Yesterday was the hardest ride I’ve done in years. It was only 32 miles. Today’s 80 miles were far easier. It’s all about the wind.
I woke up super early again. It was thundering outside. A line of nasty storms passed mostly north of El Dorado.
After a woefully inadequate motel breakfast, I hit the road for Newton about 38 miles to the north. I was wearing my rain jacket and pants to ward off the sprinkles and to keep me warm.
I used the Apple map app to guide me. Within a mile I found myself on dirt roads again! After three slow, bumpy miles, I arrived at a highway. I turned off the app then reactivated it in “car” mode. It gave me simple directions with two turns to Newton, all paved.
The first highway was a two-lane, 60 mph road with a rumble strip on the side. There was about two feet of pavement to the right of the strip. After a mile of trying to ride this tightrope, I moved into the travel lane. I’d never do this without a mirror. My rear blinky was strobing. What little traffic there was gave me loads of room.
I passed a car parked on the side of the road. A half mile later I passed a young man walking.
“Did your car break down?”
After 12 miles on this lovely road I turned right on a two-lane country road. Into a light breeze. No more soul sucking crosswinds!
After six miles I turned west toward Newton, once again on the TransAm route. I had about 16 miles to go with the wind at my back. I felt like Superman on a bike as the wind pushed me along. I was going 15 – 20 mph with little effort.
The farther I went the more standing water I saw in the fields. Drainage ditches on the side of the road were filled with rushing water. It really poured in this area last night. I dodged two enormous green bull frogs hanging out on the road.
Arriving in Newton, I passed closed motels and businesses. Traditional small town America is hurting. I also passed the old Newton train station. It was a city block long with arches, made of Kansas brick.
I found Main Street and stopped at a Mexican cafe for breakfast at around noon. I considered my options for the rest of the day: (1) Stay in a motel in Newton. (2) Continue northwest ten miles on the TransAm to Hesston and get a room there, or (3) Ride 31 miles due west to Hutchinson where there would be free lodging and a bike shop.
Google indicated that the back road to Hutchinson was paved. And I would have a tailwind. Despite the mileage it was a no brainer to go to Hutchinson. After 12 flat miles the pavement ended and the road turned to dirt. For asphalt I could go six miles north to the TransAm (which would add 12 miles to the day) or ride south a mile or two to US 50, a major highway.
I took a chance that 50 would be rideable. Thankfully it was. I had at least 8 feet of pavement to the right of a rumble strip all the way to Hutchinson. With the wind at my back, I boogied.
In Hutchinson I tried both the Google and Apple map apps. They gave different directions. I followed Google. As I did both apps were barking directions in my ear. I shut off Apple and regretted it. Google seemed to have trouble figuring out where I was. I had a nice tour of the poor side of town including riding by a penitentiary.
I finally got straightened out and found the bike shop. I had been hearing a clicking sound from my left pedal or crank arm most of the day. I suspected that the noise was a bad ball bearing, caused by a lack of grease, perhaps blown out of the bottom bracket by torrential rain and winds we drove through on the way to St. Charles.
The bike shop mechanic told me to drop off my bags at the town hostel, then come back to address the clicking sound.
Upon returning he looked over my bike and tightened this and that: the crank arm, the pedal, some spokes on the rear wheel, and and the seats post. This seemed to quiet the noise. Fingers crossed.
I took a spin to a grocery store to buy provisions. The hostel refrigerator had a case of soda but little else that seemed edible. I bought margarine, bread, jelly, bananas, a grapefruit (masquerading as an orange), a prepackaged salad, some M&Ms and a quart of milk.
My PB&J and salad were a feast that couldn’t be beat.
I need to decide whether to stay here for a day or ride 56 miles to Pratt in the rain. It will be hard to turn down a 16 mph tailwind.
Miles today: 80. Tour miles: 624
8 thoughts on “Bike Tour 2022 – El Dorado to Hutchinson”
I saw 2 bike tourists headed towards Prineville on my way home from work today and thought of you.
Also checking out Google Street View of the places you describe. Much flat, very brown.
May the wind be at your back again tomorrow!
Upon further review, I didn’t realize that the TransAm trail goes right through Prineville! I work there, and it’s a charming little hamlet that boasts a really incredible entrance as you’re descending from the main road into the town.
The city had its own little railroad. Is it still operating?
East bound TransAm riders have to start later or deal with snow in the higher elevations.
Today was truly flat but the previous day’s had plenty of long gradual hills.
You seem be having an inordinate amount of troubles. Usually I just stick to Adventure cycling maps as much as possible. Otherwise I end up on freeways, rumble strips, road construction and ultimately I get lost. Sometimes they are a little longer, but better piece of mind. Still, I have to give you credit…
I really don’t mind the highways as long as traffic is light. Any road with 30+ mile crosswinds is dangerous.
I’ve had enough of dirt roads. I did a 9 mile slog on dirt roads in ND in 2018. Not a lot of fun
The bike hostel is new to me, I don’t know if we have those around me. At the same time the west coast is a big cycle area so we should? Who knows.
I’m now craving a PB&J with M&M’s tucked in.
It’s the second hostel I’ve seen in Kansas, both operated by Lutheran churches. There’s another one just over the Colorado line.
The TransAm Trail has all kinds of special accommodations for bicyclists. Much more so than other established routes.