Article by Amy Howe

About a year ago, Shelly Dreyer decided she was going to do all of the things that over the years she had said, “I would like to do that someday.” Shelly reached a point in her life where she realized life is about living to the fullest. This self-realization is what sparked her into completing the 240-mile Katy Trail.

“I am not an avid cyclist. I do not own any of the fancy equipment. I don’t have one of those cool bike shirts, and I wear my old running shoes instead of bike shoes,” she said. “My bike is 15 years old and was moderately priced. As an adult, I had never ridden my bike more than a few miles around the neighborhood or on a local trail.”

So, why did Shelly want to take on such an extravagant ride having never done anything similar in the past? Her short answer: for the experience.

“I have come to fully understand what it means to live life to the fullest. A year ago, I made a list of things I would like to do. And one of the things on that list was to ride the full Katy Trail. Not because I particularly love riding my bike, but because I know from once living near the trail and having run a marathon on the trail that the trail is beautiful. I also knew that because I am not a cyclist, riding the entire trail would be a challenge and personal accomplishment,” she said.

Shelly learned how to change a flat tire on YouTube, ordered a pair of $20 bike shorts and a Katy Trail guidebook online, and set out to ride the entire trail from Clinton, Missouri, to St. Charles, Missouri.

“I wanted to ride the trail solo,” she said. “Somehow, knowing that I could rely only on myself for motivation and to solve any issue that arose on the trail added to the challenge. I did, however, recruit a friend to drop me off every day at the trailhead and pick me up at the end of the day at the next trail head. Although I wanted the challenge of being out there alone, I did have her nearby in case of an emergency and enjoyed the comfort of staying in a hotel each night.

“Early in the morning on June 14, 2021, I drove to Clinton, Missouri, and started my ride across the state. I chose mid-June to ride the trail in hopes of moderate temperatures and little rain. I got very lucky and did not have a single drop of rain the entire trip. I did not get so lucky with the temperatures. The temperatures that week were brutally hot, reaching 103 degrees on my scheduled final day. But, hey, I said I wanted a challenge.

“Riding the trail was one of the best things I have ever done. I thought before the trip that my greatest enjoyment would be the feeling of accomplishment when I finished. Although I do feel pride in accomplishment, the best part of the trail was the ride itself. Not only is the trail beautiful, but I greatly enjoyed the solace of my days alone on the trail. For over five days, I was alone with my thoughts. Mile after mile, I had to rely on myself to keep moving forward and to occupy my thoughts. As I kept riding, the ride itself became easier, and I was able to focus on the beauty around me,” she said.

“As I reflect on those days on the trail, I am grateful that I had an opportunity to accomplish one of the things on my list that I ‘wanted to do someday,’” she said. “I have gained a renewed enjoyment of biking and gained the confidence that only comes from relying on yourself to achieve a goal.”