KANSAS

Photos are here.

JULY 8: ON THE HUNT FOR DOROTHY AND TOTO

 
Another messed up day in paradise. I did make it to Kansas, though. But not without my share of weather troubles.

Grabbed a quick breakfast and left at 6 with cool weather to help us along. Just three of us: Merle, Hugh, and myself. The first 17 miles were a bit of a pain in the ass, as usual, and as can be expected for being on the outskirts of the Ozarks. Then the skies we were riding into suddenly got dark very,very quickly. I was watching the clouds and they had very definite tornado characteristics. I could almost visualize the funnels they’d make. As we rode, I kept an eye out for some sort of shelter from the storm. Sometimes it was a barn, sometimes a house, sometimes just some sort of outbuilding. We saw a couple of lightning bolts strike quite closely and headed for cover. Pulled into someone’s yard and ducked into their porch. At first we were under their huge tree but saw the folly of that when the storm passed a little closer. Tried knocking and ringing their doorbell to let them know we were there and to ask if they’d allow us. But we got no answer. It rained, it poured, it hailed, it thundered, the wind blew and lightning popped in the field across from us. I commented on smelling a clothes dryer working and all of a sudden heard a car door. Turns out there were people there after all, just that they did not hear us. They offered us towels to dry off but we weren’t that wet. We thanked them for letting us stay and they left for work.

Soon as the skies brightened a bit we took off. Got rained on for the next 20 miles. At one point had to take shelter by an oil storage tank while always keeping in the back of our minds the possibility of having to break into the building it was next to if things got ugly. Since it was a concrete building we figured things would be OK there in all but the most nasty tornado.

Got totally wet but made it to Golden City and ran into Dennis. Eric had left earlier in the day bound for home. We ate at Cookie’s Café (highly recommended!!) and I pigged out on a veggie plate, cinnamon roll, coffee, salad, bread, and rhubarb pie. Yum Yum.

Dennis told us there was a brand new hostel in town and he spent the night there. Nice place with kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and TV. The owner bought the house to keep the next door neighbor from buying it and turning the neighborhood into a slum area by renting out the house to undesirables. He called the neighbors slum lords, too. HMMM, no love lost there, eh? If I had known the place existed I’d have been tempted to ride on to Golden City rather than to Ash Grove. But……………

We finally left at about 1130 after I’d gotten my jackets to dry off and replaced my socks. Man, it was nice to enjoy the flat lands of western Missouri. We had one or two occasional groaners but otherwise it was nice riding.

Made it to Kansas, the 6th state of the trip. Today was our 36th day on the road with another 55 or 60 to go. I immediately began my quest for Dorothy and Toto but have had no luck. It’s a big state, though and I am sure something will turn up.

We pulled into Pittsburg and stopped at the Farris Café (another recommended stop!) for a piece of pie and more coffee.

I can’t help but think that Divine Providence is at work here during our ride. For so many days the weather was in our favor. What we experienced today was really not much when you consider what could have happened. An hour’s worth of riding in the rain can not be compared to all day in cold weather AND rain AND wind as we’ve heard happens to so many. When we were in the Appalachians, the weather was abnormally cool as opposed to oppressively hot—which is the norm. For most of Missouri we had great weather, too. Even today stayed cool (for July) until 3 PM when the sun came out and started to humidly bake everything.

Hugh and I checked in at the Visitor’s Center but no one left a message so we went to the bike shop for Hugh to pick up some spare spokes. Who should be in there but Merle getting his wheel trued. The bike shop owners told him the same thing we had: If you start to pop spokes and go through 2 or 3 of them, get them all replaced as they are experiencing metal fatigue. The truing, though, cost him $67. That’s a lot of money!

Hugh and I checked out a couple of motels and wanted to stay at the Super 8 but they wanted $60 a night so we ended up at the Jones Motel for $37. A word of caution: upon getting to the motel lobby you may be somewhat appalled at the condition and smell of the place. Don’t let that put you off. The owner/receptioness/proprietress duties were shared by two women. Don’t let them put you off, either. They may look, act, and seem eccentric but the rooms are VERY clean and neat and large. Oh, by the way, before I forget, don’t be put off my the mangy, nasty matted down hair dog in the lobby. We think it is on its last legs and should be dead by next summer. It was the cause for some of the foul smells in the lobby.

As it turns out, we made the right decision again to spend the night in a motel instead of going to the city park. It thundered, lightninged, and poured almost all afternoon. In the park we’d be under a pavilion or in the tent. In the motel we watched CNN, the Weather channel, ate a leisurely snack, had room to move around. ‘Nuff said?

Dennis called to say he is pressing on to Pueblo. He’s at the Super 8 along with Kurt and Merle. All three will head out tomorrow. I do not believe I will see them again. The split was inevitable as my pace is much slower and they have schedules to keep.

JULY 9: REST DAY

 
Sure was a luxury sleeping in knowing that it poured all night and there was no place to go today. Hugh and I went to Harry’s Café for some coffee and a cinnamon roll. Took the opportunity while sitting in there and waiting for the Post Office to open to write a bunch of postcards. Also went to a variety store and procured a decent flag for the bike.

The day finally cleared up but it got hot and muggy fast. With the light winds it would have been a beautiful riding day. But it was an even more beautiful resting day. However, if it stays like this the next several days I will not complain.

Hugh took the opportunity to have his bruised hip (from his bike fall) looked at. Turns out he will be OK.

Went to the library and checked some maps to try and figure out where the best place would be for Danny to meet us. Also want to meet up with Bill Marcella in Ordway and needed to verify how far it was from where he lives.

Sure are a lot of nice folks here but I just could not live in either Kansas or Missouri. Too far inland plus the weather is too unpredictable in Kansas.

We went to dinner at Harry’s (again) and highly recommend it. The wait staff is very nice and the owner’s wife is one hell of a saleswoman. She kept coming to our table and extolled the virtues of the tastiness of their desserts. So we bought some pie. She was right. It was quite good.

JULY 10: A GOOD DEED RETURNED

 
Lit out of town at 7 AM in very warm and humid weather but no storms. For a good long stretch we averaged 17-18 MPH however the roads did have some portions that were fairly rough.

Took several photos of this very rural, western, small America part of the state. Also got a shot of the Immanuel Lutheran Church that rose out of the prairie like a ship out of the night. So seemingly out of place considering there were no houses anywhere in sight. Or any other buildings for that matter.

Being a bit bored with the whole situation, I decided to count pedal strokes while on a fairly flat section of road with no wind. I got 280 strokes per mile or about 1,162,000 strokes for the whole trip. That’s a lotta strokin’! Gotta be careful, children may be reading this. That’s based on a 4150 mile trip. My total mileage including side trips was 4300 so that’d make it 1,200,000 strokes.

Hugh and I rested a bit at the Boots and Saddle Café in Walnut. Had a cup of coffee and chatted with the owner who just recently retired from a career in the Civil Service. He came out here because that’s where he was raised and his family needed him nearby. We started our conversation because I noticed a Linn’s magazine on his table and asked if collected stamps, too. We then discussed the relative merits of how the Post Office was issuing so many different stamps in so many different formats that it was all but impossible for the average collector to keep up. Also found out Dennis, Kurt, and Merle had come through the area yesterday.

One thing is for certain, the tree line is receding into the distance. We are definitely in Kansas! Soon the plains area will be in sight and then I expect no trees will be visible. Just a shitload of wheat and corn and brush.

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s ride. Cruising along, birds would swoop and dive in front of me flying from left to right. Couple that with very little traffic, little wind, no hills, and nice weather, you end up with a lovely day. It was not unusual to go for miles and hear nothing but the singing of birds, the chirping of crickets, and the croaking of frogs along with the whirring of the tires on the pavement.

Thrice blessed today, there was a tailwind headed into Chanute which boosted the daily average speed up to 13.8 MPH. Best to date.

Pulled into town, rode by quite an interesting advertisement with dual meanings, and checked out the park. Considering the tempestuousness of Kansas weather I did not feel too comfortable. Decided to kill some time to check out what might happen by going to the Pizza Hut and making a pig of myself at the all you can eat bar. Spent two hours in there getting cool and sucking up the air conditioning.

Called the visitor center and left a message for Dick then headed out to find Yodeling Katy. Who should we see but Dick rolling into town. Flagged him down and tried again at Katy’s but no answer. Not really too crazy about getting a hotel tonight but not too thrilled about the park prospect, I stopped in at to talk to a guy working on his lawn tractor. He couldn’t get the belt up on the blade so we helped him out and fixed it. He’s also in the military so I told him who I was and he said he could let us stay at his place. Not only did he let us use one of his buildings, we also had showers, kitchen facilities, and, most important of all, an air conditioned room to sleep in. I thought we were in heaven.

For dinner the three of us went to the Holiday Park restaurant/Motel right across the street. We tried to get some drinks but found out that this is a dry county and unless we were members of the bar we could not buy anything. When we asked the cost of membership we decided we did not want to drink that badly. So we made pigs of ourselves at the all you can eat dinner bar.

Called parents to try and contact Danny (as he is never at home) and set up the Wyoming visit. Arranged to call them back on Sunday to confirm all is on.

As we chowed around the restaurant, this couple got our attention and warned us of the thunderstorms and hail that can hit this area unpredictably. They were concerned about where we were staying which is why they asked. Another couple offered to let us stay in their basement. That was very nice.

Tried going to yodeling Katy’s again and this time her van was outside but still no answer. I suspect she just does not want to answer the door.

Damn, what a luxury we had. No cost, air conditioned, showers, and classical music out of Dick’s radio. This is the life.

One postscript: the town is named after a gentleman who pre-dated the Wright Brothers in an attempt to fly.

JULY 11: HEY!! WHO PUT THAT HILL THERE!

 
All our concerns for the weather went for naught as it did not rain last night. However, it was cloudy in the morning with a 10 MPH southerly wind blowing.

Had breakfast at the Holiday Park Restaurant and hit the road at 7 making good time all the way. Weather cooperated and it stayed cool. In an effort to make the trip across Kansas as pleasant as possible, we’ve resolved to get up before sunrise and hit the road shortly afterwards in our to capitalize on the cool temps. So far it worked really well in Missouri and we expect it to do so in Kansas.

Seems like all we do is plan and plot, and plot and plan against the weather. But if it works, I will not knock it.

About 11 miles out of Chanute, as we crossed Highway 75, we rode some fairly bad stretches of road which reminded us of running obstacle courses. In this case, the obstacles were potholes, and patches to the patches on those repaired potholes. Almost like combat, so many evasive maneuvers!

Lunch was in Toronto at Sally’s Café. Another good choice. Just as we sat down it began to rain. This is absolutely incredible!! Before we left it stopped.

Came really close to buying the farm today. This moron in a truck decided to pass me without regard to the fact he was cresting a hill. Who should be coming up the other side? Did you guess a car? Wrong! Another large truck! Just a little too close for comfort as far as I was concerned.

Four miles out of Clayville someone stuck in a gratuitous hill! I can still see it in my mind’s eye two months later. Lumbered up the thing at the amazing speed of 4 MPH. Got caught totally unawares. Maybe it’s better that way. You don’t dwell on the upcoming misery.

Today I got 310 strokes to the mile. Works out to 1,286,000 strokes for the trail ride and 1,333,000 for the entire trip.

I sure do not know what it is that makes these folks from the west friendlier. Is it the solitary nature of their existence? The isolation from the hub bub of city life? The adversity of their existence? Or pride? It’s like we crossed an invisible line somewhere west of the Mississippi (or better yet, after mid-Missouri.) We get waved at by all sorts of people! Quite nice. Not nice was a sign that either tried to warn us of something or advertised a local high scool. I’d like to think that, being in Kansas, it was a warning.

Pulled into Eureka, supposedly named after a guy who shouted that word upon discovering water here. They have a horse racing facility and the town is famous for its quarter horses. If we had dallied in Toronto 10 more minutes we’d have been caught in a nasty thunderstorm. Fortunately we were already in our rooms.

Dick stayed at the Blue Stem Motel (blue stem being a grass that grows almost exclusively here in the Flint Hills area) while Hugh and I searched out a cheaper place, the Eureka Truck Stop/Chuck Wagon Motel, $25 for 2. Dick’s is a nicer room but I’m a “basics” kinda guy and as long as the A/C works, it does not smell, the bed is comfy, and the TV has CNN and CNBC, I am happy. Of course, we stay glued to the Weather Channel since there is no sense in venturing out until we know what we can expect from Mother Nature.

Walked around and did our laundry and bought groceries.

Today Hugh decided to pack it in for good. He will go home when we get to Pueblo. Says he is too tired, lost too much weight, and is not having fun. Called his cousin in Denver to make arrangements to pick him up in Pueblo. So I will head out on my own, it seems. Oh, well, I had intended to do the trip that way anyway so it should not be bad.

Still trying to figure out what the attraction is that pulls at these people who live here to stay here. Some towns are nicer than others, granted, but there are some that are so desolate you wonder, “HOW? WHY?” In Eureka, we were able to see lots of nice houses with almost Victorian appearances but it seemed that next to each nice one was a trashy one. A lot of houses for sale which almost tempted me to call a Realtor for prices.

JULY 12: SAY HELLO TO MR. WIND and WELCOME BACK MR. HILL

 
I ache all over from today’s exertion. What a long and miserable day it was. Now I am beginning to understand why folks do not like riding across Kansas. It seems as if every state has its reason for us wanting to get the hell out of it. Virginia was the Blue Ridge Parkway; Kentucky was the Appalachians; Illinois was the hills; Missouri was the Ozarks; and Kansas is the wind. Wonder what surprises the other states will bring.

Had a brisk south wind at 5 AM yet it was clear and 75. At 530 Hugh and I were in the Chuck Wagon restaurant eating breakfast. Chatted with the locals who seemed intrigued with our adventures. Many think we’re plumb crazy. HMMM, seems I’ve heard that before.

The Flint Hills presented us with a fair amount of climbing over the first 18 miles. The Flint Hills extend from Northern Oklahoma to Southern Nebraska. Within Kansas, it is no wider than a couple of counties as it extends itself through the state. Lots of cattle are brought to this area to be fattened up as it is the only area in which Blue Stem grass grows. The land, being very rocky, is not conducive to plowing, yet the grass grows well.

It sure felt like all we saw today were hundreds and thousands (maybe millions) of ¼ pounders and Big Macs on the hoof. If only the cows knew their ultimate destinies! How differently we’d be living today.!

It was not all bad today, though. We had a 17 mile stretch with a 20/25 MPH tailwind. We flew! I pounded out about 32 MPH in top gear and was not working hard. What a thrill! There were rollers, though so I only averaged 18/22 MPH.

Just as the road curved to the left and we picked up the wind again, I saw an old Titan missile silo just sitting there. That left turn gave us a good feel for the next 39 miles we’d face as we left Cassoday. In Cassoday, there was a wagon train preparing to leave. The café was packed and a Mr. And Mrs. Ed Cook let us sit with them at their table. Very nice folks. He retired from the AF in 1972 and while in the service spent a few years teaching Cambodians and Vietnamese. He got talked into pulling his retirement papers to go to Thailand for a year drawing $26 per day per diem. Back then, $26 was a lot of money. In 1972, a person entering the service made $350 a month!!! So this was big money!!

After two months they sent him to Cambodia. He told them he wanted out of that situation and they refused him. So he told them that since US soldiers were not “officially” in Cambodia, then neither was he so if he left they could not get him for being at a place where he wasn’t. he got on the next aircraft, went home, and retired. They did nothing. At least that’s his story.

The Cooks own a bunch of cabins along with another one in Colorado where they watch cyclists climb to the top of peaks and race back down.

I had a sarsaparilla float (yum) and coffee.

Cassoday is a busy little town for being out in the middle of nowhere. Monthly motorcycle rallies, annual cross country cycle run, and several wagon trains, too.

Meet East bounders Suzie and Alex. She started her trip in Seattle and met up with him in Colorado. Also saw two other E-Bs but didn’t stop as we were going uphill and they down.

The 39 miles of no services between Cassoday and Newton is not the way I’d rather spend my time riding.

The wind would screech through my spokes and at times make loud whooshing noises as it tried to blast its way through. Trucks were also a pain in the ass especially the east bound ones. West bounders would pull us along and boost our forward speed by as much as 3-6 MPH. We also rode with the bikes leaned into the wind. Hugh commented on how he was always banging his knees against the frame until he realized what was going on. Felt like we were leaned 10 degrees.

In Newton we went to the local bike shop (Great Plains Bikes) to ask if there was a place we could find shelter. The owner called around and arranged it for us. The owners’ names are John and Carol Sue Hobbs. He’s the mechanic in the shop and took a look at my bike to make sure my derailleurs were working properly.

We went to the Dairy Queen and had blizzards then went to the Sirloin Stockade to feed at the buffet. I ate like a horse.

Really sore today. Very tired and ache all over. Also very hot. Fortunately we had A/C in the room we slept.

JULY 13: MARY JANE, I KNEW I’D FIND YOU AGAIN

 
Nothing much different today in the wind department. The sole salvation was that the roads were very smooth, there was little traffic, and it was Sunday. Bad, rough roads and lots of trucks were what made yesterday’s ride so brutal. Caused me to tense up and therefore get sore.

Left town early after breakfast at McD’s.

For any riders contemplating this trip, do not expect to find anything open in Buhler on Sunday. We did not think about it and were very disappointed when the restaurants were closed. We’d come 30 miles and with 30 miles to go wanted a coffee and piece of pie really badly. So I just ate the cinnamon roll I bought earlier at McDonald’s.

Hugh struggled all morning and I think he is really hurting. He just wants to get this over with. I slowed down to better keep pace with him.

As is my habit while riding, I am constantly observant of my surroundings. I see things others miss: old cars; pretty women; strange mailboxes; animals; objects, etc. Case in point: I’ve been looking for something I’d not seen since the late 70s. I knew it existed along the roadway in wild form. Today I got a glimpse of what I thought was it. Becoming even more observant, a while later I saw more. Slammed on the brakes, had Hugh hold my bike and went into the weeds to get it – – a marijuana plant. Asked Hugh to take a picture of me with it. I believe it is the first time he’s seen it. It was a male plant and therefore worthless to those that partake of this sort of stuff.

Also saw lots of squashed grasshoppers and those not crushed were being plucked out of the air by birds on the wing. Quite a sight to witness the birds in this feeding frenzy, swooping left and right, totally oblivious to us.

Stopped in Nickerson at the Sunshine Café and wolfed down some gooseberry pie and coffee. Quite good!

When we finally got to Sterling it was VERY hot! The temperature hit 105 degrees. All three of us got rooms at the Sterling Motel. Small rooms so only one person per room. I dropped off my bags and took off to find a restaurant. Dick joined me after a little while and we chatted about what we’d do the next few days and also discussed Hugh’s situation.

Found out Sterling is the home of Sterling College with a student population of 400 or so. They specialize in pre-med and liberal arts. A very bizarre combination. Reminds me of Pippas Pass and Berea. Small colleges in small towns.

Bought some groceries, went back to the room and a little while later ate again. Then went to the local Dari-Mart for a peach shake. UM UM Good!

JULY 14: I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE IN KANSAS

 
Just as we were getting ready to leave, Hugh’s tire went flat. His tube stem was no good and cracked. It was nice and cool this morning and the winds were virtually non-existent as we pedaled our way first South, then West.

Observed the horizon getting darker and darker so re-doubled our efforts to finish the ride. Well into the morning it stayed cool and we were happy. Dick started out later than we did, which is his usual. I think he enjoys playing a game with himself wherein he leaves later and then sees if he can catch up. And he usually does. Boy, is he a powerful rider! He just powers down the road as if it were nobody’s business.

Rode through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and saw lots of egrets. Captured a photo of sunflowers at sunrise, too. Very pretty.

It kept getting darker and by this time Dick had already passed us but we caught with him while he was chatting with some farmers. They told him the storm we were watching was about 70 miles and an hour away. If we hurried we’d make it to Larned.

We’d already decided to bypass the route to Hudson and shot straight west. Another smart decision. The route went through Hudson for only one reason: food and other services. The road was eight miles, very good and smooth. Made a bet with Hugh that we’d get into town without getting wet. He took me up on it. By the time we approached town we came across a mini-mart but I told him I did not want to stop nor did I have to pee. Really, I just wanted to get another ½ mile further down the road and be, technically, in town before the rain began. So we pressed on. Soon as we to the city limit it began to sprinkle!! When we got in the hotel it began to pour. I am so amazed we are able to keep avoiding storms. Sooner or later we’ll get nailed. And but good! Later on Hugh bought me the coffee we bet.

Dick was already waiting for us so we got our room, unloaded our gear, waited for the rain to stop and went to tie on the “all-u-can-eat” food bag at the Pizza Hut.

Also decided to lay over here for a day and then press on for six days to Pueblo.

Considering today’s low temps, no winds, and cloud cover, I can hardly believe we were in Kansas.

Along the road I saw considerable patches of wild marijuana. It’s the hemp variety and worthless for those of you who think you can go and get a buzz. So there! It IS good for hemp, though!

Larned has a Scout Museum as well as the Fort Larned Museum which we were told was very good. Also noticed the TVs in the rooms do not have VH-1 or MTV. Just country. And there are lots of Sonic drive-ins, too. I remember them from Austin as it was at a Sonic that I first took Sheila topless. Had a friend who worked at the apartment complex with me. It was fun!

Did some grocery shopping and even took a 2 hour nap. Then went out and got to see real, live newspaper boys making deliveries. Another small-town America tradition bringing back memories of when I used to do same.

Hugh packed up his tent, sleeping bag, and a bunch of other stuff to mail back tomorrow.

Noticed on the maps that we will be climbing (gaining in altitude) 250-500 feet per day. We’ll also be paralleling the Santa-Fe Railroad track all the way to Pueblo—about 340 miles. By the time we get to Pueblo, we’ll be at 5000 feet in altitude.

Ran into a father and son team going east. They ran across Dennis, Kurt, and Merle but had no messages to pass along. Too bad as that is the perfect way to get news to those following behind. All the more reason I doubt I’ll ever see those guys again.

JULY 15: REST DAY

 
Although I was up early because I heard some thunder, I stayed in bed until almost 7 AM. Just being lazy.

Went into town and mailed some stuff back home and Hugh mailed his boxes. Then I did some grocery shopping, got back to the Motel, degreased my bike chain and finished some other periodic maintenance.

Went back to the trough to eat lunch after which Dick, Hugh, and I carried our bags across the street, like bag men, to the Laundromat. The soap machine did not work nor did several of the washers and dryers. Don’t know why that bothered me but it did.

Heard we should have 100 degrees tomorrow.

JULY 16: THE DOUBLE MILLENNIUM

 
Today is the 38th riding day with 38 to go. At the end of the day I’d logged 2000 miles. The day was relatively uneventful yet I made the best average speed so far—15 MPH. That includes 15 miles with a 10 MPH tailwind, 10 miles with south westerly winds at 10 MPH, and 40 miles of southerly winds at 10-15 MPH.

We were warned about the road to Timken being pretty rough and torn up so Hugh and I went 7 miles further west on Route 156 to 183 north to Rush Center. Dick took the normal route and confirmed the road was in bad shape.

Climbed about 1000 feet and gained 200 feet in elevation. From now on I do not need a map until I get to Pueblo. Straight west on Highway 96.

Finally hit the wide, open prairie area of Kansas. Miles and miles of vistas to the North, South, East, West. Everywhere there are wheat fields. Found out that wheat planted in September is harvested in June. Milo and sunflowers are then planted and harvested after the frost. For one year afterwards, the land lays fallow to recuperate itself.

The Adventure Cycling maps do not indicate restaurants as being available in either Rush Center or Alexander but there are eating establishments there. In Rush Center the gas station on the west side of 96 lost my business because they had a sign which said “No Bicycles Loitering.” Must not want our business. I went across the street and gave them my money.

Hugh did much better today after losing 15 pounds and having a rest day. We pressed pretty hard to beat the heat and did a good job of it.

In Ness City we met David and Tracy, east bounders about to take the Katy Trail in Missouri and then will head north along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

We checked into the Derrick Inn which is a very nice motel considering it is in the middle of virtually nowhere. It has an indoor pool, spa, game room, etc. Reminded me of a motel in Minot, North Dakota where all the rooms were indoor accessible because of the cold.

Walked around town and saw the Prairie Skyscraper, the tallest building in Kansas and surrounding areas during the late 1800s. It is 4 stories tall! It is a beautiful and ornate structure reminding me of the Manueline architecture found in Portugal. There are also lots of “rock” fence posts in use here left over from late last century and early this century. Since wood is hard to come by, the farmers would use “posts” chiseled out of the ground.

Had lunch at Pizza Plus and then went to the IGA to shop for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. If I’d gone to IGA first, I’d have bought all sorts of stuff I would not be able to carry.

JULY 17: HORIZONS ‘R US

 
Like the old Byrds’ song, we “could see for miles and miles” today. Visibility was easily 20 miles and when you spot something on the road ahead it could take over an hour to get to it by bike. Cars that passed us would take forever to get out of sight and no cars could sneak up on us as we could hear them from miles away, too. There was nothing to shield their noise. Route 96 is a real joy to ride on with pleasant sights to look at and birds to listen to.

Had a pleasant ride today, gained 740 feet in altitude and averaged 15 MPH. Our climb occurred in what seemed to be steps. We’d go up, ride level for a while, climb, ride level, and so on. It’s also fun watching for approaching trucks from behind and then try to draft off them. They give us a nice push that can last up to a quarter mile.

The morning was nice and cool while at times feeling cold due to the sweat evaporating off my jersey.

Stopped in at Dighton but could not find a restaurant. Eventually found out the mini-mart at the corner of 96 and the main cross street was a café/deli, too. Stopped in and listened to the locals talking about how they were losing 20 kids a year from the school system at a cost of $5,000 from the government for each child. “It’s hard to bring business into a town that’s losing population”, one of them said. “What sort of incentive do companies have to come to this area?”, another said. Their biggest problem was figuring out HOW to get people to come there. They are hours away from anything, desolate, windy, no arts/theater/culture. As I discovered later on in the day, it all boils down to water and whether you have it or not. Dighton does not. Scott City does.

Got offered a job to teach at the high school where I plan to move to but told the interviewer I chose not to make the interview as I was in the middle of a trip of a lifetime. Maybe some other time. Not too sure I want to teach right now. Definitely do not want a full time job.

Decided to stay at the Athletic Club Hostel. Costs $4.50, has no A/C but does have a shower, a fan, cable TV, and the staff are friendly. Hugh stayed at a motel.

Went to the City Hall to leave a message for Dick. He was not feeling well so started later than we did. The staff was very friendly and I met a gentleman named Darrell, in charge of economic development for the area. He’s the one that clued me into the water situation in the area and the problems some of these towns are having. He’s retired from the USAF and came here because his Dad died and his Mom needed help with the farm.

Also went to the library to try and get on line but no luck. They didn’t even have a Wall St. Journal, Barron’s, Value Line or anything of that nature. I was bummed. While at the library I talked to a lady who worked for the investment company Edward Jones. She said I could stop by their office (around the corner) and check on stock prices. I did. And met the broker, Bill Hickock. We chatted about all sorts of investment topics and he said I should try to get a job with them as I seemed to know what I was talking about. So he sent me some paperwork to the Florida address. I saw him later on at the hostel where he’d come in to play racquetball with his son.

Turns out I was the only one in the hostel. It started getting warm towards the evening but it was OK. Also discovered someone lives in an apartment above the club’s gym floor. Pretty unusual to me but it must be good for security.

Also met three kids who I chatted with a couple of hours. They told me all about feed lots, slaughterhouses, local newspapers, etc. Made a phone call to Bill and we will meet on Sunday in Ordway. Must have hit the jackpot because along with talking to my parents I also was able to talk to my son. He still plans to meet me in Wyoming. Hard to believe that visit is less than two weeks away. I am looking forward to it.

JULY 18: THE THINNING

 
Very humid when I left this morning. No rain last night but the air is still thick with moisture. Very unusual for this part of the state and the people comment on it constantly. I, too, could use a little drier air.

Found out from Hugh that Dick made it to Scott City yesterday but plans to lay over as much as four days to clear his saddle sore problems and get over the indigestion/flu symptoms he has. So now the group is thinned by one more member and in a few days it will be only me. Unless I miraculously hook up with Dennis or Kurt. If I do make the rest of the trip alone I plan on taking no rest days and just finishing the trip. That will get me to Florence on the 26th. I’ll know better by next week. In the meantime, I called Amtrak and reserved the 28th.

The trucks are getting to be a real pain in the ass. Some pass very closely and the ones going in the opposite direction buffet us a great deal.

Saw lots of feed lots and even saw a contraption that shredded huge bales of hay for loading into feed trucks. I suspect the stuff is used to lay in the feed yards to absorb moisture and eventually be turned into some sort of fertilizer. I could be wrong. If anyone reads this and knows the right answer, drop me a line.

Everywhere we go, though, it smells like cow manure. Can’t get it out of the air. Must be because the farmers use it to spray on their lands as fertilizer. YECH!! What smells shitty to us is perfume for a farmer trying to grow crops so I didn’t complain out loud.

Heard about and saw a group of eight people making the trip East bound. Here’s an interesting story. A 70 year old lady decided to celebrate her birthday a little more unusually than most. She wanted to ride a bike across the US. So she called her friends and told them, then she ran ads. Got 7 other takers with the oldest being 76 and the youngest 55. They take rest days by driving a sag wagon. The only problem with that is none of them truly does the whole country by bike. But at their age, who’s going to quibble. I should only hope that when I am 76 I can do some of these things. One by one we waved to them as they passed us by. Cool idea, really.

That gave me pause to think about doing fully sagged trips across the US. Folks would ride their bikes and in the evening sleep in my motor home. Might be a possibility there. Definitely niche market stuff.

Able to maintain a good rate of speed for most of the day and had a good ride. Ended up the day at 3570 feet elevation. Stopped in Leoti for breakfast.

Weird photo-op today: a whole fence line topped with old, worn out boots. Bizarre looking sight. The farm belonged to someone who used to be a shoe repairman because we saw his old sign out front. Still can’t find Dorothy or Toto but I did find the remains of the Tin Man. Took a pix of it. Unfortunately, all that is visible is the top of his head. Like the wicked witch, he, too, is “melting” into the ground.

Got to Tribune and went to the town’s only motel (Trail’s End Motel). It was only about 1045 when we came across the manager who seemed put out that we had arrived so early. Tried to explain to her that we did not need to have the rooms right away. We could go eat lunch, go grocery shopping, etc. and then come back later. She must not have been listening and ranted on about a group that came early yesterday (the group of 8). Even when we went to pay she acted put out with taking Visa. If she had any competition in that town, she’d be out of business.

Found the local library and it had internet! I almost fell over in surprise. I hooked up and sent email to several folks back in Virginia and also to my cousin, Marco, in Florida who really wants his own moment of glory on the internet. The library is very nice and has a cozy little reading nook.

Most of the restaurants in town folded for some reason so we had no place to eat except the local VFW hall. Except the librarian advised us it might not be such a good idea. The food there supposedly sucked. Called Fermon. He’s now married, moved on base, is happy.

Continue reading: Colorado

Photos are here.

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