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