Bike Tour 2022 – Erie to Eureka

Lord this got hard.

I had a decent dinner at a bar in town last night. Southwest chicken salad. It was huge. I ate it all. No contest. I also had a beer for the first time in weeks. The menu suggested “Ask about our craft beers”. So I did. All of their beers were mass market. I ended up with a Blue Moon because I needed the orange garnish in a big way.

Riding back to my tent in the park I saw a sign for Dinosaur Park. It was just a block from my tent. A little corner lot filled with dino skeletons made from spare parts. Genius!

I hit the hay before sunset but never really fell asleep. Tossing and turning all night. The wind finally calmed down for a few hours. At 4:30 I gave up trying to sleep and started to break camp. I was doing great with my tent, having pulled all the stakes out of the ground, when a big gust launched my tent 20 yards.

During the disassembly a part of the tent that pulls the side of tent out fell off. The tent is still usable but a bit claustrophobic. I’ve used this Big Agnes tent maybe ten times so this failure really pisses me off.

After a sumptuous breakfast of bean dip on tortillas, I headed out at dawn. Erie was still abed, it’s citizens tired from the raw excitement of Saturday night on the prairie.

My first two miles were aided by a huge tailwind out of the south. A great way to start the day. Then I turned west. The cross wind wasn’t so bad for 14 miles. A right turn had me sailing the winds for four miles into Chanute. In 2019 we couldn’t take this route because the entire area was flooded. I didn’t recognize anything.

In Chanute I stopped at WalMart for some glue to use on my tent and my shoes which are falling apart. (Duct tape has been getting a lot of use.)

The WalMart cashier suggested a diner in town. Good stuff but as I have come to realize nobody in the service industry in Kansas is in a hurry. Breakfast took over an hour.

Back on the road with the engine properly fueled I surfed the cross winds for 15 miles before turning south. Dang! The headwinds were brutal. I turned off the main road to check the offerings at the convenience store in Benedict. This little town is epically impoverished. The convenience store was scuzzy and, just like 2019, closed.

Back on the main highway I rode what is essentially a causeway between two planted fields. The fields are about 10 to 15 feet below the road. In 2019 the flood waters were nearly up to the edge of the road. The road has no shoulders, just an immediate drop off to the fields. Unlike 2019, traffic was light so it wasn’t as scary. I could have done without the crosswinds though.

As the day wore on the winds picked up. I passed many fields with cows grazing. (Heifers bring $1.79 per pound in Missouri. The things you overhear in diners!) After one such field, I saw two donkeys; one was braying loudly at me. It must have recognized The Mule.

A quick check of my phone told me that a diner in the next town was closing at 2. With tailwinds pushing me, I made it in plenty of time only to find the diner didn’t exist. I pushed on to my last hope for food three miles north.

As I rode several ATVs sped past me. When I reached the gas station convenience store all the ATVs were parked there. I went inside and the place was packed with the ATV people. As has been the case everywhere I go around here, none of them were masked. I wore a cloth mask, but I probably should have worn an N95 respirator. If I get Covid I’ll know where I contracted it.

The store has a deli. It took me a few minutes before I realized that this was Lizard Lipps cafe in which I had eaten in 2019. All TransAm riders get a little plastic lizard to zip tie to their bikes. I still have my 2019 lizard on my stem so I’m going to have to get creative with the placement of the new one. I also signed the guest book. I looked up my previous signing and there were the entries of our five man TransAm posse. (Two sped ahead after a couple of days.)

From Lizard Lipps to the next town was an 18-mile slog through strong crosswinds. I was on a highway with broad unpaved shoulders. Three times the gusts blew me clear off the pavement. Passing trucks with big wakes amplified the winds too.

Miles 78 to 80 were into a stifling headwind. I often used my granny gears just to maintain forward momentum.

I arrived in Eureka, passing many old businesses that were closed. A Pizza Hut (a bad one as I recall) with an outdated sign. Cherokee Chinese & American restaurant. La Taqueria B&B.

After over 80 miles of winds on a poor night’s sleep, there was no way I was going to camp in the town park.

A note on the terrain. There are very few steep hills but the road slopes upward gradually. Every so often there’s a rise, like a big step, then back to the gradual incline. The last 15 miles have been in the Flint Hills. No more brick streets.

Nothing is open. Tomorrow being Memorial Day means that many businesses are closed. I don’t know how I’m going to get to Newton 80 miles to the west with more crosswinds and unreliable resources. If I stay here I get to deal with the prospect of violent thunderstorms on Tuesday. I’ll figure it out in the morning.

Todays mileage: 84.5 Tour mileage: 505

Hmmm
Pretty cool
Dawn on the prairie
When in Rome
Amber waves of grain
The causeway without the flood waters
Five went riding – from 2019

No Name Tour: Day 13 – Second Eureka

After dinner of peanut butter on flour tortillas and an apple, I read some of Corey’s Crazyguyonabike.com journal. The sandman whacked me in the head at 9:30 and I didn’t move a muscle for eight hours.

After a mediocre motel breakfast, The Mule and I hit the road, west bound for Benedict with a strong cross wind.

I spotted what I thought were statues of three horses near the road. Then I realized they were real. What beautiful creatures. They posed for a picture but wouldn’t say hello.

Corey and Mark caught up to me. I think they are on PEDs. Or maybe I’m just old, fat, and slow.

At one point I passed a baby snapper turtle in the road and pointed it out to Mark who nobly stopped and saved to grow and wreak havoc.

Once we turned north and had a tailwind we made like bakery trucks (and hauled buns).

After 40 miles we stopped at Lizzard Lips Cafe for lunch. We were each given little plastic lizards to attach to our bikes. I took the pink one to match my WABA socks. Now my tour has a mascot. It needs a name. Suggestion welcome.

After lunch we headed west to Eureka, my second Eureka of the trip. The road was s busy highway. We had 19 miles to go and we’re racing the predicted arrival of thunderstorms. Along the way we met Ian Graves who was heading east on the TransAm. He gave us the forecast.

We pushed the pace. Well, Mark and Corey did. I kept them in view and hoped my left knee would survive the trauma.

I did stop to take a selfie with a sign.

Thankfully it did and the motel that Ian recommended was adequate and walking distance to a beer store.

Tonight we dine at Pizza Hut. (It’s nearby what can I say.) We will be joined by Sweet T, another TransAm rider who we’ve been an hour behind for the last few days.

One thing has been very clear: had we come this way a day earlier we’d have been sitting for days waiting for the flood waters to recede. So despite our inconvenience yesterday, all has worked out surprisingly well under the circumstances.

Miles today: 62

Total miles: 827.5

Evidence of flooding was all around us but the flooding near the Verdigris River was astonishing. The highway passing through some farm fields was raised above the fields like a causeway. The fields were filled with flood water for as far as you could see on either side of the road. About two feet from the road was debris from the peak of the flood. The water must have been at least a foot higher. That’s a mind boggling amount of rain.

The road had no shoulders and a drop off on either side. Strong crosswinds and passing cars and trucks made for a hairy mile of riding.