No Name Tour: Day 19 – Dust in the 💨

I barely slept at all last night in my new tent. It withstood high winds and rain. I did not withstand neighborhood noises (the bird calls here remind me of Sydney Australia) and my messed up left knee. Because of the steady climb we haven’t been able to glide much. Just a constant grinding away. Tonight I’m putting in ear plugs and taking Ibuprofen PM. I’ll be dead to the world.

Leoti has a small bakery where the male breakfast burritos and brew coffee. That was enough grub to fuel our morning.

Heading west again on Highway 93, we encountered the same old, same old. A straight road that climbed a one percent grade with uncanny consistency. The calm winds of the very start of the ride soon gave way to 12 – 15 mph headwinds. I decided to just listen to my body. It said 9 mph. And do The Mule and I rolled, well behind Mark and Corey.

They are at the halfway point of their journey. Both are having hand discomfort. Mark taped a kitchen sponge to the left side of his handlebar. Corey fashioned cushions for both hands out of a pool noodle. I am not making this up.

Pool noodles to the rescue

We finally encountered our first east bound TransAm rider today. Adam is from Wales. He started in Seattle, rode to, then up the Columbia River. Then he picked up the TransAm Route. Adam confirmed that the route is open through the Rockies with snow on the ground at higher elevations. As you might imagine he said it was beautiful.

Adam with a tailwind smile

So Mark and Corey are good to go. As for me, I know of one road closure from a rock slide on my route in Utah. I’ll be checking with state DOTs for more tonight.

Along our route we passed a grain elevator along the parallel railroad tracks. I’d have taken a picture of the train waiting to be filled but it wouldn’t fit into the frame. Mark estimated that it had about 200 identical hopper cars.

We took a snack break in Tribune, Kansas. Then hit the road for another 22 miles. Fortunately the wind had died down but the uphill grind still wore me down.

We crossed into the mountain time zone soon after lunch.

Soon thereafter we posed at the Colorado state line sign.

Me, Corey, and Mark

Tonight we are staying at the Sheridan Lake Bible Church. No showers or bed but air conditioning, bathrooms, and a well stocked larder. No complaints from me.

We are now sat 4,079 feet, meaning we climbed another 700 feet today.

Miles today: 52

Total miles: 1,219

I haven’t had a day off. Tomorrow we plan on riding only 28 miles.

No Name Tour: Day 18 -Sailing the Prairie Winds on Highway 93

After a fine Mexican dinner, we retired to the somewhat shabby Derrick Inn. The hotels heyday was at least 20 years ago by the looks of things.

No breakfast was in the offing so I snarfed a PB and Nutella burrito. Sweet T and Fedya left early in pursuit of a 100 mile day. Mark, Corey, and I had more modest plans.

Grain elevator in Ness City

Scott City was 56 miles west. If we felt good, we’d continue on another 24 miles to Leoti,

The day began with calm winds which quickly switched to a strong tailwind. We were riding due west on Highway 93.

I left a bit early and was caught by the dynamic duo after 7 1/2 miles. We then went at our own speeds. Mark hammering, Corey stopping to take pictures, me just cruising along. Depending on the wind I was going 14 to 17 miles per hour. I didn’t even notice that the road was trending uphill ever so slightly.

We stopped for breakfast in Dighton at a bowling alley with a diner. As we rolled into town we could see flags flapping in the wind.

Wisdom from a diner door

Off we road to Scott City. Wind at our backs. Trucking along. Gradually climbing. On Highway 93.

Scott City had a gas station convenience store so we stopped for drinks and snacks. We decided to keep rolling west even though the wind was now a crosswind from the south.

Grain elevator, bakery, bike art

24 miles. Up. West. Wheat. Fallow fields. Oil pumps. Grain elevators. Wind turbines. (There were few wind turbines in eastern Kansas. Many more out west.) The White line on the road hypnotizing The Mule and me.

We passed a few feed lots. Thousands of cattle gathered for fattening before slaughter. So depressing.

The first feedlot. Big but dwarfed by the next.

We rolled into Leoti after 80 miles. We simply could not have asked for a better riding day. Tired but not exhausted. After a stop at Dollar General for snacks and supplies (more peanut butter!), we found the town park and set up our tents in the wind. I struggled a bit with my new tent but Mark helped me. (Setting it up sideways into a 15 mph wind isn’t such a good idea.)

We have access to the rest rooms and showers at the hospital next door. So we cleaned up and ate a fine dinner of whatever we had stashed in our panniers. (For me, you guessed it, PB and Nutella on tortilla.)

I am 24 miles ahead of schedule but will be taking shorter days in the next 3 or 4 days to take advantage of free shelter.

We are not seeing any eastbound cyclist. Mark’s friend in Utah says the mountain passes on the western side of the Rockies are still snowed in. In a few days I’ll have to decide whether to chance taking my route west along the Western Express from Pueblo or call an audible and ride north along the TransAm.

We are now at 3,300 feet. Tomorrow we leave the Central Time zone, kiss Kansas goodbye, and enter Colorado.

Miles today: 80

Trip miles: 1,167

No Name Tour: Day 17 – And Five Went Riding

After a sumptuous dining experience at Subway, Corey, Mark, Sweet T, and I headed back to the hotel where we met Fedya, a Russian guy who began his cross country ride in North Carolina.

We headed to our respective rooms and, by all reports, crashed early and hard. Yesterday was a tough ride.

The hotel was a rather run down place but its breakfast was pretty decent: coffee, juice, cereal (including Cheerios!), eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and yogurt. No fruit but still more than enough fuel for our 60+ mile trek.

(L to R) Mark, Sweet T, Corey, Fedor at the start

We headed west out of Larned. I tried to keep up with the gang but it took me 8 miles to warm up. We were dealing with a light headwind and a steady, gentle climb for 12 miles before turning to the north.

It was 19 miles to the optimistically named Rush Center. Wheat and fallow fields, many still affected by the floods. On and on in a straight line. Fedya, who is fit but relatively new to bicycling, was experiencing serious SBS. You know they are hurting when I blow past them.

I could see the others far in the distance. I’d stop from time to time to check things out and ease by behind. I could see them pulling away.

Riders on a rare bend in the road

At a rest stop at Rust Center, Fedor was despondent; his Burt was killing him. Mark loaned him the Brooks Cambrium saddle that he tried last week. After only 100 yards, Fedya put his old saddle, a Brooks 17, back on. It seemed to work. Sore butt and all I couldn’t keep up with him.

From Rush City we headed due west to Ness City. The wind direction was rotating. A cross wind gradually turned into a tailwind. Just the thing we needed to push us up the 1 percent grade.

33 miles later we rode into Ness City like cowpokes after a cattle drive. Alas there was no saloon with sportin’ women. We settled for a quick break at Dollar General where Mark bought a pool noodle. It made me think of Dave.

The weather had been beautiful all day so we were hoping to camp in the city park. A lack of showers or a pool convinced us to check into the rather run down hotel in town. At least it’s inexpensive. And has a pool.

Tonight we dine on Mexican food. Hola, senorita. Cinco cervesas, por favor.

Miles today: 64.5

Miles total: 1,087

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

No Name Tour: Day 14 – Dixie Chicks Kind of Ride

Today was challenging. For the first time in a while we had headwinds. Not especially strong ones but enough to keep our speed down. Mark and Corey has oatmeal in their hotel room. I opted to dine at Eureka’s finest breakfast establishment.

A western omelet with burnt hash browns and burnt toast and weak coffee. A bargain at a third the price.

I hit the road and decided to not fight the wind. So I poked along the road through the Flint Hills at 9 mph. The clouds were low but not threatening. A light mist and temperatures in the 60s made it perfect riding weather despite the winds.

There’s a lot of flint around these parts

Obligatory Cow Photo

At Rosalia the convenience store was no longer there. So it was on to Cassoday The hills were no longer flinty but the spaces were wide open. Green everywhere. Simpsons’s clouds in the sky.

At a restaurant in Cassoday I caught up to Mark and Corey. They were finishing second breakfast and Mark was bemoaning his bad case of SBS, Sore Butt Syndrome.

As we left, store dog Maisie came to say goodbye.

Maisie

Off they rode with me well behind. There would be no services of any sort for the next 40 miles. The wind did us a favor by dying down. I didn’t see Mark and Corey until I caught them taking a roadside rest about halfway to Newton.

They took off while I snarfed some peanuts. Then I gave slow pursuit.

20 miles later I rolled into Newton. I found the town’s bike shop and bought a red blinks light for The Mule. Then I rode around the block to the Voth’s house. Orvin greeted me and his from John lifted The Mule up the wrap around porch’s steps. Janet greeted us inside.

The three of them fed us, let us do laundry, and told us stories.

Tomorrow we go off route for free housing at a church in Hutcheson. The TransAm has many, many more free lodging options than the last two routes I used in 2017 and 2018.

Miles today: 75.5

Total miles: 903

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.

No Name Tour: Day 12 – It’s Supposed to Be an Adventure, Right?

Another monster storm hit today. Fortunately I was in a nice comfy hotel room when it did. It was rainy so hard st one point that it sounded like someone was blasting my room’s window with a hose.

I waited it out then hit the road knowing that some of the roads to Chanute, today’s planned destination, were closed because of flooding.

Instead of taking the Adventure Cycling route which left the southern part of Pittsburg, I opted to head north then take a two lane highway west all the way to Chanute. Or so I thought.

A quarter mile into the ride I had to detour to avoid downed power lines. The neighborhood I rode through had standing water all over the place.

Back on the highway I enjoyed a huge tailwind. 20 mph was not a problem. I stopped after a couple of miles to admire some descendants of the plains that white settlers nearly wiped out in the 1800s.

It wasn’t much of a herd.

Back on the road I flew north for a few more miles then turned left. For six miles I dealt with a side wind. It probably slowed me a couple of mph. Not a big deal.

In Girard I stopped at a gas station convenience store where I learned the road into Chanute was closed. When I looked at the google it seemed to indicate that Chanute could only be entered from the west. All the access roads were flooded.

I was about to throw in the towel on the day and ride north 24 miles to Fort Scott when Corey rode by. I yelled to him and he pulled into station. It turns out Mark was at the station across the street. (Two gas station convenience stores constitutes a central business district in Kansas.)

We assembled for snacks and Corey got the google to map out a route to Chanute. I thought it was bogus and wouldn’t work, Corey said “So what. This is supposed to be an adventure. If the road is closed we can ride in the railroad tracks.”

Clearly the heat was getting to him.

But he had a point. Except about the railroad tracks. I ain’t riding no trestles. The Mule would not abide.

Off they went and I followed. The next six miles were due north. The tailwind blasted us past one farm after another. The gently rolling terrain felt level.

We then turned west and that tailwind was now buffeting is from the side. The other two pulled far ahead. I wanted to leave something in my legs in case this backfired.

About 15 miles from Girard Corey and Mark were hanging out in a roadside convenience store. Sadly, they had learned that Corey’s google route was blocked by flooding.

As we were pondering our alternatives a local man walked in and announced that a road to Chanute was now open.

Were saved!

Just go west to the stop sign turn north then go left on highway 39.

He made it sound like the stop sign was just up the street.

It was nine miles away.

Corey and Mark took off and I followed from a distance. When I finally got to the stop sign the turn to the north gave me that amazing tailwind again. Ahhh…

Then the turn to the west turned it into a side wind for 11 miles.

There was water everywhere. In the fields, in the drainage ditches on the side of the road, and in swollen creeks that were far over their banks.

This was nothing compared to the flooding in Chanute. The Neosho River was nowhere to be seen. In its place was a massive flood plain.

These pictures don’t come close to doing it justice.

One thing’s for sure, I’m getting out of here before more rain hits.

I grabbed a hotel room south of town. I cleaned and lubed my chain. Then I spent 30 minutes setting up my new tent for the first time in my hotel room. It’s incredibly complicated. Good thing I did a trial run in the comfort of my motel room,. Had I bought the footprint it would have been easier.

Many thanks to Corey and Mark for convincing/shaming me to take a risk that worked out very well.

Miles today: 62

Trip miles: 765.5

No Name Tour: Day 11 – Church, Pie, Tornados, and Flooding

I miss central Montana where nothing happened for days and days. Biking in Missouri is surreal by comparison.

Corey and Mark left the Ash Grove bike house early in the hopes of beating bad weather to our west. Maybe if the storm tracked to the north we’d be okay.

Such fools we are.

I left about a half hour later with a tummy full of peanut butter tortillas and whole wheat bread and butter. Nutrition is my middle name.

The terrain seemed gentler for a few miles before the road crossed a series of creaks. Down to the creek then right back up.

At one point I went by a farm with some cattle. With very little urging I had them running beside me on their die of a wire fence. Stampede!

The weather seemed to be off in the distance until it wasn’t. Thunder. Lightning. Rain, growing heavier by the minute. I was grinding up a long hill when I stopped to put on my rain jacket. Minutes after the clouds opened. A car pulled up along side me. The passenger window rolled down and the woman told me “There’s a church at the next cross roads. You’re welcome to come in…if you make it.”

I said “Thanks. I will.”

Then I thought “if I make it?”

I made it. Mark and Corey were hanging out under the covered entry to the little white church. Soon the congregation arrived and we all went in for services.

Religion and I don’t get along so I watched the service with bemused and confused detachment.

The service starts with three pledges of allegiance: to the US flag, to the Christian flag (I never knew there was such a thing), and to the Bible. I resisted the urge to start humming “Imagine”.

While the service was going on the storm was raging. The windows of the church were frosted so all you could see were flashes of lightning. I went outside for a moment and it was raining about as hard as physics would allow.

After over an hour and a let up to the rain, the three guests on six wheels headed west.

Lest I sound ungrateful, thanks to the good folks at the Pennsboro church for taking us in.

The terrain leveled and we made good time to Golden City. Actually Mark and Corey did; I lagged behind. We learned during church that three people died in Golden City last week when a tornado touched down. I didn’t see any evidence of it as I went into town to eat lunch with the two amigos.

The restaurant was crowded so it took a long time for lunch. Corey was certain that they gave bike tourists a free piece of pie but they turned out to no longer be the case. The pie was good anyway.

We headed due west with los dos dudes way in front of me. I noticed a pile of corrugated steel in a farmer’s field to my right. Then I saw Mark and Corey stopped up ahead and looking to the left side.

There was a house with a couple of outbuildings utterly devastated. Nearby trees were torn up. You could see exactly where the tornado touched down. It was stupefying. With all these wide open spaces, how unlucky these people were.

The other two headed west again well above The Mule’s top speed. We knew the road were taking was closed up ahead because of flooding.

A driver stopped me and advised me about detours. As I researched possibilities on my phone, Corey texted me. They took off their shoes and walked through the flooded section of road without a problem. So I did too.

After a brief chat with a couple in a VW bug who decided not to test the waters, I continued west. The wind was now in my face and the road began to roll again.

It took a frustratingly long time to get to the Kansas state line.

After that I pushed on another five miles to Pittsburg. With all the flooding I saw today, I didn’t even bother to ask about camping in the city park. The first hotel I checked had flood damage on the below grade first floor. I went up the street to a Comfort Inn. A nice bed, laundry, and pizza. Soon I’ll be saving logs. My apologies to the other guests.

Miles today:72

Miles total: 703.5