Saturday, June 17, 2023

KATY Trail 2023 Day 3 - Windsor to Sedalia and out.

 Max and I have decided to abandon this tour due to the oppressive heat and the unfavorable weather forecast. I'm writing this on the train to St. Louis.

We rode 22 miles to Sedalia yesterday. It was the high point of the ride!

Sedalia is a hot and dusty small city. I actually like it. It does not look half-abandoned, and has some cool stuff, like art commemorating it's contribution to Ragtime music.

This is in front of the historical MKT freight depot.

We checked in early to the fabulous historic Hotel Bothwell, and hid from the heat all day.

I love old hotels that still have nice restaraunts attached. The restaurant here was the Ivory Grille, and it was terrific. The hotel is next to the town square by the courthouse. We had lunch at a tavern on the square that had excellent pizza. We also killed an hour drinking smoothies at a cafe a block over while waiting to check in.

My plan was to make a short day of it and see how we feel. The weather forecast said solid rain tomorrow (not great on an unpaved trail) and then right back to the hot hot heat. Amtrak said plenty of room on the morning train to St. Louis for us and our bikes. So we are done.

You might wonder who rides a train line that goes between St. Louis and Kansas City twice a day. The answer is it's basically a party wagon for obese Missouri ladies making a day trip halfway across the state for a birthday party. They are all pounding Bloody Marys, cranking Shania Twain music, and having a great time. This is what America gets for the Amtrak subsidies. LOL. The conductor is great and is fully supportive of their efforts.

The car we are on is brand new, and it has a place to hang bikes at the end.

However, you are supposed to hang the bikes from those hooks, and we couldn't figure out how to do it without putting all the weight on the front wheel spokes! This is a really bad design!

The conductor said to just put our bikes in the vestibule at the end of the car. The next car is the engine, so  nobody is going to go up there.

I feel bad ending the ride early, but Max doesn't mind, and physically I am just not feeling it. Max is having no problems, this is all me being undertrained and intolerant of the heat. 

The KATY trail is cool, and I will make another go at it someday. Just not in summer.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

KATY Trail 2023 - Day 2 - Lee's Summit to Windsor

 We are camped in Windsor in the hot, hot heat. It's 7:00 and 86 degrees out.

Windsor is where the Rock Island Trail from Kansas City meets the KATY trail. Before you get to the Rock Island Trail, you get to do a bit of the Mo Pac Trail, which I think is another rail trail, named after the Missouri and Pacific Railroad. There are Missouri and Pacific cabooses parked around the area here and there.

We did the full 46 miles of the gravel Rock Island Trail, plus the gravel MoPac, plus some random gravel roads. Our 60 miles of riding today was almost entirely gravel.

The Rock Island Trail looks like this the whole way. Yes it is flat and tedious.

There are also very few services. We stopped for breakfast at the start of the Rock Island Trail trail at the Big Creek Cafe, in Pleasant Hill. Max declared it to be the most country cafe ever. Check out the model train hanging from the ceiling.

Pleasant Hill has this nice marker to get you excited about riding the KATY, which is still 46 miles away.

The only other place we stopped was in the booming metropolis of Chilhowee, at the Chilhowee Corner Store. That's the building in the foreground with the plywood window. We had snacks and a half-hour cool down. Chilhowee was 20 miles from the end.

The heat and humidity were pretty oppressive by noon today. And it's supposed to be worse the next two days. I'm really feeling it. I have no appetite. We may cut the 60 mile plan for tomorrow into two days, and hide in motel rooms in the afternoon. It's supposed to cool down after that. We shall see how tomorrow goes.

Here is the Strava track for the day.

KATY Trail 2023 - Day 1 - Kansas City to Lee's Summit

 Max and I are at a Super 8 on the outskirts of Kansas City.

There is a Perkins Pancake House and an Aldi across the parking lot, which covers dinner for tonight, and filling the snack bag tomorrow morning.

It was a total of 30 miles on bikes today, and 6 1/2 hours on the train from St. Louis to Kansas City. We rode about 6 1/2 miles to get to the train station from our AirBnB, and then 23 1/2 miles to get here from the train station in Kansas City. 

I left the truck by our AirBnB in St. Louis, parked on a street in the neighborhood. They have No Parking signs up that say parking is banned for 1/2 day at the end of each month. I take this to mean leaving my truck there for a week is no big deal since, implicitly, parking is allowed every other time. Also, many of the vehicles parked in the neighborhood have out-of-state plates, which suggests they are students. Who probably left their cars here for the whole summer.

Putting the bikes on the train was about as easy as it gets. The panniers are in a big pile behind the bikes.

The train ran late due to some issue making the fancy new bathrooms on the fancy new cars work. So we got in at 3:30 instead of 2. No big deal, we had plenty of time to ride through Kansas City to get to our motel. The coach cars in the train were new, with charging ports between the seats and free WiFi! This was the "Missouri River Runner", which just goes back and forth between St. Louis and Kansas City. It was pretty full, and I think new rail expansions like this are viable.

Kansas City is very run down and gritty, at least the part we rode through. I wonder if there is a nice part. We saw no signs of any nice part. other than the train station. This is quite a nice classic train station!

Half the ride was through city, then we picked up the Rock Island trail which took us the rest of the way.

This is a pretty new rail trail. Part cement, part smooth crushed stone. I think they use the cement wherever the ground is wet and soft. Definitely easy riding. The Rock Island Trail is basically a spur off the KATY Trail that connects to Kansas City. 

I'm feeling it a bit after this ride, due to being off the bike for the last two weeks from putting the garden in at home and going to Blues Fest. We had a good meal at the Perkins and a good sleep at the Super 8.

The Super 8 has had a superficial renovation, but the bathroom is a mess, fixtures barely work, so this is definitely in the 2 star category. I like the picture of the Gateway Arch over the bed though.

Here is the Strava track to the train station in St. Louis.
Here is the Strava track from the train station in Kansas City to here in Lee's Summit.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

KATY Trail 2023 - Getting There

Max and I are going to ride the KATY trail across Missouri. I'm writing this on the Amtrak train to Kansas City. This is basically a college visit road trip, where I convinced Max he should check out Washington University in St. Louis so I would have an excuse to ride the KATY. Might as well since we are out there anyway, right?

We were also going to visit the University of Chicago and Northwestern, which I talked them into doing on the weekend which just happens to be the Chicago Blues Fest. Might as well go to Blues Fest since we are out there anyway, right?

I drove out to Chicago on Wednesday, and Max and Debra flew out on Sunday morning, because Max had training for his summer job on Saturday. So I got three days of Blues Fest, and Max and Debra only got to go on Sunday. Debra flew home last night.

My base for the Chicago visit was my sister's house. She lives in Winnetka, which is an hour north of downtown Chicago.

Winnetka is a crazy place. Friday was the last day of school. They have a tradition of holding a community festival in the village park for the kids on the last day, which is really nice. But in Winnetka, the festival included camel rides.

On Saturday, we went to the Farmer's Market, where I got these fabulous treats (which I plan to make for myself with food from my garden.

Bread and butter Jalapenos are brilliant!

The Blues Fest was fantastic, I have wanted to go for years and years. It's in Millenium Park by The Bean.

There are three stages. The main stage is a huge seating bowl, with a giant lawn behind it. It has an impeccable sound system. There are two additional temporary side stages on either side of The Bean, the Visit Mississippi Juke Joint Stage, and the Rosa's Lounge stage, which is inside a big tent.

I explained to Max that the music sounded much better on the smaller stages since blues should be played very loud (and it sure was!) in front of an intimate audience, and not before a huge crowd in a fancy pavilion with a perfect sound system like it was a Taylor Swift concert or something. Max wore earplugs and said I am going to lose what hearing I have left.

The Blues Fest has amazing music. Here are some standouts:

1. Ivy Ford, my favorite act of the weekend:

She sure looks like she got lost on the way to Honfest in Baltimore and wound up in Chicago. This getup is great. Shimmy dress, jewels, crown, red sunglasses, POLKA DOT GUITAR! I wasn't sure what to expect here... Turns out she is an incredibly kick-ass guitar player, and she has a very, very strong voice which is not overwhelmed by her incredibly loud band. This was in the Rosa's lounge tent on Sunday, when it was 50 degrees and rainy out. It was plenty warm in the tent by the time her set was over! Ivy is only 30 years old...

2. Duwayne Burnside. He's from northern Mississippi, on the Juke Joint stage. He's the son of the RL Burnside, and he used to be in the North Mississippi All Stars. He did some great Mississippi primitive drone/stomp numbers, and a couple songs by his dad and by Junior Kimbrough. 

3. Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames, at Rosa's Lounge. This guy got his start playing with Little Ed and the Blues Imperials 30 years ago. Super high energy nonstop whaling away on his guitar. He was actually much better than Little Ed, who played on the main stage the next day. I now think of Little Ed as "Little Ed and his Geriatric Sidemen." I saw Little Ed 30 years ago, and it was like Dave Weld is now, not like Little Ed is now.

4. Lynne Jordan and the Shivers, also at Rosa's Lounge. She's an amazing singer with an amazing tight band. She did a great version of "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Etta James. I've seen Etta James, and Etta singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" is the best vocal performance I've ever witnessed in my life, so usually when somebody tries to do this song I am horrified because it will dilute my memory of Etta James. But Lynne Jordan can sing it. Other highlights were "Fine Brown Frame" from the 1940s, which Ruth Brown recorded, which is ostensibly about a woman who sells antique furniture. It goes "If I can't sell it, I'm going to sit on it, why should I give it away." Lynne Jordan had the whole crowd raucously singing along at the top of their lungs, it was awesome. 

She also paid tribute to Tina Turner with a couple of her later songs, including "Simply The Best." Note that Ivy Ford also paid tribute to Tina, but Ivy did not mess around and knocked it out of the park with "Proud Mary" while both singing like Tina and playing guitar like Ike.  (I've also seen Ike Turner live. He's an incredible guitar player, and also probably the most scary evil guy imaginable. If there was anybody you would believe sold his soul to the devil down at the crossroads....)

5. Jontavious Willis. He performed on the main stage with just him and a standup bass player. He plays slide. Imagine if Elmore James showed up at Elvis Presley's Sun Studios sessions. This guy is only 24 years old. 

6. Vasti Jackson. He's a young guy from Mississippi, on the Juke Joint stage. He started shredding away before he finished climbing the steps onto the stage. Sometimes his guitar sounds like Hendrix, sometimes like Prince. The music is pure blues though. Except for the gratuitous I-can-do-stuff-besides-blues tune, which was Bob Marley reggae in his case.

Other performers that were very worth it were Mud Morganfield (Muddy Water's son), Little Ed and the Blues Imperials (Max's favorite), Los Lobos (legitimate blues/Chicano/Tex-Mex! not an 80's nostalgia act like you might think!), The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra featuring Terrie Odabi (a real orchestra with horn section, on the big stage, as it should be).

There was sufficient food and drink on site, although they pretty much ran out of everything on Saturday when there were 70,000 people there. Food and drink was expensive, with a default 20% tip for ordering at a counter and this:

I'm looking forward to the day when proper wages and benefits for the workers are built in to the tab, and the profits for the vendor are an option added by the customer when paying.