Bike Tour 2022 – Leoti, Kansas to Sheridan Lake, Colorado

Upon arriving in Leoti, I pitched my tent in the town park (my repair worked!) and went to take a shower in the adjacent mini-hospital. The nurse in charge wouldn’t let me use the shower, presumably out of Covid concerns. (I was wearing better protection, an N95 respirator mask, than the hospital staff. Go figure.)

I was dispatched to the swimming pool where I took a very cold shower. I felt rather like George Costanza when I was done.

I had dinner at the town bakery, where I ate in 2019. When I left for the bakery the skies were partly cloudy when I returned they were black.

I quickly got into my tent then all hell broke loose. Big gusty winds and a mighty rain ensued. I hoped that I set up the tent properly and that it didn’t leak. Yes on both counts.

After an hour I took an Advil PM and re-emerged. I could see the next wave of storms bearing down. Back in the tent I went. Another raging storm came through. My tent held firm and dry. With ear plugs in and eye mask on I fell asleep until 3 a.m. It was still raining, but not inside my little sanctuary.

I arose with the birds and twiddled my thumbs until the town diner opened at 7. It had a big circular table where ten large men gathered to discuss whatever men discuss. Every single small town has this.

Back at the park I was packing up and about to leave when Bob Eakins rolled up. Bob and I met in Monticello, Utah in 2019. He had just finished riding from Sacramento and was DONE, exhausted mentally and physically. It made me wonder what I was about to get myself into. I felt the same as Bob when I arrived in San Francisco.

Bob is riding west to east from Pueblo. I thought he was well to the east by now but he rides relatively short days. A bit surprising considering his relative youth – he’s 65.

After an hour he returned to his motel room and I headed straight west on Kansas Highway 96. Into a headwind of course. I was working hard, curiously taking big gulps of fresh air.

The farms on either side of the road went on forever and the sky was picture pretty with puffy white clouds. Every so often one of the clouds would block the sun and the temperature would drop. Aah.

I arrived 23 miles later in Tribune where I stopped for lunch. Chicken strips and green beans. Fine dining.

Tribune is in Greeley County. I lit out west on 96 and soon passed the small town of Horace. Go west young man indeed.

The wind was more of a cross wind after lunch but I still seemed to be working awfully hard. A reward of sorts came when I left Kansas and entered Colorado. I will Kansas no more forever. (Except on the 50 States Ride, of course.)

In Colorado the road had expansion joints, what every cyclist’s ass hates. Thankfully they didn’t continue for more than a few miles. I was passed by oncoming farm equipment that looked like Transformers.

I arrived in Sheridan Lake, population 88 if you count the pets, and chatted with the clerk in the town gas station/convenience store. She grew up in Towner, which I had passed through a few miles previously. Towner’s population is 22.

On the way into the store I waved to a bicycle tourist coming from the west. He and I are staying at the Sheridan Lake Bible Church which has hosted bike tourists every summer for many years.

My east bound friend is Mike, from Switzerland. He’s a fascinating man. He trekked in Nepal, visited Cambodia and Vietnam, flew to Los Angeles, then flew to Denver where he bought a bike and a Burley flat bed trailer and set out across America. Mike had a catalytic converter business in Europe that he sold in 2005. There’s no future in it, he rationalized. His mother’s side of the family developed the Schindler company, a manufacturing conglomerate. Among other things they make escalators and elevators. I wonder if my 2018 bike tour friend Martin who worked in elevator repair in Switzerland worked for Schindler. It would be an interesting coincidence.

Ernie, the pastor of the church came by and chatted for a long time. He has all kinds of stories about bike tourists who’ve stayed here. Imagine living in the middle of nowhere and meeting people from all over the world.

Mike is camping outside despite the threat of bad weather. He doesn’t like to sleep on the floor. He knows a thing or two about bad weather; he sailed across the Atlantic twice.

For those of you who think I’m a little old to be doing this, Mike is 85.

I’m now at 4,071 feet. I gained about 700 feet today. Gotta gulp that air now.

Bob Eakins- We meet again!
Time zone change
Just a surreal sky all day
Roadside grain tower in Towner. I watched a crew building one of these. Truly impressive. They added band after band of wraparound rebar using a crane from the top.

Today’s miles: 54. Tour miles: 1,006.

Bike Tour 2022 – Dodge City to Dighton

The motel breakfast was alright by me. Two helpings of breakfast burritos without the tortillas washed down with multiple cups of coffee.

A tailwind greeted The Mule this morning and we rode it on US 50 all the way to Cimarron, about 18 miles west. We pulled into a supermarket to stock up on snacks (two apples, two bananas, and a wrap).

The weather report called for nasty thunderstorms with the possibility of hail and a tornado tonight. Let’s go camping!

Not.

The weather report also said I’d have a tailwind if I headed north. So I decided to eschew the finer hotels of Garden City to the west on US 50 and head north through nothingness to Dighton which is on the TransAm Trail.

The first 20 miles had the predicted tailwinds and even seemed to be slightly downhill. I spent a good deal of time going 18 – 20 mph without expending much effort.

I was back in infinite farm country. All day the overcast sky looked like it was going to spawn showers; all day it was dry if a bit more hot and humid than recent days.

After another 20 miles the route turned west for five miles, then north for the remainder of the day. The level prairie gave way to more rolling terrain and the winds began to turn first as a crosswind then for the last five miles into a headwind.

I was glad to see the grain elevator and water tower of Dighton after an unexpectedly hard ride. It turns out that Dighton is nearly 300 feet higher in elevation than Dodge City. Conscious of the weather report I immediately looked for a motel room. The Dighton Inn is an old cinder lock place straight out of a film noir.

After washing up I headed out for a late lunch. The town Mexican place was close and open. Good enough. The food left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately there are multiple choices for breakfast.

Tomorrow’s ride will be 48 miles straight west to Leoti where I camped with Mark and Corey in 2019. The camping is next to a small hospital where showers are provided for bicycle tourists.

Today’s miles: 72. Tour miles: 952.

Real prairie and a small portion of the historic Santa Fe Trail.
A Native American man prays or perhaps meditates at a monument to the Santa Fe Trail.
I finally got close to one of these behemoths. There are far fewer of these wind turbines than I expected.

Bike Tour 2022 – Greensburg to Dodge City

A couple of things happened last night worth noting. After my shower I left an amazing three inch wide ring in the tub. Maybe one reason I’m so slow is that I’m carrying half of Kansas with me.

Much more worrisome was the return of my stenosis leg pain. I walked less than a quarter mile to the gas station/Subway/convenience store up the highway. By the time I got there my left leg was screaming at me. I had planned to bring my food back to my room but opted to eat in the restaurant to let the pain calm down. The walk back caused a similar pain flare up so I hit the floor and did the PT exercises I have neglected for two weeks. Before bed I took two Gabapentin tablets. They seemed to help. They also knocked me out. I slept 8 1/2 hours.

The hotel breakfast was the real deal. Biscuits and gravy and sausage and cereal and OJ and coffee. (They also had made-to-order omelets, but I found out only after I had already gone all Porky on the other grub.) I figured I’d get about 20-25 miles out of the feast.

I set off around 10 headed west then northwest for Dodge City. The first 20 miles featured a strong crosswind. The last 24 the wind was favorable and my speed jumped by 3 or 4 mph.

I was back in flat farm country. I felt a bit like I was on a wind trainer as I pedaled away. The road was pitched upward about one percent the entire way. I gained another 200 feet of elevation today.

The pavement and the wide paved shoulder made for good rolling. I was passed by numerous livestock trucks, tractor trailers with a rather fragrant air wake.

I found out why when I arrived in Dodge, after a detour with a rudely steep hill. (Granny made short work of it.) Dodge City is home to National Beef, a humongous slaughterhouse. As I rolled past the offices I could see that the workers were shod in yellow Wellies. Wouldn’t want to ruin your normal shoes with all that blood and gore now would you?

Once in Dodge proper I could see the tourist part of town. It faces right onto a four-lane highway. So much for historical ambiance. There was some sort of street festival going on. Big crowds. Very noisy. Not for me.

I headed for the peace and quiet of the Super 8 on US 50 about a half mile west of the Wild West.

The front desk clerk was a true gem. She cheerfully helped me get my stuff inside and gave me a bag of snacks. Her name is Lotus and Wyndham Hotels should give her a big raise

One problem with bike touring out west is that you don’t notice the dry heat until you stop riding. Eek, it’s 85 degrees. No wonder I’m so thirsty.

My itinerary had me continuing on another 20 miles to Cimmaron but there’s no need to push it. Tomorrow’s weather looks good. I may use the southerly winds to ride back to the TransAm or just continue on the highway to Garden City.

Miles today: 46. Tour miles: 828.

This junk artist has issues with First Ladies.
The turn to the northwest that made my cross wind a tail wind
This baby in Ford, Kansas must hold a whole lot of grain.
Just before Dodge City is Fort Dodge.
Disappointed that historic Dodge City was overtaken by a noisy street party

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.

Bike Tour 2022 – Eureka to El Dorado

Last night was full of worry. How was I going to ride 72 miles with no services in a brutal crosswind with gusts up to 50 mph? Add to the challenge my super hard 84-mile ride yesterday and the fact that the only breakfast place in town was closed for Memorial Day.

What’s a Rootchopper to do?

For a start I spotted cars pulling into the Pizza Hut across the highway as I was lubing my chain last night. I decided to buy a pizza and save some for breakfast. That solved one aspect of the problem. I had saved half a Dagwood sub from yesterday’s lunch at Lizard Lipps. (Basically it’s a small brick of meat and bread.) I could get 30 miles out of that bad boy, for sure.

But the crosswinds would be even stronger. Gusts of up to 50 mph were forecasted. About 58 miles of the TransAm route would have featured crosswinds.

I woke at 4 a.m. and came up with an alternative. Instead of following the TransAm route through Cassoday to Newton, I’d ride 31 miles straight west to El Dorado on a two-lane highway. If I was feeling my oats, I could continue on to Newton from El Dorado. This route would be a few miles shorter than the TransAm and give me a viable bailout point if things got nasty.

After downing some cold pizza, I headed for El Dorado. The first 19 miles coincided with the TransAm. I figured that if things were going well, I could scrap the El Dorado idea.

Things did not go well.

The first four miles weren’t too bad but the winds intensified as the ride wore on. Once, again, again, again, and again gusts blew me off the pavement onto the 8-foot wide unpaved shoulder. My right arm was getting worn out from trying to control the bike’s direction. Big vehicles zooming past at 60 mph either hammered my front with their wake or sucked me to the left. The latter was quite scary.

I had to be on my toes constantly. (Speaking of toes, my shoe repair last night seems to have worked. Dunno about the tent repair.)

I plodded along going slower and slower up the ridges in the Flint Hills. Every so often there would be a wind break but increasing elevation seemed to anger the wind gods. By mile 14 I’d been blown off the road 10 times. Then a truly powerful series of gusts knocked me off the road four times in a mile.

I gave up trying to spin in my lowest gear and started walking. When the winds calmed (to perhaps 20 mph) I started riding again.

At the town of Rosalia, where the TransAm turned north, I decided to continue west to El Dorado. I was pooped. What a shame to miss out on 20+ miles of tailwinds to Cassoday.

The highway dropped the unpaved shoulder but I still had about three feet of paved shoulder to work with. The big gusts had abated and there were continuous wind breaks for several miles. Yay! My speedometer rose into double digits . Yay!

But I was toast. I stopped every two miles to rest. I made it to El Dorado a little after noon about four hours after I left Eureka.

Having already had lunch for breakfast, it seemed logical to have diner breakfast for lunch. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, and two gloriously tall glasses of ice water.

Kansas has the best bacon. Wide, crisp, and salty. So salty. Did I mention salty?

Once I got back on the bike, my legs decided that I was done for the day. I rode to one motel then another to find one with laundry machines. The Baymont Inn not only had them but they were operated by credit card.

Tomorrow the winds out of the south will continue until late morning then shift to the northeast. Storms are forecasted for much of the day. It’s about 40 miles to Newton. I’ll stop there unless the wind gods push me to Hutchison where there is free lodging for cyclists. Then I’ll let the weather forecast and motel availability decide if I’m going south to check out the Gyp Hills Scenic Highway and Dodge City.

I’m pretty much on schedule to get to Canon City by June 11. Plenty of time to take a day off unless something unforeseen happens.

Mileage today: 34. Tour mileage: 544.

Long overdue OCP, obligatory cow photo
There’s lots of flint in these hills. The further west, the more rocky the fields were.
Couldn’t resist buying this yesterday. Came in handy at laundry time.
Well played, Mule

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

Bike Tour 2022 – Fort Scott to Erie

My apologies up front for not taking pictures in Fort Scott. There are several mansions that are now B&Bs. They have Victorian features but are built of brick, of course.

After the hotel breakfast I made my way south in search of a new bike lock. I tried to give my business to two hardware stores but their wares were inadequate. I ended up in WalMart and succeeded in a scoring a lame cable lock and some thin lube, Finish Line 2 in 1, which supposedly allows you to skip the chain cleaning step.

I put the lube on the moving parts of my front detailer and on the cable where it passes through the underside of the bottom bracket, the lowest point on the frame. I also tweaked the barrel adjuster on the cable to tighten it. I had one delayed shift to my granny gear all day. I’ll call that a success.

I rode south on a highway out of town into a 10 to 20 mph headwind. I decided to stop looking at my speedometer and just focus on constant effort.

Most of the drivers gave me plenty of room but as the day wore on the drivers’ patience wore thin. Oddly the only cars that honked were approaching not following.

After 20 miles of head winds I turned west to enjoy 34 miles of sidewinds. Having four panniers on my bike made the turn west a dubious improvement. The panniers act as sails forcing me to leave plenty of space between me and the non-existent shoulder.

I was now on US Bike Route 76, which a bit further on became the TransAmerica Trail.

I stopped at a Lutheran church that shelters bike tourists. I used the restroom, refilled my water bottles, and made off with some munchies. (Yes, brother Joe, I took some crunchy Cheetos.)

On this two-lane, 60 mph road I noticed a turtle making its way across the eastbound lane. I saw a car coming eastbound so I turned across the road and waved at the car to move over so as to avoid the turtle. The car slowed and, with the passenger side window down, the driver cursed at me. It was a kid who was apparently challenged by seeing an obstruction in an arrow-straight road in broad daylight. I didn’t react. I think the turtle made his escape.

About a minute later I was back on the right hand side of the road when a minivan pulled up beside me. It’s passenger side window was open and I could hear the driver raging at me. Just completely out of control. I didn’t look at him because I wanted to avoid his car which was very close to my left side.

He yelled that his kid was 14 years old and could have crashed because of me.

How reassuring!

He may be a crappy driver but at least he’s got the road rage thing down just like dear old dad. Mom was in the shotgun seat giving me the business too. I didn’t react. As they drove off Mom asked me why I swerved. “To save a turtle’s life.”

I may be mistaken but I doubt this was a family of Buddhists.

They turned around in the next driveway and roared past me. I waved. All fingers.

These back to back road rage incidents were only the fourth and fifth of my tours. I could go on about how inane it was. As I rode on it occurred to me that I was lucky they didn’t pull an Easy Rider on me.

A few miles later I rolled into Walnut where the local police had given me permission to camp in the town park. I stopped in the town convenience store and had lunch. A bologna sandwich on wheat with potato chips flavored with Argentinian spices, washed down with a Gatorade. Fine dining.

The store clerk told me that the town of Erie had restaurants and a park with camping so I lit out 9 more miles. Erie is two miles south of my route which meant two more miles of headwinds. I found a camp site conveniently near an empty RV slip where I could use a water pump and recharge my phone. All the comforts of home!

Despite the winds I pitched the tent without much difficulty. After washing up I headed to Main Street for vittles and grog. (Craft beer here is Natty Boh. I resisted the urge to ask for a Gansett.)

Tomorrow promises more strong southerly winds. I’m heading north for at least seven miles so I’m feeling the joy already. I’m looking forward to seeing bike tourists along the road.

Todays mileage: 48. Tour mileage: 525.5

Hello, old friend.
Bless me father for I have spinned.
Cuisine de Walnut
All the Groc you can handle
I was getting sick of motels.

Bike Tour 2022 – Butler, Missouri to Fort Scott, Kansas

The Days Inn was pretty good but I knew it would disappoint eventually. The continental breakfast was on a par with the Hermann Motel’s. Stale cereal. A non functioning toaster. Old, bruised fruit.

I ate what I could. The smart move would have been to go to a diner for something substantial but did I do that? Noooo.

I went to a gas station and bought a couple of snacks figuring I’d get something more substantial during my ride. Didn’t I do this exact same screw up a couple of days ago?

I followed Google maps once again and it once again put me on unpaved roads, this time for at least 25 miles. Must not kill.

Western Missouri has plenty of challenging hills so, of course, my front derailer didn’t want to shift into my granny gear. I think it might be a lubrication issue. Failing that it could just be cable stretching. I’ll deal with it soon.

I’m in cow and horsey country. Also saw a few goats and chickens. And was chased by some dogs.

I crossed into Kansas without the coveted Welcome sign. I wasn’t complaining though since the road went from dirt to asphalt.

This area has a large Amish population. I saw a teenage boy in suspenders wearing a straw hat riding a horse. A couple – older man with long white beard, younger woman wearing a bonnet – in the town of Prescott said hello. I asked a teenage girl for directions to food and she sent me to the gas station near the highway.

I finally tried Hunt Brothers Pizza, a ubiquitous offering in gas station food stores throughout the Midwest. I can confirm that it is edible. I followed the pizza with an ice cream sandwich.

The best part about my gas station experience is that it got me away from Google’s route. I road 1/4 mile west, turned left onto an old paved highway and rode rollers all the way to Fort Scott. Along the way I met a northbound cycle tourist who was heading to North Dakota then somehow to California. We chatted for a bit. I bragged about The Mule’s mileage and age, purchased in 1991. He counters with the fact that his Trek was a 1982 model. Bikes last a long time!

Just before Fort Scott, I saw a big private campground with oddly only one RV. I kept riding until I found the police station. They cleared me to camp in the town park. After climbing yet another hill I found the park. Unlike the rest of the park, the tent camping area hadn’t been mowed. There was a big (two car loads) family with noisy bratty kids in the tent camping area.

I checked out the RV area and it had barking dogs and no electricity for my gadgets. I backtracked into town and stumbled across an old hotel in the heart of the old downtown.

The Courtland was built on 1905 when the streets were still unpaved. It reminds me a lot of the Hotel Nevada in Ely where I stayed on my 2019 tour.

This city was once a railroad and brick-making town. It sent thousands and thousands of train car loads of bricks to the rest of the country every week. Even the streets are brick!

Before checking in I locked my bike outside. Afterwards I couldn’t get the lock, an Ottolock, to open. Frank, the hotel manager, eventually freed The Mule with a hacksaw.

Had I stayed at the campground, I’d have been stuck with an immobile bike. So the decision to get a room worked out well.

The hotel is walking distance to several restaurants. I settled on broasted chicken at the Nu Diner. Broasted chicken used to be the big draw at Whitey’s bar in Arlington, Virginia so I had to try it. Gut bomb!

I followed it up with a large chocolate milk shake. A food coma is about to over take me.

Todays mileage: 57. Tour mileage: 377.5.

Blue skies, green fields, dirt roads
Not a bad day for a ride
Did I say “dirt”? I meant “mud”.
Welcome to Kansas. Pavement ahead.
Hard to do a cross country bike tour without a train delay
Brick streets in Fort Scott
Flower in the park across the street
Frank. hotel proprietor and lock buster

Bike Tour Planning – The Solo Route

The tour is in two parts. The solo part goes from Saint Louis, Missouri to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team route goes from Colorado Springs to the Oregon Coast following the Adventure Cycling TransAmerica Route.

For the solo part of the tour, I decided to ditch Nebraska, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The plan is to do the Katy Trail from O’Fallon, MO to Clinton, MO. Then take a couple of days to get to the TransAmerica Route at Ash Grove, MO. I’ll take the TransAm west to Hutchison, KS. Next I leave the TransAm to check out the Gyp Hills Scenic route between Medicine Lodge and Clearwater. I will angle back to the TransAm at Scott City then head west to Pueblo CO. From Pueblo it’s one day north and about 3,000 feet up to Colorado Springs. The dates below assume I don’t take any days off but I will almost certainly take at least two. Ash Grove is a free, indoor place to stay. There are any number of small towns on the TransAm west of Scott City that have free camping or indoor accommodations.

It’s pretty common for small towns in the plains, especially those on the TransAm, to have free camping for bike tourists in city parks. Hutchinson, KS and Sheridan Lake (not show, but it’s near Eads) in eastern CO have free indoor camping at churches. I am not anticipating using Warmshowers (a community of people who host bike tourists for free) because of Covid concerns.

DayDateStartEndMilesCumulative MilesSleep?
1May 22, 2022O’Fallon, MOMcKittrick6060B&B/City Park Camp/Motels
2May 23, 2022McKittrickHartsberg66126B&B/City Park Camp/Motels
3May 24, 2022HartsbergPilot Grove53179Town park camping/ B&B
4May 25, 2022Pilot GroveClinton63242Hotel/Camping Sparrowfoot
5May 26, 2022ClintonStockton55297Hotel/Camping Crabtree Cove
6May 27, 2022StocktonAsh Grove40337City Park Camp
7May 28, 2022Ash GrovePittsburg KS72409Hotel/camping
8May 29, 2022Pittsburg KSChanute60469Motels/City campground
9May 30, 2022ChanuteEureka62531Motels/City campground
10May 31, 2022EurekaNewton72603Motels/City campground
11June 1, 2022NewtonHutchinson47650Church Camping/motels
12June 2, 2022HutchinsonPratt56706Motels/Camping
13June 3, 2022PrattMedicine Lodge30736Motel/Camping?
14June 4, 2022Medicine LodgeGreensburg67803Motels/Camping?
15June 5, 2022GreensburgCimarron65868Motel/Camping?
16June 6, 2022CimarronScott CIty70938City Park. Motel. Hostel
17June 7, 2022Scott CItyTribune47985City Park
18June 8, 2022TribuneEads, CO581043City Park/Motel
19June 9, 2022Eads, COOrdway651108City Park/Motel
20June 10, 2022OrdwayPueblo551163All
21June 11, 2022PuebloColorado Springs511214All
Daily Average57.8

Tour Planning – The Pile, The Route, The Body and The Brake

The Pile

I have been building the pile o’stuff for my tour. It’s getting pretty big. In a couple of days I’ll stuff it all into the panniers, load it on the bike, and try not to crash from the sheer enormity of it. At this stage, I keep thinking of things to bring like butt wipes and little bottles for castille soap and chain cleaner. (I hope I don’t mix them up. Could make for an interesting laundry or bathing experience.) There’s also a small jar of peanut butter. And a bigger camp towel. And clothing. I am debating whether to bring allen keys and a chain brake. If I do I may leave my multitool at home. It’s a pain to use. Another item that may get left behind is my water bladder. I used two in the deserts of Utah and Nevada but they were hard to use. In any case, I should have no trouble finding bottled water along the way. The U-lock is for use before the trip. I’ll use a lighter Ottolock for the road. You may also notice a Covid quick test kit in the pile. I’ll organize the small items into Ziplock bags, one for tools, one for medicines, one for maps, one for toiletries, etc.

The pile is growing. Gotta find a way to cut weight.

Of course, every tour begins with too much stuff. Then, after a week of slogging all this up hills, I’ll go to a post office and mail thing home.

The Route

My original plan, Plan A, has been to follow the Adventure Cycling Association’s Lewis and Clark Trail to southeastern Nebraska. This would involve about 200 miles on the Katy Trail, an off road route, then country roads along the Missouri River. The route continues across Nebraska before angling down to Colorado Springs where I meet up with Mark and Corey. This first part of the trip is about 1,000 miles. The three of us will follow the Transamerica Route up to Yellowstone then eventually to the Oregon Coast, another 2,000 miles.

The other night I mapped out a more southerly route. Using Plan B, I’d stay on the Katy Trail to the end in Clinton, Missouri. Then head south to Bentonville, Arkansas. Next I’d head west into far northeastern Oklahoma before angling up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. There is a road through the Gyp Hills from Medicine Lodge to Coldwater that is supposed to be one of the best cycling roads in the country. After Coldwater I could ride to Dodge City because cowboys, Wyatt Earp, and buffalo hunters. From Dodge I’d angle up to Pueblo, Colorado then up to Colorado Springs.

There are several drawbacks to this route. It looks pretty hilly getting to and from Bentonville, for a start. Also, I can’t find much in the way of cheap or free accommodations on this route. I’d be hopping from one hotel or motel to another. It’s also over 300 miles and five days longer than Plan A.

Plan C is pretty simple. Ride the Katy Trail to Clinton. Then ride two days south to Ash Grove, Missouri which is on the Transamerica Trail. There’s a guest house there with a pool that welcomes bike tourists. (This is where I met Corey and Mark in 2019.) I would just take the Transamerica Route west to Pueblo as I did in 2019. There are three very big advantages to this. Nearly every town on the route has free camping or cheap hotels. The TransAm is the oldest long distance route in the US, so people who live along it expect to see bicycle tourists. And, probably most important, I’d be certain to encounter other bike tourists who can offer help, information, and companionship across the rather boring plains.

A final idea is to use the Katy and TransAm to Hutchison, Kansas, northwest of Wichita. Then I could angle southwest to Pratt. From Pratt I’d go due south to Medicine Lodge. Then the scenic road Gyp Hills road goes straight west to Coldwater. After which it’s a couple of days northwest to Dodge City. From Dodge it looks pretty straightforward to ride back to the TransAm at Scott City.

The red dots are the TransAm.

The Body and the Brake

In 2019, I did my ride from north central Indiana to San Francisco on one good leg. My left knee and hip were aching most of the way. It didn’t help that my front brake pads rubbed most of the way.

In 2022, the knee, hip, and brake problems are fixed. Alas, I am now 66 years old with an 86 year old back. I kind of like to think along the lines of Augustus McCrae: the older the violin, the sweeter the music.