and then look at the weather app showing the temps back north in the 20’s and yet another snowfall.

After three weeks we began our journey back home. A cold front had dropped way south out of Canada and we had temperatures below freezing for the journey north. Our winter clothes and coats came back out of the closet and as we drove the season reversed back into late winter. We arrived home with more snow on the ground than when we left, but our minds were filled with the beauty of spring and the knowledge that eventually the warmth will return here too, bringing the colors and sights that we had absorbed on our trip.

Riding the trail

We recently made a camping trip to Vilas County in northeast Wisconsin. This is an area filled with forests, lakes, and welcoming community towns. We took our bicycles with the intent of riding the Heart of Vilas Bike Trail. This 52-mile paved trail was a gem to ride. At times we were in the thick of the woods following a curving and winding trail, and at other times we were riding along the shore of beautiful lakes. We rode trail sections that were relatively flat and then we also rode some short rolling hills – perfect for gaining enough momentum going down to get you almost to the top of the next hill. We rode over bridges spanning streams and wetlands. We saw deer looking at us from within the woods and we saw turkeys crossing the trail. With hot sunshine and warm breezes we made a stop for ice cream (twice). On the second day the late afternoon clouds rolled in and the rain began, but we were under a tree canopy and protected from the heaviest drops. And as quickly as it started, the rain passed out of the area. It was a memorable trip and we’ll look forward to a return trail ride in the future.

Bicycling and a lake = a perfect summer combination

Tuesday morning we packed up our bicycles, a credit card, and a change of clothing, drove northwest 180 miles to Akeley, Minnesota where we met a friend, and started riding the Heartland State Trail. This trail was one of the very first rail-to-trail projects in the United States. We had about 15 drops of rain as we began our ride east to the town of Walker. After a lunch stop we connected with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, turning northwest. And as luck would have it we were being pushed along by a southeast wind and accompanied by overcast skies to keep the summer heat at bay. After 42 miles of riding through fields, forests, and remnants of logging and railroad towns we arrived in Bemidji. Sleep came easily after the fresh-air, exercise, and a delightful dinner on a patio overlooking Lake Bemidji.

The next morning we woke to a dark-cloud sky, winds gusting from the south and southwest, and whitecaps rolling over the lake surface. There was no one along the beach except the gulls and geese. The sun would break through the clouds, but the wind continued to howl. We took our time before getting back on our bikes, waiting for the winds to shift again, which they did, now blowing from the northwest – perfect for pushing us the 42 miles back on the trails to where we started in Akeley.

It was a great two-day adventure. There were stories told and laughs shared amongst the three of us as the miles passed by under our bike tires. The scenery was beautiful, the trails were good, the bicycling was invigorating, and the people we met along the way were delightful — a perfect way to take in summer in northern Minnesota.

Nebraska from a bicycle seat

We recently spent a week bicycling across Nebraska with the BRAN (Bicycle Ride across Nebraska).  It was a wonderful adventure filled with amazing scenery, a diverse topography, the most genial and friendly people, and sunshine!  We started in Chadron (west side of the state) and ended in Fremont (east side of the state).  Our 400+ miles of  travel took us through the Sandhills of Nebraska, fields of corn in the agricultural area, and the rolling hills of the eastern side as we were closer to the rivers.  The flooding the state has dealt with this spring was evident as we saw washouts along the Elkhorn River and standing water in so many fields.  We are appreciative of the people who welcomed us in their towns and were so generous with their Nebraskan hospitality.  To me, a bicycle ride is the perfect way to see and appreciate the landscape, terrain, and people — it’s as upclose an experience as you can get on a journey along highways and biways.