After reading all of the various posts on how to travel to and from the Katy Trail, we were scratching our heads on how we would make this happen. Turns out, it was pretty easy. Especially with our folding Dahon bicycles.
Combining our bike trip with a visit to family in the Chicago area, we decided that we didn't have to count the cost of the train trip from Oregon to Chicago in our trip budget. That said, we tried to minimize all other costs.
Here's what we did:
1. Amtrak's Illinois Service: Summit, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri. We carried on our gear and folding bikes. Total: $38
One hour layover in St. Louis
We wanted to ride the entire trail from Clinton to Machens and the best option we found was to get off the train in Warrensburg.
2. Amtrak's Missouri River Runner: St. Louis to Warrensburg, Missouri. Arrived a bit late (8:45pm or so), hopped on our bikes and rode to our hotel in the dark). Total: $44
From Warrensburg, you can either catch the Greyhound (college towns always have bus service) to Clinton or pick up a rental car.
3. Enterprise Car Rental: Believe it or not, the car rental was cheaper than the Greyhound was for the two of us. For whatever reason, we were not charged a one-way drop fee. Total: $34.64 plus $5 gas (which was more gas than we needed to put in the car).
4. I-70 Commuter Service St Charles to Hanley Metro Station: Our bikes, and our gear were quickly transported from St. Charles to the Hanley Metro Station. This service runs four times/morning. Total: $1
5. Hanley Metro Station to St Louis: Bikes are allowed on the train, you just have to hold on to them! Total: $5
We toured around on our bikes, spending the day taking in the sites in downtown St Louis: Gateway Arch National Park (including the Museum of Westward Expansion, tram ride to the top, and riverboat cruise) and the City Museum.
6. Enterprise Car Rental: Using the discount code from the insurance company (which removed the one way drop fee), we were able to rent a car in downtown St. Louis, drive it up historic Route 66, and drop it in Roselle, IL (back to visiting the family!). They upgraded us to a Ford Edge, which worked out great because we were able to sleep in the back on our sleeping pads at the campground on our way back (it rained and we just decided to scrap putting up the tent!). Total: $65.90 plus $45.11 gas (for the two day car rental).
Total transportation costs from Chicago area to the Katy Trail and back: $238.65