The Best Ride

I am currently in western Arizona, and am increasingly confident about crowning the Katy Trail as the best riding I’ve done across America. What’s the big deal? There is a lot to like about rail-to-trails and Katy in particular. The bottom line: if you can ride a bicycle you can bike the Katy Trail.

#1 No Motorized Vehicles
That’s huge. It’s a level playing field when all you see are friendly bikers and a few local walkers or joggers. Trails are great for families and those who like biking but are fearful of riding alongside traffic.

#2 Steady Terrain
The usual worries about gaping storm drains, shattered beer bottles, rotten road kill, and orphaned automobile parts don’t apply here. These trails are trash free. Instead, obstacles may include living wildlife (squirrels are dangerously drawn to my spinning spokes), uneven gravel beds, and something I’ll call large organic matter.

Meet the Osage Orange, also known as a hedge apple, horse apple, or monkey ball. If you think your Christmas tree couldn’t get any heavier, try adding this weighty ornament that improbably dangles naturally until falling to the ground in September and October.

The French called it bois d’arc (or “bodark”) because the tree’s wood makes for sturdy archery bows (as well as more utilitarian fence posts and furniture). However, the falling fruit is a trail nuisance. These bright green brainy balls are rock solid, and my trailer wheels caught one and flipped over. Down goes Travoy!

Can you ride a bicycle? Then this could be your view.

Can you ride a bicycle? Then this could be your view.

#3 Time Savings
I’m not following an established cycling route as I pick my way across American roads, so getting from A to B in the safest and flattest way takes time to plan. Well-trodden trails like the Katy have a clearly defined path so you can’t get lost. There’s only one way forward. You just need to decide where to eat and sleep, which doesn’t take much time with limited options along the way.

#4 Cost Savings
Comfortable camping options make this an economical adventure. I spent just $111 over five nights, $85 of which was for a hotel in Jefferson City, which could have been avoided had I known to camp outside the city by the trail. But then I would have never met Gloria and Eddie. Not into sleeping under the stars? Trailside B&Bs are an option in some towns.

The metropolis of Mokane, Missouri: bench and restroom.

The metropolis of Mokane, Missouri: bench and restroom.

#5 Excellent Infrastructure
Katy Trail amenities rival that of the Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania. Frequent rest stops in former train towns (conveniently spaced about 10 miles apart) provide covered benches, maps, trail information and historical details about the area. Restrooms and water fountains are available at larger stops. These help break up the day and add appreciation for the natural landscape, industrial history and local legends, such as Daniel Boone.

Thanks to Katy, I’ve made it almost all the way across Missouri on flat land. Now comes the hard part, and my first day riding south towards Joplin will be the worst day of the trip yet.