Day 5, June 13, Katy Trail, Jefferson City MO to Hermann, MO
Awake 4 a.m. on soft couch at home of Keith and Denise Zieglbein near Lohman, MO on family farm 10 miles south of Jefferson City when Denise comes into kitchen to put egg casserole in oven for our breakfast (aren’ t these people wonderful who take us in?) Did I mention that Jefferson City is the capitol of MO. Bike shop guys told us yesterday people who work in the capitol and government offices mostly live in Columbia and drive here and home each day, so do not bring much business into the local businesses.
Sherri and Giovanna head to coffee pot and we 4 scurry around gathering, preparing for another day, getting into routine, remembering in which bag we have what. I paid big bucks for a “natural” sunscreen. Feels good, however, it leaves my face white! (zinc oxide?) so have to powder my face with powder to get natural color back! We don’t do makeup on these trips, but have to have that beige powder!
After that wonderful casserole with more delicious blueberries, we ready to load bikes, mine still on top. After pictures and hugs, head 10 miles north toward Jeff City and KatyTrail across MO river. See capitol dome again. Marie and I toured the capitol several years ago.
Unload bikes, Sherri, Giovanna and me to start. I put my front bag and odometer back on which I took off when bike went up on top yesterday; whew, odometer working. We are off at 6:40. The setting right now is thick woods on the right, trees and bushes on left, and Hiwy 94 running parellel to bike trail all day, so much easier to find THs! And we in farm land with wheat field on right and see Mo River distant right (1 mile or so) by row of trees.
RR line and Katy Trail straight, MO River on right meanders so sometimes we are right beside the river, sometimes it is distant with crops in between — corn, big rolled hay bales, soybeans — black soil, and right besides the trail is a John Deere Tractor 4450 with attached trailer with big tanks and hoses for spraying (tidbit for my farming family in NE and farmers in Lohman). One farm with hugh, old silver metal barn, probably dairy barn, now abandoned.
Now wait a minute, a pickup is coming toward me down the trail; you had better be maintenance! He pulls over to let me by. Now see in front of me green vehicle going away from me, but slowly. As catch up, see a guy in the back of pickup trimming trees. Ok, you seem to be maintenance.
Ouch, first mosquito bite of trip.
Tebbetts 13 miles for me (2 hours) and here is Marie with van; she has not gone yet. Lots of round silver grain storage bins here and elevator, not many houses, but a PO and hear church bells at 9 a.m. as loading bike. Already hot, first day to feel humidity, feeling sticky. Now drive 15 minutes to Steedman. So great to be driving on a flat road, however still curvy and with yellow no passing line most of the way, not much traffic. Leave van for Marie and down the trail bicycling again, heading to Bluffton. Sherri and Giovanna pass me as reading sign about Lewis & Clark Expedition. They looking for store, food; so far towns too small, now 10:30.
Now in rocky area with cliffs on left, again with vines and bushes covering. And begin seeing evidence of very heavy rains MO had in May with little rivulets across trail, evidence of water running across from left to right (to MO River), bump across these periodically. Arrive Blufton where Marie with van and Giovanna and Sherri, and group of 5 bicyclists from Arkansas, who give us dill pickles for a big jar (they have van). They going east, we west. Love that drawl.
I am now driving and stop at Portland to get water as water jug empty, and it is hot. All gals arrive and we call Becky Aldrich, hostess this evening, member of E-free church in Hermann and she informs us her driveway is before Hermann, so don’t have to go so far. She can see Katy Trail from her house and she will drive her red car to trail so bicyclists can see where to turn. I am on Hwy 94 and further away from car, but can see it and we all end up at her home on top of hill. This is remarkable, so close bicyclists rode to her front door. I contacted the right church again, thank you, Lord.
What a great gal, young to be widow, husband passed away 2 years ago suddenly, has 50 acres, 2 dogs, 3 horses, works at nuclear plant north of Steedman in Safety Division, where all repairs, problems are reported and she prepares work orders, etc. She fixes us a delicious pasta with cheese tortilini and vegetables and brauts on grill (German country). While she doing this, Sherri, Marie and I in living room all doze off in big comfortable chairs in living room! Great to be in AC.. After lunch, Sherri and Giovanni drive into Hermann, Marie takes nap on couch, and I shower, then delicious cup of coffee from Kuerig. Am I happy? We all are, as this is first day we have had time to relax as in earlier; will sleep better tonight. Phone call to Debbie in Weldon Sring re tmro night. Marie and I study map for tmro, distances, when riding and driving, AND another great plus of staying in homes besides beds, showers, great food is we can do laundry! Thanking God for another beautiful day of sunshine and fluffy white clouds. Charlotte
PS: Re Giovanna knee– it is okay, now just gets stiff. Thinks she injured it Friday while riding through that thick gravel. She took ibuprofen a couple days.
Day 6, June 14, Hermann to Weldon Spring, MO
Great sleep at home of Becky Aldrich who lives 1.5 miles north of Hermann, but the Katy trail is only 1/4 mile from her home which was great for us as we bicycled right to her front door yesterday. She is a member of the E-Free church in Hermann whom I contacted (Marie’s church), and she invited us to her home! And this morning she is up early to make us biscuits and gravy for breakfast which was delicious, plus fresh fruit, excellent coffee from Keurig.
We loaded by 6, and see beautiful sunrise. After pictures and hugs, we are off (Sherri, Giovanna, and me), but slowly as we walk down her 0.5 mile long graveled driveway (road gravel, the kind we do not like to bicycle but perfect for roads). We bicycle a short distance to the McKittrick TH, then through a cement tunnel with Hwy 94 above, then into grove of trees with branches forming arch above, cozy and beautiful. We in farmland again with fields on right with MO river probably 2 miles away from the line of trees I see. There is no irrigation here for crops, farmers depending on rain and snow. The fields here are smaller (compared to Nebr), each surrounded by trees on all sides. From reading history of the BB boards at TH, seems this was solid forest when settlers arrived and they cleared the fields of trees bit by bit for farming.
Stop and stretch at 3 miles as did not have time this morning, feels really good out here with birds singing and quiet. We cross several creeks every day over wooden bridges. Today at 7 miles, cross Lost Creek, the widest so far and can see why because it flows directly into MO river which is right next to us on the right at the moment. We also cross many country roads every day and many driveway roads. Really like the trail right here as it is basically hardpack only with no sand, easy to ride. However, does not last long, seems they have to put sand on it.
At 8 miles hear train, sounds like on the South side of MO river. The Katy trail (former RR) is on the north side of MO river. Wonder why Katy RR abandoned and new RR built on other side of river. At 11 miles a small thin deer is walking toward me, sees me, ears up, turn and bounds away, stops to look back, white tail flashing as leaps away again. Finally disappears into woods on left after one more look at this strange apparition.
I am now in Bernheimer (2 houses) at a road crossing. Van is to be here driven by Marie, see neither. Am I in wrong place? Check map, shows only 1 road to here, so assume this is THE ROAD. Call via cell but phone not working here (did not work at Becky’s las night), what to do? I bicycle ahead, then turn around and come back to see if she there now. Fortunately, young gal and guy come along from east, and I ask Orion to dial Marie on his phone, which he does and I leave message. (Later learn she never got the message, so her phone not working here either). However, Orion and Sarah say they just passed a white van parked a couple miles further east. Relieved to hear that and bicycle on, Marie is also waiting there, did not go on on bicycle. Seems I was waiting at the wrong road!
Orion and Sarah just graduated from college; he from Virginia, she from KS, and they both joined the Army ROTC. Sarah got a scholarship to study 2 years in Ireland, Eric going to Georgia, great young couple made me feel better about the future of America!
We load my bike as decide to both drive to Marthasville since with all waiting for each other, we far behind Sherri and Giovanni. Out here while driving on clear road of farmland and no trees, my phone beeps on! Oh, thank you, Lord, very dependent on cell on this trip.
And here they are. We all snack, visit with couple guys from area about trail. We all leave at 10 a.m., this time Marie bicycling and I to drive van to Augusta TH 10 miles down trail. However, here we go again into the hills as have to turn north with lots of curves, up and down, around and around, speed limit 35-50, beautiful country, less farmland as not flat enough. Turn south into Dutzow and begin seeing fields of grapes, and signs of wineries, continue into Augusta. Both of these towns built on hills with streets up and down. Finally find Augusta TH by continuing to drive south toward MO river and park in shady spot (rare find). This area of MO used to be #1 for wine in U.S. Hermann (last night) also with grapes and famous for wineries.
Unload bicycle, completing all chores of leaving, and a nice breeze so no too bad, but humid. On left are beautiful cliffs, sheer so nothing growing on sides, but trees, bushes along ledges at top, shades of gray shale/creamy limestone. MO River right beside me on right seems narrower here. It is 11 a.m. Oh, long black thin snake across trail (looked like branch). As I run over him (ugh), he curls up (Sorry!) Looking back by helmet mirror, he is rapidly snaking into grass on edge of trail, so probably okay.
On the right MO river right here, and a very nice boat launch area with big paved parking lot, paved boat ramp into river. Fellow walking toward me with white beard, baseball cap, backpack, looks like cross country walker. Stop and learn he is Eric Goodwin from Winder, GA, walking from Delaware to Calif for MCM (Mentor Child Ministry), goal is for 1 penny each mile for funds for this ministry. He is on facebook, search his name or @walkwitheric. As we talk, he mentions possible rain, really? It is really hot and sunny, altho Brenda mentioned 50% chance of rain which I ignored.
It is now 11:30 and begin to hear thunder at Mattson, really? Our stopping point today is Weldon Spring 10 more miles. Remember in 1999 Marie and I were soaked in this area. Remembering how fast rain storms can develop in MO with pouring rain Hmm. Thunder continues and a few drops begin to fall as bicycle through Defiance (thought about stopping), but sprinkles feeling mighty good after the heat, now cloudy, enjoying sprinkles.
Thunder continues, rain increases and in 5 minutes a downpour! Stop and put helmet sheet inside helmet, put on my yellow dishwashing gloves and talking to myself how dumb that I had not put the rain poncho in my suitcase into my bicycling bag, so getting soaked (however, it is warm). Decide to go back to Defiance as closer than Weldon Spring, thinking Sherri and Giovanni may be waiting out the rain there. However, meet Sherri and she yells, “I’m going for it.” as she flies by. Well, okay, I am going for it too, turn around and being sprinting from my usual 8 mph to 10 mph, working hard, rain continuing but letting up. We both arrive there breathless and survey damage.
Our bicycles are covered with sand up to the handlebars, the back bike bags are covered in wet sand. Our legs and bicycle pants are covered with wet sand up to our knees. Our backs are covered with wet sand from waist up to neck. Rain has stopped, but we a mess!
Call Marie and she is waiting for Giovanni at Defiance, and they both later come in van with Giovanni’s bike on the back. We load sandy bikes on back rack, putting Marie’s inside as it is clean. We brush off as much sand as possible from our clothes and sun is now out, breeze, we are drying off fast.
Call Debbie Williams, secretary at church, who arranged for us to stay at Holiday Inn instead of church for showers, beds. She will meet us there as she works at another motel in area. Using my Google Maps we get there going through 3 roundabouts one after the other. (I am loving Google Maps as no one would have been able to direct us there verbally, except the gal in my phone; it was so complicated) So, we are in this large beautiful room with 2 queen size beds courtesy of the church, grateful, and we were able to hose down our bicycles using the hotel hose outside, so did not need to find car wash as we did in 2004 after being in downpour in same place! I immediately drank 2 cups of delicious coffee in room. We ate sandwiches from cooler, as now 3 p.m., I hand washed my riding pants and blouse, socks in bathtub and they look pretty good, drying nicely, ready for tmro, grateful for another “interesing” day. Praying you are all well, as we are.
Day 7, June 15, Weldon Spring to St. Charles, MO
Awakened at 2:30 a.m. by rain on the window thinking, oh, no. We are in a new large luxurious Holiday Inn room in O’Fallon, MO with 2 queen-size beds that Debbie of the Lutheran church reserved for us rather than our sleeping in the church at Weldon Spring. She works at a nearby motel, tried to get us in there, but they were booked.
At 6:30 a.m. when we went outside after a sumptuous complimentary breakfast, it was gray and threatening, and we were feeling unsettled about the day. Upon arriving at the TH (trailhead) where we stopped yesterday, we dug out our rain jackets. At 7:45 Sherry, Giovanna and Marie started down the trail. My job was to drive the van to the next TH at Greens Bottom, looked simple on the map, straight on Hwy 94 and turn right. It looked so simple, that is why I am driving first today, leaving Marie to drive later to find the tougher (probably ) next trailhead in St. Charles (big city traffic).
Well, I spent the next hour in harrowing big city traffic. My Hwy 94 disappeared and I found myself in 4-6-8 lane traffic in morning rush hour, exits to right and left, lots of big signs above, cars flying by me on left and right as I tried to stay in the middle lane. However, when had to turn either right or left, difficult to get into next lane as so much traffic. Never did see a sign to Greens Bottom, and I was going the minimum speed 40 mph that was legal, so carefully read every sign, sometimes to the annoyance of someone behind me also could not move over. Would have never made it without goggle maps. I could not even tell what direction I was going as it was cloudy, so no sun, and so many turns, I was lost in the middle of hundreds of motorists who knew where they were going.
Twice I pulled over into malls to restart goggle maps as it just did not seem right (to Memphis?), but each time goggle came up with the same route, so had to trust the gal talking to me and pray! I knew if I went into a store for directions, no one would be able to tell me how to get anywhere – I was too far from where I started and there had been so many exits and entrances! AND besides – there were several TH to the Katy Trail in St. Charles. Which to pick as the destination, and there was no Greens Bottom, so I picked the River TH as my destination.
As I kept following the gal’s vocal instructions with Goggle maps, I kept getting on smaller and smaller streets, and miraculously turned into a parking lot and ended up at the Katy Trail Bridge parking lot at Creve Coeur, about 5 miles beyond Greens Bottom (1 hour to get there by van!) I quickly called both Marie and Sherri to see where they were, hopefully not this far yet, and neither had gone by. Giovanni did not know where she was. She was just keeping pedaling down the trail and had not seen Marie or Sherri since starting this morning.
I unloaded my bicycle, and went down the long slope trail to the Katy Trail, reaffirming with others there that this was really the Katy Trail, planning to ride back and meet the gals coming this way, and here appeared Giovanna instantly. A complete surprise for all as somehow she missed Greens Bottom where Sherri and Marie were waiting for her, thought she had not gotten to yet; they thought she was still behind them. Anyway we all got together on the trail there at Creve Coeur, whew! I am now very happy to be bicycling on quiet, pleasant Katy trail out of all that traffic, and thankfully I do not need to drive anymore today! It was truly by the grace of God that I ended up in the right place!
It is only 5 more miles on the Trail to Frontier Park in Lake Charles where Marie and I have been 3 times before, a beautiful long narrow park along the MO river with big statue of Lewis & Clark and their dog, an open air band pavilion (a concert tonight) with people sitting in lawn chairs and on the grass , the original depot, original railroad tracks all along the park, beautifully groomed and green with trees, bushes, flowers, and the usual benches and BB boards of info of the town, history for the bicyclists of the Katy Trail. This area packed with cars, people, as many shops line the street. This is where the trail used to end. Since 2008, when we were here last, another stretch of trail has been opened further to Machens.
We had intended to ride to Machens, but there was serious flooding in Lake Charles this year with all the rain and this being where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet, lots of flooding and part of the trail was washed out. We were told by others that we would only be able to ride 4 miles. Because of that, we left the van here at St. Charles and all 4 got on our bicycles to ride out and back the 4 miles. We just started and Marie had a flat! So she walked the short distance back, found a bike shop near the trail on the busy street of shops, and Sherri, Giovanni and I went on. Giovanna went 2 miles, decided she had enough and went back. Sherri and I completed the 4 miles out and back. Oh yes, the weather did clear and it is now sunny and hot at 11:30, and this section of the trail was in the sun, no shady groves of trees, but in farm country again. There was a trail worker in a tractor doing maintenance, and he checked up on us with his pickup and waved as we got to the end where there was a sign that said “Trail Closed” with orange markers.
We are back at 12:30, and I call Gail Blackman with whom we are staying. As mentioned, this is Marie and my 4th time in St. Charles and the same church/Pastor Schade has said yes 4 times!. We have stayed overnight in the church twice in the youth area, once with the Jost family when remodeling was going on in church, and this year the Blackmans (from the church) are taking us in. Their home is a really great location as they live only a few blocks from the TH, so Sherri and Giovanni decide to bicycle rather than the hassle of loading their bikes. However, as usual, as soon as you leave the MO river you are in hills, so they have a big high to climb immediately and this is in town. Gail welcomes Marie and me at the front door, then directs Marie through the alley to park in their small back yard. The Blackman home is an old one with original woodwork, even some of the original push light switches which I have not seen in years from my grandparents era.
We gals have the whole 2nd story with 3 bedrooms and big bathroom. We spray our bicycles off with a hose in the backyard, as they are covered with sand, as are we. Husband Tom arrives. It is amazing how God always sends us to the right place! Tom is a bicyclist, has a shop in the basement, even has a bike rack. He puts each up on the rack and cleans and oils chains, pumps up our tires, and we are ready for the 2nd phase of the trip–Katy Trail ends here, will now on highway and Route 66 the next 7 days. Thank you, Lord for Tom, and Gail has baked us brownies for a snack with ice water!
We do not eat dinner with the Blackmans (as previously arranged) as we are meeting Sherri’s aunt and cousin here for dinner in a restaurant who are driving 25 miles from St. Louis to see Sherri, and Marie and I also know Aunt Louise because on 2 of our trips on the Katy Trail, she and Sherri’s mom followed along in their car as we bicycled the Katy Trail, so good to see her again and meet her son Bill.
The main street of Lake Charles is unique. It is 1 long street, the only street in town that is still the original bricks, and shops lining the whole 12 blocks. Driving on the bricks is very wavy and slow because of the many years of use, and they never intend to take them up and make a smooth street. Time to say goodnight, grateful for day and safety, wonderful people all day who helped us again. Thanking God again for Goggle Maps or I would still be out there somewhere.
Day 8, June 16, St. Charles, MO to Mt. Olive, IL
Up 4 a.m. in upstairs bedrooms in the home of Tom and Gail Blackman home in St. Charles, MO. Gail fixes us marvelous breakfast of egg McMuffins, fruit, great coffee 5 a.m. Tom packing lunch for work at GM in St. Louis (22 miles!), 32 years as machinist, retiring in August. They have boat on Mississippi for water skiing, he climbs rocks, bicycles a lot. Gail to gym every day, works for Thrivent Financial (Lutheran investment company) from her home via computer– 4 children, 6 grandchildren. Members of church which has taken Marie and me in 4 times as we have bicycled the Kathy Trail 4 times. We on the road at 6 a.m. all loaded in van as have 20 miles to go to where we want to begin at Chain of Rocks bridge in MO which crosses the Mississippi and gets us into IL.
Chain of Rocks Bridge by St. Louis, built 1929. New bridge has been built so this one for bicycling, hiking only, no autos. Marie and I bicycled across it twice in past years, one time with Sherri. We shocked to see chain across entry way and parking lot unkempt. Giovanna googled it on her phone and we learned the MO side of the bridge is closed as unsafe, the IL side still open for walking bicycling a short distance. We very disappointed–a unique bridge with an angle in the middle. So, cross border on interstate into IL looking for road to the IL side of bridge. Difficult so drove back and forth a couple times–MO to IL, U-turn IL to MO, twice, could not find the road. Finally decided just to find a spot and start bicycling and forget about the bridge. It is now 8 a.m.!
Sherri, Giovanna, and me with Marie in van spotting us along, as we don’t have a good detailed map, riding on narrow 2 lane road with no shoulder. At Sand Road Marie directs us to the start of a bike trail — oh, great, assume it will take us around Edwardsville, pop 22,000. We enjoy as we bicycle into country. Go by new church with very old cemetery, and here all at once there are 2 trails — which to take?. We study map on BB and are agast to see there are a multitude of biking trails in this area, going in all directions. Bicyclist comes along, tells us which one to take now with further instructions of to take left after underpass. We to underpass, but left is a dead end trail. We question others, no one knows and we spend 15 minutes in this spot. We continue on very unsettled as there are so many trails. At the 3rd underpass we turn left and meet a black couple with a map who tells us where to go. Tom a bicyclist from St. Louis says he will lead us awhile, and he gets us past a section in a town that is on the street awhile with turns which we would have had trouble — no signs on any of these trails. We have no idea where we are.
In meantime Marie waits for us on a street which we have not come to and she goes to another location, keeping in touch via phone, then to another location of trail crossing road. A group of 4 older guys from area give us advice. Finally the best was that we leave the trail and bicycle to the Hwy where it is easier for Marie to find us, because maps she has do not have the country roads we pass over. Finally, at 11 a.m. Marie finds us — 3 hours after we started and we had only gone 17 miles! — hot, hungry and frustrated.
We snack, drink water, and Marie and I change — I am now driving. They continuing bike trail, but now easier as only 1 trail to the next town–Hamel– (pop 818) only 3 miles. I drive straight there on Hwy 157, now have to find where bike trail comes into town. Stop at vegetable stand and ask guys –Park St.– Buy cantalope and they give me 2 peaches from GA, not nearly so good as our peaches at Grand Junction, but appreciated.
Gals arrive and we have lunch at Wheezies (eating outside). Next town is Worden 9 miles. Hwy 157 ends, so ask fellows in Wheezies — I am to continue down old R66 and I now learn there are 2 R66! — an old 1930-1940 route paralel to the interstate, newer route 1940-1970 more inland. So at every turn, you have to choose which one you are going to take. Well, I chose the wrong one somewhere and found myself past Wordon (could tell by mileage). Asked fellow going into restaurant, yes need to go back a couple miles and take a right. Well, but the time I got to Wordon, the gals had already gone through! So onto the next town.
Somehow I am not on the same R66 I was on before, but now on the one paralelling the Interstate, so enter Staunton from south rather than from west. Stop at Casey’s for info of where trail is and get directions to the water tower– and meet the gals on Main Street- just coming off the trail.
We turn corner, stop and regroup. Marie and I change and I am now bicycling. It starts sprinkling, then pours! We are soaked in 1 minute. Sherri, Giovanni and I wait it out under awning of store, and it clears and stops. Actually, that soaking feels pretty good, we are now wet and cool. It was really hot and humid before.
Marie leads us on same R66 that I came in on. Find road to Mt. Olive and old Route 66 and we bicycle that with van going ahead. Well, here we are again, another sign that says old Route 66 1930-40 one road, R66 1940-1970 a different road. I called LuAn at church to see which one we take to the church–old, finally at church 2 hours later than expected.
Two families offerered us showers so Sherry and Giovanni walked to John and Ruth’s in town, Marie and I drove to large elegant country home of Jim and Jane Pastrovich, which we had trouble finding! Great visiting with them. Jim retired vet for 2 weeks, own 40 acres, 2nd marriage for both, grew up together. If they had known more, they would have had all of us stay in their home.
Back to church, Sherry and Giovanni hosts invited us to Mexican restaurant for dinner — John is cashier, grandson washes dishes, granddaugher buses tables. June eats her special Mexican meal and drinks margaritas! Time for bed — me on pew, Marie couch, Giovanna in conf room with sleeping bag on top of wide table, Sherry in carpeted nursey with sleeping bag and book. We all exhausted from “unexpected” day, grateful for safety and good people who helped us today.