Every Wednesday, a group from work gets together to cycle the Katy Trail, and tonight was no exception. We almost always start at the Weldon Spring trailhead [MM 56], but tonight, to mix things up, we started at the Greens Bottom trailhead [MM 45.7]. The Weldon Spring trailhead is about five miles from work; the one at Greens Bottom is quite a bit farther, and is situated out in the middle of low-lying farmlands nestled up against the river.
I thought our ride would just be up to the Page Avenue bridge — about three miles up the trail — along with crossing the bridge and returning. As it ends up, the ride was longer, and was probably the most challenging and enjoyable I’ve taken to date.
The ride to the bridge itself wasn’t bad at all, and came in right at about three miles, as advertised. And when you arrive at the west end of the bridge, you look above you and realize the bridge is fifty feet above your head. The means climbing, and I haven’t been practicing that! So, I rode up the switchbacks, in granny-gear but without stopping, and enjoyed the view from the parking lot [MM 42.8] at the top of the climb. After some rest, we continued across the Page Avenue bridge on the Katy Trail Connector.
The bike lane across the bridge is really nice, with a paved, wide dual-lane, and a concrete and chain-link wall protecting you from the road traffic. That was nice! I was able to get to about 23mph going across the bridge (it has a slight downward grade as you head east across it), and emptied into St. Louis County. This is the only place I can think of that you can cross from St. Charles County into St. Louis County legally on a bike, and it’s safe to boot! There may be other ways across that are bike friendly, but I can’t think what they might be.
We continued on toward Creve Couer Park, which was to be another four miles or so. This part of the ride was all paved, and rambled across small hills and dales, making for an enjoyable ride. Once I got close to the park, it was obvious that there was another climb in my future: the park lies about forty feet below the trail. I sped down the hill (no switchbacks) and met up with my group again for a little rest just beyond the roundabout at the entrance to the park. My odometer said we were at 7.25 miles, and after Monday’s ride, I knew I needed to take it easy, so we all decided to turn around and head back.
The hill out of Creve Couer Park was a killer, but with no switchbacks, I could just focus on getting up it, keeping both my head down and feet pedalling. The ride back to the Page Avenue bridge was ugly though. I fought a headwind the whole way, and was barely able to keep a decent speed as I ambled toward the big bridge. The switchbacks at the east end of the bridge were much easier to climb than the ones at the west end, and that got me on the bridge with some legs still left. I crossed the bridge at a slow pace — stupid headwind! — and met back up with my crew at the parking lot again.
Going down the switchback on the west end of the bridge was FUN! I really had to stay on my brakes though, as I know my tires aren’t exactly made for cornering those turns at speed. still, it was a fun start to the three mile sprint back to the trailhead at Greens Bottom.
It’s funny, these three-to-five mile legs are really working well for me. They are short enough to keep ’em from being overly painful, and yet still challenging enough to keep things interesting. Of course, tonight’s path had a lot of hill action, which I am absolutely not used to, but it still wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, tonight’s ride flew by, despite the kinda long distance and (to me) challenging hills.
And it put me over 175mi since I started this crazy stunt on May 3rd — I still look at that number with awe and pride. I know it’s not a big number for “real” cyclists, but for me, it’s huge. Maybe I am getting a little more used to this cycling stuff! 🙂