Tales, Trails, and Tails

 The Gateway to the West. Our hotel was right next to it, complete with a view of the Mississippi River. 

The Gateway to the West. Our hotel was right next to it, complete with a view of the Mississippi River. 

It has been quite a while since we have been able to add to our blog. What a time we have had over the past week or two! Let's go back to our 5-6 day rest in St. Louis with my (LisaPage's) mother... It was quite a full and exciting time. We took advantage of some wonderful places in St. Louis. We went up in the Gateway Arch ("Gateway to the West"), amazed by the story of its construction in the 1960's, spent a full, hot day at St. Louis Zoo, attended a nice service at a local church and went to lunch with some nice folks we met there, and we spent a whole day at the City Museum- awed by the creativity, artistic ingenuity, and the fun that all ages can have there exploring the tunnels, slides, hidden passages, climbing structures, etc. It was like an exploratory adventure, climbing/crawling workout, art museum, and giant all-ages playground wrapped up into one place. We also spent a big chunk of time at the St. Louis Science Center- which is also quite a well-done museum! In addition, we went to Six Flags of St. Louis amusement park- lots of fun there! And our final evening was spent with a super gracious couple outside of St. Louis (friends of a friend).- Kenny and Katrina- who provided us with incredible hospitality: beds, showers, laundry, and delicious dinner and breakfast, not to mention delightful fellowship and conversation!

 Here we are at the top of the Gateway Arch

Here we are at the top of the Gateway Arch

 Our view from the top of the Arch looking to the east, with view of the Mississippi River.  Can you tell if it’s morning or afternoon (hint: look at the arch’s shadow)?

Our view from the top of the Arch looking to the east, with view of the Mississippi River.  Can you tell if it’s morning or afternoon (hint: look at the arch’s shadow)?

 St. Louis Zoo (FREE, by the way!)- a whole different world is under water. So cool!

St. Louis Zoo (FREE, by the way!)- a whole different world is under water. So cool!

 More St. Louis Zoo: such a fun sea lion show!

More St. Louis Zoo: such a fun sea lion show!

 More unique animals at the zoo... 

More unique animals at the zoo... 

 Our little eaglets!😄 

Our little eaglets!😄 

 Enjoying lunch with our new friends from the church we attended that morning in St. Louis. The couple on the right: David and Kendra, even know of ECHO and have supported them over the years. 

Enjoying lunch with our new friends from the church we attended that morning in St. Louis. The couple on the right: David and Kendra, even know of ECHO and have supported them over the years. 

 Making and testing sail boats at The St. Louis Science Center

Making and testing sail boats at The St. Louis Science Center

 Boiling Hot, Boiling Cold chemistry demonstration at the Science Center. This was so cool!!

Boiling Hot, Boiling Cold chemistry demonstration at the Science Center. This was so cool!!

 Making and testing a Mars Rover at the Science Center

Making and testing a Mars Rover at the Science Center

 We’re enjoying being unplugged on our adventure. 😉 (sculpture at St Louis Art Museum)

We’re enjoying being unplugged on our adventure. 😉 (sculpture at St Louis Art Museum)

 Just a little taste of the artistic components at City Museum. 

Just a little taste of the artistic components at City Museum. 

 One of the climbing structures at City Museum

One of the climbing structures at City Museum

 Grandmommy going across the suspended spider web at City Museum.  

Grandmommy going across the suspended spider web at City Museum.  

 Our view from the door of the school bus that is half-suspended from the 11-story roof at the City Museum, looking out over the old airplane that people can also climb to- via a tunnel. 

Our view from the door of the school bus that is half-suspended from the 11-story roof at the City Museum, looking out over the old airplane that people can also climb to- via a tunnel. 

 Three sweaty, but very happy boys taking a rest after exploring the caves, tunnels, slides, and secret passageways at City Museum. How convenient that headlamps were already a part of our gear!

Three sweaty, but very happy boys taking a rest after exploring the caves, tunnels, slides, and secret passageways at City Museum. How convenient that headlamps were already a part of our gear!

 Life-sized LEGO tower that the kids were contributing to (City Museum) 

Life-sized LEGO tower that the kids were contributing to (City Museum) 

 Fun times at Six Flags. Can you pick out Jerry and the boys in the back? This was right before they got completely soaked.  

Fun times at Six Flags. Can you pick out Jerry and the boys in the back? This was right before they got completely soaked.  

 Our sweet and gracious hosts, Kenny and Katrina, with whom we stayed for our final night in the St. Louis area. 

Our sweet and gracious hosts, Kenny and Katrina, with whom we stayed for our final night in the St. Louis area. 

We finally resumed our biking after our stint in St. Louis, but instead of getting back onto the official TransAmerica Trail, we made the executive decision to take an alternative route to cross Missouri: The Katy Trail- in order to avoid the incessant rolling hills of the Ozarks. As beautiful as we have heard the Ozarks are, it was more important to us that we give ourselves a break from the hills and explore Missouri a different way. The Katy Trail is a relatively flat trail of crushed gravel that lays on an old railroad bed and spans the entire length of Missouri. As we have traveled this route, we have been able to reflect on what we both like and dislike about being on the Katy Trail. We really appreciate the flat terrain, but we have also come to realize that flat does not mean easy. When on this flat surface that has a very slight uphill grade, we have to constantly pedal. There is not much coasting, nor do we have the satisfaction of working up a hill to then go down the other side as a reward for our hard work. In addition, although the views are nice- directly following the length of the Missouri River- there is very little visual (and physical) variety, so that makes the hours on the saddle difficult.  We've experienced more saddle soreness than we have up to this point. It has been special that the route we are traveling along the Missouri River is the same as what the Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark Team) took when exploring the West. We have passed many landmarks such as places that Lewis and Clark camped, places where they interacted with Native Americans, etc. One unforeseen advantage of traveling the Katy Trail is that it is wide enough that we have been able to ride side-by-side and have more interactions with one another, not the least of these are the "leaf wars" that they boys made up to pass the time on the bikes. They collect leaves from the weed trees that hang into the path and then strategically through them at each other on the opposite bike.  They have had hours of fun at this game! (And we figure it is helping the park system with their pruning needs at the same time.) :)

 Here we are starting on the Katy Trail.  

Here we are starting on the Katy Trail.  

 Stopped for lunch along the Katy Trail at this beautiful spot overlooking the Missouri River. Just across is likely where Lewis and Clark stepped foot as they were on their journey west.  

Stopped for lunch along the Katy Trail at this beautiful spot overlooking the Missouri River. Just across is likely where Lewis and Clark stepped foot as they were on their journey west.  

 Historic marker about Lewis and Clark along the Katy Trail.  

Historic marker about Lewis and Clark along the Katy Trail.  

After camping a night at a campground that actually had a camp kitchen (!) that we were able to use, we soldiered on and made it to our first Warm Showers host- a lovely family who hosts through-cyclists. In case you haven't heard of it, Warm Showers is a network of folks all around the globe who host cyclists to give them a warm shower and usually a place to pitch their tent (in their yard).  Some of the hosts even provide a couch or bed to sleep on or even a home-cooked meal.  Well, this family was the epitome of hospitable! They provided beds for all of us, dinner that evening, and breakfast the next morning. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them! They, too, homeschool their three children, whom the boys enjoyed playing with. And they have a unique business renting treehouse cottages in a Bed & Breakfast format.  We were able to go see their treehouse cottages, and they were so beautiful and fun at the same time- a perfect retreat for folks wanting to get away and enjoy a unique experience. If you're heading through Missouri, you should check it out, or just take a virtual look at these cottages: hermanncottage.com  But if you want to stay at one of these, you had better plan ahead- they're quite popular, apparently!

 Our lovely Warm Showers host family, Lee, Keely, Julie, Elly, and Westley. 

Our lovely Warm Showers host family, Lee, Keely, Julie, Elly, and Westley. 

As we continued on yesterday and were about 15 miles from our destination, we were pedaling past a small campground and all of a sudden, we heard a big explosion. (I thought someone was setting off fireworks.) No, it was one of our tires blowing out (could be a result of the wear-and-tear of the crushed gravel??). Anyway, this explosion happened right in front of a couple's campsite. So they ventured over to see if everything was alright with us. They saw the ECHO logo on our shirts, and said to us, "Is that the ECHO based in Florida?" Yes, in fact, it sure is! Well, it turns out that not only has this man participated in a special agriculture class there (to assist in a charity/ministry he is involved with), but he had already been following our blog, too!! He works for the Department of Agriculture in Kansas and he and his wife were already familiar with the good work of ECHO. We really enjoyed becoming acquainted with Floyd and Gayle, and they also pointed us to the camp store, which just so happened to have a tire that was the right size for our blown-out one, and it would work until we got to the next town to get the type of tire that we needed long-term. (We had a fresh inner tube, but our current tire had a break in the side wall, so it was not going to work adequately.) We believe that these circumstances were clearly orchestrated by God, and we felt blessed! But it doesn't end there...

 Floyd and Gayle, who witnessed our tire blow-out as we passed by on the trail and then we realized our mutual connection with ECHO, as well as our common homeschooling connection (their children are grown now). They had been following our blog without having known us (then made the connection as we began talking). Amazing!

Floyd and Gayle, who witnessed our tire blow-out as we passed by on the trail and then we realized our mutual connection with ECHO, as well as our common homeschooling connection (their children are grown now). They had been following our blog without having known us (then made the connection as we began talking). Amazing!

As we traveled to our destination, we were waiting to hear back from a Bed and Breakfast where we wanted to stay, but we hadn't heard back from them, and there was no place to camp.  In addition, yesterday was our anniversary (18 years!), so we thought we would celebrate by staying at a B & B, rather than camping. Well, we reached the town and still hadn't heard from the B & B. Not finding any good alternatives that we felt we could afford, we resigned ourselves to have some dinner and see how God would provide for us. At the cafe where we ate some wonderful, locally sourced food, some locals struck up a conversation with us. And the next thing we knew, we were staying with a very generous, welcoming couple, Tim and Kathy. They had extremely comfortable accommodations for us: beds, showers, laundry, fixed us a delicious breakfast the next morning, and even let us use their hot tub! How often do complete strangers welcome you into their home this way?!! Did I mention that the man who runs the cafe where we had dinner gave us free locally made honey ice cream after we announced that it was not only our anniversary, but also that we had just reached our 1000-mile point? Wow! Such generosity and hospitality abound!

 The gracious staff at Meriweather Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport, MO. We enjoyed the delicious locally sourced food selections, their kindness, great conversation with Brandon, Eli, and Evann. This place is a gem and you should definitely stop in if you are close to Rocheport. 

The gracious staff at Meriweather Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport, MO. We enjoyed the delicious locally sourced food selections, their kindness, great conversation with Brandon, Eli, and Evann. This place is a gem and you should definitely stop in if you are close to Rocheport. 

 Our kind and gracious hosts, Kathy and Tim,  in Rocheport who put us up for the night and fed us a wonderful breakfast the next morning.  

Our kind and gracious hosts, Kathy and Tim,  in Rocheport who put us up for the night and fed us a wonderful breakfast the next morning.  

 Pretty rough, hugh! Here we are enjoying the hot tub at Tim and Kathy’s house in Rocheport, MO. 

Pretty rough, hugh! Here we are enjoying the hot tub at Tim and Kathy’s house in Rocheport, MO. 

 The boys had a blast swimming in John and Cee Jaye’s pool while Cee Jaye and I chatted it up.

The boys had a blast swimming in John and Cee Jaye’s pool while Cee Jaye and I chatted it up.

 Here we are enjoying a yummy dinner with Cee Jaye and John out by their pool. They were so gracious to pick up some dinner to share with us just before we left Rocheport, MO! 

Here we are enjoying a yummy dinner with Cee Jaye and John out by their pool. They were so gracious to pick up some dinner to share with us just before we left Rocheport, MO! 

So, you have now read about some of our tales and about the Katy Trail, so now the part about tails (see title: “Tales, Trails, and Tails”). On the Katy Trail we have encountered quite a bit of wildlife- most of which have been animals with tails. ;) So over the past few days, we have seen the following... Reptiles: lizzards, turtles, green garden snake, black snake, have run over the tails of a small brown snake and a jeuvenile copperhead (yikes!) . Mammals: red fox, grey fox cub, squirrels, coyote, cows, bunnies. Birds: red wing blackbirds, hawk, killdeer, Cardinals, robins, calls of wood thrush and quail, black vultures, turkey vultures, crows. Amphibians: toads, tree frog, salamander. That’s a lot of tails!

Thanks for reading this long blog post. We hope that our next post will be sooner, rather than later. Until then...