Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 23, Wide open spaces

Day 23, Toronto, KS – Newton, KS 96 miles (1804 total)

Time on bike: 7:53:07

Avg: 12.4 mph

Daily Ascent: 2853 ft (30 ft/mile)

Max: 26 mph

I didn’t want to open my eyes. The alarm clock went off at 5am and I lay there thinking, “Is this worth it? Do I really want to ride a bicycle across the US? What is all this for?” It was the first time that doubt crept in. Not serious doubt, mind you, but doubt. Fueled by the head winds of yesterday, I’m sure. But I did roll out of bed eventually and packed up my stuff and got on the bike.

We stopped off in Toronto for biscuits and gravy breakfast. This was the only place open in town and they had quite a variety of groceries for only having groceries on 1 wall. Seems like everyone from town came in for breakfast and Pat and I had a nice time chatting with the townsfolk of Toronto before we set off.

Much to our surprise, the winds had shifted. Yesterday they were coming out of the south, so they were cross winds as we pushed west but head winds as we turned north, which we did a few times yesterday. Today, however, the winds were from the northeast. They were actually at our backs and pushed us along as we traveled west. It was “the perfect day” in many regards because in addition to the fantastic winds we also had temperatures in the lower 70s.

I typically ride ahead of Pat. Sometimes I’m over a mile ahead. It may sound surprising that we don’t travel together at all times, but it’s good to get some separation to take it all in sometimes. I don’t ever get so far ahead that I can’t see him in my rearview mirror.

My impression of Kansas so far includes flat, open grasslands with occasional cows and corn. Today we biked through a very remote area. There wasn’t a building around for miles. It was just completely wide open. A few trees dotted the landscape and barren fields surrounded me. The cycling was mind numbingly boring, but efficient with the wind at my back. It dawned on me that I was in the Great Wide Open, but with a catch. There were barbed wire fences lining the road at all times. The Great Wide Open wasn’t as open as I thought it would be. It felt confining. Restricting. It was as if someone was saying, “I own this land and you’re not welcome on it.” The barbed wire served as a not so subtle message to me. It’s wide open, but… it’s not. It made me think about life, really. How it seems wide open but there is this barbed wire there that prevents it from being really wide open. And barbed wire is an intimidating thing. It’s small but effective. It just got me thinking about myself and how I want to be “wide open” but societal barbed wire prevents me sometimes.

Back to biking… with 40 miles to go from where we wanted to finish, we stopped at a convenience store. Not just a convenience store, but the only one around for at least 20 miles and definitely the last one for the next 40 for us. As I was looking for someplace to plug in my iPod, I went to go behind a bench only to step directly on a board with nails protruding through it. My soft, foamy flip flop did little to protect my defenseless foot, so my foot became impaled by a nail. I hate neglect. Why were boards with nails left outside a storefront?? Regardless, I now have a new piercing on the bottom of my foot. Hopefully it won’t affect my ability to get in 100 miles a day.

Upon arriving to Newton, we decided it was time for a hotel, so we stopped at the first mom-and-pop joint we found and for $40 a night we’ve got a room and free wireless internet. Let me just say, on the eve of July 4th… I love this country!

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