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