Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Franklin, MO

Day 68: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Windsor to New Franklin: 66 miles

Day 2 on the Katy Trail continued the trek across farm country, with straight sections predominating. Not long after setting out, I crossed a bridge under which ran the tracks for the Rock Island railroad. In 1981, Jack and I encountered the Rock Island line frequently in our trek across Missouri - it looked all but abandoned then. Now, it was decidedly abandoned. The rails are still there, but they're hard to spot among the trees and weeds.

maybe ashy sunflowers
Prevalent along the west end of the trail, these may be,br />ashy sunflowers (but I don't think so).

Part of today's route has the distinction of being the toughest part of the trail. This being a railroad grade, it's probable that Lard Hill, the steepest part of the climb, was not more than 3%, and for not more than half a mile. On a Katy Trail forum, one respondent, in all seriousness, referred to this climb as brutal, which provoked a round of derisive comments. Headed down Lard Hill, I hit a speed of 17 mph.

The story of how Lard Hill acquired its name may be apocryphal, but it sounds good. Supposedly, a train struck and killed a pig belonging to a woman who lived nearby. She filed a claim with the railroad for the value of the pig. The railroad paid her for the lost animal, but the amount was apparently too low to suit her and she protested to the railroad, which deemed the payment fair and the matter closed. Unsatisfied, she rendered the remains of the pig. For the next few days, every morning she would smear the lard on the rails that went up the hill. Westbound trains would lose traction, and were forced to back up and make multiple attempts to climb the hill. Eastbound trains, applying their brakes as they approached Boonville, would simply slide. It didn’t take long for the railroad executives to sweeten their offer.

Katy Pass
The grade up Katy Pass in unbelievable.

delicate lavender flowers
These delicate lavender flowers grow in stands of multiple clumps.

Most of the towns along the trail are small. Many of them were actually established by the railroad itself, and quite a few of those towns have vanished. Sedalia was well-established before the railroad came, so it was an important town on the route, simply by dint of its size. The Katy had a junction with the Missouri Pacific in Sedalia. When the trail was built, it could not follow the path of that junction, so there is a discontinuity in the trail. That's good for the town, as it gives trail users a reason to pass through the downtown area and spend some money. At the Fifth Street Sports Bar, I talked with a group of cyclists who were headed west.

Sedalia downtown
Ignore the vehicles and the one modern storefront,
and this photo of Sedalia could have been from the 1930s.

Sedalia was the home of Scott Joplin, and the town takes pride in billing itself as the birthplace of ragtime.

Sedalia depot
Sedalia was an important stop on the Katy railroad.

Like the Rock Island line's, the Katy's tracks may still be in place. In several spots, the tail ends of rails ran right out from under the path. But why would they have simply buried over 40,000 tons of steel under the trail?

tracks under bike path?
Are the tracks still there, buried under the bike path?

bluff and bridge
Bluffs and bridges typify much of the Katy Trail.

Numerous times, when the trail crossed a road, the combination of extreme hills and no shoulder made me awfully glad I was travelling the trail. If the roads we cycled in 1981 were like that, I don't know how we ever did it.

steep and hilly crossroads
Scenes like this make me glad I'm on the Katy Trail!

silent sentinel
The signal stands like a ghostly silent sentinel.

The Katy Railroad crossed the Missouri River between Boonville (named for Daniel Boone, of course) and Franklin. Its bridge is grand, and would have made an interesting crossing for the trail; but, to my knowledge, the trail has never used the bridge. Instead, it detours to a nearby highway bridge, which is quite boring. The old railroad bridge is scheduled to be torn down in the next year or two.

Katy Missouri River bridge
The Katy bridge across the Missouri is slated for demolition.
The trail has been rerouted to a nearby highway bridge.

At trailheads along the trail, there had been posted signs advertising the Katy Roundhouse campground at New Franklin. Oho, I thought, this will prove interesting: a roundhouse to explore, and maybe even sleep in! Twilight was descending as I pedaled madly up Katy Pass, and by the time I reached Boonville it was deepening considerably. I arrived in New Franklin shortly before the headlight was needed, and found nobody at the old depot that now served as campground office and restaurant. I filled out a registration envelope and wandered off to find a campsite.

optimistic sign
Given the little that remains, this sign is wildly optimistic.

The tent area had no other occupants, so I picked a spot close to the showers and set up the tent by the light of the helmet headlight. It was when I walked over to the showers that I regretted paying for the campsite: they were locked, and I didn't have the combination. Phone calls to two numbers posted on the door were absolutely fruitless. And since the showers were also the restrooms, I was doubly unhappy. This was one of the rare occurrences on this trip where I really felt the need to write a note expressing my displeasure. It's on my list of things to do.

New Franklin turntable
This turntable and an old brick powerhouse
are all that remain of the Katy yards at New Franklin.

cactus in Missouri
Cactus in Missouri?
There were numerous clumps near the old Katy roundhouse.


  1. Bret!!! you are in my home state! I love the Katy Trail news and pictures and Sedalia... love that place.

    keep pedaling. fun fun stuff

  2. Hi Bret! LOVE the blog. We lived in Missouri for a while before we moved out to WA. I love all the pics and stories. Hope you're healing!! When's the reunion? Are you on track to make it? What an adventure you're having!! Be safe! Dee Bruff

    1. The reunion is August 2 and 3, my sister will fly out from Seattle, I'll make it there by hook or by crook, and we'll have a great time visiting with old classmates. You'll just have to keep reading to see how it all comes out!

  3. You meant September 2 and 3...?

    1. No, I meant August. My comment is foretelling the future,as far as posts to this blog are concerned. ;-)


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