COLUMBIA, Mo. — I finally found my true love. It’s taken me 30 years, but I’m sure she’s the one.
It all happened so quickly. There I was in the small town of Clinton, Mo., riding the highways when Katy called out to me. “Ryan, come ride me, I promise to treat you right.”
I was mesmerized by her spell, much like Homer and the Sirens. I couldn’t help but be seduced; everything pulled me in her direction. Everywhere I went, people told me about her: “Oh, you gotta ride Katy. You’ll love it.” Her stellar reputation intimidated me. Could I really make it with Katy?
I finally decided to go for it and meet this wonderful Katy. I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime; You only live once right? On a sunny Saturday morning I got up the courage to meet her and went for it. I slowly veered off Highway 13 heading north out of Clinton and headed toward her. I was nervous; I’m not good with blind dates.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I pulled up! Katy was everything that I had imagined, beautiful, smooth and smelling of wildflowers. I usually don’t believe in love at first sight, but she’s knocked me off my feet.
The Katy Trail is an absolute dream, 225 miles of pure riding heaven. No cars, no trucks, no thorns or nails to puncture tires. It’s amazing! The Katy Trail is the longest ‘Rails to Trails’ project in America and follows much of Lewis and Clark’s expedition up the Missouri River. The trail meanders through all sorts of charming little towns and over rolling farmlands. The never-ending nature is breathtaking.
After 2,000 miles of riding on hectic highways with the obnoxious sounds of semis and trailers buzzing past me at 80 mph, I was ready for the peace and quiet of this trail. It was almost too good to be true. Not only is the trail free of cars, but there are no hills whatsoever. It’s an old railroad line following the Missouri River, and rivers can’t go uphill.
The only things that slowed me down were the occasional box turtle crossing the path, little snakes here and there and a few plops of horse poo scattered about. It’s not a fast ride, though. You definitely have to pedal the entire time; there’s not much coasting because the trail is made up of gravel. It’s packed pretty good, but still not fast like asphalt. It did rain one day, making everything a bit soft and muddy but still very rideable.
My first two days on the trail I had a really fun riding partner, ‘Mark the Crazy Viking.’ He found out about my trip online and decided to drive out from Lawrence, Kan., to join me. This is a great place to ride side by side and chat because you never have to worry about getting hit by a car. Mark is one tough dude. He hadn’t gone on a ride longer than five miles in years, and by 7:30 p.m. our first day, we had gone 85. Pretty darn good for a 55-year-old Viking.
The communities along the route are probably my favorite part of the trail and represent the epitome of small-town America. The towns are centered around tiny Main Streets with old banks, saloons, cozy restaurants and usually an old grain silo towering above the corn fields. There are some big cities too, like Columbia, home of the University of Missouri. This little town is a bit like Boulder — bike paths everywhere, smoothie shops and a beautiful campus.
Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. After a little more than 200 miles, I had to leave my beloved Katy. She was very good to me; she kept me safe, always led me in the right direction and provided a lifetime of wonderful memories.
It was one of the hardest breakups I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget you Katy!