Thursday, September 20, 2007

Along the Missouri

Since the fall of Troy, your hero has been busy. I've been riding every day since, and I think I'm going to keep at it until I get to Manhattan and Clint and Jen's place where I'll just crash for a few days. The Mid-West is tough for several reasons: heat, humidity, bugs...and it's so freakin' big. And the sense of size is magnified by the sometimes monotonous terrain. Missouri for all its challenges has been the most interesting Mid-West state. I think Kansas may be the toughest. We'll see.

After leaving Troy, I was concerned about another killer day, but my reading of the map was confirmed when I found little heavy climbing. I mostly rolled through gentle grades and worked my way south to the famed Katy Trail and another great river, the Missouri. At one point in my descent to Marthasville and my connection to the trail, I hit 49 mph. What a screamer. I was getting a little nervous on that one, but Mojo and I were solid. Marthasville was yet another of these anemic towns, bled dry by changing demographics and economic shifts. Somehow, a few businesses hold on, but most of these places have a number of empty stores and run-down houses. The main supply points are the mini-marts, which leaves a clear picture of the nutritional content of people's diets: high fructose corn syrup and nasty oils.

For those of you out of the loop, the Katy Trail is a 200+ mile conversion of an old rail bed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians and, in some sections, horses. The surface, like the Erie Canal Tow Path, is firm crushed limestone. This is a gem of a trail in many places, especially for history buffs as it follows the Lewis and Clark trail. Travellers will find many signs and interpretive stations showing where the adventurers camped, the cave they discovered and other bits of this classic American story. The path is sometimes hard on the river, other times cutting through fields. Much of the route has excellent shade from the close, often overhanging trees. This has been a huge benefit with the tenacious heatwave we've been having out here. Normal temps should be in the high 70's F.. We should be flirting with 90 F. or so the next few days. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Anyway, here's a video of one of the better Katy sections. This is just outside a town called Rocheport, where I spent last night:

I have become somewhat weary of the crushed limestone. Although an acceptable surface, it's slower, especially when trail crews have added fresh material or some sand has washed over it. And it's incredibly dusty. My bike and the rear of my panniers are covered with a fine, grey dust that's going to be great fun to clean off. Most of my encounters have been short term Q&A's: Where ya comin' from? When ya gonna finish? What do you do for a living? Yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm a good sport, really, I am.

I've been seeing a lot of cyclists, naturally, but they are all on local or extended Katy-only tours. I may have seen the last of fellow trans-Am riders for the rest of my tour. I'll be the lone cyclist out on the Great Plains and through the mighty mountains and deserts of the West--with the exception of my doppelganger, this mystery rider that greets me most mornings with a challenging pace. I strive to overtake him, but he stays ahead until mid-day when I finally get the better of him. He's elusive, quick, a mysterious challenger who dogs my every pedal stroke. Call him Ghost Rider:

Then, of course, there are the Slovenians. These jackals of the peleton have broken away and set their fangs on taking me down. Let them try! My lead has been secure for over 2,200 miles. I'm keeping it. There can be only one World Champion Recumbent Cyclo-Tourist--at least in western Missouri in late September, eh? So let the pretenders have their fantasies. My legs will do the talking.

Here are some shots from the road:

Taking a break from the heat at a trail head:

A typical "green tunnel":

Tin foil hat

Chasing down Louis and Clark along the Missouri:

My 4 am game:

Okay, some soy fields look pretty:

One of the trail head stations:

I've stared at the glowing screen long enough. Time to tool around town a bit and find my way to the campground. Showers tonight, yeah! Till next time, Recumbent Cyclo-Dude signing off. Missouri, your days are numbered.


wombatgrrl said...

yep, the crushed limestone bike trails can crush your soul and your drivetrain all in one fell swoop. They always sound so nice and peaceful, until you actually arrive there and get past the first 20 miles or so. Perhaps these 200 miles on the Katy Trail will end up being the psychological crux of the journey.

cleveland, oh

Scott Wayland said...

Hey, Wombat! Thanks for keeping in touch. Well, the limestone is done for now. I'm at the end of the line and head for Kansas tomorrow. My left leg is a bit strained. Perhaps all that limestone slogging? Anyway, I'm hanging in Manhattan for a few days of R and R!