COLUMBIA — John Hillburn, 57, likes the usual things about the Katy Trail Ride: the scenery, meeting people from all over the world, the exercise.
But Hillburn, who has done the ride eight times, has a special affection for the event because it's the one activity he and his wife can share in and be evenly matched.
The Katy Trail Ride had a maximum 300 spots, which were filled within three days for this year's event. The cost was $290 for adults and $240 for children, which includes daily breakfast and dinner.
Hot showers are available at every overnight stop, according to the Missouri State Parks website.
Registration for next year's ride opens at 8 a.m., March 1, 2014.
"My wife has long legs, and I have short legs," Hillburn said. "It's nice that we can just travel down the trail at the same speed."
Hillburn and his wife, who live in Blue Springs, were among 300 cyclists who came through Columbia on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for the 13th annual Katy Trail Ride. Hosted by Missouri State Parks and the State Parks Foundation, the ride started in Clinton and will finish in St. Charles. Riders cover 254 miles in five days. This year's group ranged in age from 9 to 84.
Columbia as well as Sedalia, Mokane and Marthasville are all overnight stops. The bikers checked in at Rock Bridge Elementary School where some set up tents while others chose to stay at a hotel. Organizers provided a shuttle downtown to restaurants. The bikers left Wednesday morning and went to the McBaine trailhead where they embarked on the next leg of their ride.
Tuesday's leg — more than 60 miles from Sedalia to Columbia — was the longest stretch of the ride.
"The last 11 miles were the killer for today," Hillburn said.
Missouri State Parks spokeswoman Steph Deidrick said that because the Katy Trail goes all across the state, it gives riders an opportunity to see the variety in Missouri's landscape, including prairies and wetlands.
"So far the river was the best part," said Jan Woolheater, a rider from Georgetown, Texas. "It was beautiful."
Woolheater, 67, and friends, Stephanie Greenley, 67, and Susan Lorms, 66, rode together. The three friends didn't have much of a break after biking 512 miles in the Oklahoma FreeWheel last week.
It was Woolheater's idea to do the Katy Trail Ride. She's been biking for 13 years and has participated in the ride 2 1/2 times. She fell and broke her arm halfway through her first ride and had to quit.
While this isn't Greenley's first organized bike ride, it's her first time doing the Katy Trail Ride. She has been biking for 16 years and got started after she retired from teaching elementary school. Greenley has biked down the Oregon Coast and the Santa Ynez Valley in California, where, she noted, Lance Armstrong has trained.
"Being on a bike allows you to really observe the countryside," Greenley said. "You see things you don't necessarily see in a car."
It was also Lorms's first time participating. She's been biking for 20 years. She and Woolheater both carried paper dolls in their backpacks that they took pictures of at various locations to send to family members, symbolizing their travels.
Hillburn loves the Katy Trail and thinks Missouri State Parks should keep expanding it.
"It's one of the best things Missouri State Parks offers, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "It's a jewel."