From roughly the center of Kansas onward I started piecing together my own route and left the TransAmerica Trail for a bit. The primary reason were southerly winds of up to 30mph. Since the trail would have taken me southeast, I was not too inclined to keep battling those winds.
Instead I had heard about the Katy Trail from multiple people I met along the way. A former railway corridor section of the MKT railway line was converted to a multiuse trail, suitable for walking, hiking and cycling. I was a bit skeptical because of the trail’s crushed limestone surface but was assured that people had ridden the trail with (most likely heavy) touring bikes before and liked it.
As it turned out, the western terminus of the trail in Clinton, MO, was at about the same latitude than my location when I departed from the TransAm in Kansas. So all I had to do was go straight east, which I did, more or less.
I spent about three and a half days on the trail and was thankful not having to contend with any car traffic during that time. What I did, however, was trade gasoline powered annoyances for slower speed and some quite monotonous riding. The limestone top meant higher rolling resistance, so considering the weight of my bicycle, moving along was a bit harder than on asphalt.
Since the trail follows the path of the Missouri River, I was very much hoping for plenty of river views, akin to the Donauradweg that many people take from Passau in Germany to Vienna and beyond. But instead, the views of the Missouri were kept to a minimum, only for a view miles did the trail actually run on the river’s bank. Mostly it was either running about half a mile inland through, you guessed it, farmland or I was cruising through miles of tree tunnels.
Getting out of St. Louis considering it’s reputation, fueled mostly by recent events, was challenging. The fact that my host’s mother, while giving me a ride to a metro station on my day off, quoted multiple crime statistic tidbits related to the city did not help at all.
“St. Louis is #2 in the murder capital ranking in the US, second only to Detroit. Did you know that?”
“Oh, that is a bit concerning.”
“Yeah. It isn’t safe for cyclists either. One of our friends got hit in the head by a brick while riding through the city and stopping at a light!”
I eventually opted for a route through the city along the Mississippi River Trail which, incidentally, took me through Ferguson. I was quite on edge for all of the twenty miles riding from the very west (where my hosts lived) all the way to the river. The trail finally took me to the Chain Of Rocks Bridge, formerly part of Route 66, and across the Mississippi into yet another state: Illinois.