In our “Roads to ride” series we share exactly that, some of our favorite roads in the region. Here’s one of Cooper’s, County Rd. 397.
Words and photos by Cooper
I am pedaling steadily down the long, straight pavement of Old Highway 63. I’m on my way out of Ashland, MO, on an unseasonably warm winter day, and feel eager to touch tires to the tamped down “gravel highways” that come with the winter season. The highway service hasn’t yet coated the roads with fresh gravel and, without a dearth of snowfall this winter, country roads are smooth as a banana peel. This is the “transport stage” of my ride—in which I hurry my pace to reach more desirable pathways—and a brief handful of miles later Christian School Road transitions from asphalt to a gentle downward gravel grade—the best part of the ride has begun.
Passing Jemerson Creek, I curse the shorter daylight hours. It would be a joy to extend the ride a bit and climb up to Cedar Tree Lane—which, headed west, boasts one of the most exhilarating descents south of Columbia and north of the Missouri River. Entering Hartsburg, I soft pedal and enjoy the warmth of the bright winter sun. The Katy Trail is soft like warm butter, but smooth, and is a joy despite its sogginess. My anticipation continues to build as I turn off the trail to Soft Pit Hill, and at the top of its granny-gear justifying climb I enjoy a banana in the sun while a local dog barks from the edge of its property.