New Guide Book Suggests
‘Nine Historic Rides’
By Karen Cernich
If you’re ready to get out on the Katy Trail this season and want to explore more than your local section, a new book that came out last spring can be your inspiration. “Katy Trail: A Guided Tour Through History” by Kathy Schrenk maps out “9 Historic Rides” that will both entertain and educate you. Even if you’ve ridden these stretches before, with Kathy’s book in your hands, you will likely learn something new, because in addition to suggesting where to begin and end each of the nine rides, she identifies historic details along the way.
Kathy, who grew up riding trails in Northern Illinois, said she didn’t realize that riding the Katy would come with history lessons, but as she pedaled the length of the trail and explored each of the towns along the way, she realized the Katy actually tells the story of America. The trail follows the Missouri River, which was the same route followed by Lewis and Clark on their expedition West, by explorers and traders and by Native Americans. River towns became railroad towns that experienced booms and busts over the years, and now they are Katy Trail towns.
“Ride the Katy and it’s all there, and not just the grand scope of history, but America in microcosm, including a small city adapting by converting an old factory into loft apartments; others facing natural disaster with a resilience that everyone in this changing world can learn from; and many parlaying some of the country’s oldest grapevines into a booming tourism industry,” Kathy writes in the introduction. “Ride the Katy for a two-wheeled adventure through time and place like no other.”
At a presentation Thursday, April 28, at Neighborhood Reads bookstore in Washington, Mo., Kathy highlighted a few details from the book:
- Sedalia (Ride 1) hosts the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival every year to celebrate the fact that he studied there. It’s scheduled for June 1-4 this year. The town features an old factory that has been converted into lofts and trendy stores and restaurants.
- Rocheport (Ride 2), which Kathy describes as “one of the most picturesque towns on the Katy,” features several B&Bs, antique shops and the Meriwether Café, which serves as both a restaurant and a bike shop, located right at the trailhead. Another cool detail of Rocheport is that just west of town is the only tunnel blasted for the train to go through, Kathy said.
- Just east of Rocheport, you can see Indigenous Drawings at Mile Marker 77. Pictographs in the shapes of animals and humans were likely created by Sauk and Fox Indians, who lived in the area until 1814, Kathy notes.
- Pleasant Green Plantation House (Ride 2) is located a half-mile from the Katy Trail in Pilot Grove just beyond Sedalia. “It’s a really interesting section, very wooded, kind of different feel to that section, because it does go off the river a little,” Kathy said. But in addition to the beautiful scenery here, there’s a connection to history in the slave quarters that are still standing. Scheduled tours of the property are available.
- Peers Store (Ride 4) at Mile Marker 81 (16011 Concord Hill Road, Marthasville, MO 63357), a restored 1893 general store, is an oasis to weary cyclists in need of a cold drink or a refreshing ice cream treat. “Walking over the old porch and across the floorboards feels like a journey through time,” Kathy writes. The store is open six days a week April through October. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday except Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Live music is played on the porch every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. between May 14 through Oct. 30.
- Winery Ramble (Ride 9) takes you from Marthasville to Defiance. Kathy recommends taking at least two days to complete this ride, maybe more, mainly because if you want to sample and appreciate what each of the wineries has to offer, it can be hard to get back on a bicycle and ride far enough in a single day.
Upcoming Local Events
If you’re looking for a calendar date to plan an outing on the Katy Trail, you might want to consider these upcoming public events at Peers and Treloar:
- Peers Prairie Day is June 18 — celebrate the prairie planted in the field along the Katy Trail and in front of Peers Store;
- Sweet Corn Sunday at the Treloar Trailhead is August 14 — taste locally grown sweet corn and pose for a selfie with the largest ear of corn carved from the stump of an old Elm street; and
- The Annual Treloar Elevator Party is October 16 — the Marthasville Fire Department holds a barbeque fundraiser as people come out to celebrate the Katy Trail. You can also get a peek inside the historic Treloar Mercantile Building, which is only open during special events like this one.
‘How to Use This Book’
Like any good guide book, this one is chock full of both useful and interesting information. There is a page devoted to safety (Wear your helmet! Kathy insists) and another to logistics (info on types of bicycles, mile markers and details on shuttles). Each of the nine rides include a section on What to Expect, several points of interest and a Did You Know question that provides historical facts.
Most of the nine rides vary from 30 to 68 miles, but Rides 6, 7 and 8, designed as Family Outings, are 5 to 25 miles. None of these rides are intended for only seasoned trail riders. Kathy says any one of them can be completed as a single- or multi-day ride.
“Almost every trailhead has info of places where you can stay,” she said, noting that camping is allowed in many places. “A lot of towns also just let you pitch a tent in the city park. BikeKatyTrail.com has info and is very active with the latest news, where you can camp or where to sleep and eat.”
About the Author
Kathy has worked as a journalist and magazine writer for 25 years and is the author of “Best Hikes With Kids: St. Louis and Beyond,” released by Reedy Press in 2018. In addition to writing about outdoor experiences, Kathy leads a social media hiking group for families that has more than 2,000 members.
Get Your Copy
“Katy Trail: A Guided Tour Through History,” which is slim enough to fit in your backpack, sells for just $15. You can pick up a copy at Peers Store on the Katy Trail, at Neighborhood Reads bookstore in Downtown Washington or at many of the Schnuck’s stores across the St. Louis area.