Friday, August 11, 2017

The Katy Trail Missouri

My Bride read about the Katy Trail in Motorhome Magazine and suggested that we should take a look.  It is one of the nations oldest "rails to trails" systems, and at 240 miles is the longest.    The rail-bed was the home of the Kansas Missouri and Texas Railroad, known as the KT.  There is an excellent map and description of services you can find along the way.

While many folks ride the entire length self supported, it is also very rideable in sections.  My Bride especially liked the fact that it gains a total of 500 feet in elevation, over the 240 miles.  She felt that she could handle that type of climbing!

Missouri River at St. Charles

The Motorhome article suggested campgrounds along the way, and we generally followed their recommendations.  Our plan was to spend several nights at each and do shorter daytrip rides out of our campground.  The article also suggested various places to visit, eat and explore.

Our first stop was in St. Charles and our campground was only minutes away by bicycle.  We rode into St. Charles the first night and had a wonderful dinner in town.  As I previously wrote, this area is ripe with vineyards and wineries, and we tried to take full advantage.

Lewis and Clark Memorial at St. Charles

Much of the Katy Trial parallels the Missouri River.  An additional benefit is that it also tracks the same route taken by the Lewis and Clark Expidition some 213 years ago.  Coincidently, many of the places we visited were either on, or very close to the same day that those explorers and their merry company were there.

In Hermann, we stayed in the municipal campground which is recommended by everyone.  We met a young couple from Arizona, who were through riding the trial.  They had taken a train from Sedailia to St. Charles and were riding back west.  They were amazed at the amount of undergrowth and how green everything was.  She was surprised that when the map showed a stream, there was actually a stream and it had water in it!  Not at all like Arizona.

We also talked with a family of five kids and two adults who were riding a section of the trail.  Three of the older kids were riding bikes.  Mom had a tag-a-long for a younger daughter.  Dad was riding a tandem but the front was a recumbent where his disabled son rode.  They set up, and took down camp like an expidition.  They told us that they were riding about 120 miles of the trail.  I wondered who of these riders we might see on down the road.  I did see the Arizona couple ride through Rocheport about 65 miles on, the very next day.

Us and the Big Muddy

Katy Trail out of Hermann

It was in Hermann that we took our first damage to AIROSMITH.  We had become lazy and left the awning out overnight.  At 5AM we awoke to a massive downpour and thunderstorm.  There was not much wind, but the amount of rain coming down was staggering.  About 30 minutes later I heard something hit the trailer, followed shortly after by a very close lightening strike.  That got both of us out of bed.

Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw the back half of our awning laying on the ground.  When the storm passed and we could assess damage, I saw that the water weight had broken the rear main support arm.  It appeared that was the only damage.  I was able to stow the awning using my jigsaw (one of the only two power tools I thought to bring) to cut off the damaged portion of the arm.  Fortunately we already had scheduled a service appointment in a week, so we just emailed them with another job to do.  Despite the damage, we felt fortuate as our neighbors awning was completely ripped off of their 5th Wheel.

Rocheport Tunnel

One of the more scenic areas along the trail was outside of Rocheport.  We had camped at the Katy Roundhouse Campground, in New Franklin that upon first take looked to be virtually abandoned and overgrown.  However, once settled in, we found it to be a wonderful spot, only about 50 yards off the the bike trail, and in a park we had virtually to ourselves.

The trail east out of Rocheport rides along steep limestone cliffs, and very close to the Missouri.  Just to the west of Rocheport is an iconic tunnel covered with vines.  As we began unloading our bikes at the trailhead a man came running over from the building across the street.  He was asking where in Colorado we were from.  It turns out that Brandon, and his wife Whitney were in the process of opening a cafe and bike shop.  There was much activity there.   Painting outdoor furniture.  Unloading bicycles.  Upon returning from our ride, Steff's eyes were pulled toward their place because of the flower baskets Whitney had put out front.  The very best type of advertising.

We told Brandon that we were from Boulder.  Thrilled, he said that they had lived in Lyons.  They both had worked at the St. Vrain Market.  He said that they moved back to Missouri after the 2013 flood.  Telling the story of how he and his wife and other family members, who were visiting, had been trapped in Big Elk Meadows above Lyons, for three days before being rescued by helicopter.  They moved back "Home" and began saving their pennies to open their own place.  Visit Meriweathers.  I'm sure you can't go wrong.

Our last stop on the Katy was south of Clinton, and didn't include bicycle riding.  We stayed at Bucksaw a Army Core of Engineers campground on the shores of the Harry S. Truman Lake.  COE campgrounds are very good, often with full hookups and great facilities.  As we were close to the water, we took advantage and spent a morning paddling.  I also tried to catch some giant catfish that no doubt would have pulled me around the lake if I had hooked one.

We left the Katy with a desire to return.  I would very much like to ride the entire length, while My Bride could handle support by moving AIROSMITH ahead to the next campground.  Spring or Fall would be ideal times.

As is often the case with many of the places we visit, we left the Katy Trail with more reasons to return.

Katy Trail east of Rocheport

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mammoth Caves National Park

We visited Mammoth Caves National Park in late May.  It became a two night stop between Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky.  A travel goal is to visit our National Parks as we can.  Those we are not able to visit, we mark for a future visit.  To this point we have done well.

The visit to Mammoth also presented a first for us on the road.  We stayed, for the first time, at a park with no hooks-ups.  For us that meant no water, electric or sewer.  The major challenge was to see how our solar system would work and how long our fresh and waste water tanks would hold out!

The Mammoth Cave complex is the worlds largest cave system, with more than 400 miles of it having been explored.  There is much more of the cave that has been untouched and unseen.  The best way to visit is to take a tour.  Underground.

Historic Entrance

Historic Entrance

The limestone labyrinth is capped by a layer of sandstone making the complex very stable.  There are "wet" areas where stalactites and stalagmites of calcium form making curtains, columns and frozen waterfalls.  "Dry" areas are composed of hollowed out caverns, forming vast rooms and canyons where ancient rivers cut their way through the limestone.

My Bride selected the Domes and Dripstones Tour which is about 3/4 of a mile long and lasts two hours .  I settled for the Grand Avenue Tour, spending four hours underground while covering four miles of passageways.

Fearless Leader
I found it interesting that from where we entered at the Carmichael Entrance, there was another entrance a 10 minute over ground walk away, that would have taken hours to reach underground.  Such is the nature of these underground passages.  My tour took us some 300 feet below the surface. It covered not only the geology and ecology, but much of the history as well.

Historical Graffiti - this one is Civil War Era


The area was a tourist attraction for many beginning around the time of the civil war.  There was a Hotel and estate near the entrance.  Visitors came by stagecoach, until the small Mammoth Cave Railroad began operating on the 9 mile leg in 1886.  The train operated until around 1926.  By that time the area had been designated a National Park, and roads for motor vehicles had been built.

The history of this area is fascinating from ancient peoples using it for shelter; it's accidental discovery and mining of nitrate to make saltpeter for gunpowder; it's use as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis (unsuccessfully); to a popular tourist attraction and spawning the Kentucky Cave Wars; until eventually becoming a a National Park in 1941.  Of real interest is the history of African Americans and Mammoth Cave.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wine and Spirits

I like to tell people that switching to a lower carb diet has forced me to wine and hard liquor.  I do miss beer....real beer, and drink it rarely.  Over all it could be worse.

Traveling through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri has provided ample opportunity to explore the varieties of whiskey and wine crafted here.  We found that while there are similarities, there are also  many differences.  And there in lies the pleasure.

For instance.  In Tennessee you quickly learn the difference between Bourbon, and  Tennessee Sipping Whiskey.  Little did I know.  Never tempted with a "Coke and Jack", preferring the pleasures of Single Malt, or a good blended Scotch Whisky.

Our first introduction was in Eastern Tennessee, at the Tennessee Hills Distillery, covered in a previous post.  Here they craft Corn Liquor or Moonshine.  It has much going for it.  For a distiller, there are advantages, most notably a quick trip to the market.  No, I don't mean the car chases through the hills and valley of Tennessee, where the producers are trying to out run the "revenuers".  Liquor such as Corn, Gin, Vodka, Rum and others are raw or un aged and can get to the consumer quicker.  New Distilleries will often market these, while their longer investment in whiskies that require longer times to age or mellow.  Not that there is any thing wrong with these.  We have had some very fine Gin from the Oakanagan Sprits Craft Distillery in Vernon British Columbia.  They sell that and others, while their Laird of Fintry Single Malt quietly ages to perfection.

We had a wonderful Espresso infused Rum from Tennessee Hills, thanks to some very good friends. Mixed with Bourbon Cream from the Buffalo Trace Distillery and it becomes a drink for the gods.

Lynchburg, Tennessee

A day trip took us to this all known small "company" town and the Jack Daniels Distillery that made it famous.  We took the "Angels Share" tour which focused on single barrel and specialty products.  Despite being a "dry" town, the tour does offer a tasting opportunity once you have seen the grounds and the process.

Here you quickly learn that Tennessee Whiskey is not Bourbon.  It differs in that it is mellowed by filtering through charcoal making it a smoother drinking whisky.  The people at Jack Daniels will tell you that it is the perfect combination of their Limestone Water, crafting the filtering charcoal, their mash recipes, the "Lincoln County" charcoal filtering process, and their maturation that make their fine whiskey.

The charcoal comes from burning sugar maple "ricks" into charcoal.  They soak these ricks with raw whiskey to get them burning.  This larger charcoal is then ground into smaller pieces. This filtering charcoal is then put into 14 foot tall vats through which the raw distilled whiskey is filtered.  The whiskey is filtered at a gallon an hour.  It takes a drop of whiskey over a week to filter through this vat.

Limestone Spring

The filtered whiskey is then placed into new oak barrels and moved to the barrel house for aging.  It ages differently depending upon where it is placed in one of the many, multi-storied barrel houses.  Up to a third of the whiskey can evaporate from a barrel during the process.  This evaporated whiskey is called the "Angels Share".  At Jack Daniels they determine when a whiskey is ready by it's taste.  Each barrel is sampled to determine whether it is ready to be bottled.

I have never seen myself as a Jack Daniels fan until touring the distillery, and learning the history of the place and the process.  Particularly after the post tour tasting.  I can recommend any of the Single Barrel Select products.  My Bride was particularly fond of the Sinatra Select.  At $150 a bottle who wouldn't be!

Corporate Office 

Mr. Daniels

Frankfort, Kentucky

Kentucky Horse Country

While visiting family in Louisville, Kentucky we took the time to tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery in the Capitol city.  They distill Bourbon here!

The distillery sits on the shores of the Kentucky River where in the 1800's, the buffalo would cross, or "trace".  Hence the company's namesake.

The distillery is home to several well known brands of Bourbon.  If you are so inclined, and have the resources, you could pick up a bottle of 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle for around $3,500.  We settled for the Blanton's Single Barrel for substantially less and were not disappointed.

The distillery tour tracks their process.  Differing mostly from the filtering process for Tennessee Whiskey.  I found it interesting that, in the day, it was easier and less expensive to transport whiskey, than it was grain.  Initially, whiskey was sold and consumed right from the still.  It was called White Dog, and was raw with a hint of sweet corn.  You can sample and buy it today.  We sampled some, and it is raw!  There was a reason you saw cowboy's slamming down shots of whiskey.

Whiskey was placed in oak barrels for shipment and placed on barges to be floated down the river to
various ports.  Some of these barrels took longer to reach their destination than and others, and soon distillers were being asked to ship more of the amber or colored whiskey.  Thus began the barrel aging process.

While we loved hearing the history of each distillery, the process is much the same for each.  The real difference is in sampling the end product.  We were happy because we could get another bottle of Bourbon Cream!

A bonus to this tour was a casual mention by our tour guide.  There was guy in Frankfort who was putting used Bourbon barrels to use by producing barrel aged coffee.  He also makes wonderful craft from reclaimed barrels, but it was the coffee that took us into Kentucky Knows, his small shop in downtown Frankfort.  Tony had just opened, after finishing his day job.  We spent an hour chatting about his process and his art.  Our favorite coffees are the Kentucky Bourbon, the Caramelled Barrel Aged, and the Cowboy.  We like them enough to order them on the road!


Hermann, Missouri

Hermann River Memorial

Missouri wine country was not something that we expected to hear.  We have been to the Chianti region in Northern Italy.  Visited both Sonoma and Napa.  Even enjoyed some very fine Colorado Wines from the Grand Valley near Palisade.  But Missouri?  But, while exploring the Katy Trail we found ourselves in the middle of Missouri wine country and would recommend it to anyone.

The first we sampled in Missouri were at Little Hills in St. Charles.  We quickly focused on the Norton for red, and the Chardonel for white.  A theme that carried us through the other wineries and vinyards.

Our next stop was in Hermann, Missouri a small town set up along the Missouri River.  The town was established in the mid 1800's by a German Settlement Society.  They chose the area for it's agriculture and access to the river.  It reminded the settlers of their homeland along the Rhine River, hence the nickname of Little Rhineland.

Stone Hill Winery

While in town, we visited the Stone Hill Winery which is the largest producer in the State of Missouri.  A tasting and tour reveals a lot about the history of the area.

A friend, and former long time Missouri resident suggested we visit the Adam Puchta Winery.  Established in 1855 it is the oldest contisly operated family-owned winery in the nation.

We sampled wine from all of these, and wished for more!

Before leaving the area, we also followed up on another recommendation from Paul.  A short trip up the road brought us to the small town of Swiss and the Swiss Meat & Sausage Company.  It was another can't miss recommendation, though one shouldn't go here AFTER a wine tasting!  We left with a good supply of Bratwurst, Chicken, and Bacon that fortunately fit in AIROSMITH's refrigerator.  The hands down winner though were the BBQ Pork Burgers.  We ordered several dozen of those shipped to Boulder in anticipation of our time there.