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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Monster ride

What better month than October to join in a Monster ride on the Katy Trail? No, not the "things that go bump in the night" kind of monsters (sorry, Pensive Pumpkin!), but the kind that's titanium and oh, so pretty.  A few months ago, Monster Bicycle Co's Jim Smith posted about doing a long, self-supported endurance ride on Missouri's Katy Trail, and before he knew what had happened it turned into a Mrs. Cross-supported social ride. A party on wheels, if you will.

Since the party ride was going west from Jefferson City (well, Jim was actually starting 40 miles sooner in Columbia, but I didn't want any part of that craziness) towards St. Charles (which isn't all that far from where I live), transportation was a bit of an issue for me.  I did have a few options:
  • Beg my husband to drive me the 2.5 hours to Jeff City (not gonna happen)
  • Drive myself to Jeff City, bike the 100 miles to St. Charles, catch a ride back to  Jeff City, and then turn around and drive the 2.5 hours home (not remotely appealing)
  • Bike alone from St. Charles to where the group was camping in Hermann (what, and miss all the fun?)
  • Take the train.
I opted for (d) take the train, and despite some serious anxiety about the whole thing (I really need a grown-up to travel with me and deal with all the details, a nice personal-assistant type person. Anyone interested in the job? It doesn't pay well at all.) it went pretty smoothly.  My worries about my gigantic bag not fitting the carry-on measurements (something I maybe should have looked into before I had left home for the weekend) and where my bike would be were completely unfounded. I mentioned being concerned about my bag size to the station volunteer, and she replied, "Honey, this isn't the airlines."  Still, I didn't feel completely relaxed about it until I was on the train...with my bike right next to me.

Plenty of leg room. #Amtrak #bike #KatyTrail
Riding in style...
It was a great way to travel.  I had my row to myself, plenty of leg room, a plug right next to my seat so I could charge my phone, and someone else to drive so that I could work on a project for my class play on my phone for the whole trip.  All this for $29 (my ticket was $19, plus an extra $10 for my bike)...less than the gas for the drive would have cost me!  There was one slight hiccup when, despite the fact that Christina warned me about the Homecoming parade that night, Bob got caught by the parade when he came to get me.  No big deal...I pulled out Robyn Benincasa's book and read til he found a way through...and we got to drive in the parade on the way out.  (I'm sure everyone we passed thought, Lamest. float. ever.)

I hadn't eaten dinner and Bob still had to put his bike together for the weekend ride, so we did the smart thing and put off both of those things to hit up a gathering at Aaron's --a pre-party party, if you will -- with some of the other guys and their wives/girlfriends.
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Adam's new ride
A few hours, many laughs, and several drinks later we headed back to Bob's, where he and Cara were kind enough to let me stay for the night.  Even though Bob didn't start dealing with his bike til the next morning and I had a major headache when I woke up, we weren't super late to meet the rest of the crew and might have been close to on time if I hadn't needed a diet Pepsi on the way there.

We met up with Aaron and Jim at the Jefferson City trailhead.  Luke wasn't able to be there in person because his daughter had a big concert that he couldn't miss.  I felt for him, having had my own experience with missing out on things you really want to do because they conflict with things you can't miss when Bob scheduled the inaugural Cedar Cross the same day as my baby's First Communion.  Feeling for him didn't mean that I didn't totally enjoy rubbing it in, though, and Luke was very much there in spirit with us, keeping me entertained most of the day with all the fun he was having without us.

I bet you don't have Catwoman on your stupid ride, do you? CATWOMAN!! (please note Luke's lines are written in green, the color of jealousy)
No, but I do have a splitting headache, so there.
Good. I hope you all puke.

Nobody puked, but even before we started Aaron noticed that his front tire seemed to be going flat and my rear wheel had a significant wobble. Rather than deal with either issue, we just put them off: "Meh...it's only five hours." That was our guess, anyway, for how long the 40 miles to our campsite in Hermann would take us.  I'd been worried about being able to keep up with the guys since I know they're all waaaay stronger bikers than me -- and let's face it, my natural bike pace is basically the cycling version of a stroll -- but Jim's additional 40 miles, Bob's repeated flats, and Aaron's towing his 4 year old daughter in a trailer helped even things out a bit.

And we have a giant pumpkin! Booyah!

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Dog shows!!!!!
Governor's mansion and capitol!!!
Free turkey hats!!! BOOM!

We rode in changing configurations depending on the conversational flow, and Jim and I hit Tebbetts together ahead of Aaron and Bob.  There was a nice group of people stopped there at the trailhead, two couples probably 5-10 years older than me. They weren't bikers but had decided a few months ago that a multi-day ride on the Katy Trail would be a fun adventure.  I think they were enjoying themselves, and hopefully they found a new love for biking while they were out there.

 It'll come as no surprise to you that we've already lost Bob and Aaron.
I am shocked.  Check the bars.

When Bob and Aaron caught up after having to stop for a flat tire, we all checked out the Katy  Trail Shelter, where travelers can stay the night for $5.  It's no-frills, but it's dry and air-conditioned.  Neat little place.


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 First floor                                                             Second floor

Rappelling off tall buildings, bitches!! Take that!!!


The weather this fall has been a little crazy, swinging rapidly from 80's to 40's.  We'd been enjoying some warmer temperatures again, but the weekend was even nicer than we could have hoped.  By the time we started, it was pretty much perfect cycling weather.  Lunch was at the little country store in Mokane; I'm not the biggest fan of lunchmeat, but my two bags of potato chips sweetened the deal.  Meanwhile, the guys discovered the wonder powers of Starbucks mocha drinks, the clerk bought Aaron's daughter a toy out of the coin machine, and Bob got to change his flat tire.  All in all, a good stop.

Fried PB&J and fried Twinkies. Meat on a stick and funnel cake. Homemade root beer.  POW!

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Bob has his arm around Invisi-Luke
On our way into Mokane we'd seen signs of horses on the trail, and we left town not far behind a group of 15 or so horses.  Most of the bike people I know aren't big fans of horse riders; first, because we tend to have differing views about the grossness of horse poop on trails (a conflict which can be distilled into two sentences: "It's just chewed up grass!" "...that came out of your horse's ass!") and second, because mountain bike trail groups spend a lot of time building trails and advocating good stewardship (i.e., don't mountain bike when the trails are wet) only to have some horse riders do this to the trails.

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Riders ahead
Despite some fresh hard feelings brought on by the leaf-covered stealth horse poop being flung at us by other bike tires, trail etiquette dictates that bikes yield to everyone else, so when we got close enough for the people in back to hear us, we asked where would be a good spot to pass.  They were very cool about almost immediately moving over to the side and calling ahead to the people in front of them to move over for the bikes.

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Big rock and fall colors
Fall colors #katytrail
Fall colors near Portland
Brazilian dancing! Kaboom!!!

Despite having almost no long bike rides since June, I felt surprisingly good.  My butt was a little sore, but not too uncomfortable.  I'm not a good group rider if I'm in the front, though; because my balance is a little iffy, I have trouble turning around to check behind me.  I'm not good at keeping a consistent pace, either.

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Nothin' but blue skies...
Bob and I got separated from Aaron and Jim, so we picked up some really good Angry Orchard hard ciders in Rhineland and hung out watching for the other guys.  From Rhineland it was only a few miles to Hermann, our stop from the night, and as much as I was enjoying the ride I was also looking forward to being off my bike.

#katytrail #bike #monsterride
Bob and Jim
We stopped on a bridge right before the turnoff to Hermann to check out the huge carp. Well, the guys checkout out the carp and tried to point them out to Aaron's daughter and me.  I'm pretty sure the four year old saw them long before I did.  Maybe I need bifocals to go with my Depends.

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Bob discovered yet another flat
Bob tried airing up his flat to make do until we got into town, but that didn't last long.  He and Jim stayed on the road to fix it, and Aaron and I rode into town to get his daughter off the road as soon as possible. The ride into Hermann was made me a little nervous because we were riding along the highway...a highway being driven by people coming to Octoberfest which, far from being the gentle fall festival suggested in the website link, looked more like an out of control frat party attended by people way old enough to know better.

Luckily, we had a great, roomy campsite in Hermann's City Park (where I'd camped during my first Katy Trail ride) to ourselves, and once we met up with all the cars joining us (Jim's wife, Aaron's wife and baby boy, and Bob's fiancee) and changed, dinner was the next order of business.

 So, what did I miss?
Um, tons of drunk people, sitting waiting for food at Wings a Blazin. Sweet camping spot.  You're now caught up.

You're a wordsmith. It's like I'm there.

We had a great meal at Wings-a-Blazin', grabbed some hot chocolate on the way back, set up tents, and had a great time hanging out around the campfire.  It had definitely cooled off, so the fire felt great, and since I hadn't been able to convince my husband to come keep me warm I was really thankful for the extra blanket I'd borrowed from Bob and Cara.

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Home sweet home for the night
Sunday morning we packed up, ate some all you can eat breakfast back in Rhineland, said goodbye to Bob and Cara, and met up with Adam near the trailhead.  With 40 miles towing a 4-yr old and 60 miles ahead of us, Aaron had opted not to pull a trailer this time. That was a pretty good decision because Sunday was much breezier than Saturday; I have to think it would've been like towing a parachute.  Just after getting onto the trail we passed the couples we'd met the day before. They'd stayed at a B&B in Portland the night before.

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Could it be more beautiful?
This day's ride wasn't quite as relaxed as Saturday, but we weren't killing ourselves, either.

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Aaron and Jim
We stopped here and there to eat, use the bathroom, or just get off the bike seat (me) for a few minutes.

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Adam
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Cool old building in Treloar
I always hear about the famous Treloar cheeseburgers, but the restaurant was either not open because it was Sunday or not open because it was too early.  As far as I'm concerned, it's never too early to eat, but lunch did give me something to look forward to.  Our tentative plan was to ride to Augusta, which was more or less the halfway point, and eat some of the delicious food at the Augusta Brewery, but we were sidetracked in Dutzow and ended up eating there (and watching part of Sweet Home Alabama...I love that movie).

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Love this shirt on the motorcycle rider. 
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I have no idea where this picture was taken, but I love the bridge.
When we reached Augusta, we were pretty happy with our decision to eat early. It was pretty packed. Somebody had to use the bathroom or refill water and there was a bit of a line, so I laid down on the grass to rest. I could have stayed there all day...all too soon it was time to head down the trail. I did take the opportunity to change shirts, though. It was over 80 and HOT, and because of my pack I couldn't use my jersey pockets anyway. The tank was much cooler...and how often can you go sleeveless in mid-October?

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We stopped briefly to check out the bluffs along the trail near Augusta. Apparently there used to be rock climbing allowed there, which would have been cool (and terrifying).

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Some serious erosion going on
We stopped in Defiance for water and ice cream, and while we were hanging out enjoying our treats we saw a Jim Davis's Team Seagal kit ride by. Of course I had to yell for him to come join us and show off the new gold bike he'd picked up at a flea market.

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Trail monster sighting!
We hung out for a while, then he rode with us til it was time for him to turn towards home. 

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Boys club :)
...but not before getting a parting shot of our group.

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Kate, Jim, Aaron, Adam
Don't let the smile fool you...for whatever reason I'd thought we were turning off at the Busch Greenway, so I was pretty disappointed when Jim rode away and we headed further East on the Katy Trail.  Not unhappy, but that feeling you have when the happy surprise you were expecting doesn't materialize.

Despite Jim's extra 40 miles the previous day and Aaron's 40 miles towing a toddler, they seemed like they only got stronger.  Me, on the other hand, I was definitely dragging the last 10 miles or so.  The wind would start to blow again, and I'd think Really? Come on... I did have a nice distraction not too far from Greens Bottom when I inched towards the crossroad before riding into it and a woman swerved into the gravel (to use it as a right turn lane? to park?) and almost hit me before swerving around me.  Heart beating a little faster, I rode on ahead.

I was pretty delighted to reach the turn to Jim's inlaws' neighborhood, and though I'd been inwardly dreading the hills Jim had warned about, they turned out to be fairly gentle..and at the end of the line was a beautiful deck, cold drinks, and a great supper that Janie and her dad had prepared for us.  It was a fantastic end to a great weekend.  And to be honest, I'd spent Friday toying with the idea of staying home.  It had been a LONG week at work -- three 11 hour days -- and busy/stressful at home.  All I wanted was to go home and sleep until the alarm went off Monday morning.  Luckily, my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and I realized I'd regret it if I skipped out on the ride.  I knew I'd have fun once we got started, and I was right.  It couldn't have been a much better weekend. Big thanks to Jim for planning it, to Bob and Cara for hosting me Friday night, and to Jessica and Janie for schlepping stuff around for us. 

17 comments:

  1. Wow what an awesome time...you all have so much fun..wanna come out to Seattle sometime and ride here? lol

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  2. I can't believe I totally missed out on this. So close, and yet so far! I'm totally jealous! Loved all the pics (and the crazy FB posts all that weekend). If I'd had my act together, I'd have jumped over the obstacles and gone anyway. Guess I'll just have to hope for better timing next time. There will be a next time, right?? :)

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  3. Awesome pics! I had to do a double take as I live in St. Charles, IL...gorgeous!

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  4. Very cool you didn't miss out on that! Loved all the pics. Sounds and looks like an awesome time. You only go around once and you are taking advantage of great opportunities for sure.

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  5. looks like a fun ride and a way to spend the weekend. Sleeping late on weekends *can* be overrated..but sometimes not. ;)

    oh and don't joke too much about the bifocals and depends...(speaking as an elder and the fact some things are happening to me that I never thought possible in my younger years!)

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  6. Ahhhh, FOMO. Gets me moving more often than not. Looks like a blast, as always :)

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  7. Good Lord, girl...I am incredibly impressed! I tend to let laundry and lunches and life at home get in the way of multiple day events like this (I turned down a 200 mile relay this year because I became too manic over things I had to do at home to leave). And this seemed like the best of all the things you've done. Not so scary and tons of great time together with great friends. Win-win!!

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  8. I think going with your bike on the train is awesome. I have been jealous since I read it on FB but I get the worrying. Would love the PA job. Is there an application.

    Ha Ha I love the It's only five hours comment. Not everyone thinks that way.

    Beautiful pics and I love the FOMO. I get that too.

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  9. So great!! No, Lucas wasn't a bit jealous ...

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  10. OK, this post made me homesick. The Trail is *home,* that's for sure.

    What do you mean you didn't seize the chance to go to Columbia, the best hometown EVER?! (I do love it that you took the train....)

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  11. beautiful pictures...makes me miss REAL fall...and home also...love that bridge on the pic you dont know where it was taken..

    riding in style indeed...

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  12. FOMO! I love it! I'm adding this to my vocabulary immediately! I'm throwing this out there now-I'm riding this with you guys next year :)

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  13. I really wish I could have gone. It looks like it was a great weekend. That being said, I really did have a great time with my family. I just wish I could have done both. But you guys really missed out, too. That giant pumpkin was amazing!

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  14. I'd rather make a living being a bike tour guide than teaching! Especially this year.

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  15. NOw that is a party ride: stealth horse poop and all. These adventures of yours are amazing!

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  16. Sounds like an awesome weekend! I'd love to do a cycling/camping trip with K and the kids - maybe a cheese and chocolate trail in WI...

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  17. Wonderful. Time to start running, again. Skippo's around the corner.

    JB

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