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.
I am on some of my favorite roads, en route to my “favorite road”, and it’s a wonderful day to be on the bike, especially in early February. Soft Pit rewards with a gentle stretch of blufftop pavement, and an ensuing descent that flattens on its way northward to Claysville. In season, the Claysville Store caters an impressive plate of fried chicken, and I can’t wait to ride out as soon as it opens. I’m not yet to my favorite road, but the ride is fantastic this close to the river. Small homes with gardens and goats emit smoke from leaning chimneys, and a group of younger men gathered around a four wheeler wave with characteristic midwestern warmth.
Just past Claysville, I access the trail, and via a short, private stretch of dirt, I find myself nearing Highway 63. The highway is easily crossed, and I’m at my favorite gravel road, County Road 397.
This past spring, after meeting some buddies for brunch at Dotty’s in Hartsburg, I broke a spoke on the elicit double track I took from the Katy Trail to County Road 397. Even with the nagging mechanical my enjoyment of this choice gravel road was not diminished. County Road 397 incorporates two large climbs, both of which reward the rider with long descents, descents with long lines of sight that allow the experienced gravel cyclist to rip down them without thinking about touching the brakes.