Missouri adventure with Amtrak trains and the Katy Trail

Amtrak passenger trains and the Katy Trail along the Missouri River open up the possibilities for this bicycle adventurer on a two night, spring-time jaunt in Missouri.

Bicycle Adventurer: Stephen Smith.

Accommodations: A bed and breakfast and a historic hotel.

Distance: Two fifty-mile rides.

When: May 2015

Bonus: Amtrak’s walk-on bicycle service and the Katy Trail along the Missouri River.

Weather: Occasional rain.

The Route: One hundred miles along the Katy Trail, point to point, from Jefferson City to Sedalia with an overnight in Rocheport, using Amtrak passenger trains for the “shuttle.”

Day One:

May is National Bike Month and I felt compelled to do a short bicycle trip. I dreamed up a getaway that combined riding my bicycle on rail trails AND riding the real rails with Amtrak to encourage the efforts of Adventure Cycling with rolling bikes on trains. I had used Amtrak before on a cross-country trip where I had to inconveniently pack my bike in a box, but simply rolling on a bicycle would be great for this short trip.

I started at Union Station in Kansas City with my Surly Long Haul Trucker bike and panniers full of gear. After an easy push of the bicycle up the train stairs, I secured the bicycle in the bike storage area and took a seat right beside it.

I was so impressed with the Amtrak Bicycle loading process that I took a picture of my bicycle on the train and immediately tweeted it with my appreciation to Amtrak. Amtrak soon tweeted me back, thanking me for the feedback, and wished me well on my bike tour. I sat back to enjoy the ride. The train rolled out of the station in a light rain and three hours later, my bike and I departed the train in Jefferson City, MO.

My bike on the Amtrak train.

Near the train station, I passed the Missouri State Capitol on an easy five-mile ride to the Missouri River, where I’d join the Katy Trail. A light rain fell, but not enough to dampen my spirits.

On my way out of Jefferson City, I saw the Red Wheel Bike Shop right on my route. I had to stop and support a bike shop that is so handy for this kind of trip. They helped me with the directions to the Katy trailhead and I left with a nice pair of new riding gloves and some bike stickers.

Soon back on my route, I headed toward the bridge that crosses the Missouri River at Jefferson City. There is a bike lane on the bridge and a great view of the Capitol building. Someone will have to explain to me the meaning of the bicycle locks on the chain link fence on the bridge, one lock after another. I am sure there is some meaning to it.

At the Katy trailhead, I started the trip to Rocheport about thirty-five miles away. I had reservations at the Dormitory B&B and my goal was to be there around 6:00 p.m., but it’s hard to make good time on this scenic section of the Katy trail because of all the stopping to take pictures. So, I continued riding at a leisurely pace and it was a good feeling to be all alone on the trail.

These overnight trips give you that same independent feeling that the longer cross country trips do. Time to think, time to listen to your bicycle, time to listen to your body. After a couple of hours riding, my body told me it might be time to eat as I rode into Cooper’s Landing. I ordered the “I am hungry, surprise me!” meal and enjoyed it while watching the activity on the river. What views of the river at Cooper’s Landing! And I really appreciated the great food there

The ride into Rocheport was beautiful and historical and stopping and reading the Lewis & Clark historical markers is a must for me. And consistent with the ups and downs of any adventure, I felt my front tire losing air. Fortunately, it was a fairly slow leak, so I decided just to pump it up every so often instead of fixing or replacing the tube on the trail. I slowly made it into the cute town of Rocheport and found the Dormitory B&B. They have a handy workshop that I used to patch my tube and I appreciated the workshop and the friendly folks. That night, I slept well. The fifty miles of the day were kind to my soul.

Day Two:

With an early morning start out of Rocheport, birds singing, I begin the ride to Sedalia. It looked like another nice day. Fifteen miles later, I arrived in Boonville, ate breakfast, and relaxed. Life was good. I explored Boonville for a short while, then made my way back to the Boonville Katy Trail. Although my stomach was still full from breakfast, I thought about the piece of pie that I would try to get in Pilot Grove. It’s the little things that keep you going.

The ride to Pilot Grove was very pleasant and I only saw squirrels, turtles, and birds. This is a very picturesque part of the Katy Trail, with a few little hills and lots of trees. I had never seen and heard so many cardinals. The dampness of the trail made it hard to make good time, but I rolled into Pilot Grove just a little before noon and beat the local crowd at Becky’s Burgers & Cones, ordering a sandwich along with that piece of coconut cream pie I had been thinking about. I joked to the employees that I was going to write a book about How to Gain Weight Riding the Katy Trail and they would be chapter one.

At the Pilot Grove trailhead, I checked the pressure of my tires with the Fixstation tools and pump feature. That is really a handy addition to the Pilot Grove trailhead facility.

There, I talked to a couple that had four young children in tow. Their bicycles were loaded down pulling two trailers and camping gear. I loved their spirit. They are spreading the joy of bicycling to their children. They told me the next stretch of my ride was a bit uphill and against the wind. So, determined, I started off from Pilot Grove to Sedalia

About 10 miles out, the clouds looked like trouble and within a few minutes, it started to rain, and rain hard. I slipped on my rain gear and kept riding. The riding was a little hard with the trail surface soaked, and I think that I only averaged about ten mph on this stretch.

Just as the rain stopped, I rode into Sedalia around 4:00 p.m. and made my way to my hotel, the historic Bothwell Hotel. The desk clerk told me to bring my bicycle into the hotel lobby and they stored it in the basement for the night. I went to my room, showered and got into some street clothes and had dinner at the wonderful restaurant in the hotel.

Day Three:

The next morning it was once again raining hard, but today would be easy since I was going to ride the Amtrak back to Kansas City. The hotel staff had my bicycle ready to go for me in the lobby when I checked out. Sweet!

I rode the easy three blocks to the Amtrak station. The train was on time and I rolled my bicycle onto the train and relaxed in my seat for an enjoyable train ride back to Kansas City.

Amtrak and the Katy trail are perfect for bike overnights for those in the Kansas City or St. Louis area. No need to wait to go across the county. Take a day or two and enjoy the ride!

Tip for this Adventure: Make reservations early for Amtrak. A limited number of bicycles are allowed on each train.

About This Adventurer: Stephen Smith started bicycle touring in the 1970's and still enjoys the ride. He blogs at www.highway550.com.

Favorite Bike Shop: Cycle City, Parkville, MO, http://www.gocyclecity.com/. They keep me rolling and inspire me.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

7 responses so far ↓

Chris - Sep 8, 2015 at 3:09 PM

Is there a guide or some info available that someone could use to find out what cross country bike routes are near Amtrak routes?

Bill - Sep 8, 2015 at 3:49 PM

Hi Chris,
Adventure Cycling has an interactive map of their cycling routes. You can turn different layers on and off including one called "Amtrak Routes." This would be a great place to start!

Vannevar Bush - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:48 AM

A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love.[1] Typically the sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love. Since the 2000s, love locks have proliferated at an increasing number of locations worldwide. They are sometimes treated by municipal authorities as litter or vandalism, and there is some cost to their removal. However, there are authorities who embrace them, and who use them as fundraising projects or tourism attractions. (from wiki: love locks)

C. Smith - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:51 PM

We'll, Stevie it felt good to ride the trail with you, rain and all! Specially the coconut cream pie! Wonder if I'm too ancient for such tom fullerlie? As you know I'm your biggest fan. I'm thinking, I've never actually seen you on a bilke. Are you sure you REALLY ride? Whether you do or don't you're a heck of a writer! Proud to know and love you.

Scott - Oct 3, 2015 at 4:12 PM


Thanks for sharing your adventure! I knew that the Amtrak River Runner ( name of the train between KC and St. Louis) had roll on service but yours is the first testimony I have heard as to how well it works. The same service is available on the Illinois Amtrak routes as well between St. Louis and Chicago and the Two Trains between Carbondale and Chicago. Your story has given me inspiration to start planning my own getaway using Amtrak! Thanks Again!

Megan - Nov 6, 2015 at 1:53 PM

I am 100% stealing this idea. Great read!

Brandon P. - Jan 14, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Thanks for the tips and details of your adventure. I hope to go on a similar adventure with my riding buddies this spring.

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