Days 46-49: Kansas is a State Long Uphill, Just Real Slow-Like
9/7 Day 46: Ash Grove, MO to Lincoln Park, Pittsburg, KS 72 miles (2080 miles)
|The sign says "Turnback Creek" but we figured it |
After the operation was complete, we got ourselves back together and ground out in short order the remaining (far afield from their bigger brethren) Ozarks that tried their best to keep us away from our pie. 33 miles into the ride, we found ourselves in the small town of Golden City, MO and sitting down for lunch. Everyone had pie in the back of their minds and ordered lightly to save room. I had a brisket sandwich, a baked potato and a side salad, followed by a slice of chocolate and peanut butter pie with a vanilla milkshake (just to hit all my food groups). The pie was good, but not amazing, so I think it was a little over-hyped, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if someone told me it was the best pie for 400 miles, given our location. As a team of 5, we had about 9 pieces of pie and one milkshake for dessert, which left us all completely stuffed. We decided that a long digestion break would be needed. I got a haircut and had my beard trimmed (just a little) while Erin wrote postcards, and Charlie, Ben, and Mandi relaxed and poked about town. Stanley, my barber, told me that they've been seeing hundreds of cyclists a year ever since the Trans-America Trail was plotted in 1976, and that I was far from his first bicyclist to sit in the barber's chair he has manned in town for the last 53 years. Certainly a change of pace to go from town and campsite celebrities to just more bikers riding through.
|We're all just a bunch of silyheads, aren't we? Mandi is|
trying her best to disassociate from us.
9/8 Day 47: Pittsburg, KS to Santa Fe Lake Park, Chanute, KS 57 miles (2137 miles)
|Even the maps are interesting in Kansas! Go straight,|
never turn, and move your legs in a circle.
We learned very quickly that there is very, very little in Kansas, at least along our route. Hardly any towns, hardly any hills, hardly anything at all but cows and mile upon mile of expansive prairie. The scenery here is totally unlike anything I've ever seen. The surrounding views are often barren of anything but a few scrubby trees, some kind of weed with very pretty yellow flowers, dry grasses in the grazing lands, dust devils, and fine brown dusty soil . Like Missouri, though, every Kansan has been hospitable and friendly, and we get more waves from passing cars in Kansas than we have anywhere else. The ride to Walnut, our preordained lunch stop, was a quick and painless affair. We've heard many horror stories from the cyclists we've met on the trip and from people we met before we left about brutal headwinds sucking the life out of you in Kansas. Luckily, we haven't been the victim of any yet, and if our luck holds, we won't be. There is, however, always wind here and thus far it's only been a north wind. When we got to Walnut, which I think has a population of 71, we went to His and Hers bar for a beer and a burger. The two other patrons at the bar chatted with us for a bit- they see cyclists fairly often, even there- then went back to conversing with each other about the merits and demerits of docile bulls, the weather, and what was on TV.
|Erin found a new way to ride on to the West Coast and|
is going to start a steam shoveling business on arrival.
Chanute's park was not nearly as large as Pittsburg's, but it was a bustle of activity as several co-ed rec. softball teams got their weekly games in, RVers drove in and out, and the locals went for a nightly run or ride past us. We have long since gotten over certain modesties that having household amenities will nurture in a member of normal society, and we changed clothes, took showers, cooked, and set up our bedding in the middle of the suburban swirl of activity that surrounded us. We whipped up a camp dinner and went to our sleeping pads just as the softball field lights were shutting off.
9/9 Day 48: Chanute, KS to Cross Timbers State Park, Toronto, KS 43 miles (2180 miles)
Today everyone slept in even later than we have the past few days, because we were finally in sight of a day off. In the last week we'd covered nearly 500 miles (including this day's ride and our 13 mile semi sick day), crossed the most difficult geography we've seen yet, and did it with no problems at all- it was time for a break. Not counting Chester as time off- because it really wasn't, since everyone but me spent the day puking their guts out- we hadn't had a real day off since Hayes Canyon Campground where we met Charlie in Eddyville, IL. We set our sights on Cross Timbers State Park, which we heard was beautiful and cheap camping, and only a short 40 mile ride from Chanute. Again, this morning we were in no hurry to get back in the saddle, as everything was a little stiff and creaky from the long week. We spent the morning doing laundry at the Super 8 Motel across the street from the park where we basically blockaded their lobby and entrance way with bikes for a couple hours while we ate breakfast and snatched donuts from their complimentary spread while the front desk clerks weren't in the room.
The 40 miles we had to go to the park were all prairie with only a few tiny towns that had neither restaurants or stores of any kind and one lonely gas station the whole way. 11 miles in we stopped at the gas station for a quick candy bar and peanut butter cracker snack before remounting. Kansas, it seems, is also in the throes of a serious drought, much like many of the other states we'd passed through to get there. However, in Kansas, the natural dryness seemed to accentuate the drought conditions. Trees here are bleached white and adorned with sad, dead, dry branches, the cattle huddle in the scant shade provided by the few trees in the roadside pastures, and even the few cacti we saw looked a bit shrivelled up. A man I talked to in the Super 8 told me, "This isn't dry, wait til you get to the western part of the state. This is nothing compared to that." He then went on to tell me about how the recently discovered oil in North Dakota and Canada will "solve the energy crisis if we let it" and that if I can't find work in Portland, I should North Dakota instead. "3.8% unemployment, and a cook in a restaurant makes 50 grand a year, a cook!" I didn't bother getting into energy politics with him, but he was good natured enough and gave us some advice about Colorado and the rest of his state.
|Luke and Joe pose for us by the roadside.|
|Erin in front of the lake. It was really beautiful there.|
The full moon threw off a ton of light that night, and the coyotes were making quite a racket when the cries of alien waterfowl weren't echong across the lake. It was a little hard to sleep with all the new, odd noises ringing through the night, but Erin woke me up after hearing a more familar noise: raccoons digging through our stuff. When I emerged from the tent to shoo them away, all I saw was three round, plump raccoon butts high-tailing it out of the campsite. In the morning we found their little muddy paw prints all over our food bags, but everything was undamaged. Pesky little cusses.
9/10 Day 49: Off Day in Cross Timbers State Park
After a long pancake and sausage breakfast we did a bunch of bike maintenance today: swapped rear and front tires, changed brake pads, and lubed our chains, shifters, and brake cables. We went back in to town for lunch, and are planning to get a good dinner, a good night's sleep, and an early start. We're planning on doing our first century (hundred mile day) tomorrow, and we plan to be in prime shape for the ride. The wind looks like it'll be the same mild cross-wind we've had since entering the state, so all that's left is the riding.