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In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition (also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition) became the first official American delegation to journey through the Continental Divide all the way to the Pacific Coast. Bicycle Adventures' epic Lewis & Clark series will follow the same routes, but in much greater comfort. Ride now-paved roads and bridges where once the explorers trod and paddled - including parts of the Katy Trail, hailed by Bicycling Magazine as one of the '10 Best Car-Free Bike Paths in the U.S.' Ride this week from St. Louis, Missouri's iconic Gateway Arch all the way to Lewis & Clark's meeting point with the Otoe and Missouria Native Americans in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The first in a series of six tours, Week One sets the stage for an epic week-by-week journey across the western half of the country. No flintlock rifle required.
The journey begins: Ride from the world-famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis and along the Katy Trail to Hermann, on the Missouri River.
Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in May 1804 from Camp Dubois, not far from St. Louis. We'll begin right in St. Louis at the iconic Gateway Arch. Ride across the wide Mississippi on a bike-and-foot-only bridge. Pedal through the Lewis and Clark State Memorial Park (the actual start point.), Then ride onward to the “Big Muddy” - the Missouri River. Follow the Missouri via the country’s longest rails-to-trail conversion - the Katy trail - to our first night's lodging in Hermann, Missouri.
Follow the Missouri River from Hermann to Columbia.
Today, follow the Missouri River along the flat valley floor beneath high bluffs and thick shady forest. It's so gorgeous here, it's like bicycling through the scenery in a Thomas Cole painting. Lewis and Clark were lucky to get 14 miles upriver in a day, but you'll make much better time. (Plus, the snacks and van support are better than in 1804!) Spend tonight in the bustling metropolis of Columbia, Missouri.
Wagon trails and wonder dogs: ride from Columbia to Marshall.
Bike from Columbia's Flat Branch Park to rejoin the Katy trail as it winds along the Missouri flood plain. Follow the river to Boonville, then cross to the south side of the Missouri. Follow it as it arcs into Arrow Rock - so named because on arrival here, Lewis and Clark were told by the native peoples that they called the region “Prairie of Arrows.” A tavern built in 1835 remains open for business here. After lunch, ride into the small Victorian town of Marshall on a section of the Santa Fe Trail, a (now paved) wagon path. Keep an eye out for the statue of Jim the Wonder Dog - a Llewellin Setter who predicted the Yankees' win in the 1936 World Series.
Ride through historic battlefields and farms. from Marshall to Excelsior Springs.
A flat straight two-lane blacktop rolls west out of Marshall, past farms, old cemeteries and the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site. Though Lewis and Clark missed out, you'll see historic memorials in the town of Lexington as you ride through the Missouri River flood basin. Bicycle along the bluffs on the river's north shore, then turn north to finish in Excelsior Springs. Excelsior Springs got its name from a spring said to have healing powers. Stay tonight at the beautiful Elms Hotel, built in 1880. Its rich history includes a visit by Harry S. Truman when he was re-elected in 1948. Although Lewis and Clark didn't stay just here, it makes for a great visit - and avoids the traffic of Kansas City 30 miles south.
Excelsior Springs to St. Joseph - Platte County tobacco country.
Pedal west from Excelsior Springs to rejoin the Missouri River at Weston Bend State Park. Soak up the best panoramic view of the river in the entire state of Missouri! Capture a few prime shots, then ride northwest through acres and acres of tobacco farms - Platte County produces about 7 million pounds annually. Follow the curving river below the bluffs and along the floodplain into St. Joseph, "the town where the Pony Express started and Jesse James ended." Lewis and Clark camped here, but you'll probably enjoy the inn more.
A 3-state day: Kansas calls; Nebraska too, then Missouri. Ride from St Joseph to Rock Port.
Cross the great Missouri River today into Kansas. Head north along the west bank through placid farmland. Make a stop in Troy, Kansas to view Tall Oak, a 27-foot-high sculptural tribute to Native Americans crafted by Peter Toth. Ride onward through stands of willow, cottonwood and elm to the Nebraska Border and Indian Cave State Park. George Catlin early-day paintings of this area portray "...a broad floodplain blanketed in lush meadows and woodland groves; of rugged, grass-covered bluffs with patches of woodlands in ravines protected from wildfires; and of prairie from bluff tops westward for as far as the eye could see, the eastern edge of the Great Plains - a grassland of unimaginable extent.” We'll head from here into Rock Port, Missouri for the night.
Pedal the Wabash Trace Nature Trail from Shenandoah to Council Bluffs for the finale.
Shuttle to the tiny town of Shenandoah this morning to bicycle the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. It's a beautiful ride in the Loess Hills, along a shady tree-lined paved path that crosses 73 bridges in its 60-mile stretch. (It's hugely popular with local cyclists, even boasting its own Thursday night ride - the Tacoride - that attracts several thousand riders.) Ride all the way to Council Bluffs, where Lewis and Clark held the first formal meeting between representatives of the United States and the Native Americans. Head into nearby Omaha for your return trip home.
As an optional extra, a person traveling solo on any inn-to-inn trip may reserve a room for his or her exclusive use. This will guarantee you a private room and private bath every night. Unlike other tour companies, if you're willing to share a room, there is no extra charge for coming solo, no matter when you sign up for the tour - even if you wind up with a private room by default.