Day 30 - June 2 - Watkins Mill State Park, MO to Atchison, KS - Two Old Guys Take On A Continent - CycleBlaze

June 2, 2023

Day 30 - June 2 - Watkins Mill State Park, MO to Atchison, KS


John’s Story

This morning before we left camp a grandfather and his two small grandchildren on tiny bicycles went by our campsite. We never exchanged names but we talked for a few moments. He used to teach political science at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Years ago he and his friends used to put together their own self-supported bike tours. They once rode from Weatherford to Jasper, Alberta, by way of Pueblo, Colorado and Missoula, Montana. I could tell from his physique that he’s not much of a bike rider anymore, so I guess even though I’m late to this game of long-distance touring I’m glad that I am in good enough shape to do it.

Ed is almost always the first one ready to go in the morning. Today was an exception, and I was waiting on him. I think it has something to do with he’s always the first one to use the stove to make breakfast so that puts me 15 minutes behind the game at the get-go.
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We were out of camp by 6:45 AM this morning. The Jesse James birthplace and museum was only 5 miles away. This was pretty much the tour.
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Are those pineapples growing under the sign to the James farm?🧐
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I think this may be a sand plum tree. We have them down in Oklahoma, and I’ve seen them in Mississippi, and it certainly has the right leaves for it. Bill Shaneyfelt?
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Bill ShaneyfeltCould be...
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1 year ago
Another Missouri palm tree
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like a poison ivy palm! :-)
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1 year ago

We were in hills for the first 53 miles today. The first half of that distance, roughly to Smithville, the hills were rollers. We could speed down one and use our momentum to carry us partway up the next. I enjoyed the heck out of them. Ed not so much. I could do this all day long I thought.

Believe it or not, this is one of the easier hills on our route today. It was somewhere along here that I saw a red fox run across the road
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We came upon Smithville Lake, and I noticed that there was a bike path trailhead right where we first saw the water. I pulled out my phone and looked at Google maps, and sure enough there seemed to be a paved bike trail around a good part of the lake. We decided not to take it, however, because the path followed every inlet and point on the edge of the lake. It might’ve been easier riding but it would’ve added many miles to our day. It was a pretty lake with small marinas and some homes around it. I thought it might look something like the Lake of the Ozarks before that lake became so developed.
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Today’s flower pic
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Bill ShaneyfeltThistle. Pretty... nasty!
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1 year ago
This seemed to me to be a better example of a buckeye tree than most of the ones I saw in the Buckeye State.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCatalpa.
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1 year ago
We rendezvoused in a coffee shop in Smithville with Brian, one of my daughter Rebecca’s high school classmates. He said he probably had not seen Rebecca since graduation, but they are still in touch. Brian treated us to coffee and a pastry, and we sat and talked for about 45 minutes. Brian told us that he is at our beck and call if we have problems within 100 miles of here. Brian is hereby granted today’s Road Angel Award.
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When we left Smithville the character of The Hills changed dramatically. No longer the short rollers that I found so amusing earlier in the day, The Hills became longer and steeper. I am capitalizing to give them the respect they deserve. The ride became grueling as the day warmed up into the mid to upper 80s. We had our eye on the prize though. We were headed to the Weston brewery.

On the way into Weston, Ann pulled over in her truck to speak with me. She told me that 30 years ago she had ridden the Bicentennial Trail (probably the original TransAmerica route developed for the BikeCentennial in 1976 when 4,000 riders rode from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia) west to east from coast to coast, and wished us luck.
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At last, our reward after (most of) the hills were behind us. I’ve been to the Weston brewery a number of times over the past 20 years. They have a pub underground in the old beer cellars below the brewery, with live music, beer of course, and great food. It was a little early in the day for the pub to be open so we ate lunch in the restaurant and each had a beer.
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There were a few more long climbs after Weston but eventually we were spilled out back onto the Missouri River floodplain. For the next 15 miles or so we rode on smooth pavement with a bit of a tailwind, then turned west to ride a few more miles to cross the Missouri River into Kansas.

The approach to the bridge over the Missouri River was just another hill.
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This is our last crossing of the Missouri River on this tour. Lewis and Clark went north from here with the river. We are continuing west.
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Let’s just call this a Johnny picture.
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Warnock Lake Park campground is divided into an RV area and a tent camping  area. The RV area is right by the shower house. The tent camping area is farther down the hill away from the facilities. There are only two RVs camping here tonight. Tent camping is $8 per night per tent. RV camping with electrical power is only $12 per night for seniors. We registered for an RV site, none of which are suitable for tent camping because of the way the campground is laid out, and pitched our tents on the other side of the road in beautiful soft grass next to a covered pavilion with picnic tables. I told the caretaker what we were doing. He screwed up his face a bit and told me that they don’t usually allow it, but since we’re only here one night and the place is empty he would permit it.

This camper is parked fairly close to where we have pitched our tents. The fellow camped there came over to talk with us. His name is John, and I did not get his picture. We told him what we are up to. He asked how old we are. John is 74. He said now he feels like he should be trying to live more adventurously. John has been traveling the country and living out of his camper for the past seven years. I think that’s pretty adventurous.
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There are small thunderstorms popping up and moving by. We’ve had a few drops of rain. The good news is that the small storms have cooled off the air and a cool wind is blowing through our campsite. I won’t be heartbroken if one of the small storms dump some rain on us at about bedtime. It would sure be nice to go to sleep to the sound of falling rain.
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I wrote the other day that there are no flat spots in Missouri. Perhaps that was a bit of an overstatement. In the river bottoms it can be really flat. People could come here to level their pool tables. A bucket of water spilled on the ground would have a hard time deciding which way to flow. Riding in the river bottoms means that you’re peddling all the time. No uphill. No downhill. As Ed pointed out today, riding in the river bottoms makes you hate the climbs even more and appreciate the down hills even more.


I am now in my tent with a steady rain falling outside. Lightning and thunder but not wind or hail. It is bedtime. I got my wish!

Ed’s Story

It was nice sleeping last night at Watkins Mills State Park. There was no rain in the forecast so I was able to keep my rain fly doors open to get the breeze in.

We hit the road at 6:45 knowing that we had a 69 mile and very hilly ride ahead of us. Little did we know how hilly.

Within about 5 miles of the park, we came to the family home of Jesse and Frank James. The home and museum did not open until 9 o’clock, so we were unable to visit.

John and I did visit the site in 2006 when we rode in the Border Raiders bike tour. In 2006 we rode 112 miles to visit the museum  prior to heading to our planned destination in Weston, Missouri. It was much hotter than it was today. The hills remained unchanged.

Not much to see here. Says the museum didn’t open until 9 o’clock but if I remember, it was a pretty cool place.
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Today was just a day of ups and downs. Ride up one hill; ride down the hill; ride up the next hill; ad infinitum. 

Our coffee destination was Smithville where we were to meet one of John’s daughter Rebecca's high school friends. We rode through Paradise and around Smithville Lake. I met an old friend on the ride and we had a good chat.

I’m not sure which one of us has the better beard.
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The road around Smithville Lake was pleasant. Although there were hills, they were easily managed. The coffee shop we went to was only a quarter-mile off route. It didn’t take long to get there; however, we were there for 45 minutes. I’m sure John has already discussed this.

I’d be interested to know how much money was kept in the safe when it was in use at the bank.
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Our goal was Weston MO, about 23 miles away, as we headed out of Smithville. And guess what there were more hills.

We were really worn out by the time we got to Platte City and really needed a break. What shows up out of the blue…a Casey’s convenience store. We got our OJ on there. 

We went to the Weston Brewery when we got to Weston, Missouri. We had lunch and a beer there; only one beer because we still had about 20 miles to ride.

After several more hills, we had a long downhill into the river bottom. We started our final run to Atchison, Kansas. The constant peddling made me appreciate the downhills we had earlier, if not, the uphills.

We crossed the Missouri River again and entered Atchison, Kansas. We found the grocery store for dinner supplies and sat outside the store for a while just resting. We then went to the nearby sports bar and sat in there for a while.

By the time we started riding the final 3 to 4 miles to the campsite, our legs were Jell-O. We then hit the Kansas hills to get to the campsite. Once again, on the way there we found a road closed sign. We passed through the barriers to find they were only working on a portion of the road so we continued on through.

We are at the Warnock Lake Campground, managed by the city of Atchison. Other than John and I there are only two other campers here and they are both in RVs.

Although we are in a shelter house the campsite does not have much to offer. The bathrooms are not very clean. I talked to one of the RV campers and he indicated it’s not worth the money. The RV campers don’t even have a water hook up. They have to find a water spigot like everybody else.

The tent camping site is further down the hill and has no amenities, no table, no water, and no electric. we decided to pay the 12 bucks for an RV site so we could use the shelter house and electric power. We didn’t have any fives or tens, so I broke open my roll of quarters which is worth $10, added two singles, and put that in the envelope provided for our registration information. Well, $10 is $10.

We had a little bit of rain while we were eating dinner but it passed quickly. Hopefully we’ll be able to sleep with our tent fly doors open again to get the night breeze.

Camp sweet camp sunset
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Another sunset view
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John noted we have storm cells all around us. Here’s one of the clouds that is moving in on us.
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Tomorrow, we are headed to Centralia Kansas about 71 miles away. We expect about 2800 feet of climbing but as we found out we will get what we get.

Until tomorrow, happy biking!

Today's ride: 71 miles (114 km)
Total: 2,583 miles (4,157 km)

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