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Thanksgiving Via the Katy Trail

By Johnny Tarr

Having a strict plan for an adventure is a conflict of interests, so Cameron and I set off for our Thanksgiving Epic with only a loose grasp on our own logistics. The basic idea: ride halfway across Missouri on the Katy Rails to Trails project, stay in cheap hotels, and arrive three days and about 150 miles later for Thanksgiving dinner with Cameron’s family in St. Louis. You wouldn’t sedate the bull before the rodeo, and you really shouldn’t hash out every detail of an adventure beforehand either.

The Katy Trail runs from just outside Kansas City all the way to St. Louis, following a railroad bed along the Missouri River. The railroad gives the trail its name. Columbia sits a bit north of the midpoint, connected by the nine-mile MKT trail.

We’d imagined riding out of town with our faces to the rising sun, but Cameron’s late night and my early errands pushed our launch behind our lunch. The silver lining was that we could grab burritos wrapped in foil on our way out. For most of our riding on Day One we were on the familiar MKT, the trail we take monthly on Party Ride Monday, or when we go to Cooper’s Landing Marina. Cooper’s is a nifty place where the river-rats and the cyclists converge for camping out, lowbrow folk concerts, and Thai food served from a box-trailer. On this trip, Cooper’s was the last familiar sight we’d see until St. Louis. We stopped to down half our burritos, and then took off into fresh territory on the floodplain. We knew we’d be fatigued within the next day, but right then we had just hit stride atop our perfect bikes.

By perfect, I mean perfect to us, of course. Cameron rides a Nishiki road-bike he bought in Denver, with a great New Belgian bell on the drops. He took the front derailleur off and now he shifts chainrings with his foot. The hand-painted red lugs contrast the rest of the powdercoated blue frame, and we sometimes refer to it as Optimus Prime – it is quite a truck of a bike. I ride a neon-green conversion. The Stella frame is the only French thing I have ever loved, with a mix of BMX and cyclocross parts making it quite the mule. I had aero-bars on the bullhorns for the trip so I could switch up my position. Both of our bikes were sporting milk-crates, the addition of which was the only step in converting our daily-rides to touring rigs. We never got wrapped up with conventional wisdom or tedious details; we just ripped.

The sun was rapidly setting as we entered Jefferson City. Crossing the Missouri was the first perilous step in entering the state capitol. Only the northbound side of the bridge