Why Missouri and the Katy? - Show me MO! - CycleBlaze

August 23, 2020

Why Missouri and the Katy?

To tour or not to tour during the pandemic

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Heath Cajandig
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The Katy Trail has been on my bucket list for several years. I completed my first self-supported week-long bicycle tour in 2011 on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)  and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail (C&O) with my pal Chuck. Completing that tour is the badge of honor for American rail-trail bicycle tourists. It hooked me on bicycle touring. The Katy Trail had somewhat similar mileage that made it ideal for a week-long tour.

Fast forward to 2020. I retired in early 2017. I knew I wanted to explore more of the world on a bike. I discovered through my financial and retirement planning that I could afford that part of retired life. I toured Europe for three weeks each of the past three years. COVID-19 hit early this year as I was narrowing down my list of 2020 European destinations.

I decide to forego international touring and look for destinations within the USA. The Katy came up high on that list. Rural Missouri seemed ideal for a pandemic tour. It had the aspect of discovering the unknown in a relatively remote, low-risk location. I have never been to Missouri other than Kansas City for a work trip in the mid-90s. That brief venture from Kansas City, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri was solely for damn good BBQ.

I was still hesitant to tour over the past five months given the fact that I am considered a member of an at-risk group, over 60 with a history of cardiac disease. I take precautions and follow social distancing and face mask guidelines as much as practical. Cycling sits near the bottom of the risky behaviors in almost all COVID-19 at-risk charts. Contrast that to workouts at a fitness center, something I very much miss, that sits at the very top of the at-risk charts.

I struggled with the fact that I am touring with seven cycling friends. Pre-pandemic, I invited friends to join me on the tour. I am an amateur tour planner and have planned several multi-day and week-long tours with friends. I toyed with scaling it back and possibly touring solo. There is something quite nice about touring solo that I have come to enjoy. I cycled the GAP and C&O and across Switzerland solo and found it enjoyable and rewarding. In the end, I decided to tour with the group.

This tour is a self-guided credit card tour at a casual touring pace. I have toured self-supported several times, mostly with my pal Greg who is my perfect touring partner. The bottom line is that at my age and my financial security that a comfortable bed in a B&B is quite inviting. Do not get me wrong, I still enjoy camping on a bike tour.

Mid-morning touring cappuccino and pastry in Switzerland
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One thing I discovered in Switzerland is that touring at a casual pace is quite nice. My 10 days cycling around Lake Constance was at a very casual pace of 25-35 miles, less than my standard 40-50+ miles. I found myself immersing myself with the people and places along the way. Well, it was mostly about the cappuccino and pastries mid-mornings. The chance of me returning to the Katy is slim given that my bucket list is overflowing, and Europe continues to call me. 35-45-mile days allow me to experience Missouri and not race to the destination for the day.

I begin pedaling east from Clinton this coming Sunday for a week heading to St. Charles. I am an avid reader of bicycle touring books. Several authors espouse my view of bicycle touring. It is not about miles, speed, and the destination. It is about the time on the bike, the places to be discovered, the unexpected encounters, the kindness of people, and overcoming obstacles along the way. Getting lost and finding your way back often becomes a fond memory of the tour.

I hope that you follow my tour on CycleBlaze and on Instagram @tombilcze. #showmeMO #TominMissouri

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Paul KriegTom: be sure to use a wax based chain lube on your chains and take some extra with you. You made need it to on the trail. The Katy Trail is DUSTY!!!!!!!!! I rode the Katy last year both directions, and was astonished at the amount of dust I managed to stir up at my slow pace, about 10 mph. (see "Crosswinds" journal on this site) Also, you may want to carry a small "foxtail" type brush for dusting off your bikes at the end of the day. Keeps the motel housekeeping staff happy.
Paul Krieg
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4 months ago
Tom BilczeTo Paul KriegThanks for the reminder Paul, I cycled the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath for many years with similar trail conditions. I need to check my lube supply. The brush is an excellent addition. Both go on my tour packing checklist. I carry a few rags for that purpose but the brush would help clean components too.
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4 months ago