Bike Tour 2022 – Hutchinson to Medicine Lodge

When I planned my itinerary, today’s ride was supposed to end after 56 miles in Pratt. I checked the weather app and found out that I’d have tailwinds and comfortable temperatures all morning. If I continued another 30 miles to Medicine Lodge I’d have good winds tomorrow when I head west to the Gyp Hills.

After breakfast (two huge bowls of Cheerios. a banana, and several cups of coffee, I headed south out of Hutchinson on Main Street a little after 8 a.m.

About a half mile into the ride I could hear the unmistakable sound of a dog huffing and puffing. A short haired, medium size dog was joyfully running its ass off to keep pace with me. This went on for at least a half mile. Then he turned down a side street still chugging away. A weird start to the day.

My route involved highways all the way. At first I was on US 50. Lots of trucks, but no worries: it had a 12-foot paved shoulder. US 50 headed west after a few miles and I took Kansas Highway 61 south. My paved shoulder went down to 8 feet. Traffic was lighter but twice I was passed by absurdly wide vehicles. One was a farm machine that looked like a giant insect. It had at least a 6-foot clearance under the cab and was more than a lane wide. The other was a tractor pulling a trailer with a wide red machine on the back. Both vehicles gave me plenty of room.

Highway 61 followed a Union Pacific rail line all the way to Pratt. I was expecting evidence of flooding but there was hardly any. New state motto: Kansas: We Do Drainage.

The pavement could not have been smoother or flatter. The Mule trucked along at 15 mph. The tailwind and blue skies lifted my spirits. The riding was effortless,

The shoulder eventually narrowed to three feet but there was no rumble strip to deal with so I had plenty of room to roll.

For the last several days there have been small, bird-pecking oil wells in the fields. The number increased as I moved south.

I arrived in Pratt a little after noon. 56 miles before 12:30 is insane. When I came to a WalMart, I stopped to inspect my left pedal. It was holding up just fine and not making any suspicious noises. So I moved on.

I asked a police officer where I could buy breakfast. The only place was three miles west of town. So I settled for McDonalds which I happened to be standing next to.

A quarter pounder with bacon, fries, and a half gallon of Diet Coke for $9. And two water bottles filled with cold water to boot. Burp.

Continuing on to Medicine Lodge was an easy decision to make. I rolled down Main Street in Pratt. It could have been any Main Street in any city in Kansas. Every other store was empty. Cars were parked diagonally signaling this was once a vibrant commercial area.

The ride to Medicine Lodge was slower. I had called ahead to book a room at a motel so there as no hurry. I had an occasional light headwind which seemed only fair after the morning. With each passing mile the terrain became less flat farms and more rolling fields with trees scattered about. This area clearly gets more rainfall than farther north.

With ten miles to go the road started rolling up and down and side to side as I entered a hillier area. There weren’t any granny worthy hills, just a few middle ringers.

I am now very much in Trump/conspiracy nut country based on some of the yard signs I was seeing. I think I’ll stay out of the bars in town tonight.

I’m pretty impressed with how my body’s holding up. An achy shoulder now and then. A sore left calf. Pretty much run of the mill stuff. I will confess to feeling a bit wobbly when I dismounted at the motel. I feel more like I did in 2018 than in 2019.

Speaking of the motel, it looks like a place where murders are committed (Stuff her body in the trunk, Roscoe.) Other than a threadbare carpet, the room is quite acceptable. I promise I’ll duck if I hear gunfire.

Miles today: 88. Total tour miles: 787 in 12 days.

I hear the train a comin’
Grain elevator. Would my home owners association object if I put one of these babies in my backyard?
Fields of grain. If you zoom in you can see the wind turbines in the distance.
Trees and hills. And a few clouds.

No Name Tour: Day 16 – The Long Straight Road

Last night about 1 a.m. I rolled over and my right hamstring went into a massage be spasm. I managed not to yell but the spasm lasted ten minutes. It gradually abated for another then minutes before going into spasm again.

Ten minutes later my leg calmed down and I could go back to sleep.

Rough night.

We had breakfast at the hostel. The meal consisted of food we bought at the supermarket last night. Over the meal we discussed options for getting past Nickerson. The main roads we needed to use we still closed by the flood.

Sweet T opted to listen to locals who told him to go north, east of Nickerson. Then go west, passing the flooded area to the north. We opted to use the google. We knew we were taking a chance in but it worked out fine.

From our Adventure Cycling maps we knew that there would be no services along our route of over 70 miles. BYOB.

We went west from Hutchinson for about 16 miles. For part of this segment of the ride we were pacelining. We crossed over the Arkansas (pronounced Are Kansas) which flows south from the Nickerson area. The river was high and fast.

Fast, I wasn’t, and the three-man pacelining became a duo.

Next we turned north for six miles. Mark and Corey guessed right; we ended up just to the west of the flooded area.

Here we turned left for 50 miles. Without a turn. Just straight through the prairie. Corey told me that, in addition to riding into a light headwind we were climbing on a grade of 1 to 2 percent.

Mark sped ahead. I tried to keep up with Corey but my left knee and my need to use a restroom kept my speed down.

Mark, then Corey, stopped at a roadside sign that said “Water for Bikers”. Corey suggested that I stop and ask to use their restroom.

Sherry gives water to cyclist. A true trail angel.

I did. No problem. Then the homeowner named Sherry gave me a cold bottle of water for the road.

Odd roadside monument to Warren G. Harding

And the miles went by. Slowly. On and on through a wildlife preserve with more birdsongs than I could count. This is a stop over for many migratory birds.

Quivers National Wildlife Refuge

Then came the farms. Some had grain growing but most were not yet planted. Ponds of water were visible in most of these fields.

On and in. The terrain rising before me. Just a bit. The wind pushing against me. Just a bit.

Corey is the yellow dot in the distance

After over six hours of riding I caught Mark and Corey waiting on a bridge over the Arkansas River. (Our route was a line under its arc.)

We rode into Larned and stopped by the police station to get permission to camp one the surprisingly dry city park. We were told that tonight the city would be spraying for mosquitoes. We decide not to risk exposure to the insecticide and checked into a $50 per night motel. It’s everything you’d expect and less.

Miles today: 73

Miles total: 1022.5

No Name Tour: Day 15 – Pacelining to the Moon

Today we left the Warmshowers house and headed into Newton to partake of a breakfast buffet. Our hosts met us there and I ate lots of fruit on top of pancakes and other goodies.

We, Corey, Mark, and me, bid farewell to our hosts and headed west into an unexpectedly strong headwind. After 5 miles we turned north and had little relief.

After waving at the town of Hesston we headed due west for 23 miles to Medora. Corey stopped to photograph all the things, Mark jetted out into the distance, I held the middle.

When Corey didn’t catch up to me, I texted him to make sure he was okay. (He was.)

When he was done with his artistic pursuits, he rode his ass off to catch up to me. Exhausted, he caught my wheel and I pulled him along for a few miles.

We then traded leads until we caught up to Mark who was standing on the side of the road admiring his awesomeness.

Actually he was still suffering from SBS and was determined to get to Hutchinson to buy a new saddle and new shorts.

Our original destination was Nickerson, Kansas, but the entire town is literally under water.

The three of us pacelined into the wind going much faster than we would have individually.

We pulled into the town of Buhler where Danke Schoen was blaring from loudspeakers. (I made that up.)

We had lunch at a cafe. It was a relief to get out of the wind. There I met Sweet T, a TransAm rider who works at an REI in Fairfax, Virginia.

Another 10 miles of windy pacelining brought us to Hutchinson. We went to Harley’s Bike Shop where I, also suffering from SBS, bought new bike shorts. We picked up the key to a free bike hostel in a nearby church. Then Mark and I returned to the bike shop. Mark bought a new saddle (his third saddle of the trip) and new bike shorts. I bought a pair of socks because the Warmshowers laundry ate one of my socks last night.

Later Corey, Mark, and I went to the Cosmosphere, a local museum about the space age. We checked out an Atlas (Gemini) and a Redstone (Mercury) rockets and a Saturn 5 thruster outside. Inside we toured the fascinating exhibit about the Nazi’s V1 and V2 rockets. (Made doubly interesting for me having visited the Churchill War Rooms in London in January). There was also a full size replica of the Space Shuttle Endeavor and an SR-71 Blackbird (a super fast, high flying spy plane).

Then we all watched the movie Apollo 11 on a screen on the inside of a dome. It’s an excellent recap of the mission for all you kiddies who weren’t alive when it happened.

After going to the moon we went out for beer and pizza at Salt City Brewery. We ended the night at the grocery store for more snacks and provisions for tomorrow’s ride.

Tomorrow we will be improvising a route because sections of the TransAm are under water. We are headed to Larned, about 60 miles to the west.

Earlier today I searched the weather for Nevada. My concern has been for sweltering heat. It’s actually cold there.

Another concern is that getting across the Rockies may be undoable because of unusually high spring snowfalls.

Time will tell.

Miles today: 46.5

Total miles: 949.5